You may be aware of ‘hosted voice’ telephony services – especially now some of the larger telecoms companies are offering them to business users.
Essentially, these hosted voice services are the next generation of telephone communication – doing away with traditional copper wire technology and, instead, making use of your existing IT network infrastructure.
Since hosted voice solutions are a cloud-based technology – steps forward in enterprise internet connection speed means the benefits of hosted voice are quickly increasing. Here, we’ll look at what those benefits are – and what they might offer your business…
Installation and management ease
When you’re relying on a third party for support, having a number of different third parties looking after your systems is likely to increase the chance that you’re going to have to have someone on site, sleeves-rolled-up, looking at and working on your infrastructure.
In reality, using a hosted voice service puts your entire telephony system into the hands of an overall network services provider – rather than breaking your systems down into areas for telecoms, areas for IT – and so forth.
In fact, since you’re passing responsibility for your telephone systems over to the people who handle your IT, there’s a good chance they’re going to be able to work on them remotely – completely removing the need for having people onsite. In fact, even installation can be done almost entirely remotely.
While avoiding and installation hassle is a one-off bonus – this hands-off means of maintaining the network is also a big benefit if you want to alter your systems at short notice. Where previously, a telecoms engineer would need to arrange an appointment then, at some point in the future, come to your site – hosted voice services can generally be scaled up or down with a few clicks in a management portal. Such ease of management means adding sites, altering call routing, adjusting call priorities, adding users – and much more, is done without any logistical hassle.
Ease of management is usually a feature that justifies an increased price tag – but with hosted voice – the opposite is actually true.
Small business installations often see savings of around 50% when lined up next to current telephony expenditure – and that large saving is generally down to the fact that the infrastructure is already in place.
It’s not just the upfront installation costs that make hosted voice attractive of course – running costs are also generally much lower than with traditional copper-line-based technologies. In addition to this – you’ll tend to find that a good hosted voice provider will be able to advise the best and most cost-effective ways to scale your use as you grow – and how you can make the most of features that are possible within the existing technology.
While there are some obvious benefits we’ve touch on so far – there’s often a nagging doubt in people’s minds that relates to the security of having your telephony tied to your IT network – especially when you’ve got third-parties working on it and data stored in the cloud.
While there’s perceived security in having your telephony (and wider IT networking) on-site – there’s a lot to be said for outsourcing IT and therefore handing security over to specialists.
If current trends continue, around 75% of small and startup businesses will be on the receiving end of a cyber-attack at some stage in the next 12 months. Cyber-criminals specifically target small companies who think they have ‘nothing worth stealing’ – simply because this attitude tends to mean a lowered guard compared to larger businesses that put a greater value on their data.
Both downtime and data-loss cost businesses a huge amount every year. You only have to look at the costs incurred when the UK’s NHS IT system was compromised recently to appreciate the devastation that cyber-attacks can have on poorly-secured networks. By tying your telephones and IT network together, you’re placing two of your most valuable systems in the hands of specialists who’ll make sure you’re behind world-class defences.
Your requirements from a telephony service are likely to be slightly different to other businesses – simply because your needs, preferences and end-user experiences are likely to be significantly different from other businesses.
Generally speaking, traditional phone systems come with a ‘like it or leave it’ kind of package – you can dial, re-dial, access voicemail and perform some internal routing and diverting – but beyond that, there’s not a great deal more up for grabs.
With a hosted voice service – you’re unlocking the door to an incredible amount of functionality that can quickly tie into your other IT systems – including:
- Integration with CRM systems (for call recording against customer records and more)
- Voice recognition (for call routing and automated help functions)
- Integration with other communications applications
- Voice to text transcription software integration
- Quick and remote management portal access (for the people who need it)
- Automatic scheduling or call-routing and call-distribution
…and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Developing additional customised internal platforms to work around your hosted telephony system is also possible.
Interestingly, many forward-thinking businesses report enormous productivity gains that the attribute to new hosted voice telephony services. Now, ‘forward thinking’ is important here – as it seems many job roles are constrained by the limitations of current traditional telephones systems.
For instance, where rough transcription of telephone conversations has fallen with a customer service agent to input into a CRM system – that can now be done automatically. So, where a telephone conversation once needed to end – before notes were transferred onto a system, this can now be done automatically, as the call happens in real time.
Commitment to being available to take calls is a constant issue for larger scale call centre operations – and, with no reason but to pick up the next call that comes in, one person’s output is increased enormously – and this is increases even more when applied across a full team.
Of course, this is just one of the hundreds – if not thousands – of productivity driving possibilities that hosted telephony could bring. Many companies even use hosted voice to expand what’s possible for their workforce – with redirects to mobiles opening up the possibility of virtual offices and work-from-home opportunities too…