When it comes to the tools you can use for your primary business communication needs, you will have to choose between a traditional communication system and a cloud phone system. Because many experts agree that traditional phone systems through landlines will be obsolete in the next couple of decades, now might be the best time to switch over to a VOIP provider for all of your communication needs. Learn more before you try our #1 recommended VOIP service.
How to Find the Best VOIP System for Your Small Business
To find the best cloud phone system for your business, you will first need to understand what a virtual phone system is, how it works, and the current top business providers.
To start, a cloud phone system is essentially a collection of software applications that can be used to power communication over the internet. Specifically, these systems work by using the internet as your landline. For businesses, a cloud-based system will generally operate out of a PBX solution. Your hosted VOIP provider will likely also provide customer support as needed for your VOIP system.
What Are the Common Features of Cloud Phone Systems?
There are several tools that are common to all business phone systems, although the degree of flexibility for each of these features will vary from provider to provider. It’s important to learn about these tools to assess which features you will need for your business.
For example, small businesses may not need advanced routing options, while larger businesses may need to have access to customer relationship management integration. Some VOIP systems for businesses may also offer tools for mobile devices, auto attendants, and/or a business phone number.
Call routing is the most basic function of any phone system. Routing allows your business to set up an internal phone tree to direct customers to the correct agents when your phone number is called. Call routing is the best way to manage the overall flow of your business, particularly for customer relation departments and tech support.
There are a couple of different styles of routing that can be supported by business phone systems. Importantly, not all types of cloud call routing will be supported by a VOIP phone system, so it’s important to ask your prospective provider about the type of routing supported by individual plans.
Round Robin Routing and Skill-Based Routing
Round-robin routing is a type of structure that allows agents to take turns for incoming calls. Essentially, this is a first-come, first-serve phone tree structure that lets customers contact agents more quickly. This type of structure may be ideal for small businesses where agents can access many internal systems to provide customer support.
Skill-based routing is probably the most common form of routing used by businesses. With this structure, customers are routed to agents with the most appropriate skills to handle their problems. Skill-based routing can be supported by AI or IVR technology, allowing the customer to self-help or be directed to the appropriate department or agent.
IVR is integral for well-functioning phone system providers. Cloud IVR, or interactive voice response, is a pre-recorded message that will allow customers to quickly connect with automation to complete tasks without speaking to a live agent. For example, with cloud IVR, customers can dial your main phone line and work with AI automation to pay bills, review the status of their accounts, or do other tasks.
IVR combines advanced technology, such as voice recognition, and other AI assistants. The IVR system will guide customers through the correct call flow while also accessing customer information and updating information in your internal database.
Call Recording or Monitoring
Call recording and monitoring is another important role in cloud-based phone system technology. For example, monitoring and recording can be used to help agents assist customers with tools such as call whisper. Call whisper allows managers or administrators to listen to live phone conversations and give agents directions without the customer needing to be placed on hold or without the customer needing to be transferred to an administrator for help.
Call monitoring and recording also produce transcriptions that are automatically stored on the cloud. On-demand recording can be paused or restarted or can even be used to help customers verbally agree to action made to their account.
Unified Communications is a feature included on many cloud-based phone systems. This is a way that your business can streamline communication by giving you a central database for all of your communication channels, which can include video calling, voice calling, SMS texting, chat messages, and even virtual faxing. All the communication will automatically be synced in real-time across all of your communication channels by your VOIP service.
Toll-Free Vanity Phone Numbers
Toll-free vanity numbers are an advantage for small businesses that are emphasizing branding. For example, the toll-free vanity number will allow you to choose a small word or phrase that will advertise what your business offers or make it easier for customers to remember your phone number. Toll-free vanity numbers are another way you can also help your business get more client leads and may help your business look more professional.
Video Calling or Conferencing
Video calling or video conferencing is a key team collaboration tool that is included on most VOIP cloud-based phone systems. Video conferencing is a face-to-face communication feature that allows for collaboration between remote employees, hybrid employees, small teams, departments, and even external callers.
Video conferencing may be more important for the internal structure of your business, particularly if your teams need to collaborate on projects. Many video conferencing and conferencing systems also offer tools such as screen sharing, remote screen control, file editing, whiteboard tools, and chat messaging, in meeting polling, breakout rooms, and virtual hand raising.
Visual Voicemail and Customer Callback
Visual voicemail is a type of voice-to-text application that allows your agents to view messages left by customers and sort these messages based on priority or urgency. Both transcription and audio files will be saved to a database. Visible voicemail is often more clear than audio-only voicemail and will let agents comb through voicemails much more quickly.
Customer callback may be another important feature that you will want for your phone system. In particular, customer callback allows customers to schedule a callback for their preferred time or date, which will reduce hold time for customers and improve the efficiency of agents. Customer callback with a hosted VOIP system will include reminders for both the agent assigned to the case and the customer before the upcoming callback.
Call Data and Customer Relationship Management Integration
Call data and analytics is an essential feature if you want to analyze the efficiency of your customer support agents. This type of call analytics can be done for historical calls or real-time calls. Some of the data that call data and analytics will look at include the speed of call answers, the average call duration, call volume for individual agents, first call resolution rates, average talk time, voicemail, and much more.
Customer relationship management integration is a way that your cloud-based phone system will integrate your existing software and applications to make it easier for agents to use the new communication system. Essentially, CRM systems work by allowing data about customers to integrate into a softphone interface so that agents don’t need to switch between apps to access data about customers.
Finally, AI automation may be one of the more important tools often included in cloud-based phone systems. Specifically, these features include an auto attendant or chatbot that can automate certain processes for your business so that agents can spend more time handling complex issues. Technology such as conversational AI and natural language processing can trigger automation that will let customers be directed to self-help tools or live agents.
What Are Your Business Phone System Options?
There are several popular cloud phone systems that you will want to explore. Each of these phone system options has advantages and disadvantages, such as the degree of scalability, price, mobile access, and special tools. Let’s explore these cloud phone system options so you can identify the system that may work best for your business.
Dialpad is an advanced virtual phone system with built-in AI and a user-friendly interface. Some of the standard features for most of the dial pad plans include business texting, team chat, voice calling, video conferencing, screen sharing, toll-free numbers, and number porting. Dialpad has a few impressive AI features that set it apart from many other virtual phone systems, such as the voice intelligence feature, which is designed with an AI-powered natural language process that offers in-call agent coaching.
With this feature, agents can see a call transcription while they are on the phone with the customer, while the AI processes sentiment analysis with keywords. Another special feature is real-time agent assistance, which is a way to simplify processes such as onboarding, support, and training. The voice intelligence AI will listen for keywords and then pull up information from internal knowledge to give the agent advice to improve customer support.
Pros and Cons
The biggest pro of Dialpad is the robust AI technology that assists in customer handling. This phone system also includes call recording, custom routing options, post-call notes, and other unified communications features as standard on all plans. However, the cons of the particular system are that the software integration available for all the plans may be somewhat limited. For example, the standard plan can only integrate with Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace. Another con is that the video calling tool has a limited meeting capacity of 10 users.
Ring Central is one of the most popular business phone systems. Ring Central MVP combines messaging, phone, and video in a communication platform and is ideal for smaller teams. There have been recent innovations that have made Ring Central ideal for hybrid workers and team collaboration. There are a few special features for Ring Central that make it perfect for remote teams and hybrid workforces.
For example, call forwarding options for multiple mobile devices and dedicated phone numbers for each user make it much easier to bridge the gap in communication. The team collaboration tools, such as the message toolbar, also include special abilities such as unlimited file uploads, messaging pinning or editing, whiteboarding, and note-taking, all of which reduce the need for any integrated software for unified communications.
Pros and Cons
One of the biggest advantages of this phone for your business is 24/7 phone and chat support with customer service, strong platform security, and integration with many other software providers, including Slack, Google Workspace, Microsoft Teams, and more. As for disadvantages, some features aren’t available on the basic plan. But, because plans are relatively close in pricing, this may not be a huge problem for your business.
Nextiva is considered a robust business phone system that has built-in CRM technology, team collaboration tools, and features that are specially designed for customer service and sales teams at your call center. There are also many AI features built into this phone system, including sentiment analysis, trend forecasting, and customer survey analytics that can also be used to rate the KPI of your agents.
The best feature of the Nextiva VOIP phone system is probably the Call Pop tool, which shows details about the customer, such as the date of last interaction, customer experience ratings, contact information, account value, and notes from previous agents that can be organized based on resolution status. This phone system also has smart automation tools such as reminders for follow-up correspondence, real-time agent system assistance based on keywords, and automated welcome messages.
Pros and Cons
The biggest pros for Nextiva are the advanced native AI and CRM tools that can easily integrate with CRM software, as well as analytics that can assess and increase agent engagement. The main con of this phone system is that the advanced features will require additional training to extend the onboarding process for new and current employees when you switch to this provider. Some features are also only available on more expensive or mobile plans.
Zoom is well known for offering the most easily accessible virtual conferencing software, so it should be no surprise that Zoom Phone is also considered a very user-friendly service. This business phone system can be used along with Zoom Meetings. Some of the standard features include texting, chat messaging, voice calling, toll-free numbers, and number porting for your call center.
One of the best features of Zoom Phone is that it gives your business a centralized management interface that is combined with chat messaging and other web conferencing to streamline the communication of your business. Zoom Phone is available for desktop and mobile devices, which gives your remote and hybrid teams more flexibility. With mobile apps, users can still access call queues, call recordings, team chats, call notifications, and video meetings.
Pros and Cons
A huge advantage of Zoom Phone is the number of high-quality integrations that are available, such as Slack and Salesforce. There are also 24/7 support options for customer service and priority assistance. The con of this phone system is that Zoom Phone for your business is only available if you also subscribe to Zoom Meetings.
GoToConnect is a cloud phone system that is ideal for smaller teams and remote workers of up to 25 employees. GoToConnect offers video conferencing, screen sharing, messaging, and voice calling with toll-free numbers as standard features. You can also integrate your GoToConnect subscription with GoToWebinar, GoToMeeting, and other GoTo products.
One of the best features of GoToConnect is the call center management feature, which allows users to set up modified call routing, call forwarding, call waiting, and IVR strategies. GoToConnect also includes unlimited auto attendants to customize customer self-service and free up agent time.
Pros and Cons
GoToConnect is very affordable for small companies, particularly when considering how robust the call center management tools are. The plans are easy to upgrade and adjust depending on the needs of your business. That said, the disadvantage of GoToConnect is that there are very few integrations available, which means users of this phone system must subscribe to other GoTo platforms.
Ooma Office is a virtual phone system that offers all the basic tools you need for your business phone, including voice calling, video calling, digital faxing, and mobile messaging. This particular provider offers both softphone software and hardware, such as a desk phone for your call center, as well.
One of the most special features of Ooma Office is the Caller Info Match tool, which allows your agents to view customer data from both your internal CRM platform and social media. This can help agents give customers more personalized support, which can be particularly important if agents need to convert customer calls into sales.
Pros and Cons
The biggest advantage of Ooma Office is that the technology can easily integrate with the existing phone business structure you have, including your current hardware, which makes it more user-friendly and easier for onboarding at your call center. The con of Ooma is that it can’t be used by those in the healthcare industry since this particular business phone system is not HIPAA-compliant.
Intermedia is an advanced virtual phone system that also includes virtual conferencing, faxing, chat messaging, SMS texting, and several mobile collaboration options. The interface for Intermedia is exceptionally easy to use, and this provider even allows companies to keep existing hardware to make the transition process easier.
One of the best features of Intermedia is the ability to manage high-volume calls much more efficiently. This feature separates agents into different groups for first contact resolution and much more, with advanced routing strategies to make and receive calls. As long as you have a steady internet connection, you can use this mobile VOIP service to manage up to 100 individual agents.
Pros and Cons
A major pro for Intermedia phone service is the secure file-sharing tools, which include real-time backup, mobile access, and file versioning. This provider also allows for advanced Microsoft Team integrations. However, the con is that Intermedia is focused primarily on Microsoft Teams, so other integrations with third-party providers may not be available.
To keep up with the needs of your small business, you must have a robust business phone system. However, landline systems are going out of fashion, which means you must choose from cloud phone systems that will provide for all of your business communication needs. There are many phone system providers that can enhance your business communication and ensure you never miss a call. Try our #1 recommended VOIP service.