Today’s business phone service providers offer a broad range of features and functionality that are accessible to everyone from solo entrepreneurs to enterprise level brands. Regardless of the size and scope of your company, your phone provides an integral link to teammates, customers, and vendors alike.
But there are so many options out there when it comes to business phones, it can be hard to make a decision. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to help you find the right service provider to fit your business’ needs. Here’s what we’ll cover:
- What types of business phone service are available?
- How much does business phone service cost?
- What should you look for in a business phone service provider?
- What should you avoid when selecting a business phone service provider?
Types of Business Phone Service
When it comes to business phone service, the field is wide. Costs and time investments differ dramatically depending on where your team is working, what types of phones you’d like to use, whether you use a hosted provider or decide to self-host, etc. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll just focus on the top three types of business phone service, beginning with the old school, very rigid, and moving toward the more novel, very dynamic.
Traditional Landline Phone Service for Businesses
Landline phone service is the “old school”. Many businesses that shot up prior to the 2000’s are still dependent on physical phone systems, that are supported by local or regional phone companies’ copper lines. This type of phone system is adaptable to your business needs only insofar as your team’s technological prowess is concerned, but requires a good deal of specialized knowledge, as well as a significant time investment by your IT or system admin team.
Analog landline phone systems require an on-premises PBX (private branch exchange) system in order to facilitate basic phone features like extensions and call menus. For the most part, landline phone service is being phased out by providers, so most companies are shifting away from this traditional version of business phone service. As that shift takes place, it’s becoming more difficult and more expensive to manage, maintain and repair traditional landlines, so now is probably not the best time to get started with traditional landline phone service.
VOIP Phone Service
As traditional service providers shift away from landline service, more are providing VOIP (Voice over IP) business phone services. VOIP runs completely online, easily integrating with your business’ internet service. Generally speaking, VOIP systems are easier to manage, and provide many more of the business phone features that companies depend on to provide a more professional business phone experience.
One of the core benefits of VOIP is that since it’s tied into the internet, your remote workers can also have access to their VOIP phone lines on their mobile devices. An important caveat for small businesses in areas that do not have reliable internet service – any internet outage means that your phones will also be temporarily out of service.
With VOIP phone service, you can choose to either purchase hardware, or rent it from your provider, depending on whether you want to self-host. Obviously, purchasing the equipment outright requires a much more significant capital investment. Self-hosting also means that your own IT staff will be responsible for the maintenance and management of your on-site PBX system.
Virtual Phone Service for Businesses
Virtual business phone service provides many of the benefits – and all the features – of a traditional phone system or VOIP, but with the added bonus of being completely cloud-based. Because virtual phone systems are hosted in the cloud, that means that the PBX is maintained by your virtual phone service provider. And you aren’t required to add any special equipment in terms of desk phones or PBX hardware, so virtual business phone service providers can save your business both time and money.
With a virtual phone system, businesses are able to get up and running with a professional business phone system in practically no time. Once the service is initiated and users added, each employee just downloads an app to the smartphone they’re already using. From there, the system administrator configures the phone system, along with any custom greetings, in the way that works best for the business. Virtual phone service, depending on your service provider, comes equipped with advanced business phone features like auto attendants, call recording, ring groups, and more.
The best part is that when your business is running on a virtual phone system, you can make updates in real-time, with just a couple clicks of your mouse. Whether you need to add new users, additional phone numbers, or update your call menus, you’ll find that virtual business phone service is just as dynamic as your business. Virtual phone service is highly customizable, and some service providers like Tresta offer a flat monthly rate for unlimited usage with access to all features and functionality included.
How Much Does Business Phone Service Cost?
As noted, the cost of business phone services varies drastically depending on the type and provider you choose. With traditional phone systems, you’ll incur considerable costs upfront, just in purchasing equipment and setting up your phone system. Again, the exact rate varies, but can cost upwards of $1,000 per user.
According to CostHack, “On average, a business phone system will cost between $800 and $1,000 per user. A KSU-less system costs $100 to $250 per phone, a key system $300-$1000 per user, and a PBX system will cost between $500-$1,000 per user.”
With virtual business phone service, on the other hand, no equipment is necessary, and setup only takes a few minutes. As your business grows, you’ll have the flexibility to quickly and easily add user seats or new phone numbers to your business phone system. More importantly, with Tresta, it’s just $15 per month for unlimited usage and access to all our advanced features.
What to Look for in a Business Phone Service Provider
With so many business phone service providers and solutions on the market, which should you choose? Let’s look at some of the key considerations.
No matter what type of business phone service you select, you’ll find that it comes with a variety of features. Before signing up for any solution, it’s important to know what you’re getting. Most traditional phone providers offer tiered feature packages or bundles with different combinations of features to meet the needs of small, mid-sized, and large companies. If you outgrow your plan, you need to upgrade to the next, more expensive package to accommodate your larger workforce. Virtual phone system providers usually charge a flat monthly fee that provides you with all of the features you need to run your business.
You’ll want to look for key features like auto attendant, which ensures your inbound calls are always received, even if your staff is busy or the call comes in after hours. Custom greetings and call menus keep callers engaged and prevent hangups. And because you may not always be available, call forwarding sends calls to another phone number so you won’t have to worry about missed calls while you’re away.
The Right Price
Your business phone service provider must be able to accommodate your budget along with the demands of your business. Traditional phone service providers don’t typically make their pricing accessible. You may need to contact them directly for a price quote and speak with a sales representative who will often try to sell you an expensive business phone system. These vendors may also require you to sign a contract and pay installation costs, and could charge early termination fees if you later decide to change providers.
By contrast, virtual business phone service providers are usually transparent about their pricing, with costs clearly stated on their websites so you know exactly what you’ll be paying. Prices of virtual business phone services can vary by provider, the number of users, and how many features you want to access, but they are significantly cheaper than traditional solutions. Since a virtual solution is cloud-based, you avoid large installation or set-up costs, and you can usually change providers without a penalty.
Support When You Need It
When you need help with your business phone service, it’s crucial you are able to get in touch with an expert. With the right service type and provider, you’ll find knowledgable, omni-channel support, and a self-serve knowledge database. Does the provider offer multiple channels to contact support like chat, phone, and email?
What to Avoid When Selecting a Business Phone Service Provider
While it’s important to know what you should look for when looking for the right business phone service, it’s just as crucial to know what you should want to avoid.
Here are the biggest red flags that indicate that a business phone service provider is not the one that you want to work with:
- Support is conditional. Some phone lines only offer fast or thorough support for high-volume clients, making it impossible for small businesses to get the help they need if there’s an issue. Look for reviews that stress strong and quick customer service for everyone.
- Lots of asterisks with hidden fees. If you see a “*Additional charges may apply” anywhere in the terms of service, ask what they are. Depending on where you live, there ARE additional taxes and fees that are outside of the provider’s control. However, outside of those costs, sneaky hidden fees and vague costs for features are avoidable. That’s why here at Tresta, we offer a single, flat per-line fee; exactly as it should be.
- Higher charges for storage or more features. You shouldn’t need to pay add-on fees to receive more minutes, call recording features, or analytics. And you certainly shouldn’t have to pay more to access your past messages. Choose a provider that offers flat-rate fees, with no long-term contracts required.
Ultimately, you want to find a virtual phone system provider that seems excited about offering new features and doesn’t charge for it. We rolled out texting to all of our customers (new and existing) without any extra cost, and we are happy to record custom greetings for you with our professional voice talent team for free. Choose a provider that works for you instead of one who works to nickel and dime you every chance they get.
Choosing a business phone service provider can be one of the most effective ways to build a professional image for your small business. If you’re thinking about making changes to your business’ phone service, you need to carefully evaluate each providers’ features and pricing.
If you’re still undecided, sign up for a 30-day risk-free trial with Tresta and see for yourself how the right virtual phone system can transform your business.