A phone call is often the first interaction a customer will have with your business. If you’re still using your personal phone number to run your business, you’re running the risks of bad first impressions and missed opportunities. To project the image of a professional, well-run company, you need a scalable business phone system that keeps you and your employees connected wherever you are, and delivers powerful features like auto attendant, call routing, and call analytics.
Today’s business phone system providers offer a broad range of features and functionality that are accessible to everyone from solo entrepreneurs to companies that employ workers across multiple locations. We’ve created this guide to help you understand the various types of solutions and find the best business phone provider for your needs.
Types of Business Phone Service Providers
Broadly speaking, most business telephone service providers fit in one of two groups: traditional providers and virtual providers. We’ve highlighted some of the pros and cons of each type to help you decide which one is the right choice for your business.
Traditional Phone Service Providers
There are many regional and local traditional phone service providers that can meet the needs of small and mid-sized businesses, with options that range from a single phone line with voicemail and caller ID to advanced systems offering features like multiple extensions, conference calling, call forwarding, and more.
Traditional phone service providers offer familiar handsets and reliable connections; however, these systems use dedicated hardware and are expensive to set up and maintain. They also don’t offer the portability and flexibility that modern businesses need.
Virtual Phone Providers
Virtual phone systems enable you to make and receive business calls on your smartphone with a virtual phone number. Because a virtual phone number is not attached to a piece of hardware, this solution offers unmatched mobility and flexibility at a price that can’t be beat.
Virtual phone systems are a great way to separate business calls from personal calls, and come loaded with professional features like auto attendant and virtual voicemail. With more and more companies relying on remote workers, virtual phone systems are a great way to keep teams connected, whether they’re in the same city or across the country.
How to Choose a Business Phone Provider
With so many providers and solutions on the market, which should you choose? Let’s look at some of the key considerations.
Every business phone service 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 during off hours. Custom messaging and call menus keep callers engaged and prevent hangups. And because you may not always be in the office, call forwarding sends calls to another phone number so you won’t have to worry about missed calls while you’re away.
Your phone system 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 phone system 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 systems 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.
Here’s a simple worksheet to help you compare prices between different business phone solutions:
Now that you have a good idea of the types of features you want from your phone system, and how much you’re willing to budget, there are just a few more factors to consider. Here are a couple more considerations to think about before you make your decision.
- Number of lines/extensions available/cost—Does the solution make it easy and cost effective to add lines and extensions as your business grows?
- Ease of use—Is the system user-friendly enough to set up and customize without an IT team?
- Customer service—Does the provider offer 24/7 support through chat, phone, or email so you can get help whenever you need it, even outside traditional business hours?
Choosing a business phone provider can be one of the most effective ways to build a professional image for your small business. If you’re thinking about switching vendors, 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.