The universal adoption of the Internet has led to the use of digital communications as a standard part of the business environment. Most companies are creating and implementing digitally based unified communications strategies incorporating VoIP communications built around VoIP phones, video conferencing and perhaps CCTV as integral parts.
They are doing this to take advantage of the business benefits to be gained from moving from the unlinked analogue systems to an integrated digital platform. The simplest example is the use of VoIP phones to transfer from tolled calls over the PSTN to essentially free voice communications over the Internet.
There are many other reasons to make the switch from a legacy analogue phone system to a digital VoIP system, both financial and operational.
The first and most compelling reason for making the switch is large cost savings, especially for organisations that make long-distance, national and international, calls.
In legacy systems, communications are carried by the local PSTN service provider and are tolled calls. The costs can be very high, particularly for long-distance and international calls. They are often caps on the amount of data that can be used, and the communications speed offered by the service supplier.
In contrast, once the initial and recurrent costs of operating an internet connection have been made, usage is essentially free. There are now many software and hardware offerings that support the creation of a unified communications platform operating over a digital connection. Many organisations have created a web presence to support marketing and customer communications, so it is probable that the connection already exists. The move to cloud-based platforms has accelerated this process.
Bear in mind though that not all equipment can move to digital. Some modems, fax machines and alarm systems, usually older ones, do not have digital interfaces and must operate over a legacy analogue platform. Most VoIP systems cater for this and will automatically switch inward and outward calls between the digital and analogue modes. Obviously, a small analogue frame linking the PSTN and VoIP systems is needed for support.
So, moving to VoIP and making calls over the internet can result in complete or nearly complete removal of PSTN toll charges. These savings can be substantial for large organisations.
The additional range of options provided by a VoIP system can bring operational advantages to an organisation.
Hunting, Call Forwarding and Call Pick-up Groups
In a VoIP environment, extensions can be grouped together. Hunting allows calls to be automatically forwarded to another extension in the group if they are not answered or the requested extension is busy, forwarding allows a user to programme the extension to automatically forward incoming calls to another extension and a pick-up group allows calls to be picked up by other extensions in the same group.
Increasingly, VoIP systems support human operators being replaced by text or voice-based chatbots who take care of common and simple customer support requests. More complex enquiries are transferred, automatically or on request to a human operator. This reduces the number of support personnel needed and the time a customer must wait for support.
A significant difference between analogue and VoIP systems is that users are no longer tied to a physical instrument. Users are recognised in the VoIP system with a profile, including a password.
Entering the password on any VoIP phone allows them to make and receive calls. This means that they can make and receive calls anywhere there is a VoIP phone, sometimes even on a different site using the same VoIP system.
Further, users can be restricted in the types of calls they can make. The restrictions are usually based around local, national and international calls. Because the restrictions are based on the user, not a physical instrument, this means the old practice of using the manager’s phone to make a prohibited call no longer works.
The use of SIP software on a smart device means that people can carry their extension around with them. They can make and receive calls whenever they are connected to the corporate WiFi network. No more hiding.
Nowadays potential and existing customers use search engines to find suppliers and expect to communicate with them using instant messaging and email. They expect to make their purchases online.
They are likely to avoid companies that do not have an internet presence. A similar reluctance also comes about with companies that do not use VoIP as part of their communications strategy.
VoIP enhances company reputation.
If your company does not currently have a VoIP system, then you must give serious consideration to making the switch. Hardware and software solutions are available for all sizes and styles of business. Some businesses should also consider the suitability of an outsourced or hosted VoIP solution.