Many small businesses today are making the switch over to VoIP business phone systems. There are plenty of advantages to using such a service, but a lot of small business owners are overlooking some of the most valuable features. Beyond options like voicemail, call waiting, toll free numbers, call forwarding, and remote operation, you'll find a host of other features that can help your small business.
1: Door phone entry buzzer integration
This feature allows you to integrate an analog door phone so that you can have a two-way call with visitors and then unlock the door from your phone if you deem them worthy. A great way to upgrade the security of your building.
2: Find me/follow me call routing
Mobile workers will appreciate this feature. Find me/follow me call routing allows you to create a list of numbers where you can be found before the call gets pushed to voicemail. So, for example, you might have your office phone ring twice, but on the third ring, your cell phone starts to ring, and then on the fifth, your home phone. If the list is exhausted, the caller gets sent to voicemail.
3: Voicemail to email transcription
Voicemail to email transcription transcribes your voicemail messages to text and sends them to a preferred email. You don't have to worry about furiously scribbling names, numbers, and addresses. Take your time and read them in your email at your leisure. This also allows you to file, organize, delete, and search all your voicemails in a way that would otherwise be impossible.
4: Music on hold
If your company often has to put callers on hold, this feature is a necessity. Do not subject your callers to terrible elevator music -- or worse, silence. This feature allows you to choose what your callers listen to as they wait. (Tip: You can't go wrong with Journey.)
5: Bandwidth utilization and inbound/outbound call detail reports
Data! As a business, data tracking is essential to figure out where to direct your company's time and energy. A managed, cloud-based VoIP service can provide bandwidth utilization information that allows you to view data usage over a period of time. Inbound and outbound call detail reports let you view details of your company's call history, including rate centers, duration, originator, destination, and cost.
6: Call screening
Call screening is an often-forgotten feature of the VoIP business world that can come in handy. It allows you to look at a number on the caller ID and choose how to treat it. For example, if your spouse is calling, you can redirect the number to your cell phone. Or if it's a caller that keeps trying to sell you energy supplements, you can disconnect them.
7: Coaching tools
Instead of giving your employees advice after they've hung up the phone, give them advice while they're on the call. Two features can help you train and monitor your employees' on-phone performance: barge and whisper. Barge allows you to listen to a conversation between an employee and a client without interrupting. You can alert them -- or decide not to. Whisper allows you to provide advice, tips, and information to your employees while they are on the phone with a client without the client being aware.
8: Auto attendant
An auto attendant is one of the hidden gems of premium VoIP services. This feature allows callers to interact with a menu to choose an appropriate extension. Your business will suddenly seem more professional and impressive. It's like having an electronic receptionist!
Most people know about conferencing with VoIP services, but not everyone takes advantage of all the features that might come with it. Often, you can set up a conference floor monitor. This allows you to manage invitations, "hand-raises," muting individuals, etc. Online conferences can get messy and confusing if not managed correctly, so this is a great tool to learn how to use.
10: Do not disturb
This feature does exactly what its name implies: leaves you undisturbed. You can turn it on to temporarily stop incoming calls to your phone. This becomes especially useful during conferences, lunches, and meetings. Best of all, you can program it so that it does not just ignore callers, but directs them toward voicemail or another destination of your choice.
About the author
Amber Newman is a marketing professional with many years of experience in business-to-business software, including VoIP and business phone systems. She is currently working for ShoreTel, providing marketing services for its Sky product.
- IT Innovation for Small Businesses (ZDNet special report page)
- Executive's guide to IT innovation in small businesses (free ebook)