Mobility

Running a business with smartphones works for some SMBs

In this guest post, read about some of the pros and cons of running a business off of a smartphone.

When deciding what type of business phone system to implement, most companies choose either analog business phone lines or Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) systems. However, seeing as 45 percent of Americans already own a smartphone, these devices could be one of the most cost-effective, efficient, and reliable business telephony system.

Deployment models

Companies have two options when it comes to integrating smartphones into their telephony system: smartphones as-is or smartphones that utilize a "virtual" private branch exchange (PBX) or call routing and management service.

Companies with very few employees or a freelancer, for example, can successfully implement a system that uses smartphones as-is. With this option, one employee's number would become the business's main line, and all other employees would only give their number to clients, customers, and other contacts as needed.

This system eliminates the need for desktop phones and increases convenience for everyone. It's only as the company grows and begins to receive more phone traffic that this system loses effectiveness. When companies reach this point, a hosted or virtual PBX or a call routing service might be the most beneficial system.

Services like RingCentral or Google Voice offer cloud-based phone systems that provide all phones -- desktop or smartphones -- with their own extensions. Then, when customers call a company, they're met with a prompt that gives them options, such as dialing an extension or leaving a voice message.

These types of cloud-based phone systems also offer a variety of features that increase convenience and productivity, including call recording, voicemail transcriptions, smartphone apps, and the option for employees to mask their personal numbers so that the main business line shows up on Caller ID instead.

What's more is that many of these systems allow for a combination of services, meaning calls can be routed to a smartphone and a cloud-based or on-premise PBX.

Improving customer service

Besides providing benefits to employees, implementing a smartphone-based system can also greatly improve customer satisfaction. Code & Company Inc., a software development company, swapped their traditional business phone system for smartphones in order to be more available to customers.

"The decision was based on being as accessible to our clients as possible," Stuart Randell, head of business strategy, said. "We want customers to reach us regardless of where we are. Having a landline tied us to a specific location and was presenting a barrier to connecting with clients, so we removed it. Now clients have a direct number to each of our staff, and we don't have to run back to the office to check messages."

Chuck Cohn, CEO of Varsity Tutors, a virtual tutoring company, decided to switch to an iPhone and Google Voice-based phone system to connect customers and employees quicker.

"With VoIP, having a call forwarded to a smartphone is a horrible experience," Cohn said. "There is a significant delay on calls when the inbound call gets routed through the call center software VoIP solution to a smartphone."

Disadvantages

While a smartphone-based telephony system comes with many advantages, there are still some areas that are not completely ideal.

One of these areas is cost. Switching to a predominantly smartphone system may seem like a great way to eliminate some expenses, but for most companies, savings are slim to none. Cohn found that the cost of providing his employees with iPhones is about the same as using call center software, while Randell found that switching to smartphones saved approximately $25 a month.

Another difficulty that companies can run into is battery power. When employees are at the office, charging phones is not a problem. However, when employees are on-the-go, battery life can become an issue.

Smartphones bring benefits to some businesses

Switching from a traditional business phone system to a smartphone-based system can provide great benefits to some companies, but not all. Big companies that need a large amount of phones and require heavy phone use, like call centers, would run into problems with battery life and cost.

A smartphone-based system for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), though, can provide increased customer satisfaction, employee accessibility, and an overall competitive advantage.

Has your company integrating smartphones into its telephony system? Share your experience in the discussion thread below.

This guest post was written by Kelly Lindner of Software Advice, Inc.

1 comments
Solenoid
Solenoid

Great article; thanks Kelly. I wasn't familiar with virtual PBX services, but that will be useful. In a very small business, "one employee’s number would become the business’s main line". "As the company grows and begins to receive more phone traffic," does that employee then lose their own phone number, or do you have to change the primary business number? Either choice can be disruptive, and I wonder if setting up a new number from the outset is a better plan, if more costly.

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