For businesses of every size, the pandemic accelerated the shift toward hybrid information technology solutions that facilitate both remote and in-office communication and collaboration for customers and employees.
In the marketplace today, this has increasingly involved mobile and office phones with integrated software that offers sophisticated voice, video, messaging and workforce management capabilities.
This has augmented the complexity of the phone system requirements and presented businesses with a plethora of options. Users usually operate from office phones and mobile devices and are working more in and out of the office, so there is a greater demand for forwarding messages to avoid missing calls.
Also, a host of new services beyond calling are often expected such as Short Message Service (SMS)/Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS), video conferencing, visual voicemail and call recording.
On top of all this, the phone system is increasingly connected through APIs to existing company systems such as contact centers, workforce management and Customer Relationship Management systems (CRMs), so important data can be monitored and evaluated in various ways.
The challenge for businesses, however, has been dealing with issues of quality and integration, along with constantly escalating provider prices and add-on fees that can end up costing over $70 per user each month.
When managers need the services to stay operational but do not have the time or inclination to sort through complex billing, they can feel like a captive of their technology provider.
“Today, business owners feel besieged with all the software-as-a-service fees, which constantly creep upwards, never downwards in cost. They are enticed with low offers to start and then the price doubles or triples on renewal or any changes,” said Eric Brackett, President of BTI Communications Group, a technology convergence provider serving the business and logistics sectors.
The company acts as a single-source provider of complex phone (VoIP), network and physical security systems, down to installation of wiring and conduit as well as cybersecurity monitoring and protection.
“Bait-and-switch phone system pricing is a huge burden on businesses when it becomes overhead and an operating expense,” he adds. “Instead, managers want to capitalize the full cost over a few years or own the system with minimal operating expense.”
In addition, businesses prefer a phone system that includes access to every service option from the start, whether used or not, at a low fixed monthly rate, which eliminates extra fees and complexity.
“Business owners and managers appreciate having only one line item on the bill that covers everything. When the prices don’t change for a fixed period, this eliminates the issue of escalating expenses and surprise add-on costs," said Brackett.
He notes that such a system can improve both the customer and employee experience by integrating web services including voice, video, SMS/MMS, smartphone and PC, as well as contact center, CRM and workforce management.
“Today, a business phone system needs to enable working from anywhere, whether at the office, at home or on the go and offer the full breadth of communication technologies,” said Brackett.
He adds that some of the more advanced marketplace options are now easier than ever to incorporate and use. These allow business employees to use their own smartphones without purchasing new equipment since the service functions with almost every cellular provider.
To streamline use, a web portal can enable users to take control and easily manage the entire system through a simple interface. Video conferencing also facilitates collaboration anywhere on any device and some or all calls can be recorded and retrieved as needed.
Optimizing Business Telecom
Astral Energy of Montvale, New Jersey buys energy wholesale and sells it retail to over 15,000 businesses in the B2B market. Ashton Fox, Chief Operating Officer of Astral Energy, sought a more robust, stable solution than his existing telecom service provided.
“Many of our customers work off their smartphones on the road so texting and multimedia messaging is important to communicate with them. If our customers struggle to reach us or we are challenged to reach them because of our phone system, it doesn’t work,” said Fox.
“We were running into some issues with our provider’s call quality, SMS and MMS service and technical support,” he adds. “We also wanted better pricing transparency. We didn’t want to find out that we really needed a certain feature later and be asked to pay more for it every month, which would impact our budget,” said Fox.
As a solution, Fox and Astral Energy turned to a new option in the business market called GoodPhone by BTI that provides complete web, voice, video, SMS, MMS, CRM, contact center and workforce management service and integration for customers and employees.
The service functions on smartphones and office phones, as well as on PCs used as phones.
Complete phone service with all the needed options costs a flat monthly rate of less than $25/user. For the contracted period, each user can utilize an unlimited number of phones as part of the same flat rate. Phones can also be rented or purchased from BTI or existing VoIP devices used.
When employees use their personal smartphone by downloading the GoodPhone App, they no longer need to give out their personal cell information to handle business calls. Instead, they can provide clients with one office number to reach them and make or take calls from their web phone, mobile app or desk phone while always displaying the office number.
“Employees only give out one business number and all calls and texts stay within the GoodPhone portal on their smartphone or PC app. If a customer calls their number and they don’t answer it on their smartphone, the call can be routed to the company voicemail, not their personal voicemail,” explains Brackett.
The service also allows businesses to text promotions and contact customers via SMS and MMS messages, as well as track the responses. Employees can monitor messages and set auto-responses with customized text from one account.
The service facilitates resolving customer issues by enabling the search of text archives with a 360-degree view of customer interactions. When video conferencing is required, the service currently allows up to 1,000 people to participate and up to 25 to share a screen.
Fox is very pleased not only with the ease of implementing the GoodPhone service but also its quality and reliability.
“The phones shipped to our office were already programmed, so I just had to plug them in. They essentially handed me a turnkey system,” said Fox.
Fox appreciates that the technology integrator is not just a phone company, which he believes has helped improve system dependability.
“The system is far more global and robust than what we had previously. It is very reliable and we don't have any issues. In a year we had less than 20 minutes of downtime and they were very responsive in getting that resolved,” he said.
Fox credits the telecom service for easing his duties as a manager and COO. GoodPhone facilitates monitoring and managing the workforce from anywhere and includes a web phone and smartphone app, a call statistics/call center dashboard and real-time as well as historical reporting.
“As a manager, the way I can see and manage the whole backend is important. Unlike many apps, the mobile app actually works and does not just direct you to a website or browser. I’m able to do virtually everything I can do on a desktop inside the app,” said Fox.
“I'm able to manage my team more effectively with the service,” he adds. “For instance, if there’s an issue with a customer on a phone call, I can quickly pull the recording on my phone to help resolve it.”
Other businesses are also finding value in simplifying the complexity of their phone systems at a low, flat monthly rate.
Market Contracting Services, a construction firm in Chicago, Illinois, had remodeled their facility and planned to purchase costly landline phones for the office, but reconsidered when their technology integrator suggested a better option, according to Esmeralda Macias, the firm’s office manager.
“With the new VoIP smartphones BTI has available, we don’t have to pay for landlines. We can see everything online now through a portal, so can view all incoming and missed calls,” she said.
According to Macias, employees no longer have to sit at a desk to take calls since they can do so anywhere they have an internet connection.
“Even after hours, we can transfer calls to our smartphones. This has translated into better customer support and more sales,” she said.
From a budgetary perspective, the VoIP phone system has also been a success. The system not only eliminates current carrier bills, but also includes unlimited local and domestic long distance.
“The landline phones and service were going to cost a lot more. By implementing GoodPhone, we are already way ahead financially - and we are just getting started with using the capabilities of the VoIP phones,” she concludes.
Business telecom systems have long been complex and costly, leading to user frustration. However, with greater choice in the marketplace today, businesses that integrate essentially all required telecom services through VoIP phones at a low, fixed cost can streamline their operations and gain a competitive advantage.