Taken individually, they may not seem very interesting, but compared to what you get with legacy telephony, I believe that each one adds a little bit of cool factor to VoIP. Of course, this largely depends on your frame of reference, but for most SMBs, these features will be pretty new. They may not be radical upgrades, but they all deliver value, and if you can take advantage of every one, VoIP will turn out to be an excellent investment.
This is a quick snapshot of the enhanced features
§ Visual voicemail – arguably the most widely-used VoIP feature, end users are alerted to new voicemails via email, which includes an MP3 file where messages can be played back from whatever device you’re using. Not only does this save time for dialing into the phone system to retrieve messages, but you have many more options for managing voicemail as well as for sharing messages with others.
§ Speech to text – just like it sounds, this involves speech recognition software that transcribes the audio so you can read your messages via email instead of playing back each voicemail. While the accuracy isn’t perfect, it’s good enough for everyday use, and if you miss a lot of calls, you’ll save a lot of time, not to mention having easy access to the content of your messages wherever you are.
§ Call logs – since VoIP is a digital communications mode, all activity is captured as a matter of course. This benefits both end users and IT managers with much more information about how telephony is being used than is possible with legacy service. Think about how that helps monitor the performance of contact center agents or sales people, not to mention gauging network utilization patterns to ensure adequate bandwidth to support VoIP at all times.
§ Call recording – while there is a privacy aspect to consider, this is a native capability for most VoIP services, and is not a practical option with TDM. Call recording may be routine in the contact center, but this can bring new value in an office setting, such as when sales people deal with customers, or for providing training about complex products.
§ Reservationless conferencing – all businesses use conferencing services, and most will say they’re spending too much. VoIP can help bring that cost down, but another aspect is the ease of doing conference calls on the fly. Pre-planned conference calls are still needed, but when any employee can set up an ad hoc session, their ability to collaborate will take a big step forward.
§ Unmetered long distance – this is another big selling point for VoIP, but the hidden value comes from the freedom to make calls without concern over cost. This will resonate with businesses distributed over several regions, but do not have a singular phone system that serves everyone. In these scenarios, VoIP takes cost out of the equation, making it more likely that employees will pick up the phone regardless of who they are calling. This matters if you believe voice is the best way to communicate, especially if the other options are near real-time modes such as email or IM.
§ High definition audio – this is a bit like seeing HD TV for the first time – after that, it’s hard to go back to what you’ve been using. HD VoIP isn’t standard yet, but if that’s important to have, you can certainly get it. Think about the impact this will have on customers when calling in for support, or for prospects when making a sales pitch. Even owners/management will want to have this for important board meetings that require a conference call.
§ Making all calls local – a key aspect of VoIP is that voice calls are not tied completely to a 10 digit number. Since VoIP calls are terminated on the basis of an IP address, rather than the physical location of an area code, you have more flexibility when dealing with customers. Instead of having all customer inquiries come to you via a toll-free number – which is quite expensive for you – VoIP allows you to issue multiple phone numbers each with a distinct area code to cover off your key regional markets. In this scenario, customer calls are still free for them since they’re local calls based on their area code, and you avoid the metered cost of 1-800 calls.
§ Adding fax to VoIP – you may wonder who still uses fax, but this pre-Internet technology remains popular. Regardless of how much faxing you do, your business is probably still spending money on dedicated fax lines along with ongoing maintenance for the system. Since fax and VoIP are both digital communications modes they can easily be integrated over the same network. Not only will this save you some money, but you just might discover some new applications for fax.
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