Replacing outdated phone systems is uncomfortable until you see the benefits

Cutting the cord

Having worked with small and midsized businesses in the VoIP arena for the past 10 years, Ohio.net Marketing Director Alex Desberg says it’s interesting that companies getting a new phone system commonly ask why they need to change.

“In one instance, we introduced new services that had fairly advanced features to a company,” Desberg says. “A provisioning team was sent out to install the system and train the company’s employees on how to use it. The front line manager asked the provisioner if he could set up the new phone system just like the old one so none of his employees needed to learn anything new. It’s interesting because people have access to revolutionary services and their first thoughts are often around how they can take a high-tech system and dumb it down to mimic the service they’re getting rid of.”

Desberg spoke with Smart Business about making the switch from traditional phone systems to VoIP.

What does it mean to “cut the cord” on outdated phone systems?

Traditional phone systems typically ride on legacy phone lines — the copper lines running down telephone poles that connect to buildings and their phone systems. When VoIP came along, it translated all the voice traffic into data and freed it from needing a physical connection.

That innovation created a host of capabilities through hybrid systems. Remote and office staff can now be connected with virtual phone systems that maintain the core capabilities of a traditional office phone system but without needing to be tied to a single location.

What is involved in the process of cutting the cord and why might it be uncomfortable for a company?

When it comes to phones, people are change-averse. It’s strange because technology users seem to be comfortable with or even expect to upgrade their computers, cellular phones and tablets, but when it comes to office phones, people are so comfortable with outdated technology that they resist anything new. Telecommunications are often the last office upgrade considered. Even when a company moves its offices, it’s usually the last call made. And when plans are made, companies typically move the outdated system rather than upgrade it.

That fear is likely driven by the concern for potential disruption that could be picked up by those outside the company — customers, vendors, etc. A fundamental change to the phone system from a traditional line to VoIP could be recognized in the voicemail greeting or possible changes to the menu prompts. In reality, customers won’t disappear because a company’s voicemail sounds slightly different or there is a new set of button pushes. With VoIP, there is the chance to make telephone service more personable and easier to navigate to improve the customer experience.

In what ways would a company’s customers be affected by an updated phone system?

VoIP allows customers to more easily reach individuals in the company directly. If they call the office line they can be instantly redirected to a cell phone without needing to talk with front desk personnel and they avoid voicemail. That creates more of a direct connection between the customer and the person they need to reach.

VoIP systems are great for calls that occur after hours. In most traditional phone systems, customers can’t reach anyone in the office once it’s closed and that’s the end of it. VoIP can incorporate time-of-day plans to redirect calls to whoever is available at that time. That can change how a company is viewed.

What can a company do with VoIP that it is unable to do without it?

There are some really outdated phone systems still in operation. Often companies hold onto equipment until it’s completely amortized or obsolete. These systems don’t have caller ID or voicemail. Instead, message taking is done with paper and ink. Replacing a system like that is a very striking change. For companies that have a remote workforce and are located across the country, a legacy system is more of a liability than an asset.

VoIP systems tie employees together under one cohesive phone system. This is critical in a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) setting. It helps unite devices of all types through a multiplatform service. Custom systems allow companies to add or remove features as they’re needed anytime. It’s a way for companies to build their own systems that can be scaled to meet the needs of the company at any stage of its lifecycle.

What sort of training is necessary to get employees up to speed on using the new phone system effectively?

VoIP providers will both install the system and provide end-user training as part of the ramp up. A trainer will come to the company’s facility and walk employees through the systems features. They can also teach remote employees through webinars.

Because providers are service-oriented, they should always have training options available to answer questions and provide technical support on managing transfers, checking voicemail online, fixing issues or reminding employees how to use any of the service’s functions — it’s essentially an on-demand training and provisioning service.

What are the long-term benefits companies can realize with a new phone system that couldn’t have been realized without it?

It was once the case that companies would be required to maintain their own phone system hardware with costly parts and service. Now, the brains of every unit live on cloud servers. As new services and features come out they’re added to the system and can be used immediately. There are always new features being made available to VoIP customers — small call center resources such as call queues and operator features to call recording and text to extensions, for instance. They can be added or ignored depending on the value and budget of the company.

There can be some nickel-and-diming with some providers. A good provider will have the most common features already turned on. It’s only the higher functions such as call recording that come with an added fee. Companies typically use 40-50 percent of the functions that are available, but each company uses a unique 40-50 percent.

Businesses that are investigating new phone system options should look at everything and evaluate them based on what could provide the biggest benefit for the organization. Explore the benefits of switching to VoIP and pick a supplier that has both the best services and support.

This article brought to you by Ohio.net.