Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, is becoming increasingly popular with businesses in today’s economic climate. Significant cost savings can be realized by using a VoIP platform to connect employees virtually, freeing up costly office space in the process.
“VoIP is the utilization of Internet connectivity to make phone calls. It can transform the way you do business,” says Michael Gray, a senior sales executive with Ohio.net.
Smart Business spoke with Gray and his client Ken Fanger, president of Solar Systems Networking, about VoIP, the advantages such a platform provides, and what advances are envisioned in the future.
How does VoIP translate to tangible benefits for an organization?
Gray: It depends on what a client’s needs are. Typically, however, businesses see benefits ranging from being able to connect multiple people back to the core office to being able to build customized call routing protocols to eliminate any geographic restrictions they may face. For example, remote salespeople who telecommute are provided with the ability to connect to their home office, which saves in commuting costs for the employee and overhead costs for the employer. VoIP can benefit a business in many ways.
Fanger: The biggest advantage for us is we are able to use the VoIP solution combined with forwarding to our cell phones so we don’t have to have our people tied to a phone system. We are a consulting technology firm so we aren’t usually sitting in the office. VoIP has helped us take advantage of having people connected and working while presenting one type of sales face to the world. It makes it much easier for us to manage all of the virtual clientele that we work with without having to have a physical location.
What advantages does VoIP provide in terms of releasing businesses from office space?
Gray: VoIP frees business from having to be tethered to a physical location. For example, our organization has salespeople who telecommute and can work from anywhere. When they receive a phone call it appears as though they are in the office although they might be a million miles away. I have a client who was able to realize savings of $250,000 per year on office space and associated overhead costs because they made the switch to a VoIP platform.
Fanger: VoIP provides a virtual platform so you can have employees and phone numbers anywhere in the United States. We have an employee who works in Texas and has a local Texas number, but it still connects to our VoIP solution. So when customers call in they have a local contact, but access to our company. It provides us a great opportunity to reach out to new markets that we couldn’t have reached any other way. We are a six-person company so being able use a cost-effective VoIP platform is vital to our ability to grow.
How can a brick-and-mortar feel still be replicated?
Gray: Customers can still receive the live contact they crave. With VoIP, you have the ability to transfer phones so people can get a live answer. The environment feels the same, but is conducted through a virtual atmosphere.
Fanger: When a person calls in they can’t tell the difference between the virtual environment and a brick-and-mortar structure. It’s nice because we don’t have infrastructure costs, but when people are calling our company we have a full-functioning phone system that allows us to do business in a manner advantageous to us.
How has VoIP changed over the past several years?
Gray: VoIP has become more dynamic in supporting other applications such as smartphones and tablets. It gives companies the ability to essentially hand off a smartphone to an employee which equates to an extension within their world. The need for an actual desk phone is going away. We are moving away from a phone-line environment to a cloud-based, virtual phone model.
Fanger: We’ve been using VoIP for six years. The feature sets have been growing and there is more functionality, which allows us to stay in touch within our organization. Also, it now works really well for adding to smart devices units.
How do you envision it evolving in the future?
Gray: I see VoIP becoming more of a cloud-based application, which would lead to it being able to work better with devices such as smartphones and iPads. It will be more software based in the sense that traditional handsets will no longer be applicable in our world. VoIP will be much more dynamic and will continue to provide businesses with a brick-and-mortar feel, but without the physical brick-and-mortar overhead.
Fanger: VoIP will definitely move toward combining phones with different types of applications, such as customer relationship management. As people embrace devices such as the iPhone and iPad, there will be greater integration between work applications.
Michael Gray is a senior sales executive with Ohio.net. Reach him at email@example.com or (330) 658-1777.
Ken Fanger is president of Solar Systems Networking. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (440) 243-3207.
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