How to use data collected by VoIP systems to build business strategies

Nowadays, there’s a lot of talk about using data to drive your business. There are entire departments set up to gather and analyze data, and make strategic recommendations based on their findings. Usually these initiatives center around Web statistics, email open rates or other customer interactions. But what about your phone system?

Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone systems offer companies the opportunity to gather data on phone usage and gauge employee performance, or even develop revenue-generating strategies.

“VoIP is taking true voice and turning it into data and pushing it across the Internet,” says Alex Desberg, sales and marketing director at “That means that it is running through computerized systems that can track it. It’s standard data, but it doesn’t get used in this manner with traditional telephones.”

Smart Business spoke with Desberg about leveraging call data.

What sort of data does a VoIP system collect?

Companies are able to take the calling patterns of their organization, whether they’re inbound or outbound, and provide detail down to the second of who’s calling in or out, how long a call is, or the amount of time between calls. This kind of data becomes very valuable for service organizations that may receive high call volumes.

The data is available almost immediately after the call ends. Companies can track when a call is transferred and moved around in an organization. Single call resolution is very big in the service industry where you want the person who is answering the phone to be able to complete everything the customer needs and not transfer them several times. You can watch that transferred call travel and you know who initiated the call and who is the final person on the call.

VoIP also offers call recording. The recording data can be categorized by date, time, which phone number was called or which extension answered. You have the ability to pull a call or keep records of a call, so it’s great for conflict resolution or he-said she-said scenarios.

How do companies access the data, and how do VoIP vendors support that?

The customer has full access to all data, which can be available securely online with real-time statistics. If, for example, you want to see what your call statistics were for yesterday and how many calls were answered between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m., that’s all in a very easy-to-pull report. Many reports are pre-created so that a user can just pick from a list. Alternately, custom reporting is available, or the VoIP vendor can just supply all of the raw data — basically everything that happens on a phone system — in a spreadsheet, and the company can mine that data itself.

What can a company do with this data? 

There are several ways to analyze and use the data to improve business. To target qualified leads and prepare the appropriate sales person, the marketing department can see where inquiries are coming from with inbound calls, in terms of geographic area, based on the phone number from which the caller is dialing. Advertisers running radio spots can measure impact by comparing the time of the day the ad runs with call volume and adjust appropriately. Custom phone numbers can be placed on advertisements to judge the effectiveness of the particular message — the more calls to that phone number, the better it is working.

Sales managers can measure performance of their team by seeing who is making phone calls, how often they’re making calls, how long they’re spending on the phone and they can couple that with call recording to see what works best. For example, perhaps the data shows that calls over two minutes increase the odds of closing a deal, or that calls under one minute decrease the chances of a sale, or whatever the statistics reveal.

On a corporate level, a company can also determine how busy their operators are and whether or not they need to add more staff for that time of day, month, year, etc., and how quickly customers are being taken care of. The more data you have, the more you can extrapolate out of it and build a strategy around it.

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A growing number of businesses are offering both public and private Wi-Fi

Businesses in all industries and market segments are on the hunt for strategies and tactics that produce customer growth.

One tool that is increasing in popularity is high-speed public Wi-Fi, or wireless networking technology.

“With escalating use of mobile Internet service comes demand for 24/7 Internet access,” says Kevin Conmy, regional vice president at Comcast Business. “Wherever customers are, they want to be able to access their email, phone, text messages and the Web.”

According to Cisco, the 4.1 billion mobile users in 2013 will swell to 4.9 billion by 2018. One result of this growth is a move by some businesses to offer both public and private Wi-Fi networks.

“Where public Wi-Fi can increase customer satisfaction by enabling wireless access, a private Wi-Fi network allows internal company files and information to be shared privately,” Conmy says.

Smart Business spoke with Conmy about the differences in public and private Wi-Fi and why businesses should consider offering both.

How strong is the current demand for Wi-Fi?

Once Wi-Fi is installed, 80 percent of small businesses surveyed by Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Bredin reported that it was the most effective amenity to offer customers, topping such freebies as coffee, magazines, TV, water and snacks.

Even businesses that do not currently offer public Wi-Fi see the benefits. Sixty-one percent plan to offer it soon, 41 percent recognize the advantages of using it for marketing and 38 percent see Wi-Fi as important to keeping up with the competition.

Why offer both public and private Wi-Fi networks?

Security is a major factor.

Businesses generally set up a private Wi-Fi network on which corporate communication takes place. It encrypts outgoing and incoming messages to provide data security for important business documents as well as allowing access to servers, email and printers as needed. Private Wi-Fi permits several employees to access the Internet simultaneously.

Public Wi-Fi is not as secure, but is very effective for customer use when on the company’s premises. Customers can check email, complete work and log into social media during times that otherwise might have been unproductive. When you separate public and private wireless networks, it ensures that business information remains safe and secure.

Is there a savings to offering both services?

When you have both public and private networks, employees can access the public service where they can take advantage of no-cost wireless service without logging into the company’s private network.

Not only can this save employees money by reducing the mobile minutes they would be charged for, but if the business pays for the cellular service, it can save the company money as well.

By separating internal and external company Wi-Fi use, speeds of data transfer for employees and customers can be optimized. Patrons and customers using bandwidth on public hot spots will have no impact on a private network if the two are separated.

Are most companies able to set up their own separate networks?

Setting up a router is not difficult.

The setup of two networks, however, is more involved. And it’s important to make sure they are both secure. The benefit of having a commercial Internet provider is that they will often set up your Wi-Fi equipment. Depending on the provider, they may support the equipment and the service, which is a benefit over setting up your own Wi-Fi networks.

How does public Wi-Fi access help from a marketing perspective?

Promoting access to Wi-Fi is another marketing tactic that small businesses with public Wi-Fi can use. Providing access to customers qualifies many businesses to be listed on local Wi-Fi locator maps, offering another potential way to connect with prospective customers. Using other marketing materials such as window stickers and signage helps customers become aware of the availability of Wi-Fi in the business. ●

How VoIP can save money during business expansion

When a business is in expansion mode, there are many expenses that accompany its growth. But if an expanding company has the economy-of-scale benefit that’s inherent to VoIP, the more offices it opens the more cost savings it has the potential to see.

“There is so much duplication when trying to offer traditional phone service if you have multiple offices,” says Alex Desberg, sales and marketing director at “If we can get rid of that duplication, that extra waste, you really start to see some economic benefit and efficiencies within telecommunications.”

Smart Business spoke with Desberg to find out how businesses with multiple locations are able to save money and streamline their labor efforts by using VoIP.

What kinds of issues do some businesses experience with a traditional phone system in multiple office locations?

Some companies have six or seven locations across the region, and every one has a different phone system, different provider and one IT person trying to manage it all. Sometimes they’re on legacy equipment, where they inherited an old phone system culture. An IT or telecom manager may get separate bills for phone service — for the vendor that takes care of phone systems, for Internet and for long distance — and each invoice needs to be reviewed and approved. But with VoIP, it’s all on one bill, saving a lot of time.

How does moving to a VoIP system increase efficiencies?

VoIP can turn multiple phone systems into one cloud-based system, reducing the resources that the provider needs to maintain.

It’s hosted, so the provider only needs to go to one place to effect change or support or update the system for the customer. If a phone provider has to go on-site to update, change or move a phone around, that adds cost. In a hosted environment such as with VoIP, the provider’s staff doesn’t have to go anywhere because they have remote access to everything that the client’s business is using.

With phone support issues, if there are multiple vendors, a company with a traditional phone system may spend a lot of time trying to figure out which vendor to call to service the phone system, Internet, etc. Using VoIP, a service call turns into a brief phone call rather than an hour of trying to figure out who does what.

Another issue is reporting. VoIP reporting shows everything a customer has, how much is being used, who’s calling who, and that reporting is available online. Customers can see a full call detail report any time they want. Traditionally, you would need to call your phone provider and request a report, and that can be a huge set of phone records that need to be manually reviewed.

How do VoIP systems save money for companies with multiple locations?

When multiple locations each have their own phone system, there’s time, effort and money involved in keeping each running. There’s a base cost per location. Even if it’s inexpensive, there are still costs associated with it and they’ll need resources running that phone system at each location.

Phone systems should also be built to allow for some expandability. It’s a mistake to put in the minimum amount of phone lines just to get by. It’s better to ensure accessibility and be able to answer all the calls a business receives every day. That may lead to a provider over-building a little bit. But with VoIP, that extra capacity is built in at one location, and it still has that expandability. It creates a better cost model.

Do business owners who use VoIP have the opportunity for labor savings as well?

Yes. Traditionally, organizations want fewer people doing the same amount of work that would be accomplished with greater human resources. With a cloud-based phone model, you don’t need somebody who is technically inclined to be able to maintain and update the system because it is part of the provider’s service. The company can subsequently invest resources into running its business rather than learning a phone system.

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Recognizing common phone hacking tricks could save your business

Security is always a concern when it comes to technology and communications, but recent high-profile hacks have brought the issue to the forefront. It has become clear that corporate telecom systems are not immune to these threats — they are often targets.

“Whether it be IP-based or traditional telephony-based, this is what connects you to the outside world and how people know you by voice,” says Alex Desberg, sales and marketing director at “Security is very important not only in terms of liability and loss, but also in terms of your public image.”

Smart Business spoke with Desberg about common threats to corporate telecommunication systems, how to identify them, and how to offset the risk of security breaches.

What are some common threats and how do they affect enterprise communication systems?

Users are actually the biggest threats; having things like a voice mail password that is the same as their extension, or birthday, or something guessable creates real problems. Most sophisticated phone systems can redirect calls through voice mail. If someone can guess your password, they now have access to your phone.

People have figured out how to dial into an existing phone system, commandeer phone lines and start making international phone calls. That practice is a multi-million-dollar business for people who can create pseudo-calling card services and allow others to call internationally on a corporation’s dime. That happens regularly both on Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phones and traditional phones. It’s referred to as coming through the front door, which means dialing the number, getting into someone’s voice mail, gleaning the four- or six-digit code, reaching an outside line and making phone calls.

What steps can be taken with VoIP to mitigate risk?

As technology has progressed, so has security. When done correctly, VoIP becomes more secure than a traditional phone system. It uses security processes that are very similar to those in the world of data; just like servers and accounts can be secured, so can the servers and accounts of phone systems. Front ending any decent VoIP system right out of the box should include a superior-grade firewall.

Is front door hacking more prevalent than back door hacking, and is there a difference in the level of threats between the two?

Most often, front door hacking is done to make money. Back door hacking is more malicious, designed to wreck or learn more about systems. If you take down a company’s phone system because you’ve hacked the back end, you’re essentially putting it out of business. Conversely, front end hackers don’t want to be recognized. Often a front door hack will go on for a month before a company gets its first phone bill and realizes something is wrong.

How can companies mitigate that risk and secure their systems?

It’s important to diligently monitor call logs. VoIP systems have a lot of data associated with them and if it is analyzed via call records it becomes clear when a phone system has been compromised. It then becomes easy to protect because statistical anomalies or changes in normal usage are more apparent. There are flags set up for international calling as well as attempted access to phone systems from international IP addresses. To thwart back door hacking, companies can use intrusion detection, firewall and access list, as well as the ability to lock access via IP address.

How can business owners make sure their system is secure?

Address it upfront with the provider and make sure that they have operations in place that allow for security, then identify protocol for dealing with a security breach. The rest is all the simple stuff.

Don’t let anyone use their extension as their password for their voice mail box and make sure its nothing common.

Also, call redirection or a zero-out to an operator can go to any other phone number. If you don’t have need for that ‘press zero’ function, take it out.

Finally, be careful what you download from the Internet.

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How VoIP streamlines communication across multiple office locations

Many companies have more than one office, or find they are growing to the point of needing additional locations. With traditional phone systems, companies may experience internal issues, or they may not provide the best customer service when operating across multiple office sites. However, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) systems can solve many of those problems.

“Many growing pains are based on updates and portability. Satellite offices experience these issues the most,” says Alex Desberg, sales and marketing director at

“There’s no limit to the expansibility of a VoIP system. If a franchise wants to open an office in Nashville, Tennessee, a VoIP provider can provision a couple of Nashville numbers for them and they can start making their business cards. Next week, it might be Arizona, and the provider can just keep adding to their system.”

Smart Business spoke with Desberg to find out how to streamline communication across multiple office locations using VoIP technology.

What problems do companies experience when communicating across satellite offices using traditional phones?

Often when you have satellite offices and a headquarters, all of the attention for the technology goes to the headquarters. It’s only later that they realize, ‘Oh yeah, we need something for the guys out in Kentucky.’ Then they look at a system that might integrate into the headquarters’ telecom system.

Making that interaction work properly with a premise-based phone system requires a lot of technology and capital, as in Internet or Wide Area Network connectivity, or a lot of long-distance calling so that systems can interact with each other.

How does VoIP help in these situations?

Even if the headquarters has something different for its phone system, a VoIP provider can bring a remote location online and give it multiple local calling areas and integration to existing phone systems. A satellite location can appear to be a part of the original phone system with the ability to four-digit dial to the headquarters. In the best of all worlds, the VoIP system would be installed in both locations. That way, the four-digit dial, voice mail systems and all the add-ons are intrinsically linked.

How does this help with internal communication?

Ideally, all phones are native on the system, so a transfer or an internal call doesn’t use additional telephone line resources, and it is not just a call forward. Traditionally, if you transfer a call from one phone system to the next, that phone call isn’t linked back to the original system. And if you need to send it back, you’re sending it back long distance. But if your main system and your remote office are networked, that transfer from extension to extension or location to location is really just a four-digit dial transfer and doesn’t use any other resources than what has been put in place for that phone system.

Does VoIP have an effect on external incoming calls?

There are a couple of advantages. One is that you can use ‘follow-the-sun’ technology. If you have multiple offices across the country, when your New York office closes at 5 p.m., you still have a good three hours of work time for those out in California, and they answer calls for the company until the sun goes down there. If they’re on the same VoIP network, then time of day situations can be set up where, after 5 p.m., all calls go to the next office in the next time zone and cascades across so that you can staff accordingly.

As far as basic calling, you can front-end your phone system as well so that people who are calling a main number or an 800 number can choose the office that they want to talk to. It’s seamless to callers because all they have to do is choose who they want to talk to and it’s not a transfer, it’s a direct connection to the location that callers want to reach.

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Run call centers effectively, efficiently and affordably with VoIP

Call centers often have specific needs and requirements to operate properly. Between the sheer volume of calls that take place at large call centers and the budget considerations that come with smaller operations, effective phone systems need to be both robust and flexible.

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone systems help to organize call centers in such a way that a company can have the features it needs without purchasing an all-encompassing system at a high price.

“A lot of call centers don’t like to put all of their eggs in one basket and it’s hard to divide up call center resources,” says Alex Desberg, sales and marketing director for “Companies that use VoIP can take advantage of what the platform has to offer and toggle it on or off by groups of phones or individual phones so that they’re really only paying for what they’re using.”

Smart Business spoke with Desberg about the benefits and logistics of incorporating VoIP into call center environments.

How does VoIP fit with companies that need call centers?

VoIP systems offer several features for call centers. Call recording, for instance, can either be a set of add-on recording servers and switches, or the company can pick a VoIP platform that has call recording built right in.

Call detail reporting, which includes the trends of inbound and outbound calling, presents good reports to review and see what marketing is working and what’s not. A lot of traditional phone companies just provide a list of how many calls took place, how long they were and how much each call cost. With a VoIP system, a company can measure trends by generating reports showing busy times of the day, week or month, and then drill down to which operators are handling the most calls, who’s on the phone the most, or how much time there is between calls.

VoIP also allows for monitoring or listen in, where a call center manager can listen to calls or can talk so that only the operator can hear what they say. With a barge-in feature, somebody can actually take over a call.

What if a company already has the phone system resources for a call center?

At that point it’s about building a cost-effective dial tone program, which features a less expensive dial tone, a very competitive price on toll-free inbound calling and all of the recording resources or monitoring resources that could be wanted. VoIP is also very good for disaster recovery backup if main line traditional telecom fails, or if a company wants to try something new.

Is there a major capital expense to set up VoIP for a call center for the first time?

It almost can be handled on a test case basis because you can add or remove services without penalty. If a company wants to try telemarketing or a call center, for example, and decides after six months that it’s not a good fit, the service can be turned off. On the flip side, if it is helping the business it can be ramped up even more — just start adding desk phones and the company can grow its call center. With traditional call center systems, often a company has to add all of the software, cards, hardware, the features and the support even if it only has one operator. That’s a significant capital investment. With VoIP, phone expenditures can fluctuate up and down based on the number of operators a company needs.

How do you size a VoIP system properly for call centers?

Call centers can be anything from a major operation consisting of hundreds of agents with very sophisticated phone systems to small organizations that have a handful of people. Scalability is an area where a VoIP system can really help a call center.

Call centers often handle a couple functions for an organization, and sometimes companies have to separate clients and customers for the type of business being handled. In this case, they can very easily spin up a VoIP call center that is technically and physically separated. That can be very hard to do with a phone system that is designed to be all-inclusive.

A look at what’s driving businesses to identify more ways to work together

Many businesses want to create and nurture a workplace environment in which both leaders and employees share ideas and work collaboratively to provide a great product or service to customers. That first step when you gather everyone together in a room and talk about what can be gained by working together is fairly simple. The challenge is to make it last and have a culture in which employees seek input from each other and engage in collaboration that leads to better results.

Technology is a tool that can serve as an important component to reaching this desired outcome.

“Today’s successful businesses embrace a collaborative work environment and understand how to use technology to foster that collaboration,” says Kevin Conmy, regional vice president at Comcast Business. “Working together with colleagues, partners and customers gives companies the agility to drive innovation and success.”

Smart Business spoke with Conmy about how to make collaboration an integral part of your company.

What is contributing to the push toward collaborative work environments?

There are a number of trends that are driving businesses to pursue a stronger level of teamwork in their workforce. Social media and cloud computing are obviously two of the biggest factors since they allow people to be more accessible no matter where they may be. As these tools become ever more commonplace and usability improves, it will continue to reduce the time it takes to learn the ins and outs of a new device or platform.

From a customer standpoint, expectations become much higher with regard to the quality of the product or service you provide when you’re effectively using technology. If you put yourself in the shoes of being a customer and you know that your vendors have all these new tools at their disposal, it only makes sense that their level of expectation will increase.

Add to that the fact that the world continues to get smaller and the pressure customers feel to remain competitive, and the need for another voice in the room as you plot your strategy becomes clear.

How do you turn collaboration into innovation?

You need to take the goals you have in mind as a business and put them on the table for discussion. That ‘table’ has to be more than just the one surrounded by chairs in your conference room. Use the technology tools and social networking mindset of today’s employee and change what it means to work together. Don’t limit yourself to the time on the calendar that everyone can get together for a face-to-face meeting.

To truly drive innovation, you must make data available to more people in the organization and then implement solutions to harness the collective knowledge, experience and communities that social networks foster.

Be willing to be creative in how those solutions are implemented. Successful organizations will take the steps to streamline their operational environment and equip employees, customers and partners with the tools to innovate.

If you’re a restaurant owner with high school and college-age wait staff and kitchen help, you have a team of people that is probably more connected to the social media world than you. Use that knowledge to tweet out new offerings at your restaurant or to post new menu items on your Facebook page. Learn about search engine optimization (SEO) and what it takes to lure new customers to your business. You learn something and your employees become more engaged in the growth of your business.

How do these processes improve efficiency?

It is easier to keep things moving in today’s world without being together in the same physical space by using tools such as online meetings, document storage and shared calendars.

You can easily protect sensitive information and limit access to those who need it. Enabling high productivity requires a strategic approach to collaboration. Successful organizations will take the steps to streamline their operational environment and equip their employees, customers and partners with the tools to innovate.

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Updated VoIP systems’ service enhancements simplify operations

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is not necessarily new — the basic concept has been around for about 20 years, with widespread use in business settings since 2004. However, as with most kinds of technology, it has been through a series of advancements since its early years.

Early VoIP systems essentially mirrored traditional phone systems, with proprietary licensing and network configurations. New technology enables modern VoIP systems to work on a virtualized platform with a very different licensing and cost structure, as well as other enhancements.

“The power is now in the cloud, not in the telephone closet,” says Alex Desberg, sales and marketing director at “If the premise-based phone system has to stay, we can work with that, too. Using traditional Private Branch Exchange (PBX) or IP-based phone systems, we can create the same geographically agnostic dialing.”

Smart Business spoke with Desberg to find out what the major benefits of updated VoIP systems are for businesses, and how to seamlessly update an older VoIP system.

What were the features of early VoIP systems?

Early generation VoIP is very software intensive, but it’s not much different than a traditional phone system, other than the features that it provides. Early VoIP systems mostly worked internally as IP, and not connected to the public switch telephone network in an IP-based way. You still had to call up your local phone company and plug in these phone lines to the PBX.

When VoIP technology was just coming out, there were major players that were using computer networks to allow phone systems to do things that they couldn’t traditionally do, including remote calling, multiple locations that are hooked together with the same phone system, integration to computer systems for basic call reporting and some software integration. The old way was very proprietary, meaning, you had to have one company’s handsets, phone system and their large PBX equipment in house, and you were essentially using new technology just like the old telephone systems. It just happened to be new hardware.

How can you work with an older system that is already in place?

There are plenty of organizations that have made a long-term investment in a phone system, whether it is IP-based or a traditional phone system, so it’s not easy to throw out the old system and buy everything new. There’s a way to take baby steps toward that.

Sometimes the company keeps the old phone system while it capitalizes on a better pricing structure for dial tone with a VoIP provider. That allows it to budget and plan and get a few years of savings under its belt. Then, the company plans for this capital expenditure and a hardware investment and moves when it’s time.

What enhancements do modern VoIP systems offer?

VoIP as we know it today is virtually managed; you don’t need somebody on-site and if you do require additions or changes, all you have to do is pick up the phone and ask somebody to do it without coming out. You don’t have to buy the brains of the unit — the PBX — for on-site installation, and modern VoIP systems are not nearly as proprietary as early systems.

In the VoIP world now, you could choose any number of providers to be your dial-tone provider, and that’s delivered virtually. The system lives on the cloud, which gives you some great abilities. It gives you disaster recovery capability, it allows you to put phones wherever you want geographically and they all operate like they’re connected. It gives you options to pick different or updated hardware so the phones on your desk can be up to date, and it changes the licensing model to more of a subscriber model. And it’s non-contractual, so you are not contracting with the local phone provider to get a dial tone — all of it is delivered through the service to the desktop, wherever that may be.

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VoIP flexibility can mean keeping up with technology as it changes

Being stuck in a lengthy telecommunications contract has long been a major pain point for businesses. Companies feel locked in, stuck, unable to move to a different provider even if they find a better deal.

“Traditionally, it’s not uncommon to see 36-month and 60-month contracts still in place,” says Alex Desberg, sales and marketing director at “In terms of technology and how communications are changing, that’s an eternity to wait for new and better services.”

Today’s businesses need flexibility and choice to move with the speed of technology. Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) functions as a software service that is nimble, movable and changeable, and typically doesn’t require long-term contracts.

Smart Business spoke with Desberg about the differences in telecommunications services in today’s evolving business market.

How has the industry progressed in its delivery of telephone services?

Since the technology in VoIP is developing and changing so fast, we’ve seen a lot more non-regulated services that don’t fall under normal tariffs, and now it’s offered like a service. So there is no reason for it to be contracted, other than choosing the provider that serves you best. If you’re not happy with that service, you should have the opportunity to move, change, and find someone that serves you better and not have to wait to the end of a contract.

Why are short-term offerings a good option for businesses?

Over the years, people have learned to hate their phone companies because they have to wait until the end of their contract to find someone else that they might like. If an offer sounds good, the company switches providers and after three years, they may realize they don’t like the new vendor either. The contract world has taught businesses to suffer through a term until they can find someone better. And that doesn’t help the end user because the technology will change within three years. If your business is not being served well by your telephone company, they don’t deserve your business anymore. On the other hand, if a telecommunications company has customers for 10 years who are not on contract and can leave at any time, but choose to stay, that’s a sign of serving the customer well.

How is the industry driving technology and service improvements?

A parallel can be drawn to the cell phone world. The cell phone industry drives technology with newer devices that have new features and enhancements. Whatever company carries the better device can garner more business. The same thing is true in the VoIP world. As companies in this space offer new services and customers demand new technology, the industry is coming out with options and features that are customized to businesses.

The goal of VoIP companies is to offer best-in-class technologies and stay ahead of what the customer wants. This way they can retain any customer looking to make a switch. VoIP providers offering old technology that doesn’t get updated may as well be a traditional telephone company. If a provider comes up with something new and the competition hasn’t figured it out yet, the provider can pick up the competition’s customers the moment the customer decides to switch.

How does the hardware come into play with the fast-paced technology updates?

Many times, organizations view their phone systems and their phone providers as a linked entity, thinking they can’t move to a new phone company because they have an old phone system. Moving into the VoIP world releases companies from that legacy hardware, that outdated phone system that can’t do a whole lot in terms of what’s available on new technology. That can be a big step for a customer as well — to cut the old phone system off the wall and go with the new VoIP technology on their desk. The move is typically a fraction of what it was to purchase a new phone system since you’re only buying the phones on your desks. VoIP phones are fairly universal, so you can move them from one VoIP provider to the next and take advantage of the upgrades, updates and technology without having to buy new hardware. ●

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How to find a VoIP provider that fits your business

Alex Desberg, Sales and Marketing Director,

Alex Desberg, Sales and Marketing Director,

There are many Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers out there, some large and some small. In the case of telecommunications, bigger is not necessarily better. Small providers tend to be more nimble and are able to customize and innovate in order to help their clients grow.

Also, independent VoIP providers can lend a personal touch, says Alex Desberg, sales and marketing director at

“Most small and medium-sized businesses want to work with a local company. Companies don’t want offshore support,” he says. “They want someone who is in their backyard. Someone who is in the same time zone and easy to relate to.”

Smart Business spoke with Desberg about changes in the VoIP landscape, the differences between providers, and the importance of customer service and support.

How has the VoIP landscape changed in recent years?

In recent years, the marketplace has changed. AT&T and some of the other big players are now offering VoIP services. While the corporate giants have marketing dollars behind them to push their products, it is the smaller, more flexible companies who are pioneering new technologies.

Companies looking for an apples-to-apples replacement for traditional phone systems might be satisfied with a traditional provider.

However, business leaders that want to make a change to VoIP typically prefer working with agile companies that are trailblazers and provide service at the local level.

What are some of the differences between VoIP providers?

Companies interested in VoIP services have two options: They can either choose a big provider with pre-set packages or work with a small, innovative company that is willing to invent solutions from scratch.

For example, many organizations want to integrate their customer relationship management system with their phone system. Unless you work with a provider willing to break the mold and try new technology, it’s likely that you’ll receive a one-size-fits-all model that might or might not be a good fit.

How important is customer service and support?

The service standpoint is what truly makes VoIP providers stand out. Either they are readily available, hands-on and willing to help navigate technological challenges, or they take the stance of expecting a business to be the one that makes accommodations, fitting the company’s telecommunications needs into inflexible packages.

The majority of small and midsize businesses have a telephone system that they set up years ago and haven’t made any changes to since. Such a system might work fine and it serves their purposes — they don’t need anything special.

However, there are other organizations that want to streamline their data and communications in order to be more efficient. That’s when it’s important to have a more dynamic provider that is pushing the envelope and striving to offer new services.

How should a business go about evaluating its telecommunication needs?

Businesses tend to have an IT manager or communications director put together an annual plan for servers, software, licensing, etc., but telecommunications companies will often wait until the contract is set to expire or there are budget cuts.

Under this scenario there is not enough time to investigate what services are out there that might be beneficial. Businesses tend to shoehorn themselves into what they find at the last minute within the budget, rather than figuring out what makes the most sense from an operational perspective, which may not be the best way to approach your telecommunication needs.

Alex Desberg is sales and marketing director at Reach him at [email protected]

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