How VoIP helps organizations avoid technology that won’t scale

As a business owner, sometimes it’s difficult to predict where your company will be in the next several years, or even the next few months. You may be on an upswing, adding new employees and growing into new departments, or you may hit a rough patch and need to downsize.

Scaling your phone system may be the last thing on your mind during times of transition, but it’s important to consider how personnel changes will affect this vital equipment for business.

“Businesses grow and change,” says Alex Desberg, sales and marketing director at “We find that if they’re using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), there is ease and ability to grow. If they’re using traditional phones, there’s a certain amount of pain, additional hardware and consulting time that they have to go through to grow their phone system.”

Smart Business spoke with Desberg to find out how VoIP systems save business owners money and hassle by easily scaling to the size the company needs.

What difficulties do companies with traditional phone systems experience as they grow?

Traditional phones have few components: the phone that’s on the desk, the phone system itself and the copper phone lines supplied by the phone company. Each one of those, depending on what a company needs, will need to be resized and changed. As you add more lines, the phone on your desk may not be able to support additional lines, so you may be buying additional phones. The brains of the unit may not have enough ports, cards or memory, and you may need to upgrade that. You may also need additional copper phone lines. Each of those adds cost — it may be a one-time cost for the hardware and upgrades, or it may be an additional monthly cost.

How do VoIP systems make it easier for companies to scale their phone systems as their business expands and contracts?

With a VoIP system, the phone that sits on the desk is programmable, so if it’s not capable of doing what you want today, it doesn’t mean that you need to throw it away and start again; you’re just changing the software programming in it.

Also, the ‘brains’ of a VoIP system, which contains all the features and functions, isn’t owned by the company. The company is not responsible for it and it doesn’t live at their office. VoIP is easily upgradeable as a service and provides a company with more scalability and functionality than a traditional phone system.

Finally, depending on the VoIP system you’re on, you may have unlimited calling or may be able to add calling at a much more reduced rate because you don’t need to have copper lines brought in and you don’t need to sign long-term contracts with your phone company.

Alternately, if a company is downsizing, with VoIP you reduce your costs every time you remove a line from the phone system. With traditional phones, you’ve made that hardware investment so you lose that when you scale down.

What if a company doesn’t need new phones but wants to put additional features in place?

If you want to add features, such as the ability to host a conference call, and your traditional phone system doesn’t have that ability, it’s typically an additional piece of hardware or a card that someone will come out and install. With VoIP, it’s just added as a service — the provider can just turn it on for you, and you’re ready to go.

When you own a traditional phone system, at some point they stop making additional features for the one that you own. If you want those new features that are developed, you need to buy the new series of that phone system or the new model. But as new services are added in the VoIP world, there is no new hardware to refresh, change or throw out — it just becomes an added-on service.

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How VoIP can be designed to fit the unique needs of different industries

Regardless of its size or sector a company works within, all businesses have certain common threads. For instance, the need to communicate effectively and efficiently — both internally and externally — is something every business deals with. However, it’s also important to note that every business has a unique communication DNA. A phone system that works for one company might not make sense for another.

“Every business is different,” says Alex Desberg, sales and marketing director at “They shouldn’t be shoehorned into an off-the-shelf phone solution.”

Smart Business spoke with Desberg about the importance of customization, and how Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) can be tailored to serve various industries.

How can VoIP be designed to fit different markets that have different needs?

Different industry segments have characteristics that are only seen within that space. By deploying a customized VoIP system, a company can gain advantages from certain functions that are designed to fit that industry’s specific needs. It’s important to avoid trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

How can VoIP be tailored to serve the manufacturing sector?

Manufacturing facilities typically have two different components. First is the headquarters, which serves as the hub of communications and houses accounting, sales and administrative personnel. The sales team, which generally uses headquarters as their home-base, need a phone system that can help them keep in touch with their main facility while they’re out pounding the pavement. Then there are remote manufacturing and warehouse facilities that are often spread throughout the country or world. Not only is there a need for fluid communication at the administrative level, but the remote facilities must also be able to correspond effortlessly with headquarters. A VoIP system can be tailored to meet the disparate needs of a manufacturing facility, enabling that facility to become more accessible, and ultimately, more efficient.

How can VoIP support the needs of CPAs and financial institutions?

Typically, in these types of businesses, the staff are housed in a single location. If there are multiple locations, the phone needs are often identical. Employees are usually on the phone a good part of the day and there is a need for continual customer contact. The basic administrative functions are the most important components for such businesses. Because the workforce is stationary, there is rarely a need for remote or mobile applications.

How can VoIP streamline calls for the medical sector?

Most small to midsize doctor’s offices are structured so that during the day inbound calls go through a receptionist. During the evening, medical practitioners utilize absentee services where callers are redirected through phone numbers that lead to on-call personnel or forwarded to hospitals in the case of emergencies. A VoIP system can redirect, or triage, phone calls as needed.

How can VoIP allow a virtual company to appear as if they are well grounded?

More and more companies are shedding their brick and mortar locations in favor of having their employees work remotely. By having a front-end VoIP configuration, organizations can present a unified communications system that will give the appearance of a solid business. Functions like call forwarding, voice mail and conference calling are available so employees can stay connected without being tied to an office. Also, VoIP can eliminate the need for companies to utilize traditional phone lines and equipment, so overall cost savings and service enhancements can be significant.

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A look at the issues facing companies as they upgrade telephone systems

Small and midsized businesses face several key challenges brought about by an increasingly mobile workforce.

“Many are finding that their traditional phone services aren’t reliable or flexible enough to meet changing patterns of work and customer needs,” says Kevin Conmy, regional vice president at Comcast Business.

“As a result, many are seeking alternatives to PBX telephone systems that have become obsolete, expensive and labor-intensive to manage.”

According to recent UBM Tech research, more than 59 percent of small and midsized companies would consider a hosted or virtual alternative to traditional PBX or Key systems. Respondents to the survey perceived that cloud-based systems would address many of the primary motivations for considering the replacement of their current telephone systems.

Yet challenges in implementation are among the remaining barriers to wider adoption of this alternative to the traditional approach.

Smart Business spoke with Conmy about these challenges, as well as the benefits of a cloud-based telephone system.

What are businesses looking for in a communications system?

Organizations are increasingly seeking flexible communications that support in-office as well as remote employees (and those who move among multiple locations). Employees at organizations of all sizes have become increasingly dependent on communications systems to keep pace with the new mobile work style.

The most successful companies will be those that leverage technology to empower their employees, removing obstacles to their success, and engage this new workforce in ways that will drive the business. New communications and collaboration tools are needed to effectively tie together and promote teamwork among dispersed workers.

Many companies, but particularly small and midsized businesses, are finding that their traditional phone systems aren’t reliable or flexible enough to meet these changing patterns of work and customer needs. As a result, many are seeking alternatives to PBX telephone systems that have become obsolete, expensive, and labor intensive to manage.

Recent UBM Tech research, based on a survey of 228 IT directors, networking decision makers, and other senior management executives involved in purchasing telephone systems and unified communications services at small and midsized companies, revealed that a significant 59 percent of companies surveyed would consider a hosted or virtual alternative to traditional PBX or key systems.

Why are some companies resistant to making a change?

Companies that are considering the replacement of their current telephone systems are driven to do so by the age or obsolescence of their equipment, the costs associated with managing and maintaining that equipment and the need for modern communications features.

The research found, however, that many companies are reluctant to invest in a communications system with associated high maintenance costs and steep learning curves.

Respondents who are considering replacing their current telephone systems say they are challenged to select a new IP-based PBX that will not become obsolete and unreliable in a few years.

After all, the rapid changes of the last five years quickly rendered their traditional PBX systems unable to support the anytime, anywhere communications necessary to support an increasingly mobile workforce.

What is the benefit of a cloud-based managed phone service?

Cloud-based managed phone services provide a virtual PBX that offers features that are easy and intuitive to use and that help companies run a faster, more efficient business. Because everything is managed in the cloud, there is no need to make the major capital and hardware management investment that typically comes with traditional PBX phone systems.

In addition to making it possible to minimize capital expenditures on expensive hardware, cloud-based phone services remove the need to hire staff to monitor the system. There’s also no need to keep purchasing the latest technology, since the constant evolution of hardware is maintained in the cloud.

What barriers still need to be overcome?

According to UBM Tech research, some respondents are not convinced about the real cost savings associated with cloud-based communications. They are also leery of requirements that their organizations retain direct control over voice and unified communications and have concerns about security, privacy and regulatory compliance.

In order to drive adoption beyond the first wave of early adopters, these concerns must be addressed and a financial model must be created to demonstrate the savings in total cost of ownership over a five- to 10-year period.

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Used VoIP phone systems can go toward the good of the community

Change happens. Sometimes a company decides to upgrade its Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) hardware with a new system, has moved several workers off-site and no longer needs the same number of phones, or office mergers have taken place. In these cases and others, business owners sometimes have excess telephone hardware. Many companies are now looking to give back to their communities by putting gently used VoIP systems in the hands of those who need it.

“I’ve been to some businesses that say they’ve downsized and they have 20 to 30 extra phones that they’re never going to use again,” says Alex Desberg, sales and marketing director at “I’ve had customers who contacted me and said ‘We’ve changed how we do business, we’ve reduced the number of people and we have all of these extra VoIP-capable phones; do you have anybody who actually needs them?’”

Smart Business spoke with Desberg to find out more about donating used VoIP systems as an alternative to selling or trashing them.

Why would a company choose to donate VoIP hardware?

Companies may have extra equipment that they’ve paid for in full, and two options would be to sell it back somewhere for a decreased value, or donate it. When they choose to donate the phones, they get an in-kind donation and can use it for a tax benefit.

Many nonprofits are struggling with their communication equipment. For example, they have caseworkers who are using their personal cellphones when sitting in an office somewhere trying to work. It’s not a professional environment and they’re giving out their personal number for services that are really not something you should be giving your personal number for. These donated VoIP systems raise the level of communication and allow the nonprofit to communicate more effectively and professionally.

The companies that have donated find that they’re happy to give the phones up, and then the added bonus of a tax benefit is nice. They want that sedentary equipment to go to a good place.

What is the process like for a company to donate used phones?

When a company’s vendor acts as the intermediary for donated phones, the vendor needs to keep track of where the equipment is coming from and who it’s being donated to. When you donate to a nonprofit, they give you a letter saying thank you for the in-kind donation of X number of phones valued at XYZ dollars, and the vendor will hand the note off to the company that donated.

Who receives donated equipment?

The company can request where their donated phones go. It’s a good idea to support organizations that don’t have the benefit of being a for-profit organization. A donation eliminates the need for a nonprofit to try and buy something new, as opposed to using a perfectly fine technology that just happens to be gently used. In the end, it’s a double-win: You’re not just throwing it into a landfill or just benefiting another for-profit somewhere, and you’re giving the equipment to a nice organization that does good for the community.

The vendor may also be able to recommend organizations if the company doesn’t have one in mind. Recommendations may come through the normal business channel or organizations may come looking for assistance. There are many small nonprofits that are struggling that nobody really knows about. Companies can make a difference just by identifying those organizations. Find your favorite, small nonprofit, and recommend to your VoIP supplier that they donate your hardware to that organization.

Are there minimum requirements for gently used phone systems?

To turn it around and make it effective, it has to be something that will work with VoIP. It can’t be a legacy phone system because the receiving organization will end up in the same situation with a service that doesn’t help them very well. Companies can call their VoIP provider and let them know what they have, and they will determine whether they can use the hardware or not.

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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.