Whether you are trying to get on with fixing a technical issue for one client when another client rings to ask a “quick question”, or whether you’re trying to get your invoicing done when a salesmen calls to try to sell you his wares, if not managed then the telephone can be a terrible productivity killer.
Do you eat your own dog food when it comes to VoIP?
You’re probably also familiar with the phrase “Eat your own Dog food?”.
Personally, I much prefer the phrase “Drink your own Champagne!” (who eats Dog food apart from Dogs?) but either way, in the world of IT Solution Providers it refers to the practice of selling a product or service to a client that you don’t actually use yourself.
With some few exceptions, it’s always good practice to be using the products and services you sell to clients. Doing so sends a big message to them that says “The system I’d like to see you using is so good, we use it ourselves!”.
Most Managed Service Providers (MSP’s) I encounter either sell or re-sell Voice-Over-IP (VoIP) solutions (See “Should your MSP be selling VoIP services?”) but I’m surprised by the number of smaller MSP’s and sole IT Consultants who still use a Plain Old Telephone System (POTS) or worse, rely on their mobile phone.
For MSP’s who have clients who receive any type of client calls, using a VoIP solution gives you much more flexibility over how and when you answer calls – and this flexibility can mean increased productivity (you get more stuff done) and greater profits (you earn more money).
On-Site vs Cloud PBX
The type of VoIP system you choose is a straight choice between installing hardware on-site in your office or home office, or forgoing the hardware and utilising the Cloud.
There are still plenty of hardware based on-site Private Branch Exchanges (or a PBX – essentially a telephone exchange in a box) out there, ranging from the tools that can be installed on a basic PC or server running under Windows, to more traditional “PBX in a box” solutions that is a hardware “black box” that you plug an Ethernet cable directly into and use a web-browser or client admin app to setup and maintain.
You might also consider a Virtual PBX for small businesses – essentially a PBX hosted in the Cloud. The benefits with the Cloud approach to a PBX is typically lower up-front costs – as there is no hardware to purchase – reduced maintenance and often, a much less steep learning curve to setting up the system as you’d like.
Advantages of VoIP
Whether you choose an on-site or cloud VoIP PBX, once you’re setup then you can take advantage of the flexibility of VoIP and this can mean
- Forwarding calls on a conditional basis – such as utilising a call answering service when you are busy, or re-directing to a mobile phone when you’re working out of the office
- Reducing call costs – programming different “routes” for calls, such as using one call provider for free local calls, another for cheap calls to mobile phones, and another for cheap International calls – don’t worry who you are calling, just program the system, dial the number and know your call will be routed via the cheapest option
- Virtual Numbers – have clients in a different City or different country? Why not offer them a local number that easily redirects to your office.
- Call Recording – VoIP offers the ability to record calls easily, so you can refer back to them in the future.
If you are an IT Consultant or Managed Service Provider and you are still relying on POTS or your mobile ‘phones to manage your incoming calls – I’d suggest you are making life difficult for yourself! You will probably be noticing the effect in reduced productivity that being interrupted by a constant stream of telephone calls brings.
By implementing a VoIP solution, you’re utilising technology that gives you flexibility to take calls how and when you want to, and enables you to suggest similar solutions to your clients in the confidence that you know the solution is good enough for them – because you use it yourself.