I’ve been thinking about getting a VoIP phone in my home office. I’ve been using only a cellphone to conduct business for fifteen years, but there are times when it would be very handy to have a good speaker phone and to also enjoy some of the other features that come with business phones these days. So I’ve been shopping around and I quickly noticed that VoIP vendors have introduced some interesting innovations to their VoIP platforms in just the last few years and they are trying hard to be a better alternative to local phone service.
Since most of my clients offer business landlines I thought it would be interesting to describe what I found in the marketplace. I think it’s important to keep up with what your competition is doing, and VoIP business service is definitely becoming a serious competitor to anybody selling phone lines to businesses. Here is what I found about today’s VoIP market:
Price. Business VoIP keeps getting less expensive. Just a few years ago the VoIP prices were universally around $40 per line. Both Fonality and RingCentral now have lines starting at $19.99 including unlimited long distance and basic business features. Packages climb in price to $40 to include such things as video conferencing. Every online vendor has a different set of features at various price levels making it difficult to do a side-by-side comparison. But the bottom line is that basic VoIP business lines have come down in price.
Integration with Apps. Probably the coolest new feature with some VoIP services is full integration with common business software. For example, you can get full integration with helpdesk software like Salesforce’s Desk or with Zendesk. Or you can tie into collaboration software like Google Drive or Dropbox for business. A number of phone vendors are integrated into Salesforce, the industry-leading sales tool. And some platforms claim to integrate easily with most android apps.
These are powerful tools that are not bundled with switch-based telephone systems. Buying a phone line that is already fully integrated with Salesforce or Google Drive can be a big enticement to users who want to solve multiple issues with one purchase.
Advanced Business Services. VoIP business vendors have made big strides with their suite of advanced business features, Earlier generations of VoIP business lines were mostly a replacement for single line business phones, but they now offer features that rival the best functions of IP Centrex and other switch-based solutions.
And many VoIP platforms now integrate video conferencing for up to 50 simultaneous users, something that is not part of most Centrex or PBX feature sets.
Mobility. It doesn’t look like the VoIP providers have yet solved the mobility issue, but it’s obvious that they are working on it. Most of them still use call-forwarding to allow calls to be sent to cell phones, but I couldn’t find anybody that is yet offering an integrated cellphone / landline product where all features work seamlessly across both platforms.
Unified Communications. A few VoIP providers are now offering applications that will support phone calls, voice mail, email, chat applications, conference calls and other forms of communications and give users the ability to easily switch how they are communicating. But most don’t yet have this fully developed.
There seems to a lot more functionality with VoIP business lines than what I was able to find just a few years ago. I think carriers need to be putting pressure on their switch vendors to keep up with the innovations going on with VoIP. Many businesses are going to like the integration with common business software and with video calling and if you are selling landline solutions you need to keep pace with what customers want.