With so many VoIP options, business may have a hard time choosing the best one. This guide will walk you through the information you need to assess and choose from among the best VoIp providers.
At one time, if you were starting a new business, your first call was to the phone company. They’d come in and run wiring, then assign phone numbers to each sales rep’s desk. You’d pay a monthly fee for those landlines, with each phone having one function: to allow you to make phone calls.
In recent years, though, Voice over IP (VoIP) phone systems have taken over the industry. By 2020, experts predict 204.8 million customers will be hooked up via VoIP.
The good news is businesses no longer have to rely on one local utility provider for their phone service. Top-quality telecommunications companies have stepped up to help businesses with the services they need.
Today, those services extend far beyond traditional audio-based calls. Businesses need video conferencing, chat, fax, call recording, and directory management, all in one easy-to-use package.
Let’s help you narrow down your options:
- Assessing Your Telephony Needs
- The Basic Business Benefits of VoIP
- Benefits of VoIP for Sales
- Top VoIP Providers
How to Asses Your Telephony Needs
When it comes down to it, nobody knows your business as you do. Whether you’re starting from scratch or you’re scaling your tech startup, you likely have a few things that make you unique. These unique features should be documented in a list of requirements, preferably in order of importance, before you begin shopping for a service.
1) Start by assessing your physical environment
Before you can get started, you’ll also need to assess your physical environment. You don’t have to have a dedicated leased space to set up a phone system. In fact, even if you’re a one-person business operating from a home office, you can benefit from VoIP solutions.
Your solution can be set up to seamlessly route calls to your desk phone or cellphone, utilizing a tree that gives the appearance of a much larger business.
As you grow, the right VoIP system can be set to grow with you, accommodating arriving and departing employees through a dashboard you control.
2) Map out your requirements for a virtual phone system
If you need a virtual phone system, map out exactly what services you’ll need from that system. One of the best things about a VoIP system is that you can easily add and remove features as needed.
Don’t feel too pressured as you’re choosing options. No matter what size your business is, pay particular attention to the control you’ll have over your setup.
3) Call management controls add flexibility
You should have call management controls in place that let you adjust your work location preferences. For instance, if you want to work using your smartphone at the beach rather than seated at your desk.
If you have a team, you should also have a console that makes it easy for you to adjust their settings as necessary. Even if you’re still a one-person operation, consider that someday you’ll likely be adding at least one employee. And choose a solution that makes that process as painless as possible.
4) Look for features that can keep up with your growth rate
If you plan on expand your customer base beyond a local service area, consider the value of a toll-free number. Some VoIP providers include this as part of their basic service, but others will charge extra for it. Another extra that makes a big difference is internet faxing.
If you choose a VoIP service that includes fax-to-email capability, you’ll be able to send and receive faxes directly from your computer. This means you won’t need to purchase a dedicated fax machine for your office or go on a frantic search for a FedEx Office.
5) Survey your employees and business needs
For a business that’s been around a while, one of the best ways to determine your needs is to take a close look at your current phone habits. If you have employees, survey them to learn the features that would make their work easier. Would your team benefit from internal text messaging or chat capabilities?
Look at the software you already have – or the software solutions you’re putting in place. Determine whether you can find a VoIP solution that will bundle in many of those features.
Why Switch to VoIP
There’s a reason so many businesses have made the switch from landlines to VoIP.
In fact, the benefits are so well known that many new businesses don’t even consider landlines when they’re setting up shop. If you’d like to avoid wasting time comparing the benefits of VoIP vs landline phones, here are a few benefits that can help you skip that step
1) Easy install
With the phone company, installation is an event. They’ll set up a time and arrive, equipment and cabling in tow, and spend hours setting it all up.
VoIP setup is quite the opposite. In fact, it’s so quick and painless, you can even install it yourself. Although the provider will have some configuration on their end, the handsets are plug-and-play.
2) Call quality
Customers have gotten used to the crystal-clear sound of the digital audio provided by VoIP systems. Many of today’s VoIP providers offer high-definition technology to reduce network jitter and ensure sounds are crisp and reliable.
3) Cost savings
One thing that has drawn so many businesses to VoIP is its affordability.
Unlike landlines that charge a high monthly fee for each handset, most VoIP solutions are cloud-based. A low monthly fee covers a wide range of features.
When combined with the absence of large setup fees, VoIP solutions almost always come out far cheaper.
4) Bonus features
Many of the extra features that come standard with VoIP service are charged extra when you sign up for a landline. Utility companies see these as add-on services, while VoIP providers consider it part of the basic package.
Few businesses remain exactly the same over multiple decades. Customer bases increase, workforces double and quadruple, and your business model will evolve. VoIP solutions not only offer scalability as you build your sales team, you often can add and remove users and features as needed.
Old-style phone systems don’t meet today’s business demands. Chances are, you don’t spend the entire workday seated at a desk, so you need a phone system that can keep up with you. VoIP systems can route your calls to a desk phone, home phone, or cell phone as needed.
7) Disaster survivability
One of the essential points to address in any disaster recovery plan is your phone service. VoIP resolves that part of the planning process by its very setup.
If a disaster like a tornado or fire wipes out our office space, a VoIP system could ensure your customers could still get in touch with you. You can simply reroute all calls to your employees’ cell phones.
8) 24/7 availability
Few businesses can afford to have employees on call 24 hours a day. But with the auto-attendant service built into some VoIP plans, you can ensure your phones are always answered.
9) Integrated software
The extra features provided with VoIP solutions mean that businesses have no need to invest in extra software. Better yet, activities can easily translate from one solution to the next. These integrations eliminate the need for duplicate work, saving your team time and reducing the risk of error.
Benefits of VoIP for Sales
1) CRM integrations
Most sales teams rely heavily on their business’s CRM. VoIP integration means that when an interaction takes place, it’s logged in your CRM. Other team members can see updated information on every activity that’s taken place.
2) Call recording
Although not all VoIP solutions offer this feature, many at least have it as an add-on. You may not see a use for it at the outset but recording sales calls can actually be invaluable for training. Your own sales team members can re-listen to their recordings and identify areas for improvement.
3) In-stream chat
Being able to engage your customers while they’re interacting with your brand can be essential to closing more deals. VoIP solutions can integrate with your websites and apps to let customers initiate a call or chat with one click.
One of the best VoIP features for your entire business is its reporting functionality. When it comes to sales reporting, this can be especially beneficial. You’ll be able to see how many calls your team is making, how many deals are closed as a result etc.
5 of the Best VoIP Providers out There
When it comes to choosing a VoIP provider, there may be many services, but only a handful are the best of the best. We’ve pulled together five companies that are widely recognized as leaders in the industry.
In the end, you should be able to use this comparison guide to find the best fit for your own unique environment.
1) Nextiva (Top Pick)
Nextiva is ideal for today’s on-the-go sales teams. A salesperson can’t constantly stop by the office for meetings or to ask questions. The mobile app keeps everyone in touch wherever they are, with built-in messaging, chatrooms, and video conferencing capabilities. You can also pull call information to determine how your sales force is spending its time.
Your business’s phones can also be tied to the built-in Nextiva Service CRM, so every communication is logged in real time to keep the rest of the team informed.
This saves you the hassle of having to buy a CRM separately or troubleshoot 3rd party integrations.
This is one of the main reasons Nextiva is the best VoIP provider on the market today. Nextiva has seven points of presence, with two more coming soon. More locations mean more redundancy in your network, which reduces the risk of costly downtime. Over the past 90 days, Nextiva has had 100 percent uptime.
Like most of the top providers on this list, Nextiva is respected enough to have a Better Business Bureau profile. The company has been BBB accredited since 2008, with an A+ rating and 89 positive reviews.
You’ll also see a positive Yelp rating, which sets it apart from many VoIP providers that don’t have a presence on Yelp at all. Additionally, Nextiva has 4.1 stars on Glassdoor with numerous positive reviews from present and past employees.
Nextiva’s basic cloud phone system starts at $19.95 per month, which includes unlimited calling and unlimited virtual faxing.
For an additional $2.95 per line, you can add voicemail-to-text functionality. Upgrading to an Office Pro Plus plan for $20.95 per month adds on conferencing capabilities and the mobile app. But the full-scale version is ideal for sales teams since it adds call recording.
Prices for that version, called Office Enterprise, start at $27.95 per month.
Aircall is a phone system designed for the modern sales team.
They seamlessly integrates into your CRM, eliminating data entry for your reps. You will also have greater visibility into your team’s performance with advanced reporting. When it’s time to scale, you can add new lines in minutes, and use in-call coaching to reduce ramp time for your new reps.
Their features range from Automatic Call Distribution to call queuing and custom toll-free numbers. Advanced features include hold music, VOIP numbers etc.
Aircall’s pricing starts at $30 per user per month billed annually. They also have a Professional plan starting at $50 and a custom plan for additional customization.
With more than 140 patents, 8×8 has the distinction of being one of the earliest VoIP providers. This means they’ve had time to work through all of the features that make a good phone system stand out.
8×8 is ideal for businesses that do most of their sales calls by phone, particularly in a contact center setup.
With data centers located across the globe, 8×8 promises high availability and business continuity. There is no single point of failure within the 8×8 network since another location will immediately pick up the slack.
If you have a failure at one of your own locations, you can quickly reroute traffic using the 8×8 app.
Accredited with the Better Business Bureau since 2009, 8×8 has an A+ rating but no positive reviews. The company rates 3.6 stars on Glassdoor, with complaints about work-life balance and a lack of national brand recognition.
8×8 has three major plans designed to meet varying business sizes and budgets. The basic plan is their Virtual Office. This offers calling, auto attendant, conference bridge, texting, chat, and integration with Zendesk, Netsuite, and Salesforce.
One of 8×8’s biggest drawbacks is they don’t provide pricing transparency. In other words, you’ll need to pick up the phone and call to find out how much you can expect to pay.
If you want the full package, though, you’ll need to upgrade to Virtual Office X8.
Mitel separates its solutions to make them specific to certain industries and business sizes.
This ensures the phone system you purchase is the perfect fit for your company’s needs. Each solution is flexible and scalable to grow with your business as it evolves.
The solution includes collaboration software that helps your team stay connected. Whether workers are in the office or on the road, they’ll have the same consistent experience across all devices.
One issue with Mitel is that they sell their services through third-party resellers. You could find yourself dealing with multiple layers of people to get support.
The service itself is solid, though, especially since the release of MiCloud Edge.
Mitel is not BBB accredited. The company has a fairly low Glassdoor rating, with 2.4 stars and complaints about leadership issues. However, the company appears to have gone through growing pains in recent years.
Although Mitel doesn’t provide specific pricing information publicly, it has three major pricing structures. For the most basic plan, Essentials, you’ll get unlimited monthly minutes, voicemail, audio conferencing up to eight parties and more. To add audio conferencing for up to 25 users, voicemail transcription etc., you’ll need to upgrade to a Premier plan.
The Elite plan has all of the features, including an operator, call recording, and archiving.
RingCentral promises global availability, making it ideal for those businesses that have workers located across the globe.
You’ll be able to set up local numbers for each of your employees to help them better connect with prospects in their own markets. For small businesses, RingCentral has become popular because it’s designed to work completely without desk phones.
You can run the phone system solely through smartphone apps, which is a plus for today’s remote sales teams.
RingCentral’s goal has always been enterprise-level security for smaller-sized businesses.
For that reason, they invest heavily in a technical support team that monitors the network for issues 24/7.
The RingCentral network is built by its own team, so you don’t have to worry about third-party provider outages.
RingCentral has an A+ BBB rating with accreditation going back to 2004, plus 29 positive reviews.
Unlike the other companies, though, RingCentral has far more negative reviews than positive, with primary complaints about customer service. The company also has a relatively low employee satisfaction rate, with an overall Glassdoor rating of 3.7.
With four pricing plans, RingCentral has a price to meet the needs of both small and mid-sized businesses. The Essentials package costs $19.99 per user per month and includes unlimited calls and 100 toll-free minutes.
The Standard plan, at $24.99 per month per user. If you upgrade to the $34.99 premium plan, you’ll get 2,500 toll-free minutes and integration with apps like Salesforce and Zendesk.
Vonage has both residential and business plans, making it one of the more heavily-advertised services on the list.
However, its features put it on par with the others. The solution is cloud-based and highly flexible, allowing businesses to add and remove features as needed. It also integrates with popular applications like Salesforce, Office365, and G Suite etc.
Vonage promises 99.999 percent uptime. It utilizes SD-WAN to help handle the workload during those times your team needs extreme bandwidth for video calls or teleconferences.
Accredited in 2014, Vonage has an A+ rating, with reviews that are exclusively related to their residential services. They have the lowest employee satisfaction of all of the VoIP providers on this list, with a rating of only 2.9.
Vonage has three major pricing plans, with the basic plan costing $19.99 per month per user. You’ll get unlimited calling and text messages, as well as access to the mobile app and desktop app, for that price.
For $29.99 per user per month, you’ll add on multilevel auto-attendant and video conferencing, chat, and file sharing for up to 100 people. You’ll also need at least the $29.99 plan to get CRM integration.
For $39.99, you can have all those features plus call recording, call group, visual voicemail, and orange-glove setup.
Also published on Medium.