Even if your office is literally your home, your desk isn’t your life. But with a desk phone that could ring at any second, you may find yourself debating stepping away. When you’re on the go or need a snack from the kitchen, VoIP systems can keep your business moving and your clients happy — all while allowing you to be wherever you need to be.
This comprehensive guide will explain what VoIP systems are all about, how they compare to traditional phones, and what to look for from a VoIP phone service. We’ll also help you compare some of the most well-known VoIP solutions on the market, so you can find the right one for you.
What are VoIP systems?
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) systems are cloud phone systems that allow you to manage one or multiple numbers using an internet connection. To make and receive calls on VoIP systems, all users need to do is open an app on their mobile device, tablet, or computer. You can use whichever device is the most convenient and stay connected anywhere you have internet service.
When used as business phone systems, VoIP technology allows teams to seamlessly operate remotely. All of your team’s phone lines are interconnected thanks to the web. Plus, you’ll get more functionality than your average desk phone, too. From text messaging to business app integrations, VoIP features can easily streamline all your operations.
VoIP systems vs on-premises PBX systems
Traditional phone systems, otherwise known as on-premises private branch exchange (PBX) systems, require you to store bulky hardware within a central office. If you have a remote team, this option is already out. And if your team is working in a central office, the high cost of the hardware (and often an IT team) could make you think twice.
VoIP systems, sometimes known as virtual PBX, offer far more scalability. Just invite a team member, accept a small monthly pricing update, and your new hire is good to go. You don’t even need to provide a device. VoIP mobile apps are usually compatible with most updated smartphones.
VoIP system calls vs cellphone calls
Some small businesses have already replaced landlines with mobile phones, but using the built-in calling features on cellphones can have drawbacks of their own.
If you’re providing business cellphones for your team, the cost of adding new phone lines can still be costly — and you can’t direct all incoming calls to a central phone number for multiple team members to share.
If your employees are using their own phones, having work-life balance can be difficult. There’s no way to stop business calls from coming in outside of work hours if you want to receive personal ones, and vice versa.
With a VoIP business phone service, you can have a VoIP number and a personal phone number on the same device. When you’re off work, you can turn off VoIP phone calls without impacting personal ones for a whole lot more zen.
Questions to ask when choosing a VoIP provider
Choosing a VoIP service isn’t as simple as swiping left or right. You can (and should) take the time to ask your potential providers questions to ensure you’re finding a service that’s trustworthy and a good fit for your needs. These questions include:
- What browsers and operating systems is your software compatible with?
- Is a contract required? If so, what are the terms?
- How much does your service cost? Are there any add-on costs?
- How much does it cost to add a new phone number?
- How do you set up a VoIP system using your service?
- Can you port an existing number over?
- Do you offer customer support?
6 VoIP phone system features to consider
So what features should you seek out for your business VoIP system? While every team has different needs, these six features can help your team operate more effectively and efficiently.
1. Shared phone numbers
Having a dozen phone numbers for clients to call for the same purpose (such as customer support) doesn’t really make sense. And if you only offer one business phone number, it’s inefficient for one team member to field all your calls.
Shared phone numbers solve these issues by allowing multiple team members to manage calls or texts from a shared inbox. Whoever’s available can answer clients, and you’ll have a record of past conversations, so you can make the customer experience feel seamless.
Some use cases for shared phone numbers include:
- Building a remote customer support team
- Creating a central business line
- Offering one phone number for each department
2. Auto-attendant (IVR)
Your team members have better things to do than route calls to the right teams all day long. That’s where an auto-attendant can come in handy.
Auto-attendants are digital assistants that automate the call-routing process. When clients call in, they’re greeted with a number of options (for example, “press one for sales”). Once the client selects an option from the menu, your auto-attendant sends them to the right phone line. Your team can focus less on forwarding calls and get more bandwidth for tasks that really require brainpower.
Odds are, you’re using multiple apps or pieces of software to run your business. Many business VoIP providers offer integrations to help you streamline your work by keeping all your systems connected. OpenPhone, for example, can connect with popular small business tools like email, Slack, Zapier, and HubSpot CRM.
4. Voicemail transcriptions
It’s not always convenient to listen to your voicemails. The solution: Find a VoIP system that lets you read them. Voicemail transcriptions are especially key for on-the-go teams. Even if you’re on a loud subway without a headset, you can still see what clients or team members are reaching out to you about and how urgent the issue is.
5. Call forwarding
When you’re on vacation, in a meeting, or busy on the go, you’re probably not in a place where you can or want to answer calls. With call forwarding, you can direct all your incoming calls to another team member, who can cover you while you’re out.
6. Call recording
Call recording is a helpful feature that allows you to review phone calls whenever you need to, whether it’s for quality control, training purposes, or something else. VoIP systems that offer call recording can even help you resolve disputes when clients make false claims.
4 VoIP phone system red flags
When you’re choosing a business VoIP service, it’s crucial to know what to avoid, too. Steer clear of VoIP systems with any of these four red flags. 🚩
1. Ongoing call quality issues
Great business communications require excellent call quality. If a VoIP service is constantly having connectivity or clarity issues, run the other direction. Scope out customer reviews on sites like G2 or Capterra, take advantage of free trials, and check uptime records to figure out the call quality you can expect before choosing a VoIP phone solution and wasting time constantly troubleshooting your phone system.
2. Poor customer support
When customer support is bad, you might as well have no support at all. Avoid VoIP services that don’t offer support with your desired plan, or those that have poor customer service reviews. This will save you from days or even weeks of unresolved issues and ensures you don’t need in-house IT pros just to manage calls and texts.
3. Complex pricing
Some VoIP providers have pretty complex pricing structures. Some charge higher monthly prices based on team size, while others charge add-on costs for must-have features. Choose a VoIP system with simple, transparent pricing like OpenPhone, which sticks with clear pricing plans.
4. Little to no advanced features
VoIP systems are getting more advanced by the day. If your service only offers the basics — unlimited calling and SMS — or offers little else, you’re not getting much bang for your buck. And if your provider doesn’t offer these features in this day and age, you can definitely find better options.
How OpenPhone stacks up to 3 VoIP systems
OpenPhone is a VoIP service provider that offers the key features listed above, without any of the red flags. Plus, when you choose OpenPhone as your VoIP system, each of your employees can get their own US, Canadian, or toll-free numbers, or they can share numbers with their team.
Here’s how OpenPhone compares to three well-known VoIP providers that you may be considering.
RingCentral is a legacy VoIP provider that’s been around since 1999. But while it’s cheaper than landline systems, it can still be pretty costly — and the smaller your team is, the more you’ll have to pay.
It starts at $29.99 per user per month for teams of 2-10, or $39.99 if you’re a solopreneur. And at those starting prices, you’ll find that you’re only getting the basics, plus document sharing.
OpenPhone offers a unified space for all business calls, texts, and voicemails where your team can collaborate to build better relationships with your clients — and in turn, internally within your company also. Compared to RingCentral, you can get call recordings, phone menus, and other essential business phone features without paying more.
Ooma is a VoIP system that offers both a mobile app and desk phone compatibility with every plan. However, if you want to access Ooma’s desktop app, you’ll have to upgrade to the most expensive plan.
While Ooma does offer lots of extras (like virtual faxing and overhead paging) with its basic plan, the VoIP service doesn’t support MMS at all. Without picture text or group text capabilities, your client communications may feel a little outdated. You also won’t get integrations or call analytics.
OpenPhone offers mobile apps, desktop apps, and browser apps with every plan. Unlimited MMS and SMS in the US and Canada also come standard. Our VoIP service also supports both integrations and analytics to help your business perform better.
If you need video conferencing that’s integrated with your VoIP system, Nextiva can help you out. But Nextiva isn’t exactly the most small-business-friendly service. Small teams pay a much higher monthly price than large ones. Teams of 1-4 pay at least $30.95 per user per month, a price that drops down to $25.95 per user per month for teams of 20-99.
But even with those high prices, unlimited text messaging doesn’t come standard. And key business integrations (like those for Gmail and Slack) aren’t even available. Nextiva offers integrations with enterprise-level software like Oracle Sales Cloud instead.
OpenPhone offers accessible features (and pricing) that meet small business needs including the ability to easily import your Gmail contacts and push OpenPhone notifications to any of your team’s Slack channels. Business owners can save a ton while getting core features (and advanced features) for their teams.
Get the most out of your VoIP service with OpenPhone
Traditional office phones are no longer needed in our internet-driven world. VoIP systems are feature-rich platforms that give your team better flexibility and scalability while saving you money. With OpenPhone, you can use the most business-friendly phone platform, that includes stellar customer support, integrations, shared phone numbers, and more.
Start cutting the cord with a free trial of OpenPhone today.
Emily is a freelance business and marketing writer based in the desert, though her writing is anything but dry. Her passion is writing compelling, human-friendly content that helps growing businesses perform better.