The business benefits of cloud phone systems

A cloud or hosted voice system can bring many advantages to businesses of all sizes, not least lower costs, and greater flexibility. In recent times, with the exponential rise in home and remote working, they have additional benefits in these – and other – respects.

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Do cloud phone systems benefit a business?

The ‘benefits’ of a business phone system are not always that apparent. Businesses need to have phones – it’s not even something that’s questioned, and getting the broadband and phone lines sorted out is probably the first thing you do when you set up a new business.

Unless you are a sole trader working in a particular locality, you can’t really get away with only having a mobile number. Without having a central phone number that customers and suppliers can dial into – and from which your employees can make calls from – you don’t really look credible as a business.

Having a phone system gives you centralised management and control of costs. It means that calls always be answered when someone dials in and allows you to set up voice mail messaging, call transfers and redirects, and maybe to even record calls.

All these benefits of phone systems are enhanced when you use cloud telephone services. They make even more and better features available to you – and give you tremendous flexibility – and more predictable and lower costs. By the way, cloud voice services are often called hosted voice or VoIP (voice over IP) systems; these are entirely interchangeable terms.

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Low business phone costs

Lower costs are often said not to be the biggest benefit of using a hosted or cloud-based voice system – but this is certainly a big and important advantage. You should expect to save something on call costs and to have a more consistent bill at the end of the month (this is another advantage – you tend to get bills monthly and can even see your spending to date with some services).

There are several areas in which you are likely to save:

  • Lower overall cost of rental – the cost of a voice service will often be per-seat though, so this can be higher overall than a ‘line rental’ cost in some situations. The VoIP phone or handset will usually be included in the rental cost – although with other packages you can buy these outright. But if you want to scale up and/or down at any time, it’s useful to have the all-in-one option.
  • Lower call costs – unlimited calls to UK numbers and even to mobiles may be provided as part of the package – that cuts out a lot of call costs right away. You should have a much better idea of what your ongoing phone costs are going to be.
  • Lower international call costs – some services offer very low cost international calls.
  • Lower-cost features – chances are a lot of great features will come with your cloud voice service – and any extras will be cheaper than with analogue services.
  • Improved use of resources – you’ll have more information about the number of calls made and received and their duration. By analysing this data and making your teams aware of call patterns and how much time they are spending on different tasks and customers, you should be able to make better use of your resources and enhance levels of customer service.
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Virtual and portable numbers

With cloud voice services you can have just about any number you like – and it does not matter where you are located. Typically, a VoIP number will start with 0333 prefix, but you don’t have to use that format. You could transfer your existing number and take it with you if you relocate – even if it’s a completely different area. You could also have several other numbers which all redirect to your central system.

You can do this with individual / direct dial numbers as well as your ‘switchboard’ line, which is ideal if you have staff working at home or remotely. They can always be available – via the main line or their own direct dial. Calls can be redirected to other numbers, such as a mobile, as well.

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Advanced features

With most cloud-based voice services you get a whole load of advanced features included in the deal. Even the most basic offering is likely to give you automatic call routing, forwarding and transfer, the ability to have three-way calls, and hot desking capability – really useful if you want home workers to still be on their usual direct dial number. You may also get caller display, call waiting and hunt group capability.

More advanced features available will include auto attendant, voicemail, and voicemail-to-email, call recording, and support for unified communications and collaboration.

Some services also come with a free app that you can load on your mobile phone that will allow you to make and take calls using the cloud voice service.

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Online management

As it’s all in the cloud, you can always access all the features and also monitor and manage your voice service. You can usually get a lot of details – call duration by individual and by customer/contact, overall costs per department and much more. With some services, the reporting can be tailored to your specific needs. Also, you can get access to this information at any time, so you can always stay right on top of your telephony – and even link it back into your cost centre analysis. Some systems will also integrate with CRM software, which can be really useful.

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Working from home

We have already mentioned that cloud voice services make it easy to enable working from home. All users have to do is log onto the cloud voice system and they will be available on their usual number and have access to all the features that are normally available. Some systems also have a ‘virtual receptionist’ feature, which enables you to have someone field incoming calls and then transfer them to the appropriate individual. It would make no difference whether the receptionist and/or the person who is being called is located, it would all be entirely virtual and seamless to the caller.

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