How better telephony can drive SME success

Being there when customers call is essential to gaining new business and retaining existing customers. To achieve this, you need a system you can rely on. So why are so many SMEs still using telecoms technology so outdated that BT has announced its End of Life?

As things stand, many SMEs use ISDN for their business communications. In effect, that means a traditional phone system using copper wires we can’t see to connect calls to the wider phone network or PSTN; and the wires we can see connecting the phones to the plugs. The system is now in decline because advancements in technology have meant newer and better alternatives are making it obsolete.

It’s surprising to some. ISDN still sounds pretty new to most business people. However, against next generation alternatives, it is a costly and inflexible solution. SMEs looking at ISDN should change track, fast.

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Phone systems for SMEs

Flexibility

ISDN is by nature inflexible, which can mean a delay of days rather than hours should anything go wrong and more often than not, means relying on your provider to activate costly call forwarding. For businesses that means missed inbound calls, unhappy customers and unproductive staff.

By moving your phone system to the cloud, businesses are much more in control, with many platforms offering administrator and user access via online portals to manage inbound call routing and features to support remote working.

This can be done so easily because hosted telephony is cloud based, rather than a fixed physical system like with ISDN and an onsite PBX. As such, breakages require a technological solution – instead of an engineer – and users can access the system from alternative devices if necessary.

Scalability

Many businesses experience seasonal peaks and troughs. With retailers in particular finding themselves busy over Christmas and generally pretty quiet just a few months later.

With cloud based telephony, businesses can change, move and add new lines, or capacity instantly. For seasonally busy organisations, it means entire temporary departments can be set up in advance of periods of high demand. Even during peak trading new lines can be added if required. With a traditional ISDN system, the peak can pass before they even get round to installing a new, physical line.

Cost

Understandably the most pressing concern for businesses around tech and telephony is cost. Especially for SMEs, many of whom work on fine margins and cannot afford to allocate crucial resource where it is not absolutely needed.

This is perhaps the most attractive part of the hosted offer, when compared to ISDN. Hosted does not require any significant investment in on-site hardware and there are no ongoing maintenance costs whatsoever like there are with a traditional PBX. That’s two savings made already. As the system itself is more flexible, you will also see much more attractive call packages with many offering free internal and site to site calls as standard.

Every business is different. There is no hard stat that showcases the absolute cost saving of cloud based telephony against ISDN. But we do know that a single channel of SIP trunking (a direct IP-based replacement for ISDN) is approximately 50% cheaper than its ISDN equivalent.

Businesses mistakenly equate tech change to upfront cost and time delays. For hosted telephony that myth is busted. Businesses who move find themselves able to face the future confident in their communications technology. That has ‘bundles’ of positive knock-on effects for your company. Those that can’t find the time to change may just waste more time working with the old stuff.

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17 December 2015 | Cem Ahmet

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The views in this article are the personal views of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by Gamma.