If you’re thinking about upgrading your phone system, you’ve probably come across talk of hosted voice or VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) solutions.
Hosted voice represents the next generation of phones; rather than working from copper-based lines, complex office-based call routing, and local exchanges, a hosted voice system is based in the cloud – making upgrading significantly less obtrusive than your previous system.
That said, not every business is ready to unlock the range of features these next generation systems offer, so it’s worth considering if you’d see any benefit from a cloud based, VoIP telephone solution.
What does a hosted voice system do differently?
In essence, a traditional phone system and a hosted voice system are like comparing cell phones from 1999 to cell phones from today. At their core, they perform some of the same functions – but the fully digital systems of today have far greater potential.
It’s actually worth trying to clear your mind of what you think a phone system offers before you consider a hosted voice managed service. Rather than simply being a communication device – your phones actually become a way that your customers can interface with your technology.
When your customer holds their cell phone or digital home handset, they’re actually hold a complex digital input device. If your hosted voice system is programmed correctly, it’ll respond to a myriad of possible digital inputs that your customer’s phones are capable of.
In fact, you’ve probably used a digital phone system recently. If you’ve called any service provider, the chances are they’ve given you the option to pay your bill over the phone, or even access a range of trouble-shooting guides without necessarily having to talk to any end-user. These are both examples, albeit fairly simple ones, of what a hosted voice system can do.
Although it’s a fact that may sound like it spells the end for humans in the workplace, part of the issue with traditional phones are the people that use them. Generally, a customer that’s calling your business isn’t calling because they want to just talk to someone – they need to use the phone to get some kind of outcome from your business – it’s a slightly inconvenient part of the deal that they have to talk to someone to get that result.
Sadly, humans are usually the least efficient and most unreliable part of any end-user-to-business interaction – and the frustration that goes along with talking to a person is often compounded by the fact that, unlike a computer, you have to wait to talk to one.
On that basis, it’s probably no surprise that people almost always prefer to deal with an automated system if they’re calling your business and they know what they’re hoping to achieve.
The list of what’s possible when it comes to customer-to-business interaction via a smart phone system is growing significantly too – although, as your HR department will no doubt be delighted to hear – there’s still a lot of it that involves a real end-user too.
The scope of what’s possible for a hosted voice system is virtually as broad as your imagination. If you imagine that your customer’s phone becomes a digital input that they’re going to use to interact with your systems, then you start to see what’s possible.
For instance, you could tie a hosted voice service to a chatbot that gives customers access to a wide range of FAQs. Then again, you might want to tie it to a voice activated payment system – or even a system where customers can make changes to the accounts and information they hold with you.
Hosted voice systems are often at use alongside customer service roles too. While traditionally, phone calls have been handled by an operator, before action is taken and the whole process is transcribed for your CRM system, your new hosted voice service can transcribe in real time, updating your CRM and even identifying a series of action points that the end-user may need to action.
Since a hosted voice system can create a series of outputs, these become sophisticated inputs when tied to one (or more) of your systems through APIs. With the right systems analysis and process mapping, you’ll be able to identify a number of points through your processes which might be more streamlined if handled by your phone system – and, with the help of the right systems provider, you’ll be able to automate those steps as much as possible.
Potential business benefits
As you can probably now tell, there are a wide and varied range of business benefits that go hand-in-hand with hosted voice phone services:
Improved customer service
No need for ‘holding’ or callbacks – when your customers access the information and services they need instantly, your level of customer service takes an upward turn. Time is money – and your customers know it.
When you start to remove non-time-efficient processes from end-users, you free them up to work on tasks that are generally more skilled. For instance, if your sales team spend less time following up on invoices (replaced by emails and an automatic payment line) then you’re highly likely to see more productive sales calls taking up their time instead.
Since your hosted phone system will become part of your IT network, you’re handing over another part of your system to a network security provider who will be able to make some concrete promises around keeping your business and your data safe.
Easy network management
A hosted voice system cuts down on the amount of time you’ll have engineers in your building installing additional lines and routing phones to desks. Since a hosted system piggybacks on your IT network, it’s a case of plugging in to a port and getting started.
Hosted voice systems probably sound expensive – but since a large portion of the cost that’s involved with upgrade a traditional phone system involves the infrastructure, you’re likely to find that a next generation system weighs in significantly cheaper than you might be expecting. There’s likely to be some cost involved – but since your data will be handled over an internet connection, you’ll find that any installation cost is offset by call-savings.