Voice-over Internet protocol, or VoIP is wildly popular among businesses and individuals alike for several reasons. The most obvious is price — Internet telephony is almost always less expensive than a phone system built on the traditional Public Switched Telephone Network, or PSTN. VoIP is software-based, making upgrades or the addition of extra lines simpler and less expensive, and VoIP provides extraordinary customizability for businesses of all sizes. Finally, the best VoIP service providers offer a range of features that would usually cost extra on traditional PSTN networks. When deciding which provider is right for your business, look for the following features.
When choosing which is the best VoIP service provider for your business, ask if they offer simultaneous dialing. This allows incoming calls to be forwarded to multiple locations at the same time. Whoever answers first, takes the call, which is then terminated on all the other lines. This decreases wait times, virtually eliminates the chance of an incoming call receiving a busy signal and prevents the need for the representative who fields the call to put the customer on hold.
Customers or clients should never hear a busy signal. The VoIP provider you choose should offer — for free — sequential dialing. This service allows the business owner to choose several phone numbers for calls to be routed to sequentially. If the primary line is busy, the VoIP provider will automatically redirect the incoming call to the second number in the sequence. If that number is also busy, it will forward the call to the third number and so on.
Routing Based on Time of Day
The best VoIP service providers will offer — generally without extra charge — time-of-day routing. If a company does business internationally or even nationally, this service delivers time-zone efficiency that was once reserved only for businesses with scattered local offices. The business can set a schedule based on the time of day — or day of the week — that a call is placed, and determine a secondary location that is charged with receiving the call. If a call is placed to a call center that has closed for the night, it can be routed to an open call center in another location, in another time zone. This system is often referred to as “follow the sun” routing.
Just as is the case with police and ambulance sirens, different countries have different ringback tones. Often overlooked as a triviality, establishing the correct ringback tone provides continuity and familiarity to the caller. A customer’s call — even one placed to a local number — is often bounced around the globe through sequential dialing, call routing, etc. But the best VoIP service providers establish a sense of consistency to people placing calls to businesses, no matter where the call originates. This provides reassurance to customers, as if the call they placed was uninterrupted and handled at the local level. Internationally correct ringback tones add to this veneer.
When choosing a VoIP provider, you should never have to sign a long-term contract that can’t be cancelled at any time without charge. Unused minutes — at least a portion of them — should be rolled over to the next month. Extra minutes that exceed the monthly limit established in your plan should not cost more than 15 cents each, technical support should be available 24 hours a day, and you should always be able to alter your plan, or add or remove phone lines. VoIP is popular for many reasons, not the least of which are the wide range of features that are included for free — make sure you choose a provider that offers all of them.