The most important factor in the success of a management consultant company isn’t necessarily results-based. Customer service, and the manner in which client calls are handled, can make up for a great deal of shortcomings, and conversely, can expose a great deal of shortcomings. Consultants typically spend a great deal of time and money investing in analytics software, databases, and other process-based tools. They scour data and understand how to recognize patterns and solve problems. They typically even consult with clients on improving their communications systems and customer experience.
But what about a consulting company’s own communications systems and customer experience?
Efficient communication is critical to the success of any professional consulting firm. Clients are often scattered across the country and around the globe and consultants typically spend a great deal of time on the road. The ability to receive phone calls and messages is critical. One missed call can mean walking into a meeting with incomplete data or can lead to a fractured client relationship. Old and outdated communications and collaboration systems can chip away at a consulting firm’s productivity and affect its ability to remain competitive.
The Traditional Communications Model
A Private Branch Exchange (PBX) is the traditional approach to business telephony. This is the standard phone system model that delivers inbound calls to individual extensions. Unfortunately, this type of system has become outdated and expensive.
With a traditional PBX setup, firms must operate one system per office. If you have locations in New York and Los Angeles, each location will have its own, traditional phone system. Employees who must interact by phone have to place long distances telephone calls to reach their colleagues.
Traditional PBX systems also have limited support for telecommuting and traveling staff members. These workers must locate and operate separate phone, mobile, fax, and data lines. If a consultant is on-site with a client, she must use the client’s phone system or her own mobile phone to place a long distance call back to the office.
This model can get costly. Firms must pay up front for the phone system, then pay monthly maintenance costs in addition to the cost of calls and network services. There is no way to predict the expense from month to month, and there is no way to expand your consulting business without incurring increased hardware and maintenances costs.
Online Communications Systems
Online phone systems overcome the limitations of the traditional model and give consulting firms far greater scalability and flexibility. Voice Over Internet Protocol, or VoIP sends calls over the internet rather than over traditional phone lines. These systems require less hardware than traditional phone systems and actually allow phone numbers to travel wherever you direct them, as long as there is an internet connection on the other end.
This technology has created more efficient PBX systems for business. With a hosted PBX system, calls are switched and routed not with a bulky switchboard, but through the VoIP system. Hosted PBX works with traditional and online phone systems, either in tandem with or in replacement of your current system. With hosted PBX, a call comes in through your external telephone line, travels over the internet, and is routed to any endpoint you determine. That may be a desk extension, a mobile phone, or even a computer.
Online phone systems give management consulting firms far greater flexibility to conduct business through:
Advanced routing features: As individual consultants travel to visit clients and prospects, they can remain connected to the home office. VoIP systems allow users to route calls to any destination they choose. Through simultaneous and sequential ringing, they can send calls from their desk to their mobile phone, a client’s office, or even their laptop or tablet.
Every call to colleagues is in-network: Consultants visiting clients on-site will no longer have to place long distance calls from the client’s office or their own mobile phone in order to reach their colleagues at the home office. Instead, they can place calls directly from their laptop or tablet, and the call remains in network.
Connecting multiple locations: In the same way, colleagues working in different locations can reach one another by phone through a simple extension, rather than by placing an outbound call.
Voice and data integration: Traveling employees can receive voice messages and faxes in their email inbox, improving response time and eliminating missed client communications.
Resiliency: If the phone lines go down due to a power outage or natural disasters, calls can be routed to other phones with the click of a mouse, eliminating downtime.
Scalability: When the firm has to add phone lines or develops a need for advanced services, online phone systems can be instantly expanded to meet those needs without adding additional hardware.
Efficient Systems, Improved Service
Management consultants must be flexible and they must be mobile. And a firm’s communications system should be just as flexible and mobile as its consultants. By adopting online systems, consulting firms can improve their response time and reduce costs. Key team members will always be “plugged in,” even if they are visiting a client halfway around the globe. Traditional phone systems limited workflow and stymied collaboration. But online systems are scalable, adapting to the needs of the organization as well as the needs of the individual user. They provide unprecedented flexibility and mobility, and improve the way consultants deliver customer service.