Imagine sitting Alexander Graham Bell down in your office and explaining all of the features that come with your complicated, state of the art, VoIP phone that you just had to have because the service provider convinced you your business was doomed to fail without it.
Would he be impressed, amused or horrified at the excess? We'll never know. One thing is certain though: the landscape for small and medium business (SMB) phones has become unnecessarily complex.
It's no longer as simple as just getting a small business phone number. We now have limitless and constantly changing options. But is more really necessary?
We may be better served by reverting to simpler times—or adopting solutions that provide essential, “modern” calling features that don't require a computer science degree to implement.
Communication devices have a long history, and we've evolved far from, "Mr. Watson - come here - I want to see you," which was Alexander Graham Bell's first call to his assistant in 1876. From this first call, the service spread quickly and was capable of crossing the U.S. by 1915. These early phones were connected to other users through a manual switchboard, although this technology followed the path we are all familiar with now and became obsolete by the 1970s to 1980s.
Other major changes in technology revolved around the dialing process. Rotary dialing dominated from 1896 to 1963 when the first touch-tone phone was made commercially available. The invention of the internet brought another milestone with the invention of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Which leads us to today, with technology packed with so many capabilities that it seems like no one uses phones for their original purpose-actually talking to other people-anymore.
Congrats, you've started a business! You have a rock-solid business plan, you're getting clients and you have a stellar staff. Now you just need to make sure your business infrastructure can keep up.
Your small business phone number is one the most important points of contact for suppliers, customers and employees, so it's imperative that you have a service that fits the needs of your business. Even with the rise of digital technology, the majority of customers find that calling is the best way to get in touch with a company. Let's take a look at what kinds of services are available.
Exhausted yet? Surely not all of these services are crucial for you to run a successful business. Yet many service providers will try to convince you otherwise and upsell you on the importance of getting all the features. If you listen to them, it's likely you'll end up wasting money on features you never use.
Here's a hint though: it doesn't have to be that complicated.
When selecting a phone service for your business, you need to focus on three things: reliability, affordability and scalability. As a small or medium-sized business every touchpoint is important, so you need to make sure you can count on your telephony.
As a SMB, you need a system that is affordable. Affordability does not mean selecting the cheapest service out there. Rather, it's better to look at this operating expense from a total cost of ownership perspective. Beyond the fee a service provider quotes you, you'll need to consider the costs of hardware, software, installation and set up costs, security, storage, maintenance, add-ons, etc. Comparing offerings from this perspective will help you make a more informed decision.
Scalability is another critical factor in selecting a SMB phone service. While your future growth is uncertain, selecting a phone service that can adapt to changes in your business can help save costs down the road. Maybe one day you'll need fancier bells and whistles, but for now start simple and add on as needed.
I read recently that Warren Buffett still uses a flip phone. If the billionaire investor can get by without over-the-top technology, maybe we should rethink our phone choices as well.
Your SMB will need more functionality than a flip phone, but reverting to simpler telephony services may not be a such a bad business idea.