Before we get started, it is important to mention that virtual phone systems are not one-size-fits-all. In other words, we don’t feel that there is one “right” virtual phone system for everyone. We have rated the systems we have reviewed and provided an “editors pick,” but this does not mean that our pick (RingCentral) has to be your pick.
Some of you may be wondering, “WOW, how do I ever decide on the right virtual phone system for my business then?” You need to take into account the many variables of your current business situation, as well as your future goals and plans for your business.
What are your deciding factors? Here are some common ones.
Budget: What importance does budget play in your decision? I’m sure you are asking, “Isn’t budget important to everyone?” The answer is both yes and no. It’s important to most everyone to stay within a budget. However, some people are willing and able to pay quite a bit more for a virtual phone system, especially if it has some key features that the customer needs in order to run their business. For others, such as new businesses, budget may be the deciding factor even if desirable features are missing.
Reputation: Some customers want to go with an industry leader with a proven track record of stability, security, and reliability, such as VirtualPBX. These companies have proven themselves with excellent customer reviews spanning back years, as opposed to new VoIP providers that may still be figuring out the field. They have learned through experience and often have solid features and customer service. Paying more for that peace of mind may be well worth it to many businesses.
Try Before You Buy: For business owners that like a no-risk approach, the free trial/money back guarantee is going to be a deciding factor. Many businesses, particularly small ones, want to know what they are getting before committing to a product or service. This allows the business to see if the VoIP provider has the features and customer service they need and want while being cost-justifiable. With a month-to-month agreement (rather than an annual one), no activation fees, and a free trial or money-back guarantee, a business owner can “kick the tires” of a plan before signing that long-term contract.
Features: For still other businesses, it’s strictly the features that will drive the decision of which service to sign up for. Maybe a company absolutely need to have the “click-to-call” button functionality to integrate into their website, or they have a mid-sized call center that they must have true ACD queuing. In these cases, features might trump price and other factors.
As you can see, there is no one right answer for every business. We have reviewed and compared the plans of what we feel are the best providers in the space right now, and then provided our ratings and recommendations to help you with the selection process. Our recommendations are based partially on these three factors:
No Activation Fees: We feel that in the small business market space, it’s important that a provider not charge a setup/activation fee. This kind of fee is largely going by the wayside, and providers still clinging to charging these types of fees need to just let go. It just doesn’t send the right message for the money-conscious small business owner.
Customer Service: The customer service provided by the vendor, as well as the look and feel and information provided on their website, is a good indicator of what you can expect from them going forward. If it’s poor before you buy, it isn’t going to improve much after you are a paying customer. If the provider doesn’t invest much effort in attracting users to their website and provides little information about their features, odds are their user interface for their product itself will not be much better either.
Free Trial: Free trials or money-back guarantees are much more likely to entice a small business owner to try a VoIP system. In today’s tight economy, it’s especially hard for the small business owner to justify new expenses. However, we are convinced that once you try this type of service, you will wonder how you ever managed without it (especially since VoIP tends to save money in the long run).
Short Contracts: This goes along with the free trial. Small business owners often need the flexibility to test the waters without committing, and a short contract is perfect for that. Month-to-month contracts also help small businesses adjust to changes in the market. Nothing is worse than getting stuck in a cheaper contract that no longer fits your needs, or in an expensive one during a dip in the market.
Features: One of the advantages of VoIP is the huge list of business-class features that come with it. Certain businesses may actually need certain features to function, such as web conferencing or integration. Customers have come to expect that these features will come included with their plans. The more features a VoIP provider has (and includes without an extra fee), the more value you will get out of your contract
If a vendor has a feature-rich product, reasonable rates, a free trial, good customer service, no setup fee, and monthly contracts, it is worth ranking high on our recommendation list.
In the end only you, as the decision maker for your business, can choose which provider/plan best suites your needs. We hope that the information we have provided here will help you along that path.
Here’s to your business!