A recent WSJ article shows confidence in the economy falling to a 9 month low, with only 36% of small business owners surveyed believing the economy was improving (down from 47%) and only 21% expecting conditions to get better in the year ahead (down from 30%).
How can small business owners deal with the uncertainty plaguing this economy?
Three strategies are recommended: increase flexibility, cut costs, and maintain value. While there are many possibilities for each category, I’ll show particularly how switching to VoIP will benefit you in each of those ways.
What better way to deal with uncertainty than make your business more flexible? If you don’t know what lies ahead, having methods that allow you to deal with multiple possibilities is extremely useful.
How does VoIP increase the flexibility of your business?
1) Scalability – You might be unsure how many employees you’ll have in the near or distant future. With an analog provider, changing the number of lines or extensions you have as your needs change is expensive and onerous, but with a VoIP provider, lines are unlimited and extensions can be changed on demand.
2) Geographic mobility – If your business needs to move locations, your phone number can move with you. Unfortunately, with analog systems, numbers are tied to geographic locations: if you need to relocate your business, you could lose a vital connection to your old customers.
3) No long-term contracts – VoIP providers generally charge on a per month basis. If you are not satisfied with your service, you can easily stop or change to another provider. Meanwhile, with analog service, you are usually stuck in a contract for at least a year.
4) Telecommute – When worse comes to worst, VoIP offers you the ability to eliminate rent and have your employees work from home. Customers won’t be able to notice the difference and you’ll keep a fully functional phone system.
Clearly, businesses want to cut costs wherever they can while maintaining (or at least not losing too much out on) the value they offer. But in tough economic times, the incentive to cut costs becomes even greater.
Hosted VoIP phone systems tend to be much cheaper than analog alternatives, especially for small businesses. They allow companies to ditch the costly infrastructure tied to on-premise phone systems and instead use their already existing internet connection for phone service needs as well. As an example, our customers save 30% on average when switching from analog providers.
This strategy isn’t meant to be taken by itself, but instead as a corollary to cutting costs. Any time you cut costs, you want to make sure the value you offer doesn’t decrease so much as to outweigh your cost savings.
For the example of VoIP, is it possible you’re losing more value from your phone system than you save on costs? Here are a few points managers will find important:
1) While VoIP is often associated with poor quality, this is an outdated view that no longer holds true.
2) The end users of equipment are significant to the value received from that equipment: many of these users resist transition to softphones (software-phones, which are typically associated with VoIP because of programs such as Skype and Google Voice), but hardphones for VoIP are also available; with these, it tends to be easier to maintain the employees’ daily routines. The quality of IP hardphones is also comparable, if not better, than typical analog phones.
3) The reliability of hosted VoIP vs. on-premise analog has its pros and cons. Analog carriers tend to have higher reliability in their connection to the PSTN but hosted VoIP, being less complicated, reduces human errors in setup, and has backups such as the ability to telecommute when power/internet is out.
As we’ve seen, strategies for small business owners to deal with uncertainty include increasing flexibility and cutting costs while maintaining value. While the entrepreneur should look for a variety of ways to use each strategy, a VoIP phone system is certainly one to consider.