Businesses are always looking to save money where they can. A great place to start is by examining the costs of your bill. It can be easy to overlook the amount of money your company is spending on service for desk phones and cell phones. With the coronavirus pandemic pushing the business world to rely on business VoIP to stay afloat, the phone service you select is more important now than ever.
Phone calls are the most common way that new clients first engage with a company and phones remain a go-to for customer support. Given that necessity, phone providers often feel comfortable tacking on various charges that can significantly increase the cost of your monthly bill.
Some of the charges may be for services that you rarely (or never) use, while others are ambiguously named “maintenance fees” and everyone’s favorite: taxes. There’s no limit to the level of creativity that some business phone providers display when finding ways to nickel and dime their customers. Unless you’ve already carefully audited your company’s bill, there’s a good chance that you’re paying more than necessary.
If you’re out of touch with just how much traditional phones are costing your business, we’ve jotted down a few pointers for items that you might want to keep an eye on the next time your bill arrives. In this article, we’ll cover the following sections:
- How to Reduce Your Phone Bill
- Look into Your Existing Phone Bill
- Consider the Features You Need
- Consider What Else You Can Get From a Modern VoIP Solution
- Review Your Choices
- Source: CarrierBid Communications
Your bill may be a necessary business expense, but that doesn’t mean it has to cost your company an arm and a leg. This cost can be especially tough for small business owners. One thing to consider is the total cost of operation for your current phone system. You can find that cost by adding how much it cost to purchase the phone system with how much it costs for you to operate it.
Once you have determined that cost, you can decide if what you paid for your business phone system and what you currently pay to operate it is worth it. You can compare that price against whatever your current bill is each month. That way, you can see which aspect of your set up you should change.
The easiest way to see how much you should cut from costs associated with your phone service is by looking into your existing bill. For example, providers will commonly offer a discount for various packages and it may reduce your company’s administrative costs by consolidating the bills into one payment.
That make it seem like you’re saving money. However, this also leads to a more complicated bill where providers can cram in additional charges that might otherwise not be possible with a simpler bill.
The FCC has gone as far as creating FAQ pages covering subjects such as phone bill cramming to help inform people about the habit of telephone companies making unauthorized charges. The agency notes that the more your bill begins to look like a credit card bill, the more you should be concerned about whether you’re paying a fair amount.
“Deception is the hallmark of cramming. Crammers often rely on confusing bills to trick consumers into paying for services they did not authorize or receive, or that cost more than the consumer was led to believe… The FCC has estimated that cramming has harmed tens of millions of American households.“
You’ve probably experienced the shock of receiving your first bill from a new service. The phone company’s initial quote likely didn’t mention expenses from taxes, surcharges or that you’d be billed a month in advance on the first bill (providers sometimes charge from the installation date as well as the next month on the first bill).
Phone companies generally have to pay sales tax on the service so it’s not a surprise that they collect this from their customers. However, you should make sure that the percentage collected is actually in line with your local sales taxes and not inflated.
On the other hand, surcharges and other such items are entirely subjective and may provide more wiggle room for negotiating your bill.
Here are some items on your bill you should pay close attention to:
- Rollover Lines — These are found in traditional PSTN phone lines and allow your business to handle multiple calls at once, so that your customers will not run into busy signals. These aren’t cheap, as they can cost your business up to $30 per line. It’s important to note that you can get this same functionality from an IP system without any extra costs.
- Wire Maintenance — Once again, this is an item specific to landlines. This is a fee associated with the cost of wiring your office.
- Long Distance and Toll Charges — You can’t help it if your business has to make a large number of long-distance and toll-free calls. But you can slash this cost by switching those communications to email or an IP phone system.
- Users and Extensions — Not only do traditional phone systems charge for rollover lines, but they charge for each line that you need. Note that providers also tend to charge per user, so it’s worth it to compare the prices for different providers here.
Some charges will be set in stone, but you might have a little wiggle room on some. If there’s a particular fee that seems too high to you, it’s worth it to reach out to your provider and try to negotiate.
The next step to reducing costs associated with your bill is considering all the features you need in your phone system. Whether or not you’re on a PSTN or an IP phone system, you can often get locked into expensive contracts if you’ve bundled together features which you’re not using.
It’s important to consider the features you need in your phone system so you can find a plan that only requires you to pay for what you need. Here are some basic and vital features to consider in your next phone system provider.
Call Forwarding — This is a basic feature that ensures your customers can reach you no matter what. So if you split your time between working in an office and at home, you can forward calls from your business number to your mobile device. Many VoIP providers such as RingCentral offer remote call forwarding as a basic feature so you can forward calls on the fly to ensure you’re always available.
Extensions — In a traditional PSTN phone system, an extension is another phone number that is physically wired to a main number. The more wiring you do, the more that will cost. IP systems do this virtually, and many offer a certain amount of extensions built into basic plans. For example, Grasshopper offers a solo plan for $26 that includes up to three extensions.
Remote Support — There will undoubtedly come a time when you need to have your phone system serviced. But as the coronavirus pandemic continues to keep the vast majority of the workforce remote, it may no longer be feasible to have an outside employee enter your office to examine your set up.
Looking into a phone provider that offers remote support is a more feasible option these days. Nextiva offers a remote support system to provide this offering to their users.
Unlimited Calling — Thanks to the pandemic, phone calls are more vital now than ever. As in-person meetings have essentially come to a grinding halt, your business is likely spending even more time on the phone. So a phone system that offers you unlimited calling minutes should be a top priority. Many IP phone providers offer unlimited calling, including Vonage Business.
Call Logs — Call logging is a great way to study your employees’ performance, particularly your sales team, and gauge the experience you’re providing your customers with. Call logs can provide you with key details such as the date and time of the call, duration, caller ID, and whether or not the call was accepted or sent to voicemail.
This is a basic feature that many providers can offer. 8×8 provides call history logging, ability to manage call logs and call log metrics within its plans.
Given that your company is likely already paying for a broadband Internet connection and may have even built a full blown intranet, there should be minimal friction and considerable savings when switching to an IP service. There isn’t any additional hardware needed except for possibly an IP phone.
Most companies charge somewhere around $20 a month for a business VoIP line that includes everything you’d expect from your standard telephone line (business voicemail greetings, call waiting, etc.) along with a long list of features that generally aren’t included in traditional phone offerings, or aren’t available at all.
You can expect enhanced features from any VoIP provider you select. Here are some to look out for:
IVR — Hosted IVR (interactive voice response) is a telephony menu and routing system that offers an interactive menu for callers in order to direct them to the department they need. As it’s an intelligent system, IVR can carry out tasks involving a yes/no or numbers-related answers from callers. This feature buys back time and productivity for your employees, along with ensuring that your customers have a shorter wait time.
Auto-Attendant — This feature can help to replace the role of a receptionist in your organization. So instead of requiring your callers to first speak to a receptionist in order to be transferred to the correct party, they will simply just have to press a number associated with the correct department’s extension. Just as with IVR, this feature can also save your organization time and money.
Video Conferencing — Most VoIP providers include other methods of communication in their phone plans. Video conferencing is one of the most popular options. This is simply a function that a PSTN phone system cannot provide you with.
The video conferencing features for certain IP phone plans even allow for hundreds of participants to join at once, getting you as close to an in-person company meeting as you can during the pandemic.
Mobile App — Most VoIP phone providers have their own softphone apps, allowing you to take your business calls on the go. The apps often allow for video chat and SMS business messaging, in addition to a traditional voice call. You can typically toggle between means of communication, with information from previous conversations saved on each of your devices.
With an increasing trend toward unified communications, VoIP also enables a greater centralization of your business operations as a whole. Most VoIP platforms support integration with external platforms such Salesforce, allowing you to consolidate communications and other applications in one location. This comes with a long list of benefits that we recently outlined our beginner’s guide to unified communications.
If your telephone service isn’t providing much more than a dial tone and you’re paying more than $20 or $30 per month for that, your business is likely far better off with a VoIP package from any number of providers. Here is a breakdown of the five top-rated business VoIP providers according to ratings from hundreds of GetVoIP users:
||Pricing starts at $22/month/user|
||Their lowest plan, which includes 20-99 lines, starts at $24.99/month/line|
||Pricing starts at $19.99/month/user|
||Pricing starts at $25/month/user|
||Pricing starts at $19.95/month/user|
Conclusion: VoIP is the Best Way to Reduce Your Business Phone Bill
For all the creative ways that telephone companies bloat their bills and for all the ways you might be able to negotiate a lower rate, VoIP may be the easiest way to save money on your small business phone service needs.
Along with simply being cheaper than traditional telephone services, cloud-based communication platforms enable a broad range of features that can have a considerable impact on operational efficiency and the overall effectiveness of a company’s ability to communicate internally as well as with customers.