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If you haven’t already, now is the time to switch from a legacy premise-based business phone system to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). VoIP’s internet-powered voice calling lowers business communication costs, has advanced AI-powered features,  and integrates with existing third-party applications.

However, not all VoIP platforms are created equal.

This post outlines how to choose the best VoIP provider for your business by evaluating included features, price and value, support and security, and more

 

Criteria for Choosing a VoIP Provider

VoIP phone systems provide much more than standard voice calling capabilities and basic features, meaning your list of criteria to consider when selecting your VoIP provider, should include:

 

Costs Involved

Price is a large component in selecting a provider that’s right for you. However, the lowest price may not always be the best price, as factors such as service quality, customer support, service plan options, and others should certainly weigh in on the final decision for a VoIP provider. Be sure to ask potential providers about any volume or exclusive-use discounts, and pay annually to save anywhere from 5 to 15% on monthly service costs.

Here’s a breakdown of the various VoIP taxes and fees:

 

Price Per Installation

A traditional PSTN phone relies on copper wires that connect your system to telephone service providers. Since a VoIP system connects through the internet, there should be either no fee or a very small charge when it comes to installation. At the very most, you might just expect an account activation fee. However, this would be a one-time charge on your account.

 

Price Per User

You can expect a VoIP line to run between $20-$30/month/user. Basic features such as unlimited outbound calling (typically for the U.S. and Canada), toll-free minutes, auto-attendant, call forwarding, caller ID, call waiting, call recording, call per user, and more. Your PBX will likely give you the option to pay on an annual or month-to-month basis.

 

Additional Fees

The biggest fees associated with VoIP service are definitely the installation and price-per-user chargers. But here are some other fees you may run into:

  • Toll-free minutes — Your plan will likely include toll-free minutes, but they may not be unlimited. So if you go above the allocated amount, you will be charged.
  • VoIP hardware — You may need to purchase additional hardware for your new phone system, such as a brand new phone or an analog telephone adapter
  • Upgrading plans — If you decide the VoIP plan you go with doesn’t fit your business needs, you can upgrade to the next level up. But of course, you should expect a higher price tag to come with that.

 

VoIP Features

Make sure that the platform you select has the VoIP features and capabilities you need. But if you’re not sure what you should look out for, here are some features to consider and why they’re important:

  • Automated attendant — An auto attendant is a menu system that uses automated voice prompts to help navigate callers to the right agent or department, eliminating the need to speak to a live agent/receptionist.
  • Call forwarding — If there is no answer at the initial number dialed, call forwarding automatically sends inbound calls to multiple phone numbers (Find Me, Follow Me) without requiring the caller to hang up and manually redial. Call forwarding can send calls to additional extensions, in-house or remote phone numbers, call queues, and ring groups–increasing the likelihood someone will answer.
  • Call analytics — Real-time and historical call center reports identify trends in call volume, agent activity, customer sentiment, buying patterns, and more–allowing you to make data-driven decisions.
  • Softphone — A softphone application allows you to make a call or send a message on any WiFi-enabled device. That way, you can take your conversations on the go.
  • Business text messaging — VoIP systems enable you to send SMS messages straight from the platform. Sometimes a certain situation requires a text instead of a call, so this way you won’t have to toggle between platforms to do so.
  • Visual Voicemail — Automatic voicemail transcriptions can be sent via email (voicemail-to-email) or SMS (voicemail-to-text), allowing agents to quickly prioritize callbacks and better prepare for calls.
  • Video conferencing — VoIP phone systems typically offer a video chatting tool so you can collaborate with customers and colleagues in the most convenient way possible. Screen sharing, remote desktop control, in-meeting file sharing, whiteboards, and breakout rooms optimize internal and external video communication.

Since VoIP phone platforms offer more than just a telephone service, it’s worth your while to take advantage of some of the more advanced features these tools have to offer. This includes VoIP features like artificial intelligence, call analytics, IVR systems, and native third-party integrations. However, the more advanced the features you are looking for, the higher price you’ll be paying most of the time.

VoIP providers will vary in how they charge users for more advanced plans. Many platforms will offer more advanced features the further you move down within their paid pricing plan options. Other providers offer the option to purchase specific features a la carte, so you pay only for the features you need.

 

Customer Support

Vital customer and colleague communications go through your VoIP tool. So if something goes wrong, you want to make sure it's taken care of right away. Some providers offer support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by outsourcing their customer support during certain hours of the day. Most other VoIP providers offer telephone support during normal business hours–but high-priority support is usually available as a paid support add-on.

A quality VoIP provider will be transparent about its average response and resolution times, offer omnichannel customer support, and provide high-level self-service options like an online knowledge database, FAQ page, or chatbot. Most platforms include a dedicated account manager in addition to on-demand video tutorials, onboarding webinars, customized training, and an online support portal/ticketing system.

 

Compatible Hardware

Even though VoIP is famous for its BYOD compatibility, your business may want to continue using existing hardware or purchase equipment like desk phones, speakers, and interactive whiteboards.

Some providers may sell compatible VoIP hardware directly on their website, but most integrate with popular hardware from top providers like Poly, Cisco, and Yealink. Always check to see if your existing hardware will work with a potential provider, and ask about provisioning support.

 

Third-Party Integrations

One of the biggest advantages of a VoIP tool is its built-in third-party integrations, designed to eliminate app switching and ensure agents have instant access to essential data from CRM systems, knowledge bases, and more. VoIP software that provides third-party API integrations lets you customize your tool as needed.

Here are some integrations you can expect:

  • CRM — Many VoIP solutions will integrate with your CRM tool so you can track necessary data from your phone calls and provide a better customer experience. CRM integrations automate the support ticket creation/management process, give agents access to conversation/order histories, and make it easy to provide personalized customer service.
  • Email/calendar software — By syncing your email tool with your VoIP system, you’ll be able to leverage email and call management. For example, integrating Microsoft Outlook with your VoIP tool means that you can receive audio files from your VoIP tool straight to your email.
  • Cloud storage integrations — A VoIP tool should easily integrate with a cloud storage tool like Dropbox or Google Cloud so you can keep your phone recordings safe. That way, you can remain protected from things like fraud and lawsuits.
  • Knowledge base integrations — Integrating your VoIP and knowledge base applications helps agents find quick answers to support questions, improve their performance, and provide a consistent customer experience across channels. AI Agent Assist integrates with your knowledge base to provide real-time, in-conversation next-best-action suggestions to agents–while automated chatbots pull data directly from your knowledge base when helping customers.

 

VoIP Security

As it runs through the internet, VoIP service is subject to certain system vulnerabilities. Because of that, your data is technically susceptible to interception or breach. That means it's vital that you look for a VoIP provider that makes the extra effort to take security measures to protect customer data.

First, look for essential third-party security certifications and standards like HIPAA, PCI, and GDPR compliance, end-to-end encryption, multi-factor authentication, and SOC II Type II.  Quality VoIP platforms should offer custom data retention periods, third-party vulnerability testing, access management/control, and 24/7 network monitoring with real-time push notifications in the event of an issue.

Another indicator of strong security in a VoIP provider is if they have multiple data centers in different locations. Multiple servers within a data center result in the redundancy of service, meaning that one server can take over if another fails. The same thing goes for data centers. If a VoIP provider has more than one data center within a location, one can take over if another fails.

VoIP providers should offer and advertise security measures for each of their available plans. You can expect more advanced security features the higher you go up a provider's package tier. Just make sure you select a plan that offers an adequate amount of security for the level of data and sensitive information you'll be working with.

 

VoIP Uptime

Uptime refers to the percentage of time that your VoIP service is online and functioning. No providers can guarantee 100% uptime (no matter what they might claim.) Since VoIP runs over the internet, unexpected outages are unavoidable. Most providers can typically promise an uptime of about 99.9%.

That may seem like a solid number but, as we previously stated, the number of digits after that decimal will indicate a significant difference in uptime. For example, typically, 99.999% uptime is equivalent to 5.26 minutes of unscheduled downtime per year; 99.99% is equivalent to 52.56 minutes a year.

The difference between those numbers is huge, so it's important to check what percentage of uptime your provider can guarantee, down to that last decimal. If the uptime percentage doesn’t include maintenance and upgrade times, you may be looking at more downtime, in addition to the percentage.

It's also important to ask your VoIP provider when service is typically down, whether that is weekends or off-hours. That could make a huge difference to your customers.

 

Why Switch to VoIP?

There are numerous reasons why businesses choose VoIP phone systems over the traditional wired PSTN, but the top 5 are:

 

1. Cost Savings

Switching to VoIP can lower business communication expenses by 30-50% and reduce international calling costs by a whopping 90%. Numerous factors contribute to these cost savings.

Because it’s powered by the Internet, VoIP includes unlimited local and long-distance calling–plus competitive international calling rates. Additionally, VoIP software works on existing desktop and mobile devices–and BYOD options save companies an average of $734 per employee.  Ongoing maintenance is the responsibility of the VoIP provider, not the end user–essentially eliminating hardware and software upkeep costs.

 

2. Fast+Easy Setup

Premise-based phone systems–especially for businesses needing multiple lines–can take weeks to set up (not to mention, thousands of dollars in equipment.)

VoIP, on the other hand, can be purchased online and deployed in minutes. Because it’s cloud-based, VoIP doesn’t require a complex physical installation. It’s easy to scale features, lines, and bundled plans up or down with a few clicks of a button. Most providers offer high-level onboarding guides to simplify the setup process even further.

 

3. Advanced Features

There’s no comparison between legacy landlines and VoIP software when it comes to available features and overall functionality.

Traditional on-premise phone systems are limited to simple features like call transfer, call hold, and basic call screening (if you’re lucky!) In addition to HD voice, VoIP solutions include IVR powered by natural language processing, automatic call recording/transcription, real-time KPI alerts, visual voicemail, and omnichannel voice and digital communication.

 

4. Improved CX

VoIP platforms provide a stellar customer experience thanks to higher call quality, features that enable 24/7 customer self-service, and more empowered agents. Auto attendants and chatbots let customers resolve routine issues, schedule appointments, get account updates, and much more on their own time and on their preferred communication channel.

Robust third-party integrations and CTI screen pops give agents immediate access to interaction history, account data, and even customer preferences–making it easy to provide prompt and personalized customer service. Advanced call routing strategies, ring groups, and automated callback options reduce wait times, ensure customers are only connected to qualified agents, and help customers avoid repeating the same story to multiple people.

 

5. Increased Productivity

How can VoIP solutions increase employee productivity by up to 77%? First, because VoIP works on any Internet-connected desktop or mobile device, remote/hybrid team members can instantly access their complete business phone system anytime, anywhere. Most VoIP platforms also include team collaboration tools like chat messaging, screen sharing, file co-editing, and even gamification features designed to boost employee engagement.

Real-time and historical custom analytics quickly identify customer journey roadblocks and other issues slowing down operations. Finally, today’s VoIP providers leverage AI to automate and optimize time-consuming, routine business processes like after-call work, call recording transcription, agent scheduling, and even performance monitoring.

 

Popular VoIP Provider Breakdown

Now that you know what to look for in a VoIP provider, here’s a thorough breakdown of some of the top VoIP providers on the market.

 

Nextiva

Nate reviewing Nextiva Business Phone

Nextiva is an all-in-one cloud platform offering business communication, collaboration, and customer service. Among its impressive features, Nextiva offers one of the most robust reporting tools you can find in a VoIP system. It provides its users with business intelligence and voice analytics. Users can create reports and dashboards filtered by things like call topic and agent.

Best For: Nextiva is best for SMBs needing a scalable business phone system with built-in CRM capabilities, a feature-rich mobile app ideal for mostly remote teams, and existing team collaboration tools they plan to integrate with their VoIP solution.

Pricing: Nextiva offers three paid plans from $18.95-$32/95/user/month and up, with a quote-based contact center add-on.

 

Here’s a look at what Nextiva user reviews are saying about the tool.

Pros

  • All plans include 2/47 customer service
  • Extensive hardware rentals including headsets, conference phones, desk phones, and more
  • Automated CTI screen pops with advanced CRM integration provide a seamless agent experience and in-conversation access to detailed customer data

Cons

  • Call recording and voicemail transcription are only included with the most expensive plan
  • Video conferencing is limited to 45 minutes on all plans
  • Limited team collaboration tools compared to competitors (for example, each chat channel is capped at 10 users)

 

RingCentral

RingCentral Business Phone

RingCentral RingEX is a cloud-based business communications system with unlimited calling in the US/Canada, enhanced business text messaging, voice/video conferencing, and AI-powered automation.

Admins can select from over 200 local area codes for their business numbers, enjoy 24/7 customer support on all plans, and leverage interactive AI analytics from template-based or custom reports.

Best For: RingCentral is best for hybrid SMBs planning to use AI to automate routine, time-consuming tasks like video meeting/call transcription and summaries. It’s also ideal for teams needing advanced collaboration tools like unlimited audio conferencing, video conferencing with whiteboard and collaborative notes, and file sharing with unlimited storage.

Pricing: RingCentral RingEX offers three paid plans from $20-$35/user/month. Add-ons include the RingCX AI Contact Center ($65/user/month), RingCentral Webinar ($40/organizer/month), and RingSense for Sales ($60/user/month).

 

Here’s a look at what RingCentral user reviews are saying about the tool.

Pros

  • All plans include video conferencing for up to 100 participants and a 24-hour meeting duration
  • Superior analytics with 30+ customizable real-time metrics, and predictive analytics
  • Enhanced Business SMS tool enables two-way SMS/MMS between customers and agents

Cons

  • AI-powered features require expense $65/month add-on fee
  • Limited integrations on more affordable plans
  • The most affordable plan lacks key features like call barge/whisper, hot desking, and virtual faxing

 

Grasshopper

Nate Reviewing Grasshopper

Grasshopper is a small business VoIP provider with basic features like voicemail transcription, number porting, and simultaneous call handling. Though Gmail integration, business texting, and virtual faxing are available Grasshopper is primarily a voice calling tool and therefore doesn’t include any UCaaS capabilities.  to ensure that communication is as easy as possible.

Best For: Grasshopper is best for solopreneurs and new, small businesses with less than 5 employees. It’s a good fit for businesses transitioning to VoIP for the first time that don’t want to be overwhelmed by complicated features and a lengthy onboarding process.

Pricing: Grasshopper offers three paid plans from $14/month for 1 user, phone extension, and phone number to $55/month for unlimited extensions, unlimited users, and 4 numbers.

 

Here’s a look at what Grasshopper user reviews are saying about the tool.

Pros

  • User-friendly interface with an uncomplicated, fast setup process
  • The Instant Response feature automatically sends text messages to missed calls from new customers
  • Unique pricing structure lets users pay according to their desired amount of phone numbers, users, and extensions–translating to cost savings

Cons

  • Sometimes incoming calls appear as an unknown number instead of their company phone number
  • Extremely limited features compared to the other providers on this list–expect just the basics, nothing more
  • Lack of transparency regarding customer service and support options, users complain support is difficult to get a hold of

 

Dialpad

Nate Reviewing Dialpad

Dialpad Business Communications is a voice, meetings, and messaging platform with unlimited calling, international SMS, and built-in AI Analytics. Users can program up to 25 ring groups, access audio-only team chat rooms, and enjoy 24/7 support across all plans.

Best For: Dialpad is best for medium-sized teams with a global customer base, as well as SMBs with remote teams that host team video meetings several times a week.

Pricing: Dialpad Business Communications offers three paid plans from $23-$35+/user/month. Available add-ons include the Ai Contact Center (from $95/user/month), the Ai Sales Center (from $70/user/month), and internet faxing for $10/number/month.

 

Here’s a look at what Dialpad user reviews are saying about the tool.

Pros

  • All plans include multi-level auto attendant, call forwarding, and custom routing for faster customer self-service
  • All plans include call recording with real-time call transcription and voicemail transcription
  • Excellent team collaboration features include desktop and mobile screen sharing, unlimited meeting audio recordings, Miro whiteboard, and in-meeting chat

Cons

  • Extremely limited third-party integrations compared to other providers–and the most affordable plan doesn’t integrate with any CRM tools
  • All plans, even the most expensive one, only include 1 local phone number
  • AI analytics, though valuable, carry a bit of a learning curve that can extend onboarding time

 

Zoom Phone

Nate reviewing Zoom Phone

Zoom Phone is a VoIP phone system that’s available as a standalone product or as a part of the all-in-one Zoom Workspace platform. It's known for its user-friendly, familiar interface, flexible pricing options, and intelligent call routing tool.

Best For: Zoom Phone is best for current Zoom Meetings users who want to add voice calling to their communications stack. It’s also a great fit for global businesses, as its Global Select plan add-on includes unlimited calling to 19 countries.

Pricing: Zoom Phone has three unique pricing options: the US & Canada Metered Plan from $120/year/user with metered calling, the US & Canada Unlimited Plan from $180/year/user with unlimited domestic calling, and the Global Select Plan from $240/year/user with custom calling options.

 

Here’s a look at what Zoom user reviews are saying:

Pros

  • All plans include automatic and on-demand call recording and transcription
  • Zoom provides numerous hardware rent/buy options for desk and conference phones, meeting room equipment, and much more
  • All plans include unlimited auto attendants and IVR

Cons

  • Though all Zoom Phone users can access the free version of Zoom Meetings, the platform is limited to voice (and basic video) calling only unless users upgrade to Zoom Workspace
  • Access to even standard voice calling analytics requires the Zoom Phone Power Pack add-on for $25/month
  • Global Select Plan doesn’t offer international SMS/MMS

 

The Bottom Line: You Can’t Go Wrong with VoIP

At the end of the day, VoIP makes your business communications more efficient and cost-effective, while offering great features along the way. There are a number of great options on the market so as long as you’re aware of what you need in a business phone system, you can’t go wrong with whatever option you pick.