There are several important steps to take for a smooth migration to VoIP in your workplace. Actually, most of the legwork is in the preparation: considering your internet connection, your hardware, and the layers of technology involved. Turns out the old saying is true: ‘By failing to prepare and you are preparing to fail’.
Additionally, VoIP is often part of a broader digital transformation strategy.
This guide will run through some basics about VoIP before digging into details about exactly what you need to do, including:
- Understanding different types of VoIP
- Upgrading your internet
- Considering VoIP hardware
- Porting your business phone number
What is VoIP?
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a description for… exactly what it sounds like! It means having a phone call over the internet rather than via a traditional telephone cables. This technology is nothing short of transformational for modern businesses. It means goodbye to telephone bills, crackly connections and human switchboard operators.
What are the benefits of VoIP?
No longer do your staff need to be chained to the on-premise contact center, only able to work from one physical location because of restrictive hardware. With a softphone, call center staff can speak with clients and customers from mobile devices no matter where they’re physically located.
Not only can your employees work flexibly from multiple locations – invaluable given the disruptions of COVID-19 – but management can harvest customer data far better with VoIP-based systems compared to traditional phone calls.
A major game-changer in this arena is Voice Intelligence (VI). VI is a form of machine learning which cleverly transcribes conversations, automates tasks and records reams of customer data – all of which helps you better interpret the voice of customer satisfaction versus discontent.
Step 1: Understand different types of VoIP
Now you know what VoIP means in broad terms, it is time to look at a few different types.
Cloud or hosted VoIP
Hosted VoIP means connecting to a third party infrastructure for your internet-powered phone calls. Cloud VoIP is a type of hosted VoIP which uses cloud servers.
This stands in contrast to on-premise systems such as a private branch exchange (PBX) which is the internal telephone system an ordinary office would use. Companies are increasingly choosing to switch on-premise PBX to the cloud in order to increase flexibility and take advantage of a range of softphone services.
Integrated access VoIP
This means connecting up a new VoIP system with legacy phone equipment. This way you’re upgrading existing equipment with internet-enabled features rather than replacing your entire phone system. An advantage of this method is that there’s minimal disruption to existing culture, and businesses can keep their old phone numbers and hardware.
Step 2: Upgrade your internet
If you really want to improve client relationships with a new softphone system, you’ll need a powerful internet connection to carry all of your calls. You want around 100 kbps upload and download bandwidth per phone unit.
Check your internet speed and note down your results. If your results are coming in lower than the 100kbps benchmark then it’s time to invest in faster internet speeds. If that is the case you should contact your existing internet service provider to see if they can deliver or search for a new one.
Step 3: Consider VoIP hardware
VoIP systems can run off a number of devices, from headsets to tablets depending on compatibility, though you should decide which configuration will be best for your particular workplace before you commit to the installation. It’s also possible to combine more than one of the below options, and this is worth bearing in mind if you need a larger or more complex phone network.
1. VoIP Headset
Ah, headsets. A staple of the modern business world. Leaving staff hands free to type, tap, swipe, and click their way to speedy customer service. A compatible headset is a must-have for many VoIP set-ups.
While not absolutely essential, it is certainly a boon to the multitasking call handler using a softphone app on their computer, tablet, or mobile device.
When selecting a headset, you should consider the audio quality, type of connection (wireless or wired) and the compatibility with the rest of your hardware. Some connect with Bluetooth, some with a USB cable and others with a USB-C cable.
Don’t skimp on your VoIP headset research; a scary two in five customers stopped doing business with a company due to poor customer service in 2020. A customer struggling with a caller’s poor audio quality is going to grumble about it, so make sure you get the best headsets you can.
2. Existing desktop phone
If your firm has recently invested in a suite of landline phones, your office manager will be horrified at the idea of tossing them out in favor of a brand new set of VoIP phones. While special VoIP phones are the best option for some companies, this certainly isn’t the case for others.
In this case, it’s likely to be more cost effective to configure your new VoIP system using your existing desktop phones. Check with your provider if this is a possibility. You’ll need an Analog Telephone Adapter (ATA) which transfers the traditional phone line communication over to the internet.
3. VoIP phone
A VoIP phone looks a lot like a regular office phone but it will connect to the internet. You’ll either connect it to a switch or a router, depending on your exact network infrastructure, and you’ll likely find an ethernet cable connection is more stable than Wi-Fi. Larger offices will need several switches and possibly a Virtual LAN (Local Area Network) in order to cope with the number of phones.
4. Smartphone or tablet (company owned)
This is the preferred option for many companies as employees can work flexibly using an enterprise-grade telephony app offered by many VoIP suppliers.
The advantage of using company-owned smartphones for VoIP applications is the certainty that each one is correctly configured, tested and fully operational upon handover to the call center staff member - with more control over it’s security.
5. Desktop computer (company owned)
When using VoIP on a company computer or laptop, it’s easy to view the entire webphone application from the desktop screen and switch between tabs with to access the necessary information staff need during the call. Quickly providing answers to distressed callers is the best route to improving the customer experience.
Staff may also find their in-office workstation more comfortable if using VoIP from a computer rather than huddling over a mobile device.
Another advantage is that work-owned equipment will already have all the relevant communications technology up and running. This can make omnichannel routing even easier, particularly when it comes to skills-based routing in the call center.
6. Smartphone or tablet (employee’s own)
Another option for staff in need of a flexible set-up is to use VoIP apps on their personal smartphone or tablet devices. Rather than dedicate a budget to purchasing a new device for each and every employee, you can choose to have staff download the app onto their personal device.
Remind staff there are no call charges because VoIP runs through the internet, as opposed to cell phone networks.
The important point to think about is whether all your staff have access to speedy Wi-Fi where they work because nobody wants to use their limited personal mobile data for work purposes.
As a concession, you could wrangle some budget for upgrading mobile data packages for employees who can’t access fast Wi-Fi and don’t have an unlimited data allowance on their personal device.
The major risk factor with this option is, of course, the possible security risk of exposing sensitive data on personal devices without sufficient protection.
7. Desktop (employee’s own)
A simple advantage of softphone technology is being able to log on anytime, anywhere. Many modern VoIP providers have an online portal users that doesn’t require a download. Minimal installation is required because the entire program can be accessed through their internet browser.
Of course, your staff will need to have speedy internet available and their antivirus software should be kept up to date to avoid compromising secure business data.
Step 4: Port your business phone number
Most businesses wish to keep their old phone number so as not to confuse existing customers and clients. This is perfectly possible when migrating to VoIP. In order to port the corporate number, your existing phone service provider will need to release your old number so that you can transfer it to the new provider. There may be some charges for this but overall it shouldn’t take longer than a week.
With a softphone, you can get a digital phone number which links to your online account rather than your geographical location. This means the business doesn’t actually need a physical presence in a certain area to get a local phone number. That is a truly cost-effective way to reach new markets.
Reap the rewards of smooth VoIP Migration
Upgrading to VoIP doesn’t need to be the hair-raising, stress-fest you may have feared. In fact, it’s actually easier than ever to connect your phones to the internet superhighway.
You’ll be relieved to hear that 90.8% of customers report feeling satisfied, highly satisfied, or completely satisfied with their cloud-based contact center infrastructure solutions, so good luck on your hunt for a VoIP provider!