On everyone’s lips, VoIP is still a buzz word. But how much do you really know about it? If you’re looking to make the most of your communication processes, then read on.
VoIP—what does it actually stand for? Most of us know Voice over Internet Protocol means calls are made over the internet, rather than over traditional copper phone lines, taking some of the strain off your phone bill. But there are many additional benefits, and it’s about time we find out what they are.
“The cheap phone calls you can get just fine, but it also provides mobility,” says Maria Padisetti, CEO of Digital Armour, an IT computer consultancy. “You can carry an extension with you anywhere in the world, so if a customer calls in, they don’t know any better that you’re sitting in a hotel room in China; you get the incoming call as if you were sitting in your office.”
There are other advantages too, including voicemail to email: “You can actually get your voicemail as an audio file in your email, which you could listen to using your laptop or any other device that you have,” Padisetti explains. Other options are faxing from your desktop and instant messaging, which is more secure when done over a VoIP telephony system.
VoIP can also be your eyes and ears. “If you’ve got several offices, and you want to know if a person is on the phone or not, you can actually see that using a little locator box called Present that you can install on your desktop. It’s like in instant messaging, where you can see if the person is away or not,” says Padisetti. So you can let your customers know if the person they’re after is available, rather than just patching them through to a voicemail service.
However, like everything, VoIP comes with some down sides. For starters, if the system isn’t set up properly by the provider, then the voice quality can suffer. Also, it’s easily confused with IP Telephony, which is more like a traditional phone system that has VoIP capabilities as well. While IP Telephony is quite handy too, it can get expensive because it’s essentially a business system.
Make sure you read all of the fine print before signing on the dotted line. “You need to be very careful and know what questions to ask so the expenditure doesn’t blow out of proportion,” says Padisetti.
So what do you need? “An internal computer network and a very good internet connection, but that may not need to be more than what you already have,” explains Padisetti.
But what is a good connection? It depends on the number of users and on how many calls they’re making. The company installing your system will need to make the calculations before putting anything down.
As for the issue of slower broadband speeds in Australia, Padisetti doesn’t believe it’ll affect the quality of your VoIP connection. “What becomes a problem is when people don’t size the system accurately.”
If what you’re worried about is the time getting used to a new system will take, don’t. According to Padisetti, it’s just like any other kind of telephony and you’ll get used to it in no time.
Last, but not least: security. “We hear a lot about it. People are usually worried that calls will be tapped and listened to, and because it’s sharing the same network as the computer network, they’re worried it’ll crash,” explains Padisetti. “But so far we haven’t faced any security issues. Having said that, you can definitely take a lot of measures,” she adds. “If you lock down your VoIP service, regulate security, and configure your firewall properly, it should be fine. And if you really wanted to, instead of putting your VO data on the same network, you can separate it—that’s if you really wanted to get paranoid about it.”
For those of you not quite convinced, Padisetti has a few last words: “A lot of people are afraid to use VoIP, and in my opinion people should give it a go, and you can do that without spending a lot of money. It doesn’t have to be as expensive as it used to be,” she says. “Call cost is actually the least of the benefits; there are a lot more productivity benefits. It’s just a matter of shopping around and giving it a go.”
Making the Switch
To stand out from the pack, by becoming more effective and productive communicators, B2B Australasia turned to VoIP, and now has no intention of turning back.
“Our sales guys are spending less time chasing up customers and our inbound team have great visibility of their own performance,” says Juanita Gordon, B2B chief operating officer. All of Gordon’s 30 employees have a single point of contact for their communication; Truvoice, a VoIP product suite from Australian provider Blitz Telecom.
The Truvoice suite is a collection of business services designed to introduce cost savings and increase employee productivity. B2B currently uses a range of the Truvoice services, including the Truvoice IP PBX, which comes with advanced call handling functions of time-based routing and find-me-follow-me services. Sales representatives basically receive calls on their desk and mobile to ensure they never miss a sales opportunity, says Gordon.
The small business also manages its call wait, hold and handling times by using real-time usage statistics, call monitoring, multiple IVR and call queues at the customer support desk. The result? They keep within their strict target response times. B2B uses the online configuration functionality of the Truvoice IP PBX to make changes to its configuration in real-time as well.
While the fact that VoIP calls are cheaper than regular phone calls has become common knowledge, Gordon didn’t realise how big a difference it would make to her monthly bill. “Under the new system, voice calls are carried via BlitzOnNet, Blitz’s global IP network, removing the cost of expensive conversion equipment and bypassing the need for Telstra line rentals. Now B2B is saving about 40 percent on line rental and 30 percent on call costs. With a 30-to-35 percent saving on communication costs each month, B2B’s cash flow is moving at a steady pace.”
And the synergies of convergence and VoIP mean Gordon is making the most of a bundled internet service running together with voice carriage. The saving in data spend has been small, but it has dramatically increased the available speed and data usage, so B2B employees always have fast, reliable, and easy to access internet and online systems.
Making the switch to VoIP has not been difficult, says Gordon. “We were able to keep our existing numbers and paid virtually nothing upfront for the PBX equipment,” she explains. “It really has helped us save money as well as make sure we’re communicating in the best possible way with customers.”
For more information on Blitz Telecom’s VoIP service, visit www.truvoice.com.au