One of the core benefits of utilising any Cloud service is accessibility anywhere, and using a Cloud telephony service, the same is now true for your telephone land lines. With a Cloud based telephone service, you should be able to configure extensions on multiple devices (handsets, mobile apps, soft-phones), in theory, anywhere on planet Earth; as part of the same local telephone number and system. Practically speaking, you can plug in your IP handsets in Brazil, France or Australia and be able to make and receive calls on your local UK landline number. 0207, 0121, 0161, It doesn’t really matter. Your 0207 London presence can be answered in Rome, Birmingham in the Bahamas, or Manchester in Manhattan.
This is great for business on so many levels, not just outsourcing. For one thing, you access the best (and most cost-effective) staff resources, without compromising the local presence you’ve built up over the years. You can hire a specialist freelancer in Manchester, for example, an award-winning call answering team in Leeds, or a sales resource where you are locally.
You can bring everyone together under the same local landline number in Birmingham you’ve been operating under for years. In practice for example, your incoming calls can get answered by the admin team in Leeds, and a call is seamlessly transferred by them to your Freelancer in Manchester. The call is going well, so your Freelancer conferences in the Birmingham Sales Manager and, as a team all on the same system, they close the sale and win a new customer. …And although the new Client explained all her requirements, the sales manager needs to clarify some points, and rather than embarrassingly call the Client back, he listens to the call recording of the conversation to better understand her requirements.
You can also expand your national or global presence by quickly adding regional telephone numbers to your web site and marketing collateral. If business is good in Birmingham, add a Manchester number, and with a little marketing sparkle, you can test your potential influence in a new area without having to commit too much resource. As discussed, calls to all your regional numbers can go to one place, answered by the same person or team, so, relatively speaking, a non-cost for testing the water in new areas.
If the infrastructure of your Cloud telephone service provider is right, you should be able to scale up/down your telephone service, quickly, easily and at low; predictable costs. Ask your provider about the guts of their service. What does their infrastructure look like? …ask for a diagram. Is it one, over-heating box, sitting in a rack, in a broom cupboard next to the boiler, running software that was last patched with a 5 1/4” floppy disk?
As a user of Cloud services, you have the right to ask what’s going on behind the scenes – Which Data Centres are being used? Do they have global presence (You may want to launch a new site in Morocco). Are the DC’s temperature controlled? Uninterrupted power and diesel generator back-up? Entry via biometric security for named IT staff only? How resilient is their service? how available? Any downtime over the last 3 months?
Your supplier should be thinking, on your behalf, about scalability. This is where we find a small gulf between ‘Hosted’ and ‘Cloud’. As a business, if you experience a huge surge in demand for your product, 3 new sites are going live, each with a mini call centre and 25 staff, how will your supplier respond? A few configuration issues aside, your supplier should be ready to rollout hundreds if not thousands of extensions as and when (and of course, where) you require. The reverse is also true. If one of those sites was overkill, you should be able to scale down your requirement as quickly as you scaled up, paying only for what you use.
As a business in the 21st century, regardless of size, you are entitled to this level of flexibility to support efficient growth/contraction.
Costs are usually a consideration, not always, but for most SME businesses, costs of phone systems can be eye-watering. Cloud telephone systems should reduce costs in a few ways. Generally, the sting of capital expenditures associated with the purchase of equipment should be alleviated almost entirely. You might pay for IP handsets or you may already have some, which should be straightforward to reconfigure, seriously reducing your capital outlay.
Installation costs should be minimal, if there any at all (usually wrapped into handset and low service costs). Most Cloud telephony suppliers should offer an online control panel, so call routing pathways, forwarding and creating extensions should take virtually no time at all. The same is true for management of extensions and voicemail boxes etc.
We’re finding this is key for businesses nowadays. IT teams are under more and more pressure to bring telephony into their control, so any Cloud provider should make it as easy as possible to manage extensions and features, so IT staff don’t have to faff about too much. Or so you Cloud telephone supplier can make changes for you, quickly, and without the financial sting.
Problems do, and will continue to occur. The objective must be to effectively and easily side-step issues when they arise. Connectivity could drop out, CRM’s could implode, networks could explode. In such situations, it should be minutes and hours to work around the problem rather than days or weeks. Re-routing inbound calls, setting up call forwards, plugging in handsets elsewhere, or a DR site, should be easy, with minimum disruption.
If done correctly, productivity should be almost entirely unaffected. The base-level work-around we consider viable at More Talk is for staff to take their handsets home and plug-in to the internet there. Crude, I know, but it works. All features like IVR, call routing and call-recording should be in the Cloud anyway, so there should be no impact, expect for the time it takes for a member of staff to get home or to another site.
Utilising a Cloud telephony supplier is essentially, outsourcing. You’ve backed-off the management and stress to your supplier. You can account them on uptime and security, and ensuring all phone features are in place and functional.
If you accept having hardware on site, you bring yourself into the circle of accountability. From the point of view of your business, if you’re using a Cloud service, it makes sense to ensure all aspects of the service, up to the point of call delivery are firmly in the remit of your supplier. Let them take the headache. By backing off that stress to the supplier, you free up your IT resources and you can hold your supplier to account. IT teams have enough to worry about, phones shouldn’t be among them.
Michael is CEO at iNet Communications Group Plc and a member of the board of Directors. He joined iNet initially as Group CTO in 2007, bringing more than 20 years technology & telecoms experience, combined with a wealth of executive management expertise to support his key role at iNet.