The older telephone models, known as PBXs (which we will explain below), are an expensive way of communicating. There was a time when they were at the peak of cost-effectiveness, but developments in technology now mean this time has passed. And business telephone systems have reached a new level of affordability and productiveness.
Hosted telephony allows small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to be agile with enterprise-grade communications at a cost within their reach. It uses the internet to streamline the calling process for customers and employees, and many packages come with lots of flexibility for the businesses that are using them. This blog covers how hosted telephony came to be, how it is used today, and how it benefits SMBs.
A Brief History of Business Communications
Before the 1960s, business telephone systems had to be accessed through public switchboards. If somebody wanted to call in and reach someone within the business, an operator would have to patch them through. Inter-business calls worked this way too. As the 20th century progressed, the demand for calls went up. Businesses used multiple lines to keep up and they had to buy separate lines for each of their departments. It was an expensive way of communicating.
But this gave way to the earliest form of the private branch exchange (PBX) system. Companies were now able to buy or rent their own switchboards and hire their own operators to handle calls. Automated switchboards shortly followed, but businesses did not feel comfortable using these until the 1970s when superconductors were added to them. And when they were, private operators were no longer needed, making PBX even more affordable.
Sometime later and with the development of computers, an upgrade for PBXs appeared. This was called Time Division Multiplexing (TDM). Similar to a computer, it housed a hard drive, a central processing unit (CPU) and random access memory (RAM). All of this made it easy for businesses to add hold music and more capacity for extra phone numbers. But it was expensive. Boards held 16 phone numbers by default, which companies did not often need but were forced to spend money on.
Luckily the internet was incoming and with it came a cheaper way of connecting PBX and TDM. Internet Protocol (IP) PBX systems came next in the 1990s, which converted analogue phone signals into digital signals. These were then converted back into phone signals, and were able to be received on a telephone. As the years went by and technology advanced, things were starting to give way to hosted telephony as we now know it.
How Hosted Telephony Works
By the 2000s, hosted telephony, or Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) had emerged. It uses the internet to exchange communications from one place to another. When someone receives a call, the internet directs it to their device so they can answer this. But unlike in the 90s, we now have a bigger range of technology that calls can be directed to.
Calls can be accessed on desktop PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones. For privacy, you can use headsets when taking calls on the first three of those options. Several people can make and receive calls simultaneously. Packages tend to come with a control interface which can typically be reached through a software or web page. This is usually maintained and managed by your service provider.
At its core, hosted telephony is a pay-monthly, pay-per-user subscription. For a recurring price each month you get a digital telephone system that allows you to call for a set number of minutes. On top of that, there is usually a selection of extra features you will be able to choose from. You may want access to international phone numbers to make it seem like you are calling from abroad. Or you may want your VoIP system to enable easy switching between a desktop and a mobile phone. Many providers out there will offer bundles like this.
5 Ways Hosted Telephony Drives ROI
1. Cuts spending on hardware maintenance and management
With PBX systems, you have to pay for the telephone service every month. Additionally, there are maintenance and management costs for the hardware. Hosted telephony works as a digital subscription, making the hardware costs disappear. All you have to pay is the monthly subscription fee.
2. Helps you retain staff
Today’s employees do not expect to work in the office every day. In fact, 77% of UK workers say workplace flexibility is very important to them, whether that is for balancing time with families, to help ease long commutes or because they want a change of scenery every so often. Using PBX means they have to stay at their desks. Hosted telephony empowers them to work flexibly. By providing them with flexibility, they will stay loyal to you.
3. Makes better customer experiences
In an ideal world, it would only take one phone call for a customer to have all their problems resolved. This does not happen all the time but that is not always the point. Sometimes, what matters most to customers using the phone is having a good experience. For 58% of people, calling is their preferred method of communication. After having a positive experience, 70% would be more loyal to the company and 65% would recommend the company to others. When set-up properly, hosted telephony can help customers speak to who they want to quickly and with better sound quality than that found on PBX.
4. Room for growth and opportunities
Modern-day business environments need to be fast and agile in order to seize new opportunities. Collaboration, with other companies and individuals, is an essential factor in this current state of play. PBX was not built for that. It was built for fixed locations and closed networks. With 80% of employee time in SMBs spent collaborating and 68% of UK SMBs collaborating with each other, cloud-based technology is needed to support this appetite. Use hosted telephony and you can capture opportunities and grow.
5. Helps IT teams work more efficiently
Maintaining the phone system is a waste of IT’s time and expertise. When you choose a hosted telephony system, your provider will take care of the maintenance for you. And they will have the necessary skills to do so. So your IT team can get back to doing what they do best: ensuring your IT network is performing securely.
Don’t Be Held Back by Your Phone System
Hosted telephony has come a long way. It has gone from a being a money-draining, space-consuming resource that was not ideal for businesses, to a cost-saving, cloud-powered tool that takes up no space in the office at all. Using the internet, the business telephone systems of today come with a range of options and cost a fraction of what they once did.
Not only that but hosted telephony helps businesses drive ROI. With it, you can reduce spending on maintenance and management, retain staff by meeting their expectations, make better customer experiences, jump on chances to grow your business and help your IT team to work more efficiently and productively.
There could not be a better time to use hosted telephony. No one should be held back by their telephone system as it is costly in more ways than one. Our forthcoming eBook will go into this in more detail once it is published in January 2019. But in the meantime, send us any questions you have on upgrading to hosted telephony. We would be happy to help.