Small businesses are shifting toward VoIP solutions although still rely heavily on both mobile and landlines also according to a recent report by software company Software Advice. The report, which surveyed over 350 businesses (those from companies with annual revenues of £120 million or less) during 2013-2014 to try and determine common pain points and reasoning for purchasing a new business phone system.
The research illustrated that some thirty-one percent were still using a landline whereas 13 percent relied exclusively on their mobile phones as their main source of business communications. Well over half of buyers asked intimated that they were looking to invest in a VoIP service for the first time (57%).
Seventeen percent of the sample specified lack of reliabilty as a pain point with their current business phone system: connectivity problems and dropped calls frequently induced issues for the buyers spoken to. Whilst a number of other buyers noted that they were at the system’s maximum capacity or otherwise needed more phone lines to accomodate company growth (15 percent).
In addition to seeking a system with a lower price, increased functionality was another major incentive for buyers looking to switch to VoIP (the former came in at 15 percent; the latter at 14 percent).
One buyer lamented that “no one told us how to use the capabilities of our current system,” and a number of buyers noted the difficulty of incorporating new features.
On a related note, support was a major pain point for a number of buyers. For instance, one buyer was incensed by the fact that every time he needed to make changes to the system, he had to call someone else to do it.
Improved call quality was perhaps not as major a concern as telecom professionals might expect. Only a few buyers reported audio quality issues such as “static.” This finding tallies with the results of a recent survey we conducted on public concerns about VoIP, which found that only 10 percent of consumers were worried about call quality with VoIP services.
The concern with reliability and support that the analysis uncovered correlates with a high level of interest in hosted (Web-based) solutions. None of the small business owners with whom were spoke wanted to purchase an on-premise IP-PBX: 77 percent of the sample wanted a Web-based solution, while 23 percent didn’t specify a preference.
This finding suggests that many small businesses lack the IT staff necessary to maintain an on-premise system. Buyers in this niche tend to prefer a hosted solution that they don’t have to maintain themselves and that grants administrative and user access via an Internet browser.
Nearly all of the buyers surveyed were seeking private branch exchange (PBX) functionality from their phone systems—and those who didn’t specify this preference probably wanted a PBX without knowing the word for it, since PBX functionality is the backbone of a business phone system.
After the basic need for extensions and directories, an auto attendant was easily the most in-demand application among the buyers surveyed. The popularity of the auto attendant stems from its ability to lend the air of an enterprise to even a small business, such as a local florist. For instance, one business owner noted that she wants an auto attendant to give the appearance that hers is a larger company than it really is.
After auto attendants, staples of business communications such as conferencing and faxing were more of a priority than specialised applications such as computer telephony integration (CTI) and automatic call distribution (ACD) for most buyers.
This is perhaps because only 10 percent of the sample consisted of the contact-center employees who would most need these applications to handle high call volumes.
Though journalists have been proclaiming the death of voicemail for nearly a decade now, more buyers requested this feature than any other (28 percent). Additionally, buyers expressed a high level of interest in caller ID (9 percent) and voicemail-to-email functionality (7 percent).
Another very popular feature (and one offered by many VoIP service providers) is number portability (7 percent). One buyer insisted that keeping his original number was a requirement, and a number of other buyers in the sample expressed similar sentiments. Lack of number portability can thus be said to be a dealbreaker for many small-business owners.
The data shows that small businesses are shifting toward VoIP solutions, even though many still rely on landlines or mobile phones. Moreover, these buyers are interested in solutions that are not merely reliable, but also scalable: They want to add users easily and cheaply as they grow. Few buyers in this market niche have an IT background, so they place a high premium on both reliability and effective technical support.
Finally, small-business buyers are increasingly interested in unified communications solutions that offer features such as voicemail-to-email. Because 13 percent of the buyers surveyed are totally reliant on their mobile phones for business communications, small-business owners are interested in remote access to, and control of, their phone systems. As VoIP technology continues to advance, it will become easier for small businesses to integrate voice calling, video conferencing, email, voicemail and chat using technologies that were formerly restricted to the enterprise.