VoIP vs SIP: Which Communication Solution is Right for Your Business?
The Best VoIP Providers for Retail of 2018
If you own a retail business and are considering switching over from a traditional phone system to VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), congratulations. You’re on your way to saving anywhere between 50-75% on phone bills, as well as gaining access to a huge variety of features that will make your staff and clients much happier
Here are 5 of the best VoIP systems that you can rely on to deliver savings, loads of features, and high-quality sound and security:
How Can VoIP Help Retail Businesses?
Retail isn’t what it used to be. Whereas in the past, most customer-staff interaction took place in the store, with today’s digital revolution, more and more of that communication is taking place over the phone, online, through SMS, or by video conference. Moreover, the retail supply chain is more complex; it often involves multiple stores in multiple locations and requires that staff be able to communicate in a lightning-quick, efficient manner.
Because the needs of retailers have changed with the times, many are finding that traditional phone lines and the public switched telephone network (PSTN) are no longer sufficient. These systems are not flexible and can’t scale intuitively; nor do they offer texting, free long-distance phone calls, email, mobility, and other features that are essential for successful operations.
VoIP systems, on the other hand, do offer all of these things.
And if that’s not enough, they can also save you money.
How Does VoIP Help Cut Retail Costs?
As you know, any time you switch over to a new technology, there’s a cost involved. The same is true when switching over to VoIP; however, even with paying the monthly fee, buying new hardware, or increasing the speed of your internet, using a VoIP system can still help reduce costs in the long-run.
There are no extra charges to phone carriers based on distance or location.
Calls are transmitted over the internet, which means operators don’t have to maintain a distinct infrastructure for data and phone lines.
Free calling between different stores/remote locations, and often, long-distance.
Increased productivity: VoIP allows staff to make calls from the store or from home, and working from home has been shown to increase employee productivity. For a retail business that constantly needs to be in touch with clients, time is money.
New businesses will face the choice of choosing between a traditional phone system and VoIP. Traditional phone systems include paying a large up-front cost for phone system hardware, plus additional fees for calls, auto-attendant, installation, and more. VoIP systems don’t have that large up-front cost, and include loads of features in one affordable monthly fee.
If you’re hesitant about switching over to VoIP because you’ve heard that the phone quality isn’t great or that there can be potential security breaches, it sounds as if you’re an educated consumer. It’s true, some VoIP brands don’t offer high-quality sound or may be subject to security breaches. But when you choose a VoIP system from a top-rated, reputable company, you’ll be able to put these fears to rest.
High-quality VoIP companies follow QoS (quality of service) protocols, which means that calls are constantly monitored for a satisfactory standard, including making sure that there is no jitter, latency, and delay. These companies also use the latest security technology to prevent eavesdropping and other security breaches.
Important Features for Retail VoIP
While many of the best VoIP systems offer similar features, some also have their own unique niche, such as super-low/free rates for international calling, unlimited texting, video conferencing, and more. In addition, some VoIP solutions are specifically designed for large businesses, while others are more helpful for small to mid-sized businesses.
Below you can read more about the 5 best VoIP systems for retail businesses—you’ll see what size business they’re geared for, what they come with, and other relevant details.
Vonage is a top-rated VoIP provider that offers 40+ calling features in its business solutions. And not only is it packed with features, but there are no contracts, which means you can cancel at any time.
Vonage offers both small business plan packages and enterprise business packages, so no matter what stage you’re at in your retail business, you can find a suitable Vonage package.
Features of Vonage Business include:
International calling options
Salesforce and customer relationship management (CRM) integration
Great voice quality
Mobile/desktop calling apps
Call blocking and recording
Virtual receptionists, auto-attendants
2 plans for small businesses and 3 plans for enterprise businesses
RingCentral is another VoIP that doesn’t require contracts. It services over 350,000 businesses and offers a promo for new customers. RingCentral offers 4 plans: Essentials, Standard, Premium, and Enterprise; the different packages make it suitable for all-size businesses. It’s also easily scalable, which means that as your business grows, you don’t need to make any changes to your system (though you can upgrade your plan).
Unlike some other VoIP companies, RingCentral does come with a limited number of minutes (1000-10,000, depending on your plan). For retailers who don’t use the phone heavily but require features like unlimited SMS and video conferencing, that limitation won’t make a difference. For retail stores that have call centers or require a lot of phone-time, the limitation is something to keep in mind.
Features of RingCentral include:
Mobile and fax integration
Virtual receptionist, hold music, message alerts
Directories, call trees, call queues, call logs
Salesforce, Google, Zendesk, and Outlook integration
Unlimited conference calling and SMS
4 plans: Essentials, Standard, Premium, Enterprise
8x8 is a cloud-hosted PBX service that’s known for its high-quality video conferencing and instant messaging, making it a great option for retail businesses that host frequent meetings. It also boasts 99.9983% uptime, which means there is less than a .01% chance that your phone/internet won’t work. It’s made up of a global network of 12 data centers to ensure quick, clear connections no matter where you call.
Features of 8x8 include:
Web conferencing & instant messaging
Seamless integration with third-party apps
Accessible from office phones, desktop PCs, and mobile devices
Very scalable, so it can grow along with your business
Affordable and flexible pricing
Grasshopper, known as the entrepreneur’s phone system, is geared toward helping small to mid-sized businesses appear professional, efficient, and corporate. In other words, your retail business can consist of 5 employees, but with Grasshopper, calling customers will get the feeling that the enterprise is much larger than it is. Grasshopper’s pricing plans also reflect the needs of its target audience and are fairly competitive.
It’s important to note that Grasshopper only offers inbound calling services, not outbound, and this is an important distinction for anyone considering this VoIP provider. For many small businesses, inbound services are enough, but for larger businesses, outbound calling is usually a necessity.
Features of Grasshopper include:
Works with phone lines, not broadband, which offers better call quality and no dependence on WiFi.
No new hardware necessary
Toll-free and customized vanity numbers
International call forwarding
Voicemail transcripts, auto-receptionist
A mobile app that lets customers check voicemail, faxes, and call logs from their mobile device. The app also allows you to change your outbound mobile number to your business number, so you can call customers from your mobile and still appear professional.
Jive offers over 80 VoIP features for 1 inclusive price, plus, setup is easy. Just plug your VoIP equipment into the phone jack and go. Jive is ideal for any size business and can be integrated with other software to increase efficiency, such as integrating with MS Outlook for scheduling, Salesforce for CRM, Maestro for data collection, and more. Jive also gives business owners access to its API should they want to build their own custom integrations.
Features of Jive include:
Easy setup and onboarding
Toll-free and local numbers
Unlimited auto-attendants, voicemail boxes, local & long distance calling
Visual dial plan editor to set up your phone system
Conference bridge that allows conference call hosting with up to 10 people
Call monitoring, recording, and reporting
Custom greetings, messages, hold music
Fax and voicemail to email options
5 pricing option
The Bottom Line: VoIP Can Help Retailers Deliver For Their Customers
You may think you’re in the retail business, but the truth is, you’re in the customer service business. Because whether you’re selling digital cameras, designer shoes, camping equipment, or children’s books, you won’t have any clientele if you don’t offer excellent customer service.
For retail stores, this means providing customers with easily accessible salespeople and/or support staff who can help them at a moment’s notice. It also means allowing staff to communicate with each other easily/across long distances in order to manage all the behind-the-scenes work as well as take care of any customer service issues that arise.
With a clear connection, secure line, loads of features, and prices that can’t be beat, VoIP is the ideal system to meet the needs of retail customers and staff.
The question that remains for retail business owners is, which VoIP system should you choose? The top 5 companies listed here are a good place to start; but remember, it’s not about which VoIP service offers more features or better prices. It’s about which VoIP service offers the features you need and the price that fits your budget.
While determining that may require a bit (or a lot) of reading and research, the result will be worth it. You’ll end up with a comprehensive VoIP system that meets the communication needs of your retail business, including those of customers and employees.