Different must-have communication tools every start-up business should use to succeed
One significant benefit of digital convergence for small business has been a substantial reduction in communications costs, particularly international and regional call costs. The advent of Hosted VoIP Telephone services and onsite Business Telecoms systems has enabled start-up businesses to roll‑out communications and marketing systems at a fraction of the cost of just a few years ago.
Hosted VoIP Telephone services allow a start-up business to present a highly professional face to their current and potential customers, and larger start-ups can achieve similar benefits with the installation of a Business Telecoms system to connect branches to each other and head-office and to customers.
However, having said all that, a quick search for potential application areas and suppliers is more likely to confuse than assist a start-up.
The first step is as always to work out what you really need based on the type of business you are intending to run, and your current and potential customers.
Having done that, what does a start-up need from day one? Here are a few suggestions of basic communications systems.
Hosted VoIP Telephone System
The first given is a digital telephony system, either a Hosted VoIP Telephone system, outsourced to a service supplier, or an in-house system. In some cases, your Internet Service Provider will be able to offer a digital telephone service.
Advantages of a hosted system include speed. You can be up and running very quickly. A second is cost, in that you avoid capital expenditure and you will see a regular fixed cost. You will save space if you don’t have much space to install the VoIP equipment.
The major downside of a hosted system Is that you lose all telephone communications if you lose connection with your ISP. A second consideration for some businesses might be security and privacy concerns If your main communications hub is hosted by a third party.
Your key touchpoints to assess the service will include: toll-free local, regional and international calls, video-conferencing support, enhanced services like hunting groups, call forwarding and pickup, and especially for call-centres, automated call attendants.
Digital telephony includes video-conference services fully integrated with your phone system. There are Rolls-Royce video-conferencing solutions from companies like Polycom that provide spectacular services. Other providers provide services at varying cost and service levels. What you choose depends on how much you intend to use video-conferencing and its criticality to your business. For the very small business, the freeware version of Skype might fit the bill.
If you are a Microsoft shop, it is well worth considering Skype for Business, particularly since it integrates seamlessly with Office 365. Touch the telephone icon on someone’s contact card, and there you are, dialling. It also provides planned and on-the-fly video calling.
This can be a major consideration for businesses intending to use video-conferencing as a management tool.
Email is the primary method of communicating non-verbally with others. As a start-up you may consider a hosted solution from a provider like Google. It`s not a good marketing strategy to have your company communicate using Gmail addresses, but they now provide a service through Google Apps for Business that provides individual email addresses using a company domain name. Another option is to use an email server, either hosted or in-house. The advantage of the in‑house solution is that you can still operate services internally if your Internet connection is lost.
Fax to Email Services
Despite what you thought, fax is not dead, just fading away. It is still extensively used in developing countries and areas with an unreliable Internet service. Some organisations will accept only faxes as legal documents because the date/time stamp is placed on the document by a third party.
Your ISP and other suppliers can provide a service where incoming faxes sent to a specific dedicated phone number are converted to an image or a PDF and emailed to a nominated email address. The reverse service is also normally available, but may be additionally chargeable because of Telco costs at the far end.
As always, what is essential for one is not a consideration for others. Before going to the market to buy, consider what your objectives are, and what you need to meet these objectives. You are then prepared.