Around 500,000 new businesses are started each year. (Source: Startup Britain). However, far too many of those businesses make mistakes with their telecoms. Mistakes that cost money and result in lost business. Dave Millett of independent telecoms brokerage, Equinox, explains nine of the most common, easily avoidable, mistakes new business owners make with their telecoms:
Only having a mobile number.
Research shows over 30% of people do not trust and therefore will not contact mobile numbers. Plus, you’ll only have a single voicemail for personal and business calls. A mobile number can create the wrong impression.
Using your home number
How will you know if it’s your mother calling or an important new customer? Also, you can’t turn your business off in the evening and weekends, there is limited functionality for handling a second call and personalising voicemails, and you might not be able to take the number with you if you move.
Long term contracts
It’s tempting to accept offers of free installation if you sign three or five year contracts, but if you expand and / or move the business and you could face penalties for cancelling the contract, and you are locking yourself into prices in an environment where prices are generally going down.
Using inbound numbers such as 0800, 0844 or 0845 creates two problems. First, the rules on using 0845 for post sales service change on June 14th 2014 when they become illegal. See: http://www.equinoxcomms.co.uk/do-you-use-0800-0844-0845-or-0870-numbers-if-so-you-may-need-to-change-them/. Second, if most of your customers call you from their mobile then, until next year, they’ll get a warning telling them it will cost a lot of money, at which point 40% hang up. From next year the calls will be free for the caller but more expensive for the owner of the number.
Not reading the small print
Check contract lengths, notice periods and penalty clauses, and ensure your supplier is signed up to the Telecoms Ombudsman. A list of participating companies can be found at http://www.ombudsman-services.org/memberlists/communications/
Planning for the future
How might the business develop in the first two to three years? Are the telecoms in place on day one flexible and scalable should you expand? If you are working from home is the number portable should you move into offices?
Using numbers provided by your serviced office
This can be very expensive compared to organising your own telecoms and they may not release the number should you move out. Some business centres offer to forward calls but this can be costly. Always ask if you can bring your own and if not are the numbers portable if you leave.
Skype certainly offers some useful features but not everyone in business uses Skype, particularly larger businesses. Also, Skype phone numbers are not portable, so when you have outgrown Skype you’ll lose the use of that number.
Call Answering Services
The key question is; what do you want them to do? If it is just to take a message you need to ask yourself what value is that adding. However, if they can handle certain queries, then that can enhance your offering.
So what are the options? For micro businesses, a simple inbound geographic number can be set up for circa £7 a month. For a little extra it can have a voicemail and a whisper facility to tell you that it is a business call. This can help you utilise a single device for business and leisure. For those worried about presenting a mobile number when dialling out then it’s possible to have a landline on your mobile as an app. Beyond that, businesses wanting a little more sophistication, or for larger start-ups, the choice is VOIP or traditional telecoms solutions. Generally, as a guide, the more sites and the greater the likelihood of growth in numbers of users then the more likely it is that VOIP, with its flexibility and scalability, is the best solution. If you are looking for more sophisticated features and are communications intensive then a PBX may be a better solution. The guides here may help:
- http://www.equinoxcomms.co.uk/is-the-pbx-making-a-comeback-or-have-hosted-companies-lost-the-marketing-plot/ and
Overall our advice to any new business owner is to be careful. Think about your business, not just now, but in the future too. Look at the points above and ask the relevant questions of your potential providers, and ensure your telecoms align with your plans for the business. If in doubt, an independent telecoms broker can help.
Dave Millett has over 35 years’ experience in the Telecoms Industry. He has worked in European Director roles for several global companies. He now runs Equinox Communications, a leading independent brokerage and consultancy firm. He works with many companies, charities and other organisations and has helped them achieve savings of up to 80%. He also regularly advises telecom suppliers on improving their products and propositions. www.equinoxcomms.co.uk