Telecoms are an essential part of any new business – so you need to get them right from day one. Here are nine of the most common (but easily avoidable) mistakes new business owners make with their telecoms…
Research shows more than 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.
How will you know if it’s a friend or customer calling? Also, you can’t turn off your business in the evening and at weekends, while there is limited functionality for handling a second call and personalising voicemails.
It’s tempting to accept offers of free installation if you sign a long-term contract, but if you expand and/or move you could face penalties for cancelling the contract. Plus, 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. Firstly, using 0845 for post-sales service is now illegal. Secondly, if most of your customers call you from their mobile, they’ll get a warning telling them it will cost a lot of money, at which point 40% hang up.
Check contract lengths, notice periods and penalty clauses, and make sure your supplier is signed up to the Telecoms Ombudsman (here’s a list of participating companies).
Are the telecoms flexible and scalable should you expand? If you are working from home, is the number portable should you move into premises?
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.
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.
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, that can enhance your offering.
So what are the options? For micro businesses, a simple inbound geographic number can be set up for about £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.
For larger start-ups, the choice is VOIP or traditional telecoms solutions. The more sites and the greater the likelihood of growth, the more likely it is that VOIP is the best solution. If you’re looking for more sophisticated features then a PBX may be better. This guide and this one will tell you more.
In conclusion, think about your business, not just now, but in the future. 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.
My sister, Rachel Clacher, and I founded Moneypenny in January 2000. All we had was a business idea and £15,000. I’d run my own business previously and had needed someone to look after my telephone calls while I was out, but finding the right service was tough and when I did, it was full of flaws.
Recognising a gap in the market, we decided to create a personal, relationship-based service staffed by people who understood the business need and who would deliver an efficient and professional service every time. That’s when Moneypenny – and most recently, Penelope – was born.
We knew that with limited resources we had to shape our product if we were to differentiate ourselves from our competitors. Having your calls answered by one person you know and trust is what has defined us as a provider.
Diversifying our product offering is an essential part of our success. Earlier this year we launched a new digital receptionist, Penelope, which offers a wealth of features designed to help micro-businesses handle their calls, including pioneering voice recognition capabilities.
Our technology allows our receptionists to look after calls exactly to the client’s brief. This ensures a seamless service and our clients know that every call and opportunity coming into their business is captured, while leaving them free to manage their day as they need to.
We’re focused on providing unique solutions for small businesses, as well as growing our service offering for large corporates. Digital receptionists across all areas of business are a huge focus for us going forward, too.
What’s my advice to start-ups and micro-businesses that want to grow quickly? Create, create, create – and don’t take no for an answer. Never sit back and admire what you’ve achieved – look forward to what’s next. Have the courage of your convictions and think about what you need to do to reach new markets. Pre-empt and don’t be afraid to be different.