The top 5 mistakes startups make....

.... with their telecoms.

There are some common mistakes startups make with their telecoms which can be avoided and in turn lead to increased business and improved efficiency.

1. Only having a mobile phone number

They say that you tell a lot about a business from spending 10 seconds in their reception. Similarly you can tell a lot about a business by their phone number.

Do they just use a mobile number on their business card or web site? Research shows 30% of people do not trust it and therefore will not contact them. This is even higher if the business is offering professional services such as accountancy, financial advice or consultancy.

Think BIG. Large companies usually have a city based phone number and every small business should too. Numbers are easy to obtain and manage and can even be diverted to a mobile phone even if you are a 'one man' startup. Business is always about first impressions - your phone number counts!

2. Using your home phone number for business

Some businesses are tempted to use their home phone number but this has the disadvantage that you don’t know whether your aunt or an important prospect is calling.

It also means you can’t turn your business off when you want; in the evening, at weekends or when on holiday.

There is limited functionality for handling a second call or personalising voicemails and if you move house you may move to another telephone exchange and not be able to take the phone number with you.

Worse still, you have to be permanently stuck close to your home phone, for fear of missing an important call.

Using a mobile phone gives you all the flexibility and mobility you could need with you able to make and receive calls and messages anywhere.

3. Using an answering service

Many small businesses wonder if they should use a telephone answering or virtual PA service for when they are not available.

The key question is, what do you want them to do? If it is to just take a message you need to ask yourself what value is that adding. If they can handle certain queries then that can enhance the offering, but the inflexibility of deciding which calls to answer directly, and the underlying cost are an issue.

Switchboard services allow users to answer the calls they want or can, and pass the rest to any desired; person, service or voicemail. So using an answering service is not necessarily a bad thing but putting a service between you and the answering service is important.

4. Signing up to long contracts

There is a great pressure for all new businesses to manage their costs at the outset whilst revenues are low. Offers of free installation of sparkling new phone systems, if you sign 3 or 5 year contracts, can on the surface appear very tempting, but there are downsides.

Firstly your business may expand and / or you may move the business and you could find yourself facing penalties for cancelling the contract. Secondly you are locking yourself into prices for a long term in an environment where prices usually go down. The cost of calling mobiles has fallen by 50% in the past 4 years alone, for example.

More importantly is the inflexibility and cost of a desk phone based service, from being tied to your desk, to poor quality VoIP mobile diverts. Basically, you will be buying outdated technology you neither need or actually desire and when you factor in; cabling, internet, handset maintenance, you will be paying over 40% more than a mobile based solution.

5. Serviced offices

Many start-ups consider using serviced offices when starting out which can make sense as it avoids long term commitment that usually comes with renting your own space.

But if considering this route ensure you check if they will expect you to use their telecoms services. This can create issues.

Firstly, the costs can be very expensive compared to organising yourself, and secondly, they may not release the number to you should you move out at some point in the future.

If you have invested in promoting that phone number it could damage your business if you have to get a new number.

Thirdly, telecoms is usually set around using a shared desk phone which is neither practical or hygienic.

Simply make sure the agreement does not tie you in to their telecoms and simply use your mobile phone.

Final Thoughts: There are thousands of VoIP solutions in the market place, these offer a lot of great features and functionality, but fail to deliver 100% of the time due to internet/WiFi connectivity issues. You need to choose a service that is built on top of the cellular voice network and does not use internet/WiFi connections.

Whilst free VoIP calling is fine for personal use it should not be used for business. You need HD quality calling, instant connectivity and the benefit of cellular mast hopping, which means no dropped calls whilst on the move!

In Summary look for:

  • HD quality cellular call service
  • Multi-phone number dialling
  • Inbound call identity
  • Switchboard integration
  • Free installation
  • Low monthly cost
  • No contract or lock in

If you are struggling to find a supplier, http://www.riptec.net are happy to assist :)

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