Choosing the right VoIP phone system for your business
Before we get into the lengthy list of VoIP phone system features available to businesses today, we need to point out that many business VoIP providers and systems are out there, and choosing the right one for your business communications can be tricky. At T2k, we offer a free comparison service; you tell us a bit about your requirements, and we'll show you which business VoIP provider is best for you. It's free, and you'll benefit from our many years of expertise supporting UK businesses with their telecoms.
1. Advanced call management for incoming calls
Advanced call management enables you to prioritise incoming calls and ensure that they are routed and picked up by the correct people. Most VoIP service providers have an extensive list of call management functionality.
2. Call routing
Call routing is a part of call management that directs incoming calls to a person or group of people best suited to handle them. It minimises calls being passed around and gets customers to the correct destination as quickly as possible if it's well configured. There is a multitude of ways that you can route calls with VoIP, from out-of-hours routing to call centre distribution. The key is setting it up to fit your business from the outset.
3. Anonymous call rejection
Anonymous call rejection minimises unwanted telephone calls by blocking any private numbers. While not always wanted by businesses, as some customers may choose to block their numbers, if you do find your team is frequently bogged down by unwanted inbound calls, it's a good option.
An auto-attendant is a useful VoIP feature that introduces a multi-level menu system when people call your business. You've no doubt used them countless times, and with VoIP becoming more widely adopted, even small businesses are making the most of them. There are several benefits associated with having an auto-attendant, namely:
- Remove the need for a receptionist
- Customers reach their desired destination faster
- Customers spend less time on hold or in queues
- Employees don't need to transfer as many calls around between them
- They improve efficiency and therefore reduce costs
- Better management of inbound and outbound calls
5. Listen In / Barge In / Call Whisper
These three VoIP features are especially beneficial for businesses operating call centres. Listen in, as the name suggests, allows supervisors or managers to listen to live calls while call centre agents are on the phone. That's not to say that you couldn't use it in a regular office too. It's just more common in inbound and outbound teams.
Barge in allows other people in a group, often supervisors, to jump into active calls and speak to the customer simultaneously or instead of the original agent.
Finally, call whisper allows supervisors or those providing training to talk to the agent on an active call without the customer hearing. These VoIP features benefit training but can also help when disputes arise.
6. Business Text Messaging
Most leading VoIP services will also allow you to send business text messages. Texts can be used to send mass notifications to customers or individual information following a call or other interaction.
7. Busy lamp fields (BLF) / Call Presence
Busy Lamp Fields enable others in an office to quickly see who is available or otherwise engaged. This time-saving feature removes time spent trying to call or transfer calls to someone who isn't available, which is a win for efficiency and speeds up interaction times with customers.
8. Call Analytics
Call Analytics gives you insight into your team's performance and lets you plan when you might need more staff. You can track session metrics, behavioural trends and much more. By getting an insight into the calls into and out of your business, you arm yourself with the information you need to make decisions.
9. Call Forwarding
With call forwarding, customer interactions need never go unanswered. Forward VoIP calls to other users or groups, mobile devices, and even external phone numbers if required. Ultimately call forwarding is one VoIP feature that gives you the flexibility to work from anywhere and never skip a beat.
10. Call Monitoring
Call monitoring enables supervisors and managers to listen to conversations in real-time, which is one of the business phone features that help with training and compliance. Rather than just hearing one side of an active discussion, with call monitoring, you can listen to both sides and then offer feedback to your agent afterwards.
11. Call Notify
With Call Notify, you can create customised alerts that trigger when specific calls come in. Typically these alerts are email-based; however, some of the leading business phone systems will also alert you in your softphone or mobile phone app.
There are many uses of Call Notify, including alerting a sales rep when a high-value customer calls in. It gives your team the few seconds you need to get the relevant information on the screen and ensure you provide the highest level of service.
12. Call Park and Pickup
Call Parking and Pickup enables you to switch between devices without needing to end a call seamlessly. Say you're speaking to an important client but must leave the office to head to a meeting. Park the call on your desk phone and then pick it up on your mobile. The client will only be on hold for a matter of seconds, and you then have the freedom to continue the conversation while heading out the door.
Call Pickup can also be used to pick up calls from another person's phone. If you know you are better positioned to handle an incoming call, you can pick it up at your desk or on your mobile with a few clicks.
13. Call Queues
Call Queuing organises inbound calls and puts them in an orderly line until one of your team is available to take the call. No one likes being on hold for lengthy periods, but sometimes, it can't be avoided if your business handles high call volumes.
If you're using Call Queues, we'd strongly suggest you also consider playing pre-recorded messages to the callers while they wait, as it's the perfect opportunity to tell them about your latest product or service.
14. Call Recording
In times past, to record calls, you would need some separate hardware, which typically wasn't cheap. However, with the latest VoIP systems, Call Recording is often included as standard.
Moreover, it works across all devices, so if your team picks up calls on their mobiles or via a desktop soft client, those calls will be recorded too.
Call recording has many benefits, even for small companies that don't operate call centre environments. Here are just some of those:
- Great for training - it's quick and easy to listen back to calls and provide constructive feedback.
- Minimise disputes - you have a way of getting to the truth of what was said in any conversation.
- Encourages professionalism - call recording encourages employees to remain professional, even facing demanding customers.
- Reduces abuse - when customers know they are being recorded, they are much less likely to be abusive to your employees.
15. Call Screening
Call Screening enables you and your team to filter calls and decide whether they should be picked up, rejected or sent to Voicemail. By using caller IDs, the phone system can automatically determine what to do with a call, so if you have an important customer, you can tag them and ensure their call is prioritised.
The reverse is also true; if you know the number of a problem caller or an unwanted sales call, you can tell your VoIP system to send it to Voicemail.
16. Call Transfer
Call Transfer is one of the most valuable features of a VoIP phone system, in that you can quickly transfer calls to internal and external destinations with a couple of button presses. As you might expect, with VoIP, you can transfer calls to mobiles and softphones too, so if your colleague is working from home, it doesn't matter; you can still put calls through to them.
17. Caller ID
Your team can quickly see who's calling you with caller ID and be prepared for the conversation. By linking your phone system to your CRM or Outlook Address Book, you and your team get instant visibility of the origins of a call. This VoIP feature saves time, and simply having the caller ID improves customer satisfaction.
18. Conference calls
Despite us all coming to rely on platforms like Zoom for video conferencing, businesses still use traditional conference calls, and your new VoIP system will enable you to host as many as you like. You can also quickly invite others into calls, turning 1:1 chats into an instant conference call.
19. CRM integration
If you choose one of the best VoIP phone systems, you'll be able to link it up to your CRM (customer relationship management) system to enable additional functionality like "Contact Popping".
Whenever a customer calls, assuming they're in your CRM, their contact record will automatically pop up on your screen, so you have their history and much more ready to hand.
While on the face of this, it may seem like an insignificant feature, you and your team won't look back once you start using it.
20. Custom communications apps
Some of the best telephone systems today allow you to create customer VOIP apps connected directly to your communications platform. It may be that you are making a customer quoting tool and want your employees to be able to send the quotes as a text or even trigger a call a couple of days later.
As long as you have a development team that knows what they're doing, you'll be able to call upon your phone system's API to build custom voice apps.
21. Custom music on hold
Before you think about skipping this VoIP feature, we need to tell you it's one of the most powerful, especially for marketing teams. Far from being just for Music, you can record custom messages and play them to your customers while they wait.
It may be that you've got an event or a product launch, or maybe you want to communicate some procedures your business has. With Music on hold, you can.
22. Custom ringback
Custom ringback lets your team set the audio people hear when they call your business. You can create your own corporate jingle or a different tone to the norm to enhance callers' experience.
23. DDIs (Direct Dial In) telephone numbers
DDIs are individual phone numbers within a range for your employees, enabling external and internal callers to call individuals or teams directly without needing to go through an auto-attendant or IVR system.
DDIs have been in business communications for a long time, but it's only now, where the cost of VoIP numbers is minimal, that companies are using them more widely.
24. Do not disturb (DND)
Do not disturb stops calls from coming through to you while you don't want to be bothered. Calls can then be routed to your Voicemail or even onto other team members. When you're ready and available, switch it off for telephone calls to come through normally again.
25. Find Me/ Follow Me
With Find Me and Follow Me, you can receive calls anywhere on any device. Calls are automatically sent to all your devices so that you can pick them up on your desk phone, mobile phone or computer softphone.
26. Free phone numbers
Want to cover the cost of incoming calls to remove the barrier for customers? With a free phone number, you can. In the UK, free phone numbers typically start with 0800 or 0808 and with your VoIP phone system, you can have a mix of free and non-free phone numbers associated with your business.
27. Holiday and business hours routing
Most businesses close at some point, whether overnight or over the weekend or on bank holidays. With business hours routing, you can control what happens to calls when you're closed.
It could be that you use call forwarding to send calls to a third-parting answering service, or perhaps you send them to Voicemail or a message telling them to call back in opening hours. Regardless of your route, your VoIP phone system can route the calls as you see fit.
28. Hot Desking
As users aren't tied to physical handsets, switching computers and moving to other desks is super simple, commonly called Hot Desking. This is especially useful if you operate a large team and perhaps don't have desks for everyone. Whenever people are in the office, they can choose where they want to sit and log in to their phone, just as they would a computer.
29. Hunt Groups
Hunt Groups are teams of people that share a similar role. For example, you could have a team of account managers to whom you want all sales calls distributed, or perhaps a support team who can handle all customer service enquiries.
With Hunt Groups, all people's VoIP phones within a group will ring when a call comes in, making it a fast way to get customers to the right people. You can also use different types of automatic call distribution to prioritise calls to specific individuals. Choose the number of calls each individual should receive in your phone system settings. It could be that you've got a sales rep that's just started, and you want to avoid overloading them.
30. Instant Messaging
While emails are a mainstay of most business communications, companies increasingly see the value of Instant Messaging for internal conversations. While some systems do this independently, Slack and Microsoft Teams are two examples; using this feature in your phone system reduces the number of platforms you rely on and pay for.
One of the advantages of using your phone system for Instant Messaging is that it's easy to switch between chatting to a voice or video call. So if you find yourself talking to a colleague and think it would be better to jump on a call or do a screen share, you can do it with a couple of clicks and without needing to load up other applications. This is the foundation of what's known as Unified Communications, where internal comms all take place in one place rather than across a multitude of software and systems.
As we'll explain later in this post, some business phone systems also include live chat for your website, which feeds directly into your internal messaging groups. So a customer could be browsing your website and start a chat session, it'll automatically be posted into a group that your sales team are members of, and any of them can pick it up.
31. Intercom / Paging / PA Announcements
The Intercom, Paging and PA Announcement VoIP phone features allow you to make one-way and two-way announcements to all your users. When you send an announcement, all of the users in the selected group will be notified and will pick up the phone to hear the message you would like to communicate. This feature is handy in larger businesses with offices spread across campus but can also be used in small businesses.
IVR stands for Interactive Voice Response, and as the name suggests, it allows callers to access information and navigate menu systems by speaking rather than pressing menu options. Using an IVR, you can collect vital information before the caller reaches your team; that could be their account number or other essential information to help you find their account.
There are many uses of an IVR, such as collecting customer information, feedback and more, and they are typically used alongside an Auto Attendant (virtual receptionist).
33. Microsoft Teams Integration
Microsoft Office 365 and Microsoft Teams are widely used within businesses, but did you know they can often be integrated with your VoIP business phone system? While your VoIP business phone solution may include internal messaging functionality, you don't have to use it and might prefer to integrate it with Microsoft Teams instead. By doing this, your team can make and receive phone calls from Microsoft Teams, both internally and externally.
If you use the Microsoft cloud platform extensively, this VoIP feature might be worth setting up.
34. Mobile App
All of the best business VoIP solutions come with mobile apps for Android and iOS; as long as you have a reliable internet connection, you can make business calls from anywhere. Your mobile device will behave like your office phone, allowing you to seem like you are in the office, even though you may be somewhere else.
This is the great thing about VoIP (voice over internet protocol); your business phone system is by your side as long as you have an internet connection.
35. Non-geographic numbers
Non-geographic phone numbers are those that don't have a local identifier at the start of them. So, for example, in the UK, they include numbers like 0845, 0870, 0800 and many more. With VoIP phones, you can have as many non-geographic phone numbers as you'd like, and they'll all come into the same system and team.
36. Phone Number Porting
Porting your phone numbers is the process of transferring them from your current provider to your new VoIP phone system.
At T2k, we have porting agreements with most of the telecom companies in the UK, so in almost all cases, we will be able to bring your existing numbers over to your new system. It's important to note that some providers won't be able to port numbers from others, so be sure to check that before you sign up.
37. Online Fax
While Fax, for most people, is an outdated technology, some industries still use it. One of the features of many VoIP phone systems is that you can send faxes online, removing the need for a physical fax machine and the noise that goes with it!
38. Priority Alerts
With Priority Alerts, you can stay on top of your IP phone conversations and be notified when something's going wrong. It could be that you want an alert after someone has been on the phone for a certain amount of time, or perhaps you'd like to be notified if agents call the same number more than a certain amount of times. Configure the Alert to your requirements, and you'll receive an email notifying you when the threshold is met.
39. Push to Talk
Push to talk lets you quickly connect with others in the team without needing to dial numbers. Just push one button and instantly be associated with your colleagues.
40. SIP Trunks
SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) is the underlying technology that enables VoIP calls. If you have a phone system in your office, you'll need SIP trunks to make calls. However, if you opt for a fully managed service, they'll take care of them for you.
41. Skill-based routing
Skill-based routing directs calls to people who are best suited to handle them. In most cases, it's used where you have a team of people with varying performance levels. You can opt to send more difficult calls or perhaps a higher volume of calls to high-performing agents and less to those relatively new or who can't manage as much workload.
Skill-based routing is fantastic in a call centre environment as it allows managers and supervisors to route calls intelligently.
42. SLA Alerting
Service-based companies, especially those working with other businesses, typically have SLA (service level agreements) that they need to meet. With SLA Alerting, you can track and be notified when services drop below the targeted level. You can take action and remedy the issue before it results in an unhappy customer.
A softphone is an application for your computer that is, in effect, a virtual phone you can use instead of a traditional handset. The great thing about softphones is that if installed onto laptops, you can effectively take your business phone features anywhere with you.
Perhaps you want to use headsets in your office, or your team have headphones and a microphone which negates the need for phones on desks.
When you speak to your VoIP service provider, ask about softphones, as they could save you money and avoid investing in new hardware.
44. Speed dial
Speed dialling is one of the VoIP phone features that improves efficiencies and reduces costs. You can either pre-program keys on your phone so that you can call particular individuals quickly or use your company address book to make outbound calls with a couple of button presses.
45. Three-way calling
When you're on the phone with someone, how often would it be helpful to bring someone else in? With three-way calling and instant conference calls, you can. Invite additional people into your call and collaborate in a matter of seconds.
46. Voice calls
Voice calls are one of the foundation VoIP phone features that all services will include. In recent years, and with the improvement of internet connections, the quality of VoIP phone calls has surpassed that of PSTN (public switched telephone network) and ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network)
47. Unlimited voice calls
Many of the best VoIP business services come with unlimited voice calls or close to it. This means that the only fee you pay is your monthly subscription, removing uncertainty about future costs.
Voicemail messages are an integral part of most VoIP (voice over internet protocol) solutions, and you'll see many features to make them more efficient for your users. The importance of Voicemail shouldn't be underestimated, after all, you need something to happen to your unanswered incoming calls.
49. Voicemail to email
With Voicemail to email, your messages are saved as audio files and emailed to you, so there's no need to log in to your phone to listen to them. This VoIP feature gives you and your team the flexibility to pick up messages wherever they are, as long as they have an internet connection.
50. Voicemail transcription
One of the advanced features that some VoIP phone solutions provide is the option to have voicemails transcribed, so you and your employees can read them instead of listening to them. This VoIP feature saves time by avoiding the need to listen back to long voice messages.
You can quickly read it instead. In addition, if you work in an industry where the contents of the attached Voicemail need to be noted accurately, it ensures that the precise contents of the message are always captured.
Voicemail transcription is especially useful for companies that work with vulnerable people, such as care homes, who might receive notifications from doctors with care instructions or prescriptions.
By having voicemail messages transcribed, there can be no mistake in what was said, and it removes the need to listen back to the same message multiple times.
51. Video conferencing
Video conferencing has changed the business landscape in the past few years, enabling millions of people in the UK to work from home, and it's here to stay.
While plenty of platforms offer video conferencing, most VoIP solutions include it for no extra cost. You can have all your communications in one place (Unified communications), minimise subscription costs and ensure your team works as efficiently as possible.
Wallboards are another call centre feature that is useful to show teams and supervisors how they are performing, how many calls are waiting and other critical information.
53. Website live chat
You may not have immediately thought about your website when looking at business VoIP, but some leading systems give you live chat for your website for free.
The great thing with this feature is that it is plumbed straight into your internal messaging, so teams and individuals can respond to messages without switching apps. As your live chat and phone system are linked, customers can convert chat conversations into a telephone or video calls in just a few clicks.
Frequently asked question
Do you need an internet connection for VoIP services?
Yes, you must have a reliable internet connection to use VoIP services.
What is the best business VoIP service?
The most comprehensive solutions for businesses in the UK are Gamma Horizon and 3CX. Please request a comparison quote to find out which is best for your business.
Are these VoIP features small business-friendly?
While this is an extensive list of VoIP features, please remember that you don't need to use them all if you are a small business and only need basic functionality.
Can I move my phone numbers to VoIP?
Yes, through a process called "Porting" you can switch your existing phone numbers to VoIP.