The image you present to your customers of your business and yourself forms your customers’ first impressions. This may be your one chance to present yourself as highly professional or highly foolish and cheap. You can’t afford to look clumsy next to any of your competitors: people tend to go with their gut when they are evaluating lots of options, and all it takes for your customer to choose someone else’s business over yours is a snazzy logo.

In an age in which major online presence is a necessity for every business, lots of business owners are focusing all of their attention on the appearance of their websites, and on their web ads. But what about the good old phone? Many people still prefer to call a business to ask a question, make an appointment, or make a purchase. Regardless of the function or your organization, you need to be accessible by phone, or you will likely lose out on a decent part of your customer base.

And when your customers call you, or if you should need to call a customer, the image you put forward with your phone system can be just as important the image you put forward with your website.

Save Money By Choosing the Right Sized Business Phone System

Different business telephone systems providers offer different kinds of plans and options, which means that with careful shopping, you should be able to choose a plan with the right fit in service options.

For example, if you expect that all of your employees will need unlimited calling, you can choose a provider that offers plans with all unlimited extensions. Usually, these plans are tiered so the more extensions you add, the less you pay per extension. The average per-extension cost is $20/month.

Other providers may allow you to choose as unlimited and metered extensions. Metered extensions usually cost less per month, but carry a per-minute fee, usually around a few cents. However, if you have any employees who only do a small amount of calling, or some extensions that will only be used on rare occasions, metered extensions are a great way to save money.

Other providers may also offer virtual extensions, which are IP extensions for mobile phones. This means that an employee can be reached through the central PBX even when out of the office.

Use an Auto Attendant for a Highly Professional Image

An auto attendant is just what it sounds like: an automated voice operator for your office phone system. You can use your auto attendant to direct incoming calls to the right departments or extensions, or to direct calls to voicemail or specific pre-recorded messages for different callers or circumstances.

You can use an auto attendant with even the smallest business VoIP plan, with just one or two lines, or for a very large plan with 100 or more extensions. A correctly programmed auto attendant can make all the difference in your customer experience. If a customer is able to get the information they need from a recorded message, or if they can quickly and easily get to the right extension through your auto attendant, they are far more likely to report a good experience.

An auto attendant can also make a small business seem larger. Customers tend to associate auto attendants with larger corporations with many departments and extensions, so by using an auto attendant, you can have the same telephone experience as a major corporation.

Take Advantage of VoIP Features to Improve National and International Market Appeal

With a good VoIP plan, you can greatly improve your national and international reach. VoIP providers usually offer unlimited calling to US and Canadian numbers, and extremely low rates on international calls. Some providers also offer plans specifically designed to give a low cost on regular international calls to certain destinations.

With these low rates, you can increase your company’s reach, as you will have better access to a wider demographic when you don’t need to worry about high calling rates limiting your minutes.

You can also take advantage of toll-free numbers and remote area codes to improve customer calling experience. Many providers offer toll-free VoIP numbers for a low set monthly rate. A toll-free number allows your customers to call in without paying a fee on their plan.

Or, you could consider a phone number with a remote area code. Many providers allow you to buy a phone number in any area code you like. This means that if your business is centered in Atlanta, but you are interested in opening an office in San Francisco, you can buy a VoIP number with a San Francisco area code so that all calls to and from that number become cheap local calls. This will make it easier for your new customer base to reach you easily, even before you have opened your doors.

Incorporate IP Faxing and VoIP Conferencing Features to Improve Communications with Other Businesses

When VoIP was first introduced in the mid-1990s, it was a simple system that would only provide calling between two people using the same service on PCs. Today, VoIP is a sophisticated service with many high-performance features that can greatly improve your business’s productivity.

For example, many VoIP providers now offer IP faxing. IP faxing plans allow you to continue to send and receive faxes without having to spend lots of money on an analog telephone line for your fax machine.

If you want, you can continue to use an old fax machine to send and receive paper faxes over an IP connection. However, you can also send IP faxes without a physical fax machine, and send and receive faxes as emails instead. This is a great option for anyone who still needs to be able to send and receive faxes to and from certain customers or business partners, but don’t want to hang on to the old fax machine, or pay extra for an analog line for the fax machine. You can choose between unlimited faxing plans, or limited faxing plans that start around $5/month with an additional per-fax cost.

Business owners with partners or clients all over the country or all over the world may also be interested in IP conferencing options. IP conferencing is a great option for customers who need to have frequent meetings with widespread contacts, and don’t want to spend lots of money on travel. IP conferencing solutions give you a video component to your regular old phone conference, which can be greatly beneficial for those delicate business meetings in which image is everything. You can meet face-to-face with potential clients, or personally explain visual aids to partners. In general, face-to-face communication is almost always more personal for any kind of conversation, and in something as sensitive as a business meeting, the little touches can make all the difference.