Small Business Archives - Netlines

The Top 21 Best Team Communication Apps of 2021

In the new world of remote working and international teams, a communications system is vital to any company’s operations. We’ve investigated the team communication apps available in 2021 and narrowed it down to the top 21.

Each business has unique needs and each app offers a different combination of features, strengths, weaknesses, and costs. Discover the pros and cons of our top picks and which is the best solution for your team.

What is a Team Communication App?

A team communication app is software that keeps team members in contact with each other by using messaging systems, audio calling, and video conferencing tools. They also include the new “hubs” you can set up on your company VoIP phone app.

Before the pandemic, more people were starting to work remotely and communicate with each other via the internet. COVID-19 created a sudden need for team communications software as working from home became the new normal. The quiet communications revolution surged ahead.

Along with the need to work remotely came the adoption of project management software. Those project tracker boards on the office wall slowly became replaced with app-based project management tools.

Most of the team communication apps started life as either a project management tool or a messenger type tool. Most have slowly evolved into something that does both. The project management apps now normally include a chat section for team communications, while the messenger type apps normally have some way to help you manage projects. Some apps are clearly heavily biased towards communication features and others are project management apps with a communications section bolted on.

In a post-COVID world, businesses require the facility to do both. They need to be able to communicate efficiently between remote workers. They also need to be able to track project progress and ensure things are delivered on time. Team communications apps of the future will include both excellent communications features and comprehensive project management tools.

Benefits of Team Chat Apps

Improved Communication

A team communication app enables seamless communication between all work team members. It allows us to instantly share concepts, ideas, and workflows; plus, we can use it to assign tasks, track progress, and share documents. It links all of our remote working team members to the main office and each other.

Streamlined Workflow

Gone are the days of moving a job cards along a project board. New team communication tools can act as a project tracker. As one person finishes their part of a project, the next person in the process can be notified. The progress of the task is easily tracked as it passes through each stage from person to person. There is no longer a need for a team leader to take the task from one person and pass it to the next because it can be programmed to automatically pass the tasks through the team.

Better Employee Engagement

A by-product of team integration is increased employee engagement. It is easy to chat with other members. This helps to build team identity, a feeling of belonging, and being “part of the gang,” which is increasingly missing in times of remote working. It can lift morale and enable a social aspect to work life.

Increased Accountability

It is easy to see the progress of a project with a team communication app. Any bottleneck or obstacle in the process is easy to identify. Team members do not want to let the next person in the process down and they adopt more ownership of their tasks. It is more obvious when someone is late or early in completing their allotted tasks. No one wants to appear as the weakest link!

Enhanced Project Management

Certain team communication apps are useful for managing projects. Having a central place that records progress, communications, and process flows helps everyone in the team manage their tasks and time better. People can see priorities and future workload to plan accordingly. Good communication between team members is vital for good project management.

Stay Organized

Most team chat apps either have an integral calendar or can integrate with a calendar app. This gives a powerful combination of communications and planning resources. You can organize the workflow, allocate team members to tasks, schedule deadlines, and task durations and communicate it all quickly and effectively throughout the team.

Saves Time

With all your team using the same app, you can quickly broadcast news and updates to the whole team. Sending a message to a subgroup within the team is as simple as clicking a group icon and sending the message. With everything in one place it is easy to assess a project and delegate tasks instantly. There is no need to chop and change screens and applications.

Strengthen Team Relationships

The camaraderie amongst team members is difficult to build in today’s remote working culture. A team communication app can help this by giving the team an easy way to communicate with each other directly. It allows achievements to be shared with the team, which strengthens the team’s bond.  

What Makes a Great Team Chat App?

What makes a great team communication app is subjective because every business has different needs. What is an essential feature for one business could be irrelevant to another. There are numerous different apps, all with different features. Finding the right one can be a slow process of searching through the app store and reading the descriptions of each one to try to match your needs to the features each provides.

There are, however, a few features that are deemed essential. These are generic, and each app will address the requirement in its own way. These features include:

Communications

Obviously, the app must enable a conversation between people. It must have features that allow the users to communicate freely, organize the conversations, and let the team members add other members as required. Tagging people or groups of people is a common way to do this. People must also be able to choose to join or to leave a conversation at will.

Search and Filtering

Being able to search for words or phrases in conversations is also a must. Team members need to be able to quickly filter the search results to find the information they need.

Video Conferencing

Sometimes it is quicker to just have a face-to-face chat about something instead of an extended text message or email conversation. In a post-COVID world, video communications are the new normal. Any app without video chat ability is already out of date.

Great User Interface

It must be easy to use. Team members need to be able to intuitively use the app from day one. The interface needs to be easy to navigate. Additional user experience features such as keyboard shortcuts and mobile gesture navigation can help people be more efficient in using the app.

Collaboration Features

The app needs to facilitate collaboration. Collectively working on a single file simultaneously is becoming more and more common. Features such as file sharing and integration with other apps (Microsoft Office, Google Docs, etc.) enable this level of collaboration.

Project Tracking

Businesses need to be able to track project progress. The manager needs to be able to monitor the team’s performance. The newer project management software can alert team members when they are assigned a new task when the previous person in the workflow has completed their part and when the task deadline is approaching.

Integration with Other Software

Being able to integrate the team communication app with standard software is incredibly useful. For example, many businesses use Microsoft Office or Google Workspace. Linking these industry-standard suites with the app enable team members to easily share files and information using tools they are already familiar with, like cloud storage options such as Dropbox and Google Drive.

 

The Top 21 Best Team Communication Apps

1. NetLines Hubs

Hubs is a NetLines exclusive group communication app feature that enable one-click team communications. NetLines provides an app for your smart phone that allows you make phone calls over the internet using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). One of the many features of the app is “Hubs”. You can set up hubs of two to 200 people. You can easily then send a text, voice message, or even hold a hub conference call at a simple push of a button. Everybody in the hub is included, no one is forgotten or left out.

Top Five Features

  • Uses the newest VoIP technology
  • Integrated with a smartphone app
  • User-friendly
  • Included for free in the NetLines suite of features
  • One-touch group video calling

Cost of Basic Package*

  • Free trial: Hubs is free as part of the NetLines virtual phone package (* $9 per month + $5 per additional person per month)
  • Monthly: free* (full package starting at $10/mn)
  • Yearly: free* (full package starting at $109/year)

2. Proofhub

Proofhub started life as a project management tool. It is a powerful project tracker that is ideal for managing team members workflows and logging project times.  It includes a straightforward chat-style feature for one-to-one chat, group chat and file sharing. The chat feature is somewhat lacking and has no video capability. Proofhub’s real strength is its project management potential.

Top Five Features

  • Group chat
  • Quick discussions on projects
  • Workflows
  • Boards
  • Project reports

Cost of Basic Package*

  • Free trial: 14 days – no credit card required.
  • Monthly: $50
  • Yearly: $500 ($45/month)

3. Chanty

Chanty is a communications tool that includes group audio and video chat and allows screen sharing in conversations. It works well in the office and remotely on smartphones. It has limited project management utility by changing messages into Kanban board tasks. The project manager can manage team members and users can link various other apps and cloud storage.

Top Five Features

  • You can communicate through chat, audio and video.
  • Team book to access all of your content in one place
  • Unlimited message history in the free plan
  • You can use threaded messaging.
  • Easy to use the search option.

Cost of Basic Package*

  • Free trial: Yes – indefinitely for the limited feature version
  • Monthly: $4 per user
  • Yearly: $36 per user ($3 per user per month)

4. Troop Messenger

Troop Messenger is solely a communications app. It is primarily a group video and audio calling platform. It has little to no integrated project management features, not even a calendar. Troop Messenger integrates well with Google Drive and Dropbox. As the name suggests, Troop Messenger is suitable for military and defense communications. You can self-host the app allowing you to manage app security. It has several security features including live team member location tracking and a burn-out feature. This secures messages by not storing them anywhere.

Top Five Features

  • Security
  • Group video calling
  • Suitable for military
  • Excellent message management
  • Remote screen sharing

Cost of Basic Package*

  • Free trial: 1 month free
  • Monthly: $2.50 per user
  • Yearly: $30 per user

5. Connecteam

Connecteam is more of an employee management tool. It allows you to delegate tasks, assign jobs and monitor employee hours and locations. It has a rudimentary chat system that allows file sharing and leaving voice messages but has no group video conferencing features. Connecteam could be useful for large workforces such as courier companies or utility meter monitoring.

Top Five Features

  • Employee time management
  • Managing daily operations and tasks
  • Internal communications
  • Inter-employee communication
  • Useful for training and onboarding

Cost of Basic Package*

  • Free trial: Free for life – limited features. 14-day free trial of other packages
  • Monthly: $47
  • Yearly: $39 x 12 monthly payments = $468

6. Brosix

Brosix is simply a team communications app. It has no half-hearted bolt-on project management features, it is just a no-nonsense chat app. It has almost every chat app feature you can think of and several that you didn’t know about but now need. Brosix recognizes security is important and includes integrated antivirus.

Top Five Features

  • Group video chat
  • Good security
  • Great administration and control
  • The app is brandable with your logo
  • Collaboration via file and screen share

Cost of Basic Package*

  • Free trial: Free for life – limited users
  • Monthly: $5 per user
  • Yearly: $4 x 12 months per user

7. Rocket.Chat

Rocket.Chat is a high-tech communications app. It offers a multitude of options and features. It is ideal for the IT industry and at times seems a little “geeky”. Rocket.Chat gives you the source code for free so you can modify the app to include any feature you design.

Top Five Features

  • Group audio and video calls
  • Real-time or asynchronous team chat
  • Screen sharing
  • File sharing
  • Secure encryption

Cost of Basic Package*

  • Free trial: The basic version is free if you self-host.
  • Monthly: $2.40 per user (minimum of 10 users)
  • Yearly: $24 per user (minimum of 10 users)

8. Google Meet

Google Meet started as Google Hangouts years ago. It was ideal for personal communications but lacked the functions of the newer team communications apps. Google added Google Chat to its Google Workplace in 2018 but updated it due to stiff competition from organizations like Zoom. It integrates with all the Google Workspace apps to form a formidable business tool.

Top Five Features

  • Messaging, Voice and Video Calls
  • Google Chrome desktop extension
  • Screen sharing
  • Part of Google G Suite
  • Uses your Google account

Cost of Basic Package*

  • Free trial: 14 days
  • Monthly: It is part of the Google Workplace Suite. $6 per user
  • Yearly: $72 per user

9. Slack

Slack is a powerful team chat tool originally released in 2013. It was already ahead of the game and has since been at the forefront of team communications apps. Slack includes excellent group video calls, and the messenger system is designed to replace your email system. It integrates messenger, email and group voice and video calls into one handy package and also integrates with over 1000 other apps and programs.

Top Five Features

  • Currently the industry leader in team chat apps
  • Massive integration ability
  • Intuitive, user-friendly interface
  • Easy file sharing
  • Searchable message history

Cost of Basic Package*

  • Free trial: free for life – small team with limited features
  • Monthly: $7.50 per user
  • Yearly: $6.25 per user paid annually

10. Facebook Workplace

Facebook Workplace is primarily a group chat and video calling app. It provides a familiar environment to share information and manage your team’s communications. Workplace has no project management features but does integrate well with your other apps and software. It’s a good way for your remote workers to feel connected.

Top Five Features

  • Easy administrative controls
  • APIs for custom integration and bots
  • Better conversations and knowledge sharing
  • Effective employee engagement and cultural change
  • Familiar environment for employees

Cost of Basic Package*

  • Free trial: 30 days
  • Monthly: $4 per user
  • Yearly: $48 per user

11. Ryver

Ryver combines project management with team communications. It allows you to organize and assign tasks to communicate with between all members. It is keeping up with the competition by now offering a beta version of its new group video conferencing call feature. Unlike the competition, it charges per team and not per user.

Top Five Features

  • New video conferencing features
  • Good project management
  • Integrates well with other apps
  • Group charges not user charges
  • Works well on all device types

Cost of Basic Package*

  • Free trial: 14 days
  • Monthly: $49 for up to twelve users, $79 for unlimited users
  • Yearly: no yearly payment option

12. Flowdock

Flowdock is primarily a team communication app. It has no integral project management system but is designed to integrate with your existing management app, and can be used with almost any other project tool your organization utilizes.

Top Five Features

  • File sharing
  • Discussion threads
  • Real-time Chat
  • Search
  • Video-conferencing (via integration with Appear.in)

Cost of Basic Package*

  • Free trial: 30 days
  • Monthly: $3 per user
  • Yearly: no option

13. Glip

Glip is purely for video conferencing large teams. The Pro version hosts up to 200 team members making it useful for big companies, group training, and holding conferences. It has no project management features but does integrate with various calendar apps.

Top Five Features

  • Extra-large meetings (up to 100 people)
  • Recordable and saves to the cloud
  • High-quality video
  • Turn meetings into group chats
  • Share screens, files, and integrate calendars

Cost of Basic Package*

  • Free trial: the basic package is free forever.
  • Monthly: Pro package is $14.99 per user
  • Yearly: Pro package is $11.99 per user per month for twelve months

14. Flock

Flock is another team communications app that focuses on team chat and video conferencing. It offers little in the way of project management but users can set reminders for team members to complete actions. Flock also lets you share files and screens whilst on video calls.

Top Five Features

  • Video conferencing
  • Team chat
  • Works across multiple device types
  • File sharing
  • Designed to replace email and messaging

Cost of Basic Package*

  • Free trial: free for life for teams up to 20 members
  • Monthly: $6 per user
  • Yearly: $4.50 per user per month

15.Twist

Twist is yet another app designed to replace your email and messaging apps to bring all your team communications together in one place. It offers a search facility to find a particular thread, and you can also create channels for specific subjects. 

Top Five Features

  • Allows team members to concentrate on work
  • Combines email and messaging
  • Integrates with other apps for project management and video conferencing
  • Threads keep discussions organized and accessible to everyone
  • Quickly find the information you need with a powerful search

Cost of Basic Package*

  • Free trial: the basic package is free for life
  • Monthly: Unlimited is $5 per user
  • Yearly: no option

16. Trello

Trello is a Kanban-style project management tool. It is not designed as a team communications app but can integrate well with other apps like Google Meet. Once integrated it becomes a formidable team management tool. You can create tasks and group them, move them between groups and assign team members to the tasks.

Top Five Features

  • Kanban-style task manager
  • Works well for small teams
  • Easy to use
  • Integrates with other apps
  • Built-in bots automate some actions

Cost of Basic Package*

  • Free trial: the basic package is free for life.
  • Monthly: Business Class is $12.50 per user
  • Yearly: $120 per user

17. Zoom

Zoom became a household name just after COVID-19 shutdowns. The sudden need for personal and business video chat catapulted Zoom into the headlines. Today Zoom is famed for its easy-to-use video conferencing, but it also offers businesses a multitude of facilities and features. It doesn’t include any project management tools but integrates with other platforms like Microsoft and Google.

Top Five Features

  • High-quality video conferencing
  • Easy to use
  • Integrates with cloud storage apps
  • Good for large meetings
  • High-quality sound

Cost of Basic Package*

  • Free trial: Basic package is free for life.
  • Monthly: Pro package is $14.99
  • Yearly: Pro package is $149.00

18. Basecamp 3

Basecamp is a project management app that manages tasks and allows your team to communicate with each other. As it lacks some of the admin features of other project management apps, it is more aimed at collectives of people all collaborating on the same idea. It has no video conferencing features but does integrate with other apps.

Top Five Features

  • Extremely easy to set up and flexible
  • Flat monthly price for unlimited users
  • Supports integration with a wide variety of apps and services
  • Ideal for collaborators and remote workers
  • A good balance of project management and communications

Cost of Basic Package*

  • Free trial: Personal package is limited but free for life. The business package is free for 30 days
  • Monthly:  Business Package $99 flat rate
  • Yearly:  15% discount when you pay one year in advance

19. Whatsapp

WhatsApp is purely a team chat app that is mostly used socially by families and friends. It offers free text, audio, and video chat. WhatsApp also allows file sharing and integrates with various other apps and software. Primarily designed for cell phone users, there is a web-based app for desk and laptops. WhatsApp also offers a business version of the domestic app, but it is best designed for external communications like with customers and clients, rather than internal communications for your team. It has no project management facilities.

Top Five Features

  • Great video chat for small groups
  • Free to use
  • File sharing
  • Integrates with other tools and apps
  • Familiar to most people with a cell phone

Cost of Basic Package*

  • Free trial: its free (phone data charges may apply)
  • Monthly: free
  • Yearly: still free!

20. Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams offers video conference calling for teams of all sizes. It is an integral part of the Microsoft Office 365 suite. It seamlessly integrates with all the different Microsoft Office apps. Combined with these Office features, it becomes a formidably powerful tool for businesses of all sizes. The downfall is your team needs to have Microsoft Office 365.

Top Five Features

  • Deep integration with Microsoft Office 365
  • Individual and team audio calls
  • Video conferencing
  • Screen sharing
  • File sharing

Cost of Basic Package*

  • Free trial: Free with a Microsoft account or free 30-day trial
  • Monthly: $5 per user
  • Yearly: $60 per user

21. HiBox

HiBox is a true hybrid. It combines project management tools with large group video conferencing. You can upload documents, assign functions, make virtual meetings, and chat with your team. It also has a virtual assistant that reminds you of what you have pending. Many users also rave about the lightning-fast search function. Keep an eye on this name, it has great potential!

Top Five Features

  • Combines group chat, video, and project management
  • Has AI assistance
  • Works across multiple platforms
  • Cost-effective compared to some bigger names
  • Integrates well with other apps

Cost of Basic Package*

  • Free trial: Free forever up to 10 users with limited features
  • Monthly: $4 per user
  • Yearly: $48 per user

Which One Is the Best?

Best for Big Business and Enterprises

If you already pay a premium for Google or Microsoft services, then your best option is to use either Google Meet or Microsoft Teams. This way, you do not have to pay extra for a communications app. Both offerings integrate fully with the respective office suites to create a powerful tool to manage your projects and team.

If you do not pay for Google or Microsoft, then consider an app that charges a flat rate and not per member. Examples are WhatsApp, Basecamp 3 and Ryver.

If you are video conferencing large numbers, then Glip’s basic package is capable of hosting up to 100 members in a conference video call for free.

Best for Medium Size Businesses

If you are a medium-sized business that already supplies the Microsoft or Google office suites to your team then use the Microsoft Teams or Google Meet. Otherwise, try something like HiBox that offers project management tools along with great team video conferencing and chat.

Best Value for Small Businesses

If you already pay for Google or Microsoft office then your first consideration should be Google Meet or Microsoft Teams. If you do not have either of these then you can get some quite powerful tools for free! Consider HiBox, Flock or Ryver.

Best All-in-One for Scaling Business & The Future

For many, the future is video conferencing combined with a simple to use project management tool. The physical HQ is being replaced with a virtual “hub” where not only staff, but suppliers and clients all interact with each other.

The very latest VoIP technology like NetLines is also leading things in a slightly different direction. VoIP apps are revolutionizing team communications by bundling together different chat and business features all in one place.

If you need features such as additional phone lines and extensions, an auto attendant, video conferencing and business texting, NetLines is the solution for you. It happens to be the most affordable business phone system on the market, too! NetLines can scale with your business from an entrepreneur phone system to a vital tool for your national sales team. See how our phone app compares to similar solutions.

The group video conference call is drifting away from the laptop screen and moving to the smartphone. Pocket sized group video communications using VoIP technology means you can hold the conference call from almost anywhere. Imagine this combined with satellite internet. What opportunities could open up for your business?

Draw Your Own Conclusions: What’s Best for You?

The above list of apps is by no means all there are. The apps in this list are the more highly rated, commonly used, highly praised, and offer value for money, but only you can decide which app is best for you, your team, and your clients.

You first need to decide what features you need and then find the app that most closely meets your needs. Consider the future and how your needs might change in time. Think about the costs if you expand your staff. Above all, don’t get left behind in this quiet communications revolution!

*Prices correct as of March 18, 2021. Price may vary or be subject to special offers or seasonal discounts.

Categories: Small Business

What You Need to Know Before Choosing an Answering Service for Your Business

Did you know that even in the age of text messages and emails, customers still prefer phone calls? Quality phone service has been an integral part of customer service ever since telephones were invented over a century ago.

For remote workers and small businesses, traditional office phone systems aren’t the best options. Juggling multiple business phones is a hassle, and frequent calls from clients or customers are also distracting interruptions during busy workdays.

That’s where an answering service comes in!

Table of Contents

What Is an Answering Service? 

Even if you’ve never heard of an answering service, odds are that you’ve used one in the past. An answering service does everything a traditional receptionist would do, and more. It answers calls, takes messages, and sends callers to the department that can best help them.

women working as switchboard operators, a form of an early answering service

They’re older than you think — answering services were first used in the mid-1900s by doctors making house calls. They’ve evolved from an operator at a switchboard into a secure software that manages your communication needs. All right from your smartphone!

Answering Service Features and Types

While all answering services handle communication, no two are exactly the same. There are different features and types of call answering service offerings to suit your professional needs. Whether you want a live or a virtual receptionist with programmable scripts, there’s an option for you. 

Live/Virtual Receptionists

Live receptionists are trained customer service professionals that answer calls on your business line. They take down messages and direct callers to the proper department if they need help. These receptionists work remotely, so there’s no need to hire an in-office secretary to work the phones. While the word “virtual” might fool you, they are always real people, not automated.

Call Centers

Call centers are like live receptionist services but on a much larger scale. They are often used by big corporations with a high volume of calls each month. When a caller phones in, they are connected with an agent in the call center who uses a script to best assist the caller. Call center agents can also be given scripts to answer questions themselves, unlike receptionists. While this can be more costly, it can also save valuable employee time.

Auto-Attendant & Automated Virtual Receptionists

Auto-attendants are virtually programmed Help Menus that assist callers in finding the department that can best help them. They are like live receptionists but are entirely virtual. They work off of your personalized script to route clients and customers quickly and efficiently to the employee that can best help them. While they may not be as personal as the other options, auto-attendants can be very cost-effective especially if you’re in the market for a 24/7 phone service. 

What Are the Pros and Cons?

Every system has its pros and cons, and answering services are no different. While they can help you improve communication and customer service, they might not work for every single company’s needs. Even if one type of service is the wrong fit for your company, another might be exactly what you’ve been looking for. 

Below, we review some of the most common pros and cons to help you decide what’s best for your business and employees. 

Pro: Perfect for Remote Work

A call answering service is perfect for remote teams who don’t have a shared workspace. Employees from all across the country—or even the world—can read messages and assist customers and clients without having to go into an office. 

The workforce is becoming more and more remote. An estimated 70% of workers are projected to work from home for at least part of their workweeks by 2025, so the flexibility that answering services give you will be even more important in the coming years.

Pro: Your Business Is Accessible Outside of Office Hours 

It’s necessary to set business hours to give you and your employees balance—no one should work around the clock. But if a customer can only call your business after their own shift is over, sending them straight to voicemail can be a frustrating experience. Most business answering services offer 24/7 help, so regardless of when they call, your callers will always feel heard. 

Pro: Stay Organized

Answering services can do more than streamline your customer service. They often have features that make communication with your employees far more efficient. They completely drop the need to juggle more than one business phone and remember multiple employee phone numbers. Not only that, some services also include options for conference calling and group communication. 

Pro: Cost-saving

Using a business answering service is much cheaper than hiring a full-time receptionist for your business. Answering services charge a monthly fee or according to the number of minutes you use, depending on which provider you choose. While these costs can add up over time, even the most expensive options will be cheaper than a full-time employee’s salary and benefits. You also wouldn’t get the added features that many answering service companies provide, like more than one phone line.

Pro: Time-saving

With an answering service, you’ll have fewer interruptions and more time to spend on the business you love. Since you don’t have to worry about screening calls, you and your team will have more time to complete your projects, and you’ll feel confident that all callers will be sent straight to the team member who can help them the most. 

Pro: Keep Things Professional

Professionalism is especially important for smaller businesses. With an answering service, you’ll sound as trustworthy and professional as a huge corporation. Having a separate business line and a personalized help menu ensures that you are giving your callers the best first impression. With an answering service, even a company with two employees will sound as polished as a company with two hundred.

Con: Impersonal

Call answering services offer a range of customizable options and scripts. But virtual receptionists or auto-attendants can seem less personal than an in-office receptionist. Auto-attendants and automated virtual receptionists are definitely less costly than live options. But since they aren’t human, there’s a risk that they’ll sound cold and robotic.

However, even if you use a live receptionist, they won’t be an employee of your company with a connection to the brand or product. If you already have a receptionist on staff, replacing them with an answering service might not be the best decision. 

Con: Not an Expert in Your Product

Answering services don’t work within your company. Any receptionist or attendant you use—whether virtual or live—is an expert in customer service, not in your market or your product. This isn’t a problem for companies who have a customer service representative on staff. But if you’re looking for a receptionist who can answer technical questions or who has extensive knowledge of the field, an answering service might not be the best fit for your business. 

Con: Change Could Be Tough

For established companies, making the switch can be tough for both your staff and callers. Being greeted by a receptionist or auto-attendant can be confusing for regular customers who are used to the old way of doing business. This can be an even harder transition if they’re used to talking directly with you or an employee.

If your business has been managing communication in-office for years, it’s worth taking the time to weigh the pros and cons of making the switch. Be sure to make the best decision when it comes to which answering service you choose and what you include in the scripts. Don’t sacrifice customer satisfaction for convenience or cost!

How Do Answering Services Work?

Now that you’re familiar with the types of answering services and their pros and cons, you may be wondering how these systems even work.

Answering services use call forwarding, which connects your phone number to another. So every time a client or customer calls your business line, it’s forwarded straight to the answering service who handles the call for you. All phones are built with the capability to forward calls, so it’s completely secure and requires no outside software or access!

phone with an incoming call via virtual PBX or VoIP

While researching answering services, you might come across terms such as virtual PBX and VoIP. Don’t worry—while these sound like complicated technologies, their meanings are very simple. Both terms describe internet-based phone systems that eliminate the need for clunky hardware installed in a physical office space. This system operates over the internet, allowing cloud-based access from anywhere with a Wi-Fi connection.

A virtual PBX stands for virtual Private Branch Exchange, a secure phone connection over the internet. PBX systems are common in businesses because you can have multiple numbers on a single line, making communicating with employees a breeze. Virtual PBX is available through a cloud-based system, eliminating the need for a physical piece of hardware!

VoIP stands for Voice Over Internet Protocol. Traditional telephones send your voice over telephone lines or between cell towers, but VoIP changes your voice into data that can travel across the internet. This means that you don’t need an analog phone or a separate cellular plan to make calls.

Virtual PBX systems and VoIP often go hand in hand, and both are commonly used in cloud-based answering services like NetLines. Because all it needs is an internet connection, NetLines is controlled within an app, making it easily accessible no matter where you are. 

Answering Service Costs

Due to the variety of different features and types of answering services, the cost also varies greatly. A live receptionist service available around the clock would take up a bigger chunk of your budget than a simple auto-attendant. 

Not only are there differences in the actual cost of the service, but there are also several payment structures that these services use. For example, NetLines charges a monthly subscription fee like streaming services do. Other companies might charge you based on how many minutes you use per month like a phone company, so if your business receives a high volume of calls per month, you can buy the exact amount of minutes you need.

The cost varies depending on the size of your business or what features you need. Businesses that rely on appointments, like consultants or doctors, might have to pay more for scheduling options. The price of an answering service can range from $9 a month for a simple line to upwards of $1,000 for a high-volume call center.

Picking the perfect call service for your company might seem like a daunting task because of the number of options available. But this variety ensures that a professional answering service is an option for even the smallest businesses.

Upgrade Your Business Communication

Call answering systems are an essential tool for managing your business. They’ll continue rising in importance since workers are turning to remote work faster than ever before. Answering services are cost-effective and professional, and sure to impress your customers and clients. 

Are you ready to take the leap and upgrade your communication? If you’re in the market for an answering service, NetLines is an app-based and affordable system that makes managing your company’s communication simpler than ever before.

Categories: Small Business

What is a VoIP Number & is it Useful for Business?

A VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) number is a phone number given to you by your VoIP service that looks and functions like a normal phone number. The internet is used to route calls rather than the traditional telephone system, and they are unique to each business or person and not dedicated to a location.

VoIP numbers and VoIP phone systems may also be called:

  • Virtual phone number / system
  • Cloud phone number / system
  • Internet phone number / system

In this article we aim to help you discover more about VoIP numbers, as well as the VoIP pros and cons to help you decide if a VoIP phone number is the best option for you or your business.

What is a VoIP Phone Number?

In the not-so-distant past, you may have had several phone numbers: your home phone your desk phone at work, your cell phone, your car phone, and even your vacation home phone!  Someone trying to speak with you had to know where you were so they could call the correct number because each phone was assigned an individual number.

VoIP numbers are assigned to individual people, not telephones. A VoIP number can be used on almost any device connected to the internet. Any device enabled with the virtual number can be used to make or receive a call, including smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops, or dedicated internet phones.

So, imagine when that important call comes in when you are working from home, as many of us are these days! Instead of your desk phone at work ringing and the caller finding no answer, all your VoIP connected devices ring simultaneously. When you answer, the caller is unaware you are not at your desk, and they are happy to have reached you.

There is even more to VoIP numbers than being easily reachable! There are numerous additional benefits of using new internet-based phone systems as most providers include many of these benefits as part of their standard package. New mobile data and cloud-based technology enable providers to offer an amazing range of facilities. You can review the features of the Netlines Business Phone App here.

How Does VoIP Work?

A VoIP phone (or any other VoIP enabled device) uses a microphone to convert your voice into an analog electrical signal. This is then converted into a digital signal (data). This data is then squashed into a “packet” of data and transmitted over the internet to the device you are calling. When the device is answered, the data is “unpacked” and converted back into an analog signal. This signal is converted back to sound by the loudspeaker in the receiver’s device.

From the user’s point of view, there is little difference in user experience between the VoIP phone call and the traditional phone call. You dial the number, the call is transferred, the other phone rings, the recipient answers the phone, and you chat. In the end, you “hang up” the phone.

To enable this to happen, you will likely need some slightly different equipment instead of your old phone.

Internet Connection

The main requirement is that you have an internet connection. Fiber-optic connection with unlimited data is preferred, but VoIP is possible using a copper wire connection and a limited data plan. However, call quality may be reduce, and additional costs may be incurred with heavy use.

The most common VoIP connected devices are:

A compatible desk phone and adapter to connect it to the internet. Most internet providers now supply a Wi-Fi router that includes a socket for a phone, which allows you to plug your phone into the router.

A laptop or desktop computer with an internet connection. You will also need a headset, or speakers and a microphone. Most laptops include speakers and microphone as standard.

A smartphone or tablet with an internet connection. All you need to do is download your chosen app and follow the simple set up instructions. If you already have a smartphone, you can already use VoIP calling simply by setting it up. The Netlines App is incredibly easy to install and use.

person using a VoIP number on a smartphone and laptop

How Do VoIP Phone Numbers Differ from Landline Numbers?

What is a Landline?

The traditional landline phone uses a microphone to convert your voice into an analog electrical signal, and an exchange is used to connect the phones. This signal is then transmitted via a pair of copper wires to the receiving telephone. The receiving phone uses a loudspeaker to convert the electrical signal back into sound.  

The landline system does have its disadvantages and limitations. When you call someone, you effectively rent the copper wires that connect your phones for the duration of the call, making it expensive. A landline system is limited to features like call diverting and playing an automated message. Plus, the technology itself is becoming obsolete. Companies are moving to VoIP, while fiber optic technology is replacing the old, twisted copper pair systems.

The main differences between the traditional phone system and the new VoIP systems are:

Many More Features

The new cloud phone services available today offer an abundance of features, and many are included in the most basic packages. Any additional features for old-fashioned, traditional phones need to be paid for and supplied. You can see examples like from NetLines such as groundbreaking conference call facilities and call recording.  

New Up-to-Date Technology

The main technological difference is VoIP systems are digital, while the old phone system is still partially analog. Digital data transmission happens incredibly fast compared to old analog data. The digital signal makes the data compatible with other digital systems such as digital voice recording, call logging, or cloud-based virtual assistants.

Reliability

This new VoIP technology is reliant on both your and the call recipient’s internet connection and hardware. Any malfunction in the system could lead to disconnection. Fortunately, modern electrical equipment is reliable and robust. The simplicity of the old, twisted-pair copper wire system does lead to an exceptionally reliable system. VoIP falls slightly behind in this area only.

This table shows some of the differences between VoIP and landline phone numbers.

Features

VoIP Number

Landline

Requires Internet Connection Yes, ideally high-speed fiber optic but can use anything over 3 MBps up and down. No
Advanced Features Included in Monthly Plan Normally yes – check out some of the features available with a Netlines monthly plan. No
Impacted by Internet Outages Yes. Fortunately, these are becoming increasingly rare. No
Long-Distance Costs Included in most monthly plans Expensive and charged by the minute
Multimedia Communication Can include video calling and conference calling No. Limited to voice only
Device-Agnostic Communication Yes No
High Setup Fee No setup fees. The customer can normally set the system up by downloading an app and following instructions Yes – an engineer needs to visit and install the line and any extras like an exchange or answering machine
Requires Telephone Hardware No – Can use existing hardware such as a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop. Yes

Advantages of VoIP Over Landline Systems

Modern Technology Integrates with Other Systems & Services

An example of this is sending SMS or MMS from your computer to a smartphone. The two systems are linked via the VoIP phone number. It is possible to integrate multiple devices, use several numbers on one device, and use one number on several devices.

Choose Your Features

VoIP phone numbers usually come with a long list of free features so you can tailor the features to your business needs. Should you need something more specific, you can add the desired feature to your package.

More Flexibility

A VoIP phone number can give your business greater operational flexibility. You can choose what kind of numbers you have for different purposes, including toll-free and vanity numbers. The numbers are mobile so your employees can work remotely or share a hot desk, shift departments, or branch offices easily.  An incoming call can simultaneously ring on several different devices, allowing the call to be answered wherever the recipient is. Internal business communications are easier, and you have a choice of types of call, including team video conferencing between the office and those working remotely.

using VoIP to have a video conference call while traveling

Cost

Virtual phone numbers can save your business money because the set-up cost can be lower, and the operational cost is often significantly lower than landline options, particularly if your business is national or international. The conference call facility means virtual meetings are possible saving you travel time and costs. Some estimates show a saving of 40% to 80% compared to landline systems.

Scalability

As your company evolves and grows, so can your phone system. There is no need to replace expensive exchange hardware or route new cables to desks. Simply download the app onto the required devices and set up the required features, and you can add more numbers to your business for new staff and departments as needed.

Easy to Block Spam & Telemarketing Calls

Spam and marketing calls can plague a business with unnecessary distraction and timewasting. A VoIP number can be easily protected from these calls with a variety of anti-spam options like an auto-attendant or call management system.

Disadvantages of a Virtual Phone System

Sound Quality

Until recently it has been true that old landline phones can offer better sound quality than an internet phone, but this is rapidly changing. Sound quality is due to the available bandwidth of the system and the reliability of the connection. As internet connections become more stable and have greater bandwidth, the sound quality increases.

Reliability

Reliability is also due to the stability of the internet connection. With an old landline system, the traditional connection was via solid copper wires, making it exceptionally reliable. Due to the instability of internet connections, common problems include weak Wi-Fi signals, calls dropping, and calls being interrupted.

Types of Internet Phone Numbers

An additional advantage of a VoIP phone number is that you can choose the type of number(s) based on their advantages and how they’ll work best for your business. You can even mix and match different number types to different business needs.

Local Numbers

Local numbers are great for a business looking to connect with the local community because they can help you build local trust within an area. You show you are a local company with a local base, and this infers a greater understanding of local customer’s needs. You may be sitting in HQ on the other side of the country, but your customer does not realize this.

Toll-free Numbers

Toll-free numbers demonstrate you are serious about your customer relations and want them to call you so much that you are willing to pay for the call. Toll-free numbers are great for helplines, customer service centers, and direct order lines. Plus, the toll-free number makes you look like a large national company. Using an internet phone system means you will only have to pay the local rate for your customer’s calls, even if they call you from the other side of the world!

Vanity Numbers

Vanity numbers help people remember your number and become part of your marketing strategy. Get the best possible vanity number as your main sales desk number and incoming calls will increase! It is much easier to remember a catchphrase or business name than a string of random numbers. Think about 1-800-46-33339 or 1-800-Go-FedEx. See which one you remember tomorrow.

Why Should I Get a VoIP Number?

You should consider getting a VoIP number if any of the following applies to you:

  • You have a new business;
  • You are looking for a quick way to get a business number;
  • You are looking for a cost-effective number;
  • You know you will be expanding your business either in staff numbers, branch locations, remote working, or mobile operators;
  • You need more facilities like an answering system, video conferencing, or call management system;
  • You want to save money both on set up costs and long-distance phone calls;
  • You need to future-proof your business technology and avoid investments in hardware that will be soon outdated;
  • You want to replace outdated hardware with new systems;
  • You want to integrate different communication systems like mobile phones, video meeting rooms, laptop computers, and cloud-based storage.
man working from home office using VoIP number for business

Can I Switch to a VoIP Number?

A quick business analysis is necessary to make sure you have everything you need once you have decided you want a VoIP number. Today, most businesses are already equipped with the foundational basics and are ready to get started with an internet phone system. However, considering your options, needs, and your growth will help prevent any minor glitches once the system is implemented.

Can Your System Support VoIP?

The first thing to check is that your existing hardware like laptops, desktops, and mobile cell phones can support the VoIP software you have chosen. Check out the technical specifications of the hardware and match them to the requirement of the internet phone system.

Can Your Network Infrastructure Support VoIP?

Checking your internet connection, upload speeds, and download speeds is vital prior to implementing a VoIP phone system. There are several free services to do this, like Speedtest.net. Is your current connection sufficient to handle the number of simultaneous calls you think you will be making as a business? More simultaneous calls, video streaming, web browsing, cloud storage, and backup systems require greater internet bandwidth. To be safe, upgrade your connection if you are close to the limit. Consult your VoIP supplier and internet service provider if you are unsure or need assistance choosing the best service package for your needs.

Are Your Employees Ready for VoIP?

There is little point in providing a great communications system for your employees if they do not know how to or want to use it! Luckily, internet phones operate in a similar way to existing cell and desk phones. Social media has also already introduced most people to video calling. There should be little problems encountered in rolling out a new phone system.

How Do I Get a VoIP Number?

Choose Your VoIP Provider

The first step is to find a VoIP service provider. A simple web search will show you are not limited to the normal run of the mill landline providers. There are hundreds of providers all offering different prices, services, and facilities. Choose the one that is right for your business that will let you evolve and grow. You can compare the favorite providers in this useful comparison table.

Decide on Your Phone Number

Choose your number(s) or transfer any existing numbers to the new system. Keeping your existing number may save you from changing any existing marketing. You can always include any new numbers in future marketing campaigns, but this is the best time to decide if you need an additional toll-free or a vanity number.

Set Up Your System & Start Making Calls

In some cases, it is a simple as downloading an app to your device. Set-up can be a matter of minutes and before the end of the day, you could be saving money by using the internet to call your Hong Kong supplier and your client in the Cayman Islands!

What About the Future?

The mobile communications revolution has been quietly happening since the invention of the internet. Recent developments in cell phone technology and fiber optic broadband, coupled with Wi-Fi and 5G innovation are going to further change the way we communicate. VoIP looks to be right at the center of the paradigm shift and the basis for future business communications. Things have certainly come a long way from two twisted copper wires!

Categories: Small Business

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