Technological developments are driving changes in all aspects of business. And business telecoms is no different.
Startup and small businesses can reap the benefits the advances in technology are bringing, but they need to ask the right questions when it comes to the cloud, contracts, coverage and customers.
So what are the key factors and trends small business owners need to think about when it comes to business telecoms in 2018?
Are you making it easy for your customers?
One of the obvious things to check is how your telecoms are affecting your customers. Have you tried making contact with your own company and seeing it through their eyes. Can people easily reach the right person?
If your company has expanded have you got enough lines and connections that people can get through when they need to? Or are you catching them in IVR hell?
More companies seem to be increasing the reporting they are doing on time to answer calls, abandonment and call durations. In the past this was expensive but is now part of a cheap add-on to most VoIP solutions.
Do you need a new phone solution?
If you are considering new phone solutions then the relentless advance of SIP and VoIP to replace ISDN will continue.
The crossover point has been reached where more businesses are connected by IP rather than analogue. However, analogue will be here until 2025, so despite what some providers will tell you, if your businesses hasn’t yet switch over you still have time.
If what you have is working for you then there may be no need to change. If you do then there are still plenty of “Free PBX” scams out there to watch out for along with long term deals being offered.
Any contract more than 2 or 3 years should only be signed in the confidence that your requirements will not change in that time.
Should you switch to a SIM only deal?
Although Apple grabbed headlines with the launch of the first £1,000 phone in 2017 the trends for businesses with mobiles has been to go for sim only deals. This was reflected in the downturn in profits at Carphone Warehouse.
Even the underhand tactics Apple used of slowing down old phones does not hide the fact that the incremental improvements in each release of phone means people are not automatically upgrading.
Unless a business operationally needs the new features from a handset they should consider the sim only approach as it offers greater flexibility as well as being cheaper.
We are now seeing one month rolling deals on sims which allow businesses to adapt as their business changes and not be stuck with add-ons that extend original contracts.
Are you paying for more data than you use?
The rapid growth of free wifi means that some of the massive growth in data usage has not occurred as much as expected.
The last survey by Cisco showed the average business user consumed 1.6Gb of data. So everyone should compare their actual usage to what they are actually paying for in the contract.
We regularly see companies paying for 3 times as much data as they are actually using. It is easy for them to offer more of something they know you won’t use rather than cut the price for what you actually need.
In a similar vein the end of the days of needing unlimited calls and texts maybe approaching. Last year almost a third of all mobiles made no voice calls. Not just because of the growth of applications such as WhatsApp but also many businesses are moving to just having a single landline number as an app and on their desk.
In some sectors this has been driven by new regulations such as MIFID II necessitating the recording of calls. However, those not affected by these regulations are also finding it is cheaper overall especially if your business work necessitates travel outside of Europe or the making of international calls whilst in the UK.
Are you moving to the cloud?
Many businesses are considering moving part or all of their business applications to the cloud which is putting greater strain on their internet needs.
The Government has stated that by 2020 it wants everyone to be able to access broadband of at least 10 mbp. This target is already outdated – the EU Digital Agenda goals intend to deliver 30Mbps or more for all by the same date. Japan and South Korea expect to have 5G up and working by 2020 whereas we hope for some coverage by 2025.
So if you are making this move check on the availability and costs of decent broadband. Unfortunately, main city areas and business parks still lack superfast internet connections and there is a big variation in the availability of FTTP (Fibre to The Premise) – see table.
If you are moving office
This is also important if you are considering moving office. It is essential to plan well ahead – if you are already or likely to become a heavy internet user and there is no decent broadband and you are forced (assuming you can afford it) to buy a dedicated circuit these can have lead time of 60 working days or more.
Also always check the mobile coverage at the potential new offices. All the networks have pockets of bad coverage.
Unfortunately, the Government has yet to force them to allow roaming in the UK as you can now do in Europe. This is despite the networks failing to make the improvements heralded three years ago by the then Culture Secretary Sajid Javid when he announced a landmark deal with the four mobile networks to improve mobile coverage across the UK.
If you move from a good location to a poor location it can be difficult to get out of existing contracts as it is deemed that you should have checked first.
When did you last check your bill?
Finally, if you are one of the 80% of companies that have not checked your bill in the last two years – you should. The wholesale costs of services have fallen in that and it is likely that cheaper deals are available.
We frequently see less scrupulous suppliers raising prices during contracts – if you are a small business you may have the right to cancel in such circumstances. Plus you may well be paying for something you no longer need, for example, we still regularly see people paying circa £200 a year for phone book entries.
About the author
This guide has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Dave Millett who has over 35 years’ experience in the Telecoms Industry. He now runs Equinox, a leading independent brokerage and consultancy firm. He works with many companies, charities and other organisations and has helped them achieve savings of up to 80% on telecoms costs.
Dave Millett is a regular contributor to ByteStart, and other telecoms guides he’s written to help small business owners, include;
- How to choose the right cloud phone system for your business
- Telecoms mistakes to avoid when starting a business
- Can dual sim phones solve a common problem for small business owners?
- Working from anywhere: live anywhere in the world, do business in the UK
More on business technology
- Getting your IT right as your startup grows
- 5 Top small business tools that will save you time, hassle and money
- A Beginner’s guide to cloud computing for small and start-up businesses
- How to master your inbox in five simple steps