What Is VoIP?
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a phone service that transmits audio data via an internet connection—instead of sending a signal over a traditional landline. VoIP is a more portable option as users can access their phone functionality from any location with an internet connection. These systems are commonly used for:
- Managing incoming and outgoing phone calls in call centers
- Participating in call and video conferencing
- Conducting distance learning sessions
- Providing telehealthcare services
- Calling associates, friends, or relatives who live in different countries
How Does VoIP Services Work?
VoIP works by converting a speaker's audio into data packets, then sending those over the internet to recipients anywhere in the world.
When a company signs up with a VoIP provider, its agents have access to a desktop or browser app that connects to the internet. As the agent speaks into the device's softphone—or virtual phone—the app transmits the audio data to the provider, usually based in the US. From there, the system sends the audio through an international chain of networks and servers to reach the recipient.
If an agent dials a VoIP number, the call is transmitted entirely over the internet. However, if they dial a mobile number, the VoIP data is converted into 4G or 5G mobile data before it reaches the endpoint. When the dialed number is a landline, this data is converted into a public switched telephone network (PSTN) audio signal.
What Is Business VoIP and How Can It Help Your Business?
Business VoIP solutions use the same audio transmission process as regular VoIP, which involves sending data packets over the internet. However, it's specifically tailored to meet the needs of your business.
Many companies prefer VoIP phone systems over traditional on-premises PBX systems since they have more benefits, like:
- Quick setup
- No hardware maintenance
- More communication channels
- Establishing a global business presence
- Internal collaboration options
- Better customer service
- Improved call quality
- Agent mobility
- Retaining a unified business identity with a remote workforce
Another reason VoIP is so attractive is that it lets agents collaborate more effectively, use AI support and workflow tools, and communicate with customers across multiple channels—all from one app on any device, anywhere they have internet or cell service.
How to Choose the Best Business VoIP Services
Before choosing a VoIP provider, compare how well each one caters to your business's needs. These steps will help you conduct a thorough comparison and identify the system that best suits your requirements.
- Consider your company's needs: Determine your budget, desired features, preferred communication channels, degree of collaboration required by agents, and the geographical areas where you frequently operate.
- Compare collaboration and multichannel features: Look at what communication channels are offered by each provider in our list. Pay attention to their pricing plans, collaboration features of video meetings and team chat, and additional agent-support tools such as live call transcription or speech coaching.
- Assess unlimited calling areas: Review your call logs and volume to determine the destinations your agents call most often. If they make frequent international calls, reach out to providers with cheap international rates or multi-country unlimited calling areas.
- Determine your desired geographical presence: Consider where your customers are, and decide if you want to expand your reach in those areas. Look for a service provider that offers DID virtual numbers in the regions where you want to establish a local presence.
- Compare routing and queueing capabilities: Assess the size of your call center, including the number of agents, supervisors, and departments you have. Determine if you need to route inbound calls to multiple departments—sales, marketing, billing, customer service, etc. Then, compare each provider's routing and queueing offerings, such as ring groups, auto attendant menus, skills-based routing, and live queue analytics for supervisors.
Important Features of VoIP Services You Must Know
The most important VoIP features include multiple communication channels, call routing, IVR and auto attendants, call queueing, analytics, call recording, and transcription. These help your agents and administrators get the most out of your company's system.
Most VoIP companies focus on internet-based voice calling, while UCaaS platforms offer up to four virtual communication channels, namely phone, SMS, video conferencing, and team chat, as a single product. Phone refers to VoIP calls, SMS lets you send and receive text messages, video conferencing allows agents to engage in video meetings with customers, and team chat enables them to send one-on-one and web-chat messages.
Sometimes called automatic call distribution (ACD), routing is when you configure your phone system to send incoming calls to specific users in line with preset routing rules. For example, self-service IVR menus let customers direct themselves to the right user/department by choosing the option that best matches their needs. Skills-based routing (SBR), on the other hand, navigates customers based on the aptitudes a call requires, matching them to the agent with the best-fitting skillset.
When inbound phone calls reach a busy agent, a call queue places the customer in a line, ordered according to when the calls were received. Agents can see the calls in their queue and choose which to pick up. Some systems also offer ring groups, allowing you to pool multiple agents to share queues and inbound call responsibility.
Statistics and metrics about your phone system's performance, usage, and activity can give insights into queue activity, agent performance, and call quality. Analytics include reports, graphs, tables, charts, and data that can be sorted according to custom historical periods.
Call recording allows you to record calls for storage, audio sharing, and review. You can choose between auto-recording, where all calls are recorded, and on-demand recording, where only certain calls are recorded.
Transcription, where AI systems convert audio from phone calls or voicemails into text or captions, lets these systems identify customer sentiment, compile call summaries, and offer live-agent coaching.
Call Management Features
Call management features, sometimes called ACD or call routing, let you set up your phone system to direct incoming calls to specific agents according to rules you've set ahead of time. (This feature is very similar to self-service IVR and skills-based routing in our previous example.)
A VoIP phone system should be compatible with mobile devices, desktops, and browsers. Usually, most VoIP features—such as analytics, call controls, team chat, and even video conferencing—are available on all devices, including mobile platforms like iOS and Android.
A VoIP phone system should be able to integrate with your company's third-party apps. Some VoIP providers, like RingCentral and Dialpad, integrate with dozens of other apps, allowing you to use their features directly within the other app's interface and vice versa. Useful CRM integrations include platforms like Salesforce, calendar apps like Google, and collaboration apps like Slack.
In addition to calling, many VoIP providers offer collaboration features that agents can access directly within the system's app. These include team chat rooms (which enable users to create threads, share files and images, and assign tasks) and video meetings (utilizing collaboration tools, like simultaneous whiteboards, screen sharing, and live polls).
VoIP providers typically include a DID number with each user sign-up. However, they also let you purchase more VoIP numbers. You can add numbers with area codes from anywhere in the United States; some providers even have virtual numbers from countries all around the world.
Many VoIP providers offer video conferencing as a communication channel. Agents can join internal team video meetings for collaboration purposes or send invite links to customers. Each provider supports unique video meeting participant capacities, time limits, and collaboration tools. Video meetings typically host up to 200 participants, last up to 24 hours, and support features like chat and screen sharing.