Before you buy, learn more about business phone lines
Some small-business owners don’t know where to start when they’re looking for reliable and affordable business phone lines. Verizon gets it. Business phone lines can be a complex topic.
Fortunately, we’ve clarified the matter below. This guide will walk you through deciding how many business phone lines you need, provide you with some examples of phone needs in different industries, and explain the three kinds of business phone service you can choose from.
Decide how many phone lines and telephone numbers your business needs
Before you explore the different types of business phone lines, take a step back and consider the bigger picture. No doubt you already recognize your need for a small-business phone line. It’s a phone number that your customers can use to call your business.
You’ll use this same phone number for business calls. Now the only question that remains is how many lines to get—and how many phone numbers do you need? Use these three steps to find the answer:
- Compare how many employees you have today with the number of employees you predict to have one to two years from now.
- Think about your company’s size and the industry you’re in. Some businesses, like restaurants, require at least two business phone lines. A medical clinic, however, likely needs five or more.
- Look at your budget alongside financial forecasts and cash flow reports. Use a fiscal assessment to figure out how much money you can realistically invest in small-business phone lines.
Once you complete these three steps, use the information you’ve gathered to make purchasing decisions and lay the foundation for additional questions. For example, you should ask providers about activation fees, upgrade possibilities, service level agreements (SLAs), and price breaks before signing on any dotted line.
Learn how other small businesses set up their phone systems
Small businesses come in all shapes and sizes, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to setting up an ideal telephone system. Here are some examples of what works for other small businesses. Hopefully you will see one that parallels your own:
- Professional Office. The majority of professional offices—accounting, legal, staffing and others—operate with anywhere from 10 to 150 employees. As such, it requires a minimum of ten business phone lines. These lines enable sales calls, faxes, online collaboration, and employee teleconferences.
- Small Office. Small offices or home offices (SOHO) usually seek cheap business phone lines—which makes sense. This business owner may work solo or have two or three employees. Because of that, he or she only needs one business phone line.
- Retail. A small retail shop may claim five employees or more. At these stores, customers call for information about hours, orders, and return policies. Calls are outgoing, too, so a retail business would do well with a 2-line phone system. You can use two receivers or a multi-line phone to answer both phone numbers.
- Healthcare. Medical offices, regardless of their size, involve a lot of communication. Patients receive appointment reminders or call with questions about appointments, medications, and bills. Healthcare practitioners must also call patients, pharmacies, and vendors. The variety and abundance of calls sets the minimum number of small business phone lines at five.
- Hospitality. The hospitality sector includes hotels, restaurants, bars, etc. These environments benefit from at least a 4-line phone system to handle reservations, orders, and customer service calls.
Understand the types of business phone lines available
Today, three types of business phone lines exist: analog, PBX, and digital. Analog, or the landline, is becoming less common mainly due to consumer demand. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) also tracks telephone usage on both residential and business levels. Its latest report discloses that digital and fiber business phone services, also called “Voice over Internet Protocol” services, have “increased at a compound annual growth rate of 10%” between 2013 and 2016.
Do you have a toll-free service set up for your business? No problem. Toll-free numbers, also known as 800-numbers, can be routed to a local phone number or a long-distance number. Customers often feel the business they’re calling is credible when they dial an 800 number rather than a long distance or unfamiliar area code.
Analog business phone lines
You may know the analog telephone line the best—it’s been around for decades, running on copper lines threaded throughout the country. And if that use lets you recall memories of busy signals, dropped connections, or astronomical telephone bills, you know why business owners prefer not to use analog phone lines. This kind of business phone system can’t keep up with the speed or global nature of business today, nor can it provide measures like call routing or on-the-go access.
PBX business phone lines
When businesses needed more lines to handle more calls, they needed a solution that wasn’t as costly as getting one analog line per person. Plus, it’s essential to have one number for customers to call. So they needed a way to interconnect the lines. If you remember placing calls on the rotary dial or you’ve ever pressed 1 for more info, then you’ve used analog and PBX, or private branch exchange,
A PBX system allows companies to install a few lines and share them. But it’s a bit more complicated than that. For conventional PBX to operate, it also needs a switch, a host PBX computer, software to handle the transfers, and lines running from the phone closet to desks.
Today’s companies are looking for more capabilities than simply interconnecting phone lines. They need a way to handle voice and data–using a shared line, so it’s cost effective. IP PBX does this, and more. It makes basic features like voice mail and conference calling possible. But whether you chose a conventional PBX system or IP PBX, you should also plan on hiring someone in house to make everything work right. Or you can get an outside consultant to stop by periodically.
The next-generation: digital and fiber business phone lines
With digital voice, you connect your phones to your internet connection. No copper lines required, which means you can add or remove phones as needed. You can handle many calls at once. You can use standard phone packages that work with standard phones or you can buy special phones with added features that even connect to your cell phone so you can take office calls on the go. You may have also heard of digital phone service, albeit by a different name: VoIP. Most people employ the acronym for the sake of simplicity. The letters stand for “Voice over Internet Protocol,” and the VoIP service became possible with the advent of high-speed internet access and the subsequent digital age.
With digital phone service, calls no longer need to traverse copper lines. Rather, the calls are transformed into digital signals that are transmitted using a high-speed internet service. Business owners like this phone service for its better connectivity and scalability. Calls made on digital business phone lines also travel well—your phone is now a cloud-based phone, and you can make calls as long as you have a network connection and a connected phone, laptop, or tablet.
While digital phone service transpires across traditional internet connections or business broadband, fiber-based phone service always uses fiber-optic networks.
The best way to think of the service is as an upgrade from standard VoIP. Fiber runs faster and is more reliable than a regular internet connection, so you experience better call quality and, in some cases, enhanced productivity. Fiber-optic networks tend to require less maintenance, too, saving you money on labor and repairs.
Most business owners choose fiber business phone lines when speed and quality matter. They also select it when their companies experience unprecedented growth or require frequent communication with co-workers and customers.
These business owners need a communications solution with the highest call capacity, and fiber business phone lines can provide it. Verizon has the leading fiber to the premises (FTTP) network in the nation, called Fios® internet that can be bundled with your business phone line.
Many companies offer internet and phone bundles, so it’s important to choose a package that meets your communication needs now and in the future. The good news here is that a bundle usually means discounts.
Check out Verizon Business Bundles—price savings, amazing speeds, and a whole lot of extras like Business Digital Voice to better connect with customers.
How much do small businesses typically spend on phone lines?
Surprisingly, monthly costs can vary quite a bit. Factors for price differences include type of phone line, number of lines and the number of providers in your area. Competition between a local phone company and service providers drives down cost quite a bit. Analog landline phones in a typical market, like a midsize city, average about $85 per month… per phone number. This can add up if you’re running multiple lines. Fiber solutions are about one third the cost in the same market. You can expect to pay around $39 a month and less with more lines. Often you can get better prices if you sign a year contract.
Small businesses often are on the lookout for reliable—and affordable—business phone line providers. Check out Business Digital Voice by Verizon.
*Griffith, Eric. “The Fastest ISPs of 2017,” PCMag, June 2, 1027. https://www.pcmag.com/article/353936/the-fastest-isps-of-2017