Best Phone Solutions for Small Business Owners

As a freelancer, my business is run by me. It’s my job to handle customer service as well as accounting, and production, and, and, and… you get it.

A small business phone solution can help shoulder some of the work in an automated way, while increasing customer satisfaction and retention. Anything to free up a little space on my plate and keep customers happy is valuable.

Whether you’re a one-person show like me, or you have many employees, unified communication with your clients and customers is, theoretically, at the top of your list. But not always practically.

That’s where a strong phone solution can help you present a professional image, keep you organized, and gain analytics across all customer and employee touch points. Consider something with integration, VoIP call and messaging services, auto attendants, call routing, voicemail to email, and more.

Distilling what you need for your business can help boost customer satisfaction in a meaningful way.

Unified Communication Provides Better Customer Experience

It’s a challenge for any business to keep a continuous thread of communication through different customer touch points and provide the best service possible, and it’s even more important for small businesses to make this a priority.

Without a communication system to gather and analyze data, your customer relationships can suffer.

Think for a minute about how you typically interact with companies when you need to get in touch about something.

  • Do you call?
  • Use an online messaging service like Facebook Messenger?
  • What about the website contact form?
  • Email?
  • Text?
  • Online chat?
  • Video chat?

Now think about how many of these different mediums you may have used to contact just one company. You can start to see why it’s so important to have a unified system.

If you don’t, your communications with your customers can be lost in the mix.

When you have multiple ways for your customer to contact you, you foster more trusting relationships than just having a telephone service. For me, I’d rather chat with a company by any medium other than telephone, and for most millennials and gen z’s, this feeling is accurate.

People who hate calling will literally suffer the problem they have with your product or service, or toss it, and leave a bad review, or negative word of mouth with friends. All of which could be solved with a better approach to customer service – make sure your customer is comfortable, or put another way, make sure you’re approachable.

Whatever system you decide on for communications should be integrated with a system to track touch points across all the different communication channels, have a consistent brand voice customers know to be you, and offer a variety of ways to both contact the company, and for the company to contact the customer.

That could be anything from all employees at a small business having cell phones with internet access, or VoIP services that greet customers and direct their calls.

Remember, it’s much more cost effective to retain clients and customers than it is to attract new ones.

As a small business, customer and client relationships are the heart of what you do. Communicating with them properly makes them feel like they’re valued by your company, and will keep them coming back.

What Should You Look for in a Small Business Phone System?

The first thing to consider is your most important needs, and your budget. Maybe you only need a really solid cell phone business plan, in which case, you can skip ahead.

For those looking for an integrated professional system, here are some things to think about.

VoIP

Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, can save businesses between 40% and 80% over traditional phone services, and keeps the physical products to a minimum.

VoIP services function just as well as regular phone lines, with added benefits like portability and local and international numbers, to name a few.

Auto Attendants

With a greeting specific to your brand voice, a client or customer will always know they’re in the right place.

Add in auto-responding to clients after-hours and on holidays, call routing to your mobile, and voicemail to email, an auto attendant can make sure you’re functioning in a professional way, even if you’re running around all day.

Custom On-Hold Messages or Music

The time we are actually on hold feels like an eternity in comparison to how long we are actually on hold for. When your customers and clients are just sitting with dead air, and no sound or reminder that they’re waiting for you, they hang up.

Messages and music help keep customers on the line for you, and makes you appear professional.

Remote Workers and Multi-Site Linking

If this wasn’t important before 2020, it certainly is now. With these features, your employees can access all the business’ functions they need no matter where they are.

Conference Bridges or Phones

Along with having remote worker functioning, conference bridging can allow you to video conference or voice call with a group.

Mobile Twinning

This feature allows you to use your mobile device in place of the office phone. You can transfer, make, or answer calls from your phone while tapping into the business configuration.

Voicemail to Email or Text

This one is really important for small business communications, especially if you’re trying to improve or capitalize on your response time.

With quicker message retrieval, responses, and record keeping you can get back to your clients and customers faster.

In fact, customers have reported having someone text them a response, or even an auto-message about when they can expect to hear back, stopped them from just calling the next service provider on their list.

Call Accounting or Recording

This can be a great tool to help you train your team using real data from your business. You can find the smaller details that can make your customer experience better and increase customer satisfaction.

Warranties and Remote Support

Absolutely one of my favorite features, having a remote IT person to fix your phone systems whenever you need it. This frees up any pressure for you or your employees to understand how the system works and be the “fix it” person.

VoIP Solutions for Small Business

VoIP solutions are a great choice for small businesses who need features like paging, transferring calls, and extensions, as well as many of the services listed above.

It also integrates analytics, text, and social media contact channels, as well as apps your company uses for organization and other needs, like Asana and Microsoft 365. This is more of a traditional office telephone system, so it works best for companies with a dedicated home base of operations.

Nextiva

With a fair price and packed full of features, Nextiva is a popular go-to VoIP service provider for small businesses. They keep improving their business analytics which help you dial in your customer service experience across all touch points.

And boy, do they have touch points.

Outgoing and incoming calls, text message, voice, video, SMS, chat, surveys, if you use it, it’s probably here.

Features Nextiva offers:

  • Auto attendant
  • Voicemail to email
  • HD video calling
  • Text messaging
  • Unlimited calling
  • Local number
  • Conference calling and video conferencing
  • Call routing
  • Call queuing
  • Excellent quality Nextiva mobile app
  • Remote employees

RingCentral

RingCentral is a full VoIP service who caters to small and medium sized businesses. They have stellar service which allows you to have stellar service.

Their website and app are intuitive and easy to use, and integration is top notch. You can set up new employees within minutes on your own.

Some of the features offered by RingCentral:

  • Virtual PBX (Private Branch Exchange – cloud phone service within your company)
  • Voicemail to email and text
  • Unlimited phone and fax (via the app or hardware from RC), messaging
  • Video meetings
  • Phone and video calls on any device
  • Local, global, or toll-free numbers
  • Cloud contact center
  • Automation across the board
  • Flexible answering for specified days and hours that work for you
  • Encrypted security that protects conversations and meetings
  • Great analytics
  • Integration – Asana, Google Workspace, Microsoft 365, and more.

8×8

8×8 is another popular choice who caters to businesses from small to large, which may make it a little more expensive for those smaller businesses.

Still, they have features for all and packages for everyone, and are worth looking into if you want VoIP services for your small business. One of the best things about 8×8 is their crystal clear voice quality.

Available features include:

  • VoIP services, including unlimited calling within 14 countries
  • Auto attendant and hold music
  • Voicemail to email and text
  • SMS messaging (only available in U.S. and Canada)
  • Local and international numbers
  • Call queuing and extensions
  • Call recording
  • Contact center
  • Video meetings and team chat
  • App integration
  • End-to-end encryption
  • Mobile app
  • Unified analytics for every employee and customer interaction

Cell Phone Business Plans

If you’re a smaller company who needs something more mobile, like being able to have access to phone and internet on the go, everywhere you travel, then a shared data small business cell phone plan is the way to go.

These might be more than what really small businesses need, in which case a virtual phone service alongside your personal cell phone plan might be best (see below).

It’s no surprise the big 3 are going to offer the mostr features, but let’s dig in and see how they stack up. As an alternative, check out these cheap business cell phone plans.

Verizon Wireless

Verizon has the biggest coverage area in the country, and has some solid business cell phone plans. If these are within your budget, they might be the best solution for your small business.

A nice feature is their generous credit for new phones, or the option to bring your own device. This can help customize pricing for you.

Their small business plans include:

  • Flexible Business Wireless Plan
  • Unlimited domestic talk and text, and international messaging
  • Mobile hotspot
  • Shareable data pool across devices – “flexible” because you control how much data you want to add to your plan

Business Unlimited Start:

  • Unlimited talk, text, data
  • Call filter
  • 5 or more lines to get the best price

Business Unlimited Plus:

  • Everything included in Start, plus:
  • 5G Ultra Wideband
  • 60GB Premium network access
  • Unlimited mobile hotspot
  • Business mobile security
  • 5 or more lines to get the best price

Business Unlimited Pro:

  • Everything included in Plus
  • Upgraded to 120 GB Premium network access
  • 50% discount on business pro tablet plans
  • 5 or more lines to get the best price

AT&T Wireless

AT&T Wireless also has nationwide coverage, and all their plans come with unlimited talk, text, and data.

Of course, you have a lot of people competing for the data so sometimes the network is slow. One of my favorite features is the unlimited talk and text from the United States to Canada and Mexico with no roaming fees, which makes this a great plan for those who travel for their business.

Unlimited Your Way

What’s great about these plans is that you can choose what you need for team members. You can purchase up to 10 lines, and there are 3 different tiers available.

Business Ultimate Starter:

  • Unlimited talk, text, data, and unlimited talk and text to Canada and Mexico
  • Access to 5G and 5G+ services
  • Standard streaming
  • Mobile security

Business Ultimate Performance:

  • Requires 5 or more lines
  • Includes everything in Starter, plus:
  • Advanced mobile security
  • High-definition streams
  • Each line has 30GB of hotspot data

Business Unlimited Elite:

  • Requires 5 or more lines
  • Adds AT&T Business Fast Track, making your data usage high priority
  • 100GB of hotspot data

Mobile Select (Pooled)

This plan has unlimited talk and text, and pooled data so each member of your team only uses what they need. These plans start at 1GB of data and increase according to what you need.

This is a great choice for smaller businesses who don’t need huge amounts of data and want to be cost effective.

Business 4GB

With this plan, you can get 4GB of data for each line, as well as unlimited talk and text. Buying at least 3 lines will get you the best deal, and signing up for autopay will keep the price even lower.

T-Mobile

T-Mobile rounds out the big 3, with great network coverage and the best plans for frequent business travelers.

What makes this plan a little edgier over the AT&T plan, is the unlimited talk, text, AND data for Canada and Mexico, as well as the perks for flights.

Business Unlimited Select:

  • Purchase at least 6 lines for the best price
  • 50GB premium data
  • 5GB hotspot data
  • Unlimited talk, text, data to Mexico and Canada
  • Unlimited streaming

Business Unlimited Advanced:

  • Purchase at least 6 lines for the best price
  • One hour of free in-flight Wi-Fi
  • 100GB of premium data
  • 40GB hotspot
  • Unlimited talk, text, data in Canada and Mexico
  • 5GB high-speed data
  • Unlimited high definition streaming
  • Two basic Microsoft 365 business licenses

Business Unlimited Ultimate:

  • Purchase at least 6 lines for the best price
  • Unlimited access to premium data
  • 100GB hotspot
  • Unlimited in-flight Wi-Fi
  • Unlimited video streaming in 4K UHD

Read more: The Best Cheap Business Cell Phone Plans.

Virtual Phone Systems

This is essentially a VoIP cloud system which functions alongside your personal or business cell phone. This is great for freelancers and sole-proprietorships, as well as any small business or startup.

Grasshopper

This is a virtual phone system which offers phone numbers, voicemail, call forwarding, and more without any hardware – just use your own mobile device. It adds an entire phone system to your personal phone. It’s great for making your small business look professional.

Features

  • Virtual receptionist
  • Voicemail to email and text
  • Calling, SMS
  • Auto-text clients if you miss their calls
  • Toll-free and local numbers
  • 24/7 support
  • Faxes emailed as PDFs
  • Custom greetings and extensions
  • Mobile app
Grasshopper Virtual Phone System

Grasshopper adds a business line and virtual phone system to your personal phone, starting at $26/mo.

We earn a commission if you click this link and sign up at no additional cost to you.

Line2

Line2, as is stated in the name, adds a second line for your business to your existing phone. It’s a virtual phone system that you can use not just with your phone, but with a computer or tablet as well.

Setup is quick and easy, and it’s one of the most affordable ways to upgrade the customer experience for your clients and customers.

Features

  • Custom greeting
  • Auto attendant
  • VoIP calling
  • Voicemail to text
  • Local and toll-free numbers
  • Call routing, recording, and reporting
  • Mobile app

Evoice

Evoice functions in the same way that Line2 does, by adding an extra phone line for business to your existing mobile device. This is really convenient when you want to keep your personal phone and business phone separate, without having to purchase and carry two phones.

Features

  • Auto attendant
  • Voicemail to text
  • Toll-free and local numbers
  • Custom greeting
  • Music on hold
  • Call routing
  • Call forwarding
  • Live receptionist answering service (for extra fee)

Can a Phone Solutions Help Your Small Business or Side Hustle?

Setting yourself up with a quality business phone solution will help organize your day-to-day customer interactions, and keep you running smoothly. Deciding what’s important for your business and where it’s at right now will help ensure the most cost effective way to boost your customer and client relationships.

So tell me, what’s the most important feature your business needs right now?

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