What To Do Now That AT&T Eliminates Long Distance Account Codes

Did you receive a letter from AT&T stating they are no longer going to support long distance account code features?  Long distance account codes are a specified code you key in after dialing a long distance number.  Attorney’s, Accountants, and Engineers utilizes the feature to help  bill clients and keep track of time spent on clients or a project.  Now that they will be gone what should you do to keep track of clients or projects?

You have a few options, and all are going to mean you will leave AT&T landline services.  A few carriers support long distance codes and function much in the same way AT&T codes operate and bill services.  The disadvantage of moving to another landline provider is they may get rid of the long distance code features as well.  This may be a short term solution for you.  Long distance rates continue to fall and most carriers want to just give customers unlimited long distance with their services.  While giving you unlimited long distance, they also want to simplify their billing and expenses of providing long distance services.  This means you will not get a detail on your calls or any information from a billing perspective.  As for the detail on control you have enjoyed and experienced with long distance codes all but goes away.  With AT&T, it does go away.

A better long term solution would be to move your office to a hosted or cloud based phone system.  You will not only experience a feature rich service for no additional cost, you will also receive flexibility on how to manage your customers.  Most hosted phone system providers (i.e., Ring Central, Broadview Networks, and Nextiva) have a robust billing system that will break out each of your customer record of calls for you.  At the end of the month, you can search your online reports for each customer. For example, say Customer A called you or you called them 10 times during the month and spent  3 hours on the phone with them.  At the end of the month, you simply log into your account and run a report for all calls that where made with Customer A in that month.  It will give you a report of all the calls, times, and length of calls for Customer A.  Then you can simply hand off to billing for invoicing the customer.  You don’t even have to worry about an employee not punching in the 3 digit code after dialing the number.  It will automatically keep track of each customer in detail.  It will even work from your cell phone.  You download your providers app to your phone, dial out from the app and it keeps track of those calls as well.  It is unbeatable for tracking calls as well as giving you the peace of mind of tracking every call.

If you received a letter from AT&T like below, give us a call and we can definetly show you a better way to manage your customers.

Control Voice Quality With Hosted Phone Systems

Adopting a Hosted Phone Solution can be one of the easiest ways to cut costs and elevate your business communication and telephony infrastructure. With all the heavy lifting handled in the cloud, by the service provider, a Hosted Phone System will provide you with a cornucopia of robust features, unmatched flexibility and high-quality voice calls. However, like any technology, adopting a Hosted Phone System is not without its own challenges.

When implementing a Hosted Phone System, you may experience some challenges. With an understanding of the issues should with the roll out of your system.  Let’s look at a few of the issues.

Poor Internet Connectivity

The Problem

The first step to maintain a high level of quality with your Hosted Phone Solution is to ensure your business is equipped with an adequate internet connection. Many times, the Hosted Phone Solutions gets blamed for poor internet connectivity.  When most Hosted Phone Systems are in high speed data centers and operate with little or no latency.  Since the Hosted Phone System relies on a good internet signal, it is important to evaluate your internet provider as well.   Can they supply a reliable fast internet connection?  Can they give you good bandwidth options or even deliver service on fiber?  A little research with your provider will go a long way in making that easy transition to Hosted Phone Solutions.

The Solution

Thankfully, VoIP has become far more reliable in recent years, but unreliability can still be a key issue for your company. When adopting a Hosted Phone Solution, the first place to start is to test your internet connection and recognize bottlenecks it may have. A system is only as robust as its weakest point. Of course, when it comes to your internet connection, wired is always better than wireless. We are not advocates to putting your business class service over Wi-Fi.  Wires allow for a constant flow of data and cannot be interrupted by external factors.  Fiber is even better than wires.  Fiber optics is being installed by many internet service providers now.  Bandwidth options and level of service tend to be better with fiber, but it is not necessary for an optimal solution.  With many Hosted Phone Solutions companies are going to test your internet speed and reliability before moving to completion and set up of your system. With all the measures in place before turning up, 99% of people are now experiencing a better Hosted Phone Solution today than just 5 years ago.

Existing Equipment

The Problem

One of the largest culprits in interrupting or restricting your Hosted Phone System service is the router, or even any other incompatible hardware. Many old routers simply cannot support VoIP and the transfer of data that occurs. Other network hardware, such as switches above can run into compatibility issues.

The Solution

Most Hosted Phone Systems offer a POE switch for rent or purchase.  Usually best just to get it and utilize it. The Hosted Phone System providers run extensive tests on their equipment and POE” s.  If you don’t get a POE, then each desk will have to have power to it for the cord that plugs into the phone.

Training the Team

The Problem

Hosted Phone Systems can seem daunting at first to those unfamiliar with what seems like a complex system. With its own unique terminology, abbreviations, and requirements, the unfamiliar nature of the system can prove challenging to even the most seasoned IT or data center manager. Running a data center or configuring the network for your office is a different task to implementing a Hosted Phone System solution. With a lack of knowledge and even groundwork understanding, it can seem near impossible to transition to a Hosted Phone System solution, or at least improbable to take the time to gather the knowledge necessary to jump in. And even once you establish a Hosted Phone System solution for your office, who sets it up and knows how to maintain the system?

The Solution

Thankfully, most of the heavy lifting and setup for a Hosted Phone System is handled by the provider, through the cloud. As the service is hosted on the provider’s back end and data centers, and not necessarily an extra infrastructure required to be established on premise, setup can be as simple as installing a new router. Because of the nature of hosted solutions, you can have your new phone system up and running within minutes.

If you take the previous steps to ensure a strong enough internet connection and compatible hardware, setup should be as simple as calling a provider, plugging in all your hardware, and you’ll be all set to make calls. Of course, getting everything setup is half the battle, and configuring your phone system is more than just plugging a phone into a router. With the massive feature lists provided with a Hosted Phone Solution, you may need to take some time to configure everything the way you want – but again gone are the days of flipping through user manuals to understand complicated web portals. Generally included with the service, many Hosted Phone System providers will include personal training and hours of training any admin users you would like.  If you purchase the service through a representative or partner of a Hosted Phone System. They usually will provide on site training and hand holding the day of the conversion.

Traditional Phone Systems Versus Hosted Phone Systems

Should You Make The Switch?

The key to a good business is good communication. Part of this is the ability to get a hold of employees when they are needed. Traditionally, businesses would rely on a dedicated phone systems stored in-house that you could transfer a call to voice mail.  Could the option of hosted phones, help with your businesses communication needs? Should businesses use the cloud to handle business communication? Here’s why your company should consider the switch to hosted phone solution.

Why do Businesses use Traditional Phones with Landline Service?

A traditional phone system is currently the option for many small and mid-size businesses. Here the phone system is stored at the same location as the business. Calls are handled through a traditional phone company. It has been that way for years.  With technology advances is it still the best fit?  It also means that if the power goes out, you are usually not able to make calls or receive calls.   You are dead in the water until the power comes back up.  Every phone system has to be plugged into an electrical outlet.  If you don’t know how to log in to your phone system to create a fail over to a cell phone or alternate number you are dead in the water again.  By the way, most people don’t know how to log into their phone system.  Interfaces are usually old and require knowledge of old dos prompts.

The initial investment is costly with traditional phone systems, however, the monthly cost may be less overall. Your business may need to rely on a technician if something goes wrong. However, you may not remember your technician if the system is old or even know if they are still in business to service the phone system.

The High Price of a Traditional PBX Solution

Having a phone system on-site, also known as a traditional pbx or key system, used to be a necessary evil, and still is! It requires a larger investment on the behalf of the company and a higher initial higher cost. Not to mention, a technician would be necessary to install it. Should the phone system need maintenance, a technician would need to install updates or patch software. This could lead to additional fees.

Worst of all, an on-premise phone system has a single point of failure. This means that if your phone system goes down, your company may not be able to receive phone calls. When it comes to business, it’s important to make sure your business’s systems are still operational. During the busy hurricane season last year many small business were able to receive and make calls thanks to hosted phone solutions.

What is Hosted Phone System?

Hosted phone system is a cloud based solution for business communication. A cloud based phone system is one where the provider is responsible for housing the keys system or pbx. Providers are also responsible for maintaining and updating servers that run the phone system in the first place.

The Advantages of Hosted PBX

First of all hosted phone systems come with lower costs with regards to equipment and set-up. This makes it much easier if a business needs to relocate, a hosted phone system makes a transition much simpler. Not to mention, if an update or patch needs to be applied, it can be done by the provider. There is no need to have an outside technician come to the office.

Most importantly, a Hosted phone system solution improves communication. This is because it provides your workforce with unified communications features, mobile integration, and the ability to get to connect with employees faster. According to Information Week, 62% of companies say that employee communication has improved since switching to a hosted phone system..  Also, the loss of Internet or catastrophic event has less effect on your business’s operations. Unlike an on-premises phone system, it isn’t a single point of failure. A hosted phone system relies on safeguards and the ability to run on redundant or back up  power sources.

One disadvantage is the need for a dedicated broadband connection. If your location isn’t wired for high-speed traffic, you’re hosted phone system will hardly live up to its full potential.  If you have access to a Comcast, Spectrum, Cox, ATT Fiber, or Verizon FIOS service you should be good to install a hosted phone system.

In Summary

Hosted phone systems are more reliable than what was offered just a few years ago.  Many of your telephone hardware providers have moved most of their production to creating hosted or voip handsets and services.  Many of your broadband companies have figured out how to handle voice over the internet better than just a few  years ago. The jittery or echoing on voip calls has pretty much disappeared.  Good call quality abounds with most if not all hosted phone systems now.

If interested in learning more please do not hesitate to call us to discuss.

We can be reached at (678) 489-7916