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Starting a business is a major endeavor. You need to perform market research, file for a license, create a marketing plan, and build your brand. One way to shorten the process is to become a franchise business owner.
As a franchise business owner, you can tap into the resources and branding of a large brand—while still maintaining the autonomy to run your own business.
If you’re considering starting a franchise business, there are a few things you should know. First, let’s talk about what a franchise business is.
In a franchise business, a franchise owner pays a fee to essentially “rent” a brand name. The franchisee runs the business themselves (or hires someone to run it) and must follow the rules and regulations related to how the brand is used.
For example, many McDonald’s restaurants are franchises, meaning an owner (or group of owners, in some cases) pays McDonald’s to use their brand name, menus, logos, and other business assets.
They run their location, pay McDonald’s to use the name, and keep the remaining profits.
A franchise business is a popular business model because it offers owners the best of both worlds: the support of a large brand and the benefits of owning a business.
A few businesses that offer franchising options include:
Starting a franchise business should not be taken lightly. There are pros and cons to consider before deciding whether to become a franchisee.
Starting a business gives you more control over your life and income. Unlike starting your own business, however, there are specific benefits to buying into a franchise.
Starting a franchise business is sort of like playing video games on easy mode. The franchisor offers support in the form of training, materials, process flows, and branding to make it easier to get your business off the ground.
For example, starting a taco shop could require months for menu development, taste testing, logo design, product sourcing, etc. As a Taco Bell franchise owner, however, much of that work is already completed.
Franchise businesses often have a lower failure rate. When you buy into a franchise, you join a proven business model that works. You also have additional support and business resources that can make a difference in your success.
Building a brand is one of the best things you can do for your business. However, it often takes time and resources. When you buy into a franchise, the branding is already complete. People already know who your brand is and what it represents. This saves you time and creates a built-in customer base you can tap into.
In some cases, you may purchase goods at a lower rate. Many franchisors negotiate contracts with vendors for the entire network, allowing you to spend less on goods and services by purchasing in bulk. However, the flip side of these benefits is you may not choose your vendors, and sometimes the costs are higher.
While there are many benefits to starting a franchise business, there are some drawbacks to keep in mind. You’ll pay licensing fees to corporations, which can eat into profits. You’ll also have less control over some aspects of your business. For example, if you own a franchise restaurant, you may have little to say on the menu or which vendors you use.
Now that you understand the pros (and the cons) of starting a franchise business, let’s get down to the details. How do you get started? Here’s what you need to know.
The first step in starting a franchise business is deciding which business you want to join. Hundreds of companies offer franchise opportunities: which one is right for you? Here are a few questions to ask yourself.
Once you answer those questions, start looking for franchise opportunities. For example, if I am interested in a restaurant franchise and like sports bars, I might Google “best sports bar franchises.” As you can see, there’s plenty of options.
Here are a few other searches you can try. Feel free to swap out key terms to find an opportunity that works for you.
Make a list of your top five franchise businesses, then compare what they offer. How much are licensing fees? Is it a flat fee or a portion of your sales? What resources do they offer? Do they offer financing? What happens if you don’t end up keeping the franchise?
Compare all the features and consider all the drawbacks before making a decision.
By now, you should have one or two top franchise choices. It’s time to dig deeper. How many current franchise owners are there? What are their annual revenue and profits?
What competition will you face? Consider both online and in-person competition. For example, suppose you want to franchise a tax company. In that case, you need to consider how you’ll stand out from online companies like TurboTax and in-person accounting firms in your physical location.
Sometimes buying into a franchise provides a false sense of security. You see how much other franchise owners make and think that is the norm. Keep in mind markets can vary by location and the franchisor has a vested interest in highlighting their most successful franchisees.
Whether you are looking to purchase an online or in-person franchise, make sure there is enough room in the market for additional businesses. If the market is saturated, you may struggle to make sales no matter how much people trust the brand.
The cost to start a franchise business can range drastically from a few hundred bucks to set up a website to millions to pay franchise fees and build a store. Usually, franchisors will list the average cost on their website.
However, sometimes there are hidden fees you’ll need to keep in mind:
You’ve researched all your options and have decided on a business to join. Congrats! Now it’s time to create a business plan. This is one of the most crucial steps, so take the time to create a solid business plan that covers all the bases.
According to the Small Business Association, a business plan should include:
The next step is to create your business entity. The type of business you create might depend on the franchisor you work with. Some might require an LLC or corporation. An LLC protects your personal assets from liability, while a corporation is a tax structure.
You might also choose sole proprietorship; however, that can leave your home and other assets at risk. This guide will walk you through the different options, but I suggest meeting with a tax or legal professional to decide if the structure is right for you.
Keep in mind city and state laws may impact which structure is right for you.
The final step is to find a location for your franchise business. If you are online, the location will likely be a website, but you might elect to have office space as well. If your franchise business has a physical location, make sure to compare sites to find an affordable one that gets plenty of foot traffic.
Don’t just consider the location’s current pros and cons. Research future developments as well. An ideal location today might not be if a bypass is installed right next to you directing traffic away.
On the other hand, a location that is just OK today might gain attention if a large shopping center is built next door. (Just remember that sometimes development plans fall through, so don’t choose a terrible location based on possible plans.)
The cost to start a franchise business varies by business. Some only cost a few hundred dollars, while starting a McDonald’s franchise costs between $1 and $2 million.
It varies by business. The average is usually between $50,000 and $70,000 per year.
Not entirely, no. The franchisor generally requires an initial payment before you can open your business. If you don’t have capital, consider bringing in an investment partner.
1) Identify a business you want to work with. 2) Research current owners and the competition. 3) Determine market interest. 4) Research startup costs 5) Create a business plan. 6) Form an LLC or corporation. 7) Choose a location. 8) Create a marketing plan.
According to Entrepreneur, the most profitable franchises are Taco Bell, Dunkin’, and The UPS Store.
Starting a franchise business is not without risks. However, the added support and access to a built-in customer base make it a tempting model for many business owners.
If you are comfortable working with a team and appreciate the support and other benefits of being a franchise owner, it can be an ideal way to build your own business.
Remember online marketing is crucial to the success of any business in 2021. Understand the benefits of SEO and social media. Study up on practices like paid advertising that can help you reach a wider customer base.
Finally, don’t be afraid to hire a professional to handle your marketing. They can put their expertise to work while you focus on building your franchise business.
Are you considering starting a franchise? What challenges are you facing?
What comes to mind when you think of negotiation tactics?
People in suits closing business deals?
Bargaining with a seller in a market?
Convincing your landlord to lower the rent?
How about all of these?
It’s tempting to think of negotiation only in terms of price, but the term represents many possibilities beyond money.
For example, if you’re struggling to negotiate your desired salary, you can negotiate the job benefits, the scope of work required, hours, or remote-work options.
In other areas of life, you can negotiate a better package with your regular service providers, you can negotiate better deals when shopping and you can even improve your relationships and expectations through effective negotiation.
What about business? Can negotiation tactics help you grow your business?
Research over the past few years says yes.
Whether you are an established CEO conducting high-profile meetings or a small independent seller collaborating with other business owners in your community, negotiation can significantly impact the rate of your growth.
Most business decisions can be improved by learning powerful negotiation tactics. Here’s a few reasons why learning to negotiate is important for growing your business.
Negotiation can offer great benefits, but it can also be challenging to enter a negotiation without effective negotiation tactics.
If you’re new to negotiations, worry not!
I have something for you.
I used to think a powerful negotiator knew all the right things to say. I believed negotiation was about who could outsmart the person in front.
I was wrong.
Successful negotiation is less about talking and more about listening.
When you listen without waiting for your turn to talk, you begin to truly understand what the other party wants. This can help you strike a “win-win” deal so you get what you want and they get what they want. Everyone goes home happy.
This practice of being present in a conversation and listening carefully is called active listening. It helps people feel heard and understood. This can help build a good rapport, which can turn into a good deal.
Here’s a helpful graphic that dives deeper into how you can practice active listening.
Perception can have an interesting effect on how we see the world. Take, for example, the following image. It is often used to highlight how perceptions differ.
Do you see an old woman? Or a young one?
We interpret information differently depending on how it is presented to us. It’s a cognitive bias called the framing effect. You can use this knowledge to improve your negotiations.
For instance, consider this graphic from The Decision Lab:
You can see that “80% fat-free” sounds more appealing than “contains 20% fat,” even though it’s the same quantity.
This principle can easily be used as a negotiation tactic. To do this, frame your negotiations as a win-win opportunity.
For example, let’s say you want to make a deal for $30,000 but your client is set on $25,000. Now, instead of going back and forth over the price, try reframing what you have to offer.
Can you highlight the potential savings your client can enjoy by using your product? Can you address the risk of not using your services?
Ask yourself “How can I frame this solution so we both win?”
Keep in mind that you are not necessarily changing the end result. You are simply changing the way you frame the conversation.
Sometimes you can have the best negotiation tactics in your toolkit and still have to compromise. Many times, you will have to give something up to reach a mutual agreement.
This isn’t always a bad thing.
All relationships require some level of compromise.
You can’t entirely prevent it but you can prepare for it.
Negotiators who enter the room with a plan are often more successful than those who choose to “wing it.”
If you know you may have to compromise, why not be prepared for it?
To plan for what you can and can’t compromise, ask yourself, “What am I willing to give up for this opportunity/deal/product/relationship?”
Focus on what really matters, and don’t let minor details derail an otherwise good deal.
Another important part of planning your negotiation tactics is ranking your priorities.
There are things you absolutely need to have in order to enter a profitable agreement. Then, some things may be “good-to-have,” but aren’t a necessity.
Rank these so your priorities are clear to you.
If you must compromise on something, you need to decide what you can give up. This is where priority lists can help.
For example, building a good relationship with a client may be more important for you right now than making a big sale. In this situation, you can compromise on the price and earn the trust and goodwill of the other party.
You might have heard the adage “never show your cards.”
Many people believe you shouldn’t make the first offer and let the person in front “reveal” their number first.
This doesn’t work so well in real-life negotiations.
In fact, I’ve found, when it comes to negotiations, you should always be the first to say a number.
Remember, the starting number sets the tone for the rest of the negotiation. Being the first to state a number puts you in control of the negotiation process.
This practice is called anchoring.
Even if your number is extremely high or extremely low, now you can steer the negotiation conversation in the direction of your choice.
If your first number is very high, you have biased the negotiations to skew higher.
In most cases, this absurdly high number will be disregarded, but you are already angling for a higher price than if you came in much lower at a “reasonable” price.
Here are some examples of anchoring presented in a graphic by AMGfunds:
In some negotiations, the problem and the solution might be obvious. For example, when you negotiate a salary, both parties know you’re asking for more money in exchange for continuing to offer your services to the company.
Sometimes the real issues aren’t as obvious.
Let’s say you’ve lost interest in your current job, and need some free time to invest in a side hustle. You go to your boss and try negotiating more PTO or similar benefits.
You haven’t communicated your true needs, so your boss may not understand what you’re looking for. Maybe they’ll offer you a raise.
They think they’re doing the right thing, but both of you are stuck in an awkward situation because you couldn’t communicate your actual issue.
This often happens in negotiations. People negotiate for money when they really want more time, freedom, consistency, flexibility, or even another employee for support with the expected workload.
If the goal of a good negotiation process is to solve the problem, then communicating the real problem becomes a key aspect of negotiation tactics.
To succeed at negotiating, you need to understand what solution or outcome you’re seeking. This means you need to communicate the real problem—not just the most apparent one.
This graphic from Olivier Serrat will help you understand how to use it:
As we discussed earlier, framing your negotiation as a win-win situation can help you become a powerful negotiator.
Here’s why a win-win situation matters.
When we frame negotiations as a win-or-lose proposition, we automatically start with the assumption that someone has to lose.
(Hint: No one likes to lose.)
When you enter negotiations with a win-or-lose mindset, your goal is to convince the other party to accept defeat.
Instead, a powerful negotiator frames the negotiations as a win-win opportunity, so everyone is satisfied with the deal.
If you’ve framed the negotiation as a win-win opportunity, tried your best to compromise, discussed the underlying problems, and still failed to reach a mutually beneficial agreement, it may be time to walk away.
Many people are scared of having to walk away from a negotiation. This makes them more likely to take a bad deal rather than have no deal at all.
This is a counterproductive approach.
Being prepared to walk away will give you an advantage. It may not be what you hoped for when you entered the negotiation, but sometimes it’s better to say no than sign a bad contract.
If you’re comfortable walking away from the deal, you can use it as leverage. By having other options, you’re already in a stronger position—and now you’ve got a new level of experience to bring to your next round of negotiations with someone else.
Don’t say things like “let’s make this quick,” or “what about my profit?” This can make the person in front feel like you care more about your personal gains than the relationship you share.
Active listening can be an important negotiation skill as it helps you truly understand what the other person has to say. This helps you make better, more empathetic offers that are more likely to be accepted.
Many people believe negotiation tactics are manipulative and unethical, but that’s not true. As long as you’re respectful of the other person’s needs and committed to offering a fair deal, negotiation is perfectly ethical.
Negotiation is a skill anyone can practice. Even if you’ve never negotiated in your life, working with a simple negotiation technique can help you increase your confidence and improve your ability over time.
Negotiation tactics sound intimidating. Like they’re reserved for high-profile business people in suits.
That’s not true.
Each of the negotiating tactics we discussed today is powerful alone, but together, their impact can be incredibly effective.
Try them, and you’ll see.
Which negotiation tactic will you try first?
Disclosure: This content is reader-supported, which means if you click on some of our links that we may earn a commission.
Here’s some good news–you can get a website up and running without spending a dime.
Yes. Free web hosting exists, and I’ll show you how to get it.
You’ll be able to launch a website with a few clicks, but don’t expect anything fancy.
Some of the trade-offs with free web hosting include: ads on your site (that don’t make you money), a cap on how much traffic you can get, sudden downtimes, and little to no customer support.
There’s some really great cheap web hosting options that will help you build a site without tradeoffs for a few bucks a month.
But if you really need a 100% free web hosting solution, check out my recommendations below.
When it comes to building a simple blog or an online portfolio that highlights your work, Wix is the best intuitive website builder you can count on.
With the help of its simple drag-and-drop interface, you can create a simple website in minutes. Wix takes care of your website through free hosting so long as you don’t mind having Wix brand ads displayed on your pages.
And if you don’t want to build your own site, all you need to do is answer a few questions. The platform’s Artificial Design Intelligence (ADI) will then automatically generate a website with a design based on the answers you give.
You’ll get a great looking page in a few minutes, and from there you can fine-tune it the way you want. Editing within Wix is easy, and you’ll be surprised at how many options you have.
Although free accounts can only use the Wix subdomain, there are enough templates and apps you can choose from to add a little bit of personal touch to your website.
Should you decide to create a website with Wix, you will get a storage space of 500 MB and a bandwidth of 500 MB, enough for a low-traffic site like an online portfolio.
If you want more flexibility, you can upgrade to premium plans anytime to access custom domain, email, and ecommerce features.
Premium plans also eliminate ads so your website will look more professional and less cookie-cutter.
But even with ads, Wix has plenty to offer that will put the spotlight on your content. Whether you’re a writer, designer, or photographer, Wix remains the best website builder to help you establish an online presence without touching any code. Sign up now.
Square Online is a free ecommerce platform for aspiring entrepreneurs who are still getting their feet wet with online selling. Unlike big names in the industry, Square Online lets you sell unlimited products without paying recurring fees.
It’s free to set up your online store hosted by Square Online. You’ll pay a fee for transactions on the site, but it’s only a small percentage of your total sale.
Your still making money on your free Square Online site, which is pretty great considering you still pay transaction fees on paid hosting platforms as well.
The drag-and-drop editor only offers four customizable themes, but you get an assurance that every design follows your industry’s best practice. Without touching any code, you can create your online store with a responsive design that fits in any device.
Square Online also offers the following to help you get started with your business:
In exchange for hosting your online store for free, Square Online requires a small commission fee of 2.9% + 30¢ for each product sold. Should you decide to scale your business, you can leave the free plan and move to the premium plans starting at $12 per month.
Through a new feature called Square Online Checkout, sellers also have the option to sell their products and receive payment using only a link instead of a website.
Whether you’re an established brick-and-mortar store owner or just starting from scratch, Square Online has all the basics to help you navigate the unfamiliar world of ecommerce with ease. Start now.
DreamHost believes in every nonprofit organization’s advocacy so much that they’re giving them a shared hosting plan at no cost.
Aside from free web hosting, DreamHost also provides US-based charitable organizations with the following:
To create a free hosting account, DreamHost does not require any credit card details and needs just your billing address for verification purposes.
You also need to attach a 501(c)(3) determination letter, a document from the United States IRS proving your tax-exempt non-profit status under the applicable sections of the tax code.
Since it’s a free account, you won’t have access to reliable 24/7 customer support. However, DreamHost’s dedicated help center and ticketing system offset this, which more than meets the need for straightforward troubleshooting solutions.
Should you want more control over your account, nonprofit organizations can also avail themselves of a 35% discount off DreamHost’s managed WordPress hosting plans. This means you can host your site under a paid plan for as low as $11 per month.
Often confused with the open-source software WordPress.org, WordPress.com is the free platform where non-technical users can create websites.
Since it is powered by the same robust and world-class infrastructure behind nearly half of the world’s websites, WordPress.com is the best place to learn how to manage a website while you’re still not ready or able to pay for a hosting service.
Setting up a website is easy. You can select a WordPress subdomain and choose from any of the available themes.
Just like Wix, WordPress.com also displays ads to sustain its free platform. While the ads may sometimes be annoying, this is a small price to pay for all the other features that WordPress.com has to offer:
While it has excellent performance for a free hosting platform, WordPress.com can’t beat the paid version in terms of flexibility. The WordPress CMS installed on websites in paid hosting plans gives you direct server access and freedom to install plugins and themes of your choice.
Still, WordPress.com is good for starters, especially if you only want a simple, stripped-down website to showcase your writing portfolio or personal diary.
Anyone with basic coding skills is already familiar with GitHub, an open-source platform where developers store their coding projects. GitHub Pages is where you can take these codes from the repository, have them go through a build process, and turn them into a simple static website.
A static website is ideal for those who prefer a small website that doesn’t need to be updated regularly. It’s also perfect for students who want a test site to play around with or present for their school projects.
GitHub Pages is completely free, yet it comes with a range of outstanding features:
To build your static website, all you need to do is sign in to your account and create a new repository. You can then use the Jekyll Theme Chooser to pick from one of the pre-made themes.
If you don’t like your theme or your static website’s content, no need to worry as changes are a simple edit and push away. You can make these changes either via the web or locally on your computer.
Whether you’re a developer or a non-techy looking for easy-to-follow instructions, GitHub Pages has all the tools you need to create a free static site.
Before we proceed, you have to remember that there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
In the case of a free web host, it has limitations that don’t appeal to everyone.
Free web hosting is designed to meet the needs of a niche market like a new hobby blogger who doesn’t intend to earn from his website or a student looking for a free platform where she can test her web development projects.
With that being said, you can’t use the same criteria in selecting a paid hosting plan when zeroing on the best free web hosting to suit your needs.
Remember, you get what you pay for. And in the case of a free web host, you shouldn’t expect to receive round-the-clock support, daily or on-demand backups, and 100% uptime guarantee, among others.
However, some free options are a cut above the rest. Use the following parameters to figure out whether a free web hosting service is worth a try.
Most companies are willing to host your website for free so long as you’re also willing to use a subdomain.
For instance, Wix is a popular website builder that requires its free users to use a subdomain (e.g., neilpatel.wix.com).
A subdomain doesn’t look professional nor is it good for branding. So, unless you only want a stripped down website you can play around with, it would be better to opt for a company that can host your custom domain for free.
A custom domain is one that you own (e.g., neilpatel.com). You can purchase it from a domain registrar or from any hosting provider that also offers domain registration on the side. Domains are inexpensive, and you’ll need to renew them annually.
If branding is your top priority, make sure to find a free web host that gives you the option to stand out in a sea of other freely hosted websites.
While advanced security features don’t exist in free web hosting platforms, they should at least offer a free SSL certificate.
SSL (secure sockets layer) is a technology that encrypts the information that passes through your website. It protects your site visitor’s sensitive data like passwords and credit card data from outside intruders.
If you’re launching a basic ecommerce site on a free hosting platform, a free SSL certificate is non-negotiable. However, some free web hosting services only offer a self-signed SSL, which misleads users into thinking that it’s the same as the industry-standard SSL certificate.
A self-signed SSL is issued by servers and not by trusted authorities like Comodo, Digicert, and Let’s Encrypt. Since it’s not a standard version, websites with self-signed SSL will still show security warnings to visitors.
Hence, a self-signed SSL defeats the purpose of an SSL certificate even though it offers the same level of encryption. Especially if you’re planning to sell a product through your website, having a self-signed SSL is no better than not having an SSL certificate at all.
As a rule of thumb, never go with free web hosting unless you’ll use it for a basic website with little to no traffic.
A free web host isn’t designed to handle huge traffic volume. This is why it’s important to read the fine print of the hosting provider’s terms and conditions before signing up.
Unfortunately, a lot of free hosting providers tend to mislead clueless users by including “unlimited storage” and “unlimited bandwidth” in their list of features.
Disk space or storage space is the amount of server space allocated to your website files, while bandwidth is the amount of data allowed to transfer from the server to your visitors in a given amount of time. If your website is hosted in a free platform, your disk space and bandwidth are best described as low and never “unlimited.”
“Unlimited bandwidth” is a promotional tactic by free hosting providers based on the assumption that sites on a shared server will not use up the available resources, which is rarely the case.
Instead of being swayed by these superficial features, pay more attention specifically to file size limit and CPU limit.
A file size limit is the maximum file size your website can upload, while the CPU limit refers to how much of the server’s central processing unit (CPU) your website is allowed to use.
Free web hosting providers can temporarily shut down your site without warning, so make sure you know exactly what and how much your limitations are.
The only reason why free web hosting continues to exist is because of the business behind it. And a business requires a source of revenue.
Some of the more popular free web hosts sustain their platform through ad space. This monetization method may be effective, but it comes at the expense of your visitors.
You have no control over what appears on the advertisements or where they’re placed. Not to mention ads, in general, tend to be obtrusive and take the joy out of consuming your content.
If you want free hosting but care about your site’s aesthetics and user-friendliness, you can opt for a company that supports their free platform through other means, such as the sales of premium hosting plans.
Support for websites hosted in a free web host is limited at best. Unless you already have both the budget and need to upgrade to premium plans, there’s nothing else you can do.
When looking for the best free web host to entrust your website, choose one with an active community forum.
Check the latest posts and see how fast the response time is. The more active users the service has, the quicker you’ll get a resolution to any problem you might face in the future.
In addition to a community forum, some free web hosts also have a self-service knowledge base where users can quickly get answers to their most basic questions.
Nothing beats a paid hosting plan for all the extra support, features, and functionality. Still, if you need free web hosting or if you want to try out different web hosts before committing to an investment, there are some good free options available.
These are my top choices if you are looking to get online without spending a dime:
The best free web hosting for you depends on what you’re looking for. Use the reviews and guide to help you narrow down your choices.
Disclosure: This content is reader-supported, which means if you click on some of our links that we may earn a commission.
Your website should load quickly and present content for readers in a sensible way.
The good news is there’s a wide variety of excellent WordPress themes that do just that.
WordPress themes offer different layouts for your website–be it a blog, online store, portfolio, or business. You’ll be able to present content beautifully and boost engagement with your brand. Get everything designed the way you want without writing a line of code.
I’ve put together a guide to the best WordPress themes available now to help get you started.
The Jayla theme offers a minimal and contemporary approach to the e-commerce industry, allowing you to create a store and sell products online with ease.
Jayla is built around the popular and powerful WooCommerce plugin, which means you’ll have access to a large number of features.
Jayla also gives you access to multi-block builders to speed up your site’s creation and an almost unlimited number of colors for your layout.
Perhaps most impressive is the wide variety of shops you can build with the theme. From furniture shops to tech stores and everything in-between, Jayla is useful in most e-commerce scenarios.
Other highlights of the Jayla theme include:
On the pricing side, Jayla costs just $59 for the regular license, which is more than enough to get your store started.
That regular license also adds in future updates for no extra cost and six months of support with site bugs and other issues.
If you want additional support, you can extend it to 12 months for $17.63. Get Jayla here.
We all have to start somewhere, and the same is true with WordPress themes. Where do you even begin? The answer is with Astra.
Astra is our top pick for WordPress beginners for its slick customization options, high level of functionality, and the considerable number of free extensions available for it.
I mentioned earlier that ensuring great page builders were compatible with a theme was important, and Astra doesn’t disappoint. Some of the most popular page builder plugins, like Elementor and Beaver Builder, are easily used with it.
On top of that, Astra offers a lightweight experience, allowing it to load exceptionally quickly. That’s without mentioning the super easy customization and pre-built options for blogs, portfolios, and online shops.
Other key features of the Astra theme include:
In terms of pricing, you can get Astra for free, and this provides you with a basic theme able to get you up and running. For some, it might be all they need.
There is also a pro version of Astra available that offers additional settings and options. The pro version is a must if you need a great deal of customization and new layouts. You can purchase it for $47.
Tusant by Second Line is a first-rate theme that’s best suited for podcast creators, musicians, voice-over actors, and music streaming.
While many themes can offer flashy designs, Tusant is practical, too, allowing you to embed audio and video from multiple sources.
For example, a podcast creator would be able to embed an entire ongoing series with ease, while musicians could display their latest work. The developers say Tusant can showcase an unlimited number of entries.
What’s more, Tusant supports all of the vital podcasting plugins such as PowerPress, Seriously Simple Podcasting, and PodLove. You can host MP3 files locally, too, so there’s little to get in the way of your creativity.
Tusant also offers the following:
For the pricing, there are three distinct tiers from the Tusant creators:
Second Line currently has five different podcast WordPress themes. Tusant offers multiple layouts, beautiful displays for playlists, and supports over 20 podcast hosting providers. If you’re a podcaster, you cannot go wrong with Tusant. Buy it here.
Whether you’re a freelance marketer, editor, or content writer, an excellent theme to show off your accomplishments and details is essential.
That is where Sydney comes in. This is a powerful and feature-rich theme ideal for freelancers, both those new to the industry and those who have been doing it for years and might want to change things up.
Sydney has more than 600 different Google fonts to choose from, and users have access to a full-screen slider, which can make a strong first impression on potential clients.
I also like the custom Elementor blocks that can be designed just how you want, enabling you to focus on getting your branding right.
Other features of the Sydney theme include:
Sydney has a free version, and you’ll have access to a lot of vital features.
With that said, the pro license only costs $69 per year, or $169 for a lifetime license. The upgrade will allow you to take things to the next level with extra page options, templates, WooCommerce, video headers, and more.
You can also pay $389 for a lifetime license for all of the company’s podcast WordPress themes.
It’s a good idea for most freelancers and small businesses.
This compelling WordPress theme is perfect for sharing new recipes and the best cooking tips with your online audience.
Minimalist and clean, yet offering loads of features and specific design choices, you can’t go wrong with Foodie Pro.
Consisting of the Genesis Framework—both secure and search-engine-optimized—Foodie Pro offers an almost countless number of color and typography options.
You’ll be able to upload your brand’s logo quickly, and a selection of pre-built templates only helps speed things up if you’re in a hurry to launch.
Other features of Foodie Pro include:
There’s no free version of Foodie Pro, but you can buy the theme and complete framework package for $129.95, which I think is a fair offer based on what you can do with it.
There’s also a Genesis Pro option for those who love the framework and want to invest further. The Genesis Pro variant includes access to additional support and every future theme the company releases.
Genesis Pro is a good choice for those with big plans and costs $360 a year.
Zakra isn’t just a memorable name—no, this stylish WordPress theme will help your brand rank higher on Google.
Zakra is optimized for the largest search engines, loads quickly, and supports almost all essential SEO plugins.
One particularly impressive feature is the 50 or so demos that are pre-built and ready to go with the theme.
These demos cover multiple scenarios you may need and can be quickly set up with a one-click demo importer. From there, you’ll be able to customize the demo to your liking.
One major advantage is the speed at which you can do this, so it’s an excellent option for those short on time.
The Zakra theme also delivers:
Zakra is free to use, but be aware that multiple features are locked out. Once you’re happy with the theme, you can upgrade to one of the more premium packages.
There are four pricing tiers, and all of them feature the Zakra Pro extras. The following prices are for lifetime access:
You can also choose to pay via an annual fee. I think the Personal Plus package with a lifetime subscription would be a great option for most.
Travel Way is perfect for travel bloggers and photographers who want to show their locations’ real beauty. Travel Way is also great for travel agencies and portfolios.
With call-to-action buttons, multiple sections, and handy social icons, it’s a theme ready for the modern traveler.
The free version of Travel Way is flexible and highly customizable, with the option of setting up galleries, booking forms, services, and portfolios. There’s a huge amount you can do with this theme.
Even better, it works well with all of the major browsers, is very responsive, and offers unlimited pages for each section of your site.
Other attractive features of Travel Way include:
The pro version features advanced custom widgets, multiple options for comment sections, more menu and logo positions, and quite a bit more.
It costs just $55 for personal use and $99 for developers, so if you’re pretty set on the theme, I wouldn’t hesitate to upgrade for the rest of the features.
Deciding on a single WordPress theme for your brand can be overwhelming. There are tons of options out there, and it can be difficult to know where to start. If you’re struggling to pick one, try thinking about the complete picture.
The first aspect to think about is whether you should get a free or paid WordPress theme. The difference isn’t just in the pricing.
A free WordPress theme can offer a lot to the right person, but it’s worth knowing some of the drawbacks. The main one is the lack of ongoing support for that specific theme, which, in most cases, can mean you’re left tracking down the original creator’s email for help when something breaks.
Far from ideal.
Not to mention that the same free themes can pop up on many websites, taking away originality from your branding.
But you can usually try out a theme for free before deciding to invest in the full paid version, so they do have their uses.
Paid themes are a better bet for brands in general, though. They generally include regular updates and support, higher levels of customization, and higher-quality code.
Another thing to mention is that WordPress.org, or ‘self-hosted WordPress,’ (as opposed to WordPress.com) is the best bet for most businesses as it gives a greater level of control and is cheaper overall. This extends to themes, availability, and customization.
With that said, I’ve seen some top brands on WordPress.com, or ‘hosted WordPress,’ with some genuinely dazzling themes, too.
If you’re in doubt, I’d still say go for WordPress.org.
Other key things to think about are the following:
Thinking about functionality is very important. I’m talking about what you need a site to do to conduct business.
Do you need social media icons that link out to brand accounts? How about a comment section or forum, and what about the e-commerce side of things like a shop?
In other words, you need to think hard about the features you need.
The great news is that WordPress plugins can add a significant number of extras whenever you want, but it’s worth looking into the functionality of a theme you like.
For example, specific themes might be coded in such a way that adding a forum could prove difficult.
If you like a theme, make sure you’ve done your research before buying it and that it can support your core needs.
Is your new theme going to look good on any screen size?
A mobile reader needs to have the same complete experience as a desktop user, so any good WordPress theme will adapt to this on a case-by-case basis. Don’t forget that Google has made it mandatory for sites to be mobile responsive, which can affect your rankings in a big way.
Mobile traffic is increasing every year, so a responsive WordPress theme is essential. Most WordPress themes include this as standard, but not all do, and free themes often don’t. Think carefully about this when researching.
A good page builder will allow you to drag and drop to create pages with little fuss.
Most WordPress themes come bundled with page builders, but not all of them do. Some themes may even use a bespoke page builder that could slow down a site with unwanted code.
Ideally, you want a WordPress theme optimized to work with the best page builders, particularly if you have a preference.
You could find a WordPress theme that provides almost everything you want, only to find it’s incompatible with your favorite builder. Or buy one that features a proprietary builder, but it’s just not very good. Too late, though, because you’ve already purchased it.
A theme can load smoothly and look beautiful on your browser, but what about on your customer’s browser? It’s worth noting that not all themes will work correctly on every browser, so a good deal of testing is a sound idea.
You can usually check a browser’s compatibility under a WordPress theme’s details, but the developers won’t always list this. In that case, test it yourself.
It’s as simple as downloading a few of the most popular browsers, loading up your site with its new theme, and seeing what works and what doesn’t.
More often than not, you’ll find an issue or two that only occurs on a specific browser. I’ve seen pages breaking inexplicably on certain browsers while others were fine. This is often an overlooked area, so it’s prudent to get ahead of any potential issues.
There are tons of beautiful WordPress themes out there, and my list has given you just a snapshot of everything you can do on the platform. But many themes work better for specific uses.
The picks on the list offer some of the best themes available in their respective areas:
Whether you’re a freelancer, travel blogger, podcaster, or you want to launch an online shop, WordPress has got you covered.
The best part is how much you can do with a single theme, so dive in and get started.
The sky really is the limit.
Disclosure: This content is reader-supported, which means if you click on some of our links that we may earn a commission.
Nothing scares new business away like hard-to-reach customer service or disorganized sales calls.
By using the best call center software, you can outfit your teams with the tools they need to communicate effectively. And it won’t cost that much at all so long as you have a good internet connection.
Forget about the requirements of physical office space or a landline. Modern call center software is all you need to get employees set up–no matter where they are working.
You still have the hard work of engaging your customers and clients, but all the heavy lifting associated with maintaining a call center is off your plate.
Read on for in-depth reviews of my top picks. I’ll explain what they offer and the types of businesses they work well for. After the reviews, I’ve included a brief guide to help you evaluate the leading options and find the one that’s best for you.
Five9 centralizes every channel you use within a single clean interface for your employees. It works for any call center application–Five9 is one of the leading providers in the space–but I think it stands out for sales teams.
Discover and connect with leads on social media. Call someone who just filled out a form on your landing page. Answer text inquiries with an email follow up.
No matter how your customers show interest, your reps can talk with them from a single platform. Whether you’re building relationships over a long sales cycle or telemarketing directly to consumers, Five9 gives your reps the tools they need.
You get an auto dialer with multiple modes for prospecting and working through call lists. It comes with built-in calls to manage Do Not Call Lists and maintain TCPA compliance, which lowers your risk of running into issues with outreach at scale.
The same rep who was making 10 calls an hour now makes 50 without breaking a sweat. Everything is tracked in a few clicks within the system, and they are on to the next lead.
Five9 has sales features like web callbacks that you certainly don’t expect from call center software. Say someone enters their contact information on your website to access content about your product. Five9 can get that contact information to the front of your call queue, ensuring a conversation with a lead who’s actively interested.
Strike while they care. Watch conversation rates climb instead of speaking to cold leads weeks later.
You can take advantage of skills-based routing, regardless of how customers are reaching out. Ensure that account executives are the first person to pick up when big clients call in. If they’re in a meeting, route the call to the next best person who understands this client’s needs.
Managers will have complete visibility into their team. It doesn’t matter if people are working from home or on-the-go.
And supervisors aren’t the only ones with a bird’s eye view. Role-based dashboards let agents track their progress, as well. Executives get detailed information about how to steer the ship.
Everyone knows what’s going on in their lane. There’s no surprises about hitting goals.
Like I said, Five9 is one of the major players in the communications space. You’ll have access to pretty much any call center feature there is. Some of the ones that best serve sales teams include:
To get a price on Five9, you’ll have to reach out. I suspect it’s somewhere north of $100 per user per month, given what other omnichannel solutions cost. There are four different plans to choose from, so you don’t have to pay for features you’re not going to use.
Five9 doesn’t have a laundry list of integrations like some of the other tools I looked at, but
Here, I want to step back for a second. I’m really highlighting the sales features because I think Five9 offers the most complete package in that regard.
But you can run an amazing customer service call center with it. For sure. Universities and hospitals would be happy to use Five9 to centralize communications, especially if they are using some clunky system that looks nothing like the other tools they’re using.
Make it easier for every rep to reach more people. Make every conversation just a little bit better by giving agents the tools they need to connect on any channel. Get in touch with Five9 today to request pricing.
For less than half the cost of other good call center software, you can outfit your agents with Aircall.
Aircall is sleek and integrates with popular business apps. The interface feels lightweight and it’s super easy to navigate, even for first-timers.
You might think a low price would mean that you don’t get as many helpful features. That’s not really true.
Transfer calls to another agent. Make it a warm transfer and let the new agent know what’s happening before passing the customer over. View a customer’s record before you pick up the call without having to sign into your CRM. It’s all right there.
You’ll get real-time metrics, clear reports, and the ability to route incoming calls much the same as you get with the heavy-weight platforms.
Set up an IVR to allow customers to find their way to the right department, manage call queues, and allow callers to get a call back later if the wait time is high.
Some of the other features include:
Simply highlight a list of contacts or select a list. The powerful auto dialer gets to work saving clicks and time for every conversation.
So why is Aircall so much less expensive? The main reason is that it’s not omnichannel out of the box. Yes, you can set up SMS messaging via the integration with Salesmsg, but that’s going to cost extra. The other more expensive products I reviewed offer all the channels in-house.
In a way, that’s the beauty of Aircall. It’s a simple yet powerful solution. It’s like the missing puzzle piece that connects voice communications with the rest of your business.
Developers can use web hooks and APIs to extend Aircall’s connectivity with other software. Everyone else can use the one-click integrations with 85 apps like Salesfoce, HubSpot, Microsoft Dynamics, Zendesk, Slack, Shopify, Big Commerce, Intercom, and the list keeps growing.
If you are already using these apps, Aircall may be a great way to get the call center you need without breaking the bank.
With the Essentials plan, which starts at $30 per user per month, you’re getting a complete call center for voice. This includes unlimited calling in North America. Remember that some vendors charge per minute for calls, so this can amount to a really big savings.
With the Professional plan, which starts at $50 per user per month, there are additional analytics and coaching features, as well as increased customer support.
For large call centers, this is a good idea, as you will have a dedicated account manager and one-on-one onboarding to get everything hooked together right the first time.
One important thing to note is that Salesforce integration comes with Professional only. However, Essentials supports every other integration.I can’t overstate the ease of use for Aircall. You should really schedule a demo if you are interested in an affordable solution to empower your agents. Or just start a 7-day free trial today.
8×8 Contact Center is one of the more robust tools on the market. 8×8 has been around for a long time and can fully support migration to a UCaaS contact center.
You can set it up for any size or purpose, but I recommend it highly for large customer service call centers. Why? Because working in these environments is stressful. There’s high turnover, as new agents struggle to deal with irate customers and veteran supervisors burnout.
8×8 gives you a complete set of tools to fully support agents and help supervisors keep morale high. You’ll be able to retain talent by making the day-to-day a little bit less hectic, and happier agents lead to happier customers.
Imagine day one for a new hire at a call center. If they’re working on 8×8, they’ll have everything they need as soon as they put on a headset. This includes easy access to a deep knowledge base of call scripts, best practices, and a library of recorded calls that showcase agents at their best.
The speech analytics tools are really helpful as well. You can use them to ensure that new hires are sticking to the script, and they will be able to read voicemails instead of having to listen to them. This makes it easier for agents to scan through the backlog for important calls.
Supervisors can use the speech analytics to discover trends in customer inquiries and potential gaps in efficiency that would be impossible to bring to the surface otherwise. They’ll also have a dashboard that reports important metrics clearly, making it easy to recognize when agents require more support.
8×8 also offers an intelligent IVR that gives your customers self-service options. This lowers operational costs, as agents no longer have to speak with customers for simple requests. This cuts down your time to resolution, and keeps agents energized because they’re not handling the same call over and over again.
The ACD is capable of handling skills-based routing, so you can ensure that calls are getting to the right agents. This is important if you offer service in multiple languages, or have agents divided by departments based on expertise.
Intelligent routing is especially important for organizations that offer premium service packages to particular clients. These customers don’t want to get an entry-level agent who doesn’t understand the ins and outs of their system.
Both the ACD and IVR are easy enough to configure that you won’t have to worry about calling IT or 8×8 to build a solution that works. Simply use a visual drag-and-drop builder to customize.
8×8 Contact Center is highly extensible. There are integrations with tons of the top products you already use, and API’s that let developers add even more functionality. Additional features include:
While 8×8 offers support for every channel, you only need to pay for the ones you use. 8×8 Contact Center comes in the following packages:
The pricing is extremely competitive. In fact, $107 for Omnichannel is just about the lowest you will find for a product that covers everything, including social media. One thing to note is that the speech analytics features only come with Advanced.
This is a really great solution for large organizations that want to give agents the best possible shot at success. Constantly onboarding new folks is a huge drain on productivity, and the revolving door doesn’t do much to create a culture of collaboration.
With 8×8 Contact Center, you can build out a system that works for you. Support your agents with best-in-class software, centralize their work across multiple channels, and position supervisors to help before issues get out of control.
Dialpad is a phenomenal cloud-based call center that ties into traditional landline infrastructure. You can go total cloud day one, if you want, or stay hybrid and modernize at your own pace.
This allows companies to maintain their investment in hardware, while immediately taking advantage of the cloud-based platform. Unify your business phone system with text, chat, fax, and web conferencing. Allow your employees to work from the office as easily as from home.
Migrating your phone system to the cloud is stressful. Lots of vendors promise a turnkey solution, but anyone who has ever handled a large scale business communications transition knows it’s rarely that simple.
Dialpad offers two on-premise gateway options to connect your traditional phones to its cloud platform. Whether you rely on a traditional PBX or the PTSN, you can continue to use existing systems seamlessly.
The company offers continued support for desk phones, conference phones, and allows you to port numbers without a break in service. International numbers are available as well.
Instead of having to make a giant transition immediately, companies can phase out embedded technology at their own pace.
The best part is that the benefits are immediate. You get deep calling and routing features that are so much easier to manage than a traditional PBX. Plus, all of your channels are in a single interface for administrators and agents.
Some of the other highlights of the platform include:
The voice intelligence features of Dialpad are particularly well developed. It transcribes conversations, making it easier to search through later. Post-call summaries are generated automatically, complete with action items and a recorded meeting sentiment.
It can also assist agents by picking up on conversations and automatically providing relevant documentation.
Your old phone line won’t do that on its own. But with Dialpad’s help, you can continue to use phones alongside VoIP, chat, and text. Regardless of how customers reach out, agents will interact through the centralized cloud platform.
Dialpad Pro starts at $125. This is typical for high-quality call center software, but one thing to like about Dialpad is that all the integrations come with Pro. This includes Salesforce, Zendesk, Slack, among others.
You also get unlimited SMS and MMS in North America, as well as 24/7 phone support.
There are low per minute charges for calling: $0.01 for inbound, and $0.02 for outbound.
If you are just looking for a sales call center solution, you might want to check out Dialpad Sell. You’ll get a lot of the same features that help teams stay organized, as well as a powerful outbound dialer.
No matter how you want to use it, though, Dialpad is definitely a good option for the modern call center. It may be the best if you are trying to make use of your business phone system, or want to move to the cloud gradually.
For a pain-free migration, get in touch with Dialpad today.
Putting important customer information at the fingertips of your agents is a must for any good call center software. All my recommendations do a great job with that, and Talkdesk CX is no exception.
Where it steps away from the competition is putting information within reach of your customers–without an agent ever answering a call.
Using interactive voice response (IVR) allows people who call in to complete common tasks on their own and get the information they need. It’s a huge boost for both agent productivity and customer satisfaction.
No call center software makes IVRs as easy to configure as Talkdesk CX. It’s not the only one on my list of recommendations that comes with a visual way to build IVRs, but its IVR studio is a cut above.
From the simple interface that lets you tailor customer journeys in a few clicks, to the AI alerts that keep caller flows flawless, the IVR studio feels truly modern.
Sure, it’s possible to create an IVR that integrates your apps and databases with other options. But can you do it without writing a line of code?
Talkdesk CX lets admins and others build and customize IVRs quickly. There’s no need to get IT help just because departments shifted around. You’ll be able to give your customers a deeper range of options for self-service.
The more customers are able to help themselves, the more time agents are going to have to respond to other inquiries. There’s no sense tying your phone lines up with callers who want routine tasks or information.
It’s Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliant, so customers can pay bills and access account information directly from their phone.
Your agents will never have to ask for the three digit code on the back of the card again.
And with Talkdesk, this isn’t just on voice. You’ll have the same IVR function for text-based conversations, like chat and SMS. Chatbots aren’t a perfect solution for every customer inquiry, but they work wonders for the basic stuff.
Surveys are easy to include and automate as well. What could go better next time? What additional services would people like to be able to handle on their own? You can find out quickly and adjust your IVR in a couple of clicks.
I know companies that used to have to outsource all the work for their IVR. In all fairness, it used to be super complex. Talkdesk CX is changing the game.
I focused on the IVR for this review because that’s really where it stands apart, but don’t lose sight of the fact that Talkdesk CX is as good as it gets in virtually every area.
You get crisp reporting dashboards for management, an intuitive interface for agents, and integrations with leading CRMs and ecommerce platforms. Some of the other standout features include:
Supervisors can listen to recordings of agent calls and leave time-stamped comments to offer concrete feedback about how to improve. Even if everyone is remote, supervisors can pinpoint issues and upskill agents.
Everything is a few clicks. All the information is right there–for customers and agents.
You’ll have to get in touch with Talkdesk for pricing, but the IVR studio is included with every plan they offer. With premium plans, you’ll get a low-code editor to be able to customize even more.
Take a closer look at this next-generation call center and request a quote from Talkdesk today.
I make calls when I’m thinking about committing to a new product or service. Lots of people do.
The human connection is real, intimate, and—unfortunately—easy to mess up.
One dropped call. One mistaken name from an agent who’s spoken to 35 other people within the hour.
It doesn’t take much to lose a lead or earn a 1-star review carved in digital stone on the internet.
You’re looking for a system that establishes trust with customers because they know they can call and speak with the right person quickly.
It must also come with an interface that empowers agents by giving them insight into calls, client histories, and any other information they need to resolve issues in real-time.
Customers need prompt answers from helpful agents. End of story.
The best call center software comes with everything you need to meet these two fundamental call center objectives, and much more.
Here’s what you need to be thinking about as you make your choice.
The best call center software includes way more than voice communication. This is why you’ll see a lot of solutions marketed as contact center software instead. This reflects the common sense reality that people use way more than just phones to communicate.
Phones are still critical, but for many businesses, the ability to handle more channels is becoming increasingly important.
Some customers want to text. You want to be able to respond, or be able to text people reminders after they called in to schedule an appointment.
Or maybe you want to be able to seamlessly switch to a phone conversation with a customer who reached out via chat. They’re dying to speak to an actual human (you know the feeling). Making it happen earlier than they expect.
Here’s a list of the channels you can tie into a modern call center solution:
All of the solutions I looked at can handle most of these channels, though 8×8 Contact Center, Five9, and Talkdesk CX make it as easy as possible. These are known as omnichannel solutions, or unified communication as a service (UCaaS).
Regardless of how your customers make contact, your agents will be looking at every conversation within a single platform. They can see the whole relationship there, and give informed answers.
But not everyone needs everything. Some people don’t even need a blended call center that handles inbound/outbound calls. If inbound is all you need for customer service inquiries, just get that.
You will definitely have to pay over $100 per seat for UCaaS. If you really just want voice communications, Aircall is going to be less than half that, and it’ll be way easier to deploy.
There’s a big payoff for uniting all of your channels, but it’s going to take a lot of work and money to set up. The good news is that all my recommendations have tiered pricing and other options that let you add more channels over time.
You know what channels you use already, but what would you add if you could? Getting good call center software is an investment no matter how you swing it, so treat it as an opportunity to rethink how you connect with customers.
Ask them how they’d like to get in touch. Maybe they’d love it if they could text you. Maybe they already do and you just just don’t know.
One of the key differences between call center software and a simple business phone system is quality assurance. Beyond the basic infrastructure to make calls, you are getting tools to organize and manage your workforce.
Supervisors know what their agents are doing in real time. They can jump in and listen on a call, whisper instructions the customer can’t hear, and help a new hire close their first sale.
They’re also better positioned to assist agents over time. With call recording, a customer service leader can supply tangible evidence in support of their guidance. Here’s exactly where you got off track–here’s another point where you were able to work back to the script successfully.
There are dashboards with clear metrics for supervisors, but also for sales managers and VPs. What’s the percentage of first call resolution? How many new leads are created per agent per month? Are you cutting average call time?
A lot of the most important metrics, such as cost per lead, are going to be a team effort between your call center software and CRM. Make sure the options you’re considering give you insight into the metrics that matter most.
Call center software comes with routing features that segment and direct incoming calls, potentially automating the processes which connect callers with the expert or agent they seek.
It could be making sure a priority support customer gets to speak with their dedicated service rep. Or it could be a lawyer ensuring that calls to her line go straight to a virtual receptionist while she runs to court to put out a last minute fire.
Here are a few of the popular call routing features you’re going to see:
These features make a big difference. With warm transfer, for example, customers don’t have to repeat information over and over again. Agents love this, too, because they’re not getting yelled at for having to ask.
Another important feature is interactive voice response (IVR). This enables customers to use a phone to access information from a connected database. This could be someone calling to find out their checking balance, hear the status of their order, or pay a bill.
If you have customers routinely calling to access information, you can free up a lot of phone time simply by implementing IVR. It’s a truly self-service solution that helps people get what they want, without ever talking to an agent.
This all sounds amazing, but who is going to maintain this system? 8×8 and Talkdesk CX have drag-and-drop applications for creating phone trees, call flows, and IVRs. This means an administrator can switch up the phone tree when someone new joins the team instead of having to wait on IT support.
Cloud-based phone systems boast, “No hardware required,” or they “deploy out of the box.”
It’s all really exciting, but will you really be “ready to start calling in minutes!”
Maybe–it depends what you are trying to do and what systems you have to tie into your new call center software.
Are you looking to connect to a popular CRM like Salesforce? It might be true one-click integration.
But have you customized your CRM? If that’s the case, the connection may need a little more attention to work properly.
There are a lot of similarities in what call center software does in theory–helps you keep better track of customers, route calls quicker, and so on–but in practice, none of this is going to work if the integrations are finicky.
If your helpdesk software doesn’t pass data back and forth with your call center software, agents are going to lose track of tickets. If your calendar doesn’t sync, it’s going to be impossible to set appointments. You get the picture.
You have to test drive these products in order to figure out the true quality of the integration.
There are native, pre-built, seamless, and direct integrations. What’s the difference between these? No one knows. Until you have seen it work in practice, take the term integration with a spoonful of salt.
Ten years ago, setting up a call center took months. Today, you can deploy one over the weekend. Let’s take a look at the entire list of my top picks:
Aircall is a really affordable option and it’s easy to get set up. It’s well within the small business price range, and you can try it for free for a week.
If you are just beginning your migration to the cloud, Dialpad is going to make your life a lot easier.
Follow the links to learn more about each product. My reviews are a good place to start, but you should get in touch for a demo or a trial. There’s no way to know how good call center software is until you’ve let agents experiment for a few days on the phone.
Simple tasks used to be really hard with old phone systems. You probably had to call your vendor to re-route a call path or set an employee up with a secure at-home workstation.
With the best VoIP phone services, these actions take a few clicks.
Buying VoIP for your business is going to save you money over a traditional phone line. And if you are using a clunky VoIP service from an ancient provider, you may be able to switch to something sleeker without losing anything except the frustration.
To write a really helpful post for my readers, my team got in touch with leaders who have used VoIP in different ways. You can find about 80 percent of what you need to know about VoIP anywhere on the web—here’s the 20 percent you can’t find anywhere else.
We spoke with:
Look, I know what works for a company like mine. By speaking with a range of experts, I figured my team could help more types of buyers.
There are companies looking to outfit offices in 20 countries. Others have to protect patient data. Some folks just want to stop using their personal mobile number for work.
Here are the seven best VoIP phone service providers you can start using right away. After the reviews, you’ll find an in-depth buyer’s guide.
I hear a lot about the trends of working from home, but I don’t think anyone can say for sure what “office life” is going to look like two or three years from now. If you want your teams to stay functional no matter which way the wind blows, Nextiva is a solid choice.
It’s cloud-based VoIP, so your employees can come into the office, set up a desk at home, or use their phone on the go. Unlike an on-premises phone system, employees can use their phone without a VPN because they’re calling through Nextiva.
So, you have way less to worry about with security—which is definitely on the minds of managers who have people calling from hotels, coffee shops, and their home network.
The experts my team spoke with categorized it as a true plug-and-play system for businesses that want a dial tone without IT headaches. If your system is built on ten phones or fewer, you will have very little trouble getting Nextiva installed.
One thing that Jason pointed out, however, was that you’ll need to put some thought into compliance if you plan to take credit card numbers over the phone. But, for the most part, security is handled by Nextiva because everything is routed through their cloud.
Nextiva can scale to hundreds of phones if need be. There will be some backend configuration to get everything going, but Nextiva will help you deploy with a guided installation process.
And unlike some of the other companies that offer this type of flexibility, Nextiva can outfit your entire office. Whatever your setup, you’ll be able to transition it to Nextiva’s modern platform.
Level up your business phone by connecting it with email, text, and video—or centralize every channel within a single window for your employees.
All the call handling and user administration features you’d expect are included. And when I say they are easy to use, check out the Call Flow Builder that lets visualize how routing is set up:
It can be tricky to configure auto attendants in some platforms, but it’s drag-and-drop easy with Nextiva.
The company has done a lot to make everything as easy as possible on end users. If you’re wondering whether or not you have the necessary internet speed at your office, you can test it right now on Nextiva’s website. Simulate the traffic required for two or 200 phones. You’ll get info on speed, but also jitter and everything that goes into whether or not you can reliably make calls.
You can also use the site to test the speed of remote workers who need to be on call, which Jason highly recommended. If their home network doesn’t support VoIP, you may be looking at an expensive hiring blunder.
Nextiva offers 24/7 support for every plan. That’s not typical, especially for VoIP at such an affordable price:
These are the annual prices—it’s a little bit more per user to pay month to month, but you don’t have to sign a contract.
The Essential plan is going to work for many teams. It includes unlimited voice and video calling, a free local and toll-free number, and 1,500 toll-free minutes. That’s a lot more than you are going to get with other entry-level plans.
Unlike RingCentral, there’s no user cap for the Essential plan. This means you can offer more people unlimited voice and video at a low price, rather than having to upgrade once you hit 20 users.
For conference calling and business SMS, you’ll need the Professional plan. This comes with Salesforce, HubSpot, and Zendesk integration. Essential only has integration with Outlook and Google Contacts.
At the Enterprise tier, you get integrations with CRM software and single sign-on, which is a huge boon to remote workers.
Nextiva One is the company’s omnichannel solution. If customers reach out to you through a variety of channels in addition to phones, this might be a good idea.
Your employees can see all communication with each account, which is really helpful if people are logging help desk tickets, chatting, reaching out on social media, and so on.
Jason argued that omnichannel also makes administrators’ lives easier. “I don’t have 10 systems to manage,” he described to us, “it’s all within the same system.”
You can coordinate ecommerce with a call center or tie multiple brick and mortar stores into a single system.
You also have one bill as opposed to dozens and you’re not chasing down information across multiple platforms. If a customer has an issue, you can go back through the entire record quickly, regardless of how they got in touch.
Organization is just easier with Nextiva. Staying on the same page with customers and your employees is as simple as logging into the system, no matter where you are.
For teams that don’t have an office to coordinate activity, Nextiva is the best VoIP solution.
It’s a product that employees new and old can start using immediately on whatever device they have. Should they ever have an issue, Nextiva’s reputable customer service is there to provide support.
If you are looking at the way features break down in the different packages and you don’t find a perfect fit, just reach out to Nextiva. You can purchase any feature a la carte.
Build your system, your way, in less time with Nextiva. Get in touch for a seven-day free trial of the Essential package, or a demo of any other package they offer.
RingCentral gives you unlimited calling, texting, and video conferencing at a competitive price. If you just need the phones and texting, you can get an even better deal.
Forget about per-minute charges and set up employees with VoIP that’s easy to use. For call centers, customer service, sales—anyone who has people on the phone constantly will appreciate RingCentral. This is especially true if you have to train new employees all the time.
First off, they’ll be able to use the interface. It’s intuitive to anyone who has used a computer. Administrators and managers will find they can shorten the time it takes to turn rookie hires into skilled ambassadors for your company.
“You save a lot of money because you can identify hires that aren’t doing a good job and wasting their time,” Makan told us. He’s set up a lot of telemarketing call centers with RingCentral and has really valued the ability to “tell right away who’s worth the money.”
The ability to track calls, KPIs, and listen back to recordings was like night and day for him compared to working on a landline. Teams can listen back to calls that went well (or poorly) to get a sense of how to better capitalize on each opportunity.
The reporting features aren’t going to take a data scientist to glean insights from. Find your top performers and figure out what they’re doing. Identify people who aren’t a good fit and let them go.
I hear a lot of marketing word salad like “this tool optimizes performance,” all the time. RingCentral walks the walk.
“You can actually predict your sales,” Makan said, “I know it’s difficult to fathom, but it’s true.”
He was able to figure out that 2,500 calls lead to one listing. This told him the number of minutes people needed to be on the phone in order to stay profitable. Over time, he could see how many listings an employee should be generating in their first month, second quarter, and so on.
You’re likely going to measure different KPIs, but it’s the same idea. With the kind of visibility that RingCentral provides, you can distill the numbers to simple metrics that hold employees accountable. You know ahead of time what your sales are going to look like, and you can scale up or down accordingly.
There’s a lot about RingCentral that’s well suited for large-scale calling. Admins don’t have to be IT wizards to add new users and give them access to specific resources. They’ll be able to provision new hires quickly. When someone leaves, they’ll be able to switch around accounts and recycle the number, so you don’t wind up paying for lines you’re not using.
If you have turnover—as many high-volume calling occupations do—you need to be mindful of your database integrity. RingCentral makes it easy to limit access to resources and revoke it if need be.
You’re definitely going to be using a CRM (or some form of database) to call at scale. RingCentral integrates with a lot of them. You want to keep that information private.
Another liability for call centers that RingCentral helps you navigate is compliance, which is crucial if you are making a lot of cold calls or using an auto dialer. There’s a TCPA safe dialer, which helps agents avoid bringing a “robo-call” lawsuit down on your company. Instead of worrying about messing something up, they can focus on the person they are talking to.
The DNC list features are also easy to use. Integrate with third-party tools to constantly update your list, and quickly show your employees how to maintain your own internal list.
RingCentral is HIPAA compliant, which means the standard for privacy and security is incredibly high. Fines for HIPAA violations are very steep, and that’s not the worst that could happen.
Selecting from RingCentral’s range of packages, you can replace your phones with VoIP and save a little money or completely outfit an omnichannel call center.
RingCentral MVP (formerly RingCentral Office) has four tiers to choose from:
These are the prices if you sign up for a year of service, which reflect a 33% discount on the monthly rate.
The Essentials plan is capped at 20 users. You get unlimited talk and text, as well as document sharing, which can be helpful for sharing sales and customer service scripts. You also get team messaging, which is especially helpful in the days where not everyone is coming into a physical office.
With Standard, you get unlimited fax, video conferencing and integrations with Google Workspace, Microsoft 365. There’s no cap on users, either.
But if you are going for high-volume calling, I really recommend getting Premium. You get the CRM integration that is so important for dialing into your metrics and communicating effectively at scale.
At $10 above the average cost of VoIP, Premium is a steal. Remember, that VoIP average is for voice only and with RingCentral MVP you’re getting texting, video, and advanced call handling features that other “average” plans do not include.
Managers will be able to listen in on live calls and “whisper” advice. The employee can hear them, the caller can not. From what I found, features like this from other vendors were usually reserved for plans that cost upwards of $50. So in that sense, I’d consider RingCentral MVP well below the average price-wise.
RingCentral offers contact center software, as well, which will unify your communications. Your agents will be able to see a complete record of a customer’s history. When did they call, when did they chat? It’s all right there. You’ll have to get in touch with RingCentral for Contact Center pricing.
This is my number one pick for people who have to make a ton of calls. RingCentral helps you protect yourself from a number of the liabilities that come with outreach at scale. It also gives you the viability and tools to stay efficient and maximize each employees’ ability to contribute.
If you are holding off on replacing that aging phone system, Ooma can help you install business-class VoIP with minimal disruption to your work.
Any phone you have that’s still working—analog or IP—is going to hook right into your new Ooma system. You can also buy phones from them at a great price and they will be preconfigured, ready to go out of the box.
Ooma Office is going to work fine for most users, coming with 35 VoIP capabilities and a really powerful mobile app. Employees can make calls and collaborate with their colleagues in the app, whether they are in the office or on-the-go.
One thing Gregg pointed out was how expensive it can get to customize your setup if you have to pay per extension. With Ooma, every user gets a number of free extensions: one for conferences, one for online faxing, and one for a Virtual Receptionist.
Virtual Receptionist is Ooma’s term for an auto attendant. You can set it to play custom messages about business hours, let callers dial by name, select a preferred language, or route the caller to another extension.
With other vendors—especially ones that cost as little as Ooma—you often wind up paying extra to enable online faxing. Some VoIP phone service providers don’t even accommodate it.
When Jason sent his business requirement document to vendors, “two companies bailed out right away” because they weren’t able to set up fax machines. Most of the other vendors told him “they don’t really do that,” but they would try in order to get the business.
With Ooma, each of your users can set up their own fax extension for free. Problem solved.
When it comes to integrating VoIP with existing equipment, Ooma minimizes the steps you have to take and maximizes your flexibility. Connect to Ooma Office via WiFi, ethernet, or use the base station to get analog devices on board.
Think of it as a cloud-based VoIP solution that’s really good at accommodating your existing equipment. It might take some time to configure a large office, but the administrator portal is straightforward. It’s not the prettiest interface of all time, but it’s stupid simple to use.
While Ooma offers solutions for enterprise, their VoIP phone services for small businesses really stand out from the pack. There are no contracts, affordable pricing, and the customer service is fantastic.
Usually to get the best price on VoIP, you need to sign up for a year at least. Ooma’s price is what it is. For small business, Ooma pricing breaks down into two tiers:
Upgrading to Pro, you get the desktop app, video conferencing, call recording, enhanced call blocking, and voicemail transcription. You’ll also be able to host conference calls of up to 25 people, whereas Ooma Office has a limit of 10.
You don’t have the choice of selectively upgrading users with Ooma Office—it’s all employees on one plan or all employees on another. But, at just $5 per user to upgrade, you’re still falling in the average range for VoIP.
And, if you upgrade, you can set people up on their computers with a softphone, which means you have less hardware to buy.
You can avoid buying phones without upgrading by having people call from the mobile app (which is included with Ooma office), though Gregg warned us that VoIP can be hard on a cell phone. “Yes, you save money because you’re not buying physical equipment,” he said, “but it can drain the battery life right out of the device.”
Transition to the cloud at your own pace. Keep your equipment and manage it yourself with way less work than a traditional set up. Get a quote, sign up with Ooma, and start saving money today.
Phone.com is a smart choice for businesses that are looking for budget-friendly VoIP. You can have unlimited calling or pay less for a set block of minutes each month.
One of the really cost-effective features of Phone.com is that you can mix and match plans. Give the sales team unlimited plans and save money on each employee that only uses the phones occasionally.
And, with the Basic plan, you’re still getting most of the standard VoIP features like call handling, auto attendants, hold music and so on. You’ll have to upgrade to get HIPAA-compliant video conferencing, for example, but you can host up to 10 people in a regular session with Basic.
With most other vendors, you have to upgrade the plan for all your users. Phone.com can really help you keep costs down by giving users the features they need. This is one of those licensing irregularities that Gregg told us about, where it can work out well if you know what you’re doing.
Phone.com lets you pick what you need. Call recording and inbound faxing is extra, though you’ll be able to send faxes from your phone with any plan.
Nextiva and RingCentral are a little bit more robust, especially when it comes to reporting and analytics. In terms of CRM integration, Phone.com is limited to AllProWebTools and Zoho.
But some businesses just need a reliable phone with call handling capabilities they can manage themselves. Phone.com does more than that, and it’s just enough cheaper than those other options to net a sizable savings.
Offer your customers the ability to text when they have questions. Phone.com keeps all of your employees’ messages organized. Come for the phone system, stay for the messaging.
To use IP phones, you’ll have to be on an upgraded plan. The company offers really great prices on popular phones of all styles. You can use what you’ve got, too, as Phone.com supports a range of hardware.
Using your own equipment will definitely lessen the initial outlay, but in talking with Gregg we learned that older phones can get hacked. Just make sure that the processor isn’t too far behind what Phone.com is trying to sell you, and get ready to do some of the configuration yourself. You really can just plug and play if you buy equipment through Phone.com.
Pricing for Phone.com is low across the board:
To get these prices, you’ll have to sign up for an annual subscription, which saves you 20 percent of the month-to-month price.
Basic comes with 300 minutes, which are pooled for all your users. This just means Basic users share minutes instead of having to worry about going over individually each month.
Each user also gets 1,000 pooled text segments. A segment is limited to 160 characters, which is way less than most phones can send in a normal text message these days. So it’s not 1,000 texts per month, unless you like to keep things brief.
Volume licensing brings the price down, both for users and for additional phone numbers. With 25 or more users, the price of Basic drops down to $8.99, Plus to $14.99, and Pro to $21.99.
Considering that Pro can hold its own with many of the call center VoIP solutions I’ve looked at, it’s worth checking out if you need a lot of phones on a tight budget. With HIPAA-compliant voice and video, it could be a good option for medical practices looking to support telehealth.
You really have to get input from every person and department using the phone system. Figure out the technology and functionality you need to support. If Phone.com fits the bill, it’s going to be a smaller one than you’ll find anywhere else.
Phone.com gives you a low price that scales up much better than OpenPhone, Grasshopper, and other lightweight VoIP solutions.
I wouldn’t use it to set up a call center—you’re going to have to fully rely on your CRM for all but the most basic reporting and analytics—but you’ll be able to get plenty of phones set up for normal business needs.
If you are thinking about cutting the cord with your traditional phone line, this option is going to save you the most money. Sign up with Phone.com today, no contract necessary.
Grasshopper is a great option for small companies that want to establish a professional identity without buying a very complex system.
I’m thinking about the restaurant owner that wants numbers for a few locations without having to pay for a traditional phone line going to each one. Or maybe the law firm that wants a few numbers with lots of extensions.
If you outline your business requirements and it turns out you only need the essentials, don’t pay more for things you don’t need. Grasshopper is going to set you up with everything you need for one flat rate each month.
You’ll get a suite of features designed for the daily work of a modern business, without the clutter aimed at larger organizations. There’s no need to upgrade just to access a particular feature. Every Grasshopper plan comes with unlimited calling, as well as every feature the company offers, such as setting up a phone tree, personalized greetings, call routing, and more.
There are even a few features, like instant response, that you won’t always get with other providers. If you miss a call, Grasshopper will automatically send a text message.
Simultaneous call handling and call forwarding lets you pass off calls to teammates when you’re busy. Voicemail transcription makes it easier to catch up on calls after hours.
Manage everything I just listed directly from the mobile app. Route calls exactly where they need to go—it’s just a few swipes on your cell.
You also get unlimited extensions with Grasshopper Small Businesses plans, and several free extensions with their other plans. Route calls to other numbers, mobile devices, informational extensions to answer FAQs, or a polite out-of-office voicemail.
Getting charged for extensions was something Gregg said people should watch out for in the contact they sign. The total cost can “go up real quick” if you have to pay for an extra line just to set up a voicemail extension.
With Grasshopper, you don’t have to worry as much. The entry level plan comes with one number and three extensions—perfect for the sole proprietor or founder to greet their callers with a professional menu and connect them with the right person.
Let’s take a closer look at your three options with Grasshopper.
As I said, it’s really just the basics. There’s no CRM integration or call recording, so think about Grasshopper as a way to replace your phone system rather than revolutionize it.
That said, if you’ve been trying to work magic with free VoIP like Google Voice, the ability to set up call routing may feel downright revolutionary.
It’s also going to cost less and be way easier to set up than it’s more robust competitors. Toll-free numbers might take a day to start working, but typically your number is ready to go when you sign up.
If you want to add an extra line, it’s $10 per month. That’s a lot more than Phone.com for extra lines, which is why I don’t recommend Grasshopper if you need a ton. Plus, the interface isn’t built for handling a big system anyway.
But for the small office, it’s perfect. It doesn’t matter where you or your business partners work—people can be out in the field when a call comes into the office, or in a different city altogether. Grasshopper makes it easy to ensure your calls get where they need to go.
PhoneBurner is ready to rock. Are you?
This product is a little different than the other VoIP options on my list. It’s a sales engagement platform, so it’s not designed to replace your phone system. Rather it’s designed to give outbound reps the perfect tool for prospecting, selling, and closing deals.
Is the team remote? Do people like to work out of the office? Not a drama. Your users can phone in from anywhere and start working through your hottest contacts.
It contains a CRM and auto dialer software built into the platform. You’re not trying to make technology play nice—it’s all set up when you open the box. You can integrate with your own CRM if you want, or simply import your leads and start making up to 80 calls an hour.
I don’t know what your reps’ pace is now, but 80 calls per hour is smoking. There’s no “telemarketer” delay when the call connects, just crisp conversation like it’s over a phone line.
And, because the CRM is tied in, reps can see exactly who they’re talking to, what stage of the pipeline they’re in, and any notes left in the account.
Sarkar said that pretty much everyone in the B2B SaaS game is telephoning through sales engagement platforms now. The auto dialer makes your agents far more efficient by eliminating the busy work of dialing. “You barely have to click anything,” he said.
With PhoneBurner, you’re not manual dialing, tabbing through pages to find a number, or copy/pasting emails frantically before the next call. Instead, you can drop voicemails without waiting for the beep, send an appropriate email, or move a prospect to another folder with a single click.
For Makan, auto dialer software was crucial for large-scale outreach in telemarketing, but it was a pain to set up. You have to specifically program the CRM and the auto dialer. From there, it’s expensive to get the CRM software tuned to your industry. He mentioned one popular CRM option that cost $25,000 and $50,000, “just to get you all set up with the phones.”
With PhoneBurner, a lot of that work is off your plate. It’s not going to groom your database for you, but the fundamental CRM/auto dialer integration is already in place.
The company takes it a step further by offering one of the most comprehensive onboarding packages that I have seen for any product. Their team works with you on goals before you set up, runs you through a test session, and then trains your team on how to use the platform.
You also learn how to build reports so you can track performance. It’s easy to do this wrong, on any platform, but your PhoneBurner advisor is walking companies through the process, week in week out. They’ll get you set up with dashboards, leaderboards, and all of it is going to be customized to your goals.
Leads are distributed automatically, based on rules you set. Toggle between pre-set configurations, like Round Robin or First Come First Served, or customize your own settings. Make sure leads get to the right agent every time, with only a small amount of work on the manager’s part.
PhoneBurner isn’t cheap, but remember that this isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison with the other VoIP providers because you are getting the auto dialer and CRM built in.
These are the prices if you sign up for a year, which are discounted 15 percent compared to paying monthly. You’re getting unlimited dial minutes, which is obviously important if your reps are making a thousand calls each week. With PhoneBurner, that’s not hard to do.
Call recording is stored free for 30 days with the Standard plan, 60 days with Professional, and there’s no limit for Premium plans. There are also limits on the number of contacts you can store, which start at 10,000 on the Standard plan.
You’ll need to upgrade to Professional to get softphone capabilities. It’s not a big deal if you already have phones, but I imagine that’ll bother folks that want to use their tablet or computer.
With Premium, you get a dedicated inbound line, as well as some of the handling features. I would not recommend using PhoneBurner for serious inbound traffic—the other VoIP options are going to be way cheaper—but some teams will appreciate having a custom voicemail and the ability to forward calls.
On average, a rep can make 233 percent more calls with PhoneBurner than they can with a regular line. Does the math pencil out for you? For Makan, it took 2,500 calls to generate a listing. What’s your metric?
If doubling or tripling your rep’s productivity sounds like a good idea, start a free trial with PhoneBurner today.
Jason warned us about going with the “newest and cheapest option,” so I was a little bit skeptical when I heard about OpenPhone. It’s only a few years old and it’s $10 per month.
That’s way less than the average cost of VoIP, cheaper even than some of the “budget” options I looked at.
But the more I discovered about the company, the more I liked it. OpenPhone is new, but certainly not fly-by-night. It’s a recent graduate of Y Combinator, the startup accelerator that helped launch AirBnB, DoorDash, DropBox, and Reddit.
Like those companies, OpenPhone has come to market with a new set of assumptions about how people are living and working. Instead of trying to replace a business phone system, as many Cloud-PBX’s claim to do, OpenPhone simply turns your mobile into a better phone for business.
It’s really aimed at the modern startup or small business, especially if the owner is one of those people who steers the ship from their phone. You’ll get a business number for your mobile phone. Go local, toll-free, or keep your own number, you choose. Porting your old number is 100% free.
Set up an auto-attendant so callers can get the information they need and connect with the right person. Establish a professional identity for your business in minutes. You’ll be reaching people on a stronger footing because you always know if an incoming call is business or personal.
There’s no hardware necessary and no more giving out your mobile number. Keep your privacy. Get numbers for your team and let them keep their privacy, too.
Where OpenPhone really steps away from the crowd is the shared inbox. You can have multiple people call and text from the same number. They can even make calls from that number at the same time.
A lot of phone systems don’t include text messaging, let alone allow multiple users text in the same thread. With OpenPhone, you can text the way you normal humans do:
Tag users with @mentions to bring the right people into the conversation quickly. Group messaging is really helpful for collaboration, especially since you can send files, videos, and GIFs.
You’re just not limited with texting the way you are on a lot of other VoIP phone services. You can send snippets from templates as part of a campaign or auto-reply to missed calls and texts.
Managing contacts isn’t hard either, as you get limited CRM integration with Google Contacts or via Zapier. You can use HubSpot for a more robust CRM solution as well, which allows you to store recordings and view message histories with ease.
Keep in mind this is not going to be a full-blown CRM solution the likes of which I’ve described with PhoneBurner and others. You’ll need to get into HubSpot to make changes to contacts, for example.
Because it’s a young company, there will be additional and deeper integrations “in the future,” which I know can be frustrating. But if you are a young company as well, HubSpot’s free CRM software plus OpenPhone is just about the cheapest way I can think of to deliver the essential benefits of connecting VoIP and your CRM.
Standard has most of what I’ve mentioned already, along with unlimited calling and texting. Bear in mind that it’s unlimited within the fair usage policy. According to the terms of service, for the Standard plan, you’re looking at 1,000 texts and calling minutes per month.
Though it’s not truly unlimited, that’s pretty generous. Phone.com caps their entry level plan at 300 minutes and 1,000 text segments, which is likely a smaller number of texts.
The Premium plan comes with HubSpot integration and more collaborative features, like the ability to transfer calls and an advanced auto attendant that gives you a wider range of call routing features.
Extra lines are $5. So, for the price of standard VoIP (around $25 pretax), you could get a company of four set up on the Standard plan.
There are other free ways to get a business number for your mobile phone. Go for it. Getting off the ground you need to save every dollar—I get it—but there’s a point where the inconvenience of trying to work around something like Google Voice starts to cost you money.
OpenPhone solves most of those problems for $10 per month.
How much does a single missed opportunity cost you? For a barber, maybe it’s a call from a stranger who would have spent thousands of dollars as a regular over the next few years. If only you’d been able to catch them.
It’s well worth checking out, and I have a feeling you’ll be hearing a lot about this company in the future. Try OpenPhone for free today.
I’ve been a small business owner who needed the cheapest possible business line for the “Contact Us” button on my Facebook page. I think it was still called TheFacebook.com, back then.
Now I’ve got people reporting to me about our VoIP options in Brazil.
Growing from a one-man show to NP Digital, I’ve been on a few sides of this conversation. We’ve built a marketing machine and I know how we use VoIP—but my team wanted to get a wider picture of what’s going on to help more of my readers.
Some of you have on-call IT support and months to demo the best options. Others are completely on their own running a business and can’t sacrifice more than a weekend in order to find the best VoIP phone service.
Either way, you need to be able to separate the options that are working well for other businesses from the one that’s going to work best for you.
My team reached out to other leaders in the field to see what things looked like from their perspective. We don’t sell VoIP, for example. So, it was really interesting to think through buying VoIP with Gregg, who runs a managed services provider.
VoIP is just one of the IT services Gregg’s company manages, but over a few decades, he’s seen plenty of things go wrong, helped people out of bad contracts, and restored their business integrity after hacks. He offered a lot of insight on VoIP security and what people can do to make sure they’re not spending money on stuff they don’t need.
Technically, Gregg is a competitor with some of the services I recommend, but he was very frank and offered advice you are not going to find on any review site.
We also talked to Makan, who set up call centers for telemarketing in real estate. These are call centers where each employee is making something like 1,000 calls each week. His practical advice is hardwon in an industry that has a staggering attrition rate.
“You’re going to let go of eight out of every ten people who work for you,” Makan told us. New hires have to be brought up to speed, coached, and—when they have to go—be safely de-provisioned in order to prevent your database from leaving with them.
And simple employee mistakes can cost thousands of dollars in legal fines because telemarketing is so highly regulated.
But if you can do it right, the payoff is huge. Makan was able to use call center analytics to surface important metrics that guided his hiring, onboarding, and training. “We no longer have to keep employees for like a year and a half to see if it works or not,” he said.
In searching for the best VoIP provider, you’ll read a lot about using analytics to optimize performance. It’s not just marketing lingo. Makan explained how you can basically predict your sales with VoIP tied to a CRM, and scale hiring up or down accordingly.
Sarkar, a sales manager in B2B SaaS, also pushed the importance of VoIP/CRM integration. We talked a lot about how your sales strategy informs the buying decision.
Are you in a mature market that needs to handle inbound inquiries, or are you selling a novel product that requires you to hit the phones and educate prospects over a cold call?
Configuring a general purpose CRM to work with your VoIP, can be a ton of work. Sarkar helped us see how some companies save a lot of time and effort by using a sales engagement platform like PhoneBurner. It has all the outreach capabilities built in. That means less setup and fiddling to get up to speed, with a better experience for your sales teams and customers.
There’s just a lot to think about, depending on where you’re coming from. Jason has worked in call centers since 1992. He’s seen the market evolve from deskphones to headsets to AI. His eye for distinguishing meaningful advances from shiny objects that get you nowhere is unrivaled.
Jason also recently purchased an enterprise VoIP system for the company he’s with now. Talking through his experience was extremely helpful in understanding how enterprise buyers have to work through their options methodically and coordinate with multiple departments in order to find a VoIP service that works across the entire organization.
And even though the scale is different, a lot of his guidance serves as practical advice for the small business owner. How do you know if remote workers have good enough internet for VoIP? How do you evaluate the quality of integration between VoIP and your key business software?
You may not have to buy as many phones or connect as many locations as Jason, but these questions still matter.
We covered a lot of ground in the interviews and research. Here are the three biggest takeaways that I think will benefit anyone shopping for VoIP:
I looked for VoIP you can use right away. Admins will be able to make sure everyone is set up, and new hires will gain fluency quickly in the modern system. No more six-month deployments.
Companies like Ooma, RingCentral, and Nextiva can set up large offices very quickly. And if you have a small office, you may be able to get started this afternoon.
I wanted to find a few different products that work across every channel. These omnichannel solutions are more expensive, for sure, but they were worth it for virtually every expert my team talked with. It makes everyone more efficient because they’re not logging into different accounts and losing track of conversations.
I also looked at products that have a more limited selection of integrations and channels. These are way cheaper. Not everyone is trying to run a call center with VoIP—it could just be they want an 800 number on their ecommerce website. As long as their callers are routed correctly or greeted by a professional voicemail after hours, it’s all good.
Really, a lot of people get VoIP because they don’t want to give out their personal number for business anymore. OpenPhone will do just that. Grasshopper is perfect for the small office that needs the essentials covered and nothing more.
Alternatively, you can find a great deal on basic plans from some of the larger VoIP service providers. Ooma Office is a good deal no matter how you slice it. The Essentials plan from Nextiva is well within the small business price range, and can completely remove the need for an expensive traditional phone line.
Let’s walk through the big factors you have to consider. Evaluate your options like an expert by taking in the perspective from industry veterans and sales leaders.
I want to focus on what makes these products different, not overwhelm you by describing every feature for every product. Once you start digging into VoIP, you’ll find that 30-40 different features is the low end in terms of what you get.
Every option I picked covers what I consider the baseline VoIP features, with some minor exceptions. You won’t hear me call them out unless there’s something superlative about how a vendor does it.
To be make my list of recommendations, the providers had to include:
Some of the “entry-level” VoIP packages aimed at companies with five to ten employees only come with limited versions of these features. You may have to pay extra for call recording, for example, or go with a more expensive plan to get unlimited online fax.
Plans vary between basic business phone systems and premium solutions for call centers. The latter come with much more customizable call handling features, multi-level auto attendants, and deep reporting features that a small team isn’t going to miss.
Traditional phone service, after tax, would be somewhere around $50 – $70 per month. In my research, I found many users switching to VoIP because they were paying a lot more than that.
I think this is how people “cut their phone bill in half” by switching to VoIP. They were getting dragged over the coals by their current phone provider. For people with a reasonable phone bill, the savings may not be so dramatic.
“It’s not some magic savings,” Gregg told us. “You’ll be saving a little, but not as much as you would think with your monthly phone service.”
But, since you’re probably going to be paying per-phone, even a $10 savings each month will add up quickly. The more intelligently you can select a provider, the greater your savings will be.
Let’s run through how to assess the sticker price, the real price, and everywhere you can cut costs by finding a system that fits your business.
Gregg said VoIP costs about $25 per user per month on average, which is basically what I found in my research. This is if you are paying for the phones outright or using softphones. If you’re renting desk phones, it’s typically about $10 per month extra, bringing the cost of VoIP to about $35 per user each month.
Call it $40 per month after taxes and fees. It’s not providers padding the bill, just the unavoidable government-mandated surcharges for the Universal Service Fund, which brings telecom to rural parts of the country and supports 911 emergency numbers.
Now you are definitely going to see VoIP for cheaper than $25 per line. I’ve included simple VoIP solutions like Phone.com and OpenPhone that are less than half that.
Typically, the tradeoff with the really low cost plans is that you’re getting a set block of minutes per month, whereas plans of $25+ tend to come with unlimited calling in North America.
For sales, customer service, and other use cases that require people on the horn all day, unlimited calling is a must-have. When you go over your set block of minutes, your VoIP savings can disappear.
If you are using auto dialer software over VoIP, you really need to avoid per-minute pricing. Makan did the math out during our conversation: if you have 100 employees expected to make 200 calls a day, you’re looking at 100,000 minutes per week. That’s way too much call volume to survive being billed by the minute.
Some providers, like RingCentral, Ooma, and Nextiva, offer plans in the $20 range for unlimited calling. So you can pay below average, but not have to worry about massive overage charges.
Another factor that can potentially lower the total cost of VoIP is understanding the licensing. For instance, is it going to cost you extra to add an extension? Are you paying per user, per line, per call path? Vendors don’t all charge the same way.
Gregg cautioned us that a lot of people don’t understand exactly how they’re paying in the contract. They go to customize something on their end, thinking it’s free, and then get shocked when the bill comes at the end of the month.
With Grasshopper, even the cheapest plan they offer comes with three extensions for free. This is great for a small business that wants one line for a few departments, or a startup that needs a basic phone tree.
Phone.com costs less to add a new number than Grasshopper, but you don’t get free extensions. The different arrangements can be confusing, but if you take the time to understand what you need, you can play it to your advantage.
If you are really trying to get VoIP on a budget, Jason warned us that you have to be a little cautious. It’s really easy to spin up a VoIP company these days—the technology is not new—and he laid out some horror stories of badd apple vendors pretending to offer reputable service and dropping clients as soon as they get their money.
“And since it takes about 30 days to port over a number, you’re kind of out of luck if that happens,” he said. The U.S. Department of Justice has prosecuted these cases, clawing back millions of dollars from phony VoIP fraud schemes.
Better to be safe than sorry, and use a VoIP provider like Grasshopper or Ooma that’s been around awhile. Or, a household name like RingCentral that is a publicly traded company. “I can’t imagine they would dump you in 10 days or anything like that,” Jason said.
You can get VoIP infrastructure installed in your office (on premises), or use the internet to connect to the service (cloud-based). Either way, you’re paying less than you would for a traditional phone line, but there are important differences to understand.
There is a much higher initial cost of equipment if you go with an on-premises deployment. You have to buy the PBX, phones, routers, switches, etc., whereas a cloud-based provider hosts all of that themselves.
You can buy desk phones with a cloud-based solution and many people do. But, you don’t have to so long as you outfit employees with a softphone or a VoIP mobile app.
“When it’s cloud-based, you don’t have the big outlay,” said Gregg. “But you’re not really missing out by not getting the equipment because these systems come with a ton of functionality.” Some of the key capabilities he talked about were:
These are four of the top reasons why I only recommended cloud-based solutions.
Like any solution someone else is hosting, you do sacrifice a little backend control. You are limited to the features they provide, whereas an on-premises system can be completely customized to fit your exact needs.
But the end user can do the vast majority of what they need to with Ooma or Grasshopper. A shop-owner with zero IT experience can add an extension for a new employee or make changes to information about holiday hours provided by their auto attendant.
Most people get the control they need without the responsibility that comes with maintaining a system. If you need hundreds of phones and super customized configuration, an on-premises system may be your only option. That’s going to require IT overhead—hiring an MSP like Gregg to install, maintain, monitor, and replace your equipment—or hiring an in-house staff.
For many business owners, it would be a dream not to stress about the phones. The cloud-based providers I looked at offered nearly 100% uptime, and some offer financially-backed SLAs.
Like Gregg told my team, “You’re not so worried about the end at the main office being up at all times because your employees are connecting directly to the cloud-based server.”
The simplicity here is even more important if people are telecommuting or working out of the office a few days a week. It’s much harder to secure communications between external users and an on-premises system.
I’ll say more about that in the security section, but modern employees need access to company services at all hours. As such, cloud-based is becoming a lot more popular.
Greg told us flat out, “If you’re SMB in the ten phones range—give or take—it’s not worth it to do on-prem anymore.”
Larger companies will have more to think about, but VoIP providers like Nextiva, RingCentral, and Ooma can help you get set up regardless of what kind of deployment you need. With these vendors, you can really get the best of both worlds or make the transition to cloud at your own pace.
Calls have to be clear. You can’t compromise on that, or you’ll wish you had your landline whatever the price.
So how do you make sure your setup handles VoIP?
Here’s the nuts and bolts of what I found: VoIP is not going to work on DSL. Cable might be okay for a small office, but it won’t be the greatest.
Fiber is what you want. It has the bandwidth you need and the upload/download speeds are the same, unlike cable.
Everyone we talked to about VoIP told us that running low on bandwidth is going to start causing issues—dropped calls, echoing on the line, and terrible conversations.
Here’s the thing, VoIP doesn’t need a blazing fast connection.
Gregg said that 100 kbps is good. 140 kbps is “like the most ideal, pristine phone call.”
So, if you’re on a 1 mbps line, you could potentially make ten phone calls. “Granted, you always wanna overcompensate for fall offs and whatnot, but that’s all you need speed wise,” he added.
Nextiva and RingCentral have VoIP plans aimed at smaller companies that don’t have commercial office infrastructure. They will let you test your connection right on their website. You’ll get all the information you need to figure out if you’re ready for VoIP, or you need to upgrade your internet first.
We’re not talking about a massive pipe here, the problems you run into are the stability of the connection. If you’re downloading a song, who cares if it takes two or three extra seconds? You wouldn’t notice. But when you’re having a conversation, even a slight delay is going to be a huge pain.
Any delay over 150 ms (that’s milliseconds) and your meaningful conversation is now impossible. For reference, a call over a landline has a delay of about 45 ms, so 150 is definitely the upper limit of what you want.
Any higher than that, you’re talking over someone or they missed what you said.
Making cold calls, helping an irate customer—it’s hard enough already. No one wants to repeat what they’ve said. And it’s not going to be good if someone mishears a credit card number.
“Where it becomes an issue,” said Gregg, “is if you have a cable modem that only has 5 mbps on your upstream, and everybody in the office is uploading stuff to Dropbox, OneDrive, and things like that, eating up that bandwidth.”
Remember the dark days where someone couldn’t be on the internet and the phone at the same time? Don’t go back. Make sure you’ve got the bandwidth to accommodate all of your users with all of their tasks.
Now you can have all the bandwidth in the world and still get bad VoIP quality if your network isn’t configured properly.
Small businesses don’t have to worry so much about this. According to Gregg, “If you only have five phones, maybe even as high as 10 phones, sure you could just dump them in on a network.”
He advised running a separate VLAN for anything beyond 10 phones in a single location in order to avoid quality issues. Separate the phones from the computers and prioritize voice traffic in the routers. This way, whatever your employees are doing won’t affect the quality of your calls.
Even with the so-called “plug and play” systems, you’re going to want to put some thought into network configuration if you are putting in more than 10 phones. “I mean you can just plug them in,” said Gregg, “but I wouldn’t be too hopeful about the quality.”
But it’s not just phones to think about. “The fax machines in the conference rooms really threw me for a loop,” Jason explained. “I’m like: I’m just buying a phone system!”
You have to be methodical. Where do the phone lines need to go? Are they connected to the security system? If you have PoE, you can just plug the ethernet cable into the phones, but if not, you’ll have to make sure there’s power running everywhere you want a station.
With a cloud-based service, you’re going to have to let the vendor behind your firewall.
Jason had an issue where one of his guys missed a key thing about the firewall requirements, and it delayed his VoIP deployment by about six months. “I was not too happy,” was all he said about that.
If you have a lot of traditional phones and fax machines that you want to keep using, I’d recommend Nextiva, RingCentral, or Ooma. They offer analog telephone adapters (ATAs) that allow you to VoIP-enable landline devices.
This allows you to phase out your old system gradually, instead of trying to Hercules your company through a massive (and much more expensive) transformation. It’s going to be painful to switch no matter what, but how long can you justify investing more money in an old PBX that’s twice as hard to use for half the functionality?
One last thing about using old phones. It’s great if you can use what you have or get a deal somewhere rather than going through the vendor.
Yet Gregg has encountered problems with aging phones. Hackers will try and log into the phones to start making spam calls. “We were seeing upwards of 100,000 attempts a day on a single phone system,” he recalled. The processors on the older phones weren’t powerful enough to withstand all the incoming requests, and the attack crashed the system.
So, definitely be on the lookout for deals and try to make the most with the equipment you already own. But just be cautious about buying a phone that has an older processor, because it might be a vulnerability.
Plus, when you buy a phone directly from your VoIP vendor, it’s pre-provisioned. It’s got a secure connection out of the box. When you start piecemealing things, you may lose that desirable plug-and-play functionality.
Cloud-based VoIP gives you complete freedom to go remote with ease. Connecting external users to an on-premises system has a lot more hurdles in terms of cost and security.
But even if you go cloud, which I highly recommend, there are a few things to be thinking about.
Remote workers need a solid internet connection for VoIP. When Jason hires someone working from home, the job post says they have to have a locked and secure WiFi.
He also has them take a speed test to make sure that their connections are robust enough to be able to take phone calls. He requires a minimum of 20 mbps download and 10 mbps upload.
It’s just a generic speedtest, nothing fancy. He sends them the link, they send back screenshots to verify. Jason said most people “blow those upload/download times out of the water,” but you need to be sure.
With telecommuting employees, you also have to think about training and management at a distance. I know I’ve said that the premium VoIP plans from vendors like RingCentral and Nextiva are aimed at the call center crowd. Well it’s also true that those features become really important for collaboration when there is no office.
Sharing documents within the platform, like phone scripts, or the ability for a manager to listen in on a new hire’s first live calls—you can provide more support to develop your employees, even when people are working from home.
For a small team, OpenPhone can work really well. People can share an inbox, tag calls, leave comments, and ensure that no opportunities are missed.
People love to be able to work on the go, even if they’re not fully remote. One thing that surprised Jason was how important the mobile app was to the executives. They wanted everything forwarded to their cell.
Mobile apps are great, but they’re not without their downsides. Gregg said VoIP on mobile was great for saving money, but he wasn’t so keen on it as a full-time stand-in for using a computer or desk phone. “It’s nice in a pinch,” he said, “but if you wanna watch a cell phone battery drain out before your eyes, that’s a great way to go.”
My team asked Jason what the biggest thing you can do to help reps and agents is, and he said integration with your CRM.
This was a tune we heard from everyone, and it dovetails with my own experience. CRM software is a total game changer when it comes to growing your business and providing service to customers.
Look for a VoIP phone service that has integration with your CRM. If you don’t have one, Nextiva and PhoneBurner have one built in that you can start using immediately.
The technology’s not new by any means, but CRM software has gotten really good in the last couple of years, and a lot less expensive. When you combine a CRM’s ability to track customer information with quality voice communication, the resulting experience for your employees is amazing.
A customer calls and their account information pulls right up on screen. There’s no digging for a file or asking for a customer to provide their name, ID, order number, etc.
Sarkar talked with us about how it increased his sales reps’ efficiency. “You get to have more conversations by cutting out the extra time you spend figuring out who’s calling.”
Really, every interaction is streamlined, which makes your reps and agents way more productive. If a customer has an order, the rep can see where it is. There are no extra steps to verify who’s calling, or ask them to dig up a purchase order number.
Saving seconds on every repetitive task adds up quickly. Employees can click-to-dial numbers within the CRM. Account information is centralized and agents can leave notes about calls. Everything is stored in a way that makes sense.
Makan put it well when he said, “Compared to a traditional phone system, voice over IP integrated with the CRM is hands down like: before iPhone [versus] after iPhone.”
The ability to record calls within the CRM was a huge factor for a lot of the people we spoke with. “In the past,” Jason said, “the systems that I’ve had for recording were kind of separate from the CRM, so I had to go chase that down. If somebody called in, I’d have to be like who do you talk to? When did you call? And that would be kind of a nightmare.”
When Jason moved to a new VoIP provider, integration with their CRM was the deciding factor. His company communicated on so many channels, all of which are recorded. The integration makes the process of listening back much easier.
“If you complain about a rep or something like that,” Jason said, “I can take your phone number, plug it in, and find every single call you’ve ever made over the last year, every chat, every email, every contact. It’s super simple. [It] saves me on time tracking down calls.”
For Makan, call recording was essential for assessing employee performance. “Traditionally, you give someone a dummy phone,” he said. “You don’t know how many calls they made, who they talked to, or what the level of conversation was.”
With VoIP, you can do quality control much easier. Listening back to the calls is easy. What went right? What could be improved? Identify who needs training and who’s not a good fit.
Makan explained how it really helps managers conserve their time and energy for quality candidates. They know who to invest in and who to send on their way. “I mean, you can tell in like 60-90 days. Any excuse they give, you can just listen to the quality of the calls.”
Be on the lookout for VoIP providers that showcase direct integrations with your CRM (and other software, for that matter). You absolutely have to demo it to see how that integration drives and works on a day-to-day level. If you want that “super simple” experience Jason was talking about for recording calls, the integration has to be tight.
Also be aware that the initial setup of your CRM and VoIP is going to take some time, especially if you are tying in multiple channels like talk, text, and chat. You need to customize it to fit your industry and use-case because the software is fairly general purpose out of the box.
“You can really geek out on it,” said Makan, “and that’s the challenge.”
Sarkar was a big fan of sales engagement platforms because they have the CRM built-in and they are already tuned for the job. Obviously you don’t want to use them for customer service, but something like PhoneBurner is going to supercharge a sales team with a lot less configuration required.
There are a lot of regulations protecting consumers from getting robo-calls or having their credit card information stolen. So if you are making a lot of calls or taking financial information over the phone, there’s going to be telemarketing and privacy laws you don’t want to mess with.
I’m glad those regulations are there, but new hires (or just plain carelessness) can break a law by accident and get your company a heavy fine. I found that a single call to someone on the national Do-Not-Call registry could result in a five-figure penalty.
A single slip up could cost anywhere from $11,000 to $43,000. And that’s per call, as in you could get multiple fines if one of your employees screws up. If it happens multiple times, I doubt the government’s going to hit you with a smaller fine.
Or think about HIPAA compliance for healthcare providers. Accidentally exposing a patient’s protected health information can result in jail time. This is true even if the company didn’t know a violation had occurred.
And yet companies make calls and share private information all the time without going bankrupt or winding up in the slammer. This is because they use good VoIP providers that make compliance convenient for employees. Your agents get the proper tools so that they can focus on the customer instead of how to stay in the clear of arcane compliance laws.
Regardless of how big a business you are, if you are making a lot of outbound calls (especially if you’re using auto dialer software), you need to update your DNC list and use it to scrub those numbers from your call lists.
RingCentral, Nextiva and include easy-to-use features to make sure your DNC list is up to date. PhoneBurner has integrations with DNC.com in order to keep people safe.
Makan, whose agents made thousands of calls a week, said that Zoho CRM in conjunction with RingCentral was the cheapest possible way to set your employees up for success. You just have to keep up on your DNC list grooming, “because that’s something you’re gonna run into a lot, and they need to scrub the numbers that they call up.”
Recording calls is another area where compliance is important. These laws vary state to state. In New York, you don’t have to tell people the call is being recorded. In New Jersey, you do.
Products like RingCentral let you automatically notify people that the call is being recorded, so you’re covered. This allows your teams to think less about how to make legal calls.
Jason told us about one of the features that sold him on going with their VoIP provider. It’s illegal to record credit card numbers, so employees need to remember to pause the recording while they take that information.
“And as you can imagine,” he said, “if you take 1,000 or 1,500 calls a month, you’re bound to forget that a couple of times, or miss it, or forget to pause, or forget to unpause, which is a big no-no in our area.”
The VoIP service he chose automated this process within their CRM so employees didn’t have to think about it. As soon as their cursor was in the payment info box, the call stopped recording.
“So my reps don’t have to remember to turn that off, and that’s just super easy,” Jason said. “I don’t have to worry about PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliance. I don’t have to worry about, ‘Hey, if you forget, tell me so I can go delete the call out of the system.’ What if we delete the wrong call?”
Take every opportunity you can to automate compliance. The potential liabilities from a single oversight are enough to justify the cost of spending a little more each month on your VoIP, CRM, and training.
No one wants to pay for $20,000 worth of phone calls they didn’t make. That’s what happened to a client of Gregg’s before they properly secured their VoIP. Someone hacked it and used it to start blasting out scam calls.
Security is a major concern for any internet-based service, and VoIP is no exception.
It’s pretty straightforward for on-premises systems if all your phones are in one location. Set rules in your router so that no one can connect to the phone system except the phone service provider.
Gregg said, “As long as that’s configured you’re solid, and you can’t get hacked because the traffic can’t get there from anybody else.”
Securing an on-premises system gets a lot harder if you have people working from home, which is why a lot of companies are opting to go the cloud-based VoIP route. Residential addresses don’t have static IP addresses, so you can’t set rules in your router.
“The only appropriate way to do it is using a VPN service,” explained Gregg. “If you leave the ports open so that anyone can connect, you’ll see that the phone system will get hammered constantly.”
With cloud-based VoIP, the provider is ensuring that the right people are calling into their system. You still have to maintain good security hygiene at your company—long passwords, principle of least privilege, and de-provisioning old accounts.
These last two points are really important. You need to make sure that employees only have access to the data that they absolutely need. If possible, they should have read-only access. And when employees leave, you have to de-provision them.
For one thing, you don’t want to pay for old accounts that aren’t in use. If you have high turnover, be careful to re-use old numbers you’re already paying for, rather than buying extra ones. You don’t want to be shocked by a bill that has dozens of lines you’re not using.
“People need to be aware of sabotage,” said Makan. “If you get a disgruntled employee, they can wipe out the database, if you don’t back it up. Or they copy it. Or they just start corrupting the numbers and changing things in there.”
If you adhere to the principle of least privilege and are on top of booting old users out of the system completely, the risk of sabotage is near zero. If not, you’re putting your data integrity in jeopardy.
VoIP phone services like RingCentral, Nextiva, and Ooma make it easy for administrators to keep track of who has what privileges. You won’t need an infosec credential to keep all the accounts locked down.
If you need a full-fledged VoIP platform on the cheap, consider Phone.com.
Grasshopper is great if you’re more worried about having enough different extensions instead of unique, dedicated phone lines.
Need something that’s more suited to support your sales teams’ efforts. Look at PhoneBurner for a sales engagement platform that includes an auto dialer.
If you’re a solo operator or just someone who is sick of having to use your personal number for running your business, OpenPhone gives you an easy and cheap way to get a professional number and VoIP service.
So, to recap all my top picks:
Regardless of the route you go, don’t forget to consider your requirements, budget, and the criteria we talked about as you go through the process of choosing the best VoIP phone service for your business.
Have you used a VoIP service provider in the past? What was your experience like?
If you want to build an app for your business, you face a dilemma.
Should you opt for a traditional centralized app, or turn to a decentralized platform? More importantly, what is the difference between the two and why does it mean for your business?
There’s no straightforward answer to this question; it really depends on your goals and what you need the app to do.
I’ll walk you through the differences between both app types so you can decide how to move forward with your marketing and development goals.
Centralized apps are operated and owned by a single company, and they run off a single server, or cluster of servers.
How it works is simple: Someone downloads a copy of the app, and the app works by sending and receiving information from this server.
In other words, the app won’t work unless it’s in contact with this server. If the centralized server crashes, the app stops working across user devices until the problem is fixed.
Examples of centralized apps include:
A decentralized app, or “dApp,” runs on a blockchain network. Rather than downloading an app, the user pays the developer a certain amount of cryptocurrency to download a “smart contract,” or source code.
The code generates a whole new copy of the app on the user’s device, which creates a new “block” in the chain.
Here are some examples of decentralized apps:
Centralized apps have a few distinct advantages over dApps. As the developer, you retain full control over the app and how it’s used. Centralized apps can generally handle higher traffic volumes.
What’s more, it’s much easier to update a centralized app since the update is sent automatically to the user’s device.
All that said, there are some downsides. If there’s a system error, no one can use the app until the problem is resolved, which might inconvenience your customers. Additionally, you might incur higher cybersecurity costs because you need to protect the main server.
Decentralized apps definitely have their advantages, depending on what you need from your app.
First, as there’s no single server, users won’t lose access to the app if your server goes down. Second, since there’s no centralized storage, user data won’t be compromised if there’s a data breach or hacking attempt.
From a marketing perspective, this could incentivize people to choose dApps over centralized apps.
Still, dApps come with a few drawbacks.
Your target audience is smaller, since cryptocurrency and blockchain aren’t “mainstream” technologies yet. What’s more, as dApp transactions are often slower and more expensive than centralized transactions, so you might find it hard to draw people to your dApp in the short term.
Finally, since there’s no centralized rollout, it’s much harder to fix bugs or update the software across user devices.
Only you can answer this question. However, there are two points to consider when weighing your options.
Don’t rush the decision. Spend time thinking through your options and what your company and customers need in the short and long term. If you need some extra help with your decision-making, check out my consulting services.
There’s a ton of great information out there around how to build a centralized app, but it’s hard to know which ones actually work. Here are my five top app building resources to get you started:
Ready to dive into building your first decentralized app? Read these resources before you get started.
If you’ve settled on a centralized app for your business, here’s a rundown of the basic steps to create your own.
First, decide if you’re building an app for Android or iOS. The process is similar for both, but you need to settle on a platform at the outset. Remember, you can always expand later.
A wireframe mockup is just a sketch or skeleton outline of your app. You can use tools like Adobe XD to help with wireframe design. Here’s an example of what it looks like if you’re building a wireframe on Adobe XD:
Once you’ve got a mockup, do some user mapping. All you’re doing is mapping what different actions users will take on the app, such as creating an account, making payment, etc. and what screens they’ll pass through to get there.
Next, get some user feedback on your wireframe and proposed mapping. Is your mockup clunky and disorganized, or is it user-friendly with a clear flow from one screen to the next? Do the colors and text stand out, or is it boring and unengaging?
Reflect on feedback and make changes where appropriate.
If you use Adobe XD for the wireframe, you can import it straight into Justinmind:
You can also include A/B testing as part of your prototyping, if this works for you.
Now it’s time to actually build your app. If you don’t know how to code, either hire a freelance app designer, consult an agency, or download your own mobile app building tool.
Before you go live, share your app with your marketing team, colleagues, and even friends and family. Does it work as it should, or have you identified a few bugs? By running final tests, you can make tweaks before the app launches in the real world.
Create an account on your chosen app store. Complete your app listing using the details you figured out earlier, add some screen captures to show how your app works, and go live.
For those new to dApp development, the easiest way to get started is by building on Ethereum, so that’s what we’ll work through.
First, you need to install what’s called a Node Package Manager. This will allow you to create the open-source codes and files you need to set up a dApp.
You’ll also need Git, which helps you save and track changes you make to your dApp.
The stack is essentially the Ethereum framework you’ll use to build your dApp. There are a few to choose from, depending on your experience level and development needs. The easiest stack, or development framework, to start with is Truffle.
Next, we need to install Truffle. Open your Node Package Manager and type “npm install truffle -g” to do this:
Once you’ve installed and launched Truffle, it’s time to start writing your smart contracts, or the codes containing your various dApp commands. On Ethereum, the easiest tool to use for this is Ganache, which is part of the Truffle suite.
Whenever you create a new code, you need to pay a certain amount of “gas,” or cryptocurrency, to the “miners” who process blockchain transactions. The more complex your coding, the more you pay, so keep codes simple where possible. Ethereum has tutorials to help with this.
Don’t launch your dApp until it’s tested. Once you launch your codes, you can’t change them, so use the Truffle suite to run some preliminary tests first. The simplest command to run is “$ truffle test,” but just be sure you’re running the right testing environment first.
Chances are, you made an Initial Coin Offering (IPO) to get your dApp off the ground, so there’s already some buzz generated around your project before it’s ready to launch. However, you still need to dedicate resources to marketing if you want to draw new users, so consider putting a strategy in place before you launch.
Blockchain powers decentralized apps. Blockchain takes the control away from a centralized system and gives more power to users to innovate and enjoy the content.
An app that resides on a single server or group of servers. To work, the app must be connected to the server. Twitter is an example of a centralized network.
dApps, or decentralized apps, run on distributed networks rather than central servers. They have their own currency, so if users want to access premium features, they need to use cryptocurrency.
You can run a token launch, include a subscription element, offer a premium membership tier, or include in-app advertisements. The strategies are similar to how you monetize centralized apps.
Decentralized or centralized apps: which is better? In reality, neither! It all depends on how much control you want over your app in the long term, the size of your intended audience, and, to some extent, how you wish to market your mobile app.
Now that you understand the pros and cons of each, you should be ready to make a decision and start building your app.
Have you opted for a centralized or a decentralized app? How is it working for you so far? Is there anything you wish you’d known before getting started?
There are dozens of considerations entrepreneurs have to keep in mind when launching a new company, from the logo to the product to the packaging. The business name, however, may be the most important of all.
There are over 30 million small businesses in the U.S., according to the U.S Small Business Administration. That means you have to go above and beyond to stand out. The right name can help you do just that.
If you’re stuck on what to call your business or just want to make sure your chosen name ticks all the right boxes, I’m here to help.
In this article, I’ll cover my top tips for picking a winning business name, show some examples of what a great business name looks like, and even let you in on a sneaky way to get a load of business name ideas fast.
Your business name can be almost anything you want it to be. As long as it’s legal and isn’t already in use, you’re good to go. However, there are several best practices most legal and marketing experts agree on.
I recommend the following tips to make sure your business gets off to the best start possible.
I’d recommend going one step further and make sure it’s possible to trademark your brand name. You never know what the future will bring, after all. Even if you plan to keep your business small, I strongly recommend making sure it’s possible to copyright and trademark your brand.
Not doing so could land you in hot water years down the line. Just look at Apple. When Steve Jobs started the company, he chose Apple’s name because he was a fan of the Beatles (their recording label was called Apple Records).
There wasn’t any conflict initially because the two companies operated in completely separated industries. That was until Apple launched the iPod and the iTunes store, however. When they started operating in the same industry, Jobs quickly found himself saddled with a lawsuit.
This is a no-brainer, but it’s important to mention. Ideally, your business name will be unique and not used by any other business in existence. At the very least, it shouldn’t be used in any way by other companies operating in your industry.
A quick Google search can help you out here. If any results or domains come up that suggest another company is already using your name, either as a business name or as the name of one of their products, then it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
You want customers to have an idea of what your business does just by hearing your name. You don’t have to know anything about TripAdvisor to know it is in the travel industry or that Burger King sells burgers.
Don’t be so descriptive that your name is downright boring, however. Seattle Plumber Inc. isn’t exactly inspiring and doesn’t separate your brand from any other plumbers in the city. First Call Plumbing is much catchier and easier to remember.
Coming up with a brilliant business name is just the start. Before you can commit to it completely, make sure a matching domain name is available.
If it is, buy it.
If not, consider coming up with another business name. Having a domain name that is the exact match of your brand can be a real boost, particularly when it comes to SEO.
If your heart is set on a specific name, then all is not lost. There are several strategies you can use if your domain name is unavailable. Adding extra words or extending the name of your brand in your URL is becoming increasingly common.
This is your chance to embrace your inner copywriter and let your imagination and creativity run wild. Don’t be afraid to make something up. Almost three-quarters (72 percent) of the best brand names use made-up words or acronyms.
There are a couple of reasons for that. Firstly, existing words already mean something to many of your potential customers. You’ll need to decide whether this is a good or bad thing. Second, competitors may well be using the same or similar words.
You’ll want your brand name to be accessible for everyone. That means no words that are impossible to pronounce when written down or easy to misspell.
While mixing up the letters or removing vowels from common words may look cool, it doesn’t help your customers find your business online. If customers can’t easily search for your business after hearing your name phonetically, there’s a good chance you’ll miss out on leads. You’ll also spend a lot of time spelling out your URL for customers.
One way to make sure your business name is different from everyone else operating in your area is to complete a Secretary of State Search. Most states have a way to do this easily online, so it’s simply a matter of visiting your state’s website and typing in your proposed name.
If in doubt, ask your attorney for help. I’d also recommend searching in Delaware, even if you don’t live in that state. Delaware is a haven for company registrations, and so searching there helps ensure no businesses anywhere else in the country have similar names.
Test your business name out on your friends and family and get their feedback before committing to it. While you may think you’ve looked at your name from every angle, there’s a chance you’ve missed something.
If you’re not sure about a business name yet, give people a shortlist of your ideas and ask them to pick their favorite. If everyone agrees on the same one, you may just have found your new name.
Make sure your business name doesn’t mean something offensive in another language or as a slang term.
No self-respecting business owner would want to insult potential customers. Yet dozens of businesses do this without knowing it because of their business name.
Just because your business name isn’t offensive in your own country doesn’t mean it’s inoffensive everywhere. Any language or cultural issues can spell bad news for companies wanting to expand abroad.
Luckily, it’s never been easier to check whether your business name is offensive or not. Just head over to WordSafety.com and enter your proposed name. The site will quickly find whether there are any potential issues.
Long, complicated business names are bad news. The shorter, catchier, and more memorable your name is, the better. Try to keep it under 20 characters for the sake of your URL and avoid combining more than three different words.
Tips and guidelines aren’t always enough to get the creative juices flowing. That’s why I’ve compiled five examples of great business names below, along with a description of what makes them so good.
Hopefully, these will give you a jumping-off point.
In a parallel universe, someone is currently searching for something on BackRub. That’s the name Google was initially called because of the backlinks it used to rank websites. Eventually, they settled on Googol, a mathematical term for a number with a million zeros in it. The final brand name of Google was the result of a spelling error by an employee.
In the end, it worked out brilliantly. The name is catchy, creative, and random. “Google” is also easier to spell, remember and pronounce than Googol too.
Whole Foods Market is the most descriptive name on this list, and that is part of the reason it’s so effective. It sends subtle signals that attract the brand’s target audience.
Choosing the word market rather than grocer or store was a stroke of genius in this regard. Market conjures up images of farmer’s markets and suggests the kind of well-off consumer Whole Foods’ targets.
Lego is a simplified portmanteau of the Danish words leg godt meaning “play well.” Brilliantly, Lego also means “I put together,” so the name works on two levels.
Not only is the name descriptive for the native Danish market, but it also sounds great in other languages and doesn’t have any additional meanings.
Caleb Davis Bradham, the inventor of Pepsi, originally called his concoction Brad’s Drink. Thankfully, he rebranded three years later. Pepsi is derived from the word dyspepsia, which means indigestion as Bradham believed the drink aided digestion.
Pepsi is way more creative and memorable than Brad’s Drink. Perhaps most importantly, the new name in no way infringed on Coca-Cola, created just a handful of years earlier.
Verizon was formed in 2000 by the merger of Bell Atlantic and GTE. The business name combines the Latin word for truth, veritas, and horizon to signify the new company’s honest and forward-thinking nature. It’s creative, it has meaning, and it’s definitely memorable!
If you’re still stuck, help is at hand in the form of business name generators. There are plenty of software tools to help entrepreneurs quickly brainstorm business names.
Here are some to try:
Shopify is famous for helping small business owners thrive. Coming up with a brand name is no different. Enter a keyword into the search bar, and Shopify will instantly spit out 100 business names you can create a store from today.
Bookkeeping software Freshbooks has a pretty comprehensive business name generator that tailors recommendations based on your industry.
Start your search by choosing whether you operate in creative and marketing, legal or business services, trade, and home services, or IT. Enter a keyword, and Freshbooks will serve up three suggestions. You can ask for more suggestions or change your keyword to get a different batch of names.
Namelix is a free AI-powered business name generator. Enter one or several keywords to get started, then filter suggestions by name, length, and style. There are hundreds of names to scroll through and a mix of basic and premium names. Premium recommendations come with a logo and domain name attached to make building a brand easier.
The right name can impact your SEO, branding, and customer perception. Would Google be where it is now if it was called Backrub? I don’t think so.
The business landscape is becoming more competitive every day, and a great business name can help your brand stand out.
Take inspiration from some of the great business names already out there, and use a business name generator if necessary. Just make sure your business name sets you up for long-term growth.
What are you going to call your new business? Let me know in the comments!
Call recording software is a useful tool for businesses and individual users alike.
From quality assurance to employee training, compliance, record-keeping, dispute resolution, and more, there are dozens of reasons why organizations can benefit from recording calls.
But there are so many different call recording solutions on the market today. It can be a challenge to find one that fits into your workday. You don’t want to have to re-do everything just to record calls.
And you also don’t want to pay for a million features you’re never going to use.
Use this guide to learn more about my top picks and methodology for finding the best call recording software for you.
Talkdesk is a modern cloud contact center solution. One of the main benefits of using this platform for business communication is the built-in call recording capabilities.
With Talkdesk, you’ll gain deeper customer insights with encrypted screen and voice recordings.
By synchronizing the playback of voice and screen recordings, you’ll have more context for evaluating customer interactions with your support team. This also makes it easier to ensure compliance and provide your agents with in-depth feedback on their performance.
The software has a feature called Talkdesk Speech Analytics. The tool is perfect for analyzing calls based on customer sentiment, keywords, topics, and more.
Some of the other key features and benefits of using Talkdesk for call recordings include:
Talkdesk even has tools for quality assurance. Admins can add time-stamped annotations to recorded calls and fill out scorecards to improve agent performance. All of this can be managed from a simple and intuitive interface.
Request a demo to get started. Pricing for this contact center solution is based on the number of agents on your team.
Cube ACR is a smartphone app designed specifically for Android devices. It has 10+ million installs worldwide.
In addition to cell phone calls, this simple tool makes it easy to automatically record calls from VoIP platforms like Skype, WhatsApp, Viber, Telegram, WeChat, LINE, Slack, Hangouts, and more.
For such a basic app, Cube ACR has surprisingly good recording quality, and you can clearly hear both sides of the conversation. Just customize your settings to enable VoIP calls, automatic recordings, and control storage backups via Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.
Cube ACR is always coming out with new updates to ensure recordings are stable and reliable.
Other noteworthy features and highlights of Cube ACR include:
If you want to mark an important part of the conversation, simply shake your phone, and Cube ACR will highlight that part of the call so that it’s easy to find later.
While the app is popular for individual use, the software has business-specific features as well. It integrates with certain business tools, has custom development, and offers special business licensing options.
The app is free and has a 4.3/5-star rating with 510,000+ reviews on the Google Play Store.
Callcap is a bit unique compared to some of the other software on my list. It’s not really a standalone call recording tool. This platform is branded as a call tracking and monitoring solution, but it does have call recording capabilities.
Marketers leverage Callcap to gain deeper insights into consumer behavior. Any business seeking an advanced solution beyond basic call recording should consider Callcap.
Callcap will automatically record all of your business calls. These recordings are available at any time. You can use them for agent training, employee recognition, lost opportunity analysis, disputes, and more.
All recordings are stored in the cloud and accessible from anywhere, and it is easy to share recordings with team members.
But Callcap takes these recordings to the next level with third-party monitoring services. Their trained analysts provide unbiased scoring for all inbound and outbound calls. The data from Callcap allows agents to improve, close more deals, and increase customer satisfaction.
Other benefits of Callcap include:
Callcap is not for everyone. If you just need a basic solution for recording calls, look elsewhere. But if you want one of the most advanced call recording and monitoring services on the market today, Callcap should be at the top of your list.
Rev is best known for its online audio transcription and video captioning services. It’s trusted by more than 170,000 customers worldwide, across industries like marketing, legal, media, education, and more.
But they also have an excellent iPhone app for recording calls.
This is a simple and straightforward solution for call recording. It’s a viable option for both personal and business use cases.
Here’s a quick overview of Rev’s key features:
Aside from the ability to transcribe and share, Rev is a no-frills solution for call recordings. It’s perfect for anyone who wants a free and simple way to record calls on their iPhone.
Aircall is more than just call recording software. It’s a complete cloud-based call center solution made for business teams.
You can set it up in seconds without any hardware, downloads, or headaches associated with traditional phone systems. Best of all, every Aircall plan comes with call recording capability.
If you just need a way to record calls on your existing phone system, Aircall probably won’t be a viable option. This software is designed for businesses that need a completely new phone system. The call recording features are just some of the many perks you’ll get with an Aircall subscription.
Some features of Aircall include:
Aircall has additional services for things like call monitoring, call whispering, and call analytics. These advanced features are not available on the entry-level plan.
Pricing starts at $30 per month per user, and you can try it for free for seven days.
Kixie PowerCall is another all-in-one business phone solution. It’s a top choice for remote teams looking for a simple way to manage calls.
This robust Chrome extension can be installed in seconds on Mac, Windows, and Chromebook devices. All Kixie PowerCall plans come with call recording capabilities.
As a Chrome browser extension, it’s easy for agents to make and receive calls from anywhere. Recordings can be managed with a single click, and the software is ready to use out of the box.
Since Kixie PowerCall is an all-in-one phone system, you’ll also benefit from features like:
Like some of the other software on our list, Kixie PowerCall is better for teams that need a complete business phone solution. If you just want basic call recording features on your existing phone service, you’ll find other options more suitable for your needs.
You get 300 free minutes when you try Kixie PowerCall free for seven days.
A lot of the best call recording options available come as part of wider business phone solutions. When it comes to getting voice and video with all the features you’d need—including call recording—you can’t beat Ooma Office Pro.
I usually save the pricing information for towards the end of these reviews, but here it’s lede: Ooma Office Pro is just $24.95/user per month.
That sort of pricing for the feature set you get usually requires you to have 20 or more users. Ooma offers just one flat price, which makes it great for teams of any size to update their calling capabilities.
Here’s just a sampling of that feature set:
Plus, call recording is adaptable for automatic and on-demand recording. And they’re all stored in your call logs automatically.
Keep in mind, you’ll need to sign up for Ooma Office Pro, as the standard Ooma Office plan does not come with recording features.
If you need a more customizability and analytical capability in the form of a full UCaaS solution, you can step up to Ooma Enterprise for just a few bucks more—$27.99/user per month.
Ooma also offers device flexibility—their mobile app allows you to call from anywhere, but they also sell equipment like traditional desk phones and base stations.
For customer service, sales, or even the legal and medical fields, Ooma Office Pro is a modern business phone solution that will give you the call recording features you need for compliance and improvement.
In a large company, a lot of different people need to use call recording for a lot of different reasons. And Nextiva is the business calling solution built to handle the strain.
Think of a huge customer service team—dozens of people need to touch the software, from the reps recording their calls to the customer service and HR managers who will use them to run quality assurance, employee evaluations, and training.
Multiply that by the number departments in your office, then again by the number of offices in your organization…
You can see how call recording frequency and storage needs add up quickly.
With the Enterprise and Ultimate plans of Nextiva One (their voice and video service), you get unlimited recording of both calls and video conferences. Plus, both plans accommodate an unlimited number of users, so everyone can utilize the recording features and access (if you grant it) saved recordings.
Plus, you unlock advanced features of Nextiva’s overall calling service, like advanced voice call analytics, and custom productivity reporting.
When you think about it, it all comes together nicely. Call recording for anything from training to stakeholder meetings can be used in tandem with the analytics, reporting, and Nextiva’s built-in team messaging and collaboration tools to spur improvement everywhere in your organization. And at scale.
What seals the deal for Nextiva is the price point for large teams. The Enterprise plan—which includes everything I’ve described above—is $31.95/user per month for 100 or more users.
That’s a better value and feature set for teams that large than just about anybody else out there.
Want to get started? Reach out to Nextiva and schedule a demo today.
Whether you’re using recordings for training, posterity, note-taking, or anything else, what good are they if you can’t access and store them easily?
If you choose RingCentral Office for your team messaging, video conferencing, and phone system, you get generous call recording limits and an excellent dashboard for managing them.
You get the full suite of communication tools, plus features like:
RingCentral allows storage of 100,000 call recordings per account, kept for up to 90 days. That’s a nice allowance without even getting into their tool for organizing and storing recordings.
That would be the RingCentral Archiver, a clean, easy-to-use dashboard for viewing and accessing all call recordings in your organization.
In it, you can see recordings, voicemails, and SMS messages all at once, see the numbers they came from, and when they were made or received.
You can easily connect the Archiver to Dropbox, Smarsh, or Google Drive, allowing you to easily sync and backup recordings on your cloud storage. That way you can save any recordings that may be about to hit the 90-day expiration date.
Automatic call recording and the Archiver only come on RingCentral’s Premium and Ultimate plans. You can utilize on-demand call recording on the Standard plan, but you won’t have many options for accessing, storing, or downloading them.
RingCentral Premium is the best plan for most businesses wanting voice, video, messaging, recording, and easy archiving. Pricing for that package scales based on the number of users:
For teams of 50 or fewer, you can even try it out for 15 days with RingCentral’s free trial.
There are certain factors that I looked for while narrowing down the top recommendations on my list. You can use this methodology as well when shopping around comparing different tools side-by-side. Consider this as your buying guide for call recording software.
Why are you seeking a call recording solution?
The answer to this question will help narrow down your options. Some tools are better for sales and marketing, while others are better for training, management, monitoring, and quality assurance.
There are smartphone apps for call recording for personal use and full-scale business phone solutions with built-in call recording features.
The type of calls you’re recording will impact your decision as well. Some solutions only support traditional calls, while others support WhatsApp call recording, Skype call recording, and other third-party platforms.
Do you want every inbound and outbound call to be recorded automatically? Or would you prefer to control if and when a recording starts and stops?
The ability to choose between on-demand and automated recording is definitely something to keep in mind as you’re shopping around.
For large-scale business use, automatic recording will probably be your best option. It’s one less step your staff has to think about during a call. But for personal use, you probably don’t need to record every single call you make or receive.
Live monitoring is a crucial tool for call centers. In addition to recording the call, this feature allows managers or admins to listen in on calls in real-time.
Overall, this is a proactive way to improve quality assurance.
Some software takes QA one step further by providing call evaluation metrics. There are tools out there that can use recordings for sentiment analysis, conversion insights, and more to provide advanced scoring grades for each call.
Security needs to be a top priority for conversations that include sensitive information. Examples include credit card information, medical information, personal details, and more.
Certain businesses must follow industry-wide regulations to ensure compliance. Make sure the software you’re considering meets all necessary regulations, even if it’s something as simple as notifying the caller about the recording and giving them the option to opt-out.
Another factor to consider is to assess the way recorded calls are stored and accessed from platform to platform.
What type of storage restrictions does each plan have? How easy is it to access, organize, and listen to those recordings at a later time?
For example, let’s say you’re dealing with a customer dispute. A customer claims that they never gave your staff permission to charge their credit card over the phone. Can you quickly locate that recorded call to find out what happened?
The best call recording storage systems are searchable and well-organized.
Call recording software comes in different shapes and sizes. The best option for you will depend on your unique wants and needs.
I’ve made suggestions in my reviews of the top products:
Consider a smartphone app or standalone call recording tool for simple call recordings. More advanced call recording software will come with features for screen recordings, call monitoring, and customer insights. Choose an all-in-one business phone system to get features that go above and beyond just call recording.
Regardless of your call recording needs, you can find what you’re looking for using my recommendations listed in this guide.
Every business wants to feel like its customers and employees are happy. After all, it’s human nature to want to be loved, right?
However, “making people happy” isn’t just a nice-to-have. Doing so has real-world business benefits.
For instance, did you know customers will pay up to a 16-percent price premium and display greater loyalty if a company delivers an excellent experience? Or 63 percent of companies say retaining talent is harder than hiring?
What’s the common denominator between those statistics? They both demonstrate the value of feedback surveys.
By surveying your workforce or customer base, you can identify the things that are making them unhappy and take action to set them right. This means no more losing customers or talent to your biggest rivals.
I’ve already touched on a couple reasons why you should be using online survey creators to assess customer and employee sentiment, but there are lots more.
Here are online survey creator tool options, including how they work and their main features.
Increase your chances of asking the right question in the right way and at the right time by choosing up to eight question types and including 15 questions per survey. All surveys can be sent out via multiple channels, including email.
Qualtrics’s ExpertReview feature helps you hone in on the right question types and survey formats by giving you real-time recommendations and letting you choose from a wide selection of expert-built survey templates.
SoGoSurvey offers different options depending on the goal of your survey. For instance, customer experience surveys use APIs to automate feedback collection by hooking into your CRM, while responses are analyzed using natural language processing.
Choose the plan that fits your needs. If you just need to send basic surveys, you don’t need to pay for functionality like auto-translation and advanced skip logic.
SurveyMonkey is arguably the best-known online survey creator, and certainly one of the simplest to use. Set up an account for free and you can start building your first survey straight away.
Know how to use Google Drive? Then you know how to use Google Forms. Just log into Drive, click to create a new form, then choose from a prebuilt template or start from scratch.
In keeping with Google’s mobile-first ethos, Google Forms is responsive, making it easy to create surveys that look good and function smoothly on mobile devices.
Smartsheet is much more than a surveying tool. Rather, it’s a collaboration and work management platform that can be used to assign tasks, manage calendars, track progress, share documents, and much more. Surveys are just one part of the feature set.
Forms can be created to gather survey responses, then shared via email or hyperlink, or embedded in dashboards or webpages.
As the name suggests, Client Heartbeat is 100 percent geared toward measuring client satisfaction and improving retention. It’s a simple feedback tool that assesses happiness levels to identify unhappy customers.
Choose from a list of prebuilt questions already being used by brands in your industry, allowing you to compare your scores against those of your biggest competitors.
Zoho Survey is a highly customizable online survey creator, with extensive options for tailoring surveys to fit your brand and house style, plus the ability to choose from more than 25 question types.
Zoho offers multiple ways to send surveys, from the basics (like web links and email campaigns), to more advanced options like QR codes and private group access.
Qualaroo uses “Nudges” (a type of pop-up) to online survey creator customers when they’re on your website, rather than contact them down the line via email or some other channel.
Unique calls to action can be created based on the language used by surveyed customers thanks to sentiment analysis powered by IBM Watson. For instance, angry responses might automatically generate a task for the customer success team to get in touch.
SurveyPlanet is a simple, affordable online survey creator with an extremely robust free tier offering all the functionality you need to build unlimited basic surveys.
Unless you need advanced features like question branching (whereby users are asked different questions based on their previous responses), you’ll be just fine with the free version of SurveyPlanet.
Typeforms are customizable online survey creator forms that can be embedded on your website, launched in an email, or shared via hyperlink. Responses can be synced to Google Sheets, and notifications can be sent to other tools like Slack, so it’s easy to see when a response has been received.
Unlike a lot of the other tools in this list, Typeform is all about building stylish surveys. You can even add visual elements like images, videos, and GIFs to your forms.
Clearly, there are a lot of choices in the online survey creator market. Employee and customer satisfaction surveys are valuable, so if you’re not doing them now, pick a tool with a robust free tier and get going.
Once you’ve found an approach that works, feel free to switch things up by testing more advanced features, formats, and layouts.
What’s your favorite online survey creator? Think I’ve missed something? Let me know in the comments.