by : Kendra Webb-Scott
More and more businesses are turning to VoIP, but most of them have no clue what to look for in IP phones. In a recent study, market research firm In-Stat found that only 40 percent of IP PBX seats are deployed with IP phones--the majority are installed using traditional analog phones.
Because IP phones represent the largest chunk of the capital outlay required to implement a VoIP solution, cost control is a key issue that has kept businesses from making the shift. Unfortunately, these organizations could be missing out on the following enhanced features that could make a positive impact on day-to-day business operations:
1. Call Control: Have a sales team full of road-warriors? Or how about a busy executive who's constantly traveling to meetings? Instead of having to call in for voice mail messages, they can easily re-route incoming calls to a mobile phone using the call control features on an IP phone. This can usually be done with just the touch of a button. Can't get to the phone? No problem, since most VoIP solutions allow you to manage an entire system across multiple locations using a web-based portal.
2. Unified Messaging: The average worker can spend more than half of his workday away from the desk. Voicemail used to be a great tool for keeping in touch and following up on important information, but consider the time it takes these days to check multiple devices such as laptops, pagers, cell phones, and BlackBerrys. Using unified messaging, IP phones can send message alerts through your mobile phone, allow you to check voicemail over the Internet
using a web-portal or receive your messages as email attachments that can be saved for future reference. In fact, there's even technology that can transcribe these messages into text so that you never have to listen to voicemails again!
3. Company Directories: Many IP phones incorporate corporate directories that allow you to connect with colleagues, clients and important contacts faster than any Rolodex. By accessing listings stored in any database from your company's Microsoft Active Directory to your personal Microsoft Outlook contacts, IP Phones can allow you to search by first name, last name, company name, and phone number on the phone screen, eliminate duplicate records and filter searches to expose a subset of contacts.
4. Client Matter Codes (CMC):Does your line of work require you to keep track of billable hours? IP Phones can use CMC to force users to enter a code to specify calls relates to a particular client matter. Codes can be assigned to specific customers, routine tasks, or whatever else you want to keep track of for call accounting and billing purposes.
5. Color, Touch-Screen Display: Yes, the backlit, high-resolution, color touch-screen displays available on a number of IP phones do look cool, but they also provide practical benefits by providing more intuitive streamlined access to communications information, timesaving applications, and feature usage details. These features can be especially important for businesses in the retail, hospitality, education and government sectors.