Small businesses sometimes pay hundreds of dollars a month more than necessary for their telephony - thanks to inertia.
Many have a mish-mash of telephony services. It's not uncommon for small businesses to cut costs significantly following a telecommunications health check, says Kelly Blomfield, business account manager at Telecom Hub Southland.
One such organisation, insulation provider Awarua Synergy, inherited many different telecoms services from three different suppliers when it took over a local business.
"It was a mess," says Awarua Synergy's general manager Sumaria Beaton. "We were trying to merge with another organisation and we had mobile phones, landlines, 0800 numbers, fax and EFTPOS."
All of the services were combined into one single package by Blomfield using clever tricks to reduce costs. For example all of the landlines needed to be retained, but instead of paying monthly line rental, the old numbers became virtual landlines, that redirected to the main switchboard.
Beaton says her organisation's accountant was impressed by the savings.
Business customers often simply don't know what's available to them, says Blomfield. Other benefits include a reduction in the number of missed calls, and an increase in business efficiency.
Many small businesses don't keep up with the telecommunication services available to them. Some of these services save money, others make the business more efficient. They include:
Free calls and transfers to mobiles: Landline customers often don't realise they can transfer calls through to staff mobile phone numbers for free - or divert calls through automatically on Telecom's BusienssTime plan. If both landline and mobile are on the same Telecom account those transfers are free. This is particularly advantageous for businesses that have staff members out on the road.
Virtual landlines: Small business customers are often wary of calling businesses that have mobile phone numbers only. However Telecom business customers that have mobile phone packages of $100 or more a month can get a free virtual landline that diverts to their mobile - creating the impression of a larger organisation.
Dual numbers: For very small or home-based businesses it's possible to get two phone numbers that run through one landline. The business person may have two businesses running through the same landline, or want a different number for home and business calls. One number can be diverted to another phone or call minder, whilst the other is still active. Dual numbers cost between $2.50 and $4 a month, which is significantly cheaper than having two phone lines.
Faxability and FaxAddress: Faxing may be dying, but many businesses still need the ability to receive faxes. Faxability is very similar to dual numbers in that it provides a different ringtone for faxes, which enables your machine to recognise and incoming fax and pick the call up. Another useful service for business people who are often on the road is FaxAddress, which delivers faxes to a mailbox, which can be accessed from a fax machine, smartphone, or personal computer.
3 way calling: cheaper than conference calls, three way calling allows three lines to be connected to the same call.
Bundled services: signing up for 12 or 24 month packages often saves money, but does come with early disconnection fees. It makes management easier with one bill. Bundled services from telecoms providers are usually cheaper than standalone.
Telephony is becoming ever more feature rich and is evolving at an ever faster rate. As a result small businesses should reassess their telephony needs and costs every couple of years. A lot of changes can happen in that time.