What hoteliers need to know about VoIP phone systems

Many hotels have recently decided to switch phone systems—from traditional landline phones to Voice over Internet Protocol phone systems—for myriad reasons: 

  • Significant cost savings
  • Ability to work from anywhere while still using your office phone number
  • The numerous features VoIP offers

Understanding VoIP

Voice over Internet Protocol phones use the internet to make and receive calls. Some service providers enable you to use analog phones, but the majority provide internet protocol phones that can be plugged into any ethernet jack. 

Once connected, you can easily make and receive calls. Using a web portal and login, you can customize numerous features, including a virtual receptionist welcome message or adding new users. 

Difference Between VoIP & Traditional Landlines

The most significant difference between VoIP and landline phones is technology. Landline phones haven’t changed much since the beginning of the 20th century and require an infrastructure of wiring and exchange hardware. By today’s standards, landline phone technology is limited, allowing users to basically only make and receive voice calls. 

VoIP technology has changed how companies communicate. While IP capabilities have been around several decades, VoIP services have advanced in recent years, thanks to innovation and faster internet speeds. 

Unlike landline phones that require add-ons for features at additional costs, VoIP systems come with an array of popular communication features already built in. 

How VoIP Systems Work

VoIP phones work by turning your voice into data, which is then transmitted over the internet, similar to sending emails. 

If you’ve used Skype, you’ve used VoIP. VoIP calls are made on your phone, connected to the internet with a network cable or adapter, or via a computer’s microphone and speakers using an app. When making calls, the VoIP service provider routes the voice data between you and the other caller—all within a split second. 

Understanding VoIP Basics

VoIP PBX stands for private branch exchange and is a company’s private phone network. VoIP PBX is a cloud-based phone network that a VoIP service provider manages in the cloud and one where companies pay a monthly fee to use the service. 

Ethernet is the internet delivery system within a local area network—as in the network of computers and devices in your office. You’ll connect your IP phone units to the internet with an ethernet cable. 

VoIP Systems Transform Communications

As businesses grow, having a phone system that aligns with the publics’ expectations is critical. Unlike traditional landlines, VoIP systems come with powerful features to help businesses make big impressions, including:

Virtual receptionist: When a live person can’t take a call, the virtual receptionist takes over. Instead of hearing a busy signal or being put on hold, callers listen to a message and can be given options on how best to proceed. 

Ring groups: You can program ring groups to ring simultaneously so everyone in a department, like sales or reservation, receives the call. Groups can also ring sequentially from person to person, until someone picks up.

Mobility: VoIP systems, unlike landlines, support working remotely through mobile and desktop apps, and voice messages forwarded as email attachments—allowing employees to make and receive calls from anywhere in much the same way they would from the office. 

Conference calling: To ensure everyone experiences in-person call quality, look for a conference phone with the following:

  • 360-degree voice range
  • Array of built-in microphones
  • Echo cancellation background noise suppression

Virtual fax: With VoIP phone systems, you can still send traditional faxes from your phone to a fax machine, removing the need for fax equipment. Faxes are converted to PDF files and managed within the end-user portal. Each user who needs access will have fax capabilities via their phone extension. 

Existing phone number: Keeping your office phone number makes the transition to an IP system seamless. The moment you plug in your phones, you’ll be able to make and receive calls. No need to change business cards, letterhead and website information. Your VoIP service provider can take care of moving your number to your new system. 

Setting Up an IP Phone System

Setting up a business VoIP system literally just takes minutes. One of the differences businesses notice when switching to a VoIP system is the reduction in on-premises equipment. Traditional business phones require the installation of large wall-mounted fixtures, followed by upgrades and IT servicing. 

With VoIP systems, the hardware generally consists of one or two compact, plug-in pieces. When it comes to switching your phones to VoIP, you have device options. You can continue using your existing analog or digital desk phones, or if you’d like to upgrade, you can purchase IP phones. 

Once your desk phones and starter kit arrive, follow a few simple steps:

  1. Connect your base station (a tablet-sized router that sorts out voice data and traffic to ensure clear, reliable calls) to your analog phone. 
  2. Plug in wireless extensions (into regular power outlets) to connect analog phones to the internet.
  3. Connect IP phones to an ethernet jack.

VoIP’s Key Advantages

  • Important impressions: How the public perceives your business often depends on their initial phone interaction. Will they hear a welcome message with easy directions, or be put on hold immediately? Whether your business has 10 or 200 employees, your business will sound professional with a VoIP phone system. 
  • Excellent call quality: With technology advances and increased internet speeds, your VoIP phones will provide the call quality you need. 
  • Reduced costs: Lower costs are one of the most appealing benefits for switching to VoIP systems. Those with landlines understand the significant expense—setup fees, monthly costs, per-line expenses, etc.—all add up, including IT support. To calculate how much you could save by switching to a VoIP system, use the VoIP Savings Calculator.
  • Remote teams: Employees today literally are working everywhere. A VoIP system provides the tools to communicate with staff effortlessly—no matter where employees are. 

Ken Narita is VP of business marketing at Ooma.