Over 720,000 businesses were started in the UK in 2018/19, and that number is expected to be exceeded in 2019/20.
Starting a new business is hard, but some SMEs make it harder for themselves by making basic mistakes with their telecoms.
- Less scrupulous telecom suppliers have been known to take advantage, you have been warned.
- Businessmen have failedto take the time to work out what your startup actually needs from your telecommunications.
Common phone and broadband mistakes
1. Only having a mobile phone number
You can tell a lot about a business by their phone number. Mobile-only, fly by night!
Research shows 30% of people do not trust a mobile-only number business and therefore will not contact them. This is even higher if the business is offering professional services.
Business is all about creating the right first impression.
So what are the other options?
Some companies use 0800 numbers to get round this issue which adds to your costs as then you are paying for the incoming calls. Others try to offset this by using 0843 or 0844 numbers but these are unpopular.
2. Using your home phone number for business
Some businesses are tempted to use their home phone number but this has the disadvantage you don’t know if your aunt is calling or is it that important new customer.
It also means you can’t turn your business off if you want in the evening or at weekends. There is limited functionality as well for handling a second call and personalising voicemails. Also if you move house you may move to another telephone exchange and not be able to take the phone number you have been marketing for years.
Many small businesses wonder if they should use a telephone answering or virtual PA service for when they are not available.
The key question is what do you want them to do. If it is to just take a message you need to ask yourself what value is that adding. If they can handle certain queries then that can enhance your offering.
3. Signing up to very long contracts
There is also great pressure for all new businesses to manage their costs at the outset whilst revenues are low. Offers of free installation if you sign 3 or 5 year contracts can on the surface appear very tempting , but there are downsides.
Firstly your business may expand and / or you may move the business and you could find yourself facing penalties for cancelling the contract. Secondly you are locking yourself into prices for a long term in an environment where prices usually go down. The cost of calling mobiles has fallen by 50% in the past 4 years.
At the same time many business owners forget to read the small print in the contracts and forget to check the basics such as length, notice periods and penalty clauses. They then get caught when they want to make changes.
It is especially important to check your potential supplier is signed up to the Telecoms Ombudsman. This gives companies of less than 10 employees free binding arbitration in the event of an unresolvable dispute. A list of participating companies can be found from the Telecoms Ombudsman here.
4. Failing to buy business grade telecoms
Some start-ups also try and save money by buying residential services instead of business grade telecoms solutions, most notably mobile phones and broadband.
Whilst they may be cheaper service levels are also lower and you should factor in “what is the cost to my business of not being contactable”. It may well be more than the few pounds a month you are saving.
5. Failing to get the right Network Support Company
Broadband, telecoms systems are only as good as the cables in your office. Without the right installers or without the right Support Company your network is vulnerable to downtime and downtime means profit loss.
Overall the key for any business owner is to be wary. Before you sign anything, ask yourself will my telecoms support the business in the way I expect it to develop and will I be making it easy for customers to get in touch.