Why Your Advisory Firm Should Switch To A VOIP Phone System

Sunday, July 04, 2010 12:40
Why Your Advisory Firm Should Switch To A VOIP Phone System

It’s been 18 months since my company switched over to a Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) phone system, and I’m really glad we did. This post tells you how your advisory firm can benefit from a VOIP system. I’m not going to pretend to have all the answers and your feedback about key issues can help the Advisors4Advisors community with VOIP decisions.


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Financial Advisory Firms Can Benefit By Switching To VOIP
The rewards of using a VOIP come in customer service, quality control, and monitoring employees. Advisor Products, the advisory firm marketing-technology company I founded in 1996, switched from a traditional analog phone system to a Fonality VOIP system in January 2009. Our IT Director, who had about 20 years of experience in running IT systems, chose Fonality after conducting a search of vendors and system options. I’ll tell you more about our Fonality experience in another post but will focus below on the benefits of switching.

Integrating VOIP With CRM
Advisor Products has its own proprietary web-based CRM system. Our engineers started building our CRM in 1999 before open source CRMs like Sugar were available. All of our workflows are embedded in our CRM and the system is so elaborate that switching to an open source system at this point would be counter-productive.

Though we are using our own proprietary CRM, it was fairly easy to integrate it with our VOIP phone system because our CRM is web-based. In fact, integrating your VOIP system with any open source or popular web-based CRM should be easier than it was for Advisor Products to integrate with its proprietary CRM because any popular web-based CRM comes with Application Program Interfaces for hooking your VOIP system to the CRM. That’s where the gains come into play.

Recording Customer Calls
Using the VOIP system, Advisor Products now record all customer calls. This is a great feature for any advisory firm to use.

When a customer calls or when our staff calls a customer, the caller ID system kicks in. When a phone number is recognized, then the call recording is automatically saved in the client’s folder in our CRM system. If a phone number is not recognized, the Advisor Products staff member who made or received the call is prompted to associate the unidentified number with a client in the CRM. Below is a screen shot of how the calls are saved in the Advisor Products/AdvisorSites CRM. 




Advisory firms who adopt a VOIP system would be wise to integrate the system to record all customer calls. When your staff knows that all of their call are recorded, it makes clear that management expects great service. We’ve seen steady improvements in client service in the last couple of years, and I’m sure that recording all client calls has been a big factor.

Keeping Clients Honest
Recording client calls not only keeps your employees honest, but it also keeps customers honest. Especially in tough economic times, customers are prone to saying you promised them one thing and then did another. Being able to tell a client that we did not promise to build his website in two weeks, and that we have a recording of the call, can come in handy. Being able to listen to recorded calls can help you resolve customer disputes and learn from your mistakes.

Recording And Barging Calls Enables Employee Training
In addition to recording calls for listening on-demand later, a VOIP phone system allows designated individuals in your company to “barge” calls. I can listen to any employee calls real-time without the employee knowing.

Being able to listen to your sales or service team provides important training opportunities. For instance, I recently listened a junior salesperson repeatedly interrupt our prospects. He thought that selling meant talking.

After listening to my junior salesperson on a few calls, I urged him to stop interrupting prospects and listen carefully to what their problems are. He learned a valuable lesson and would have otherwise just kept making the same mistake if not for the convenience of the barge feature.

Remote Workers
An Advisor Products employee recently decided to move to South America but wanted to continue to work for the company remotely. We were able to restructure our relationship to make it mutually beneficial. He’s on our internal intercom system. He can handle client calls when needed. We can transfer calls to him and vice versa. He’s tied into our Virtual Private Network and can see all of the files on our local servers. He remains helpful to the company, but he happens to work in another country.

To make a company great, you must expect employees to put in a lot of extra effort. Any business owners knows that you can’t make a company great if your staff is unwilling to put in an extra effort. That means occasionally making themselves available on weekends or nights. But you cannot ask employees to be flexible like that unless you are willing return the favor.

Using a VOIP system allows employees to meet family obligations while still serving your company well. One employee might have a babysitting issue, while another might need to stay at home to care for a spouse. Being able to allow employees with special needs to work from home occasionally makes your company more humane and employees appreciate it. It’s a great employee benefit if used judiciously.

Advisory Firms Should Switch To VOIP
Businesses can get great benefits by going with a VOIP system. But I don’t know how many advisory firms have made the switch, what their experience is, and which providers are best. I’ll tell you more about my firm’s experience with Fonality in another post but would like you to tell me your thoughts on VOIP.

Have you switched to a VOIP system? Are you considering doing it? What providers have you used? Are you hosting it yourself or using a hosted service? What problems did you run into?

Please share your thoughts to help your colleagues using Advisors4Advisors.



Comments (5)

Chris Winn
At AdvisorAssist, we have helped hundreds on firms get their business started. Over the past year, we have seen a steady increase in firms opting for VOIP services. One of the most compelling reasons is the virtualization of the office. A good VOIP system can enable a professional image of the firm, whether the Advisor is at his/her desk, at home on the couch, or traveling. Integration with laptops, iPhones and other devices can make this a real powerful solution for a small firm.

Another key area is Business Continuity. As many Advisors hope to take some time off in July and August, do you have the right tools in place to keep your business running from afar?

While on the topic of BCP, make sure the VOIP provider you select has redundant data centers and a BCP of their own. We have encountered several firms that have had outages and no plan to keep you running. Do the requisite due diligence before migrating to a new system.
Chris Winn , July 06, 2010
Great comments on VOIP, Andy. A couple of other items I would like to throw in are cost and voice quality. Since switching to VOIP a couple of years ago, our phone bills have consisently run only one third of our AT&T with many more built in features than we had available before. We were also concerned about the quality of the connection but found the quality to be as good or better than our AT&T.

Bill Garrett
williamg615 , July 12, 2010
Jeff Weiand
Thank you for this post. We are struggling with our switch to VOIP that took place over a year ago. I still believe in the benefits in terms of growth capabilities and adding remote offices/users on to the network. And, there are some nice features that I cannot deny. However, our VOIP provider never seems to get their arms around service issues, including responding to issues in the timely manner which is unacceptable. This has been the most challenging technology conversion I have experienced and we have converted/updated quite a number of applications, etc. over the years. I want to believe that VOIP is ready but I'm not so sure. Of course I am only basing my thoughts on our particular experience. I would love to hear from others who have switched and feel today that this was a great move for them overall.
Jeff Weiand
Jeff Weiand , September 16, 2010

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I really wish I read this 12 months ago when I made the move with my firm. I agree with many of the comments above, great cost savings, great features, my virtual employees are fully connected to the rest of my team...BUT if I have another dropped call I might jump out the window. This has been our biggest frustration to date. We have done everything our provider has told us but its still an issue. He upgraded to the highest bandwith available and were still dropping calls. If anyone has a reliable host provider I would love to know who they are.

Again, I love the benefits and want to stick with it, but there is nothing more un-professional then dropping calls. I have added a land line back in my office for those very important calls.
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , November 08, 2010
If calls are getting dropped, it could be that you need a local SIP trunk provider. That was our problem. Once we switched from a provider in Colorado to one located in New York, dropped calls were no longer a problem. Alternatively, let me know where you are located, and we'll find a local consultant who can diagnose the problem.

Also, be sure to look at my latest post on this topic at http://bit.ly/9HhIDA.

If any A4A members have a reliable VOIP consultant, please have him/her send me his contact information and we'll add his firm to our list of consultants in our Reviews section.
agluck , November 09, 2010

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