Product Review: Low Cost VoIP Phones for Remote Call Center Employees

The number of employees working from home continues to rise as the world becomes more and more interconnected.  Businesses are having a hard time ignoring the obvious cost savings and people working in call centers are among those who can enjoy some real benefit by transitioning from an office environment to their home. They no longer have to commute. They spend fewer dollars on gas and auto maintenance. They’ve got more free time after work. Most of all, people who work remotely tend to enjoy their work more than those corralled in an office.Scaling Call Center With Low Cost VOIP Solution

For instance, it can reduce office lease expense over the long term, and other expenses (utilities, office supplies, etc.) associated with people working from the office. It can let a company attract the talent it needs from any geographic location. It can increase productivity, save money and help retain that great talent.

But the question of how to connect those remote workers with day-to-day business needs some serious thought. If you’re using VoIP to connect with customers and employees, you’re already ahead of the curve. But how much do you need to spend to outfit your remote workers with a connection to your VoIP system?

Let’s take a look at two popular phones that work well on VoIP, but without the high cost of phones like the Cisco IP Phone that sets you back more than $1600 per employee.

Grandstream GXP2130 Enterprise IP Telephone

Grandstream GXP2130

If your remote workers need more than a single line, this desktop phone from Grandstream handles up to three lines. It can conference call with up to four parties and has a color LCD display and speakerphone. Its dual gigabit network ports, integrated Power over Ethernet (PoE) and nearly automatic provisioning make it a strong choice where multiple lines are needed. Grandstream has published a YouTube video here that discusses the GXP2130 and its sister products in the GXP lineup. A variety of headsets are available as accessories. Another plus is that this phone normally retails under $100.

Plantronics CT14

Plantronics CT14

The CT14 is a single-line cordless phone using DECT6.0 that lets your employee stand up and move around, up to 300 feet away from the base unit. The headset is comfortable: It can be worn over the ear or over the head. The dial pad gives the user volume control, a mute button and access to voicemail with one touch. The unit clips onto a belt or clothing, includes a dial pad and can be linked to an iOS or Android device.



The company claims the unit delivers up to 10 hours talk time, while the headset uses a noise canceling mic. The street price for this phone is under $100 and gives your team everything they need to manage calls.

Why Not Use a Soft Phone?

A soft phone is a piece of software that runs on a PC or IOS device. They tend to be much harder to use than a real phone. Here is a YouTube review  of one particular soft phone I’ve chosen at random that will give you a sense of why I say they tend to be less user friendly than a physical phone, especially in a high volume situation like a call center.

Learn More

Click here to learn about the options for low cost, cloud based phone solutions for small offices.  Also, we’ve worked with numerous VoIP phones and I’m glad to share my thoughts and recommendations, so feel free to reach out.

How To Find An Inexpensive Cloud Based Phone Solution For Your Small Office

For around 15 years, hosted VOIP providers have been telling business owners that they can save money by abandoning their high priced phone service for a cloud based solution.  Initially, that idea was great in theory while real life played a different tune, as features (like hold music, intercoms and wireless handsets)  that everyone was accustomed to weren’t available through VOIP phone systems.

Cheap VOIP Phone GraphicThankfully, steady improvements to the technology have dissipated the usability concerns.  In my most recent conversations with small and mid-sized businesses about phone service, most of them have great things to say about their hosted VoIP systems. They’re sold on the convenience of having services off site with one low monthly fee, as well as saving the time and cost of server maintenance, upgrades, backups and other busywork. Some also talk about feeling in control of their telecom budget as opposed to dealing with the costly monopoly phone company.

Those who are still evaluating a move to VoIP running in the cloud often ask about the phone handsets and accessories they’ll need. What features do they have? Does a certain phone system offer cordless handsets? Intercom? Speakerphone?

Then too, even though broadband is ubiquitous, others raise concerns about the bandwidth they’ll need to accommodate all their usual WAN traffic and still obtain good quality VoIP calls. Fortunately, there are a number of calculators that quickly show the bandwidth VoIP requires.

The Erlang B Calculator is online and free to use if you’re analyzing how much bandwidth “x” simultaneous voice calls require. For small and mid-sized businesses with 5 to twenty lines, the calculator advises you’ll use 400 kbps for 5 calls and 1,600 kbps for twenty using the G.711 codec.

What Are My Options?

You can find inexpensive VoIP phones in a number of form factors.  Here are some examples:

Desktop Phones

Desktop Phone Example
Desktop phones look much like a conventional multi-line office phone. Many, like the Grandstream GPX 2130, include a color LCD screen, 3 line capacity and conference calling with up to 4 participants

Integrated Handset Phones
Integrated Handset Example
Integrated handset phones like the Grandstream GS-DP715 sit in a base unit that provides power and a connection to your router. The handset can be used as a cordless phone and includes speakerphone functionality

USB Phones
USB Phone Example
USB phones plug directly into the USB port on a PC and are single line phones, such as the Plantronics Calisto P240

VoIP phones range in price from under $60 like those mentioned above, or can run up to a few hundred dollars for premium phones with 12 line capacity from Cisco, Panasonic and others.

However, choosing, installing and configuring a cloud-based VoIP phone system reveals an alphabet soup of acronyms—DHCP, VLANs, PoE, SPCP, SIP, G.722—to name a few. If you’re not experienced with the many tech considerations involved, you’ll be better off contacting an experienced VoIP phone expert.

 


With all the configuration options and technical requirements, buying a phone and trying to install it yourself is likely to be difficult and time-consuming, at best.

Perhaps last, quality of service (QoS) is a feature of your routers and other network devices between your phone and your broadband connection. QoS as it pertains to VoIP requires support through your entire network, including NIC cards, switches, bridges and routers. If any device along the data path does not support QoS, your VoIP traffic is handled on a first-come, first-served basis. Without QoS, achieving acceptable call quality is unlikely.

Product Review: Verizon’s “Premium Technical Support” Service Solves IT Problems For Remote Workers

Remote Tech Support Is A No BrainerWith the recent, tectonic shift toward remote working, businesses have had an unforeseen challenge arise: providing IT support for those users.  With the astronomical cost of headcount, training and infrastructure for in-house help desk centers, small and medium sized businesses often find that the smartest move is leveraging a turn key, third party solution.

Verizon, with its outstanding FIOS service, has taken steps to fulfill that need.  Its Premium Technical Support plan gives any FIOS business (or residential) customer 24/7/365 tech support that includes:

• Configuration troubleshooting for your computer or device (including tablets) to address issues like slow performance, browser configuration, networking connections, data backup and more
• Evaluation of and attempts to correct software, operating systems and networking issues
• Virus, malware and spyware support
• Software and peripherals support for network, video and sound cards, memory, hard drives, CD and DVD readers and writers, printers, scanners and networking equipment

The company says it premium service “…is intended to address networking and other technical support issues outside the supported scope of Verizon’s standard technical support.”  You can find the entire agreement here. Your employee must be a Verizon customer for HSI or FiOS, TV or Voice to purchase Premium Technical Support. It’s currently priced at $14.99 per month, cancelable at any time.



I tested the service when I spent time in New York and found the technicians friendly and competent. They’re all based here in the U.S., and they provide service for Apple, Android and Windows OS.

Once your employee signs up he or she will get a password to Verizon’s expert site at expert.verizon.com. Take note, though. This service is for residential customers. Don’t try to sign up your entire remote workforce under your company’s name because the program doesn’t extend to businesses. Each employee needs to enroll individually.

Is Outsourcing the Help Desk Your Best Choice?

For small and mid-sized businesses, Verizon’s $17.99 per month plan offers a lot of value.

Happy Remote WorkerHowever, if you have concerns about confidential or proprietary information stored on your employee’s device, take time to review the agreement to understand how the Verizon technician treats such material.

Also note that it’s sometimes necessary to change settings on the computer, some of which could cause custom software made for your business to stop working. If there are specific settings that must not be changed, you’ll need to make your remote employees aware of them. A short document spelling out any such issues would help your employee communicate those matters to Verizon before the technician begins making adjustments.

Too, when settings are changed, you may want to get a report on what was changed. Registry changes, for example, can fix problems as well as introduce new ones.

I hope you find this helpful. I feel it’s important to share information on IT issues; it’s part of what we do.

Finally, I am not suggesting that Verizon is the very best solution. You can find dozens of other “managed service providers” (MSP’s) that offer similar services via a simple web search. Many of them also handle break/fix problems with hardware. However, if you want to look further into details of the Verizon plan, you can reach their team at 866-785-8145, or on the online form here.

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