If you conduct business online, then many of your customers and colleagues will be internet-connected. It make sense to maximise your use of Skype or other VOIP-based services that offer you multiple opportunities to save time and money, provide a better service and boost your efficiency.
If you’re running an online business you almost certainly have a computer and internet access and so do your customers. That means you have all you need to cut costs and boost efficiency in your business operations by using Skype, or one of the similar services now available.
Skype is currently owned by Ebay, but is facing a legal challenge from Joltid Ltd. over its rights to use of the software that underpins its technology. A worst case scenario is that Skype will be shut down or radically changed. If so, Skype fans everywhere will be in shock. 450 million people are already Skype users – testimony to its usefulness for home users (mainly using chatting, video calling and Instant Messaging) and businesses alike.
Skype is probably the best known provider of VOIP services, and because it’s so easy to use it’s a great place for beginners to see how this technology can work for their business. Depending on the needs and the nature of your business, you might then want to opt for some of the following alternatives, which offer a spread of comparable features, and some extras: Gizmo5, Google Talk, iChat, Jajah and ooVoo are some of the best known names.
Even if it all goes wrong for Skype, we have a year to go before the court case and that’s plenty of time to save some money and make the most of what it (or a similar service) has to offer. Even without subscribing to Skype’s business package, there are many opportunities to use it in your online business.
- Free Skype-to-Skype phone calls – the longstanding core of the Skype service. Why pay for calls if you don’t have to? In a recession, saving a few dollars here and there adds up over the financial year.
- Free Instant Messaging. Depending on your business, this can be a useful service to offer your customers and an easy way to communicate. Unlike a phone call, you will also have a record of your communications with your customers/clients.
- Video calling. Also free computer to computer, this can give your business a personal touch. People sometimes like to see who they are talking to and if you need to demonstrate something (how to use a product, for example) you can easily give a high-powered, individual service.
- Screen sharing. A great new feature of Skype 4 (also available through services like ooVoo) is access to other people’s computer screens (or part thereof). It makes easy to instantly share documents or images and discuss them, without having to wave your webcam at the screen or printout in question.
- Videoconferencing is also free to other Skype-enabled computers. It’s a great way to save on travel money and time. (And it’s an eco-friendly strategy!)
- Competitive rates for calls to landlines and mobiles, and for SMS (text messages).
Special services are also available for businesses, including Skype’s new beta for SIP, for use with PBX telephone exchanges. You can also get online telephone numbers that people in more than 25 countries can call from a phone, call forwarding and voicemail. If you have a team, the Skype Business Control Panel helps you manage telephony costs and accounts.
Perhaps you don’t need a premium package (at least not yet) but Skype and similar service providers can help you in your online business dealings in a variety of ways that you won’t regret exploring.
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