8×8 PHONE SYSTEMS AND ALTERNATIVES
Businesses rely heavily on communication between their colleagues and clients to convey information and achieve common goals. Without this, unpleasant difficulties arise; miscommunication can habitually lead to misunderstandings, the tension in the workplace and a lack of productivity due to increased stress. Hence, it is vital to have an intense phone system to solve problems and build a trusted network.
WHAT IS AN 8X8 PHONE SYSTEM?
8×8 Inc. was founded in 1987 by Chi-Shin Wang and Y.W. Sing, initially producing coprocessors and microprocessors. As the technology evolved, 8×8 eventually began creating products for videoconferencing. They currently employ over 1,497 employees and operate in the United Kingdom, United States, Romania, Australia and Singapore, earning an impressive revenue of above £386 million.
The 8×8 phone system was created for all businesses of varying sizes and budgets. In general, they offer messaging services, audio calls and video conferencing so that employees can reach each other and likewise connect with clients. This includes a contact centre (customer communication), business phone (local numbers), video meetings (conferences with H.D. video), team chats (communication between employees) and API’s and embeddable apps (allow your products to interact with other products). 8×8 phone systems are generally the most popular as they provide various plans for any budget and include several platforms and integrations.
One of the main reasons 8×8 are so successful is due to their use of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). This is where audio communication can be done via an internet connection instead of the traditional phone line. VoIP works by converting analogue voice signals into digital ones; your internet router sends the digital signals to VoIP servers and providers. The providers finally send them to the person on the other side, who hears the audio. This is advantageous due to the increased accessibility of phone system features, even if employees are working remotely or not at their desk. Employees can use the business phone, contact centres and team chats through the software on their mobile or hardware at their home, so they can be easily reached by colleagues and customers at any time during the workday. This also reduces company costs.
The phone system can be installed new, replace an old system, or even be expanded. It hosts an organization of data stored in data centres on the cloud platform, managed by service providers, and is available on-demand via a cloud network. Advantages of a cloud system include reduced costs due to less energy consumption, and business continuity, meaning that in the event of a crisis, the data you have stored in the cloud is backed up. Additionally, storage space is flexible. Therefore you do not have to spend money upgrading, and the storage can be increased, or even decreased, by the cloud. Free trials are included, and there are over one hundred features.
One of the many benefits of an 8×8 phone system is the varying price plans that include different features based on the size and needs of the company. They include three plans in total, all allowing a free trial.
The most basic package is the ‘8×8 express’. This comes to £8.32 per month (per user) after the first-month free trial. Features include voice, video and messaging in one app, unlimited calling in Canada and the United States, auto-attendant, call routing, music on hold and voicemail, and a dedicated business number. Overall, this plan is for the smallest of businesses.
An upgrade from the basic package is the ‘X2’ plan, £17.45 per month (per user) when billed annually or otherwise £23.26 per month. This package includes unlimited voice calls to 14 countries, video and audio conferencing, team chat, and small business/enterprise integrations and fax.
The most complex package is the ‘X4’. This is £32 per month (per user) when billed annually or £41.43 per month. The package includes unlimited voice calls in 47 countries, call-quality reporting, supervisor analytics, and monitor, whisper and barge (listening to conversations, speaking to employees without the customer hearing, and jumping into calls).
As aforementioned, the 8×8 phone system includes a contact centre, business phone, video meetings, team chats, API’s and embeddable apps.
Contact centres are centres to handle customer communications. This is beneficial for the company’s image as it creates an allusion of excellent customer care and duty. This can be done over telephone calls, emails or any type of messaging. It increases the engagement of employees with their clients and can also be a home from home.
Business phones are systems that can take part in calls and have multiple lines to hold conferences with many people at once. 8×8 provide a cloud-based system with clear voice quality. They are useful for employee’s that work remotely to maintain productivity.
Video meetings are telecommunication in video form in real-time. 8×8 offers high-definition, secured video conferencing for up to 500 participants for businesses that need regular meetings.
Team messaging is an instant chat for company employees, which is useful for projects to work on or essential updates for colleagues. Users are added to the chats from the company employee lists and able to speak to each other. This is compatible with a variety of devices.
API’s, application programming interfaces, are software’s allowing two applications to interact with one another. This allows customers to contact employees in several ways, thus allowing them to choose which they are most comfortable with. This can be by integrating messaging, voice, chat and video interactions into your website.
The 8×8 platform can be integrated with various applications so that there is one system of engagement and everything is together, avoiding complications. It is beneficial for customers as they can interact with the company on whichever channel they usually use or decide they work best with. In business, integration is advantageous as it saves time and money by having each application available in one place, making work more efficient. The improved customer service leads to an increase in revenue.
The 8×8 Team Chat can have many different integrations; your 8×8 bundle must obviously include Team Chat for them to be included. One example is Skype, which allows instant messaging, document attachment, and free voice and video calls in big groups and one-on-one. Similarly, iMeet is a more modern communication software allowing up to 125 users to video chat and share files. The 8×8 Team Chat room is connected with a channel in Skype or iMeet to connect them. Other integrations for Team Chat include Telegram, Webex Teams, GroupMe and more.
The 8×8 Contact Centre can be integrated with Microsoft Dynamics 365. Microsoft Dynamics 365 is a software used to view customer-related information, like the customer database, customer service issues, business data and sales activities. By integrating this with the Contact Centre, company employees can make calls by clicking on customers and have ‘screen pops’ that show customer information before the call starts to understand the situation better. Other integrations include Salesforce, Zoho and ServiceNow.
For business phone use, 8×8 work can be integrated with Microsoft Teams. Features of this include unlimited calling for Microsoft Teams, sending and receiving SMS/MMS and faxes from teams, contact centre analytics for Microsoft Teams and integrations for business productivity apps to support Microsoft Teams. Other Business Phone integrations include Google Workspace, FreshDesk and HubSpot.
For videoconferencing use, 8×8 work can be integrated with Outlook. When on Outlook, Work meetings can be created, scheduled and joined. Another application your work can be integrated with is Google Workspace, which collaborates with productivity applications and tools that allow conferences. Google Workspace can be used to create and join Work meetings.
8X8 PHONE SYSTEM ALTERNATIVES
Deciding on a phone system can be an arduous process thanks to the abundance of telecommunications companies offering hundreds of plans with different features and different prices. It can be difficult to choose which system is best for your company, which is why it is worthwhile to identify what your company needs. Small businesses do not generally need to pick the most elaborate system with the highest prices. They will usually not utilize everything that the plan offers and waste money. Conversely, medium or large businesses should opt for a system with more features and integrations. Even though the cost will be higher, it is essential for the company’s growth through modern technology, allowing employees to work remotely and manage their work more effectively, earning the business a more legitimate and reliable reputation.
OTHER PHONE SYSTEMS
RingCentral MVP is a cloud-based system for companies founded in 1999. It has four plans ranging from £14.54 to £36.36 per month per user and includes a one-month free trial.
The Essentials plan is for message and phone use by 20 users only, unlimited calls within U.S. and Canada, unlimited SMS and document sharing. The Standard plan includes everything in the Essentials package, video usage, business phone use in over 100 countries, unlimited internet fax and audio conferencing, and up to 24-hour meetings. The Premium plan includes everything in Standard plan and also open API, call recording, single sign-on, whisper barge, real-time analytics. Lastly, the Ultimate plan includes the premium plan, device status reports/alerts, and unlimited storage.
RingCentral is aimed more towards medium to big companies, as many of its features are elaborate and possibly unnecessary for smaller businesses. For instance, audio and video conferencing will be utilized for all businesses. Still, on the other hand, the analytics and real-time calling may be a waste of money for a business that will not find these features essential.
GoToConnect, formerly named Jive, is a communication software founded in 2001 with a £142.4 million revenue. Three plans are ranging from £17.45 to £28.35 per user per month.
The basic package is more simplified whilst the Standard includes phone, chat and video conferencing systems and the Premium includes a support centre. All packages include calls from any country, call routing and call forwarding/recording, team messaging and conferencing. The Standard also includes unlimited call duration, voicemail and 50+ international countries for calling, and the Premium analytics, listen, whisper and barge.
GoToConnect users rave about their VoIP, which allows employees to converse with worldwide access, due to network flexibility and thus decreased overall costs. Users claim that GoToConnect’s best-rated features are their VoIP and desk-to-desk calls.
Nextiva is another cloud-based communication software, founded in 2008 with £91 million revenue. Nextiva offers four plans ranging from £13.78 to £42.13 per user per month.
The Essential plan includes unlimited voice and video calling, unlimited internet fax, integrations with Outlook and Google Contacts and unlimited customer support. The Professional package includes everything from Essential and also unlimited video conferencing up to 250 participants and unlimited conference calls up to 40 participants, mobile SMS. The most popular Enterprise package includes everything from the Professional plus single sign-on and unlimited participants on voice/video conferencing. The Ultimate plan includes everything from Enterprise and sales and service productivity, automated surveys, and general analytics.
Additionally, Nextiva offers many useful features like customer relations management (CRM) through data analysis to study the data to amplify productivity. Similarly, the caller artificial intelligence (A.I.) feature allows employees of a company to see the information of the customer calling, alluding to the customer that they are well-informed already, before they even pick up.
Dialpad Talk is one of the more elaborate alternatives to 8×8. The Standard package stands at £12.88 and its Pro at £21.47, whilst the Enterprise package can vary. Dialpad includes a free 14-day trial to sample to program, allowing time to decide whether to purchase.
Its Standard package includes unlimited calling/SMS/MMS, office 354 integrations and voicemail. The Pro package, the most popular, includes Standard features and unlimited phone support and meetings, local number support in over 50 countries, and international SMS and 5-hour call duration. The Enterprise package includes Pro features, and some additional extras. The pro package includes integrations like Okta (a software securing user credentials) and OneLogin (which provides unique single sign-on features quickly overall programs). It also has retention policies which suggest how long business data should be stored in the program.
An interesting supplementary feature of Dialpad is its unique voice intelligence. The software uses algorithms whilst audio and video calling to select valuable information that can be used to refer back to, saving time and impressing customers.
Vonage, founded in 2001, is based on Voice over Internet Protocol and has an impressive revenue of £908.7 million.
The Basic plan on Vonage starts at £14.53 per user per month, only for mobile and desktop usage, with unlimited SMS, calls and team messaging. The Premium package includes desktop and mobile usage and I.P. desk phones, at £21.80 per user per month; the Premium package has CRM integration. The advanced plan comprises of everything from the Premium plan and additional call recording and visual voicemail.
Vonage is another ideal system for companies on the go and not at their desks all day due to its VoIP features. Employees can work from the mobile or desktop application at home or even globally and keep the customer service lines running continuously.
Ooma is a telecommunications company including Voice over Internet Protocol founded in 2004. Although it is one of the newest phone systems, it is evolving and adding new features.
Ooma Office, the simplest plan, is £14.50 per user per month, whilst the upgraded version, Ooma Office Pro, is £18.14 per user per month. Both plans have the mobile app, SMS messaging, voicemail, and call transfer, log, forwarding and blocking. Only the Pro package includes video conferencing and the desktop app. Both plans are straightforward to use, with meetings being set up quickly and ring group members being added swiftly so that telephones in similar departments can ring simultaneously, increasing the chance of pick-up.
Nevertheless, Ooma has some major drawbacks, one of which is its lack of advanced features. Even though it is improving, it is still not the highest competitor when compared to other voice systems; it includes only a few integrations, and the protection is weak due to its lack of two-factor authentication. Furthermore, the Ooma service must be used with hardware on the computer, creating hassle if a business already has a phone system and has to replace its old equipment.
Mitel is one of the oldest telecommunications companies compared to other 8×8 phone system alternatives, founded in 1973 and since then generating over a million-pound revenue. It has three plans ranging from £15.26 to £27.98 per user per month.
All three packages include unlimited minutes, instant messaging and video collaboration. The Premier package also includes CRM integration, voicemail and on-demand call recording. The Elite packages include everything from Premier, always on-call recording and lastly, archiving. Its MiCloud Connect products allow employees to access the business phone from home, a necessity when working remotely, allowing them to be easily reachable both by customers and other staff members. This can be obtained either by the Mitel hardware on the home computer or by installing the phone software. Moreover, Mitel offers an impressive list of integrations like Microsoft Teams, Salesforce, and Microsoft Outlook allowing for a simplified environment and thus increasing productivity and growth.
All in all, each phone system offers various features based on whichever plan is most suitable for the company, even though some are aimed at smaller businesses and others for bigger, more elaborate ones. There are many points to compare as each system has set strengths and weaknesses.
In terms of price, RingCentral MVP and Ooma offer the cheapest plans, which could be more attractive to smaller businesses. However, RingCentral MVP may be the better option as it is an older company that has had more time to develop its resources and establish its values. Its variety can clearly see features and add-ons. Ooma, whilst inexpensive, does not have such a vast range of features and may hinder how much a company can grow in the future.
With regards to straightforwardness, Ooma and Mitel are the easiest to use. As mentioned previously, Ooma has fewer features and so can be navigated with more ease, whilst Mitel has the best reviews for its program software.
When looking at the widest variety of features, Dialpad is undeniably the most advanced. With its call centre, progressive administration, audio and video calling, strong security, voice intelligence and integrations, it clearly displays a well-designed system that larger businesses can utilize to impress their existing customers and attract new ones, essential to the progress of a business.
Lastly, it can be valuable to look at customer reviews as, ultimately, phone systems can only be best evaluated by the people using them. Smaller business’ best-rated phone system was Ooma, due to its low prices and easy use. While it is the cheaper option due to its limited features, it is ideal for a company with less staff as it is unnecessary to pay more for bigger conferences and team chats. For larger businesses, RingCentral is frequently said to be the best business phone system, winning the 2020 PCMag Editor’s Choice Award for Business Communications. Its use of A.I. and integrations make it distinctive and more innovative than the other phone systems.
In conclusion, 8×8 is a sophisticated and budget-friendly phone system, with prices ranging from £8.72 to £41.44 per user per month, allowing for flexibility in plans and features. While it is top pick for integrations, team chats, and video conferences, other competitive alternatives mimic its abilities. Each company is different, and thus there is no ‘one size fits all approach to choosing which system will work best. This is why it is important to analyze each phone system and the services it provides to be able to make the best judgement for your business.
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