Friday, January 20, 2012

VOIP Phone Update

Readers asked for a follow-up on the VOIP phones we put in our two locations. Here's the configuration we ultimately went with...

Cost of VOIP System -

One-time charges - 6 CISCO 303 IP Phones @ $100 each = $600

Monthly charges - DSL Lines (2) at location 1 - $100
Cable Internet location 2 $75
Vocalocity Bill $180
Total Monthly $355

Previous Monthly Cost

Location 1 - 4 phone lines $100
Cable internet service $75
Location 2 - 3 phones lines $70
Cable internet service $75
Total monthly cost $320

We thought our cost would come out a bit lower, but we needed to add a second DSL line at one location because we needed more bandwidth. So we are now paying about $35 more per month for service, but here are the advantages:

  • System is set up so when our main number is dialed ALL phones ring at both locations. This allows both front desks to be fully productive, decreases wait times and improves customer service.
  • Location to location dialing by extension - employees transfer calls between locations and easily communicate with each other regardless of location.
  • Paging to either location or both
  • Transferring calls to land lines or cell phones not on the system - ie if I am not at work, front desk can transfer a call to my cell phone.
  • Easy to manage on hold messages, busy greetings, etc.
  • Nifty reporting features available on line. Want to know how many incoming calls you had Christmas week? Just run a simple report. (I did was over 700 calls).
  • Numerous options that are free or inexpensive - automated call attendant, voice mail, ringing multiple phones at once, ring a certain number of times then try a different extension, call queues (call goes into a queue and gets transferred to first person available to take it)
Things I didn't know when we started:

  • The VOIP people make it sound like everything is pretty much plug and play as long as you use one of their "approved" and "supported" modems, but it's just not that simple. Fortunately we knew a phone guy well-versed in VOIP phones and CISCO equipment and he was able to configure everything for us. It did take some tweaking to get it right. Until that point, we had some quality issues - spotty audio quality, dropping calls, etc - bad stuff. I'd say we spent $300-$500 in consulting fees to get it all working properly. That included having him come back out after we added the second DSL line and route the traffic so that phones go over one modem and data goes over the other - it's nothing we could have done on our own. I would not go into this without having that resource in your contact list.
  • VOIP phones just don't work like land line phones. Location 1 used to have 4 lines that would roll over. Line 1 would ring first, if busy then line 2 would ring etc. If you put line 2 on hold on one handset you could pick line 2 up from any other handset. Not so with VOIP phones. Keep in mind that we only have ONE phone number now. It can ring to as many lines as we have available on phones (ie we have 6 three-line phones so theoretically we can handle 18 calls at once with just that one phone number). So with a VOIP phone if you put a line on hold it can only be picked back up on that one handset. If you want to pick it up elsewhere you need to get a little fancier. There are ways to do it - it just won't be what you are used to. This was a big surprise to us and I worried that if my breakroom picked up a call and put it on hold for front desk the caller would be "lost" and never picked up. I found out later that if I had chosen a different model phone (a pricier one) my phone guy could have programmed it all so it would work just like a traditional phone system.
If you decide to go this route:
  • IP phones require a certain amount of "up" speed (versus download speed). Test your internet connection and share the results with your phone provider to make sure it's adequate. Inadequate speed with result in poor call quality. Test by going to Speeds will be faster with cable than DSL.
  • I recommend They are our provider for hosted IP phone service and we've found them to be helpful, reliable and reasonably priced. My only complaint is that, as I said, they over-simplified things a bit so I did not understand the difficulties of set-up or the nuances of the system (like the on-hold situation). If you use them, please tell them Fritz's Salon referred you - they might send us a toaster or something.
  • Have a back-up plan in case internet goes out. In our case, we have two locations so if internet is down at one, the other location just takes all the calls. With one location you can set it up so that calls automatically route to the phones of your choice (ie. cell phone) so you don't miss calls.
  • IP phones plug into a data jack, not a phone jack so make sure you are wired for it. You can use one data jack for a phone and computer. The phone plugs into the wall and the computer plugs into the back of the phone.
  • Find a local phone expert who can consult with you. If I had spent more time talking with our guy before having him come in to configure what I had already purchased, we probably would have made some different choices.
  • Don't cancel your local phone service until your phone number port is finalized. We dropped all our lines except the main line, which we forwarded to our Vocalocity main number. Once we were satisfied that the set-up would work for us, we arranged to port that main number to vocalocity. When the port was completed we cancelled our service with our old phone company.


  1. Hi Cindy! I'm so excited that I've come across your blog. I'm a Licensed Esthetician and currently finishing up my B.A. in Communication. I will graduate in June and I'm looking at options for starting my own business. I'm interested in opening a salon/spa, but not sure what services I want to offer. I'm interested in airbrush tanning, eyelash extensions, sugaring, quick skin care treatments (such as peels, but no spa facials with fluff, if that makes sense). Retail would focus on cosmetics and maybe hair care. Because I'm not a hair stylist the idea of having a salon is very scary. I'm wondering where I should I start!? Please help!

  2. My advice would be to start small and make sure you have enough capital to get through several months of negative cash flow. Maybe you don't want to offer hair at all - just do skincare and waxing/sugaring. You could always add hair later.

    You say you don't want fluff facials, but those basic facials may be your bread and butter and may be your feeder into the peels. Think of it from the client's perspective - you will build up trust with the simple service. It's similar to how we test a new stylist--we may let her cut our hair but until there is a level of trust we don't let her do our color.

  3. Hi Cindy!

    I've just spent the morning ready your blog, so glad i found it! I owned a successful small salon in CA and sold it when I made the decision to return to CT to take care of my elderly mother. Now that my family and I are settled in I am going to open another salon and am in the process of negotiating lease terms for an amazing space in an afluent town with only one other salon. In CA I rented chairs but now I am(was) writing my business plan as a commission salon, after seeing your post about team based pay I feel that would be the way to go. I actually worked in a business years ago with this pay system and loved it as an employee.
    Thank you for this amazing blog, I look forward to your next post. And any advice you have would be truly welcomed!
    Now to go color some eggs!


  4. This page is such a great post, but I'm looking for voip phone systems in Washington DC. Any way its nice to be here.

  5. Milliscent - The beauty of VOIP is it's not specific to your geographic location. Any of the major players, like Vocalocity, can provide you with VOIP phone service in DC. The only hardware you need is the phones (that you purchase from them) and your broadband with compatible modem.