Retail businesses have a lot to think about these days. They’ve got to deal with astronomical rents, especially on the high street; competition from online giants; a consumer base that is becoming increasingly picky, preferring to ‘forage’ for the best deal. If you run a small retail business yourself, you’ll understand what we mean: customers walking in to try on your clothes, checking the price tags - before running home to find a cheaper version online.

Retail now thrives on what online shopping cannot offer: high-quality differentiated products, an efficient and friendly team who will cater to the individual needs of the customer, and a state-of-the-art communications system to keep the orders and enquiries flowing smoothly.

Even today, however, many small retail companies are sceptical about VoIP telephone systems. Aren’t they for flashy investment firms with plenty a dime to shell out on new office phones? Why should I fork out for a new phone system when my overheads are already so high? But internet phone systems are more popular now than ever. With the end of public switched telephone networks arriving within the next decade, VoIP technology has proven itself to be the most cost effective solution to business telephony, at whatever scale. At a time when retail businesses are facing their own looming challenges - notably the ‘death of the high street’ - investing in a VoIP telephone system could just be the golden ticket to setting your business apart from the rest.

The majority of retail businesses today are small- to medium-sized (perhaps up to five shops), yet with VoIP systems they can punch above their weight in terms of customer interaction. Professional on-hold music, automated voicemail services (including voicemail-to-email) and auto-attendant features create a lasting impression with new customers, and allow you to efficiently organise incoming calls by request - whether it be for sales, order enquiries, or to ask for opening times. These features can make a huge difference in an industry characterised my impatience - customers expect their enquiries to be met quickly, or else they will look elsewhere. A comprehensive voicemail service is therefore essential.

How many customers, furthermore, are likely to call back if you miss them? If you’re busy on the shop floor, for example, the biggest challenge can be taking incoming calls without leaving your customers in-house. VoIP telephony provides multiple solutions for managing incoming calls. As well as the voicemail services discussed above, calls can be diverted to different departments, and even different shops, after a few rings. If your florists or booksellers is particularly busy on a Saturday afternoon, they can even be transferred to a manager’s mobile. Dialling options allow retailers to program their own automated messages, such as for opening times and online enquiries, which save you time when you’re busy with a face-to-face enquiry, and help satisfy the needs of telephone customers.

Group call networks allow individuals in the same department, such as sales, to organise enquiries whichever branch they are at. A customer can dial 2 for sales and - bingo! - it will go through to all your salespeople simultaneously, maximising opportunities to respond.

And there are plenty of retail-friendly phone models available for the shop floor, such as wireless DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless Technology) phones, which have all the features of a VoIP system, while allowing you enough mobility to speak to colleagues or look for requested products.

VoIP systems can also be integrated remotely via software, allowing retailers to centralise their phone systems between shops. With applications such as Cisco Call Manager, retailers are not only able to redirect missed calls to other branches: they can even transfer them mid-call. If a customer on the phone is looking for a particular employee, or maybe you’ve run out of those size M Levi’s at your branch - you can send that same customer straight through to another store, without disrupting the call. It’s a simple way to help customers navigate their specific needs on the go.

An integrated VoIP system presents advantages back-of-house as well. Missed calls can be dispatched by individual colleagues, allowing them to take control of specific enquiries efficiently. This is particularly useful for retailers that ship their products out to customers.  A common challenge for busy retailers is that customers get lost between different colleagues, causing unnecessary confusion on both ends. With dispatch systems, colleagues can organise complicated orders much more efficiently, building lasting individual relationships with customers and ensuring jobs aren’t spread out between colleagues.

These are just some of the ways a VoIP telephone system can help retailers manage their interactions with customers and colleagues. For a fixed monthly fee, retail businesses can get started with their VoIP telephone system with only an internet connection - no complicated wiring to worry about. In an industry which prides itself on the customer experience, VoIP systems make sure that you’ll never miss a call, whether you’re a large-scale retailer or a local florists.

GRiP Communications is a UK-based VoIP service provider offering high-quality affordable business telephone systems to organisations with one phone or many. All you need is an internet connection to get started.
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