By Jenn Boutwell

As a small business owner, it’s inevitable that you’ll experience growing pains — perhaps in the need for more physical space, or you might outgrow the processes and practices that made sense when you first started the business. And while the “pain” part of such growth sounds bad, these shifts are actually the result of your company’s success.

Almost always, small businesses run into growing pains around customer service. Think about your own experience as a small business owner or even as a customer of a small business. In the early stages, business owners engage directly with customers and provide levels of service many large businesses cannot. Owners do things like personally answer the phone, provide flexible payment terms or bring a product sample directly to a customer. But as the business grows, this changes by necessity. There are more priorities to juggle and customers to please. There are budgets to maintain, growth plans to execute and, on top of it all, day-to-day management challenges. There often is little time to stop and reflect on what is working and what is not. And sadly, this results in the loss of that close connection most small businesses have with their customers.

Let’s take your phone system as an example. Even with online chat, social media and the Internet, personal phone communication remains the strongest link between your business and customers. But as your customer base grows and your business expands, your phone system may no longer be able to handle the increased call volume. It might also be lacking the features you need to reflect a professional image or to be available to customers even when you aren’t on-site.

Many of the pains associated with a growing small business can be alleviated by making a change in your phone system. For instance, are any of these challenges hindering customer service or making it difficult to meet your business goals?

1. You need to answer calls on the go.

Business today is increasingly managed outside of a physical office or retail location. It’s practically become standard for many employees to work from home part-time or maybe even full-time. Do you need the flexibility to answer calls and manage your business remotely? Are you feeling tied down by land lines and worry that you’ll miss an important call if you even step out for lunch?

2. Your current phone service is unreliable.

As a growing business, you can’t afford downtime. If your phone service is preventing you from giving customers excellent service because it is dropping calls, it’s clearly time to move on.

3. You need more than just voicemail.

After hours, you want customers to hear a professional message and have options to get the information they need, when they need it. For example, an auto attendant feature, sometimes called a virtual receptionist, can help your business appear professional and provide superior service. When customers call, a virtual receptionist can provide them with a variety of options to reach different departments, leave a message, dial by extension and more.

4. Your staff is growing but phone lines aren’t.

Adding new employees or making changes to your phone system is cumbersome or downright impossible. If your business is growing, your employee base is probably growing, too. Onboarding new employees or moving everyone to a new office when you outgrow your location can become difficult with a traditional phone system. It shouldn’t take hours to make such changes.

5. You’re spending a lot of money on mediocre phone service.

If you’re spending too much time on the phone with customer service or experiencing regular downtime with your phone system — the lifeline to your business — it may be time to make a change. As your business matures, a reliable and consistent phone system that you and your customers can count on can be the difference between success and failure.

All of these pain points can be alleviated with a VoIP phone system. Many VoIP plans are also less expensive than traditional phone systems, plus they offer features that enhance productivity and make your business look good at the same time. Has your business grown to the point where your phone system is holding you back? Or, is it helping you be nimble and provide better customer service?