Running a small business can be expensive and cutting corners is sometimes a necessity. So, free services can seem very appealing. When it comes to business critical applications, however, free generally means low quality and inconsistency which can leave a bad impression on your customers and hurt your profits. There are some crucial factors to weigh before selecting “free," especially with essential business communications.
You want to be able to control the message and how it is delivered. Free conference call providers don't offer this capability.
With the future of your business on the line, you shouldn't take chances with an unreliable service. Here are the top five reasons free conference calls are NOT a bargain:
1. Free Conference Calls - What message are you sending?
Ever join a call where all you hear is crackling, humming or bad echoes? How about finding yourself asking others to repeat themselves quite frequently? It’s likely a free service that doesn’t provide professional quality technology, which is where free providers have cut corners.
The success of your business is on the line with every call you make. Because the point of a conference call is to communicate, it’s worthless if you can’t hear what others are saying. When you are on a call with a prospective investor or key client, do you really want to risk your reputation with unreliable service?
Bad reception equals bad perception.
2. Free conference calls are never really free.
“Free” conference calling services are based on toll numbers, not toll-free, so they are subject to long distance charges, taxes and other fees. Who pays those charges? Everyone on the call pays. Yes, even your customers during an important client meeting pay for the privilege of joining your call. Since these are U.S. based toll numbers, any international participants will be subject to exorbitantly high long distance charges.
“Free” conferencing services emanate from a loophole in the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Rural areas have traditionally high infrastructure costs for wireless and phone carriers, so the carriers often team up with “Free” services and provide them access to their rural lines.
This method of “traffic pumping” helps them generate more volume to pass on to carriers as a fee. You may not know it, but the phone number you are dialing is in a remote area that will almost always be a long distance call for all participants. Plus the carriers can pass on these fees to all customers in higher rates. There are several court cases currently pending on the legality of this business model.
Do you really want your customers footing the bill?
3. No room for growth with free conferencing services.
As your business expands, so do your communication needs. Most “free” conference call services are geared to very, very small businesses with minimal calling needs. If you need to reliably share slides, have multiple numbers or require call security, a trusted, well-established service provider will offer the best solutions.
As your business grows and you add international customers or locations, a provider with a vast global footprint will be able to effectively and cost efficiently assist you with your communications needs.
Many organizations see substantial productivity improvements and cost-savings by integrating all their interactions into one unified communication solution, which combines both online and offline connections. Find a service provider that can handle multiple solutions, both on premises and cloud-based, which will offer the best variety.
As you plan for growth, find a communications provider that you can grow with you.
4. Good luck finding any extra conferencing services or features.
Full service conferencing providers offer additional features such as free mobile apps, easy calendar integration, detailed conferencing reports, sub-conferencing for breakout sessions, muting, disconnecting, on demand playback of recordings and much more. Before committing to a service, ask yourself questions such as:
- How important is it that I can control the conversation?
- Will I need to playback my calls later?
- Do I need to host or join meetings from the road?
- Will I need to quickly schedule and join meetings?
- Will I ever want to have professional introductions with operator lead calls?
Think of the types of calls you will have in the future, any special requirements you’ll need and plan accordingly.
5. With free conference calls, connection isn't guaranteed.
“Free” conference call providers rely on the infrastructure of others, so there is no guarantee that your call will actually be connected. Your conference information would be subject to outages, peak time and service availability.
Trusted providers not only own the infrastructure they operate, they operate at fractional capacity to ensure peak times are covered and service delivery is consistent. They can also provide technical assistance and support as needed to ensure all your calls run smoothly.
What good is a call when it can’t be connected?
The Bottom Line – There’s no such thing as a free call.
While free can be appealing as a method to cut costs, it is important to decide where saving a few pennies actually impacts your business. Conference calling services account for less than 4% of the total cost of a meeting.
An estimated 5 million labor hours are spent per year in meetings. How productive can your meetings be when you have to ask people to repeat themselves, rejoin dropped calls or hunt for conference codes?
Free conference calling services don’t provide the level of professionalism, advanced services or room for growth that experienced providers do. Communication is the most vital element of your business and central to any type of transaction.
If you can’t be there in person, you need a professional alternative that reinforces your business value. Spend management is essential for all businesses, but the lowest cost isn’t always the best value. After all, would you really want brain surgery performed by the cheapest surgeon? The same holds true with communication providers.
is the director of marketing at InterCall, responsible for eCommerce and small business. Before joining InterCall, Tonya ran a boutique marketing consulting firm for 10 years. She has worked in the digital and technology marketing sector since 1997, growing start-ups and launching eCommerce solutions. In her free time, she enjoys reading, sports and traveling.