To a lot of people, landlines are obsolete in 2017. Why do you need a landline when you carry your smartphone around with you everywhere you go? Chances are, whether you are at work, on the golf course, or sitting home watching television on your couch, you probably have the device within arm's reach, unless it is charging nearby.
It may be hard to believe, especially for those who were born before cellphones were prevalent, but just 20 percent of households in the United States think landline phones are an important telecom choice, according to research released in November by Rand Corporation.1
Small business owners have been asking themselves for years whether or not they should ditch the landline. The answer is…it depends. Phones in general are an incredibly important channel for small businesses to communicate with their consumers and with other businesses. According to local search engine optimization (SEO) service provider BrightLocal, phone calls beat all other success metrics with small businesses in a marketing survey. Business owners are more concerned with phone calls than they are with traffic to their websites, ranking in search engines, inquiries via their websites, and even customers physically walking through the door.2
Asked why phone calls are so highly valued, BrightLocal CEO Myles Anderson said, "First, there are many local businesses that don’t cater to walk-in customers (e.g. gardeners, plumbers, accountants, therapists, and mobile-masseuses) but they all have a phone. Second, calls convert better than online inquiries. Customers are more engaged (they’ve taken the time to call) and a business has a greater opportunity to understand the customers’ needs and propose the best solution for them. Third, speaking to a customer on the phone is often cheaper than dealing with customers on location. So, if you can pre-qualify/pre-sell a customer on the phone, it’s a lower cost per sale.”3
Suffice it to say that your small business’s phone set-up is important, and should not be taken lightly, but does that set-up need to consist of a landline? You will need to ask yourself a few important questions first.
For starters, what is the most cost-efficient strategy for your business? Setting up a multi-line phone system can mean buying or leasing expensive equipment. There are other, less tangible, costs to take into account, however. If you have employees who may need to make and receive business calls, you have to think about whether or not they will each need separate mobile devices and lines, or landline phone sets and lines. Compare the costs of all options from various service providers and weigh them against your needs.
The biggest reason to have at least one landline for your business, regardless of whether or not you have a cell plan, is that landlines are generally reliable. Depending on your location, cell service can often be problematic. Even with VoIP, you have to worry about the possibility of Internet outages, service outages, and even power outages. A disruption in landline service is far less likely, and you will be available when your customers need to call.
The reliability factor is even more obvious when disaster strikes. The National Federation of Independent Business shared some words from a business owner who found himself in such a situation when a hurricane struck: "We were without power for almost a week, reliable Internet for over two weeks, and without a landline for about a day. The landline made a huge difference in our ability to transfer work to our Las Vegas office and not close completely, which was imperative….”4 It may be a good idea to keep that landline, thereby ensuring the reliability and continuity of the business you have worked so hard to build.
Scalability is another factor to consider. You may be a micro-business now, but what happens when you grow? If you're only using your cell number, it's going to be difficult to handle multiple outgoing and incoming calls. Landlines will make this much easier to deal with, as you can switch to a multi-line system without changing your phone number.
Similarly, you may need to separate your business and personal calls, if you haven’t already done so. Having one cell phone and one landline might help you separate your duties and be better organized. It will also be easier to keep track of your phone expenses come tax time.
Consider the value of keeping an existing phone number, which may be listed on all your advertising and signage, and also on the speed-dial and contact lists of your clients, customers, and suppliers.
At the end of the day, your business can exist without a landline if you have another means of phone service such as cell or VoIP, but consider all options before ditching the landline altogether.
The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice. Any views expressed in this article may not necessarily be those of Nevada State Bank, a division of ZB, N.A.