It's official: you've started a business.
You've worked day and night to put a product on the shelves.
You've flipped the sign to open.
And now you're watching the customers flood in.
But now you're successful, you want to streamline your business.
You want to get smart with your finances, and see where you can cut costs.
You want to stay on top of tech, and keep up-to-date with the latest changes.
Question is, how can you combine all those desires into one bloomin' brilliant business plan?
By getting a Cloud Phone.
Sorry - a what?
A cloud phone? A phone in a cloud?
Sure, you might just have a grasp of the cloud', the tech that transformed the 2010s and keeps everything we need within reaching distance
Read More: Wikipedia on Cloud Communications
But you lost your grip when I threw telephones into the mix.
Lucky for you, I'm here to review the BT Cloud Phone.
This article will take you through:
- What cloud phones actually are
- What the BT Cloud Phone is
- The packages and products under its umbrella
- What the buying process is like, including their customer service
- And what their customers think
Looking for a definitive answer, like, right now?
A final verdict is also included in this review if you're ready to cut to the chase.
Not versed in VoIP?
Convinced the cloud we're talking about is up in the sky?
Then you've come to the right place.
Even if you are technologically challenged, sourcing top-notch tech is key to running a successful business.
How else are you going to compete in your industry?
The thing is, finding that tech involves research, and that involves reading reviews. And it's likely that that means getting confused further.
How are you going to know if a product is any good if you barely understand what they're going on about?
It's for that reason that we are going to take things slowly.
Let's start, shall we?
First, what's the cloud?
The cloud, or cloud computing, is the storing and accessing of data and programs over the internet. It's when your documents and data are not in your computer's hard drive - they are on the internet, instead. Essentially, it is a metaphor for the internet.
Okay, so what's a cloud phone, then?
A cloud phone is a device which utilises a cloud phone system. This is a communications platform that operates in the cloud that you subscribe to. This means that it is the same thing as the Internet Phone System or Hosted VoIP.
And hosted VoIP?
In simple terms, VoIP allows you to make phone calls over the internet. Hosted VoIP is when the system is handled by the service provider - all you have to do is pick the features you want. On-premise VoIP, on the other hand, means that your team is responsible for managing the service. All of the equipment is installed and managed at your business' place of work.
Still with me?
Because you need to know about cloud phones.
Read More: The Top 10 Best IP Phones
As the pace of technology quickens by the day, cloud phones are increasingly beginning to dominate the business telephone market.
Wave goodbye to olden days of Private Branch Exchange hardware; cloud phones have the promise of better prices and better features!
This forecasted increase is traced back to its adaptability to small businesses, especially as it can provide unified communications, keeping messaging and calls to the same platform.
BT - formerly known as British Telecom - is a telecommunications holding company based in the UK.
Yet despite its London postcode, this is a multinational company and serves 180 countries around the globe.
On top of this, it's the largest provider of broadband and mobile services in the UK!
Question is, does its cloud phone live up to its name?
It all started in 1846. A number of privately owned British telegraph companies were passed to the General Post Office's (the GPO) Postal Telegraphs department. Once the telephone had been invented, the GPO began to provide telephone services. This included licenses being issued to operate a telephone service for private businesses.
In 1969, the GPO became an industry separate from government and Post Office Telecommunications was one of its divisions.
Post Office Telecommunications then became British Telecom in 1981.
The trading name was then changed to BT in 1991. Throughout the rest of the 1990s it attempted many business ventures across the globe and began to spread its dominance across the world.
So, we know who BT is.
But what's their cloud phone?
The BT Cloud Phone is a call-management service that uses hosted VoIP technology and is built for small businesses.
As it's cloud-based, if you happen to move premises you can take your phone number with you. And with no hardware to install or maintain as it is a hosted service, you can simply get on with running your business.
All you need is an internet connection!
BT Cloud Phone defines itself as an entry-level solution to support smaller businesses, but states that it can work for growing businesses.
Specifically, BT Cloud Phone has 3 user feature packs (AKA packages), and BT comes with a variety of IP handsets to choose from, too.
However we rate this phone, there's no doubt about it:
You won't be stuck for choice!
The good news doesn't end there, though.
The History Of The BT Cloud Phone
It's famed not just for sounding like a top asset to a business, but a top-quality one too as a result of its collaboration with RingCentral :
In March 2015, the cloud phone was announced in association with this VoIP frontrunner.
Read More: BT's product page for the BT Cloud Phone
As RingCentral is deemed one of the top providers of VoIP, it stands that BT is in safe hands.
Founded in 1999, this is one of the oldest companies still flogging these phones, providing a wide range of features and packages.
That being said, RingCentral is famed for its free trials and the features available rather than the quality of the service.
It's all well and good to be sporting a shiny new phone, but crackly call quality won't match a flash model!
The BT Cloud Phone is a single product, representing a simple but key service for small businesses.
Yet despite the simplicity of this product, it's the variety of packages, features, and additional handsets that tie on the bells n' whistles.
Fancy a tour of what's on offer?
BT makes a point of keeping the options clear. That's why there are 3 types of user feature pack:
BT Cloud Phone Basic
This includes 500 minutes of calls.
This package allows you to integrate the phone with business applications such as Office 365, Skype and Google.
On top of this, features include call logs, auto-attendant, call recording, conferencing, and call queues.
||$||16.94||$|| per user per month
BT Cloud Phone Connect
This includes 500 minutes of calls, but this can be extended to unlimited UK calls.
This package builds upon the basic package has additional features including auto call recording, call monitoring, and multi-level attendant. It also has several optional features on offer.
You could integrate CRM applications like Zendesk, for example, or include HD video meetings.
||$||23.46||$|| per user per month
BT Cloud Phone Collaborate
This package includes both the features of the Basic and Connect package and the option to extend the 500 UK minutes to unlimited UK calls.
But on top of the features included in the other packages, you can also enjoy web and video meetings which can include up to 75 people!
||$||29.98||$|| per user per month
Each of these packages can be contracted for either 12, 24 or 36 months.
Despite the monthly rates being the same across the different contract lengths, the time difference does affect your final bill:
36-month contracts leave out the connection charge. And the connection charge adds up to £100!
Cost aside, what other features can be added and included?
I'll be honest.
There's over 50 additional features that can be included in packages or added on to suit your business. Yes, 50.
You don't expect me to list them all, do you?
Don't expect me to leave you completely in the dark, however. Here's a few of the features that might just pique your interest:
Multiple phones can ring for the same call
On hold music and messages
A call button can be created for a business number
Do not disturb option
You can set up greetings
You can have notification alerts
Conference calls can be taken on the phones
Mobile app can let users use the service on the go
Documents can be faxed or resent
The phones can also figure as intercoms or pagers
Set up roles and permissions
You can enjoy classic features like voicemail
Could any of these take your fancy?
(Course they do.)
Read More: BT's own guide to the Cloud Phone
If you are interested in taking your telephone cloud-based, why not stick with BT and purchase one of their phones dedicated to this service?
(Pssst - they even offer up a 10% discount on these IP handsets!)
The options on offer range from desk phones, to conference-call-based and cordless models.
The prices for these phones range from £90 to £589; whatever your budget, BT can provide for your business!
Who doesn't love a little clarity now and then?
A step-by-step process that presents the information - all the information - you need to know in a simple way...
The BT Cloud Phone buying process has earnt that label.
Once you've navigated the phone systems page, you come to the BT Cloud Phone page. Like the rest of the systems and products on offer, you are greeted with a short summary of the product.
This is followed up by a variety of ways to contact customer service agents to combat your queries and soothe your qualms.
Fancy a call? Can do.
Want to arrange one instead? Course.
What about a quick question via live chat? Get asking.
You then dive headfirst into the packages on offer. And despite the information provided, it is, rather... minimalist.
Sure, minimalism looks good on your social media.
But the lack of information to help you make a decision for your business isn't quite so fetching.
Read More: Business Telephone Systems
Once you've perused the packages, you're then thrown some more facts and stats: a brief rundown of the product and how your business can use it provides the outline you need to assess whether it can work for you.
A few features explained later, your prayers are then answered...
Nothing beats a Frequently Asked Questions section!
Still not convinced?
Then why not make your final decision with the downloadable material on offer?
You can download the Cloud Phone brochure, their guide to IP phones, and the requirements for utilising their cloud phone service.
They even have links to other products, services, and articles that might guide you on your quest for business success further.
Now, that's what you call informative!
Once you've absorbed all that new knowledge, you simply click buy now on the deal that takes your fancy.
You're then taken to a page which outlines each and every cost - including the setup fee - and how the number of users will stack up your costs.
You then pick your new IP phone.
Once you've taken a peek at your one-off and monthly costs...
(They split them so you can clearly see what you're spending.)
You can then decide if you want to click add to basket'.
Money spent, solution found - success here we come!
That was easy.
What makes a business great?
Let me see
Good products, great services, and awesome customer service?
Tick, tick, and tick!
Any ol' company could sell their goods and leave the customers to get on with it, but its customer service which certifies a business' trustworthiness.
So, how does the BT Cloud Phone fare?
Easy access to customer service
As mentioned before, BT's website is crammed full of ways to contact customer service.
From arranging a phone call, to sending a live chat right now, BT makes a point of showcasing current and potential customers' access to support.
You can't move your mouse without gliding over a live chat' button!
Great resources of information available
BT doesn't just pride itself on access to customer service.
It also puts a lot of importance on the availability of key information regarding products and problems that may arise.
Downloadable content explaining the products and services in depth, FAQs sections, brief summaries
These all litter BT's website, providing answers to questions before issues even arise.
Customers cannot move for information or support!
Well, I say that.
The sheer volume of negative reviews doesn't support such a positive perspective
Pushy sales team
Shockingly low-ratings from reviews on TrustPilot and other review sites all point to several problems with customer service on offer.
(I was surprised, too!)
But there's one that seems to stand out:
If you do happen to get in contact with a customer service agent, you'll face a pushy sales rep begging you to stick with the company or make a switch to a service that'll run up your bill.
In fact, it was this reported disconnect between customer service and the customer that caused the other problems that have plagued the online reviews.
Not following up on customer calls and struggling to stay in contact with a representative was yet another set of issues cited...
It just doesn't add up!
BT's business services might scrub up well on their own website, but these reviews clearly are not in favour of this iconic British business.
And if you want to know if a product is any good, you gotta hear what the customers actually have to say
After all - that's where you're planning to end up!
To the innocent consumer, BT looks like a streamlined business showcasing a swift website and easy access to excellent customer service.
But BT's perspective of Cloud Phone and the business itself takes a different view than the customers do.
Read More: Small Business VoIP
Out of the 86 reviews on TrustPilot.com, 82 awarded BT 1 star.
Some customer service was helpful
Sudden huge bills
They do offer discounts as compensation for problems
Poor customer service
Sincere apologies are offered if mistakes have been made
Some customers went without phones for long periods of time
Clearly, BT was in for a bashing by its customers.
As mentioned previously, their customer service was crippled by negative reviews noting pushy sales talk, customer service reps begging for them to continue with contracts, and customer's ongoing issues not being followed up.
But the reviews cited problems that went further than that.
Yep - it gets worse.
Spiralling bills that appeared for no reason were reported an unsettling number of times, as were previous customers claiming they were left without a phone for weeks on end.
So, they were overpaying for something that wasn't being used?
The few reviews that did award BT more positive comments claimed the customer service they received was helpful.
In fact, one even mentioned that they had made vast improvements in their customer service recently!
Unfortunately, there were only 2 reviews which toted such claims.
Yet aside from the claims made, very few mentioned BT Cloud Phone specifically. Instead, they pointed their fingers at the BT Business umbrella which houses that product.
A silver lining, perhaps?
Then again, reviews specifically about BT Cloud Phone continue the criticism, turning on the product itself:
The call allowance of 500 minutes was considered limited for businesses, and the threat of surprise costs once again cropped up.
Think voicemail to email. Think shared call appearance.
These are just a few of the extras that require you to cough up a few more quid a month with BT. Instead, they should be included as a basic feature of a business phone.
It's these costs that you may not suspect that can easily add up and put a hole in your purse.
Are you willing to risk that?
Yet on the other you have seething reviews who scare away potential purchases and dismantle key components of the buying process.
On the one hand, you have a simple buying process crammed full of relevant information and bursting with brilliant features
Is it a tailorable business solution that can bring your business into the 21st century, or a bill that continues to rise?
A website drenched with detail leading you to the perfect phone, or a phone that isn't there at all?
Confusing, isn't it?
Think of how I feel!
I'm the one that's trying to provide you with the final answer...
Here's a brief overview of what I thought about the BT Cloud Phone:
Access to customer service
Volume of negative reviews
Variety of features
Cost of extras
Resource of information
Thanks to the reviews, a final verdict on the customer service advertised by BT is no easy feat.
But it was the overall level of information on the website that saved my review from hitting 1 star!
The downloadable content, summaries and FAQs simplified and streamlined the process, leaving the final decision in the hands of the customer.
Sure, the Cloud Phone may be limited for business use, but it is intended for small businesses.
Team that with the ability to tailor the phone to your business' needs, and you've got a solid product.
Plus, the high-quality VoIP offered up by the collaboration with RingCentral promises top-notch phone calls.
And isn't that the main reason you're considering the BT Cloud Phone?