10 Best phone systems for small businesses

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Kelly McGrain
Kelly McGrain

Text messaging has become an increasingly popular way for businesses to communicate with customers, and it's easy to see why. It's fast, convenient, and allows you to reach customers in real-time. However, finding a phone service that allows you to text with customers can be a challenge.

That's why we've put together this list of the top 10 phone services for small and medium-sized businesses that allow you to text with customers and give you tools to do that efficiently without the resources of a large company.

CloudLine: One of the best options for small and medium sized businesses, CloudLine is a cloud-based phone system that lets you claim a local number (or transfer an existing phone number) that can make and receive calls and texts and can be added to existing phones, tablets, or accessed from any computer via web browser.

All of your customer history–calls, voicemails, and texts–live in one shared thread that you and your team can manage, so everyone is on the same page and customers hear back sooner. It is perfect for small businesses because starting plans are $5 a month and it offers a range of features such as call routing, transcribed voicemail, auto-responders, text tree automations that get customers the info they need faster, and more.

Google Voice: Google Voice is a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) service that allows you to make and receive calls and texts using the internet. It's a great option for small businesses if they are sure that they will always have 100% wifi connectivity because it's completely free to use, and offers features like call forwarding, voicemail, and conference calling.

To get a Google Voice number, you need to tie it to a non-VoIP phone number. It’s important to know, because it is a VoIP phone number, you may not be able to use that number to sign up for other phone based services that require you to have a pre-existing phone number to authenticate.

Zendesk Talk: Zendesk Talk is a cloud-based phone system that allows businesses to make and receive calls and texts. This software is primarily used for support teams, and offers phone and email communication. Because of this, it tends to be a bit on the pricier side, starting at $49 per user per month when billed annually. The talk only function offers features such as call forwarding, voicemail, and virtual receptionists, which can be helpful for answering common questions.

Dialpad: Dialpad is a cloud-based phone system that allows businesses to make and receive calls and texts. It has flexible monthly plans starting at just $15 per user per month if billed annually, or $23 per user per month if billed monthly.

It has features such as call forwarding, voicemail, conference calling, and more. Many of the features are geared towards larger sales teams or call centers, so the higher price points for the plans likely contain features that the average small and medium sized businesses might not need or fully take advantage of.

Twilio: Twilio is a cloud-based communications platform that allows businesses to make and receive calls and texts using APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), which makes it perfect for teams with an internal development staff, but way too complex for the average small to medium sized business who wants to simply bring text and basic automation to their customers.

For those businesses that do have high call volume, and a development team they can leverage to build something in house, plans start at $0.0079 per text and $.02 per picture message, and offers advanced features such as SMS automation and keyword-based opt-in.

Avaya: Avaya Cloud Office is a cloud-based phone system that allows businesses to make and receive calls and texts. It has a range of plans starting at $19.95 per user per month when billed annually and offers features such as call forwarding, voicemail, and virtual receptionists.

This software has internal communication tools as well which is likely what drives the price up, especially as you add individual from your team. For many small and medium businesses, this will mean paying for features they likely do not need.

Grasshopper: Grasshopper is a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) service that allows you to make and receive calls and texts using the internet. Like Google Voice, it’s a solid option for small businesses who know they will always be at 100% internet connectivity as that is what is required to make and receive calls and texts.

Plans for Grasshopper start at $26/month when billed annually and include one phone number, and three extensions. It has features like call forwarding, custom greetings, and call transfers.

Ooma: Ooma, like Google Voice and Grasshopper, is a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) service that allows you to make and receive calls and texts using the internet. Like the other two, it’s a solid option for small businesses who know they will always be at 100% internet connectivity as that is what is required to make and receive calls and texts.

Boasting over 50 features that can help small and medium sized businesses, like virtual receptionist, ring groups, and music on hold, plans start at $19.95 per user, per month. Like Google Voice and Ooma, we do not recommend this as a viable option for mobile service providers as connectivity will not always be available.

AirCall: Aircall is a cloud-based phone system that allows businesses to make and receive calls and texts. This software is mostly geared towards sales and support teams, touting itself as “call center software”.

Among other features, like recording and analytics, this software plugs into various CRM systems for a better trail of customer communication. It is very easy to use, and reliable, but starts at $30 per user per month billed annually with a minimum of 3-users, so not the cheapest option out there.

Vonage: Vonage is a cloud-based phone system that allows businesses to make and receive business calls and text messages. Their basic plan start at $19.99 per line per month and include features such as unlimited team messaging, Vonage app center access, and mobile and desktop apps. Of all the bunch, this one seems to have the fewest features accessible in their lowest tiered plan.

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Photo by Meritt Thomas on Unsplash

No matter what your budget or needs, there are many phone service out there that allows you to text with customers, a critical requirement that will only continue to grow in the next decade. Take the time to research your options, think about your specific business needs given your staffing or proximity to reliable wifi, and choose the one that best fits your business. You'll be glad you did as a switch won’t just mean text messaging with customers, but depending on your choice, monthly savings and tools that help you do more with less!