Phone Downtime Costs UK Businesses Dear

A third (36%) of UK workers have had their company telephone connection cut off due to failures caused by factors such as flooding, power cuts, roadworks and equipment faults during the past year alone. That’s the main finding of a new study commissioned by hosted voice over IP (VoIP) provider Inclarity.

Of those respondents, 60% had experienced up to a full day’s phone disruption, costing them an average of £14,431 per day. Yet, 60% weren’t aware of any disaster recovery plan to address the issue. The research comes a year after severe flooding caused havoc for businesses in many parts of the UK.

The poll, carried out by YouGov, questioned almost 2,500 people and found that businesses in London, east Midlands and the north east were most affected by unforeseen disruption to their office telephone services.

The findings show that companies have failed to invest in sufficient back-up plans should the network that provides their telephone services be cut. Last summer, severe flooding impacted businesses in 45 UK cities and towns leaving them without access to communications after offices and other workplaces were impacted by water damage. Companies in Wales, Scotland and the east Midlands are the least prepared for such disasters.

The potential cost to businesses of such an unforeseen disaster could therefore be enormous. For example, more than a quarter of people questioned (26%) were unable to take incoming work calls during telephone downtime and resorted to using their mobiles instead, and could thus incur typically higher mobile costs.

By replacing a traditional Private Branch Exchange (PBX) telephone system with a modern VoIP solution, so telephone calls are made over the internet rather than a conventional telephone network, businesses can divert all calls off-site should unforeseen disaster strike. Alternatively, firms can keep their existing PBX and connect a hosted VoIP solution too, ensuring they have a back-up plan in place should one network fail.

The nature of a hosted solution means that business can be done as usual because calls can be easily diverted to home phones, mobiles or other offices – giving the company the ability to continue functioning from a different location. Despite this, nearly two thirds of those questioned (61%) weren’t aware of a plan to deal with disruption to incoming calls caused by events beyond their control. Worryingly, more than a quarter (26%) said they couldn’t be contacted or didn’t know how customers or suppliers would contact them during times of phone outage. Businesses in Wales, Scotland and the west Midlands were the least prepared, with two thirds or more unaware of a business continuity plan in place for phone downtime (76%, 67% and 66% respectively).

Surprisingly, the survey revealed that one in four people (25%) still rely on fax as a communication method with customers should their telephone system go down. However, when fax machines operate using a central office phone service, this is not a viable solution to the problem.

Dave Millett, Chief Operating Officer at Inclarity, urged businesses to reassess the value of being able to maintain a reliable telephony solution during any adverse circumstances. “Too many UK firms leave their phone systems in jeopardy. Communication is the foundation stone of any successful business. Companies need to put more emphasis on ensuring their phone system is as protected from downtime as they do with other areas such as network and data access,” he said.

“The cost of commercial phone downtime can rocket quickly. We think that £14,000 is actually an underestimation of the potential daily financial damage to companies. By adopting a hosted voice continuity solution, businesses can redirect calls easily to homes or other office locations. In today’s competitive market company executives should make it their business to ensure that all their key people are available to their customers at all times,” he added.

Inclarity has created a free self-assessment questionnaire to help businesses assess how well prepared they are for phone downtime. To take the test visit: http://www.voice-continuity.co.uk/inclarity.