Workers need to be able to effectively communicate with one another. If you're running a business that requires your employees to be out of office, having a solid smartphone plan can be the best way to link your workers – and customers – to your business.
Finding the right plan can be difficult to navigate – between data limits, talking and texting plans, and the multitude of carriers on the market, there is a lot to research before making a decision for your business.
If you're lost on where to get started, take a look at your own business and establish your needs. Once you have an understanding of the kind of service you need, you can establish where and how your employees will be using their phones.
Coverage areas vary widely on location, so depending on where your business is based, or if your employees travel throughout the country, you'll have to make a choice on the right carrier. Finally, once you've ironed out the details on these two steps, you'll have to onboard employees to the new plan.
Choosing the right business phone plan may seem daunting, but once you break down your needs and see what plans are out there, it can be easy to find exactly what you need.
Determining your needs
When it comes to determining your needs, you need to understand how your workers will be using their phones. The best way to do this is to take a close look at your employees' usage patterns. For example, you can probably use old phone bills to get a solid read on how long your employees talk on the phone each month. Fortunately, many plans include unlimited talking and texting
Determining how much data you'll need could be trickier. Cell phone carriers charge users for data, or the amount of time a user spends browsing the web or using certain apps to communicate. If your employees require instant access to their email, need to access company websites, will be downloading or uploading big files, or working from remote locations, you'll likely need to look into a hefty data plan. Some carriers offer unlimited data in addition to talking and texting.
Logan Abbott, president of a site that curates and ranks cell phone plans called Wirefly.com, said business owners should understand how their employees use their phones so they can choose the right plan.
"If your team is only using their cell phones for phone calls, or only using their cell phones for text messaging, this will inform what plan you should choose as opposed to if your team is using data heavily," Abbott said. "Some business plans offer shared data where every device on the plan shares from a pool of data, while other plans offer unlimited talk, text and data for every line on the account."
Cell carriers thrive in different areas of the country, with national carriers like Verizon and AT&T providing the most comprehensive coverage across the country. If workers are traveling across the nation, it may be worth it to look into a plan through one of these larger providers.
"If your employees are traveling across the country for meetings, sales pitches, etc., then you'll want to give preference to a carrier that has good coverage in all the areas your team will need it," Abbott said. "These days, carriers across the board boast much better coverage nationwide than just a few years ago."
This can also be the case for international plans as well. Most carriers provide some international options, although it may be best to speak directly with a company to find the right international plan based on your specific needs.
If your workers are traveling through a specific region, or staying within the limits of your home city, look for the provider with the strongest presence in your area. You can view a breakdown of carrier presence by city through various online ranking websites. Root Metrics, for example, analyzes and ranks cell providers in major cities based on a variety of factors.
"If your employees are just using their cell phones around the city your business is located in, then that makes selecting a carrier simple: You'll want to give heavy preference to the carrier that has the best coverage in your city," Abott said.
The other aspect to consider is security. These phones can also provide your company with an extra level of security that isn't possible if employees use their personal devices for work.
For example, it can be hard to be sure that sensitive company emails will remain private on a personal smartphone. After all, it's difficult or impossible to force employees to password-protect devices they own. Plus, there's no way to ensure employees won't install unapproved applications that could compromise company data.
Issuing company-owned smartphones lets you control nearly every aspect of how your employees use the devices, including which apps they can install and which options they can select. It also ensures that you can maintain good records-management policies and keep important data backed up. And you can perform a remote wipe of a company-owned device if an employee leaves or is terminated.
Some smartphone models are compatible with special software that forces employees to log in to a special, secure profile to access work apps on their personal phones. For example, Samsung phones are compatible with Knox, a business security platform that keeps work data encrypted and separated from personal activity.
What's the impact?
Don't assume that company smartphones will automatically benefit your business. Regularly take time to evaluate how your employees use their phones, and determine if the devices are actually helping to boost productivity and improve communication.
How to implement your plan
Most carriers provide a full breakdown of their services and prices in the form of a chart so that should be your first stop when directly comparing offers. But things can start getting complicated in a hurry, considering the countless combinations of voice, data and extra services. If you've already taken the time to fully research your company's needs, this step will be much smoother.
You'll also have to decide which specific devices they'll use. Check out our list of the best smartphone for business to see all of our top picks. Many carriers offer a range of other services in addition to voice and data plans. From international calling packages to wireless hotspot capabilities — which will allow your employees to connect to their smartphones' internet connections from laptops and tablets — there are several extras that can be added to your company's phone plan for an additional monthly fee.
Implementation should be the simplest part of your smartphone plan journey – hand your employees their new devices and monitor their usage so you can adjust your plan accordingly.