For many businesses, three-way calls and conference calls are an absolute necessity for the normal process of conducting business. These might be limited to audio calls, or they can also include video, and they can be arranged to facilitate training seminars, various kinds of presentations, client meetings, and a whole host of other important functions.
In years past, three-way conference calling was an expensive feature that was pretty much limited to huge corporations which could afford that kind of luxury. With the advent of VoIP, conference calling is now available to a much wider audience, and there are even a whole host of new ways that they’re being put to use by small and medium-sized businesses.
Difference Between Three-Way Calling and Conference Calls
Although these two terms are often used interchangeably, there is a slight technical difference between the two. Strictly speaking, a three-way call is one type of conference call which is limited to three parties. By contrast, most VoIP service providers now offer conference calling which can include anywhere from four parties all the way up to 30.
This kind of conference calling has been made very simple to arrange for, and it is even available to residential users, in addition to business users. It’s also a little easier to set up a three-way call as opposed to a typical conference call, since any regular call can be easily converted into a three-way call by pressing a few buttons.
As a matter of fact, it happens quite frequently that three-way calls develop on an impromptu basis from normal two-person calls, and these are not usually pre-arranged. These types of calls often occur when the two parties realize they need a third person involved in the conversation.
On the other hand, conference calls are almost always planned ahead of time among all the participating parties. Most businesses use these kind of conference calls as a substitute for large general meetings, most frequently when the participants are located in various parts of the country. In a typical conference call, most of the participants are able to see each other via a video component, while some may only have audio service because of their system limitations.
Starting a Three-Way Call With VoIP
When initiating a three-way call with VoIP, the actual procedure will depend on the service provider and the kind of devices that the parties are using. It is possible to make three-way calls from computers, SIP desk phones, and even smartphones, although the capability may be restricted on some devices because of the details of your service plan.
In general, initiating a three-way call with VoIP will involve the following steps. You’ll have to place the first call on hold, and then listen for a dial tone, and call a secondary party. Once the second party answers, you will be able to talk to them before including them on the original call. If your second party doesn’t answer, you still have the option of returning to the original call.
Cost of Three-Way Calling With VoIP
The actual cost of three-way calling will generally depend on several factors. Calls between employees working for the same company are generally free under VoIP, since they are not carried over the public phone network. When a three-way call includes participants from your own business, there may likewise be no charge to you by your service provider.
If one of the parties is outside the business and is considered an external call, it’s possible that you would be charged for a long distance call. Most VoIP service providers include the service by default in their packages, although some do provide packages where three-way calls are considered extra features, and have to be paid for in addition to the package price.
Using Three-Way Calling With VoIP
There are any number of situations where three-way calling can be extremely useful for a business. One of the most common ways is for employees to make use of the feature just to share information with multiple team members at the same time. Customer service representatives often have a need to call in a manager while in the midst of a call from an upset customer.
It’s also possible for tech support representatives to call in a supervisor on a given situation, while themselves remaining on the call, to provide their own perspective on the problem. When you initiate a three-way call, you will have control over when the third-party is admitted to the call, as well as when he/she leaves the call.
You will also have the option of adding that third party whenever you require more input, and then continuing the conversation with the first party after the third party exits the conversation. Some service providers also allow you to swap between the conference call and a secondary call prior to merging the two.
There are definitely situations where three-way calls are more useful than a full-blown conference call, particularly when two parties are talking, and discover that they need input from a third person. This happens far more often than you might think, and the ease of setting up a three-way call makes it highly desirable as a feature to have for your business.