How often do you think about the business phone system you use? Most of us carry on with our day without a moment’s glance. If the phones are working, great. A phone system can do so much more these days while also improving productivity and efficiency for your business, so it’s worth thinking about.
If you’re a new business looking for a phone system, don’t just select the first basic option and call it a day. Similarly, if you’re looking to upgrade, take the time to consider all your options. Sure, it can be confusing to wrap your head around everything, especially given there are so many different phone systems and services on the market. But, with a few helpful tips and a bit of guidance, you’ll be able to select the best phone system for your business.
Evaluate your business needs
Finding a suitable business phone system begins with understanding your business needs, the current size and structure of your business, as well as considering your future growth and budget. Once you have this in place you can start looking at the options available.
Do you have existing infrastructure?
What technology do you have at present? Do you have older equipment that has to be replaced or upgraded? Or will the types of phone systems you’re looking at work with your existing infrastructure?
Some businesses use their phone system for more than just making and receiving phone calls. For example, landlines can be connected to the building’s security system, but faxing may still be a requirement. If this is the case, you need to consider whether the new system will support your current capabilities or is there a better way you can achieve the same outcome?
What are your phone system options?
In 2021, you have several options, including PBX landlines, a virtual phone service, voice over internet protocol (VoIP) on-premise systems or a cloud-based VoIP service hosted off-premise.
Deciding the connection is next, and there are key differences between landlines and VoIP.
Many businesses still use traditional landline phones, albeit with the emergence of VoIP phone systems. Landlines used to run on old copper wiring, but with the NBN rollout, this has been replaced with fibre optic cables to run your fixed line connection. On the other hand, VoIP relies on the internet to connect your calls.
As technology evolves in the digital space, more and more businesses are moving to VoIP phone systems, as they can be more cost-effective and easier to deploy, but it all depends on your business.
For some larger organisations with legacy systems and extensive infrastructure, an on-premise PBX solution may still be the better option.
Don’t skim over this. The types of features your phone system offers will ultimately affect how your business communicates both internally and externally.
Make a list of all the essential features you need to communicate effectively. Think about how you’re currently operating and how this can be improved. If your current system is lacking in any way, make sure this is captured in your new system.
Some popular and common phone features include auto attendant, call waiting, call transfers, call forwarding, call screening, voicemail to email, call recording, conference calls, web calling for online meetings – ideally through a platform such as Cisco Webex – and instant messaging.
Some of the basic features may already be included in your phone system plan, and other more advanced features may be an additional cost, so it’s best to check all of this when doing your research.
The extent of features you adopt will also depend on your budget and whether you choose a PBX landline or VoIP system, as the types of features you can run are limited on a landline. A system full of flashy features may not help you if you can’t afford it, so keep this in mind when evaluating what phone features you need versus want.
Do you require support for mobile devices and remote working?
In light of the current climate, this is becoming increasingly crucial for businesses, so make sure the system you choose is capable. Mobile support ensures your staff are always connected, whether on the road or working from home. As such, mobile devices work best with a VoIP system.
Ongoing tech support
Do you have an in-house IT department that can implement and support the rollout of your phone system and ongoing maintenance? This is particularly crucial if you opt for an on-premise solution.
If you’re heading down a hosted option, check with each provider what level of tech support will be offered to ensure you’re always being looked after. For example, if your system glitches, how soon can you expect to get help? If the phone service stops, how quickly will you be up and running again? And what kind of costs will you be up against when you need a call-out? These are all important questions you should be asking.
Review phone system plans and pricing
It goes without saying that you need to factor in the costs and your budget. Apart from any hardware or software costs, be sure to ask about installation costs, monthly fees, ongoing support costs and licensing fees.
While choosing a phone system for a small business, you must strike a balance between cost and features. We recommend focusing on the features you need most, then comparing each provider and selecting the plan that most closely matches your requirements to ensure you get the best bang for your buck.
You should also find out if there are any cancellation fees, return policies and usage limits that may apply to the contract.
Ready to get started?