When was the last time you thought about your office phone? If you are like most people, it’s probably when you last had a problem with it. However, your phones are one of the most crucial systems in the office. Everyone depends on it to do their work. Few businesses can survive for long if their phones stop working.
Unfortunately, most people don’t think about their business phone systems very much. Those starting a new business may select the most basic system that fits into their budget. Established organizations hardly give a thought to the phones either. When something is not broken, why bother fixing it?
Consider that there are hundreds of different business phone systems on the market today. Many of them can help improve productivity and efficiency. Given so many options in the market it’s often difficult for a business to select one that suits their needs. If you are looking for a new business phone system, here are a few tips for selecting the best option.
A business phone system is a calling network designed for communication between members of a group, in this case business organizations. An enterprise has more complex needs than your typical household. Customer service and sales departments handle hundreds of calls a day. The average residential connection cannot handle such volume.
Business phone systems have advanced call handling and management options to deal with specific requirements. For instance, a service agent may put a customer on hold or route them to a different department. A salesperson may ask the help of a supervisor to answer complex sales inquiries. A call center needs auto attendants and IVR systems to manage service tickets. Your phone system should be able to handle all these situations with equal ease.
At the heart of most business phone systems is the Private Branch Exchange (PBX). In a traditional landline set up, the PBX connects to the PSTN for calling. It allows businesses to share a small number of connections between all their employees. They are not forced to purchase individual lines for every single person in the office.
Today’s PBX systems, however, use VoIP instead of the PSTN. They are called IP-PBX as they rely on Internet protocols. There are two main options for businesses considering VoIP. You can purchase hosted VoIP services or set up your own on-premise PBX system. The best option for your business depends on specific requirements.
But there is no doubt that VoIP is the best option for business phone systems. It is the standard of the future. It allows voice calls to use the same data network as other types of traffic (text, pictures, email, documents etc.) You will hardly find a business that does not use VoIP in the 21st century.
Unlike traditional business phone services, VoIP is extremely flexible and customizable. This means you can choose from practically hundreds of different features! It easy for anyone to get confused with so many options. A few of the most important VoIP phone features to look for include:
A significant percentage of the working population is mobile. You may have employees who work from home or travel a lot. Some businesses also have workers who alternate coming to the office and going to a client site. Your phones should connect your workers in any such situation.
Therefore it is important that the solution you select works with mobile devices. In most cases, the vendor will have soft phone apps that you can download and use. If not, some vendors allow customers to download an app of their choice and use it with the service.
Most businesses need advanced options to manage calls such as putting them on hold, internal directories, intercom options etc. Check if your provider offers Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems as well. This feature will allow you to handle simple customer queries automatically. Your customer service agents can focus on more complex issues.
Similarly, users should be able to set up rules as per their requirements. For example, an executive may route all calls to their assistant but allow select numbers to reach their device. An employee on the road may route calls to their laptop instead of the desk phone. The system has to be flexible and adapt to your needs, not the other way around.
The VoIP business phone system you choose should have support for legacy features if you need it. Does your office rely on fax a lot? Then the new solution should let you send and receive digital faxes. Do you have a security system linked to a landline? The VoIP service should let you keep and use it. The same goes for access to emergency services. Most reputed VoIP vendors offer E911 access. As long as users provide a physical address, they can route 911 calls correctly.
VoIP business phone systems are digital by nature. It means they should be compatible with other modern enterprise systems like ERP and CRM tools. This allows your business to benefit from shared data and analysis. Crucial information is no longer locked into separate systems that cannot talk to each other.
When selecting any new technology or service, business owners typically look for the price tag. In the case of office phone systems, the price doesn’t tell the complete story. You may end up buying an inexpensive solution that doesn’t fit your needs. On the other hand, it’s also possible to pay too much for features that your employees never use.
Keep in mind the following three aspects when it comes to price:
You don’t think about customer service until you have to call them. But when your phones go down, you need help now. The vendor should offer multiple channels for communication – email, fax, phone, chat etc. They should also have technical resources you can use for help. Quite a few providers offer monthly seminars, FAQs, help guides, and other written material for their clients. Check out their website and see if you can find these resources before selecting a particular vendor.
VoIP service providers can and do specialize in certain areas. Some services cater to call centers while others offer virtual office features. There are also vendors who cater specifically to organizations of a certain size or in a particular industry.
So if you are a small business, you might want to look for a provider who tailors VoIP for small businesses specifically. If you are in the financial or healthcare industry, choose a vendor who can meet compliance requirements.
If possible, talk to current customers and get their review of the service as well. If you know businesses that are similar to yours, find out what kind of system they are using. It might be the perfect choice for you as well.
It’s easy to get caught up in the process of selecting a new business phone system for the office. But not all vendors are equal when it comes to their service offering. Watch out for potential red flags that may signal problems down the road.
While the VoIP industry does use contracts, these are different from the ones legacy carriers used. Generally speaking, vendors offer lower prices for clients entering into long-term (annual or longer) contracts. But there are no penalties for leaving or minimum purchase necessary.
However, Service Level Agreements (SLA) are standard. This document outlines the responsibilities of the service provider. It also details compensation and the process for remediation in case of an outage. You should be wary of any vendor that insists on contracts but does not offer an SLA.
Most VoIP service providers have a trial period when you can test out their services. This allows you to see if the solution works for your business in real-world conditions. Some vendors may restrict advanced features or require a credit card on file for the free demo. But if a service provider does not have a trial at all or refuses to let you test their service? That’s a big red flag right there.
Beware of vendors who advertise extremely low prices. You may end up having to pay extra for every single feature you want to use. Some vendors may even pay customers to leave a positive review for their service. These are not signs of a good service provider.
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