For organisations large and small, activating a functional business phone system is one of the first critical installations required for day to day operations. For many businesses, once complete, it’s rarely thought upon again, until the existing system requires a substantial investment to upgrade or the technology can no longer facilitate business requirements.
Today, business communications have transformed from a simple inbound number to an enhanced customer experience platform and a feature-rich collaboration space for employees. So it’s worth the review to see ensure your business phone system is truly working for you.
What is a business phone system?
In simple terms, a business phone system facilitates internal and external calls for a company via multiple lines and allows for a range of business-critical features such as call routing, transfers, voicemail and call queues. Traditionally, business phone systems relied on the installation and maintenance of on-premise hardware, also known as a Private Branch Exchange (PBX). Capable of maintaining small-to-medium business requirements but known for their high investment and technical costs, business owners with traditional PBX systems often reach a point where the cost to upgrade the hardware and functionality becomes too excessive.
In contrast, cloud based phone systems offer flexibility by removing the hard-line connection to the public phone network and with a virtual connection via the internet. Cloud business phone systems eliminate the need for technical installation and maintenance associated with physical hardware, and use Session Border Controllers (SBCs) commonly housed in datacentres to connect securely with voice carriers via the internet. This solution offers a high level of security and business continuity, ensuring phone lines are active regardless of any in-office event.
Technical detail aside, business phone systems also have a unique role to fulfil. They need to be able to facilitate internal interactions across multiple locations, provide a reliable route of contact for external calls and ensure customer interactions are efficient and satisfactory, linking the relevant department to suit the customer’s individual needs. We’ve identified four main business phone system requirements to use as a guide:
- Businesses with a single reception desk that pass calls through to the relevant extension.
- Businesses with call filtering via IVR (Interactive Voice Response) functionality.
- Businesses with multiple reception desks and medium-to-high call volumes.
- Businesses experiencing high growth or with mobile workforce requirements.
Understanding where your business falls in terms of these requirements is the first step to determining how you can find a platform that will suit your business as it grows over time.
How to choose a business phone system
When looking to select a new business phone system the first logical step is to consider what is missing from your current phone system and what you are trying to achieve. Some of these measures could include:
- Increasing and measuring staff productivity (particularly in relation to call centre/customer-based operations)
- Tracing missed calls
- Better management of busy call lines
- Adding improved reception facilities
- Quick identification of customers and CRM integration
At Access4, our technical team regularly help customers with their phone system requirements and conversations seem to align to similar challenges. “We need a business phone system that is easy to use”, “It needs to be simple”, “It needs to be simple to configure”, and so on right down to, “can we change the amount of rings?” and “can I schedule call redirections”. What rings true here, is that business phone systems need to be simple, portable, customisable – and to exceed expectations, scalable. Let’s break this down.
Keep it simple
Business phone systems should require minimal training, feature quick installation and inspire fast adoption within the team. Partnering with a trusted managed service provider is a great way to ensure that you’re provided with an intuitive system that has synergies with your existing business software (such as Microsoft Teams Calling), features plug and play devices for easy scaling and can offer data driven insights into your customer services. For collaboration focused departments, features such as shared resources across multiple sites and live calendar integration offer seamless alignment for onsite and remote users.
Distributed Workforce ready
Any forward-thinking organisation will already be aware of their ability to quickly move to remote operations and this is key to your choice of business phone system. Important features to look for are: Real time syncing across multiple devices, full functionality across office phone and mobile apps, DID integration into collaboration platforms, carrier grade infrastructure and geo-redundant data centres.
Customisable and scalable
An agile phone system that offers drag and drop advanced call features such as custom on hold music, voicemail to email, time of day routing and seamless technology switching (without changing providers) is key to enabling flexibility for growth as your business requirements change.
Another important consideration is the ability to quickly scale up and down in response to seasonality or external environment conditions. Are you able to quickly add phones to support additional contract staff during busy periods and remove them again when you return to BAU?
Join the cloud
We’re all familiar with the benefits of utilising cloud services in our personal lives, and when it comes to our business phone systems the advantages are limitless. Combining ‘as a service’ consumption with the latest innovation and technology cloud based phone systems deliver further advantages, particularly around disaster recovery and control. By enabling application or web based management tools services can be enabled or disabled in seconds, and relocated to almost anywhere an internet connection is available. True mobility and collaboration tools can further enhance your experience, and give you a competitive edge.
How much do business phone systems cost?
Determining an exact cost for your business phone system will of course be dependent on the scale and the unique requirements of your business, but there are some key areas you can look out for to ensure you’re reducing costs where possible and getting the most value out of your phone system and call plans.
- Look for no upfront costs: no hardware and no installation.
- Plan for a predictable bill and avoid bill shock by selecting a plan with included calls gives you flexibility for budgeting.
- No lock-in contract. Get the flexibility you need to upgrade your technology in line with your business goals.
It’s hard to look past the significant benefits of cloud-based business phone systems when considering costs. There’s typically no upfront capital investment requirement, and, in Australia, tax benefits for operational costs are undertaken. Communications as a service also eliminate the potential for ongoing costs associated with hardware including maintenance and upgrades, engineering and other technical support, data centre and business recovery measures, and platform management resources.
Choosing the wrong business system can have lasting effects on your organisation. How much does it cost you to miss a phone call? How many of your customers will jump to a competitor if they hit a voicemail? It’s a hard choice to make, and that’s why we recommend choosing a provider that understands your business and can deliver a solution with the right technology to suit you. At the end of the day, your phone number is the door to your business, will you be there when the bell rings?
How does VoIP differ from traditional phone services?
Unlike traditional phone services that utilise circuit-switched networks, VoIP employs packet-switched networks similar to the internet. This means voice data is sent in packets over an IP network, providing greater flexibility and efficiency than traditional telephone systems.
What kind of equipment do I need to use VoIP services?
The primary requirement is a high-speed Internet connection. Other hardware can vary based on preference. You may use a computer with a microphone and speakers, a VoIP phone, or an Analog Telephone Adapter (ATA) with a traditional phone. Some VoIP services also support usage on smartphones.
Is the call quality as good with VoIP as it is with a traditional phone line?
A5: With a stable high-speed Internet connection, VoIP can provide call quality that is equivalent to or even surpasses traditional phone services. The quality of VoIP calls has improved significantly with advancements in broadband technology and VoIP hardware and software.
Are VoIP calls secure?
VoIP calls can be encrypted, which makes them secure against eavesdropping. Many VoIP service providers also offer advanced security features to protect your data and communication.
Can I use my existing phone number if I switch to a VoIP service?
Most VoIP providers offer a service known as number porting, which allows you to retain your existing phone number when switching to a VoIP system. It’s always advisable to check beforehand, and our team will be able to advise. You should also be able to bring most of your existing handsets if you have them. Again, this is an area where we specialise.
Does VoIP support fax?
Yes, many VoIP providers offer a service known as “Fax over IP” or “FoIP”. This service allows you to send and receive faxes in a digital format over your VoIP network.
We’re running a contact centre. Can you help?
Access4 specialises in contact centre services and solutions. For contact centres, our UJET solutions will suit best. Need granular call centre analytics? We’ve got you covered with iCall Suite, which offers PI-driven business dashboards, customisable wallboards, and granular historical and real-time reporting. We’ve streamlined contact centre management for clients like Fastway/Aramex, who quickly realised the benefits of the call management offered by the platform we implemented—to learn more about how our products helped Fastway, click here.