With the growth in email usage and Social Media communication, many businesses have decided that their phone system is now obsolete. But what these companies have failed to consider is that consumers want choice, not to be dictated to about how or when they should make contact. So, rather than removing communication channels, it’s more important than ever that companies find ways to offer more ways, not less, for customers to make contact.
A bit like some so-called media experts suggesting that “TV is dead”, there are those who see traditional phone lines as defunct. However, studies continue to show that professional business phone systems are still an integral part of the sales and customer support process. That’s why it’s more important than ever that you find the “right” business phone system to satisfy the demands of your customers while also supporting communication internally.
Office phone systems have evolved from the major investments they used to be. Even so, you still need to understand which option would be best for your business. The following is a guide on how to choose the right business phone system.
What Business Phone System Options are Available?
The first step to choosing the right office phone system is understanding what options you have. There are three main office phone systems covered in this guide – Traditional PBX, IP PBX, and Virtual VOIP systems. These options each have their own subsystems – such as cloud vs on-site VOIP solutions and the choice between browser and app-based virtual solutions.
We’ll keep it as simple as possible though and take a more in-depth look at the different options to help you find and choose the best business phone system for your company.
Traditional “On-Premise” PBX
A traditional PBX phone system runs through phone lines, with communication happening on basic traditional phones. A PBX communication server is housed and maintained in your offices. This technology has been around for a number of years now. It can be heavy and lack flexibility, but some argue it is more stable as it doesn’t fall victim to internet outages.
An IP-PBX system handles communications through an internet connection rather than a phone line. An online phone system is known as a Voice over Internet Protocol system (or VOIP for short). The communications server can be hosted on-site, or you can have it hosted on a remote server (hosted PBX). The team manning the phones will do so through SIP-enabled hard phones. IP PBX systems have come a long way, but still require a strong, stable internet connection to work efficiently.
Virtual VoIP System
As a software solution, a virtual VoIP PBX system require no hardware. All the phone calls are handled through the app of your provider or through the browser on your computer. As a softphone solution, this means there’s no need for a traditional phone. The service provider will run the server that hosts and maintains calls. The only thing you will need to provide is a strong and stable internet connection to handle the calls.
There are a number of questions that you need to ask yourself before choosing a good business phone. These questions will help you define your goals, activity, and future.
How to Find and Choose the Right Business Phone System for You
This guide will take you through the whole process and give you the knowledge you need to make an informed decision. In doing so, we will look at the following critical factors:
- What set-up are you currently using?
- How many calls do you handle?
- How much are you willing to invest?
- How are your employees working?
- What features do you need most?
- How reliable is your office internet connection?
What Set-Up are you Currently Using?
Are you putting together a brand new venture? Do you have a setup already and you want to upgrade it? Those are some of the important questions to be considered. It might not be feasible to invest in a PBX system if you haven’t already got the infrastructure necessary given how analog has mostly been replaced by digital.
It’s easier to install an IP PBX system. But you still have to license and purchase the necessary equipment. Choose a business phone solution that offers a smooth transition; a virtual setup could be the best choice for a new venture, while it may be a strain on resources to jump to digital if you’ve already got equipment such as landlines and hard phones.
How Many Calls Do you Handle?
If your company fields a lot of calls – both outbound and inbound – then you may want to consider getting an analog connect as they offer more stability. You can always keep a digital backup for infrastructural purposes. However, analog solutions may take a long time to put together if you have a large team. With that said, a virtual system might lose reliability if it is too large.
If you need flexibility to account for seasonal activity then you should choose a virtual system. Adding or removing users from a PBX or IP PBX installation means you need to purchase some additional hardware and possibly even keep spares. Whereas a virtual business phone subscription is flexible enough to be reconfigured as necessary.
How Much are you Willing to Invest?
Budgeting is an important consideration as all three options come with their own initial investment and ongoing costs.
A PBX solution has a high upfront cost because of the hardware, licensing, and installation costs. IP PBX systems typically have lower costs, but you’ll need to consider if you will be expected to pay for the hardware (some providers include preconfigured IP Phones as part of an “off-the-shelf” package). Expect to incur ongoing costs to cover equipment maintenance, software updates, and the costs of replacing outdated hardware. SIP phones can be more expensive than traditional phones, but PBX ones have to be replaced on a more frequent basis (needing to be replaced around every 5-7 years).
On the other hand, “virtual” or cloud-based PBX solutions come with no upfront costs, or even any maintenance costs, but you can typically expect to pay a monthly subscription for the service. VoIP solutions also demand enough bandwidth to make and receive calls. You must take into account the cost of internet connections for IP PBX and VoIP solutions.
How are Your Employees Working?
If you need to change the existing phone system for your business, you will no doubt go through an adaptation period as the company adjusts to the new technology. It can take time to adjust to new phones or a new virtual interface.
If the employees under you are working from mobile phones, then you won’t be able to use a PBX with a hard phone. An IP PBX is more mobile, but you will still need an internet connection to stay connected to the server and it doesn’t work through mobile. If you do have a mobile workforce, then you could go with a virtual VoIP system; it will enable users to always have access to their soft phone.
You may want your team to have the ability to work remotely, from their homes for example. If this is the case, then a browser or app-based system may be the best choice. This enables your team to work wherever they are, including accessing their sessions, contacts, and logs.
What Features do you Need Most?
Part of finding the best business phone system you need means looking at the features you need the most. While virtual phone technology is still relatively new, you can find many services offer features similar to those found in PBX and IP PBX systems; call waiting, routing, and transfers.
Such features work best on hard phones, as they have been around for much longer and have less cutting-edge technology. Virtual phone systems are more innovative though. They provide users with much more accessible real-time monitoring and call recording. There’s no longer a need to have a dedicated department for data analysis either. Even businesses without data analysis expertise can use the monitoring software built into virtual business phone services.
Given how important it is for your business to retain customers, you need to have ways to monitor customer satisfaction, engagement, and product adoption. Call monitoring is an important part of any business looking to improve customer interactions and relations. This could be one of the deciding factors for smaller call centers or businesses that focus heavily on providing excellent customer service.
How Reliable Is your Office’s Internet Connection?
If you go with a PBX system, there’s no need to worry about having an internet connection that can support the phone system. Even so, you might find it comes with a fairly antiquated setup.
A high-speed and reliable internet connection with good download and upload speeds are becomingly increasingly available to small businesses. This can be great for e-businesses who do everything online. It’s also great for IP PBX and virtual business phone systems as they need stable internet access to work properly.
How Do Your Business Phone Tools Mesh with Other Tools at the Business?
There are a lot of tools that go into running a business smoothly. One of the biggest advantages of using a virtual phone system is that it is able to mesh together smoothly with other tools.
PBX systems don’t interact with other digital tools, and IP IBX systems only manage phone calls. Virtual systems are able to integrate with CRM software solutions, live chat and email services, helpdesks, call scripts, survey templates, and even more.
Businesses interfaces are becoming increasingly unified. A unified business interface is a representation of seamlessly transitioning between all the different tools used by your team. It gives you a more empowered and productive workforce, which means happier, more productive, and successful customers. Virtual phone systems allow you to deal with each aspect of the customer interaction process through a unified interface without needing to use multiple services and software.
Best Practices for Choosing the Right Business Phone
The above questions can get you started on the journey, but there’s more to choosing the right system than just that. Here are a range of best practices for choosing the best business phone system:
Have a Goal from the Outset
The most important thing is to have a clearly defined goal when choosing between business phone systems. Understand what your business needs, your budget to put it together, and the requirements of your team. If you aren’t sure just what you need – and don’t need – then you aren’t going to be satisfied no matter your choice.
Have a staff consultation and understand what they themselves feel is important. Could you make transferring calls easier? Would syncing your call logs and CRM together be useful? Consider polling clients and understanding how you can better satisfy them. Would they be better off if you made call routing more efficient?
Consider how Your Business will Grow
Not only should you choose a good business phone to match your current needs, but also one that continues to meet the needs of your business as it grows. Consider how you want your business to grow and choose an option that meets these goals.
So, if you were looking to create a solid, large-scale system then you should choose IP PBX. If you would rather focus on scalability, security, mobility, and growth, then a virtual business phone system is the best choice.
Consult the Professionals
If you still aren’t sure which business phone system is right for you, then you should consider consulting the professionals. Maybe you don’t have an IT department in your business, which would make it difficult to fully understand all the technicalities involved.
We would be happy to guide you through the products we offer as part of an initial free consultation. And, to help you make the right choice, we will assess your goals and resources before offering you a solution that we feel would be best for your business.