Business Telephone Systems: finding the right fit for your company

Gemma Maroney is Solution IP’s Marketing Manager. She keeps up to date with trends in Business Communications and Telecoms , and writes in particular about Business Telephony, Unified Communications, VoIP, SIP and Hosted Telephony.

Tips for choosing a phone system that suits your business

Itbuying a business phone system goes without saying that choosing the best business phone system for your company is important.

Getting it right means improved customer satisfaction scores, enhanced collaboration and communication between staff and customers, and ultimately business growth- especially when a new system is coupled with other technologies and advancements in communications such as SIP Trunking Services.

Deciding which system to go for is not always easy, however. Whether you are setting up a new business, or moving from your existing telephony solution to a new one, there are a wide and varied range of factors to consider that can make the process a lengthy and convoluted one.

Because of this, there are hundreds of articles available on the internet that offer advice. These articles all approach the question from a different angle, and might do nothing more than add to your information overload if you are doing some pre-selection research.

We think the best approach is to think of any new system in relation to your business objectives. Relating an important decision like this to actual objectives that are measurable makes it easier to see how your choice will impact your business in the long run.

Having these objectives held at front of mind is essential when shopping around, as it means you are unlikely to be diverted by clever sales spiel or hype.

 

  • Improved customer call rates

Some of the businesses we have worked with had a simple but critical objective: to be able to cope effectively with high volumes of inbound calls, and, simultaneously, outbound calls. Missing calls or simply not answering them can have dramatic consequences, including poor customer retention rates, falling customer satisfaction scores and ultimately loss of income.

There are two elements to how the right telephony solution can help: first, you need to look for a system that can physically handle high volumes of calls and intelligently route calls whenever an agent is unavailable. Having a robust voicemail provision in place as well is key.

The second element revolves around being able to see exactly what is going on with your call statistics: call reporting is a vital component of effectively managing and improving call rates.

Call Statistics for IP Office

Avaya’s call reporter application CCR

Most of the leading solutions in today’s marketplace are designed to help you cope with high levels of calls, and offer full reporting capabilities. Avaya’s IP Office Preferred Edition offers advanced voicemail and call flow options, message handling, dial-back, remote access to call forwarding and audio information to help placate customers who are calling during busy periods. IP Office also has a customer call reporter application (CCR) that gives detailed customer service statistics. Mitel’s MiVoice system is aimed at connecting employees to a central system no matter where they are, meaning calls are less likely to be missed. Gamma’s hosted Horizon offering has a similar functionality where you can integrate fixed and mobile lines so that calls are never missed.

You can also buy standalone reporting products like TIM Plus that integrate easily with most PBXs, including Avaya and Mitel, and allow high level statistical analysis for complete control of your customer service provision.

 

  • Improvement of customer satisfaction scores

This is not just to do with answering or handling calls, it is also to do with the overall customer experience, and how easy it is to get in touch with or communicate with you. This is why many business phone systems are also sold as ‘business communications systems’, as they encompass the whole range of instant messaging, email, voicemail, conferencing, video conferencing, and more. The short line is that the easier it is for your customers to have a conversation with you, the happier they will be. A good phone system should give you multiple channels of communication that all integrate into a single system, and also connect employees no matter where they are and how they choose to work. This is also sometimes known as Unified Communications. The great thing about this objective is that it is easy to measure after installation – survey results, online reviews, social media reactions and anecdotal evidence should quickly start to show you the difference your new investment has made to keeping your customers happy.

 

  • Streamlining and modernizing existing infrastructure

We often talk to businesses who see purchasing a new phone system as a good opportunity to upgrade their existing communications infrastructure and streamline everything to make it easier to manage. Sometimes, an upgrade in broadband connectivity encourages people to change their telephony, other times its vice-versa.

Businesses these days are increasingly turning to IP Telephony because of its infrastructural simplicity. Moving over to an IP Phone System means accommodating the new telephone switching system, or PBX.  This is where much of the cost is involved, but the benefits are numerous: IP PBX uses ‘converged’ data and voice networks that allow access to the internet, VoIP and traditional telephony with just a single line to each user- empowering your business significantly whilst also simplifying things.

Horizon uses the Cloud to host its phone system

Explanation of how Horizon’s Hosted Telephony works

For companies with no existing PBX in place, Hosted Telephony is an ideal solution- especially if you would like to avoid the expensive outlay of new PBX hardware. Everything is essentially hosted off-site within the Cloud, meaning no hardware onsite to maintain at all. It is also a great way of streamlining your telecommunications, by having everyone connect to a centralized system hosted within a data centre in the cloud that is very easy to manage from any location.

Whether you are interested in an IP Phone System or a Hosted system, the connectivity in place must be able to support such a system. Dedicated Business Broadband is designed to give companies superior speeds and enable them to take advantage of things like VoIP. In cases where a beefier connection is required, dedicated business Leased Lines guarantee that voice communications are carried across the connection only from your company, meaning reliability and quality of service is guaranteed.

Other things to consider are technologies such as SIP Trunking, which has seen a dramatic rise in popularity over the past few years. SIP is an extremely flexible form of VoIP that allows your business to scale up or down as required almost instantly. It’s commonly used as a disaster recovery mechanism as well, as it allows calls to be diverted instantly in the event of a disaster. Existing PBX’s should be checked for compatibility with SIP (although these days, most models are compatible and if not, gateways exist that allow you to convert easily).

 

  • Encouraging mobility, flexible working & BYOD

Again, emerging trends often influence buying decisions when it comes to purchasing a new enterprise phone system.

This is particularly the case with the rise in flexible working patterns. Many employees now work from multiple locations, from home, from hot desks and from their own portable devices. Being able to support these workers, and give them the same tools and experience as they would have in a traditional office environment, is now of key importance to many companies. Again, the usual suspects in the marketplace Avaya and Mitel both have excellent mobility additions to their central telephony systems in the form of One-X and MiCollab respectively.

 

  • Increase in revenue

It goes without saying that you want your phone system to pay for itself by bringing in more revenue.

Attributing an increase in income to a particular technology can be difficult, but generally, if you give your business the right tools to be more productive, responsive, flexible and communicative, then the value should become apparent.  This is also true when looking at the cost saving benefits of some phone solutions, such as those hosted in the cloud. Being able to track productivity and responsiveness also is much easier than it used to be, with call reporting available that breaks down statistics to a granular level. Often, revenue increases can be attributed to improved customer satisfaction and retention scores- statistics that are easy to track.

 

  • Encouraging growth

Often, companies experiencing growth relocate to larger, better premises and this is an opportune moment to bring in a new phone system, to continue to support and promote further growth. This is also made much easier by most commercial telephone systems operating on a license-per-user basis, where the company only pays for what they need when they need it. It’s important that you don’t restrict potential growth with an inadequate phone system- look for one that is easily scalable

 

These are just a few considerations for how to approach the sometimes daunting challenge of buying a new business phone system. This list is however non-exhaustive, depending on your goals, hopes and plans for your company. Any reputable system vendor should ask you what your objectives are as a first port of call, before launching into their system repertoire.

Working through these considerations will also naturally inform many of the technical requirements, such as user numbers, features, applications, and method of delivery. Most importantly, it ensures you don’t become diverted when entering the busy, clamorous world of telephone systems sales- as with anything, the more you understand about the system you need, the easier it is for business communications providers to give you what you really need.

 

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