Jump to Areas of the Article:
- Are You Buying A Phone System?
- Do You Already Have a Phone System?
- To Improve Or Replace?
Let’s Get Started
Should You Get A New Phone System? The world of telephone systems is changing dramatically, with more and more companies using subscription programs to deliver their products and services to consumers.
Many customers move away from their current telephone system because they have somehow been convinced that emerging offerings are more affordable. The reality? You get what you pay for.
I am a telephone engineer who has been building out telephone networks, phone systems, and call centers for over a decade. I have seen it all and wish to help you understand what to look for. I’ll help you get the best out of your current system (whether that entails upgrades or full replacements).
If you’re stuck on whether to replace or update your current telephone system, let’s walk through some of the considerations you will need to make when approaching this topic.
Are you Buying A Phone System?
Who are you turning to for help?
I recently encountered a customer who was upgrading from their Avaya telephone system to a Comcast VoiceEdge phone system. Comcast is a company providing television and internet.
When purchasing a phone system, you want to do your research on the vendor providing the telephone system. Continuing with the above example, Comcast is not a telephone systems manufacturer. and they are not a phone company. Two red flags already.
This tells me that if you have any problems with your service or phones, they will have to open a ticket with the actual phone company, or some (unknown) company who can actually be fixing the problem. This immediately presents a delay in resolution. How long can you encounter this issue before anything at all is done?
If you are a small company, then spending that extra time dealing with all the ticket chasing may not bother you (but it is something to keep in mind). For bigger companies this could mean a loss of money depending on how critical phones are to your business.
Quality of the Hardware
The next issue I discovered was that VoiceEdge is using Polycom handsets. Red flag three. I love Polycom equipment, do not get me wrong, but I would never roll out a full phone system using Polycom handsets.
The reason being is that Polycom handsets are designed to be used for scenarios that require the most basic functions. For example, lobby phones, lunch rooms, or even conference rooms. Purchasing these handsets for your telephone system would be like buying an off-brand car for your fleet of Mercedes. It may fill the void in an emergency, but it does not (in any way shape of form) integrate with the phone system.
What do I mean? One of the most basic features you get when using a proper phone system is the ability to have a directory or to see a presence indicator of if a person is on the phone or not. To provide a directory for a Polycom phone (or even a Yealink), you must manually import, for each individual phone an excel .csv file with all of your contacts of the company or vendors. This has to be done to each individual phone.
Because the phone is not fully integrated with the phone system, you lose all of the extra features that accompany a name brand. Things like a conference bridge or being able to control your desk phone from your PC phone software are pretty important. Many customers these days are running the PC software only to get away from having something sit on the desk. Some also use mobile software to handle all of your extension needs. Making it easy to make and receive calls from your desk number from nearly anywhere.
Let’s Not Go Too Far
I’m not going to grill every point about VoiceEdge. They do market this solution as “Great for single-location businesses with 1-8 employees…”. Though later, they mention they can support 5 – 5000 seats which contradicts their other marketing.
I would not recommend going with a solution like this unless your employees are all in the same building and can physically see each other. This system would not scale any more than 25 seats at best. This is because as you grow, your needs are going to be fairly standard and this system is lacking standard features.
Are Telephones Critical To Your Business?
If your business relies on telephones to conduct business, then you are going to run into roadblocks down the road and the system will inevitably fail if you choose telephone products like this one. Just like buying a house, buy a product that offers the staples and has an extra room for growth.
Phone issues can be costly, and choosing the wrong vendor will ultimately result in additional expenses to you. You will be attempting to fix inherent issues, or you will be losing considerable amounts of time due to the lack of productivity enhancements that your phone system is supposed to offer. Small features can save you 30-60 seconds each time. Add that up between all your employees and over a year or more and you have enough money to hire more staff.
Go with a reliable phone vendor that provides a vendor-specific phone system and handsets. This will give you the flexibility that you need to grow. Choose a provider that specializes in telephone services and products rather than one for whom telephones are a secondary service.
You could find yourself stuck in the middle of a rock and a hard place with support related issues.
I have seen too many times where customers go with their cheapest option and their phones cannot reliably hold or handle phone conversations. Or the spend hours and hours with just trying to get the solution working normally.
If you want the best possible phone service for your business, then you need to know what to look for.
So, What should You be looking for?
Almost all telephone systems (proper PBX vendors) provide the same basic functionality. Some force you to pay for the bells and whistles upfront, and others allow you to purchase them when you need them. Here are some of the features that you will want to consider.
- Auto Attendant – This is the message you hear when calling most businesses. “Thank you for calling XYZ Company, please press 1 for sales, 2 for service…”
- Hunt Groups (Ring Groups) – This is a feature that allows you to ring multiple phones at the same time. Most vendors allow for ringing in different orders like longest idle, or round robin.
- Directory – A directory can be used on the PC phone software or on the desk phone itself. It provides you with a list of who is in the phone system, regardless of how many locations you have.
- Presence – This feature tells others whether you are on the phone or if you’re out of the office. It is a massive time saver!
- Schedules – Used to automatically change the routing of calls at different times of the day or year. Keep in mind that schedules should not require a technical degree or an IT ticket for you to change.
- Voicemail to Email – This will allow you to get all your voicemails as attachments in your email. Some vendors will transcribe the recording to text for you.
Bells & Whistles
- Queues – A queue plays music on hold while you wait for someone to answer the phone. Queues also allow you to play marketing or informational messages to your callers while they wait for a representative.
- Softphone – A softphone is a PC phone that allows you to use your computer as the telephone. All you will need to is a headset.
- Mobility – This is much like the softphone, but runs on your mobile instead. Calling out from a mobile app shows your business telephone number as the caller ID and not your mobile number.
- Conference – Voice conferencing along with video conferencing, screen sharing, document sharing, and the ability to record meetings.
Bell & Whistles – Advanced
- Call Center – Used for advanced call flows. For example, when you call your bank, you can enter your pin to get your account balance. That is a call centre function. Another would be giving your customer the option to receive a call-back while they keep their place in the queue. Call centers gives you metrics needed to better understand and manage your customers. Giving you the ability to identify if you need more staff or when you need staff on shift. This is an advanced (and necessary) part of any phone system.
- SMS – The ability to receive your voicemail as a text message, or to send out reminders to customers
- Chat – This feature will allow your organization to receive chat requests from customers. Agents can manage multiple chats at the same time. This feature also provides you with analytics that can help you improve your customer support efforts over time.
- Reporting – Believe it or not, reporting is the last thing on the mind of most phone system manufacturers. Even with expensive phone systems, the reports are typically in an Excel, CSV, or PDF format. When you integrate 3rd party companies like Brightmetrics, or Tableau, then you can get much fancier graphing and visual output.
- Add-ons – A good add-on or integration is one that is seamless. There are many companies out there trying to add on multiple new features such as Electronic Fax, or Microsoft Teams, but a true integration should appear as it is part of the phone system.
So, what vendor should you choose? A better question to ask yourself is, what features do you need for your business? Hopefully the breakdown above helps fill in some gaps.
I get customers who ask all the time, “What can we do with our system?”. Well, I can, of course, give you some ideas, but to be honest, a good phone system is very flexible. Let’s discuss how your customers get a hold of you and how calls are routed. I bet we can get the phone system to work for you and no the other way around.
Some questions to ask yourself:
- What are your business goals?
- What are your plans for growth? Do you have any upcoming department changes?
- Are your customers happy when they communicate with your business?
- What can we do to improve those customer survey numbers?
- Does your staff need to work remotely?
A good telephony solutions provider will have an in-depth discovery process. It’s important to learn about the customer and what they do. Some phone systems are better for some industries than they are for others.
For example, Mitel has hospitality features that work well with hotels. There are not a lot of vendors that do that. If I was buying a phone system, I would be asking myself:
- What do we need today?
- How fast are we growing?
- What options can I add to the solution later, and what are the general costs?
- How long has this vendor been around?
- Is there vendor support in my area of the world?
- Who do you feel the most comfortable with?
- Is this vendor focused on future integrations or enhancements?
- How difficult is the system to use? Get a proof of concept.
- Will this improve the productivity of my staff?
- How difficult is the system to manage? What is the cost if you wanted to have it fully managed for you?
Do you already have a phone system?
Enhancing your current phone system (PBX)
Is your phone system IP-based? It may be wiser to improve your system rather than replace it. Why throw away money spent on equipment when you can still get more use from it?
Check out below for some ideas.
1. Putting life back into your phone system (PBX)
In many cases, you can upgrade your current phone system by upgrading the software to improve the usability of the system or fix bugs. For many customers, we find that there are often good reasons causing system instability. Sometimes the original programmers did not follow the the manufacturer’s rules and recommendations.
Some customers have grown out of the current model and they just need to be moved to more robust equipment. It is usually a good idea to have a health check done on your phone system every couple years. I recommend having your network checked to see if it is optimized for voice traffic. Voice networks and data networks are not the same.
This could save you thousands of dollars, and you could easily recoup the costs you spent on the phone system. All while getting the improvements that your system needs.
2. PBX Vendor Add-Ons
If you are using a name brand PBX, then they normally will have add-ons that will allow direct integration.
If not, then there will ultimately be a handful of other businesses trying to improve and support these name brands. When there is a good brand, then normally there is a good partner community.
These integrations are typically vendor approved and fully tested solutions that work. These third parties usually go through a certification process showing what can and cannot be done. In these cases, both parties typically will create a configuration document.
Lastly, there are some integrations like Microsoft Teams that integrate with your PBX, which is called direct routing. This type of integration is approved by Microsoft and the Session Border Controller (SBC). The SBC is approved with the phone system and Microsoft is approved with the SBC. This middle man offers a clean integration and provides additional value such as protecting you from toll fraud. Here is a fun example of what toll fraud is.
4. For Those Who Do Not Want To Manage
I get it. Management is cutting corners and they do not want their IT staff spending any more time on the phone system, right? It is easier to just have someone else do it. Great! That can absolutely work.
There are IT solutions companies out that that will help host and manage your phone system at a reasonable cost. They can take away all the stress and extra work from your IT staff.
They will make sure that your software is always up-to-date, that the system is working as intended, and even provide you with a pay-as-you-consume model on your phone plan.
Additionally, most IT Solutions companies sell phone lines as a primary product, so that means they are likely to get comparable or better calling rates to those cloud vendors depending on their size.
If you are tired of handling your telephone system, replacement may be the answer. It is vital that you consider all the points provided above to make sure that you are saving money and making the best choice for your company.
To Improve Or To Replace?
Overall, the above serves to illustrate what many customers experience and how you can choose the best option for you. Whether you choose to improve or replace your current telephone system depends entirely on your current business needs. Please make sure that you consider each advantage and disadvantage of your choices before coming to a final decision.
Additionally, finding the right company to handle your telecommunications needs is an important part of this process. Do your research, don’t fall for advertising tactics. Carefully consider your business needs both now and in the future.
Ready to make the switch, or improve your current phone system? Let us know if we can help. Trifecta Telephony.
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