The Complete Guide to Business Phone Systems

Even though we live in the digital age, a lot of consumers still prefer communicating with businesses over the phone.

The reasons for this shouldn’t be hard to understand.

Firstly, everyone knows how to use a phone. Secondly, asking a question or explaining a problem is so much easier and faster to do over the phone compared to doing it via email.

If your business is getting just a couple of customer calls every day, you can get away with using a regular landline phone or even your personal smartphone to handle calls.

However, if you’re getting a large number of calls on a daily basis, implementing a business phone system becomes a necessity.

In this guide, we’re going to go over what business phone systems are and why they’re important. We’ll also talk about the different types of phone systems currently available, as well as what you should be looking for.

What are business phone systems

Business phone systems are advanced communication systems designed to improve communication in a business environment.

They can handle complex business communication needs, such as customer support calls and call routing.

Voicemail, auto-attendant, and conference calls are other common features of business phone systems.

The importance of business phone systems

A business phone system is a necessity for both big and small businesses. It allows you to:

Provide better customer service

Using a business phone system helps you serve your customers better by allowing your customer service team to take more calls and route them to the appropriate person when necessary.

Scales your customer support

Business phone systems are built to be able to scale according to a business’s needs.

This means that you won’t have to worry about being able to handle an increase in customer calls, inquiries, and support requests – at least when it comes to the technical side of things.

Simplify your team’s life

By simplifying call routing and enabling your team to answer calls from anywhere, a business phone system makes yours and your team’s life easier.

Most business phone systems also include ongoing vendor support, which means that you won’t have to deal with any potential technical issues that arise yourself.

Types of business phone systems

The three main types of business phone systems used today include PBX, VoIP, and cloud-based phone systems.

PBX

PBX is short for Private Branch Exchange. It’s a type of business phone system that allows businesses to communicate both internally and externally with ease.

With a PBX system, call routing is typically done from one central location, which makes it more cost-effective and easier to scale compared to a traditional key telephone system. PBX systems are also more flexible and feature-rich compared to key telephone systems.

Most PBX systems take advantage of redundant power supply, which allows them to minimize downtime.

A traditional PBX phone system is hosted on-site and needs to be managed and maintained by your IT department or a dedicated IT expert.

VoIP

VoIP, which is short for Voice over Internet Protocol, is a type of modern business phone system that operates through an Internet connection rather than a traditional phone line.

A VoIP system is very easy to use and highly scalable. Most such systems are designed to be managed using an online portal where an administrator can assign phone numbers and extensions, as well as enable or disable various features.

They support advanced features such as voicemail-to-email and video calls. VoIP systems are also very flexible, allowing users to answer calls using a computer, mobile app, or a VoIP phone device.

One of their biggest advantages is that they don’t need to be hosted on-site, which relieves businesses from having to maintain their phone system themselves. Unlike a traditional PBX system, VoIP systems are usually hosted and maintained by the vendor.

Cloud-based phone systems

Cloud-based phone systems are always hosted off-site, which helps to save resources and simplifies the daily processes of a business.

They’re also quick and easy to deploy, with most cloud-based phone system providers being able to help you get up and going within a day.

Once deployed, all you need to do is make sure that you pay the provider’s monthly fee regularly, and they’ll take care of the rest.

Cloud-based phone systems are also highly scalable and versatile. They can be used with a variety of devices, including smartphones, laptops, desktop computers, and VoIP devices.

What to consider when choosing a business phone system

With so many different business phone system options out there, it can be difficult to choose the right one for your needs.

Here’s what you should consider when selecting a business phone system:

Phone connection

Do you want a traditional landline connection, or are you fine with using a VoIP connection? Most businesses are turning to VoIP in today’s day and age, but some might still prefer having a landline connection.

Hosting

Are you interested in having the convenience of an off-site business phone system, or are you looking to keep the system on-premise where you can have full control of it?

How you’d like to host your new phone system will limit your options when it comes to vendors, with some providers only offering off-site systems and others providing on-premise solutions.

Budget

What kind of budget you’re working with will also limit your options. In most cases, an on-premise solution will be costlier to set up compared to a vendor-hosted solution.

Supported devices

Do you want to be able to use your business phone system with a variety of different devices, such as smartphones, laptops, and VoIP phones? Keep your device requirements in mind when choosing a phone system.

Integration with existing systems

You most likely use a number of software solutions to run your business. Your new phone system should integrate seamlessly with your other systems, such as your CRM, helpdesk, and live chat software.

Must-have features for business phone systems

You might be wondering about what kind of features you should be looking for in a business phone system.

At a minimum, your new phone system should include:

Auto-attendant

An auto-attendant is a common phone system feature that acts as a virtual receptionist, directing callers to the appropriate department or person and instructing them on what they need to do next.

It works by presenting callers with a menu they can respond to by pressing one or more keys on their phone’s keypad. Some auto-attendants can also respond to callers’ voice instructions.

An auto attendant can be used to present callers with a professional greeting or an after-hours message, route calls, and send group messages.

Both big and small businesses can take advantage of an auto attendant. This feature saves time and money for businesses, freeing them from having to hire a receptionist or operator.

An auto attendant can also reduce callers’ frustration by getting them to the right person quickly and helping them solve their problem as soon as possible. It also completely eliminates missed calls and helps to provide customers with a consistent experience.

Call queue

The call queue feature allows you to put callers in a queue and direct them to members of your team as soon as they become available.

Most business phone systems can queue callers into groups based on the number they called, the call option selected when using the auto attendant, and the time of the call.

Call queueing is a necessity for any company that receives more calls than its team can handle at once. It prevents you from losing callers and allows you to help more of your customers without increasing the size of your team.

This feature also helps to reduce the strain on your team and helps your reps and agents stay organized while maximizing efficiency.

Mobile twinning

Mobile twinning is a very useful feature that allows you to use a mobile device as an extension of your business phone. When your work and mobile phones are “twinned”, your mobile phone will ring every time you get a call on your work phone.

This enables you and your employees to be available to customers even when you’re not in the office or at your desk. It also minimizes missed calls, which helps you provide better customer service.

Even when you do miss a call, mobile twinning will make sure that it’s directed to your voicemail so that you can easily find out who called and why.

With mobile twinning, there’s no reason to give customers your personal mobile phone number, which helps protect your privacy and separate your personal and work life.

Note that vendors might refer to this feature differently. While it’s most commonly known as twinning, we’ve also seen it called personal call routing and dynamic extension.

Conference bridge

A conference bridge is a feature that allows you to organize a virtual conference with your team, partners, or clients.

It works by allowing participants to dial into a virtual meeting room by using their phones. Depending on the particular phone system you use, a conference bridge could support a dozen or more participants.

Most phone systems that offer this feature support creating multiple conference rooms, each one hosting multiple participants.

These virtual conferences can be secured through the use of PIN codes, which ensures that only those people you want on the call will be able to access it.

As you can probably tell by now, a conference bridge is a highly useful feature, and one that you should certainly be looking for in your new phone system.

It will enable you to reduce the number of live meetings you have, saving time and money for everyone involved.

Call recording

Call recording is a common feature included with most business phone systems. It allows businesses to record both incoming and outgoing calls, as well as store recordings so that they can be reviewed and analyzed.

Being able to record calls is very important for reviewing your customer support and sales teams’ work. It can also be used to analyze your own calls and learn more about your clients and customers.

Depending on your industry, you might even be required to record calls in order to comply with government regulations. Having call recordings available will also make solving customer disputes and complaints a lot easier.

A well-developed call recording feature should allow you to choose which parts of a call to record, as well as automatically stop recording once a call is over.

Voicemail-to-email

Your new phone system should also be able to send your incoming voicemail to your email address in the form of an audio file that you can download and play on your smartphone or computer.

This will make it easier to access your voicemail and help improve responsiveness.

You can also configure this feature to email you a notification stating that you’ve received voicemail so that you can check your voicemail manually without downloading a file.

Some phone systems also support voicemail transcription, which allows you to get a transcript of each voicemail you receive.

Music on hold

Playing music to customers who are put on hold has been commonly used by businesses for years.

The reasoning is simple – music makes people less anxious and more willing to wait on hold compared to simply waiting in silence. Listening to music helps callers pass the time and makes the overall hold time feel shorter.

Your new phone system should allow you to play music to customers you put on hold and make them feel more comfortable about waiting on the line.

This feature can also be used to play a recording answering frequently asked questions or announcing a new product or service.

Best practices for choosing a business phone system

Before we wrap up this guide, let’s go over a few best practices you should keep in mind when choosing your new business phone system.

Set a goal

Before doing anything else, you need to set a goal for what you want to accomplish with getting a new business phone system.

Write down your business’ specific needs, determine a budget, and note any requirements your team might have.

At this stage, it’s important to consult with your entire team to determine what they need, as well as what features they’d like to see in your new phone system.

Do your research

You’ll be using your new phone system for years to come, so it’s crucial that you choose the right one.

Don’t go with the first provider you find, but rather research different vendors and compare the features and benefits they offer. Make sure to also look into the costs associated with implementing and using each vendor’s solution.

Use websites such as Capterra and G2 to read reviews of different solutions to find out what kind of experiences other users have had with a particular vendor and their solution.

Interview vendors

Once you narrow down your list of potential vendors, try to get on a call with their representatives and ask any questions you weren’t able to find answers to during your online research phase.

Make sure you get a clear idea of all the features their solution offers, as well as all the associated costs with implementing, using, and maintaining a phone system.

Consider consulting with a professional

If choosing a new business phone system seems too difficult for you, consider hiring a telecommunications consultant to help you.

A consultant will be able to determine the specific features you should look for and assist you with choosing and implementing your new phone system.

Talk to other business owners

Talking to other business owners is great way to learn more about what you should be looking for in a phone system, as well as get advice on selecting and implementing one.

Focus on talking to people who own businesses that are similar to yours in terms of size because small businesses will necessarily have different needs compared to large companies.

Account for business growth

What you need out of a phone system right now might not be enough when your business grows in the future.

Consider your future needs when choosing a new phone system and make sure that the option you go for will be able to support your business as it grows.

Start looking for a new business phone system today

A business phone system can help you provide better customer service, allow you to scale your customer support efforts, and simplify your team’s life.

There are three main types of phone systems you can choose from: PBX, VoIP, and cloud-based phone systems.

When choosing your new phone system, you’ll want to put some thought into what type of phone connection you want to use, where you want to host the system, and which types of devices you want to use with it.

You’ll also need to consider your budget and think about whether it’s possible to integrate a particular phone system with all the other software solutions your business uses.

As for essential features any business phone system should have, these include auto attendant, call queue, mobile twinning, conference bridge, call recording, voicemail-to-email, and music on hold.

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