An effective phone system for your business can help you manage both inbound and outbound calls. Whatever your business operation, calls are vital, whether taking enquiries or bookings, receiving orders, customer service or making outgoing sales calls. A lost call can be a lost order, or a disgruntled customer who never receives a resolution. Every conversion and every positive conversation is essential in today’s customer focused, highly competitive economy.
Depending on the size and type of your business your phone system may need to hook into your PC based CRM – Customer Relationship Management system. Connecting your phone system with your contact and customer database has great benefits for a sales or service heavy businesses. A connected CRM can help manage call efficiency, dialling, volumes and help sales people manage and convert important leads.
Fully functional, cutting edge telephone systems are affordable to small businesses as much as large in today’s technology rich world. Even basic systems can offer advantages such as on hold music; playing key sales messages and promotions to your customers while they wait to be connected.
Choosing a business phone system
Most phone systems have a base unit. The specifications of this will determine how many phones can connect into the system and if it integrates with your CRM and PC network. You will then require desk phones and headsets if your call volume is high or constant. Choice is wide for desk or headsets and you will need to assess your needs and budget to choose the right ones for you. Consider if you need conference facilities or wireless/on speaker options.
When choosing a phone system, take into account the size and type of your business and how the phone system will be used. Think about your clients or customers and how they like to interact with you and why. Make a list of features which are important to you and use this to compare for yourself, as well as reading business phone comparison guides, which system will be most useful to you. Do you need automated options or voice messages, call forwarding, on hold entertainment, speed dialling or integration with your CRM system? What will happen to calls received out of hours – do you need a digital receptionist or a simple voice message?
Another consideration to bear in mind is the longevity of the system, both technologically and the ability to expand with a growing business. Can you add more units, will the system suit your business or budget in 2 or 5 years. Also think about installation, maintenance and staff training as well as how to move your customers or clients to a new system and how they and your employees will react and adapt.
Types of Business Phone System
Business phone systems can be grouped into three main types KSU, PBX and VOIP with each having a cloud hosted or non-cloud hosted option.
A KSU (Key System Unit) is often a choice for smaller businesses due to the limitations on the number of phones which can be connected into the phone network. It’s a basic system with all the useful features and the KSU base unit determines phone line selection and manages connection and features. Though a wireless KSU option is also available which is more portable and flexible, called KSU-less it’s not a common choice or readily available due to its limitations. The base unit for a KSU is usually about the size of a bathroom cabinet and wall mounted.
PBX stands for Private Bench Exchange. The PBX connects the internal phone lines to the external phone network. It’s more advanced than a KSU and automatically routes calls. PBX systems have an uninterruptable power supply which can be useful in a power outage. Unless your choice is a hosted PBX system there will be a physical base unit.
The most advanced option on the market currently is VoIP. A VoIP phone or IP phone uses Voice over IP technologies for transmitting telephone calls over an IP network, the internet. KSU and PBX options use the traditional PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network).
VoIP devices can be software based phones used with a PC or hardware devices which appear very like a traditional phone. VoIP systems have the following benefits:
- Flexible power allocation
- Greater cord range
- Single connectors
- Ethernet protocol
These features mean more to the technologically savvy IT departments, and generally mean that VoIP systems are more flexible, integrated and have a wider range with less hardwire and wiring requirements. There is also much greater control over the digital VoIP system.
For a VoIP system both hardware and software is required. The system must be networked into the PC system for control and a network stack and physical phones are needed.
VoIP phones are advanced in themselves and may include a small display, a processor, and converters to translate voice data to digital data. They have ethernet or wireless network hardware to send and receive messages on the data network.
Business Phone Costs
What you should spend on a business phone system depends on your budget, its potential use and importantly how your business will change in the next few years. KSU and KSU-less systems can start from tens of dollars a unit but have a wide range running into hundreds of dollars. VoIP systems start from the lower hundreds but will of course run into thousands for a fully integrated call centre network. Other costs to consider are installation costs, monthly support, and call and contract charges.