An investment in the right business telephone system is a key component to winning and keeping customers. This checklist will help you conduct the research necessary to empower your business to be able to deliver top of class customer engagement using today’s latest technology innovations without breaking your budget. Phone systems are also becoming more important in supporting remote employees and capitalizing on advancements in technology.
Each item is meant to point you to the decisions to be made before you can go out shopping for the best phones to meet your unique needs. Along the way, we point you to resources we provide to help you understand the choices.
- How many telephones do you need, where and how will they be installed?
This question seems simple, but it carries a lot of implications for how technology is able to function. For example, phones installed in areas that must depend on WIFI versus a hard-wired internet connection might not reliably perform in ways that support your needs. This translates into the potential for dropped calls, or inability to receive all calls, etc. Imagine the impact this has on both your staff and your customers as they face the frustrations of a simple connection issue for a phone call.
- What are the preferred phone models?
These days it might be more difficult to choose the phone model you’d like to use. Simply getting a newer version of what you’ve been using up to now might seem like a safe choice. The reality is, what you don’t know can slow down the profitability of your business. By missing out on recently emerging features, you are likely missing out on added value for your customers and employees. Look around at the options available, and when considering the price tag, don’t forget account for the impression you’re giving your customers and prospects by simply not keeping up with the times.
- How many DID #s do you need?
DID stands for – Direct Inward Dialing (or DDI, Direct Dialing Inward in Europe). It is a feature offered by telephone companies for use with their customers’ PBX system, whereby the telephone company (telco) allocates a range of telephone numbers associated with one or more phone lines.
- How many telephone lines do you have or want?
This requires some forward thinking on your part. You will want to consider your growth plans for the next few years and plan now for telephone support for additional departments or employees you might want to add in the future. By not taking this into account now, you could avoid business disruptions and control future costs associated with expansions.
You’ll also want to consider the technology innovations that allow hand-offs from desk phones to cell phones or softphones. Remote workers and how they can use your business phone system even when they aren’t working from your location.
- Do you rely on a FAX Machine? Does it require a separate dedicated phone line?
These days many businesses have adapted to Internet solutions that are replacing the need for fax machines. If you’ve been using a fax machine, now might be a good time to plan for ways you can change how you use it. Consider your copy and print equipment as well as your phones for how documents can be shared using Internet technology. Understand the options and be sure to ask your staff how they use the available options for their feedback. You might uncover ways to make their jobs easier. The end result allows more time to focus on customer interaction and less time on technology tangle-ups.
- Do you have or need a conference phone?
Consider how your business has changed since the last time you installed a business telephone system. If conference rooms weren’t part of the equation you may want to add it now. You’ll want to explore the flexible avenues technology offers for where and how you can collaborate with your teams and customers in a group setting before you choose exactly how to do it where it concerns your phones.
- Do you need to port any existing phone numbers to this office location?
Similar to the remote worker scenario mentioned above, multiple offices or temporary locations might create situations where calls need to be handled in ways that may not be possible with your current phone system. Make sure you know your needs and can look for the potential new features and functions that upgraded phones can deliver for managing your customers and day to day operations.
- Do you have or want an 800 number?
If you already have an 800 number, now is a good time to examine its usefulness. Pull the reports that will demonstrate whether or not it is valuable. Next, explore modern ways to replace 800 numbers (you might not need to keep it if your customers tend to communicate with you more using other channels, like email or online chat through your website, etc. or if you think they might if you take this time to add those resources with an eye toward removing the 800#)
- On average, how busy are your business telephones? How many outside phone calls do you think are taking place at the same time?
As a business grows, call volume typically grows with it. Adept employees may have you thinking all is well because they’ve gotten more efficient in managing how they pass calls through your existing system. This might be a pain point for your customers. Examine whether people are frequently being placed on hold, transferred around to several extensions, or having their call dropped. Are people calling in repeatedly because they couldn’t get through on earlier attempts? Also, remember to consider your growth plans and how these problems might develop if you don’t plan adequately for your future needs. Things to consider include examining whether your phone system tracks hold times, dropped calls, records length of calls, etc. Does it allow you to have an overview of how your entire business communication infrastructure performs in order to support your ability to deliver outstanding customer experiences?
- Does your business place (and receive calls) to or from Hawaii, Alaska or US Territories outside the continental United States? Does your business place and receive international calls?
When you evaluate business telephone systems, knowing your call volumes outside the continental U.S. is a good idea since it might impact plans and features that could help your business.
- Who is your internet provider? Average Speed? Are connections stable, consistent and reliable?
This is a major consideration for the type of business telephone system you choose. You might want to shop around for internet service providers and plans alongside making decisions about a new phone system. You’ll need to identify your best options when it comes to combining the technology available to the technology you can actually use.
- Do you know if an on-premise or “in the cloud” phone system is best for your operations?
There are advantages and disadvantages to both on-premise or cloud-based phone systems. Start by finding out what is available to you (for instance, are you on cable or fiber-optic?). Next, identify your needs and then make a list of phone system options that will work within your, unique circumstances to give you the best performance and reliability. Availability and quality of services for your location and costs should be examined in relationship to impact on customer experience.
- Do you need any phone cable drops to accommodate workstations today and into the future?
While relying on WIFI and computer connections to conveniently expand “on the fly”, it is better to plan ahead to use a dedicated ethernet cable for each business phone since the connection quality is more reliable.
- What programming is needed?
Most businesses have standard rules in place for how they’ll redirect calls, handle recorded messages and control call traffic by placing callers on hold. There are a set of standard greetings kept on hand for holidays or inclement weather related changes to hours or service delivery and so on. If you’re considering changes to your business phone system, it’s a good idea to inventory what you have and what you might want to add so you’re prepared when it’s time to actually program the phone system. These details can substantially impact how customers perceive your business and most phone systems have features you can take advantage of to help manage it.
- How old is your current phone system?
It is crucial to consider the age of your current system when it comes to expanding the number of lines and phone sin use. Like other equipment, there comes a time when it make more sense to replace everything versus stretching it past its useful lifetime. Where phones are concerned, trouble is likely to surface in finding support for the software it uses, getting parts for the phones, and finding technicians who can make any needed repairs. Like most things related to technology, as new versions are introduced, older systems are retired from common use. Allowing your phone system to become obsolete can have customer service suffering, creating losses you can’t readily see on a spreadsheet. Allowed to continue for too long, the losses will far outweigh any savings due to inefficiencies in your teams ability to serve customers.
- Routinely examine how your phone system is meeting your needs for efficiently serving your customers.
Recent circumstances illustrate the importance of keeping your phone systems current with the times. Being able to easily accommodate remote workers or make sudden changes to how your business operates on a daily basis is heavily impacted by your communications infrastructure. It should receive regular attention as the heartbeat of your organization.
Business telephones are an important part of your entire IT environment and should be included within your managed IT services plan. Check out our IT services page and let us know if we can be of help to you.