How to Buy a New Office Telephone System: Phones & Devices
This is the fourth installment of our series, “How to Buy a New Office Telephone System.”
In our last blog, we identified 20 of the top features that most modern phone systems have to offer today. This installment of our ongoing series will focus on the types of phones and devices one can employ in new business communications solutions. The list is probably much bigger and more diverse than the last time you bought your phone system.
1. Executive Telephones—These are larger phones with color screens, touch screens and one-touch feature access.
2. Standard Desk Telephones—This is your regular office phone that offers some amenities, but not as many as the more expensive models.
3. Basic Business Telephones—Ideal for kitchens, libraries and lobbies, these phones are stripped down to deliver the bare necessities.
4. Softphones —Software installed directly onto your computer, laptop or mobile device, allowing you to use your device. It’s as reliable as your computer, but it wins points for convenience and price.
5. Wireless Phones —Perfect for receptionists and employees who frequently move about the office, this allows them to always be within reach no matter where they are located.
6. Door Phones—These are typically placed next to security gates or access doors. With a direct connection to the receptionist or designated employee, they can screen the caller and even remotely unlock the gate or door.
Specialized Business Communication Devices
1. Answering Position—These specialty phones are typically reserved for receptionists, because they allow the user to see the status of every phone user. They are designed for high volume calling applications.
2. Audio Conferencing Unit—Lovingly nicknamed the “starfish phone” by many, this purpose-built phone provides 360º microphone coverage, better sound quality than a desk phone and options for extended microphones.
3. Fax / Alarm Lines—Typically, these dedicated analog lines are already in place. They can be replaced by Internet-based solutions. You can even keep your fax machine if you want, but eliminate the analog fax lines. It’s another way to modernize and save money.
4. External Loud Ringer—Utilized within large spaces, where employees are able to hear a ringing phone throughout the building. These are great for warehouses, kitchens and manufacturing plants.
5. External Paging System—This allows phone users to access an external set of speakers and announce a message to a large area.
Obviously, there are no shortage of communications devices available for today’s business communications solutions.
How to Buy a New Office Telephone System: Features & Requirements
This is the third installment of our series, “How to Buy a New Office Telephone System.”
In our last blog, we discussed the importance of knowing the limitations of your current system and how it relates to what you should look for in a new one. As part of this insight, we briefly touched on finding the right features for your needs. It used to be that when purchasing a new phone system, you’d only maintain it for about 5 years before upgrading to the latest model. Why? To gain exciting new features such as voicemail, speakerphones, and call queuing.
Yet, in today’s world that is no longer the case. Since most systems offer pretty much the same features, it’s not a matter of which solution has which feature, but rather for the buyer to have a good understanding of all of most useful features out there today.
20 Most Common Features of Business Phone Systems
DID (Direct Inward Dial) — Unavailable on analog systems, this allows employees to have their own telephone number that goes directly to their phone thus bypassing the receptionist or automated attendant.
Caller ID — A feature that displays the caller’s telephone number.
Find Me / Follow Me — This allows you to designate a number of phones to ring simultaneously when your number is dialed.
Mobile Phone Integration — Allows mobile phones to be an integrated part of a company’s communications platform.
Ring Desk/Mobile — No matter where you may be, this feature helps locate you by ringing both your desk phone and your mobile phone at the same time.
Presence — Always know if a user in on the phone with a simple glance at your phone’s screen or monitor.
Unified Messaging — Voicemails are delivered direct to your inbox.
Voicemail Transcription — This feature will turn any voicemail into a readable document, as an alternative method of delivery.
Audio Conference Bridge — This offers the ability for multiple users dial into a virtual conference room.
Video Conference Bridge — The same feature as above, but with video capabilities.
Web Meetings — A very powerful tool that allows users to conduct online meetings including voice, video and screen sharing.
Web-based Dialing — Simply put, you can dial a number on a website with a click of the mouse.
Sales Force Integration — The power to combine your CRM with your communications.
Hot Desking — This gives employees the ability to “log in” to any telephone regardless of location and make and receive phone calls.
Drag & Drop Call Handling — Ideal for high call volume locations, this is a screen-based application that makes it easy to manage multiple calls quickly.
Paging Through Phones — The ability to page an individual through multiple phones, which is especially handy in large work environments.
Call Monitoring — A tool for managers that allows them to listen in on phone calls. It is a great training tool for call center applications.
Call Recording — Allows calls to be recorded for later playback; an extremely handy tool for mentors and managers.
Call Reporting — Allows decision makers to gain insights into call durations, inbound vs. outbound, user phone productivity, etc.
As you can see, there is a world of possibilities when it comes to the features your business can employ in a new telephone system. It’s all a matter of determining which features provide value to your business.
Be sure to keep an eye out for our next blog in the series, “Phones & Devices.”
How to Buy a New Office Telephone System: Business Needs
This is the second installment of our series, “How to Buy a New Office Telephone System.”
In our first blog post, we reviewed the telephone system evaluation and acquisition process. We also talked about the background information you must uncover prior to engaging with vendors. Next we need to look into how you handle your business communications today, both to develop your buying criteria as well as to discover potential future needs.
Location. Location. Location
If your workforce is at multiple locations, tying everyone together has traditionally been a challenge. However, with today’s technology it has become pretty darned simple and affordable. By bringing everyone together under one platform, you’ll do away with the “Islands” of communication. And with the continuing trend to have remote employees and contractors, it becomes a mandatory requirement.
The size of your company is a big factor that will help you determine the solution you put into place. For instance, companies with less than 20 users are more likely to employ a virtual PBX software, because the startup costs of purchasing an on-site PBX can be prohibitive. However, buying a PBX system can make perfect sense for larger organizations (or smaller businesses with a long horizon), because the cost of ownership can be less expensive in the long run than a virtual PBX. You also need to factor in any expected business expansion. A business communications solution is a long term commitment for most companies and you’ll want to assure that it can grow with you.
Current Phone System Capabilities
What type of telephone system is in place now? Each phone system has some features and there were probably good reasons why you bought what you did, the last time around. That can give us cues on what’s important to you and how you operate. It also tells us what you are missing and we can explain the value of certain features that you don’t presently have.
How Many Calls & How Are They Handled?
In order to create an effective solution for your company’s needs, we need to determine the number of simultaneous phone calls during times of peak traffic. Frequently we can obtain this information by talking with the receptionist. Nobody has a better understanding of your volume of phone calls. Sometimes that information is also available in a report out of your present system.
Next is a discussion about call flow. How is a call initially answered, either by an automated attendant or someone answering the phones? From that point, how do calls get distributed? What happens to the call if the intended party is on the phone? What happens if they are out of the office?
It’s important to get feedback from the company’s heaviest phone users and their managers. Typically, the sales and customer service departments are the groups who have the most intensive telephone users. They likely know your company’s communications challenges best.
Armed with all this information, it’s then our job to create an efficient call handling process – I tell people that we are in the call completion business.
Don’t miss the next post in our series, “Features & Requirements.”
How to Buy a New Office Telephone System: An Overview
Evaluation & Acquisition Process
“This blog is the first in a series about the process of purchasing a new business telephone system.”
I am Benny Martinez, the owner of QualTel Communications, Inc. a business communications solution provider based in the San Antonio Metro Area. Over 25 years in the business, first as a technician for a major company then as owner of QualTel. I have provided “Legendary” service to hundreds of customers on business phone systems, both hosted and premise PBX.
When undertaking a pivotal task such as purchasing a new telephone system, it is necessary to do a thorough analysis of your company’s specific needs. A formal evaluation and acquisition process will ensure quality results and a solution that meets your expectations.
However, I’ve observed that some of the customers we work with on projects disregard or downplay the importance of the buying process and end up paying too much, selecting the wrong technology or the using the wrong vendor. Most business telephone solutions are long term commitments, so the mistake lives on for years. It is the goal of this blog series to share our knowledge on how to evaluate and choose the best solution possible.
The best way to build the criteria of what will work best for your company is to develop firm answers to the following 8 questions. Once you fully evaluate these key areas, you’ll be ready to purchase a business communications solution that addresses all of your company’s communications needs.
1. Why Are You Looking?
While the most frequent answer is to replace an obsolete phone system, there are actually several reasons you could be in the market for a new system and could affect your final choice.
• Outdated Technology—This means that you are running into issues when it comes to finding adequate service, support and parts.
• Specific Features—If your current system is simply lacking features necessary for the efficient operation of your business, it may be time for a new solution.
• The Bottom Line—After a system is put into place, your costliest telecommunications expense is the monthly telephone bill and it’s for the most part, accepted as a general cost of doing business. Often times, decision makers don’t realize that a change in the system could actually save money on the monthly phone bill.
• VoIP—These days, with everyone relocating business services to the cloud, it might make sense for your company to employ a virtual PBX and join them.
• Expansion—If your company is in a state of growth, you may have outgrown your current PBX.
• Relocation—When moving to a different location, it might be a good time to replace your technology instead of sinking money into moving an old system. QualTel installs voice & data cabling. We can move your data network equipment. We can act as your agent in moving your telephone service. QualTel can become your “One-Stop Shop” for all your telecommunication needs.
2. Does Your Decision Have a Time Frame?
Customers buying a business communications solution take anywhere from two to three weeks up to a year. Most often the delays are caused by prioritizing the acquisition process lower than day-to-day business activities. Many times, buying business phones does not have a deadline. Thus it gets put off, sometimes long enough that the market has changed enough that the process re-starts from scratch.
On the end of the spectrum, a system failure or pending business expansion or relocation will focus any buyer.
These days, most phone systems offer the same features. It’s more a matter of if you’d prefer to purchase it as a product or a service. Regardless, there are still plenty of considerations to keep in mind, such as:
• Up Front Price
• Total Cost of Ownership
• Vendor Location & Reputation
• Brand Recognition
Defining and weighting these parameters narrows your focus. This saves both you and potential vendors lots of time.
4. Has a Budget Been Established?
This can be hard information to part with because of the fear it will be used against you when it comes time to make the purchase. However, having a budget in place beforehand can often save you time when it comes to looking for solutions within your given price range. Plus, vendors know that most customers are looking at multiple solutions and a solution with an inflated price won’t be considered.
If you don’t have enough information to create a budget, contact several vendors and tell them that you are looking to create a budget. Make sure to ask for a range of pricing. Most providers will share round numbers and you’ll get the sense of costs. Do know however, that most everybody will be quoting their low end solution in hopes of remaining in the game when you become an active buyer.
5. Do You Have Any Preferences?
Would you prefer an on-site Premise PBX or a cloud-based virtual PBX? Both have their advantages, which we’ll be discussing in one of our upcoming blog posts.
6. Have You Already Considered Any Solutions?
At QualTel, we always want to know whom our potential customers have already had conversations with. This information gives us a good indication as to the price points encountered and the technologies considered. For decision makers, this information can also ensure our sales team members are responding with the right solutions. They might even be able to tell you if you’re limiting your search in any way.
7. Do You Have A Preferred Provider?
Typically, customer loyalty rests with the equipment manufacturer, the product brand or the local value-added reseller. Do you care about name brand recognition or are approaching the project that all providers are considered? In the past it was much easier – there was Nortel and Avaya, both with huge market share. Today it is different because there are lots of choices with no dominant players.
8. Is There an Implementation Time Frame?
If you’re working against a hard deadline, it may affect the time you have to vet potential vendors or compare different technologies and therefore change your evaluation process.
So, as you can see, there’s much to consider prior to purchasing a new system and it’s important to have a game plan in place to ensure an efficient process and results in a business communications solution that will suit your business’s needs and budget.
Be sure to tune in for our next blog post, “Business Needs.”