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What You Need to Know When Choosing a Business Phone System

When choosing from one of the many business phone systems, there are many considerations that are dependent on the needs of your business and your expected call volume. There are many choices that start from a small system that can accommodate up to ten phones up to an enterprise wide solution that can support thousands of phones. Either way, you want to make sure that whichever one of the office phone systems you choose has features available that are vital to the day-to-day operations of your business.

The Basics

Most businesses require at least some basic features such as music on hold, conferencing capability, voice mail and trunking abilities. Here is an outline of some basic features of most average office phone systems:

  • Voice Mail - Most businesses require a way for the caller to leave a message when the recipient of the call does not answer the phone. Some phone systems have this built in while others require an external system that interfaces with the phone system itself.
  • Music on Hold - When a caller is placed on hold, having something to listen to while waiting for someone to return gives the caller a more pleasant experience. This could be music or advertising for the business. This is usually accomplished with the use of a live feed from a radio station, or a recording that is connected directly to the phone system.
  • Conference Calls - Outside of using a conferencing service, it is helpful to have the ability to connect multiple callers to one call. This allows open discussion between Associates when more than one person is needed on the call.
  • Trunking -Trunking involves the configuration of incoming lines from the local phone company. This is accomplished through installing T-1's or individual phone lines that are configured in the phone system as a trunk group. This configuration will largely be dependent on expected call volume and the resulting needed capacity. Generally speaking, the larger the business, the more sophisticated this configuration becomes.
  • Auto attendant - An auto attendant is a digital operator that routes calls based on the caller’s choices. This is done through the entry of either an extension or the last name of the person they are trying to reach. Provided that the extension that they're trying to reach is configured in the phone system in the way they enter it, the phone call will route correctly.
Advanced Features

More advanced features, usually come into play for larger businesses. As an example, a call center that handles customer calls would probably need ACD or automatic call distribution capabilities. This usually involves the use of a toll-free number were calls come in and are distributed amongst available agents. This configuration is very common in call centers for customer service or collection activity. Additionally, for call center functionality it is likely that most business phone systems would need to interface with a predictive dialer. A dialer places phone calls without the agent having to dial the phone. The job or campaign is set up with a list of names and numbers so the calls are pre-determined.

Announcements are integral to a call center environment. They provide a way to give callers a menu, expected wait time or any general Information that the business needs customers to know. They are usually recorded through a phone that has been given privileges for recording.

Class of service is a feature that is utilized to control security and access to various privileges within the phone system. This can be used to control the ability to call long-distance, place international calls or even keep the call within the phone system itself. This provides the administrator with the ability to place tight controls on calling privileges thereby minimizing the risk of unauthorized use.

DID or direct inward dial allows callers to reach extensions directly without having to speak with an operator or to use an auto attendant. These numbers are purchased from the phone company and are then set up in the phone system as stations or extensions. Having this capability will often circumvent the need to have someone available to direct calls.

Although not a feature, when installing any of the office phone systems you have to consider wiring needs. Each phone needs a connection to the phone system and this is usually done via cat five cabling. These wires converge in a wiring closet or telecom room where the phone system resides. Wiring needs should be determined prior to purchasing any of the business phone systems.

Depending on your business, an office phone system can be used to streamline operations as well as minimize the need for additional personnel. With the correct configuration, all business phone systems can help the business owner cut operating costs as well as provide an effective way to communicate for its employees. When determining your phone system needs, consider the number of phones you'll need and how many calls you expect to receive and make. Once you have adequately determined this number, you can then make a decision on which of the various business phone systems you'll need.

 
 
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