Choosing the Best Business Phone System for You

For many businesses, their phone system is vital to their success. Not only do you use it to communicate with customers, it's also important for keeping all of your employees on the same page. Today, business phone systems offer a number of different features and companies can choose between various technologies.

While these choices make it possible for every business to find a phone system that fits its needs, they can also make it difficult to get started figuring out which system is right for your company. This guide will break down everything you need to know in order to help you compare business phone systems and determine what’s right for you.

Pros and Cons of Business Phone Systems

If your asking yourself whether your company even needs a dedicated phone system, consider this. 92% of all customer communication occurs over the phone, but 85% of customers say they’re not satisfied with their phone experience. Clearly, the stakes are high.

At first glance, it seems like a good idea to simply use personal cell phones as business phones without a system in place. However, dedicated systems offer several advantages over this option.

A company phone system conveys professionalism and inspires trust in your business. If a customer calls you to inquire about your company’s services and they get an unprofessional voicemail message, they may doubt the legitimacy of your company or even think they called the wrong number. A branded, business phone system will inspire much more trust in your company.

Business systems also offer functionalities that cell phones can’t unless you’re using a virtual phone system (more on this later). You can’t transfer someone to another line via cellphone, use a virtual receptionist or provide business information.

Business phone systems do have some potential disadvantages, but they can usually easily be remedied. There’s always the chance that you could encounter technical difficulties or your system could go down entirely. If you use a provider that has quality customer service, however, they should be able to help you get set back up.

Cost can be another concern for businesses looking to set up a business phone system. Your cost will depend on the type of technology you use and the features you purchase. If you look in the right places though, there plenty of small business phone system options that come at a reasonable price.

When deciding if a business phone system if worth the price in your case, consider all associated costs as well as the return on investment you’ll get. Typical costs include set-up fees, the price of equipment you need to purchase as well as training and maintenance costs. Then estimate the return you expect to see through increased call volume, more sales and improved customer satisfaction.

Identifying Your Business’ Needs

Before you can choose a phone system, you’ll need to identify the needs of your company. What are you looking to gain from a new system? Figuring out what problems you’re having with your current system, if you have one, can help determine what you need.

If your company is just started out or has never had a company phone system, you’ll of course need to start from scratch. Try to figure out what you want to get out of your phone system and go from there. If you’re looking to expand your current system, note what capabilities you feel you’re missing and look for those.

You’ll also need to figure out if you want a mobile option or one that is based out of your office. If your employees are often on the road, a virtual system may be the best choice, because it allows them to use their cellphones. If your job is office-based, another option may make more sense. In some cases, a combination of the two might be ideal. You’ll also need to consider whether you want your system to be hosted on location at your office or virtually in the cloud.

Phone systems today include more features than just calls and voice mail. Systems that operate via the Internet, known as voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) systems, often come integrated with additional capabilities. VoIP systems can include the ability to make video calls and send instant messages. Business phone systems, Internet-based and otherwise, also sometimes come with call recording, conferencing abilities and call monitoring. 

Types of Systems

Communications companies offer business phone systems based on a number of different technologies including traditional landline, VoIP and virtual. Each has their advantages and disadvantages, so the right choice for you depends on the specific needs of your business.

Traditional Landline Systems

Landlines, also called public switched telephone networks (PSTNs), are the traditional systems you typically see in offices, as well as homes. These analog phone systems operate via the local telephone company’s conventional copper wiring. 

In order to have a business landline system, you need what’s known as Private Brach Exchange or PBX hardware located on site at your office building. With this type of system, you can have more phones than actual lines and make free calls to coworkers on the system. They can also come with features such as voicemail, voice menus, call recording, call queues and transfer capabilities, which is important because 53% of callers get annoyed if they don’t reach the correct person right away.

Landlines are a reliable and, since they’ve been around for a long time, most people know how to use them. If you’re not confident in the reliability of your Internet connection or don’t have access to high-speed Internet, an analog system will be your best option.

They can come with high price tag, though, because you need to purchase all your own equipment. Since you’re hosting it on site, you’ll also need an IT team to manage and service it. Additionally, a lot of phone companies are moving towards Internet-based systems, meaning it can be more difficult to make repairs or get replacement parts if something goes wrong.

VoIP Phone Systems

Juniper Research predicted that by the end of 2017, there would be over one billion users of Voice over Internet Protocol phone systems. VoIP solutions have many of the same capabilities as a landline system but at a fraction of the price. The main difference between a VoIP and a landline system is that a VoIP setup functions by using a company’s current Internet connection as opposed to the phone company’s wiring.

With a VoIP phone system for business, you can get some of the features that come with landlines, such as call queues, automated answering, transferring capabilities and voicemail. You also get some other features that are enabled by the system’s connection to the Internet. VoIP systems can send employees’ voicemails to their emails and providers often offer services such as video conferencing, instant messaging and file sharing tools. They also allow employees to connect to their company’s phone system from their mobile phone.

If your company wants a professional phone framework that supports a lot of capabilities, including non-traditional, Internet-based communication, a VoIP business phone system might be for you. This type of setup also offers these features at a lower price than that of a landline system. If your Internet connection is less than reliable, however, this system will not work for you. It’s also important to note that, with a VoIP system, if your Internet goes down, your phones will as well. If it’s vital that your customers can contact you anytime, you might rather have a non-Internet-based backup.

Virtual Phone Systems

Some businesses might choose to take it a step further and go fully virtual. These types of business phone systems offer many of the same capabilities as business landline and VoIP setups but without the hardware.

Virtual phone systems connect a business line to workers’ personal mobile or home phones. They basically operate like a sophisticated call-forwarding system. These arrangements can come with many of the same features that landline and VoIP systems do, including voicemail, virtual receptionists, transfers and call menus. They also sometimes offer online features such as video calls and instant messaging chats.

One advantage of a virtual solution is the price. Because they don’t require you to purchase any hardware, – not even physical phones – the cost for the business is quite low. The downside is that they are not truly a dedicated business system. Although they present that professional image to callers, they actually use employees’ personal phone plans to operate. This means that workers have to pay for their own business calls unless the company agrees to pay it for them. For these reasons, virtual systems are best for companies that have a lot of remote workers, freelance workers as well as sole-proprietor businesses. 

Hybrid Options

For some companies, a combination of two or three of the phone systems might be the best solution. Some phone companies might also only offer combination systems as they try to move away from landlines.

Some landline systems are actually hybrids between traditional landline and VoIP technologies. There might be a standard, physical phone line that comes into the business that then connects to the company’s Internet connection. From there, the system connects to each individual phone.

This is a potential advantage for companies that want the security of a landline but also the flexibility of an Internet-based system. This way, if there is an Internet problem, the lines might not go completely down. The company could also get access to some Internet-based features.

If a company has both in-office employees and a large number of remote workers or independent contractors, they might want a combination of a virtual system and another type. Then, they can have a full business system for the office as well as something that works for their other employees.

On-Site vs. Cloud-Based

If businesses choose a VoIP solution, they have another choice to make about how to set up and manage their phone system. They can choose to host it on-site like they would with a landline or have the service provider host it in the cloud.

If they go with the on-site option, they’ll have to purchase the hardware outright, which raises the cost of this option. However, this gives the company full control over their system as well as a better sense of security and privacy. They’ll also be able to customize it exactly how they’d like. This requires an on-site IT team, which means that bigger companies with a bigger budget for communications favor this option.

For smaller companies that don’t want to hire their own IT people, the cloud-based option might be the best choice. This relieves the company of having to buy the hardware, and the phone company will manage and service the system as well handle any necessary repairs. The up-front cost is certainly lower than an on-site system, and the company will pay the provider to manage the system for them as opposed to hiring their own IT team, which can be more affordable. Cloud-based also enable businesses with multiple locations to have one, integrated system.

Choosing a Provider

Once you know the type of phone system your company needs, you’ll have to figure which service provider to work with. There will likely be more than one provider that offers what you need in your area, so you’ll have to do some research and comparisons to find the best deal.

Thanks to the Internet, it’s easier than ever to research a product before you buy it. Customer review sites will provide you with plenty of insight into how well a certain system works and the customer service of the supplier. Social media can also provide you with some useful information. You can see what customers have to say about the company and product, as well as how the provider interacts with its customers. You could also ask questions of current customers and the business through these online channels.

Some suppliers might also let you test-drive a system before you commit to it. For a virtual system, they might give you a free trial. You might also be able to bring in a system to test it out and return it if you’re not satisfied. You should ask a company about its policies regarding this before making a purchase, as well as make sure you get full answers to any other questions you have.

How to Set Up Your Office Phone System

The amount of work you’ll have to do and the exact processes you’ll need to go through will depend on the type of technology you’re using, your provider and your setup preferences.

If you’re using a cloud-based system, the provider will likely take care of most of the setup. If you’re hosting it on site, the supplier may still install it for you. If you’re outright purchasing the hardware, you might need to set it up yourself. If you don’t have a company IT team, you may need to hire an outside IT company.

When it comes to personalizing your phone system, your provider may do it once you provide them with the information for your call menus, call forwarding and other features. You might also be able to easily do it yourself. Employees will also individually set up their voicemails and personal preferences.

The more physical equipment there is to set up, the more involved the set up may be. Virtual systems are often the easiest to set up, because they don’t use any physical equipment. You just need to set up your preferences online.

Your company’s phone system is vital for keeping your business running smoothly and making sure you’re connected with your clients, customers and business partners. Contact Aegis IT Services today, so that we can help you choose the right solution and get your system set up quickly and correctly.