For businesses of all sizes efficient communications with customers and suppliers is of paramount importance. In today’s modern business environment, preferred methods of communications can come in many formats such as email, online chat, social media and SMS. However, an efficient business phone system needs to be at the center of any communications strategy. The problem is how do you evaluate your current telephone system? Is it capable of being the center stone in your business communications structure? Ideally, this modern business phone system will facilitate the integration of all those disparate communication channels into one seamless solution. So what are the signs that it might not be up to the task?
- Most SMB and startups require support for mobility, as their key employees will rarely be desk bound within a central office. Instead, they will be on the move, visiting client’s sites, or be on sales or service calls. Consequently, the business phone system must have the capability to support mobile executives and road warriors and keep them connected to their business/office phone number regardless of their actual location. Subsequently, if your current phone system cannot redirect calls seamlessly from the employee’s business desk phone to a mobile phone, a home landline, or any real or IP phone of their choosing, then you need to look at upgrading your phone system. Phone mobility is no longer a luxury it is now a business necessity, and cost effective solutions are available through virtual phone systems for businesses of all sizes.
- Does your current telephone system support multiple locations? Traditionally businesses grew by adding new offices and locations, sometimes by acquisition, and they supported those premises with their own autonomous phone systems. Unfortunately, business has evolved along different lines, and having multiple autonomous phone systems is inefficient both from a financial and administrative perspective. Today, cloud hosted phone systems can cost effectively provide geographically diverse locations with one administrative phone system. Moreover, this cloud-hosted service can support not only multiple offices but also telecommuters and home workers. Consequently, businesses can deploy employees more flexibly as teams no longer need to be co-located in the same building. Instead, a cloud based phone system can provide the collaboration and group facilities to team members wherever they may be located. By upgrading to a new cloud-based IP solution, the organization can likely see significant cost savings by consolidating all the diverse phone systems under a single IP service provider.
- Administrative control is another aspect that requires consideration. If your phone system is on-premises, for example a private PBX then you must consider the costs of administration and maintenance. This can be a tricky one to evaluate as not all private PBX systems are under the business’s administrative control. An example of this is how easy it is for the administrator to change the greeting or the out-of-hours messages. Some systems allow the administrator free access to make all the changes on the system they wish, from adding, editing extension numbers to changing call routing, whilst other vendors lock down their systems and they are charging for any changes made to the system. If your telephone system falls under the latter category then you should seriously think about upgrading to a cloud based phone system, which will allow full autonomous administrative control and consequently, a lower total cost of ownership.
- Is your call volume becoming a problem? One of the primary functions of a business telephone system is to have the capability to handle incoming calls without missing or letting any calls go unanswered. If your current telephone system cannot handle the increase in incoming calls and calls are being unanswered – caller getting a busy signal – then you need to look at upgrading your phone system. Any growing business can expect an increase in incoming, and outgoing calls but your system must be able to handle the increase in volume. Being unable to call the business – getting a busy signal – is a big turn off for customers and your telephone system should be able to keep up with communication demands.
- Is system administration and reporting a real problem? A modern telephone system should support easy administration in so much as extensions can be added, removed and features edited with the minimum of effort. Traditional on-premises PBX do not have this facility although trained administrators can perform those functions. However, ensuring that there is always trained support personnel on-hand – on-premises or online – to add or remove an extension is typically performed via support contracts, which are costly, inefficient and unnecessary. Modern cloud-based solutions provide administrative portals that provide the functionality to administer the system; add/remove extensions, users, passwords, voicemail, email and configure a whole host of features and functions per extension at the administrator’s will. If your current phone system does not provide full administrative control at no additional charge then you should look to upgrade.
- What is your disaster recovery or business continuity plan? Can for example your current system reroute calls to employee’s mobile phones or home numbers in the case of severe weather disruption or an office electrical failure. After all, you still need to be taking customer calls even if the office is out of action, and you don’t want them receiving a busy signal during power outages. If your current system fails with the power, then you need some sort of business continuity plan and upgrading your telephone system to a cloud-based IP PBX would automatically provide that business continuity assurance.
- Does your current system facilitate collaboration and integration? One of the great advantages of cloud-based telephone systems or even on-premises IP/PBXs is that they run over IP. Previously telephony used different communication protocols to IT applications and therefore where not compatible. However, with the advent of IP (VoIP) modern telephone systems can easily integrate with IT applications. What this means is that it is easy to connect your telephone system to your CRM or Financial applications so that sales or support staff can enter or retrieve customer data whilst live on the call to the customer. This integration is extremely beneficial for support, sales and service agents as they can have the telephone system automatically call up a customer’s call history when recognizing the incoming call phone number.
Therefore, in summary, when considering if you need to upgrade your current phone system, you need to consider these points:
- Is your existing phone system becoming technically obsolete? Can it support video calls, conference calls, and basic call center features?
- Is your phone system able to handle the increasing volume of incoming and outgoing calls? Are you experiencing network congestion, increasing call volume due to a growing business? Is your phone system equipped to handle the increase in traffic?
- Does your phone system have scalability features? Are you able to administer the system easily and with predictive costs?
- Does your phone system have a multi-office support feature? Do you need to provide support at multiple locations, support road warriors or work-from-home employees?
- Does your phone system allow your mobile work force to stay connected and accessible? Do you have front-end sales professionals or other staff members who are on the move, and will need connectivity through mobile phones or other devices?
- Does your phone system integrate with your business applications? Do you want to have integrated communications, and have the ability to take advantage of customer screen pop-ups, and integration with Outlook, SalesForce or use embedded presence and instant messaging?