With the growing importance of alternative channels available to customers, some businesses think that they no longer need a professional phone system. However, the phone is still a crucial channel for both support and sales. Therefore, you need to choose the right business phone system.
Besides, office phone systems no longer have to be a monstrous investment of money. Nevertheless, a solid understanding of which option will most benefit your business is required.
This guide will help you choose the right business phone system for your company.
Choose the right office phone system: what are your options?
To choose the right business phone system, you first need to be familiar with the different options at your disposal. This article will cover the three main choices: PBX, IP PBX, and Virtual VoIP systems. There are subdivisions of these options, such as the distinction between onsite vs. cloud-based VoIP solutions, or between app-based and browser-based virtual systems.
However, to keep it simple and help you choose the right business phone solution, let’s look at the following possibilities.
PBX systems operate through phone lines. Your communications happen through traditional phones. The PBX communications server is kept and maintained in your offices. This technology has been in use for many years, and its stability makes up for its heaviness and lack of flexibility.
IP PBX systems handle your communications through your internet connection rather than through traditional phone lines. This is called Voice over Internet Protocol. Your communications server is either hosted onsite, or accessed remotely through a service provider. Your team will use SIP-enabled hard phones to place calls. IP PBX systems are getting to be well-established, but still rely on a decent internet connection to function.
Virtual VoIP Software
Virtual business phone software works without any hardware. Your phone calls happen through your browser, or your provider’s app, right on your computer. This is a softphone, which eliminates the need for traditional or SIP phones. The servers handling your outbound and inbound calls are hosted and maintained by your service provider. The only tool needed on your end is a strong enough internet connection to support your call volume.
To choose the right business phone, consider the following:
Now to brass tacks. When trying to choose the right business phone solution, you need to ask yourself several questions: about your goals, your activity, and your future.
This guide will walk you through this process, and hopefully you’ll be more empowered to make a decision by the end of this article.
What is your current set-up?
Are you starting a new venture from scratch? Are you looking to upgrade your existing setup? These are important questions to consider. For instance, opting for a PBX installation might not be possible if you aren’t already equipped with the infrastructure, since digital has largely replaced analog.
IP PBX systems are slightly easier to implement, but you’ll still need to purchase equipment and figure out licensing, which can take longer than you’d like. Choose the right business phone system with the smoothest transition; if you’re starting out, this might mean opting for a virtual setup. Conversely, if your business is already equipped with hard phones and landlines, you might not want to chuck these resources to switch to a virtual system.
How heavy is your call volume?
If you consistently field a large amount of calls (both inbound and outbound), it might be good to favor a stable analog connection. You could have a digital backup in case of infrastructural issues, as well. If your team is very large, an analog solution will take a long time to implement. But if you choose a fully virtual system, reliability might be an issue.
However, if flexibility is an issue, due to fluctuating seasonal activity, then virtual is the way to go. Adding and removing users to a PBX or IP PBX installation means purchasing extra hardware and possibly having a surplus on your hands. Whereas your virtual business phone subscription is as flexible and easy to modulate as you need it to be.
What is your budget?
When looking to choose the right business phone option, you need to consider both upfront and ongoing costs.
A PBX will have high upfront costs, for hardware, licensing, and installation. An IP PBX will be less onerous, depending on whether you’re responsible for the hardware or not. These two solutions also have considerable ongoing costs as well: software updates, equipment maintenance, and replacing obsolete hardware, to name a few. SIP phones are more expensive than traditional ones, but a PBX will need to be replaced more often (roughly every five to seven years).
A virtual solution requires no upfront or maintenance costs, but rather charges a per-user, per-month subscription. VoIP technologies also require enough bandwidth for all your users to comfortably place and receive calls. The cost of a reliable internet connection needs to be taken into account for both IP PBXs and virtual business phones.
How do your employees work?
If you’re looking to change up your existing business phone system, there will always be an adaptation period to any new technology. Be it getting the hang of a new hard phone or a unified virtual interface, it will take a little time.
If your employees often work from their mobile phones, then a PBX with hard phones just won’t work. IP PBX setups are more mobile, but will still need you to be connected to your server through an internet connection, and this won’t work on mobile. For a workforce on the go, you could choose a virtual VoIP system; users will be able to access their soft phone from any device, anywhere.
Likewise, you might wish to enable your team to work remotely, from other parts of the work, or from home. If that’s the case, you’d be best off with a virtual browser- or app-based system. That way, your team will be able to work from anywhere, and access their session, contacts, and logs from wherever they please.
Which features are essential to your activity?
Choosing the right business phone system for you means looking at which features you expect from your system. Though the technology of virtual phone systems is still quite new, many services boast the same call features as PBXs and IP PBXs: call waiting, transfers, intelligent routing, and so on.
These features are more stable on hard phones, since they have existed for longer and the technology is less cutting-edge. Virtual phone systems have the edge on innovation, however. Virtual phone systems offer real-time monitoring and call recording in a much more accessible way. Data analysis is no longer reserved for large firms with dedicated departments. Even without expertise in data analysis, you can benefit from the monitoring software included with many virtual business phone services.
Given the overwhelming importance of customer retention, it’s extremely worthwhile to have ways to measure customer satisfaction, product adoption, and customer engagement. Call monitoring can be a valuable asset for businesses looking to constantly improve their interactions with customers. This might be a deciding factor for small call centers, or ones with a focus on customer service.
How reliable is your internet connection?
If you choose a PBX system, you won’t need to worry about your connection supporting your phone system. However, this setup is increasingly antiquated.
High-speed, reliable internet with equal up- and download speeds is increasingly available and accessible to even smaller businesses. This is advantageous for ebusinesses, which conduct their activity online. It’s also good news for IP PBXs and virtual business phone systems, since without a reliable internet access, your phone lines won’t function.
How will your business phone mesh with your other tools?
Your business relies on different tools to run smoothly. One clear advantage of virtual phone systems is that they can mesh directly with many of these other tools.
A PBX doesn’t interact with your other digital tools at all, and an IP PBX only deals with phone calls. But a virtual system can integrate with your CRM software, your live chat or email service, your helpdesk, your call scripts, your survey templates, and so much more.
The trend towards a unified business interface is growing. It represents both an economy of time as well as a seamless transitions between all the tools your team uses daily. This means a more productive and empowered workforce, which trickled down to a more satisfied and successful customer. A virtual phone system lets you deal with every aspect of customer interaction through a single, unified interface without having to juggle different software and services.
Best practices to choose the right business phone
The questions above are a good place to start, but this list isn’t exhaustive by any means. Here are some best practices to help you choose the right business phone system.
Set a goal from the start
Above all else, you need to have defined goals in mind when trying to choose the right business phone system. Have a clear idea of your business’ needs, of your budget, and of your team’s requirements. If you don’t know exactly what you want (and what you don’t want) out of your business phone, you won’t be satisfied.
Consult your staff and get a feel for what they consider to be important. Could transferring calls be easier? Would it be useful to sync your call logs with your CRM? Perhaps poll your clients, and determine how the phone could be used to make them more satisfied. Could they benefit from a more efficient call routing feature?
Consider future growth
Choose the right business phone for now, but one which will continue to work for you as your business grows. Consider what you wish for your business in terms of expansion, and pick the option which will help you work towards those goals.
In short: if you wish to have a reliable, large-scale, solid system, go for an IP PBX. If your emphasis is on scalability, mobility, security, or international growth, pick a virtual business phone system.
Consult a professional
If you’re struggling to choose the right business phone system, it might be worth it to consult a professional. Perhaps your business doesn’t have a dedicated IT department, so you’re finding it difficult to wrap your head around the technicalities.
Most service providers will be happy to walk you through their product if you get in touch. Or you could hire a consultant for this purpose, to take stock of your goals and resources and find a solution that takes both into account.
Take advantage of free trials
Shop around! No matter what solution you pick, you’ll have options and a large choice of providers. Make sure to get quotes, and to take advantage of free trials to make sure that a given service works right for you to truly choose the best business phone system.
Speaking of which, have you considered giving Aircall’s virtual business phone a shot?