A step-by-step approach to finding the best solutions for your business
Step 4: Consider Necessary and Beneficial Features
Think a business phone system is just a bunch of devices that sit atop employees’ desks that ring and (sometimes) get answered? Think again. A business phone system is much more than that. It’s an essential tool that allows staff to connect with one another, develop relationships with clients and get things done. And the right system offers features that can make all that happen better, faster and more efficiently. So think beyond the standard features of call transfer, speed dialing and voicemail, and discover which functions can help you work smarter.
In some offices, it is convenient for the organization to have a pool of phones that are shared by multiple employees. For example, real estate agents, who are often out of the office showing houses, may not need dedicated phones. Perhaps the office has 10 or 15 desk phones for 20 employees to use. Hotdesking allows users to enter an access code into any phone on the system and automatically have access to personalized phone settings, speed dials, voicemail and more. Then, when they’re finished, they just log out and a different user can log in. Hotdesking makes phone sharing possible and can help businesses save on equipment and office space.
Some companies shy away from cloud deployments because they don’t like to relinquish control over their network, or they believe it isn’t as secure as a premises based solution. This, however, is a myth. Cloud solutions can be highly secure and reliable. In fact, they may be more so when you consider the disasters that can strike a workplace, such as power outages and weather-related events.
MANAGEMENT AND ACCOUNTING
This feature records all phone system activity and logs the information based on data you want to capture. Many phone systems offer standard reports, but customizable reports are available as well. For example, you may want to monitor call patterns within certain departments or track employee availability and call length.
You’re already well-acquainted with this feature, often simply called auto attendant, even if you don’t know it.It is the voice that greets you when calling a business that provides you with menu options so that your call is routed to the correct extension. For instance, you might be instructed to, “Press 3 to speak with someone in billing,”or fan-favorite, “Press 0 to speak with a representative.”The auto attendant can also prompt callers to change the language of the spoken menu, dial an extension or listen to a prerecorded message, such as the business’ address, fax number or hours of operation. Auto Attendant has become a widely available business phone feature and comes standard with many systems.
AUTOMATED DIRECTORY SERVICE
Similar to auto attendant, this feature allows callers to be connected to a department or an individual within an organization without knowing which extension to dial.Some systems allow callers to search the directory by entering the first three letters of the individual’s last name while others allow callers to speak the person’s name or department.
AUTOMATIC CALL DISTRIBUTION
Sometimes, customers call a company but don’t need to speak with anyone in particular or they don’t know with whom they need to speak. The automatic call distribution feature allows system administrators to determine how calls will be distributed within an organization or call center. Say you’re a cable company and you need to connect customers with technical support staff. You could set the automatic call distribution feature to route calls to technicians who have been idle longest. Or, you can have them routed to staff in order of seniority, technical expertise or location.
AUDIO AND VIDEO CONFERENCING
Most phone systems include a conference call, or audio conferencing, feature, which allows you to join more than two phone lines on a call. Depending on the system,though, that number of participants can range from three to many.
More advanced systems also include the capability for video conferencing. But don’t stop at availability when inquiring about this feature. There are many service providers that offer video conferencing, but it’s important to work with a provider that is reliable and can handle the bandwidth needed to support a video conference. Too little bandwidth or unstable service will lead to choppy video feeds and frequent disconnections.
Do you ever get tired of having to check several different devices or applications to retrieve your messages? Unified messaging is designed to take care of that. It is the collection of all your voice mail, email, fax and text messages in one interface. For example, the access point for messages might be a computer application that is included with a phone system.
If you’ve ever dialed more than one number to track down a colleague, you know the value of this feature. Presence is the status indicator of each person on the system. It allows every user to see each other’s status at a glance so they can decide the method for communication that’s needed.For instance, if a user sees that the person she needs to speak with is on the phone, she may choose to instant message him instead. Another user would benefit from seeing his co-worker’s status set to “gone for the day” so she doesn’t waste time trying his desk extension again and again.
DO NOT DISTURB
The days of a boss calling out to a secretary to “Hold all my calls” are pretty well over. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get some uninterrupted time to work on your own. When this feature is activated, your desk phone won’t even ring.While the do not disturb (DND) feature is widely available,different systems handle the process differently. With some systems, callers get a busy signal or hear a recorded message that the person being called does not wish to be disturbed. Other systems’ DND feature sends calls to voicemail or allows you to route them to another person—such as that administrative assistant you wish you had.
This feature is pretty much the polar opposite of DND. It’s a type of call routing that allows you to program a list of numbers you wish to be tried, in order, for locating you when you’re not at your desk. For example, you could set the feature to route calls to your desk phone but if you don’t answer in a certain number of rings to try your cellphone. And if you don’t answer that, you could have it call your home phone. The phone system will attempt each phone number you’ve programmed in succession until the call is answered or the list is exhausted, in which case, the call is sent to voice mail.
Go to Step 5: Choose a Vendor and Device