02 May Guide to Finding a New Phone System
It can be difficult process choosing a new phone system. We are breaking it down into a 5 step guide.
STEP 1: IDENTIFY WHO’S USING YOUR PHONE SYSTEM
To know what your business needs, first find out exactly who will be using the system. In most cases, your user base will fall into two camps: internal users or external users.
Solicit feedback from the people who interact with your phone system most frequently. Get input from staff—both technical and nontechnical, light and heavy phone users. Ask them!
- What’s working about the current system and what’s not working?
- What frustrates them? Watch some of them interacting with the phone. Is it easy to use, easy to program, and comfortable ergonomically?
Some specific user types to consider:
- Remote Workers:
- How many do you have?
- Do they prefer to use business desk phones or their mobile devices?
- Are they geographically dispersed or consolidated into a few regional or global offices?
- Are your remote workers easy to locate and connect with?
- Are secure communications a concern?
- What other communications needs will remote workers have?
- Power Users: These are your heavy phone users, likely among administrative staff, who will need specific functions to keep your company going.
- Rare Users: How many need a more simplified setup?
Don’t forget about the users on the other side of the handset either. Ask your customers, partners, and vendors about their experience contacting your business.
- Are they able to reach your staff easily?
- Are dropped calls an issue?
- Are your customers looking for other ways to contact you beyond voice?
- Assess what your competitors are doing well or and not so well.
STEP 2: SEPARATE YOUR NEEDS FROM YOUR WANTS
Gaining an accurate picture of your company’s user scope is important so the system you choose has the proper usage capacity. You don’t want to invest in a system that you’ll outgrow too quickly. On the other hand, you also don’t want to pay for a bunch of users that you won’t have for another year or two. The key is finding balance with a system that can grow in lock step with you.
Once you’ve identified your needs, you can start to build an idea of what features your business needs to function. This is a great time to put all the options on the table and have users give feedback on what is most important for their roles.
CUSTOMIZE YOUR NEEDS
There are so many features and capabilities available with today’s advanced phone systems. It’s important to sort through what your unique needs are.
- What kind of mobility and team collaboration needs do you have?
- What about Active Directories?
- Would you like the ability to program your speed dials through a computer interface? Do you need multiple voicemail boxes?
- Do your employees share desks?
- How about a message service to greet callers and route calls to the appropriate staff member?
- Do you want audio, web, and video conferencing?
Think about what kinds of functionality will give you a competitive edge. While you certainly don’t need to pay for options you won’t use, it’s better to grow into a system’s features than regret their absence. Retrofitting is not feasible with most older phone systems.
CAPABILITIES TO CONSIDER
Necessary features are what you must have to keep your communications operating in your current business state. Putting necessary time and thought into your requirements will ensure you end up with a system that meets or even exceeds your expectations.
SIZE AND FLEXIBILITY
- The size of your business is a big factor in the selection of a phone system. Consider not only how many employees you currently have, but also how many you expect to have in the coming year and beyond. What are your staffing projections for the next three and five years?
STEP 3: LAYOUT YOUR BUDGET
What does your budget look like? Keep in mind that with any budget size, you can look for a vendor who can help transition your infrastructure over time, rather than investing immediately in a new system. Some vendors offer hybrid solutions to help you phase in a new system while you phase out the old one. You can minimize downtime and reduce the budgetary issues that may come up with a full, immediate system migration.
ITEMS TO CONSIDER
- Capital Expenditure vs. Operating Expense
- Total Cost of Ownership
- Lease or Buy
STEP 4: CHOOSE A VENDOR
Finding the right company to work with you to fit the needs that you have determined is crucial. The vendor you choose will help walk you through the key steps in choosing a phone system. They will help make suggestions and recommendations based on the needs provided, budget, and technical environment. This includes doing a basic technical inventory to cover six main areas:
CHOOSE AN INFRASTRUCTURE AND DEPLOYMENT MODEL
Your vendor will help guide you in determining the right infrastructure and deployment model. There are two basic types of infrastructure for your phone system: on-premises and cloud-based.
ON-PREMISES PHONE SYSTEMS
Traditional phone systems use landlines and transmit voice using analog or digital devices. Each employee has his or her phone extension and voice mailbox. Traditional phone systems are ideal for businesses who make mostly local calls. With an on-premises solution, your entire phone system is housed on your organization’s premises, and your staff maintains the network. If you don’t already have a system in place, the investment in a new one can be significant and costly.
CLOUD PHONE SYSTEMS
Cloud phone systems use a shared Internet connection for one or more locations. These systems reduce telecommunications costs by delivering calls over the Internet, requiring that you only pay for extensions being used. Adding new users, multiple offices, remote workers, and contract employees is simple with a cloud phone system. Cloud solutions can be highly secure and reliable.
STEP 5: IMPLEMENT!
Now that you’ve considered all your options, it’s time to select and get your new system in place. Help your vendor out with the installation process by notifying staff of the phone system change and that training will occur to elevate any frustrations of the changeover.