Having a dedicated phone number and a reliable phone system is crucial for businesses of all sizes. It provides clients, customers, and employees with the ability to have personal and direct communication, which is still a vital component in today’s business landscape despite the growth of digital communication channels such as email and social media.
When it comes to choosing the right telephone system for your business, it is essential to consider both your current and future needs. Are you upgrading an existing system or investing in a phone system for the first time? Regardless of your starting point, it is important to choose a phone system that provides the features, functionality, and flexibility your business needs to succeed.
In order to make an informed decision, consider factors such as scalability, mobility, cost, and compatibility with other systems you already have in place. Take the time to research and compare different options and make sure to choose a system that is a good fit for your business now and in the future.
What are your business phone system options?
Here are some of the popular phone systems business can use:
Traditional phone systems
Landlines, also known as Public Switched Telephone Networks (PSTNs), are traditional phone systems supported by local or regional phone companies. They are analogue systems that run via copper wiring and require on-premises PBX hardware to run the service. Some landlines today are hybrid systems that connect to a business’s data network to provide phone features such as call transferring and directories.
While landline systems are reliable and well-established, many phone system providers are phasing them out. This makes them more difficult to purchase and repair, leading to the inevitability of obsolescence.
Landline systems are best suited for large corporations that have the budget and in-house IT staff to manage and maintain them. They are also necessary for businesses without high-speed internet access.
Cloud-based VoIP phone systems
Cloud-based systems offer a convenient and cost-effective solution for small businesses. With this option, there is no need to worry about maintenance or hardware other than phones. The service provider takes care of all the PBX technology, making it easier for businesses to focus on what they do best.
One of the key benefits of cloud-based systems is the ease of scalability. As the business grows, it is easy to add new lines and access new features. Most providers offer a monthly fee on a per-user basis, making it easier to budget for the system.
However, with cloud-based systems, the business is not in control of the hardware. In case the system goes down, they must rely on the provider to resolve the issue quickly.
This type of system is best for growing businesses with a fixed budget and no in-house IT staff. It is also a good option for businesses with multiple locations or those that want quick access to new phone system features.
Virtual phone services
Virtual phone systems are a cost-effective option for entrepreneurs and business managers who require a professional phone setup for their business. The main difference between virtual phone systems and traditional phone systems is that virtual phone systems simply forward calls to a number specified by the user, regardless of their location.
Your virtual phone system provider will provide you with a local or toll-free telephone number that you can use in your advertising, on your website, and in business communications. This type of phone system is highly scalable as your costs will be determined by your usage patterns, and you can customize your plan to match the desired number of extensions and minutes.
Virtual phone systems offer a wide range of features including options for multiple extensions, voicemail, automatic call distribution, call forwarding, call routing, and interactive voice response. The only drawback to this option is that there may be a delay in call transfers.
On the other hand, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone systems work by converting audio signals into digital signals that travel over broadband internet via fiber optic cables. This type of phone system is often more cost-efficient and offers advanced features such as the ability to make and receive calls and access voicemail from mobile devices such as laptops, computers, and tablets.
While virtual phone systems are an affordable solution, they are limited in their capabilities and may not be suitable for businesses with more than two people. These systems work best as an add-on to an existing phone system, rather than as a standalone option. Businesses may quickly outgrow its limited functionality, making it necessary to upgrade to a more robust system.
How to choose the best phone system for your small business
Pay attention to the following factors in order to make a well-informed decision:
Take into account the cost of a phone system
When selecting a business phone system, it’s important to have a budget in mind. Investing in a communication system for your business is a substantial financial commitment, and making the wrong choice can result in significant time and monetary losses.
Consider the following factors that can impact the cost of a business phone system:
- Initial setup costs
- Hardware expenses
- License fees
- Installation fees
- Internet bandwidth and connection charges
- Subscription fees
When comparing options, traditional phone systems generally require a substantial initial investment, while VoIP systems may incur higher internet-related costs. In contrast, virtual phone systems typically have lower upfront costs and minimal maintenance fees, but require a subscription fee.
Compatibility and scalability
When evaluating phone system options, it’s important to consider the level of compatibility with your other business tools and software. You want to choose a system that can easily integrate with your call scripts, customer relationship management (CRM) software, live chat, ticket management software, and email.
Your phone system should support the work your employees do and help them meet your business needs. Keep in mind the significant investment that comes with acquiring a new business phone system, and consider your future business goals.
The size and reach of your business will also play a role in determining the best phone system for you. For instance, if you plan to expand your business in the near future, you should opt for a scalable phone system.
For larger businesses or those with growth plans, it may be necessary to have multiple lines. By planning ahead and choosing the right phone system, you can save money in the long run and align with your business objectives.
When evaluating a plan, it is crucial to assess the available features. Ensure that the plan includes all the essential features required for your business operations, and also consider if any additional features would be beneficial. Additionally, it is advisable to inquire about any additional costs for specific tools that may not be included in the basic plan.
It is recommended to gather information about the vendor’s maintenance windows, update schedules, and plans for future feature enhancements. Furthermore, reviewing the service’s previous iterations and verifying that the vendor has a history of meeting their release schedules may also provide valuable insights.
A good business phone system should have the following popular features:
- Multiple extensions: ability to add multiple lines for different departments, employees, and teams
- Voicemail: each extension can have its own personalized voicemail box
- Automatic call distribution: incoming calls can be automatically routed to the appropriate department or employee based on set criteria
- Call forwarding: ability to forward calls to a different number or voicemail
- Call routing: calls can be directed to the appropriate department or person based on the caller’s needs
- Interactive voice response (IVR): allows callers to navigate through a voice menu to reach the desired department or individual
- Mobile integration: ability to make and receive calls on mobile devices and listen to voicemails
- Scalability: ability to easily add or remove extensions as your business grows
- Integration with other tools: compatibility with customer relationship management (CRM) software, call scripts, live chat, ticket management software, and email.
- Advanced features: such as conference calling, call recording, and call analytics
Choosing the best phone system for a small business requires careful consideration of several factors such as costs, compatibility with other tools, scalability, and features. A good phone system should help a small business manage its communications, improve customer experience, and streamline internal processes.
By taking the time to research and compare different options, you can find a phone system that meets your unique needs and goals. Whether it’s a traditional, VoIP, or virtual phone system, the right choice can make a significant impact on your business’s success and growth.