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Seek advice from other business owners when considering a new phone system.
Seek advice from other business owners when considering a new phone system. Illustration by Infograpps.

Part 1: Plan and Research

Even Alexander Graham Bell would be amazed at how telephony technology continues to transform business communication. At today’s rapid pace of continuous feature improvements, every growing business owes it to themselves and their stakeholders to review optimization opportunities every 12 to 18 months.

“Whaaat? Every 12 to 18 months?” you say?

Yep! You may decide to not make a change in systems, but if you buzz through the next five or seven years with the same old dial-tone, you’ll miss opportunities and run the risk of your callers hearing “the number you have reached has been disconnected.”

How then do you minimize the review process and maximize the benefits for your business? Since your telephone system affects your professional image and ability to provide excellent customer service, it’s worth every effort to ensure you choose wisely.

Plan and research before you commit to a new phone system.
Plan and research before you commit to a new phone system. Illustration by Infograpps.

This four-part Blog Series is the culmination of our own experiences over the last 15 years with just as many phone systems! We’ve distilled the salient points and organized the key components for choosing a telephone system into the acrostic below:

  • Prioritize features – Caller ID, conferencing, auto-attendant, messages-on-hold, voicemail, voicemail to email, find-me follow-me. Determine which ones you’ll use immediately and which ones you’re likely to implement in the future. Distinguish between need-to-haves and nice-to-haves.
  • Homework – Spend some time studying available phone system options. Learn about current technology and the range of prices in the market. Expect 5-7 hours of research, just to get your bearings. We will explain phone system options in next week’s blog.
  • Over-budget – Don’t under-invest! Too often, “penny-wise and pound-foolish” proves true: we try to save a few bucks and end up owning equipment that will not grow with us. The actual per-user cost of newer technology like VoIP or PBX phones is similar to traditional analog multi-line phones. Consider the benefits of investing in a system that will meet your needs now and for several years to come.
  • New or used – One way to leverage your up-front investment is to purchase a used or refurbished phone system. It’s not unusual to find a used PBX for 10 or 20 cents on the dollar. Though used systems may save money, many people still decide to purchase a new system because newer technology is always emerging, and there’s always the risk of purchasing a “lemon.”
  • Equipment – Keep in mind that some PBX units are able to support regular analog telephones with limited features and most IP telephone sets can be re-provisioned to work with different providers. So, utilizing phones you already own could save money but could also limit the potential of a new system.
  • Seek advice – Ask at least 10 other small businesses (yes, 10!) about their telecommunications solutions. If you’re lucky, you may find a few that have “been there and done that,” and can prove to be an invaluable resource, saving you research time and the headache of sifting through vendors. Locating your telephone vendor by referral is always preferable.

Next week, we’ll explain the different business phone solutions such as VoIP, Analog, and PBX. In the meantime, if you have any questions, we’d be happy to get answers for you.