The telecommunications system associated with your business is a crucial component of everyday operations. If you don’t pick one that suits current needs and can accommodate for future requirements too, you may run into challenges such as customers complaining they can’t get through when they call your company or employees reporting difficulty when transferring calls to other departments or dialing outside numbers.
There are a number of things to consider before making your decision about which telecommunications system will best suit your business. The more informed you can become before reaching that point, the quicker you’ll feel confident about the choice you’ve made.
Consider the Necessary Parts of Your Telecommunications System
All office-based telecommunications systems have some basic components. They include the phone setup, voicemail and your fax machine at a minimum. However, you may also need to do a significant amount of video conferencing at your business, and in that case, the telecommunications system could have supplementary equipment that helps those calls occur.
Learn About the Available Types of Phone Systems
You’ll also need to determine the kind of phone system that would cater to your business. If your company has a large percentage of remote workers, consider virtual phone systems. Keep in mind though, those are not complete solutions because workers receive calls on their landlines or mobile phones. However, they often give users access to features like online-based faxing and call forwarding.
Also, some companies are most familiar with using landline, analog phone systems that run on the telephone service provider’s copper wiring. If the leaders at your business resist change or feel most comfortable when using systems that they know well, you might gravitate towards getting a landline system installed.
It’s important to realize, however, that many telecommunications companies are moving away from landline setups and urging customers to go with more up-to-date options. Therefore, a landline system is not future-proof, and you may have trouble getting support for it in a few years unless your on-site staff is familiar with landlines.
That’s why you may hear about VoIP services while researching phone systems. VoIP stands for Voice Over Internet Protocol, and it provides phone service using the same connection your company uses to get on the internet. This is one of the most modern and popular choices for businesses.
In addition to an easy setup, VoIP systems are substantially cheaper than most landline systems. Also, they give users full suites of features and benefits, including using software that converts their computers into virtual phones that have all the capabilities of physical telecommunications devices and more.
In addition, VoIP services are excellent for remote workers, because those individuals can access all phone features from their computer, even when not on company premises. However, it’s important to be aware that because VoIP works with your internet connection, it may not be suitable if you are in a community that does not get consistent internet service, or the area often gets severe storms that cause lapses in access.
Decide How You’ll Acquire the Equipment
Now that you know some of the pros and cons of the main types of telecommunications systems that exist, it’s time to think about the equipment required for the phone system to run. In some cases — such as if you choose a landline or virtual phone setup — your company or its employees will already have all or most of the equipment.
However, if you’re sure you want a VoIP system or are even leaning towards one, there’s another question to answer, and that’s whether you want an on-premise option or one your provider hosts for you.
In a hosted scenario, the provider gives you all the necessary equipment, which you may rent. Additionally, the hosting company could require payment of a monthly fee that covers all the calls made, plus any special features you bought.
If you choose an on-premise VoIP system instead, make sure to budget for your own equipment, such as a server, along with the required number of phones that support VoIP technology. Maintenance costs for on-premise systems are also potentially higher than what you’d pay for hosted support because you take care of all upgrades independently.
Ask the Right Questions Before Making a Decision
The telecommunications option you pick is potentially technology you’ll use for years, which is why it’s crucial to take your time and think about all the choices instead of coming to a rushed conclusion. One smart thing you can do is talk to the people at your company who use your existing phone system daily and ask them questions about the things they like and dislike about it.
For starters, understand the goals you want a new telecommunications system to achieve for your business. What are the primary reasons why you’re switching to a new system? Begin by thinking about the things you need the technology to do, then expand that line of thinking by coming up with the capabilities you’d like it to have.
Also, don’t overlook the pain points associated with internal communications. What frustrations do workers have when calling their colleagues or working with other essential phone functions? Similarly, have you noticed a pattern of the types of complaints customers have when speaking to representatives from your business by phone?
Ask relevant people from the company to give input for those questions. When they do, take note of their responses and refer to the compiled information when you approach a telecommunications provider and start discussing your situation.
Make Scalability a Priority
Do your plans for the future include hiring more employees, moving into new markets or perhaps taking calls from people residing in other countries? If so, all those possibilities require the ability to potentially scale up.
One of the handy things about hosted VoIP services is that they are very scalable. In most cases, you can contact your provider about upcoming plans and determine the lead-time required for making them happen by your deadline.
Unless you are certain you won’t scale up in the future — such as being part of a niche market where the customer demand won’t grow enough to warrant it — always assume that you might. Even if you don’t anticipate scaling up for a few years or more, it’s worthwhile to find out about your options now, so you’re well prepared and informed for what’s to come.
Understand the Role That Your Phone Service Plays in First Impressions
People often say it’s impossible not to make a first impression because the individuals you interact with are always noticing things, whether or not they realize it. It’s important to remember if the telecommunications system you choose is not suitable for your business, customers will probably pick up on that, and factor the shortcoming in when forming their opinions of your company.
Research has also shown the tone of a person’s voice on the phone is significantly more important than the words they speak as others make those first impressions. Imagine, then, how customers’ views could easily tarnish if they try to talk to your employees and hear crackling on the line or get disconnected due to a dropped or patchy Wi-Fi signal.
Browse for Various Brands
The brand of your telecommunications system is another factor that should help you move toward an informed conclusion. Have you used phone equipment from a particular provider for the last decade and always gotten reliable service? If so, you might understandably want that consistency to continue and choose to put that brand on your shortlist.
On the other hand, maybe a business executive from a company that’s about the same size as yours, or has similar needs, gave glowing reviews about a provider he’s used for the past several years and never had problems.
Even if you already have a brand in mind that you know and love, it’s still smart to complete thorough research and learn about other brands that offer what you need. You may even get special incentives for signing up with a new company — or determine a familiar brand is worth your continued loyalty.
Be Mindful of Contracts and Service Agreements
Before choosing a company to provide your telecommunications system, always read the fine print and understand exactly what an agreement entails. When picking an unfamiliar service or name, you may not want to sign a long-term contract. See if you can pay by the month, instead.
If there are aspects of a service agreement that aren’t clear, ask for clarification and don’t assume you understand what the content entails. Also, keep digital and physical copies of all paperwork related to your telecommunications system and service provider so you can quickly refer to them.
By methodically going through these suggestions and considering the relevant information carefully, you should come to a solid conclusion about your telecommunication needs. Consequently, you will help your business grow and prepare for the future. Good luck!
Bio: Nathan Sykes is a writer and journalist from Pittsburgh. He covers tech and business. Follow him on Twitter @nathansykestech.