Five Things to Consider When Selecting a Phone System for Your Business
Your business needs a phone system, but what are the things you should look for when selecting it? You need to weigh up how many talk minutes you’ll need, how to make it easy for callers to reach the right person, assess what communication channels are involved and the need to monitor, and also consider what to do if your employees are out of the office most of the time.
When managing a small business there’s a million things to consider. Buying the right equipment, using the right services, hiring the right people — all these things require careful investigation. A business phone system is no exception. With phone calls still among the most popular means to contact a business, the way calls are handled can put a distinction between you and your competitors. The solution you use determines on which side — good or bad you find yourself.
Meanwhile, with all the offers on the market — each of them claiming to be just right for you — it’s important not to overpay for stuff you don’t really need. The key to success here is determining your business communication needs and making sure that the system meets them for an appropriate cost. Fortunately, modern phone systems offered to small business are quite flexible and easy to customize, no matter how big your enterprise is.
Depending on your current business needs, here are the five questions to ask yourself when selecting a business phone system:
1. How many minutes will I need?
When selecting a phone system, keep in mind that you not only receive, but also make calls to your customers.
Choose a system with a fair amount of minutes included. If you’ve just started and not sure how many minutes you will need, go with one that allows you to purchase extra minutes without going way overboard on the budget.
2. How do you make it easier for callers to reach the right person?
If you’re not the only plumber in town, missed calls can become a huge deal. When people call a business, they tend to move on pretty quickly when the phone number they saw in that advertisement isn’t available on the first try. That’s why features that help you not to miss calls are essential for your business communication strategy.
These features may differ depending on the number of people on your team and what they are responsible for. Here are the three most common situations:
- If you’re the only employee in a newly-created start-up, pretty much any cost-effective system with appropriate number of minutes and a voicemail will do.
- If you have a certain number of people who sell your products or consult customers, you will need to know:
- The number of extensions you need (one for each person)
- Whether simultaneous ringing or passing the call from one person to another is the best feature for you. In the first case, when a call is placed, all phones in the system ring at the same time and the call goes to the one who answers first. In the second, the call first goes to one employee, then, after couple of rings it moves to the next and so on.
In this case you need to provide the caller with an opportunity to easily reach the right person, whether they need to make a booking, request a consultation, or having an issue with a product they’ve already purchased. The function that insures that is called IVR (interactive voice response). When a customer calls, he/she will hear a professional greeting and will then be offered the choice to connect to the person they need or leave a voicemail.
These features are often called “call routing” or “call forwarding” and help you make sure that fewer calls are missed, if any at all.
3. What communication channels are involved?
Apart from phones, there are quite a few ways a business can be reached nowadays. As a matter of fact, email and social media take a big share in customer-business communication. If you manage those as well, you might have noticed that requests eventually start to pile up. With the average time customers expect their inquiry to be addressed, which is under 1 hour for Facebook or Twitter and couple of hours for email, it’s hard to address all the requests in a timely manner having to switch from one to another.
If you use multiple channels to communicate with your customers, choose a system that offers more than just phone calling. Some modern business phone systems allow the integration of all means of communication and to manage them from a single console. That will help you reduce costs of having multiple apps. When all the phone calls, emails and voicemails, social media channels and website inquiries are gathered in one place and prioritized for you, you can make sure the most urgent ones can be addressed first.
4. Do I need to monitor?
If you have 5 or more people on your team, it’s almost impossible to control how they communicate with customers individually. If you strive to provide great customer service, make sure the system has a call recording feature to provide your customers with additional security, solving issues in an “open and honest” way. If calls are recorded, you can always go back and listen to the conversation to see if the customer’s request was misinterpreted and he/she was given correct information. You can also train new employees based on good phone calls.
5. What to do if my employees are out of the office most of the time?
Most small business employees are rarely trapped inside the four walls of an office. They are commuting, on business trips, or simply working from home. Meanwhile, phone calls, emails and messages still need to be addressed.
Select a system that offers a mobile application integrated with your main phone system, where your employees can manage communication with no need for a laptop. They should be able to make and receive calls, listen to voicemails and deal with all other inquiries effectively. In other words, the app should create in-office experience even when they only thing you can get hold of is a smartphone.
Business phone system is not just a means of receiving calls anymore. Selecting the right solution means making it easier for callers to reach you, helping them avoid frustration when their question is not answered because they reached the wrong person and giving them the feeling that you’re there for them when they need you the most. Make your phone system a means for your business growth and you will soon notice your efforts start to pay off.