As our modern-day workforce continues to shift responsibilities, our business solutions must evolve along with it. Business phones and business phone systems are no exception. Traditional business phone systems require companies to purchase a great deal of hardware for their offices. However, an increasingly remote workforce demands flexibility that on-premise private branch exchange (PBX) systems don't provide.
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) business phone systems have revolutionized the industry. The current business phone service is about so much more than voice calls. We also communicate in other ways, including through emails, text messages, instant and media messages, video conferences, and social media sites. Using cloud-based phone systems, business phone providers can offer openness to unified communications (UCaaS) features to help companies communicate in various ways.
The introduction of cloud business phone service has opened doors to what a business phone system can do for your business. Collaboration tools and advanced calling and communications features, such as artificial intelligence (AI), customer relationship management (CRM) app integration, and virtual receptionists, allow small businesses to overcome some of the challenges of working with a limited team. And VoIP technology cuts down on the costs of service.
Business phone providers offer many collaboration features in one unified platform for an affordable price. Businesses with a bigger budget can unlock more calling features and tools with higher-tier business phone plans.
How do you know which is the right system for your company? Our guide walks you through the crucial issues to consider before getting business phones for your organization.
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Picking a business phone service is more complex than simply selecting a new phone. The service needs to be reliable, provide high-quality communications without static or delays, and connect your employees and customers in a way that's effective for your particular company.
Ask yourself these questions to help narrow down which business phone provider is right for you.
- Are our VoIP business phones suitable for me? Many small and midsize enterprises are moving to cloud business phone systems, which are subscription-based. End users are not responsible for maintaining the system, and they instantly gain access to the latest unified communications as a service (UCaaS) features. In particular, small and midsize companies often don't have the budgets or personnel to effectively manage and maintain on-site phone systems.
- What's my budget? The number of users often dictates the cost of a business phone service. Most providers offer cheaper rates for companies that need many lines. To save money, consider signing up for an annual contract or pick a provider that offers a flat rate for a single line and a handful of extensions.
- What calling features do I need? Many business phone providers split their services into multiple tiers. Lower-tier plans offer basic calling features, while higher-tiers include UCaaS features such as video conferencing and CRM integrations. Depending on how your company communicates internally and externally, you may not need every part. Determine which calling features you need and look at the appropriate plan tier. You can always upgrade your service later if your needs change.
- Do I need hardware? Most businesses won't need hardware for their VoIP business phone system. Cloud-based VoIP services are often run on desktop or mobile apps. You can save on upfront expenses by using these apps instead of purchasing desk phones. However, some businesses will prefer to outfit their office with IP phones. Ensure the service you choose offers IP phones or is compatible with the hardware you're interested in.
The best phone system for one company may not be ideal for another. Before committing to a particular service, provider, or procedure, look closely at your organization's needs.
What Integrations Are Offered for Business Phone Systems?
Integrations and application programming interfaces (APIs) can extend the use of your phone system. Integrations allow your office phone system to work with other business software such as customer relationship management (CRM) and point of sales (POS) systems. By integrating your software, you create a connection in which programs can communicate. This communication allows you to share data and combine some of the functionality of the two systems with a few clicks. If an integration for a business software you use isn't available, an API can help.
APIs are integrations that have been coded on the back end of programs to automatically push and pull data from one another. The automatic pull creates a simple, streamlined interface for the user and doesn't require them to input or remove the data manually. Having your business systems work together improves overall efficiency and organization. For example, you can have a third-party CRM track and record your office phone system's calls to create a unified approach to your business's sales calls.
The best office phone services offer numerous integrations and APIs that let you get the most out of all your business software. However, if your business is just starting, you may prefer a simplified system and only does what you need. Many small businesses will opt for basic plans that meet their budget and offer minimal integrations. You may prefer one-stop-shop providers that provide all the business software you need. Think about your business's specific needs and decide if integrations are vital to you.
What are some essential business phone features?
Take a look at this list of essential business phone features to make sure the service you're choosing has what your need:
- Custom Greetings & Premium Hold Music – no customer enjoys being left on hold for long stretches. Still, many callers also appreciate not suffering call waiting times in silence or being forced to listen to sterile elevator music. Hearing a custom greeting and royalty-free hold piece before a call transfer leaves your callers with a better impression of the interaction with your agents as a whole. These features also make your enterprise appear far more professional.
- HD Video Conferencing – Several business phone service providers offer HD video conferencing capabilities, enabling high-quality web conferencing straight from the platform. These functions eliminate the need for third-party video platforms. Having a reliable sound and HD visuals promises clear communication to simplify internal operations for your remote teams.
- Integrations – They are valuable both for helping the customer service team streamline its processes using crucial data and keeping connected to your other existing customer base tools. Many phone providers offer a diverse group of commonly used apps that can synchronize seamlessly with your phone system. These pair productivity tools like CRM, call tracking, live chat, among other features to the phone system.
- Call Analytics – Like social media reports and web analytics, call center analytics can help you optimize your performance and provide a wealth of knowledge on anything from call logs to conference calls. Analytics is a worthwhile investment for any company looking to maximize track leads and call management impact while evaluating the success of call center representatives.
- Local Business Phone numbers and Vanity – be on the lookout for business phone service providers who can provide you with virtual numbers, extensions, access to toll-free vanity numbers, and free local numbers. All VoIP numbers come with a caller ID.
- Voicemail-to-text and Voicemail Transcription – Listening to lengthy voicemail messages wastes a lot of time, and it's tough to determine which calls to prioritize if you can not figure out what the caller requires without listening to them. Voicemail-to-text changes all that by providing you and your staff with a written transcription of all voicemail messages. The voicemail-to-email function automatically sends attached MP3 voicemail recordings or text voicemail transcriptions to your email address.
- Call Recording – This feature allows you to record inbound/outbound calls automatically or on-demand, offering more robust individual agent evaluation and call monitoring. In some instances, you can even pause and restart recordings when sensitive information is discussed.
- Softphone/Mobile Application – A business phone system is not worth considering if it does not have a corresponding mobile application for Apple and Android devices (Meaning your VoIP system can function on both tablets and smartphones.) Do you want to take calls on your desktop computer instead of your mobile device? That's where VoIP softphones come in.
Business Phone Systems Security
For some businesses, the security and privacy of their phone calls are pivotal. If customers share sensitive information over the phone with your business, you'll want to ensure that your provider follows the regulations that pertain to your industry. For instance, if personal medical information is given over the phone, you will look for a HIPAA-compliant provider. But, security concerns don't stop there. In the age of VoIP and cloud-based systems, business phones need to navigate the threats of the internet.
A secure network is crucial for internet-based phone systems. Providers should offer users reliable network centers and encryption to secure their calls. Encryption protects the transmission of information between endpoints to be shared over the phone with confidence in its security. Some cloud VoIP providers even use VPNs to help keep your calls secure.
Many business phone providers also have geographically dispersed data centers that act as redundancies and work with automatic data backups to ensure that your data is stored safely.
If your company is working in an industry with security and privacy concerns, be sure to look into your office phone's features, policies, and certifications to make sure it meets your needs.