Telephone Systems


Why Choose a Business Phone System?

Choosing the right phone system for your business is one the most important decisions you can make. It affects the efficiency and workload productivity of an organisation.

Modern business telephone systems are responsible for both internal communications between colleagues, and providing a consistent external line for customers and potential clients. Both kinds of connectivity should be considered when evaluating different systems. It is important that business users can collaborate effectively to deliver the highest level of service possible, as well as clearly and easily communicate with business partners.

There are a number of factors you need to take in to account when making your decision.

For example you’ll need to know:

  • What type of business phone system you need (e.g. Key or PBX)
  • What types of handsets you will need with the system (which may differ by employee role) and how many of each kind
  • Which system features are essential to your operations
  • Which functionalities you would like to aid your future growth
  • Whether any accessibility features may be necessary
  • What level of computer and/or mobile integration you need
  • What your budget is and what that could realistically cover
  • Who the best providers are in your area and their comparative prices

A company of any size shouldn’t underestimate the importance of choosing the right telephone system. It is vital to have a business phone system that can support the demands of your day to day tasks.

Expert Market is here to help you make your decision with informed confidence.

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Benefits of Business Phone Systems

Benefits of business phone systems

For any forward thinking business a telephone system should be viewed as an investment that can help your organisation remain competitive as well as future proof your communications process.

Installation and ongoing maintenance fees are covered below but here are five main benefits of choosing the right phone system for your business:

1. Healthy Customer Relationships

A modern telephone system can improve many aspects of customer contact points and as a result overall relations.

A system that offers options to transfer customers through to the most relevant member of staff or department promptly and efficiency will improve levels of satisfaction. Many systems also allow customers or potential clients to leave messages out of hours which can then be forwarded on immediately and followed up, again helping to improve the level of service offered.

Small businesses and startups can even appear more professional to the average consumer, which often leads to customer retention and positive referrals.

2. Increase Mobility

Modern workplaces tends to be a lot more mobile – that is to say for many, work days are no longer spent exclusively behind a desk. Many employees work out on the road and an increasing number of people can now work from home. In addition, a company’s head office may have several smaller satellite branches.

A business telephone system can help to tie all this together. Calls can be automatically diverted to mobiles or other landlines, whilst customers can also be redirected to branches that are closer and more convenient for them.

3. Improve Internal Communications

Tied in closely with the need to accommodate clients of mobile business and multi-site operations, comes better in-house communication. A conference call that is supported by even the most basic telephone system can be a huge advantage to any type of business.

Getting all the relevant players for a particular project in the same room at the same time can often prove to be a bit of a challenge. However, with a conference call, everyone can give their input and business won’t be held up.

4. Increased Productivity

In certain circumstances a telephone system can simplify many everyday tasks, helping to increase productivity which leads in turn to an increase in profit.

In a call centre environment, by monitoring trends and patterns business users can improve efficiency by identifying the best time of the day to contact potential customers and keep a log of every call they make.

5. Technology Integration

Increasingly, telephone systems are able to be integrated with customer relationship management (CRM) software. This leads to an incredibly efficient workplace as the business phone system can work in tandem with individual customers’ details and any relevant information stored on a business’s own database.

Not only does this provide a far more streamlined customer orientated experience, but staff will also benefit from an easy to use, simplified system.

Different Types of Phone Systems for Business

office phone

The most popular business phone systems in 2017 are those that use VoIP technology, to send audio data over the internet. However, it’s important you choose the system that offers the most advantages for the type and size of your organisation.

Understanding your business requirements will help you choose the correct type of phone system for your business. Once you know which kind of phone system you are looking for, you can then compare personalised price quotes to find the best deals for your business.

VoIP phone systems are regularly compared and contrasted with PBX systems, known as ‘traditional’ phone systems. In actual fact PBX systems are not the only ‘traditional’ option.

There are 3 traditional types of business telephone systems, as well as VoIP.

The information below will help you consider your options.

Traditional Phone Systems

  1. KSU-Less Systems
  2. Key (KSU) Systems
  3. Private Branch Exchange Systems (PBX)

What differentiates these telephone systems are the number of trunks (phone lines) they can allow and the number of extensions (either as phones or features) they can allow.

KSU-Less System

A KSU-Less business phone system is the most basic option available to businesses. It may work for those with 10 or fewer employees, who do not need any added features. The system has four trunks so 4 separate phones can be connected.

It does not require any Central Control Unit (CCU) such as is the case for Key systems and PBX. KSU-Less phones are connected directly to the jack available for each trunk (phone line).

The phones can be easily unplugged and reconnected to other jacks if necessary. This means KSU-less phone systems are reasonably portable.

Key (KSU) Systems

A Key (KSU) System is more complex than a KSU-Less system, so can handle communications for slightly bigger businesses. Most have six trunks (phone lines), but these trunks can support up to ten extensions each, rather than just one phone. On the assumption that not all employees will be making phone calls simultaneously, up to 60 unique phone numbers could be used.

Unlike KSU-Less Systems, Key (KSU) Systems do have a Central Control Unit. This allows for connections to features such as voicemail, auto attendant, and intercom, as well as desk phones.

Recently produced Key (KSU) Systems offer almost as many features as can be found in PBX systems. Some can even operate either as a Key (KSU) or a PBX system depending on the software installed. (These systems are said to be “hybrid” systems.)

On the other hand, Key (KSU) Systems lack the portability and flexibility of KSU-less systems, and the capability to handle high call volume of PBX Systems. What’s more, they require professional installation and maintenance.

Private Branch Exchange (PBX) Systems

A PBX Phone System is the most advanced traditional phone system, and can easily support as many phone lines as you are willing to pay for, plus a wide variety of features.

The PBX routes phone calls internally among users through extensions. Traditional PBX boxes used analogue ports, but modern ones use both analogue and digital ports. For example, a digital fax machine, analogue or digital phones, analogue intercom systems, etc., can all connect to the PBX box.

PBX systems require a fair amount of permanent office space, as well as professional installation and maintenance on-site, similar to the Key (KSU) system. However, PBX is completely programmable and can support very complex features.

VoIP Phone Systems

The latest telephone innovation offered for businesses is Voice over Internet Protocol (known as VoIP). VoIP is different to a traditional telephone system because it is a data system that transmits audio communication in real time, using the internet.

VoIP is not reliant on any number of physical phone lines and requires no installation or maintenance. This makes VoIP far less expensive, and more flexible to business changes in size and/or location. The numbers of users that can use a VoIP Phone System is theoretically unlimited.

Unlike traditional phone system servers, the VoIP server is “in the cloud” (also sometimes called IP PBX). VoIP uses the TCP/ IP Ethernet network allowing analogue and digital devices, including phones and computers, to be used for calls.

The only potential downside to VoIP is that calls may disconnect when the internet connection is poor. However, larger businesses can combine traditional wired systems with VoIP to ensure connectivity is maintained constantly.

Alternatively failsafe methods can be set up for this situation. For example, calls may automatically reroute to a specified mobile device, which uses 3G or 4G, when there is a power or internet outage.

Find out more about VoIP by watching the video below.


Business Phone System Prices

The price of business phone systems vary considerably across the types of systems covered in the above section as well as the number of lines you are looking to install and extensions you need to add.

With hosted and cloud based phone systems installation fees are no longer needed however by hosting the system on their server’s providers will charge monthly maintenance fees which need to be considered to ensure you choose the right system for your business.

To provide a comprehensive breakdown of everything you need to know about business phone system costs you can refer to the two Expert Market guides below:

The phone rates guide offers an overview of how the number of phone lines needed can change expected costs for a business while the telephone system price breakdown looks at pricing for the different types of systems including KSU-Less, Key and PBX systems.

Business Phone System Features & Functions

Having identified the type of phone system most suited to your business it is now important to pick out the right features that will enable users to get the most from their telecoms as possible.

The Expert Market business phone system features guide offers a complete run through of many of the most popular features available.

Features that are considered necessary for all types and size and businesses include:

  • Voicemail – Ensuring no important customer or client requests are missed.
  • Call Logging – Ideal for contact centres to monitor the number of calls and when they were made.
  • Automated Attendant – Ensures calls can be taken even if staffs aren’t available at that moment to answer.
  • Call Forwarding – Allowing employees to stay in touch on the move when out of office.

Business Phone System Providers

The UK telecoms industry is home to a number of high profile international brands all of which provide the type of phone systems outlined above. The technology of the hardware and handsets offered differs depending on the supplier you choose to go with but each have their benefits and unique advantages.

The provider table below displays a number of the top business phone system suppliers in the UK and you can read our individual reviews for each.

Business Telephone System Providers

Step by Step Process to Finding the Right System

The perfect office phone system is one that helps you meet your business objectives and gives you value for money. The key to finding that system is research, research and more research.

Hopefully all of the above sections have helped you as much as possible but to ensure you choose the right business phone system here is the Expert Market step by step guide:

1. Set Clear Objectives

The process starts within your business. Why are you considering a new phone system? Do you want to reduce your communication costs? Maybe you want to improve customer service, increase productivity or make it easier for employees to collaborate.

By setting objectives for the new system, you’ll find it easier to select the features and services that are most important for your business.

2. Choose Infrastructure or a Hosted System

A business telephone system can be based in your premises or ‘in the cloud’. If you want a system on your premises, you will have to allocate capital to purchase new infrastructure or upgrade your existing system. You will also need to deploy or recruit an employee with the technical skills to manage and maintain the system.

The alternative is to pay a monthly fee to a service provider who will manage, maintain and upgrade the infrastructure. This protects your capital and provides predictable monthly costs.

3. Take a Long-Term View

It’s important to take a long-term view when planning your phone system requirements. Is your business growing and will you need more phone capacity in the future? Do you want to take advantage of the latest phone technology when it becomes available? Are you planning to open additional sites?

It’s important to take a long-term view when planning your phone system requirements. Is your business growing and will you need more phone capacity in the future? Do you want to take advantage of the latest phone technology when it becomes available? Are you planning to open additional sites?

4. Assess Your Working Patterns

The latest business phone systems are accessible from any location with an Internet connection, which makes it possible to offer employees working arrangements that are more flexible and mobile.

By assessing your employees’ working patterns, you can determine the scope of your new system. Some employees have ‘desk jobs’ so only need basic call handling features. Others may travel regularly on business, or work in the field. They need access to office phone services on their mobiles. Some employees may work remotely or prefer to work from home occasionally. Your system should allow them secure remote access.

businessman on phone

5. Identify the Most Important Features For You

Phone systems like Voice over IP (VoIP) or Unified Communications (UC) offer a wide range of features and services that are not available on legacy phone systems.

These phone systems provide important features like auto attendant to give a professional greeting to callers and route calls efficiently. Unified Messaging puts all emails, voicemails, texts, faxes and Instant Messages in a single inbox to simplify access and improve productivity.

Call forwarding features help employees remain in contact and ensure calls are answered, while conferencing facilities can build efficient collaboration and teamwork. If you operate a customer service centre or technical support helpdesk, you’ll find sophisticated call centre features to improve productivity and control.

By looking at business processes where a modern office phone system can deliver improvements, you can create a relevant wish list and compare it with the services available within your budget.

▶ Find out more: benefits of a telephone switchboard

6. Identify Potential Suppliers

The second stage of research is to identify potential suppliers. Although it’s tempting to take price as a starting point, that may not necessarily lead you to the best option for your business.

A good supplier is a business partner who helps you make the right decisions, offers a reliable quality service that meets your business, operational and financial goals, and provides essential support through the life of the system.

7. Compare Offers

Most providers offer a range of standard packages from starter to premium, with an increasing range of features and services at each level.

Some providers may bundle free call minutes with their service packages, or include free installation and setup. Others may include phones within their packages, which may save you money if the additional cost is lower than standard purchase price.

By comparing the offers available with your service wish list and budget, you can find a service provider that offers the best deal for your business.

8. Evaluate the Supplier

Before making a final decision, check the service provider’s credentials. A good supplier should be able to provide references of satisfied customers. Ask about their quality and security systems and service level agreements. It’s essential that they provide a reliable service and protect your system against security risks.

Support is also important. Although hosted service providers are responsible for managing, maintaining and upgrading infrastructure, they should provide telephone support for your users, as well as initial training.

Flexible contracts can be useful. Unlike legacy phone system companies, providers of systems like VoIP or UC offer short-term contracts, or no contracts so that you can easily switch suppliers if you have problems or want to move to a supplier who offers more advanced technology.

9. Make a Careful Decision

Planning and purchasing a new business phone system is a strategic decision that will influence the long-term success of your business. By selecting the right system from a reliable supplier, you can acquire a service that will help your business grow and compete effectively.

Aimee Bradshaw

Aimee is Expert Market’s resident telephone systems, point of sale, and field service software go-to. If she’s not writing about business products, you’ll find her daydreaming about Dorset beaches.

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