This guide will explain the different phone system features and functions to help you decide which ones are most important for your business.
There are a number of key factors for any fast growing and successful business to consider. One of these factors is having a flexible phone system in place that can handle several different functions and a highly capable business telephone system will mean a better service for your customers and/or clients as well as making life easier for you and your staff.
There are certain functions of a phone system such as call holding and forwarding that are a necessity for most modern day businesses.
|Core Business Phone System Features|
As well as these core features there are other functions that can also have a positive impact on the efficiency and productivity of your business depending on the services you offer and sector you operate within.
Whether you are looking for a phone system for your business or to upgrade the system you currently have below we have divided the types of features currently available from providers into two categories. The features we feel can really make a difference for small to medium sized businesses in the growth stage are listed first.
The features we feel are not as vital to new businesses but which still need to be considered by larger organisations are then covered.
Telephone System Features for Small to Medium sized Businesses
For any small to medium sized business an efficient and modern phone system is of the utmost importance. Not only is communication vital within an organisation but ensuring your customers receive a high level of service translates directly into sales and has a huge impact on the overall success of your business.
So you were out grabbing a coffee when that all important call came through - no need to worry with voicemail - your client can leave their message which you can pick up remotely whilst walking back to the office. Or if you have a day working from home, you will still be able to dial into your office voicemail to retrieve messages. These are just two advantages of implementing voicemail for your business.
As well as removing any fears of missing vital calls voicemail also offers your customers the opportunity to immediately leave a message rather than having to wait on hold. You can then return the call at a later date which is convenient for both you and your customer.
BT Converse 1200
The BT Converse 1200 desk phone is an affordable device for small businesses that can be purchased from £20. Fully equip with a number of features that can benefit your business, including voicemail to ensure no important messages or calls are missed the handset will allow you to catch up on much needed business later.
Advantages of using voicemail for your business:
- Your employees will no longer miss any important calls or meeting reminders
- No matter where you are you can still receive important messages, whether you are out of the office for the day or away on business you can make sure you still pick up the most vital of tasks
- New phone system technology means voicemail messages can now be transcribed into an email if that is your preferred means of communication
Call Logging is a vital phone system feature that can have a huge impact on your organisations efficiency and your employee’s individual productivity.
Call logging involves collections information about a call, also known as meta-data, and using it to for evaluating a business function and reporting on findings. Call logging is a great way for a business to keep track of when calls happened, how long typical customer service calls are taking, and whether customer demand fits the volume and duration of telephone calls per month or year.
- Logging calls can determine if a telephone system is actually being used.
- Provide data in respect of who is using the phone and who is being the most productive by doing so.
- Call logging can produce statistical data which can be used for management and analysis purposes to set objectives and drive revenue
- Statistics obtained by call logging can also be used to reduce the cost of calls. Businesses can ascertain when their calls are being made, which regions of the country are being contacted and how long the calls generally last. This information can then be used to select a telephone provider who offers the best rates for their business usage.
- Management can also use data to ensure they have sufficient staff to operate their systems efficiently during particularly busy periods or during campaigns.
Automated attendant informs callers of how long they can expect to wait until their call is answered as well as ensuring customers can reach the correct department through making choices with their telephone keypad. This is a vital aspect of customer service today as customers become more impatient over the phone and any unexpected delay could lead to disinterest and ultimately breakdown of relationship.
Many companies who experience high call volume use these systems as an easy and effective means of re-routing the customer to the exact service they require. The auto attendant phone system also eliminates the need for a live operator thus enabling companies to cut down considerably on staffing costs.
Gigaset DE IP R
The Siemens Gigaset is a phone system that combines crystal clear sound quality, a large phone directory function with a network mailbox and built in integrated router. These features all come at a reasonable price meaning small businesses can utilise many functions that in the past would have been exclusively reserved for phone systems used by only large organisations.
- For small businesses and startups presenting an image of professionalism is vital. It is important to be taken seriously by potential clients and customers and adding auto attendant to your phone systems achieves just that
- Not only does auto attendant ensure a professional over the phone front to your business but it is also cost effective compared to a full time receptionist, allowing you to put money into other areas of your business
- Another benefit of an auto attendant system is that there is no cut off period so, instead of your call only being answered between the working office hours of 9pm and 5pm you can call a company using the auto attendant system for information at any time of the day or night.
In today's increasingly mobile office environment, professionals need to be able to receive calls no matter where they are. Using the right service, a business can seamlessly route incoming calls to an employee's mobile phone, allowing them to work from home or while on the road.
Find Me, Follow Me is a popular call forwarding service that allows for you to set up a list of numbers to be set up. When a call tries unsuccessfully to contact one of the numbers of the list they will then be redirect to the next number in the sequence until finally the call reaches the intended user.Benefits:
- Employees can be reached directly throughout the day, eliminating the need for callers to leave voicemails and wait for a return call
- Call forwarding frees workers to leave their desks without worrying about missing an important phone call
- Advanced call forwarding systems allow calls to be routed to multiple phones at once. So an employee could have every call simultaneously ring their mobile phone, home phone, and desk phone
Businesses today need to communicate in a variety of ways, from voice and video calls to SMS and instant messaging. Unified Communications (UC) brings it all together in one platform, offering professionals a wide variety of options for a monthly fee.
UC pulls Unified Messaging's integrated voicemail, email, SMS, and fax communications into its solutions, providing real-time access to these services and more from a variety of devices.
Using UC, businesses can seamlessly move between different forms of communication without delay. This improves productivity and optimises business processes, allowing businesses to use existing technology in all new ways.
Cisco 8800 Series
The Cisco IP 8800 Series excellently combines crystal clear VoIP voice communications with unified messaging offering a range of advanced features depending on your business needs. The modern phone system has a number of functions depending on your preffered means of communications.
- UC allows professionals to work from anywhere. Thanks to the growth of mobile devices, businesses can maintain instant connectivity whether at home, in the office, or on the road.
- Calls can be escalated to IM chats or video conferences if necessary, allowing for a level of collaboration that isn't possible with other types of telephony.
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Telephone System Features for Large Business
As you will know, there are a number of differences between SMEs and large businesses and it is not just the number of employees. The logistics and technology that is responsible for maintaining a large organisation is the biggest difference and this is where the telephone system you choose for your business really matters.
With a large business there a number of phone features both staff and customers expect that aid productivity and the professional nature of the work you carry out. Because of this as well as the functions listed above for small to medium sized businesses the phone system you implement should include the features listed above and those expanded on below.
Conference calling is now a main feature of many business meetings and is vital for large organisations that members of various teams and areas of a business are involved in the same conversations.
This feature can be invaluable for businesses spread across a number of locations or who have clients overseas when face to face meetings are a viable option and phone meetings are the best opportunity for working through problems or setting business objectives.
Polycom RealPresence Trio
The Polycom RealPresence conference is a state of the art, stylish conference phone which includes many of the cutting edge features already explored throughout this guide. The conference phone can improve a business' overall communications process by aiding team collaboration and efficiency when dealing with off site teams or when making international calls.
- Convenience is one of the big advantages of conference calling, allowing business to connect with potential clients over the phone when face to face meetings aren’t possible.
- Involving more people in meetings via conference calls can aid collaborative efforts and improve overall business performance.
Digital Phone Directory
Just like a mobile phone, users can programme their business telephone handset to store numbers which are used most frequently.
As well as that, more complex systems allow users to share contacts and to dial numbers directly from a phone book stored on their computer.
There are many benefits to be enjoyed from having the services of a telephone directory system available as part of a business telephony package, these include:
- In addition to the speedy access to colleagues within the company, whether on site, at remote locations or internationally, the user can optimise their CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software with the ability to communicate effectively and efficiently with new and existing clients.
- Customer service is enhanced as less time is wasted when connecting callers with their chosen destination.
Both auto and predictive diallers are popular with call centres and telemarketers, who use them to dial multiple parties at the same time.
Auto dialling can be used to refer to robocalls, where a pre-recorded voicemail message is played to a large number of phone numbers. Its primary use, however, is to initiate a call and ask the person on the other end to press a number to speak to a live agent.
Benefits of Auto Dialler for Business:
- With these systems, agents are only alerted when someone is on the line. This either happens as soon as the customer answers or when they press one of the keys on their phone
- Sophisticated predictive diallers often connect to data sources, which automates repeat calls to lines that were previously not answered
Before making use of auto dialler businesses should consider there are many consumer protection laws related to communications, including requirements specific to automatic dialling software. In the United Kingdom, the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations specify that companies can only use automated calling systems to contact consumers who have previously agreed to receive such calls. Any phone calls made using automated diallers must provide the identity of the caller and an address or Freephone number where they can be reached.
Any company using automated calling systems must also avoid phoning any number registered with the Telephone Preference Service. Stiff penalties exist for non-compliance.
Depending on the sector they operate within some businesses need to record calls in order to maintain customer service standards and for training purposes.
Call recording can be set to record every call, random calls, or calls from specified numbers and when used for training purposes can have a huge impact on the quality of customer service and overall communication standards throughout an organisation.
- Ensure the highest standard of customer service is delivered
- Training methods can be enhanced by using real life call conversations to improve future communications
Music on Hold
In large businesses, callers can sometimes be kept waiting on the line for a long time while issues are resolved or matters are handled internally.
Hold music is thought to make the wait more bearable and the music can be punctuated with announcements about products and services.
Call barring allows telephone system administrators to bar certain numbers so they cannot be dialled from with the network. This can also be set to stop users from dialling certain groups of numbers, for instance, overseas numbers, premium rates or mobile numbers and can increase efficiency.
Businesses often deal with numerous calls each day to customer service representatives, requiring multiple dedicated resources to handle the workload. An interactive voice response (IVR) system has the ability to reduce call volume without sacrificing the high level of service a company’s customers expect.
Featuring the latest technology in telephony, IVR allows customers to interact with a computerised system by either punching numbers into the phone’s keypad or speaking. The system recognises these commands and can deliver in-depth information based on it, including answers to frequently asked questions, account balances, and operating hours.
While large enterprises were among the first to adapt IVR, the technology has also been especially beneficial to small businesses, who can utilise the services to level the playing field. With IVR absorbing many of the calls, small businesses can operate with fewer employees, saving resources as they grow.
- An IVR can handle the most basic calls by answering common questions and directing customers to the appropriate departments. This allows businesses to reduce the number of salaried or hourly employees dedicated to answering phone lines each day.
- In addition to cost savings, businesses can also give customers immediate assistance at the hours that are most convenient for them. If they need help on a weekend or in the evening, an IVR can answer many of the questions they might have and during business hours, customers won’t be forced to wait for a live operator.
Quality of Service
On data networks, QoS administrators set behaviours to allow certain types of traffic to take priority over others.
Translated to voice networks, this means some types of phone or video calls can be set to be prioritised.
The type of behaviours that are given priority is unique to the organisation setting the rules. A business may decide that video calls should take top priority, while others may choose to place them below simple voice calls.
As important as QoS is for ensuring data network quality, it is even more important in today's VoIP-driven office environment. Data networks weren't originally built to handle voice traffic, due to the nature of packet transportation that takes place.
Without QoS, offices can suffer from poor call quality, which is especially noticeable during video calls.
QoS allows an organisation to decide what items take highest priority. Once configured, systems can be set to hold less important packets aside to let voice calls through, resulting in a substantial increase in overall call quality.
Although faxing is becoming a bit last decade what with scanning and emailing, there are still occasions when faxes need to be sent.
Having this function on your phone system will give you another option should there be technical issues with other devices and may also help dealing with some types of clients.Encoder
In a telephone communication system, an encoder is a device – or integrated circuit – created by a codec. This mechanism uses predetermined algorithms in order to change either a signal or data into code. This allows the device to reduce any complexities found in the data, as well as eliminating any unnecessary signals.
Choosing the Right Features
Your business needs should be established carefully before any decision is made over the choice of phone system features for your office. It's also a good idea to not only think of the current requirements but to also consider any projected growth in personnel and services over the following two or three years and this is particularly important for medium sized businesses who are really looking to accelerate growth. This projected growth can then be factored into any decision about phone systems particularly the extension capabilities of the system and how many lines it will support.
Fortunately, with a modern VoIP phone system, adding or removing features from your service package is usually as easy as checking boxes in your VoIP account admin dashboard. Without additional hardware being needed for new virtual lines (it's simply a matter of adding another connection to the office Internet network) and different functionality, phone system solutions can be tailored to your specific needs quickly and inexpensively.
This also insures you against investing in equipment that might soon be outdated and need replacing - with hosted phone systems, the provider takes care of the hardware servers, so you won't have to worry about costly maintenance and upgrades over time, even if your business communications needs grow or change.
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