|What is a Telephone Switchboard System?|
|Benefits of Telephone Switchboards|
|Choosing The Right Telephone Switchboard Solution|
|Telephone Switchboard Comparison|
What is a Telephone Switchboard System?A telephone switchboard system remains an essential element of business communications. It is the first point of contact for customers and prospects and is therefore key to delivering the highest levels of customer satisfaction. However, the term switchboard does not mean a receptionist working on a legacy analogue system.
New Generation Of Switchboards
Today, the switchboard is a highly automated, sophisticated system fully integrated with the latest Internet-based phone systems. It may not even be called a switchboard, but it delivers all features and benefits of a traditional system, and much more. And, as an added bonus, it can give you significant savings on infrastructure and operating costs.
The latest switchboards are more likely to be called PBXs (Private Branch Exchange) or virtual switchboards. They have the essential functionality to greet callers, provide them with options, route calls to the correct extension and manage call queues, with or without the assistance of an operator.
If you are planning to upgrade your phone system and you currently have an analogue telephone switchboard or PBX, take a look at the new generation of virtual switchboard solutions.
Benefits of Telephone Switchboards
Transfer Calls To Any Location
The most important advantage they offer is that they are Internet-based. That means they can transfer calls to any location or any device with an Internet connection. If your business has employees who work from home, freelance contractors or sales representative and service engineers in the field, no problem. A virtual switchboard system can reach them. It doesn’t matter if they use home phones, office desk phones or mobile devices, they remain in contact.
Reduce Your Infrastructure And Maintenance Costs
A second advantage is that you don’t have to house the system on your own premises. You can take a hosted solution, which is managed and maintained by a service provider ‘in the cloud’. You won’t have any upfront costs for infrastructure and you won’t need a technician on site to run the system. Instead, you pay an affordable monthly fee that covers management, maintenance and upgrades.
Modern PBXs are generally part of a wider Internet telephony system such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) or Unified Communications (UC). These systems add even more functionality to the modern switchboard system.
One of the most useful features is Presence. That tells the system or the operator if an employee is available to take calls, does not wish to be disturbed or is not available. The switchboard can then route calls to another extension if a contact is not available.
VoIP and UC systems also enable employees to set their own call forwarding preferences. If their office phone does not answer, the virtual switchboard can forward the call to mobile numbers, home phones, voicemail or other devices. That helps ensures callers get a response, rather than a phone just ringing.
Modern switchboard systems also support multiple communication channels, so callers can make contact by their preferred method, which could include email, voice, text, chat or Instant Messaging.
Expand Capacity As You Need It
Hosted switchboard solutions offer another important advantage – scalability. If your business grows, or call volumes increase temporarily, you can increase capacity on demand. There is no need to install new lines or keep customers waiting in lengthy queues. Hosted switchboards give you much greater flexibility.
Choosing The Right Telephone Switchboard Solution
There are many benefits in deploying a modern switchboard system, but it’s important to choose a solution that meets your business, operational and financial needs. At the end of this article, you will find information on some of the best switchboard systems available. But before you contact a supplier, it can help to be aware of the main options when it comes to selecting the type of switchboard solution you need.
There are three main categories:
- Virtual PBX
- Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
- Automatic Call Distribution (ACD)
A virtual PBX is ideal for businesses that want an affordable solution that gives them switchboard functionality. This solution is hosted in the cloud, eliminating infrastructure and maintenance costs. The virtual switchboard can route calls to the correct extension in any location, manage queues, put callers on hold and alert employees when calls are waiting.
This is a great solution for small businesses that want the equivalent of an automated answering system that provides a professional response to callers and ensures everyone in the business remains in contact.
Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
An IVR system takes virtual reception a stage further and automates call response so you don’t need a switchboard operator. Callers receive recorded greeting and a series of options, such as ‘press 1 for sales’ or ‘press 2 for customer service’. The system forwards the calls to the correct department. Inbound IVR is an ideal system for businesses that wants to route calls to specific departments or allow customers to choose from a larger menu of options.Outbound IVR systems are a useful way to automate the distribution of customer communications, such as appointment reminders, sales or service follow-ups. They enable call centres to build engagement with customers through regular communications and to personalise contacts when IVR is integrated with a customer relationship management (CRM) system.
IVR systems are also available that integrate inbound and outbound functionality.
Automatic Call Distribution (ACD)
This type of system is suitable for call centres or larger businesses with sales or customer service teams. ACD systems, as the name suggests, route incoming calls to agents based on predefined business rules. The rules help to ensure a call is answered by an agent with the right skills or product knowledge. However, in busy periods, calls may be routed to the first available agents.
Set Out Your Requirements
Before contacting a service provider, you need to draw up a specification for your switchboard system. Do you want a hosted solution or a system on your own premises? What features do you need? How many lines do you need initially, and is the system scalable? An Internet search can help you identify a shortlist of potential suppliers, but take time to discuss your needs in detail with each provider.
Telephone Switchboard ComparisonBelow, you’ll find a small selection of systems from reputable manufacturers.
MiTel MiVoice Office 400
MiVoice Office 400 Series
The MiTel MiVoice Office 400 Series incorporates the Mitel MiVoice 1560 PC Operator, which combines a PC and a telephone. The PC provides a central point of information to support efficient call handling and call management.
- Customizable screen layout
- Caller ID
- Status information on all employees
- Call transfer by mouse click or key
- Alerts by text or email
- Integration with MiTel MiVoice Office 400 Series
MiTel MiVoice 4224 Digital Phone
The MiVoice 4224 Digital Phone is designed for operators working with MiTel MX-ONE and BusinessPhone PBXs. Packed with features including the numeric keypad providing single access to all call-handling functions.
- A five-row adjustable graphical display
- 12 function keys with LEDs
- 4 large Clear and Speech keys with LEDs
- 1 large Answer/Extend key
- Headset port
- Programmable ringer loudness and tone character
- Acoustic shock protection
Callagenix Company SwitchboardThe Callagenix company telephone switchboard offers the functionality of a PBX switchboard at a lower cost. The switchboard can be programmed to route calls along the most suitable channel, with simple reprogramming to deal with changes. Suitable for small businesses with a minimal number of existing lines. It can give you access to as the number of simultaneous call lines your business needs, with no need to purchase additional phone lines.
- Customisable message prompts
- Multiple switchboard menus
- 4 large Clear and Speech keys with LEDs
- 24-hour automatic call answering
- Online customisation and management
- Call recording
- Auto-switching to voicemail, another office or outside service
Noble Systems Predictive DiallerThe Noble Systems Predictive Dialler automates and manages outbound dialling campaigns and resources to improve call centre efficiency and productivity and increase call volume. It provides call management, list control, workflow management, and an integrated database. The system can be integrated with automated messaging, IVR skills-based routing, and other features to provide additional functionality
- Multiple dialling modes
- Screen pops push customer information to the agent desktop
- Automated dialling
- Filters uncompleted calls
- Call-back scheduling and appointment setting
- PBX integration for call blending and remote agents
Noble Systems Automatic Call DistributorThe Noble Systems Automatic Call Distributor (ACD) provides a single solution for managing multi-channel inbound contacts via voice, email, fax or Web. It utilises intelligent call flows and skills-based routing to deliver calls to the appropriate agent or group. Real-time management tools and advanced inbound call routing features help to optimise customer service and improve productivity.
- Dynamic routing and priority queuing
- Intelligent routing rules
- Customer self-service and on-hold management
- Screen pops push customer information directly to the agent desktop
- Queue management
- Real-time statistics