How to Choose a Phone System

First, Establish the Basic Business Needs

Consider what is driving your decision for a new phone system by first accessing your current situation. Ask and answer these questions:

· Have you outgrown your current system?

· Are there new features or applications you want to add such as collaboration, video, cell phone integration, desktop screen pops, database lookups or wireless voice?

· Are you having problems maintaining a new system or problems with service level?

· Do you have a high level of missed or abandoned calls?

· Is it difficult for customers to reach the correct employee?

Knowing why you are looking and what basic needs you are trying to achieve will help narrow down your choices.

Second, Analyze Call Flow and Design the Ideal Call Flow for your Business

Now that you know why you are looking for a new phone system, what do you want that phone system to do? Don’t make it about the great new “whiz-bang shinny” feature – go back to basics. It’s important to know why people are calling and how you handle those calls now.

Who will be calling? Customers looking for support? People wanting to buy your products or services? People wanting to reach other people for general information, billing, follow-ups or telemarketing?

Asking these questions will establish the basic needs. For example, if your company has multiple departments, an automated attendant can be used to route calls to those departments based on factors such as time of day, number dialed and reason for call. Or would it make your company more effective if callers were able to reach mobile employees by routing directly to the cell phone?

Third, Design the Best Solution for your Business

Now that you know the why and what, that is, why you are considering a new phone system and what you need that phone system to do, it’s time to analyze the how. At this point you will probably be working with a consultant or voice communications company.

Here are some things to consider that can help guide you through this process.

· Consider what existing infrastructure can be used with the new system. For example, cabling. Today’s converged IP-PBX systems often support both IP and digital/analog phones and your current cabling can be used.

· Discuss with your vendor how the proposed system will handle exact call flow sequences – this  will prove if the solution works for your business.

· Always be conscious of future growth – it is typical to plan for your new communications system to be in operation for a minimum of 7 years. A good rule of thumb is the system should have double what you believe is your growth projection.

Conclusion

As with most buying decisions, the best decisions are made when you are completely aware of the specific reasons that are driving your buying decision. By focusing on how calls are currently handled, what the pain points are for both customers and employees, and having some sense of your future growth and needs, you will make the best decision.

A good communications solutions provider can be your best asset in this process. Find a vendor that will work with you to help you identify needs specific to your business and leverage the best available technology to meet those needs.