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The Ultimate Guide to Small Business Phone Systems

Your phone system is extremely critical to your company’s operations. If you’re considering updating your current solution or just starting your search, there are many considerations. In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about choosing the best small business phone systems.

Phone Calls Still Matter—Internally and Externally

In a digital world, do you still need a robust phone system? The short answer is yes. Many customers, either businesses or consumers, still count it as a primary communication channel. A survey found that 90 percent of customers want to speak to a company employee when they have questions.

Phone calls are also instrumental among employees. A Gallup survey revealed that effective internal communications can achieve everything from lower absenteeism and higher customer ratings to greater profitability.

Image: Gallup

Your Phone Systems Depends on Your Needs

Phone systems for business fall into two broad categories: traditional on-site PBX (private branch exchange) and cloud-based VoIP (voice over IP) solutions. Each option has similar features, but the major difference is that legacy phone systems aren’t easily moved outside your physical building. Cloud systems, however, work from anywhere.

Depending on your business’s setup, this will be the first decision to make. Considering that the pandemic has made working from anywhere a necessity, the adoption of cloud solutions is rising.

Must-Have Features for Small Business Phone Systems

In evaluating different phone options, what features matter the most? The priority you place on certain functionality will depend on your business model, size, and needs. At a minimum, you should consider these features.

  • Standard actions: Any phone system you evaluate should have standard features that are easy to use, including call parking, call forwarding, three-way calling, and a conference bridge.
  • Scalability: With a cloud-based phone system, you can add or remove users from a central platform without help from your provider. On-site systems require equipment and technical support. While you may be small now, your business will grow, so make it easy to scale your phone system.
  • Desktop and mobile phone compatibility: Your employees need access to their phones no matter where they are. With a desktop and mobile phone app, they can have this and count on security and consistency. Mobility is critical for small businesses, and this is how you can assure it.
  • Virtual voicemail: How hard is it to access your voicemail now? It should be simple. With virtual voicemail, users receive an email or SMS notification with the voicemail transcribed. They can also forward it if necessary to the appropriate person for response.

Other Features for Consideration

Beyond the basics of small business phone systems, you should also look for these features.

  • Call analytics: Track usage of your employees that are customer-facing with visualizations. This data can help you analyze customer service and engagement.
  • Spam caller protection: Get spammers off your phone lines with this service. You can set preferences, so certain callers get tagged and blocked if you wish.
  • Integrations: Integrating your phone system with other applications can improve productivity and efficiency. Examples include your CRM (customer relationship management) software and email.

Beyond the Phone

The phone system is one segment of communications. Many small businesses choose a unified communications (UC) platform to have a turnkey set of tools. Such a platform delivers many more functions, such as:

  • Video conferencing
  • Screen sharing
  • Team chat and SMS
  • Online faxing
  • File backup and collaboration

Small businesses should think about how a full offering can empower employees and improve experiences for all.

What About Contact Centers?

Another facet of the phone solution could be a contact center. Small businesses typically don’t have a team of customer service reps. The future, however, could bring this need to the table. Be forward-thinking in your phone system evaluations, tapping a provider that can offer contact center software for the next phase of your business.

Features Are Great, But What Makes a Good Phone System Provider?

In most cases, you’ll be looking at products that look similar. If the features are apples to apples, how do you make the right decision? You should vet the provider in these areas:

  • Quality and reliability: Be confident that your provider delivers quality and reliability to the solution. Ask about how they monitor their solution and what their uptime service level agreement is. Further, you’ll want to chat about their business continuity plan so that you aren’t kicked offline for a considerable time.
  • Ease of installation: Moving away from legacy phones means the provider sends you preconfigured phones that are ready to plug and play. You do, though, need expert onboarding and easy-to-understand training. Make sure you have a partner that can deliver this.
  • Cost: Budget is a topic you can’t ignore. As a small business, you are very aware of spend, and you should be able to get a quality product for an affordable price. You’ll save dramatically by not using traditional PBX phones and opting for cloud-based VoIP since there are no equipment or technician requirements on site. Get the best deal with a provider that never compromises quality for cost.
  • Ongoing support: After installation, you’ll still need help from your provider should challenges arise. Not all offer 24/7 support, so make sure that’s something you compare.

Consider Intermedia for Small Business Phone Systems

We invite you to explore our cloud-based phone system, which is part of our UC platform Intermedia Unite. Get the facts on features, plans, and more by downloading the Unite brochure.

About Darcy Mekis