Telco Ltd. Blog

What to look for in a phone system

When looking for a new phone system, one should realize that not all phone systems are created equal.  While, on the surface, it may appear that most phone systems have the same basic level of functionality, this could not be further from the truth.  All phone systems are based on unique technology and designs, and, when you take a close look, you will find vast differences in one manufacturer’s system to the next.  The three broad questions to ask yourself when evaluating a phone system should be:

  • Does it have all the functionality, robustness, and capacity my business needs?
  • Are the phones intuitive and easy to use?
  • Can I see a live demonstration of the phones and their operation?

Here are some questions that you’ll want to make sure to ask as part of your checklist:

  • Caller ID. Does the system support Caller ID on all lines?  Does this capability cost extra?  Do all phones have displays so that I can take advantage of Caller ID?  Can I add a caller’s Caller ID to my personal electronic “Rolodex” with one button press?  Will Caller ID be stored with voicemail messages?  Can Caller ID of the original caller be relayed on calls forwarded outside the office?  Can I review a list from my phone of recent calls’ Caller ID, along with whether I answered the call or it was missed, went to voicemail, or was redirected?
  • Voicemail. Does the system support voicemail?  How many ports (simultaneous connections) does it have, and will this be sufficient for my needs?  Is it built-in, or added on?  Will my phone display show me how many messages I have? As I am listening to a message, will a counter on my display count down the time remaining in the message?  Can I transfer callers to voicemail in 2 button presses or fewer?  Can I easily send a message to multiple mailboxes on the fly without having to go through a menu?  When listening to a voicemail message, can I return the call by pressing one button?  Can I allow callers who reach my voicemail to be forwarded to me off site?  Can I be notified of new messages by pager or phone?  Can employees without an office phone still have voicemail?  Am I charged based on the number of mailboxes I use, or are as many as I need included?  Is Unified Messaging available?  Can I save a copy of a message to my computer for archiving or email?
  • Auto-Attendant. Does the system have an automated attendant with the ability to provide multiple options to the caller?  Can the menus be several deep if needed?  Can callers be transferred to extensions, mailboxes, departments, overhead paging, remote IP extensions, off-site branches via VoIP, or to outside phone numbers?  Can I have multiple answer modes (such as day, lunch, night, and holiday), and can I either activate them on demand or have them follow a schedule?
  • Call Recording. Does the phone have a dedicated Record button for one-touch recording?  Will the recording begin without a delay?  Can I record a call with or without notifying the caller?  Can I record a live conversation directly to my own or another user’s mailbox? Can I record a conversation to multiple users’ mailboxes, on the fly?  Can I save a copy of the recording to my computer for archiving or email?
  • Automatic Call Distribution. Does the system support Automatic Call Distribution (ability to let caller stay on hold for the “next available agent”)?  Can calls be escalated if the caller has been in the queue for a certain amount of time, or if the number of callers in queue reaches a certain threshold?  Can the type of routing be flexible (i.e. longest idle extension, uniform distribution, or in-order distribution)? As an administrator, can I silently monitor calls for quality assurance purposes?  When monitoring calls for quality assurance, can I record the conversation for later review and employee feedback?  Is computer software available to facilitate communication between agents and administrators, and to allow administrators to keep track of activity (both real-time and historical)?  Can off-site users (i.e. telecommuters) be part of an ACD group?  Can I monitor them as well?
  • Music On Hold. Is music on hold capability built-in to the system, or does it require additional equipment?  Are there pre-recorded tracks so I can hit the ground running?  Can I load custom tracks that will loop automatically?  Can callers dial an extension from hold?
  • Built-in Help. Does the system have built-in help?  Does it have a built-in verbal tutorial on phone and voicemail features?  Is there a dedicated Help button?
  • Conferencing. Does the system have built-in conferencing?  How many parties can be conferenced together simultaneously?  Is it easy to initiate a conference and add parties?
  • Voice over IP (VoIP): Does the system support both local (on-premises) and remote IP (off-premises) extensions?  Do IP phones have all the same features and functionality as non-IP phones?  Can remote IP phones be moved from location to location geographically and plugged into practically any broadband connection, or does this require extensive configuration?  Do the remote phones use high-quality compression for the best voice quality?  Are SIP phones supported?  Are “soft” PC phones supported (local or remote)?  Can multiple, geographically distant sites be connected together?  Does this linking capability include robust features such as one-touch intercom/transfer, auto attendant or DID routing between sites, or ability to see when users at other sites are using their phone, in Do Not Disturb, or available?
  • Presence Management. Does the system support door phones/security access readers using RFID technology (with security cards or keychain fobs)?  Can designated phone users unlock doors for guest entry from their desk?  Can I tell at a glance, from my phone, whether or not someone is in the building?  Can building or secure area access be limited based on a schedule?  Can a security card or fob be disabled quickly if it is lost or stolen, so that locks do not need to be changed?  Can the security readers also be used as time clocks, and can this data be reported on or imported into payroll software?
  • Wireless Integration. Does the system support digital cordless phones in addition to standard analog cordless phones?  Do the digital cordless phones support a wide range of features, such as line and station appearances, transfer, conference, voicemail access, call record, do not disturb, overhead page, and more?  Can these features be accessed with one button rather than memorizing a code or button sequence?  Can users utilize a wireless Bluetooth headset of their choice with their office desk phone?  Can I automatically redirect cell phone calls to my office phone while I am in the office, without having to remember to forward and un-forward my cell phone (if that’s even an option)?  Can I run a cell line through my phone system as a backup line in case my regular lines ever go down?
  • Expansion. Can the system be expanded easily without having to replace the entire phone system?  Can new capabilities be added to the system via a software upgrade?  Can software upgrades be done remotely?
  • Support. Does the company I purchase the phone system from have extensive experience with this brand?  Do they have multiple technicians that are fully certified on the equipment?  How long have they been in business?  Are they a local company?  Do they have the ability to diagnose most issues quickly, without dispatching a technician?  If a technician needs to be dispatched, and it’s an emergency, will I get a response within a few hours or less?

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Discussion

  1. RYErnest  November 30, 2008

    Nice post u have here :D Added to my RSS reader

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