If your business is considering upgrading its phone system in 2016, then you should start doing your research now to narrow down a list of possible phone providers. Once you have the top contenders identified, here is a checklist of business phone system “Wish List” items to compare them against. May the best phone system win!
1. No Capital Required, Not Even for New Phones
Save your capital for other strategic initiatives that will help you build future cash flows for your business. Some VoIP phone systems include the cost of phones, and top of the line ones too with large LCD screens and lots of programmable buttons. Depending on the phone system you select, you might even get unlimited phone service so be sure to ask any potential vendor what else is included.
2. Make Changes Online, Not on the Phones
Many phone systems store data in the actual phone itself, which can cause many problems. For one, it causes a point of failure in your communications. If that phone breaks or malfunctions, you’ll have to scramble to re-route calls and set up a new phone that mirrors the old one. Another problem caused by storing data in the phones is not so much a problem but a limitation for administrators. If your phone system comes with an online dashboard where you can set up every phone on the system and make changes in seconds, versus having to physically go to each phone to make changes, then it saves you time and money.
3. Power to the Employees
Here’s another way that some cloud phone systems can save you time. Some phones are highly-complex and difficult to set up, requiring administrators to take certain classes in order to know how to simply program them. What that means for a business owner is wasted time that IT person is taking the classes and wasted time for him or her to go around and set up employee’s basic features, such as speed dials. Instead, find a business phone system that allows employees to quickly and easily set up their own speed dials and features.
4. Got Multiple Sites? Get a Phone System that Links Them
Small to midsize enterprises that have multiple locations can waste literally thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars by installing separate phone systems at each site. In contrast, the right cloud-based phone system can centralize communications for not only easier management (i.e., one administrator for the whole system, not multiple admins at each site), but also for easier communication. Calling an employee at another office should only require typing in an extension, not having to dial their whole phone number.
Take it a step further and look for a system that allows you to use features across locations too. Avoiding the extra expense of purchasing separate features for each site will make your savings add up even more.
5. Upgrade to New Technology and Features for FREE
Speaking of not having to pay extra for features, how about not paying extra for new features at all? Sound too good to be true? It’s actually not. Cloud phone system providers are always adding new functionality to keep up with evolving technology, and some of them even give their customers free upgrades to new features every year. The fear of phone systems becoming obsolete is a valid fear, but it doesn’t have to be if you select the right cloud-based system.
6. Mobility Everywhere
This is a tricky wish list item, so pay close attention. Many phone systems will offer you mobility outside of the office, inside of the office, or between multiple offices, but typically not all three. A handful of systems will give you this ability, so be sure to ask any potential vendors what features specifically give you these capabilities.
7. Actually, Truly Avoid Disasters Altogether
This is another item I’ll preface with a word of caution. Many providers will tell you that your business can avoid disasters with their phone system, but there are oftentimes caveats or limitations to how this is done. If you search hard enough, you can find systems that make it easy to reroute all your communications anywhere, anytime, and from any browser. But make sure they have other built-in capabilities that you can layer on for extra reliability. With the cost of downtime always climbing, it’s better to have these options in place than to lose access.
8. Pricing that Makes Sense
Many providers offer a ‘one price fits all’ pricing model that does not give you many options for savings. While it’s great that it includes all features, does your business really need them all? In most cases, you will end up paying for features and services you don’t need. Instead, find a provider that offers a more flexible pricing model; one that prices components separately so you don’t overpay, yet still includes unlimited features and phone service.
9. 99.999% Uptime is Not a Dream
You read that right! In IT jargon, that percentage is referred to as “five nines” and while that amount of uptime is difficult to find, it’s not impossible. With select VoIP providers you are given the option of using your own internet service to transport calls or a managed network that the vendor provides. If you come across one of these hard-to-find providers who actually have their own guaranteed uptime performance, put them at the top of your list! The alternative is no guarantee which means your communications could go down frequently, leaving you high and dry without any way to recoup your losses.
10. Phone System Management So Easy, Your Dog Could do it
Okay, well maybe not your dog! But certainly most, if not all, of your employees can easily program their own phones, their own speed dials, their own voicemail, etc. While the technology that powers VoIP phone systems is very advanced, the front-end user experience—how the average business person manages their phone—is getting easier every day. Before making a commitment, test each provider’s online dashboard or management website (if they have one). Some will claim to be ‘easy’ but you’ll see right away that only IT people will be able to work it.