All businesses need a phone system, but with so many choices, it’s hard to know which one is best for you. –And if you’re a small or mid-sized business, you likely don’t have a designated person with ample time to take care of everything that goes into it; to include equipment options, and types of service and providers. GTB provides this guide to help make the process easy for you.
Steps to take as a small or mid-sized business
To get started, follow these seven basic steps.
1. Do your research and decide what’s most important to you
The four main things you need to consider are phone equipment, type of provider, cost/customer service and location of the provider. First, you need to know what primary phone system sounds right for you. Do you want a traditional, legacy phone system or an IP, maintenance-free phone system that is managed in the cloud (see Side by Side Comparison below)? Then you need to weed through providers to determine what kind of services you actually require. At this point, ask yourself, is price the most important factor or are you willing to pay a little more for quality support and customer service? Next, take a look at where the equipment and service(s) are coming from. Do you want a local or national company? Once you’re clear on these core decisions, ask for recommendations from colleagues, friends and/or business association(s) and do your own research online.
2. Decide whether you want to buy from a hardware company or an actual telephone provider
Hosted PBX service is offered by many types of businesses. The least expensive providers are usually not providers at all, but rather hardware companies that sell equipment and provide IT support. These companies usually just ship you the phones and expect you to install and configure the system, and train your own staff. With hardware companies, it’s more difficult to get the professional advice you need beyond the initial hardware sale. -And if a problem occurs after the initial activation, you may find that because of their lack of knowledge, it takes more time and money to find a resolution than you can afford. If quality customer service and expertise are priorities for you, then select an actual telephone provider that has their own network, provides multiple types of voice services, and has a history of at least three years of providing phone services.
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3. Go with a provider that is as geographically close to you as possible
If quality customer service is important to you, it’s also important that you go with a provider that is as geographically close to your office as possible. If you have multiple offices, go with a company that is closest to your headquarters. If your provider is local and offers in-person site surveys and installation, their Site Engineers can observe your operations, while your employees use the phones. During the visit, they can also asses your wiring needs, check the features that are used by your existing system, and provide other options, such as overhead paging, door phones and mobile apps or soft phones. While doing this, the Engineer is also able to evaluate whether you are using the correct number of lines. If your company has multiple locations, you may be able to share lines between offices, which mean greater savings.
4. Make sure a Certified Technician installs your phones
Some providers offer online deals, which means they mail you the phones and require you to install the hardware yourself. Although, prices may be enticing, it’s risky to have your own staff install the phones. Those who try to install the equipment on their own find it’s not as easy as they thought it would be. In this case, you receive customer support only by phone and can be routed to customer service representatives overseas who may have a difficult time communicating with you. A relatively simple procedure that should only take a few minutes, can actually take hours or days to complete. In the end, your phones should be installed by Certified Technicians who connect the phones to the network and test the dialing features and audio quality themselves.
5. Review the provider’s customer service and repair policy
Certain providers don’t send a Technician to your office after the initial sale. In case you have a service problem that cannot be resolved over the phone, you must have the ability to get a Technician dispatched to your location. -And if one of your phones breaks or you need to add more for new hires, the phone should be delivered and installed in your office in a relatively short time. Before you sign “on the dotted line”, be sure to ask if they provide ongoing in-person customer support.
6. Ask for onsite, personal training and ensure all employees participate
Some providers only offer online training for employees. Although this is more cost effective for them, it’s less effective for you. Most employees assume they know what they’re doing, and do not take the time to train themselves properly on how to use the phones. Lack of training and knowledge of the features often lead to frustration on the employees’ part and a reduction in over all productivity. When training is delivered at your location by the provider’s professional Trainer, participants receive an introduction to all of the features, understand how the features support their own business functions and have the ability to ask questions. Before you select a provider, ask if they offer in-person training at your offices.
7. Ask if there will be someone there to answer questions when the phone is activated
Once the service is activated, it normally takes two weeks to get used to the new features. Ask that the provider’s Service Engineer be present at your office at the time of activation to answer questions, modify settings and resolve any unexpected issues.
Side by Side Comparison
Now that you know the general steps to take, continue your research by looking at an overview of the actual phone equipment. Business phone systems fall into two primary categories: 1) Traditional PBX (Legacy) or 2) Hosted PBX (Voiceover IP/VoIP). Take a look at how they compare.
Types of features for your office
The best or most popular features for both the traditional and hosted PBX phones are provided in the table below.
To see a full range of hosted PBX features, click here and for traditional phone features, click here.
How to choose a provider
Now that you have an idea about what you may need, it’s important to select who you need as your phone provider. When speaking with one or more providers, ask them the following questions to help guide you through the process.
- Does your company own its network or do you just sell the equipment and provide IT support?
- Do you come out to provide a free assessment of my existing system?
- Based on what you know about my company, is a traditional, legacy phone system better for me or a hosted PBX system? -And what is the cost/benefit ratio?
- How does your company provide installation and training?
- How would you describe your customer service?
- Is your customer service local or overseas?
- On average, how quickly do issues get resolved with your customer service?
- (Hosted PBX phones only) What is the cost difference between having your company directly manage my hosted PBX system vs. having it hosted by a third party Internet provider? -And how will this affect pricing and my customer service experience?
- How will bundling my services affect my pricing and customer service?
GTB can help
GTB has its own private network, and can provide both traditional PBX and VoIP/hosted PBX phone systems. In both cases, because we are local to the Baltimore, MD, DC and Northern VA areas, we configure your system, and provide in-person installation and training, so you don’t have to. If you’re looking for VoIP, we can also manage your hosted PBX system, so that you are not sharing your service over the public Internet. –And in the case of power outages, our VoIP service can also support business continuity, so you will never lose a call with your customers! Learn more about our Business Phone Systems.
Also see our articles, Choosing a Hosted PBX or Legacy Phone System, Difference between Managed and Unmanaged Hosted PBX, 4 VoIP Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them and Why Go VoIP?
Get your FREE assessment
Click here or call us at (877) CALL-GTB for your free, no obligation assessment to see what business phone system is right for you.