The hidden costs of getting your phone system wrong

Posted on April 22, 2013 by

Your telephone lines are perhaps one of the most overlooked branding tools in your organization. You’ll quibble over business card stock and debate lobby carpet swatches for weeks. But the technology that connects your business to, well, your business, is all too often assigned to the lowest bidder in a three and a half minute price quote review squeezed in before lunch, without considering the actual cost to your business.

Your phones are your voice. Modern communications have taken opportunity global. More conversations are possible, so businesses are relying more on their phones.

Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and SIP trunking have greatly reduced calling costs and put account control in the hands of business. The technology involved is evolving rapidly, and you have many options in terms of configuration and features.

Even though it’s the kind of call that will have implications for years to come, phone system decisions are often rushed for a number of reasons. Let’s discuss.

1. “Phone lines have been around longer than Canada, aren’t they all the same?”

Yes. But no. Modern telephone systems are based on an invention patented by Alexander Graham Bell in the 1870’s, but, much like Canada, a lot has changed.

Nowadays, there are countless ways to transmit calls and countless routes to transmit them over. Not all connections are created equal.

Technological advancements have made it easier for serious businesses and opportunists alike to become a telecom carrier. Some are more concerned with profit margins than the quality of your connections, and will run your calls over the cheapest quality routes they can scrounge. They don’t care if you sound bad, can’t hear, or lose contact with the outside world, but you should.

A weak and unreliable connection casts an unprofessional shadow over the image of your organization. That shadow can cost you business and be expensive to lose.

So ask around. Talk to someone who has used the providers you’re considering. Even try them out.  Many VoIP and SIP carriers will let you dip a toe in their service before diving in the deep end.

2. “I’m a little intimidated by the complexity of VoIP technology, so I’m just going to point at a price I like.”

Don’t be scared. It’s true, technology has grown up since the days of rotary dial and voice mail on cassette, but there’s only so much you need to know to make an informed decision.

Remember, the technology is changing and so is your business. Many discounted or low cost options are that way because pretty soon they won’t be any use at all. You want a system that can keep up with technological developments and any expansions you experience in the next 10 years. So look for scalable, non-proprietary hardware, and technologies you recognize.

Reinvesting and reinvesting and reinvesting just to keep up is the sure sign of a bad investment. Your investment in your telephone system should outlast the paper supply in your fax machine.

Take stock of the equipment you already have to see what might need replacing and what will remain relevant. Look for a solution that provides maximum compatibility with your existing infrastructure. Familiarize yourself with industry standards and be leery of options that defy them, or you could end up with the equivalent of a library full of beta tapes.

3. “When it breaks, IT will fix it. Or we’ll get another one.”

IT probably has another idea; find a solution that’ll work reliably.

Your IT personnel are probably very good at what they do. But fixing phone systems sometimes requires specific expertise. Plus, pulling them off regular duties to fix the phones not only costs time, it potentially slows down other crucial functions within your organization.

User control is another consideration. SIP trunking brings a great deal of control in-house. But sometimes a hosted or managed PBX requires your host to perform even minor fixes that could have been automated. And that can lead to costly delays waiting for a fix.

If you’ve done your homework, you have already spent a few hours of company time gathering the information you need to make an informed decision. Doing it all over again is a waste of valuable productivity. Plus, while you’re researching options again, the problems you were trying to fix persist, and your business connections remain frustratingly on hold.

4. “I wonder what the deli’s special sandwich is today?”

We get it. Telephone platforms aren’t interesting to everyone. But paying attention when choosing a new one will help make sure you choose the right one. The right phone system will pay for itself in strong connections that scale with your business for years to come.

Do the research once but be thorough. Look for fit, functionality, and a solution that offers stability and longevity. Get it right the first time and you’ll be too busy not worrying about your phones to remember lunch was a little late one day.