Choosing a business phone system is an important step to success. You can customize a system to your needs with hand-picked hardware and service provider configurations, or you can trust one company to sell you hardware and manage your service remotely.
If you’re moving from a traditional setup to a VoIP based platform, saving money on your service is unavoidable. But there are many considerations that impact the total cost of your system. Ignoring important factors could get you a system that doesn’t facilitate the connections you need and costs more than a NASA satellite in the long run.
Obviously, there are features you’re going to check for under every hood. But features and qualities can vary from system to system. It’s important to know key hidden points of differentiation some providers might not be excited to talk about openly.
System wide considerations:
Compatibility should be your number one goal.
Be sure any system components considered work with your existing set up (if applicable) or at least a broad range of options. The less hardware you need to upgrade, the better your budget will fare. And the last thing any system needs is pieces that don’t play well with others – look for options that support open configurations.
If you’re kicking the tires of a managed system, find out if the proposed phones are locked to their platform. If they are, all that cash spent on hardware will have to be re-spent when you decide they’re no longer the one for you.
Compatibility also means working with your process. Take the time to think about how phones fit into your operation. If you expect high fluctuations in volume, make sure your system will be able to cope with large bursts and deliver scalability. For a mobile work force, look for easy integrations (e.g. SIP phone apps and schedule-based forwarding).
Next comes implementation.
We all know about office interruptions and how much they can interrupt offices. So look for ways to make the transition as smooth as possible.
It’s best to choose components that are known to work with a wide range of options, because interoperability testing can cause project delays, insight unruliness, and generally hold up operations.
As a hardware feature, auto-provisioning makes setup painless, in the beginning and for the life of your system – you won’t have to physically visit every phone when operations change.
You will have to manage it.
How easy is it to use your new telephony system?
For both your PBX and your service, check out the interface to see how intuitive and inclusive it is.
The digital architecture of a platform plays a big part in the quality of the output. How your hardware system and provider interact with the telephone network will affect your connections. Platforms that insert extra connections or hops into the path of your call signaling cause longer post dial delay and create greater latency.
Service providers or hardware components that don’t use network standard codecs (G711, G729) put the quality of your calls at risk with needless transcoding. There’s nothing wrong with other audio codecs, but it’s beneficial to minimize the need for transcoding.
PBX features you’ll miss if they aren’t there are:
- Session timers to make sure your calls don’t runaway with your phone bill
- DTMF support so you and your callers can use touch tone technology
- T.38 – yes, people still send faxes and not all VoIP platforms get it right.
- SIP – Some PBX’s add SIP functionality as a paid feature, some include it
- Seats – There are PBX manufacturers who charge per user, make sure you have access to enough user seats
When it comes to your service provider, poke around to see if everything’s easy to find, and if, in fact, everything you need to find is there. Here’s a list of core controls you’ll want to find:
- In-depth Call Detail Reports for billing and accounting management
- DID management, easy and instant add/drop
- Route management including automated failover routes in the case of network failure
- Fraud control
- API for extensibility
Get something with good support.
Ask about the cost of service support. Don’t assume it’s always free.
And ask about the expertise, availability and response time of the support staff you’ll be calling on for help. Call the support center and ask a few technical questions. If the response sounds scripted or vague or you get a lot of, “can I put you on hold while I ask my manager,” ask yourself if you trust support from an of outsourced multi-tasking call center. If support is handled in-house by a dedicated team, you’ll experience a higher level of training and expertise.
You can also collect basic stats like hours of availability, response times and average duration to solution to help get a sense of support quality.
Being aware of your needs and how they can be met is your greatest assurance your decision will indeed maximize your investment. The more you know about your needs and options going in to the decision-making process, the less you’ll rip your hair out later on.