Any business would want to communicate to its stakeholders as and when the need be. Businesses require the flexibility of accessing any internal office from anywhere in the world. Further, they even need functionalities that will enable them to transfer client calls internally or accept multiple calls simultaneously. There is only one solution to all the communication requirements of a business – A Business Phone System.
The companies can manage their calls in a much more efficient way using a business phone system than a residential phone system. A business phone system uses multiple lines and multiple phones which are interconnected in a network. This allows better connectivity and lower congestion, among several other benefits.
Along with the basic call management features, nowadays, Business phone systems also provide unified communications that include phone, video, and chat forms of communication. This helps a business to work out of different geographical locations and also enhances the customer experience.
Business Phone Systems can be of three types – KSU, PBX, and VoIP. A business should be aware of which is most appropriate for its usage. Therefore, a basic understanding of each is necessary.
The key system unit is the granddaddy of business phone systems. It provides the facilities for basic telecommunication requirements. Only very small businesses, with a maximum of 40 employees, go for this kind of system. The system has a limited number of phone lines built into it.
It is the closest a business phone system can come to the home telephone system. Even though it provides the basic call features, it lacks some very common features such as portability and flexibility. The most basic KSU manually determines the phone-line selection; however, with the advancement of technology, KSU-less systems have come up too. These are portable, flexible, and entirely wireless.
Even with the added capabilities, KSU-less systems are appropriate only for very small businesses and not for expanding or growing businesses.
Once a business grows, it can’t function on the basic KSU and KSU-less systems. It has to go for a PBX, also known as the Private Branch Exchange System. As compared to the KSU, it has more features, including automatic routing of incoming calls.
PBX has an inbuilt power management system that enables the business to continue communication even during a power failure. It is an appropriate system for a company with more than 40 employees.
There is an economical variant of the PBX system, known as the hosted PBX. It has the main device – the programmable switching device installed on a telephone provider’s premises instead of that of the business. This reduces some installation and maintenance costs.
Finally, one of the most talked-about commercial phone systems is the Voice over Internet Protocol or VoIP. As of now, it is the most advanced business phone system. It enables communication across countries and also allows unified communications. As the name suggests, it uses the internet for communication.
As the technology is still new, VoIP is the most expensive commercial phone system. The cost varies by the number of employees communicating or needed to communicate. Therefore, businesses that want to save some costs opt for hosted VoIP.
Once you know which system is the best for your business, you may also want to delve deep into some salient features or the benefits of a business phone system.
Many small businesses operate with a jumble of one and two-line phones; some even use mobile phones to communicate with customers and prospects. One step up businesses operate with inexpensive and low-quality voice over IP.
However, both of these kinds of businesses have become accustomed to poor call quality and limited functionality. I’m not sure why companies operate in this manner because commercial phone systems have become quite affordable.
For a low monthly purchase lease or subscription cost, a small business can implement functionality that would rival that of a much higher priced system five to ten years ago. To understand how a commercial phone system for small business can revolutionize the way your business communicates, you need to know the advantages of a business phone system.
Some of the most important benefits of a business phone system are below. These could guide a large or small business in choosing the most appropriate communication model for its functionality, professionalism, cost-effectiveness, and enhanced customer experience. So without further ado, below are the envy-worthy advantages of a business phone system:
In a non-phone system environment, for an employee to access a particular phone line, the line would need to be terminated on that person’s phone.
If a business wishes to have a separate phone number for each employee, they’d need to have one phone line and jack installed for each employee. This could be very expensive for many businesses and even unaffordable for some.
However, by utilizing a corporate phone system, employees can share phone lines. The system provides access to every line and phone set and assigns a separate extension for each employee. This way, a 23-channel PRI system is sufficient for a small to medium-sized office.
In a non-phone system environment, employees communicate with other employees utilizing shout or sneakernet. Meaning that if one employee wishes to speak with another, he would need to walk over to the other person’s desk or raise his or her voice.
In an office phone system environment, employees simply pick up their receiver and dial three or four digits to reach the other employee, even if they call out of the area or to another state.
Businesses can reduce their long-distance costs because intracompany calling travels over their internal network, not that of a telephone company (AT&T, Verizon, or CenturyLink)
If you’ve ever called a business and heard recorded instructions to enter an extension or to dial by name, you were listening to an auto attendant.
Simply put, an Auto Attendant replaces a live operator and routes incoming calls. An Auto Attendant answers all incoming calls and allows callers to dial by extension or name, or offers a menu of options.
If a caller gets confused or doesn’t hear the option he is looking for, he can use the ‘Route to Operator’ option (usually by pressing zero) to reach a live person.
It is a handy option because a small business owner would have to pay a receptionist to answer his phones or interrupt his work and answer them himself without an Auto Attendant.
Unified Communication is another major benefit of a business phone system. It provides a unified user interface for all forms of communication, including voice, instant messaging, video conferencing, data sharing, and presence. It is a way of eliminating phone company’s monthly recurring fees.
One employee can reach another if the latter is available by phone. If not, he can send an instant message to communicate urgently. Employees can even share screens with fellow employees and clients and collaborate.
Suppose your business utilizes one and two-line phone sets from a local Staples, and you want voice messaging. In that case, you’ll need to pay a monthly fee for each voice messaging mailbox and associated forwarding feature.
A small business with 5 phone lines and employees could quickly pay over one hundred dollars per month for voice messaging from a local phone company, like Verizon, CenturyLink, AT&T, Comcast, or Cox. The same functionality can come from an office phone system, eliminating the monthly expense.
For a small incremental cost, a conference bridge can be purchased with a business phone system. 3 Way Calling typically costs less than $5 per month, per phone line, but the expense can add up if a business has several phone lines and conferencing is limited to 3 participants.
Third-party conference services allow for more participants but charge per minute and can be expensive. A conference bridge can be purchased, eliminating the monthly cost, and will support multiple parties.
Corporate phone systems allow a business to integrate its CRM (Customer Relationship Management) with its phone system. With this functionality, customer account information can pop up on the receiving party’s computer screen every time they call. This is made possible with Caller ID technology. The receiving party can quickly familiarize him or herself with the customer, enabling him to improve the customer experience.
Also, sales and customer service representatives can dial their desk phone with a click of a mouse. Calls are automatically logged into the business’ CRM. Typically this feature comes with a call recording option that automates the recording of all incoming and outgoing calls, and then those recordings are stored with the customer’s account information. Recordings can be used for training, monitoring, and legal purposes.
If you want to appear unprofessional, try operating without an office phone system. “Hey Bob, pick up line two!” should never be heard inside a business trying to impress a client.
Phone systems allow employees to accept and transfer calls with a push of a button. The calls can be transferred to another employee or that person’s voicemail.
In an office phone system environment, the system can be programmed so that all outgoing calls are given a uniform appearance on a recipient’s Caller ID. Through such programming, a business can achieve a higher level of professionalism and a better brand itself.
Even if the above benefits of a business phone systems are not convincing, calculate the hidden costs of not employing one.
When determining the real cost of phone equipment, it’s essential to consider the cost of the “cheaper” equipment, the cost of time wasted operating with restricted functionality and the cost of lost business due to dropped calls and poor call quality.
Tabulate those costs and add them to the total you would spend for a proper phone system. When you look at it that way, it’s much more economical to start out with the proper business phone system.
Once you know the benefits and convenience of business phone systems, you’d naturally want to know about the market’s best providers. We have compiled a list to help you pick the provider that best meets your business’ needs.
One of the top VoIP business phone service providers, Nextiva, brings some of the best features and convenience to the table. Apart from being feature-rich, Nextiva setup is quick, and pricing is reasonable for any small business. Further, they have unified communications that put the small business on the map of the business world.
Not only do you get the standard call management functionalities, but you also get unlimited domestic calling, chat, voicemail, automatic routing, and a lot more. Nextiva, goes to the extent of integrating CRM with the system. This itself defines the breadth of its services.
Per-user monthly pricing is $19.95; however, as you add more users, the pricing reduces. They have pre-paid save plans too.
RingCentral is suitable for businesses of all sizes. Again, this is a heavily featured commercial phone system platform that makes it very easy to collaborate and enhance the client experience.
It should be considered as a given that to feature on this list, every platform has to provide the standard calling features. However, RingCentral adds video meetings, screen sharing, toll-free minutes, and integration with various cloud storages such as Microsoft, Google & Dropbox.
They have plans based on services, but the essential plan costs $19.99 per month for one user. There is a limit of maximum ten members to this plan, but there are other plans for adding more users and more features.
Ooma is again a VoIP based service provider, and as VoIP is becoming a norm these days, mostly all providers offer VoIP business phone systems only.
It brings some of the best benefits to the table, such as Auto attendant (Virtual receptionist), dialing extensions, mobile apps, and more. However, Ooma has a forte in providing business phone numbers and toll-free numbers at very reasonable prices. Further, the setup is also effortless and takes only a few minutes. It is, in a way, the ‘just right’ solution for a small business.
Like Nextiva, Ooma also has competitive pricing of $19.95 every month, and this includes a toll-free number, 500 free minutes, and the discounted pricing feature for additional minutes.
GrassHopper is a tool developed keeping ‘on-the-go-working’ in mind. You can get inbound calls on any mobile or fixed phone device through their virtual number functionality. They use VoIP infrastructure for doing this. However, you need to be near the phone line for outbound calls.
You will get all standard calling features and even vanity numbers to enhance your branding and appear more professional to your client.
As compared to other players, GrassHopper is slightly on the expensive side as it is priced at $29.99 per month. This includes one local number with three extensions. However, it is the most fluid tool for remote teams and single-person companies, where the person and his teams are always on the move.
Last but not the least platform on our list is 8×8. Even in its most basic plan, the platform has so many features that it can blow your mind away. You can get unlimited calling in the US & Canada in the basic plan, making this internet business phone system perfect for small businesses.
You get Voice, Video Conferencing, Chat, Auto Attendant, Call routing, and more in the basic plan for just $12 per user per month. This is the reason why this is one of the top 5 on our list. If you double your budget to $24, you will get free calling in 14 countries and additional features too. This makes it cheaper than GrassHopper. There are other plans too.
If you compare it to others on the tools and parameters features, it is only second to Nextiva. While 8×8 has 70+ tools, Nextiva has 100+, and GrassHopper has only 20+. So 8×8 is actually a great business phone system platform for companies of all sizes.
Each of these players has a stronghold in the market; however, no business would want to keep switching providers as they grow from one level to another. It is understandable that they change plans within the same provider. So if you have to make a one-time investment, it is best to pick Nextiva, which has maximum features and gives you the industry’s best services.
Now that you know about business phone systems, their benefits and some of the top players in the market, you shouldn’t hesitate in implementing the most appropriate system in your business. If you still don’t feel confident about which system is best for you, give us an opportunity to help you decide. If you have one we suggest you read our toll fraud guide to protect your business phone line.
For any assistance in determining the best phone system for your business, contact CarrierBid today or click on the Request a Quote button on the right side of this page.
CarrierBid offers a wide array of premise-based and hosted phone system solutions. We’re experienced in the phone systems and the services they connect to. Utilizing CarrierBid simplifies the order process and assures that your installation will go smoothly.