Office Phone Systems for Small Businesses
Most businesses make use of a phone system and it’s played a vital role in customer service and sales for decades. COVID 19 has reminded us how important staying connected is & the humble telephone is a key way most of us do this.
Over the years there have been great advances in the features and technology used in office phone systems. Having hold music, call recordings, transfers & conference calling is something we now often take for granted but would have ended up being expensive on traditional business phone systems.
This is one of the reasons a hosted VoIP business phone system has the most popular choice for businesses of all sizes in the UK. VoIP allows you to call over your internet connection which means you can use it from anywhere with access to the internet.
This has made it extremely popular during the recent COVID pandemic. Not only will it allow all your staff to work from home you can also make video calls, group instant messaging, and call coaching to help motivate your staff during these difficult times.
Types of Business Phone Systems
If you are looking at getting a new phone system for your business it can be confusing getting different prices and services offered depending on what provider you go for. This will generally be down to what technology and systems they use.
The three main types of business telephone systems are :
- Traditional – PBX on-site
- VoIP/IP PBX
- Hosted VoIP
Traditional on-site PBX
Although not a legacy product yet, a tradition PBX is well on the way to becoming redundant for most modern businesses. The main exception would be for companies who already have spent the money on one and would like to continue with it.
Most companies who are buying a new phone service will now look at opting for VoIP or hosted VoIP due to the higher costs associated with traditional PBX. Traditional PBX systems have been used for business communication longer than VoIP.
The PBX phone system involves a box that has to be installed and set up on your premises. This usually takes some time & comes with a high initial cost. The cost of calling is also more expensive than VoIP services, although PBX does have some benefits:
- Internal calls between departments/employees are free of charge
- You own the system and hardware
- Can be used when you don’t have a reliable internet connection
- Reliable call quality as it connects to the public phone network so works similar to your house phone
As with most business communications technology, we are seeing a shift where ownership of hardware is less important than cost-saving and the ability to use anywhere. More people work from home than ever before & a tradition PBX does not allow you to use the software in different locations. The cost is also a key factor of why so many are moving towards a VoIP solution.
A few decades ago every business with a phone system was likely to be using their own Private branch exchange (PBX). With the advancement in technology in the telecoms industry means many have now been replaced with a business VoIP service instead.
An IP PBX is a phone switching system that switches calls between VoIP users on local lines while allowing all users to share external phone lines. Most IP PBX systems can also switch calls between VoIP & other phones or between two traditional telephone users in the same way that a traditional PBX does.
VoIP PBX has the same features as Hosted VoIP but the difference comes down to the management of the system. To have a PBC VoIP system your business would need to buy and maintain all the hardware, which will often involve needing a specialist IT professional. This can get costly although does allow greater control over features and users and allows you to make any changes quickly.
The most popular phone system for our customers is Hosted VoIP and for good reason. In the ’90s & 2000’s, it wasn’t always the preferred option, mainly because of the UK’s poor broadband speeds. However, since the big investment by government & ISPs in superfast broadband & the lower prices of guaranteed connectivity like leased lines, it’s a great choice for many businesses.
Hosted VoIP means all the equipment, hardware & software (except the headsets you use usually) are hosted by the VoIP provider. They manage the entire telephone network & routes the calls. You may also hear it referred to as managed VoIP & the key reason it’s so popular is the savings you can make.
Unlike traditional business phone systems, there is no setup or installation cost with a managed VoIP solution. You will also save money on the calls themselves & pay a monthly “all in one” fee which can be as little as a few pounds per month per user. Some of the other reasons more businesses use hosted VoIP solutions are:
- Can be used anywhere with an internet connection
- Easy to integrate with other cloud-based business applications like your CRM
- Quick install
- No large upfront costs
Hosted VoIP has exploded in popularity in recent years & the COVID pandemic is likely to cause more businesses to need phone systems with the flexibility to allow employees to work from home. The key reason a business would not want a VoIP solution is if their internet is not stable or reliable.
How much should an office phone system cost?
Every business and their needs are unique and so are their phone solutions. How much it would cost will depend on a number of factors including :
- How many staff you have & extensions you need
- What type of calls you need to make & how many
- What functions you need the system to do
- Whether you need it t0 integrate with other systems or applications
- What additional features you need from the system
- If you would need it to work via mobile apps or desk phones
What features do you need your business phone system to have?
Hosted VoIP phone systems can come with some great features not just made to receive calls, designed to save you time and improve customer service. You may not need all of them or may not have even thought about some, so we thought it would be helpful to explain a few of the most popular:
- IVR – To help route your customers through to the right department or person many businesses will use an IVR which stands for interactive voice response. It’s likely you use these already when you call a company press 1 for sale, 2 for service etc
- Hold features – If you need to put your customer on hold there is nothing worse for them than hearing deafening silence, unless its awful music. VoIP business phone systems will come with options for hold – music, information or a mix of both tends to be what most businesses opt for.
- Call forwarding – Particularly important in the current climate when working from home. Call forwarding automatically diverts any customers calling your old number to your new device. So if you suddenly have to work from home & use your mobile to take calls instead of a desk phone your customer won’t even know.
- Do Not Disturb – This can be a great feature especially when you have an important deadline to meet. It allows you to stop taking any calls for set time periods.
- Voicemail to E-mail – One of my favourite services personally – voicemails are rarely listened to according to CBS only 33% of us listen to voicemails. This changes your voicemail to an e-mail which you can then red flag or organise among your normal to-dos from the e-mail, rather than writing it down on a lost post-it note.
- Conferencing Services – Conference calls – making a 30 min meeting last an hour! But they do have their uses and many hosted VoIP providers will also offer video conferencing which has been extremely helpful during the COVID pandemic.
- Instant Messaging between employees – Instant messaging is a great way to update teams or drive competition amongst sales staff. You are also able to message someone if they are on another call which can enable them to action a request quickly improving customer service.
These are just a handful of some of the features you can get on a hosted VoIP telephone system, but there are more available from most providers so its always worth checking what else is offered and how it could help your business functions.
Why is a hosted VoIP phone system better for small businesses?
Hosted VoIP phone systems are the most popular choice for small businesses in the UK for a number of reasons :
- Cost – As there are no install costs and you simply pay a small monthly fee for the software & minutes, a hosted VoIP system is considerably cheaper than traditional business phones like PBX. This is particularly important to small businesses who understand the importance of cash flow.
- Ability to move – Small businesses will often be more flexible with offices, when we started I think we went through 3 moves in the first 3 years & that’s not uncommon. As your needs change so does your premises and the great thing about VoIP is you can move it anyway – a real benefit for any businesses with users working from home too.
How do I choose the right phone system for my business?
The hardest part of getting the right system is picking the right provider. Most small businesses now will opt for a cost effective hosted VoIP solution so it’s important to pick the right one and perhaps, more importantly, to get it at the right price point.
But with the sheer amount of providers available, how do you know who is good? Many of us will automatically go to a provider we know the name of, like BT. However, that’s not always the best solution. The big providers are often the most expensive and due to the sheer size of their customer base can often fall short with customer service, should a problem arise.
The bigger companies are also not generally business to business specialists. Picking a provider who only serves business customers will ensure you get a good technical understanding from most points of contact you speak to. You will often also get your own account manager as a single point of contact and are often able to arrange meetings with the heads of technical if needed.
The easiest way to save money on your small business phone system is to run a comparison with us. We compare some of the best business to business telephone system providers and have already helped thousands of companies save money on their business telecoms. Due to the volume we get industry discounts which get passed directly to you & we make no money on refferrals so it doesn’t make any difference if you sign up or not – meaning we stay completely impartial.
To run a comparison you simply need to fill out the form and you will recieve up to 3 of the best quotes available in your area by proven & reliable providers. All you have to do is pick one and sign up – It’s that simple!