Every business relies on communication. Whether that includes phone communication largely depends on the industry the business is in and the reliance of direct communication with your customers.
Communication is key in any successful business. Having a properly set up phone system for your business can play a big part in that success.
In years gone by, fixed land-line phone systems were the only option to communicate with businesses. Nowadays mobile and internet is on the rise and there are innovative solutions that make communicating easier.
Phone systems come in many shapes and sizes and not one size will fit all. A phone system is generally considered a long-term investment in your business as you will be using it for many years. Advanced phone systems can be a significant investment.
For a typical system, you should plan around a 2-3 year break-even on the investment.
Consider All Phone System Options
When choosing your office phone system, you need to consider the following:
- Whether your business revolves around you?
- If you need a physical phone presence?
- Office occupancy timeframes long enough to break even on costs for purchase/installation?
- Do you have the budget to install and maintain ongoing costs?
Does Your Business Revolve Around You?
If your business revolves around you or it is still in the start-up stages then you may not need a fully-fledged office phone system. Other reasons may be that you are self-employed or do your business on the road. Whatever the reason, your businesses phone system needs to suit the needs of your businesses.
There are services available that allow you to purchase a generic business phone number (such as an 1800 or 13 number) and direct it to your mobile phone when someone dials it.
This is a good idea for three reasons. It is a good strategy to keep your personal number and business number separate. secondly, it also ensures that if you do need to change your personal number or sell the business that you can redirect it to a different number and they can continue being used.
Thirdly, a generic phone number is a very affordable option for business and can be as cheap as $5/month to use.
On top of being able to purchase a business phone number, you might be able to make use of a virtual receptionist to answer your phone for you. More on virtual receptionists below.
Do You Need a Physical Phone Presence?
Many businesses have multiple offices in several locations around the world. This can require very complex business phone systems.
If you have just moved premise and setting up your office, it is a good idea to have the phone lines installed before all the furniture gets in the way. But just because you have a new premise (or existing) doesn’t necessarily mean you have to have a fixed phone line.
Due to the remote working behaviours of many modern businesses, they can make use of voice over internet (VoIP) solutions. Which means that many computers, tablets or mobile phones can be connected to each other via the internet and when a phone number is rung, it can be routed to ring across any number of devices connected to the internet.
Many business internet providers offer affordable VoIP solutions for business. The catch is you need a reliable internet connection for it to work properly.
There are now even apps that are being made for your mobile phone so that all the VoIP services are set-up and managed on your phone so you don’t even need a computer.
Will You Be at Your Location Long Enough to Justify the Costs?
If you plan on having a phone system installed at your premise, it may be a considerable investment cost. You will need to ensure that the investment is worth the outlay. I.e. if you are putting in cables for phone systems then you will want to make sure that you get your return on investment.
You do not want to have the phone system set-up only to end your lease at your premise and have to set up again at the new premise.
Do You Have the Budget for Installation and Ongoing Costs?
As mentioned before, setting up a fully fledged telephone system can be a very expensive exercise. Both initial investment and ongoing costs associated with cable installation, line fees and hardware costs.
Phone hardware costs are compounded for each additional phone system that needs to be purchased.
A virtual receptionist is a person that answers your phone for you and directs the call to the necessary person in the business. There are usually a team of people employed by the phone reception company to be available to answer your phone at whatever time you need the phones to be answered.
To the caller it appears they are speaking to someone in your office. The virtual receptionist is usually located in a major city and never actually sets foot in your office.
They can either take messages or divert the caller to the necessary person. Some virtual receptionists can even answer some simple questions about your company if the information is available to them.
Virtual receptionists usually have packages that are charged based on the volume of calls you receive. They are a very affordable option over having to hire an administrator to do this for you.
Fixed Line Telephone Systems
Chances are if your office has multiple people in it then you will need a fixed line telephone system.
You will need to determine what your office telephone system capabilities currently are. Will you need to have network cabling installed at your premise? Cabling can be installed by a qualified electrician.
It is a good idea to get a number of quotes for cabling as the end result is much the same but the price will differ. In most cases than not it is more affordable to have the cabling installed by a data-qualified electrician than by a phone provider.
You will need to have a plan or good idea of how many phone systems/desks will need to be installed for.
It is also important to plan for the future. You will typically want to know what this will look like in 1-3 years. If this will grow in the near future, you need to ask what the upgrade costs will be so you have a rough guide in the future to match your growth.
Purchase Your Phone System
Determine the type of phone system that will be required to meet your needs.
Each phone system comes with its own set of features that can suit your businesses needs. Some of the common phone features include:
- Day/night mode – This may allow you to set a schedule for when the phone operates and when it will turn on voice-mail to take a message. This is great for when your business operates on a fixed time frame e.g. 9am-5pm but you still want to capture voice messages to reply to later.
- Voice to email – Phone calls can be converted to emails and sent to a designated email address after the phone call has ended.
- Reception/switch unit – Phone systems can be made to be answered in one phone and then be directed to the right desk/phone system after that. Additionally, if multiple phone calls come in at the same time, they can be answered by multiple people at once. It is just like how the virtual receptionist works but all in the same premise.
- Hands-free/Headset capability – Often the person answering the phone will need to operate a computer, write or do other things with their hands at the same time. It makes it far easier to do this when you have a hands-free/headset connected to the phone so you are not needing to hold the phone while speaking.
Finalise the exact requirements needed for your phone system and purchase it. If necessary, book with the cable installer to connect and install the phone system too.
Configuration and Training
Once the phone has been correctly installed, there may need to be some initial set-up to customise it to your specific needs. Depending on the features of the phone system, you may need to record a voice-mail message, add contacts into the phone book or configure the correct routing.
Most modern phone systems are a lot simpler and easier to set-up but you may need to consult the manual or get the hired technician to do this all for you.
Finally, after all the initial set-up has been completed, you will need to book training in with the team who will be using the phone system.
Depending on who was involved in the installation, they may be able to train your team on how to use the phone.
A good rule to follow is to provide the training only when your team is ready to apply it. You do not want to spend the time training the necessary people for them to forget when they actually need it down the track.
Hopefully this gave you an idea of what is involved in having a business phone system installed in your office.
There are many voice communication options you can use in your business. Whether that is mobile, virtual or fully-fledged. It is up to you and your business requirements on which option you choose.
Do you use phone systems in your business? Let us know if you have any tips for when you set up your business phone and if there are any solutions that are better than others.
Written by Joseph Chesterton
Joseph is the founder of Lemodus. He's obsessed with building businesses that help businesses grow. He founded Lemodus to introduce better processes and automation to the community. Lemodus is the number one tool to get your business under control.