Telephone systems have been providing a vital service for businesses of all sizes for decades. The way we used phone systems depended on office culture and user expectations of how to communicate between customers, workers and managers. However, a lot has changed since the pandemic when people were forced or encouraged to work from home. Flexibility has been key in the last two years.
When to consider the upgrade
Industry statistics suggest the average business phone system usually last around five years, after which the system is either out of maintenance or is lagging in features and, more often than not, hurting the performance of the business. This was especially true during the pandemic. If phone systems did not offer home working capabilities, then they were definitely affecting business performance.
The looming Openreach switch-off of traditional copper telephone lines, namely PSTN and ISDN, is also cutting short the lifespan of many phone systems, as they simply will not work after the end of 2025, if not before in some areas.
Businesses that need to upgrade their existing phone systems will find an array of new solutions available compared to a few years ago, with some fundamental differences. The most glaring is that software-hosted and licence-based communications solutions do not need dedicated hardware in the server room or the office anymore, because the entire system runs in the cloud. There isn’t even a need to have desk phones for the majority of users. The pandemic saw many of us use PC soft phones via headsets or using apps on our smartphones and these continue to be used even as people return to the office.
Modern phone solutions no longer offer just ‘voice’. They have transformed to offer a range of unified communications (UC) capabilities, such as instant messaging, presence, video calling, screen and document sharing, and mobility solutions, all designed to keep your business at maximum productivity. These tools were priceless during the pandemic to stay in touch with colleagues but are now being used to connect to customers too.
The pandemic and copper withdrawal means most businesses will not be seeking a like for like replacement, but also want to take advantage of a golden opportunity to enjoy a range of powerful new capabilities.
Before you start looking at different phone system options, here are a few questions you should ask yourself:
Questions to ask when considering a new phone system
Are you missing any calls?
How many phone calls does your business miss because the call either goes to someone who is out of the office or all the lines are busy?
Are you running disparate systems?
Do you have different systems in different offices resulting in features that do not work the same causing confusion or cannot easily transfer calls between sites?
Can you rely on your phone system?
Is your phone system a vital part of your business? If it goes down, do you too? Have you suffered a network or equipment failure that has stopped inbound and outbound calls? Do you worry about having to find spare parts if the phone system goes wrong?
Do you worry about rising costs?
Are you worried about unexpected bills with tiered minutes pricing or high international calling costs? When you bought your last phone system, do you think you got a good deal or did you find hidden costs after you bought the basic system? Do you want to avoid hidden costs with maintenance of the system this time around?
Will the PSTN and ISDN switch-off affect you?
If you are still using these phone lines, then yes it will, and you need to take action. Your supplier will not simply switch you to another service as your phone system will not work with the new voice services that run on internet connections. It’s time for an upgrade that will give you a whole host of extra benefits. You won’t regret it.
Can you work from home?
We left this to last but for so many businesses it has been the most important driver in the past two years. If you cannot work as easily at home as you do in the office, then it is time to upgrade. You should be able to make calls that display your business number, even if you use your own mobile device. You should be able to receive transferred calls and be able to transfer calls to your colleagues. It needs to be seamless to be effective.
If you have identified with some or all of these questions, you are not alone. They are some of the most common issues we see today in the business world when it comes to replacing a phone system. Chances are you will need to prioritise these questions into the ones that are most important for your business.
But what about the benefits?
Most cloud phone services come with a fixed minutes and user plan. You pay a certain amount for the user per month and the minutes come with it.
You just buy what you need. If you need more capability in the future, you just add it. You only pay for what you use today and add more users as your business grows.
Cloud-hosted telephone systems all work the same way everywhere. Your offices, mobile workers and remote workers will all have access to the same powerful range of features.
These systems can be integrated with major cloud-based CRMs and customer support applications enabling your business to become more efficient.
You can enjoy a large array of features that, until recently, were only available on very expensive systems used by large organisations. You can provide a highly quality customer experience by having an automated attendant, hunt groups and a range of other call routing features, so that you always look totally professional to your customers.
You can implement a range of productivity features that allow your current staff to communicate and collaborate much more effectively than before, thereby improving the overall productivity of your business.
Most cloud-hosted phone systems are managed through secure easy-to-use web portals, which negate the need for specialist skills. They were designed to make your life easy and just keep running 24/7 so you don’t have to worry about the costs or waiting for the engineers to find a fix.
If any of the above questions resonate with you or if you are interested in these benefits, please do not hesitate to get in contact with me.