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Useful information on Small Business Phone Systems
Small Business Phone Systems
Good phone systems are just as important to small businesses as they are to large firms. While it might be easy to suppose that companies with only a handful of employees could get by these days by using mobiles, that’s simply not practical for any business that is more than a so-called ‘one-man band’. Even if you fall into that category, the chances are that you will miss out on opportunities if you rely solely on your mobile.
The fact remains that any business which does not have a landline number that serves as the main initial point of contact with the firm will lack real credibility. Having a phone number is one of the most basic elements that will mark you out as a serious, bona-fide organisation. Ideally, it will be a memorable number too, so that regular callers can dial it at will from their own landline.
Having a landline number will also be particularly important for businesses that serve a particular area, identifying them as a local firm and providing added reassurance to potential customers who will then know that they are not too far away, and much more likely to have a good understanding of their needs.
Furthermore, in these days in which many businesses are operating more of a hybrid set-up, with some staff working in the office (but perhaps limiting movement and contact with colleagues) and others working at home much of the time, having a central number, which customers, suppliers, partners and staff can call to connect to different individuals, or to make general enquiries, is more important than ever.Back to top
Choosing the Right Small Business Phone System
Choosing a phone system that is right for your small business is largely a matter of exercising common sense. But it is important to consider your needs carefully in advance, and to balance these with the cost and commitment you are making.
You may well start out with the approach that you just want something that works. Reliability is important, of course, but you do also need to think about what you will want to do with your phone system. If a lot of staff are out of the office, or working from home, for most of the time, you will need a system that allows calls to be diverted to other numbers. You might also want to have the ability use a ‘hunt group’ to ensure that the call is answered a soon as possible. You would also need to be able to transfer calls easily and perhaps, to have a voice mail function.
If you have different departments within your business – sales, accounts, service, spare parts, and so on – you may want to have an auto attendant feature as well. You may also want the ability to record calls, or conferencing functionality that will allow several people to participate in a single call.
You will need to consider the call plan you will need too. Do you call mainly UK landline numbers or mobiles? Do you have a need to make international calls? There will be packages available to suit different call patterns. In addition, you may want to consider reporting functionality. Some services will allow you to get detailed information on calls made and received. This allows you to monitor and manage how much time staff are spending on calls and, if you wish, allocate costs accurately.Back to top
The Best Small Office Phone Systems
There is no question that IP-based phones systems are best-suited to the needs of small offices today. But there are many options, and each provides something slightly different. This is why it’s important to define your needs clearly before you start the selection process – it will make it much easier.
Another factor to keep in mind here is your future as well as current needs. How will your business develop and grow over the next two to three years (which is likely to be the duration of a telephony service contract) and how might your requirements change? If you are thinking of moving premises or restructuring the business, how will that impact on your needs. You will want the system and service provider to have the flexibility to change with you.
In the end, the best small business phone system for you, will be the one that provides a suitable mix of features, flexibility, and affordability.Back to top
What do you need included?
Many IP-based or ‘hosted’ phone services are offered as a ‘package’ with certain capabilities included, such as unlimited calls to UK landlines or mobiles, and a set of core features that should meet the needs of most businesses. Others can be configured to meet exact needs.
The point here is that you do not need to compromise in terms of what you want from your telephony system. There will be one or perhaps more than one option, that ticks all the boxes for you in terms of both your current and future requirements.
You just need to make certain that all the core features you have decided you will need are included in the service you select – and that you will have enough flexibility to make changes when you need to in the future.
When you come to make your choice, you may be surprised at the variety and the differences between the services that are on offer. While they will all provide the basics – a good voice connection, number portability, call redirection and transfer features and so on, there will be a lot of differences when it comes to call plans and more advanced features.
Price Comparison of Small Office Telephones
The only factor that may compel you to compromise is on cost. But this would be unusual. IP-based phone systems designed for small businesses are very affordable. Indeed, if you are moving away from an old analogue system or service, you will certainly save money by switching to a hosted telephony service.
Below we have provided a few outline details of some of the most popular, established, and reliable services that are available.
BT is the best-known name in small business telephony and its Cloud Voice services provide a good range of IP-based options. These typically come with an excellent range of call management features, often with a fast broadband connection and WiFi thrown in.Back to top
Gamma is a very well-established specialist supplier of busines IP phone systems. The company’s Horizon service has a really good reputation for quality and reliability and there are a good range of options available for businesses of all sizes.Back to top
Vonage is a dedicated supplier of IP services with a strong and growing reputation in the business market. There are options to suit all kinds of companies in the Vonage Business Cloud range, some of which come with advanced options such as call recording and international calling.
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