How to Choose the Best Business Phone Systems
Who are the top providers of business phone systems?
Business phone systems are essential to your business. Communicating with customers, communicating with each other, conference calling and messaging are all pivotal to business success. When it comes time to evaluate options, you may find yourself overwhelmed with options. Know what features you want, need, and that are available can help you ask the right questions to get you the best communications solution. Let’s start with the basics.
What is the difference between VoIP and PBX phones?
VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) and PBX (Private Branch Exchange) phones are two different technologies used for voice communication in businesses. Here’s the difference between the two:
- VoIP Phones:
VoIP phones use the internet to transmit voice data in digital format. They convert the analog voice signals into digital packets and send them over an IP network. VoIP phones can utilize various protocols such as Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) to establish and manage calls over the internet.
- PBX Phones:
PBX phones, on the other hand, traditionally operate over the public switched telephone network (PSTN) using analog or digital connections. PBX systems are physical hardware systems that handle call routing and switching within an organization’s private phone network.
- VoIP Phones: VoIP phones rely on an internet connection and require an IP-based network infrastructure to function. They can be used with dedicated VoIP service providers or with on-premises IP-PBX systems.
- PBX Phones: PBX phones connect to a PBX system, which is a private telephone network within an organization. The PBX system consists of physical hardware, including phone lines, switches, and routers, which manage the call routing and switching for the internal phone network.
- VoIP Phones:
VoIP technology can be cost-effective because it leverages existing IP infrastructure and reduces the need for separate voice and data networks. Calls made between VoIP phones or within the same VoIP service provider network are often free or significantly cheaper compared to traditional phone services. However, the overall cost can vary based on factors such as the service provider, equipment, and quality of service required.
- PBX Phones:
PBX systems typically involve higher upfront costs for purchasing and installing the necessary hardware and infrastructure. Additionally, there are ongoing costs for maintenance, upgrades, and phone line services. International and long-distance calls may also incur higher charges compared to VoIP services.
Features and Scalability:
- VoIP Phones:
VoIP phones offer a wide range of advanced features beyond basic voice calling, such as video conferencing, voicemail-to-email transcription, call forwarding, auto-attendants, and integration with other software applications. VoIP systems are generally more scalable and flexible, allowing businesses to easily add or remove lines and expand their phone network.
- PBX Phones:
PBX systems also provide various features, but they may be more limited compared to VoIP systems. Scalability can be more complex with PBX phones, requiring additional hardware and configuration as the organization grows.
It’s worth noting that with the advancements in technology, some modern PBX systems now incorporate VoIP capabilities, combining the best of both worlds by enabling VoIP calls within a traditional PBX infrastructure. These systems are known as IP-PBX or VoIP-PBX systems.
So, what are the best features of a business phone system?
A business phone system typically offers a range of features designed to enhance communication, collaboration, and productivity within an organization. The top features of a business phone system may vary depending on the specific system and provider, but here are some commonly sought-after features:
- Call Management: Efficient call handling features such as call forwarding, call routing, call transfer, call queuing, and automated attendant (IVR) help manage incoming and outgoing calls effectively.
- Voicemail: Voicemail allows callers to leave messages when the recipient is unavailable. Advanced systems may offer features like visual voicemail, voicemail-to-email transcription, and centralized voicemail boxes.
- Conference Calling: Conference calling enables multiple participants to join a call simultaneously, facilitating collaboration and remote meetings. Some systems offer advanced features like virtual meeting rooms, video conferencing, and screen sharing.
- Mobile Integration: Integration with mobile devices allows employees to make and receive calls using their business numbers on their smartphones. This feature is particularly beneficial for remote workers or employees on the go.
- Scalability: A business phone system should be scalable, allowing organizations to add or remove phone lines and extensions as their needs evolve. This flexibility ensures that the system can accommodate growth or downsizing without significant disruptions.
- Call Analytics and Reporting: Detailed call analytics and reporting provide insights into call volumes, call duration, call patterns, and other metrics. This data can be valuable for monitoring performance, optimizing resource allocation, and improving customer service.
- Call Recording: Call recording functionality allows businesses to record and store calls for quality assurance, training, or compliance purposes. This feature can be particularly important in industries such as customer service, sales, or legal.
- Auto-Attendant: An auto-attendant, also known as an interactive voice response (IVR) system, greets callers and provides menu options to direct them to the appropriate department or extension. This feature streamlines call routing and improves customer service.
- Integration with CRM and Business Tools: Integration with customer relationship management (CRM) systems and other business tools helps streamline workflows and enhance productivity. It enables features like automatic call logging, screen pop-ups with customer information, and click-to-dial functionality.
- Unified Communications: Advanced business phone systems may offer unified communications capabilities, integrating voice, video, messaging, and collaboration tools into a single platform. This allows employees to communicate seamlessly across different channels and devices.
- Advanced Call Handling: Additional features like call park, call barging, call whispering, call screening, and presence indicators can improve call management and collaboration within the organization.
- Security and Reliability: Robust security measures, such as encryption and secure connections, ensure the privacy and integrity of calls. Redundancy and disaster recovery options help maintain service availability even in the event of system failures or outages.
It’s important to note that the availability and extent of these features may vary across different business phone system providers. Your businesses should assess your specific needs and carefully evaluate the features and capabilities offered by different providers to find the solution that best aligns with your requirements.
What is the best way to select a business phone system?
Selecting the right business phone system is an important decision that can significantly impact your organization’s communication and productivity. Here are some steps to help you choose the best system for your business:
Assess Your Needs:
Begin by understanding your organization’s specific communication requirements. Consider factors such as the number of employees, remote or mobile workforce, call volume, scalability needs, desired features, integration with existing systems (CRM, collaboration tools, etc.), and budget constraints. Identifying your needs will help you narrow down the options.
Explore different business phone system providers and gather information about their offerings. Consider factors like reputation, customer reviews, industry experience, reliability, security measures, scalability options, and customer support. Make a list of potential providers that align with your needs.
Determine Deployment Options:
Evaluate whether you prefer a cloud-based (hosted) phone system or an on-premises solution. Cloud-based systems offer flexibility, scalability, and cost advantages, while on-premises systems provide more control but require dedicated infrastructure and maintenance.
Compare the features and functionality offered by different providers. Look for essential features like call management, voicemail, conferencing, mobile integration, CRM integration, call analytics, and collaboration tools. Prioritize the features that are crucial for your business operations.
Consider Scalability and Flexibility:
Ensure that the business phone system can scale as your organization grows. Evaluate whether the system allows for easy addition or removal of phone lines, extensions, and features. Consider the flexibility to adapt to future needs and technological advancements.
Evaluate Integration Capabilities:
If your organization relies on specific business tools like CRM, helpdesk software, or collaboration platforms, check whether the phone system integrates smoothly with those tools. Integration can enhance productivity, streamline workflows, and improve customer service.
Request Demos and Trials:
Request demos or free trials from shortlisted providers to get hands-on experience with their systems. This allows you to evaluate the user interface, ease of use, call quality, and overall system performance. It’s also an opportunity to assess customer support responsiveness.
Consider Total Cost of Ownership:
Evaluate the total cost of ownership, including upfront costs, recurring fees (licensing, maintenance, support), hardware requirements (if applicable), and any potential costs for additional features or upgrades. Compare pricing plans and consider long-term value rather than just the initial cost.
Seek Recommendations and References:
Consult peers or industry colleagues who have experience with business phone systems. Their insights and recommendations can provide valuable information and help you make an informed decision. Additionally, reach out to references provided by the providers to gather feedback from their existing customers.
Make an Informed Decision:
After careful evaluation of the above factors, weigh the pros and cons of each provider and system. Consider your budget, specific requirements, future growth plans, and feedback from references or peers. Select the business phone system that best aligns with your needs, offers the right features, provides reliable support, and fits within your budget.
Remember, selecting a business phone system is not a one-size-fits-all decision. It’s important to tailor your choice to your organization’s unique needs and priorities.
Finally, who are the best business phone system providers?
There are several top providers of business phone systems, each offering a range of features and services. The following providers are well-known and widely regarded in the industry:
- RingCentral: RingCentral is a cloud-based communications and collaboration platform that offers a comprehensive suite of business phone system features. They provide solutions for small businesses, midsize companies, and enterprises.
- 8×8: 8×8 offers cloud-based voice, video, chat, and contact center solutions. They provide a unified communications platform that combines phone systems, team messaging, and video conferencing.
- Crexendo: Crexendo is a provider of business communication solutions, including cloud-based phone systems. They offer a range of features and services aimed at enhancing communication, collaboration, and productivity for businesses of all sizes.
- Vonage Business: Vonage Business provides cloud-based phone systems with a focus on scalability and flexibility. Their services include voice calling, messaging, video collaboration, and contact center solutions.
- Cisco Webex Calling: Cisco Webex Calling is a cloud-based phone system that offers enterprise-grade communication features. It integrates with other Cisco collaboration tools and provides options for businesses of all sizes.
- Microsoft Teams: While primarily known as a collaboration and productivity platform, Microsoft Teams offers robust business phone system capabilities. It provides calling features, conferencing, messaging, and integration with other Microsoft products.
- Avaya: Avaya is a leading provider of on-premises and cloud-based communication solutions. They offer business phone systems, contact center solutions, and unified communications platforms for enterprises.
- Mitel: Mitel provides cloud-based and on-premises business communication solutions. They offer a range of phone system features, collaboration tools, and contact center solutions for businesses of all sizes.
- Ooma Office: Ooma Office is a VoIP phone system designed specifically for small businesses. It offers features like virtual receptionist, extension dialing, call forwarding, and conferencing at an affordable price.
- Nextiva: Nextiva is a cloud-based business phone system provider that offers a wide range of communication and collaboration features. They provide solutions for businesses of all sizes, including voice, video, messaging, and contact center capabilities.
- Jive Communications: Jive Communications offers cloud-based phone systems with advanced features like auto-attendant, call analytics, call recording, and integration with CRM platforms. They cater to businesses of various sizes.
These are just a few of the top providers in the market. It’s essential to assess your business requirements, compare features and pricing, and consider customer reviews and reputation when choosing a business phone system provider that best suits your organization’s needs.
Starting with a Risk-Free Communications Environment Assessment can help you understand your needs, and help you narrow down the options to the best solutions for your business.