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Business Phone Systems: It Doesn't Have to Be Complicated editorial staff editorial staff

Here's what you need to know when choosing a vendor

Do some serious research into providers before settling on one. Doing so will allow you to find a phone system that is tailored to the size and type of business you have. And always plan for growth when choosing a phone system-one that is suitable at the time of installation may be useless within a year, so a flexible system that can accommodate expansion is a necessity.

The following are important factors to consider when choosing a BTS:

  • Budget
  • Current needs
  • Features that may become necessary in the future
  • Desired productivity-enhancing features
  • Growth and expansion of the business
  • Maintenance, and related costs
  • The number of employees using the system
  • The frequency of incoming calls
  • The training necessary for current and new employees

When all of these factors are considered, it should become easier to choose the system suitable for the size and type of business in question, allowing for growth in the future as well.

Calculating Cost

There are numerous costs to consider when setting up a business phone system. Factors that determine the overall cost have to do with the type of system that is being set up, and the equipment that is already owned by the business.

For KSU and PBX units, there's a cost for the base unit, which can vary greatly due to the fact that it determines how many outside lines, extensions, and accessories the phone system can handle. Generally, the base unit can range from $500 up to several thousand dollars, depending on the size of unit a business needs.

Handsets can cost a large sum of money should your business need anything above a basic model. Basic models can be simple headsets or handheld phones that sell for as little as $10 to $20 each. Wireless handsets and headsets are a bit more expensive, running from $20 to $100 each. Executive or receptionist sets can cost as much as hundreds of dollars per set.

A Computer Telephone Integration (CTI) system will cost thousands of dollars, but it can be a boost for medium-to-large businesses and can be a good investment for smaller businesses as well, as it can help with employee productivity and efficiency.

Installation, training, and maintenance should also be taken into consideration when setting a budget for a BTS. Installation may be included in a package, or it may be less costly if the building housing the office is under renovation, as it means the provider can work with the current internal layout rather than working around any preexisting items that are part of an office.

Training may also be included in the package. However, there may be additional charges for any additional employees that need to be trained.

Maintenance can usually be done remotely, but costs can begin to mount if an engineer has to visit the business premises to fix or solve an issue. Many companies offer reasonably priced service plans.

Purchasing Tips

  • Ensure that the BTS has the capability to be upgraded. If there's a massive boom in business, it's important that the system has the ability to handle a higher volume of incoming and outgoing calls. Also, if the system isn't currently connected to a computer system, this may become a problem as the business grows, and a computer system may become advisable.
  • Budget to cover any unexpected maintenance that may be necessary. It's an easy oversight to make, but ensuring that the funds are available means that there's never a cause for panic or stress. It's also advisable to begin budgeting for a system upgrade in advance, should the business expand at a fast rate.
  • Don't be dazzled by fancy features that are unlikely to be used much in your business. Know which features are essential for your business, and which are appealing yet optional. If something is missing from the package, see if it can be added, and if there's something unnecessary, see if it can be removed to save money. Be sure that the selected package fits the criteria of what is needed.
  • When choosing a provider, it's important to ask whether training is included for those employees who will be using the system. If it is, find out whether such training applies to employees who are hired after the system is in place.
  • Verify the reputation of a provider with current or previous clients, if possible, to ensure that they're quick and responsive to issues or problems, and to check that they're fully qualified to install all features of the selected telephone system. Choosing a reliable provider is as important as acquiring all the desired system features.

Glossary of Terms

  • Auto Attend: Also known as a virtual receptionist, digital receptionist, or voicemail system. Auto attend allows users to navigate a phone system using voice commands or numerical commands entered from the caller's keypad.
  • Base Unit: The main component of the telephone system, primarily defining the number of phones and phone lines that can be connected.
  • BTS: Business Telephone System.
  • CTI System: Computer Telephone Integration System, used to coordinate a telephone and a computer.
  • Handset: A telephone unit that is placed on, or held to, the ear and spoken into for communication.
  • Hosted PBX: The same as the PBX; however, the system itself is located on the premises of the telephone system provider.
  • Hosted VoIP: The same as the Voice Over Internet Protocol system; however, it isn't situated on the office premises as is the standard VoIP system; rather, it is hosted on the premises of the system provider.
  • Key System Unit (KSU): It allows users to manually direct telephone calls to certain phones or phone lines.
  • KSU-Less: Similar to the KSU; however, it uses telephone systems with built-in electronics to perform all of its functions.
  • Private Branch Exchange (PBX) system: It has programmable switching devices to allow incoming calls to be automatically routed to the correct phones and phone lines.
  • System Provider: The company that provides the units, installation, and maintenance of the BTS.
  • Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP): An advanced system that uses the Internet and computers, allowing for fast and convenient communication with clients.
Image Credit: Monkeybusinessimages / Getty Images editorial staff editorial staff Member
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