A company phone system is often considered a long-term investment and is certainly fundamental to the operational lifeblood of a business. Deciding to switch services or buy a system for the first time is a big decision that requires asking the right questions to the right people. Often times, the quality of the answers you get from internal stakeholders, consultants, and vendors alike stems from the quality of the questions you ask at the research level. When shopping for communications solutions, decision makers sometimes assume that any new phone system with updated features and functionality is a good investment simply because it is newer than what is being replaced.
How do you avoid buyer’s remorse on your phone system purchase? Asking lots of questions – the right questions to the right people – is the first step toward making a solid investment in any technology solution.
Below is a long list of questions to ask of yourself and your phone system vendors, as well as a list of questions you might expect to be asked in return when prospecting for a new business phone system:
Questions to Ask Yourself:
- What vendors and solutions do we currently have in place?
- Do we need to change systems or can we simply upgrade?
- Which features are essential for our business to have?
- What are our current costs and what is our budget?
- What frustrations do we have with our current phone system?
- How much are we expecting our business to grow?
- How much fluctuation is there in our communications needs?
- Do we have specific compliance measures we must meet?
- What are our goals for our new phone system?
- How will we train our IT staff and end users on the system?
Questions to Ask Vendors:
- What kind of platforms does your phone system run on?
- What resources are necessary to maintain and upgrade?
- How long does it take to get up and running?
- How easy is it to add a new user or location?
- What happens if there is a disruption in service?
- How does your phone system compare to other competitors?
- What features are available with this phone system?
- Are all of the features included or do some of them cost extra?
- Does this phone system support mobility?
- Is this phone system compatible with other technologies/ software programs?
- Can this phone system scale as my business grows?
- What service and support will I get for both installation and on an ongoing basis?
- How can this phone system integrate with my disaster recovery plan?
- Do you provide training on the system?
- How do I demo the system?
- What will this cost me?
Questions Vendors Might Ask You:
- Do you have a single site or multiple locations?
- Where are they located?
- What type of incoming connectivity do you or will you have- SIP, T1/PRI, analog?
- How many extensions will you need, including future growth?
- What type of network infrastructure do you have in place?
- What type of data connectivity do you have and how much bandwidth?
- What type of internet connection do you have?
- If you have multiple sites, how are they connected- MPLS, T1, Cable, DSL, VPN?
- What type of phone equipment do you have currently?
- Do you have any remote workers?
- Do you have any feature requirements? Which features are most important?
- What is your budget?
- Do you prefer a hosted PBX (cloud-based phone system) or a premises-based (on-site) solution?
- Do you plan on installing the phone system yourself or will you need assistance?
- Do you currently have an IT resource who manages your company’s network and/or firewall? Who is it?
- Are you under contract with any phone service providers? Are you currently using another hosted or cloud provider? If so, why are you leaving them
- Do you have local or toll-free numbers that you would like to port into our network for use with other services? If so, please provide those numbers.
- Do you have any fax requirements?
In order to get the best price for your company’s new phone system, deliver your requirements to several vendors and let them bid on the project. Make sure you and your team have demoed their systems and that you ask for customer references. You also want to receive a detailed proposal that covers all the areas you’ve deemed important, and make sure that you have had all of your questions answered. To determine what is causing any price differences among the vendors, ask that the cost of the features be listed separately (or detailed, if they are included as a package of features). When you have the proposals in front of you, choose the one that meets your needs, falls within your budget, and is a system with which you feel most comfortable being at the core of your business communications.
Do your research and be patient with the buying process, and you will find a phone system that saves you money, exceeds your communications needs, and makes doing business easier.
Check out Digium’s phone system checklist to determine which system would be the best fit for your company!