How to Find Your Next Phone System: Part 1 – Features & Functions

By Matthew Hilton

With all the buzzwords, technobabble, and specialized, proprietary keywords that manufacturers use to describe the same features, it can be a seemingly daunting task to find your next phone system. And, if you’re in a non-IT role, the task can seem even more difficult.

When finding a new phone system (or making any IT purchase), the underlying question you’re trying to answer is: “Is this the right solution for my company?”

So, how does one go from needing a new phone system to finding the right system for their company? I know it sounds like a subtle distinction, but it’s an important one. What works for a multi-national, enterprise-sized customer might not be the right fit for a small, single-location retail store. And, what’s right for that single-store retail location might not be the same for another one three streets over. The variables are significant. However, focusing your search criteria with the help of industry experts can really assist you in your process to a successful implementation.

There are three main challenges that every business should overcome when replacing their phone system. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing a three-part blog series addressing these three challenges in order to help your company thrive and grow by utilizing the tools in today’s Unified Communications (UC) solutions. Today we’ll address the first challenge: features and functions.

Challenge One: Features & Functions

Feature parity among UC solution providers has never been closer. With each vendor primarily offering the same types of features and functions, how you access those functions can be monumentally different.  For example, many vendors bundle certain packages together and charge extra for them. Or, they offer a stripped down version of a package and charge upsell fees in order to activate the full feature.

Let’s say you run a dental practice and you would like to have six staff members making outbound calls to patients for follow up and scheduling. Those same six staff members also receive inbound calls from patients looking to reschedule appointments, confirm appointment times, and inquire about the duration of their procedure. It might not be a traditional call center or helpdesk, but in order to fully optimize how quickly and effectively patients and staff are able to communicate in this way, call center features are really necessary.

Some UC solution providers may charge extra to include call center type features. Or, some may include a base package with a single call queue with up to five agents (staff members) and charge you to add additional queues or agents. Others, like Digium’s own Switchvox UC system, include it without licensing limitations in their base product.

So, what’s the underlying point about challenge one? It’s not just about whether a phone system has a feature you’re looking for, it’s also about how you access it and how much you must pay for the privilege to fully utilize it. For a small set of features, maybe an add-on cost is not a large factor. But, if you need to add multiple features, these fees can add up more quickly than you might suspect.

Conclusion

The most cost-effective solutions are those that include the features and functions your company could use to improve its business processes, streamline your call functions, and maximize the benefits to both your employees and callers alike.

To help narrow down the phone system features your company needs, download the New Phone System Checklist now!

In part two of this blog series, we’ll explore Challenge Two: Maintenance and Usability.

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About the Author

Matthew Hilton

Matthew is the Switchvox Product Marketing Manager for Digium. Matthew has spent the last 15 years in various IT roles working for multiple Fortune 500 companies and Value-Added Resellers. Not one to sit idly by, his job titles have included, Business Analyst, Systems & Network Engineer, VOIP Engineer, Programmer and Marketing Specialist. He graduated from Eastern Connecticut State University with a BA in English and a focus on Business Information Systems.

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