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Even though email, instant messaging and social media have become the norm in our highly connected work environments and accepted modes of professional communication, phones are still one of the most significant, effective and personal forms of business communication.

The average company replaces their phone system every seven years. So, choosing the right phone system can not only meet your needs now but further enables your small to mid-sized business to flourish in ways you have not even considered by providing long-term solutions.

It used to be that a company would merely look at telephone systems as a cost item and only worry about how easy it was to use and how long it would last. Nowadays, advanced technology offers features like integration with CRM (Client Relationship Management) tools so you can easily do things like call tracking, initiate calls by caller ID, have your voicemail sent to email, even fax to email, and utilize call queues for incoming client calls, generate reports and easily manage connectivity across multiple sites.

With this abundance in choice, choosing the right phone system is no simple task. But this new frontier in telecommunications also means that your business phone system can have a larger impact on your overall business than ever before. Selecting the best phone system suited for your company means that your operation strategies can be adjusted around your communication capabilities.

So ask yourself: Is your phone system meeting your company’s needs as business grows? Today’s small business phone systems are available in a variety of configuration and offer a huge range of features and benefits. Picking the right small business phone system for you can help you give your workforce the tools they need to be more efficient.

First, evaluate your telecommunications needs and how many employees you have and how many will be on the phone at any one time? Do you get a high volume of in-bound calls, or are your calls mostly outbound? Is there someone from your company usually available to answer the phones and take messages? Starting by simply asking yourself these types of questions will help you decide what you need your phone system to do for you.

The decision should come down to how much your telephone system can impact your business. It shouldn’t be just about what it will cost your company but instead, how your organization is better with the new technology and can it help your bottom line by cutting costs in the long run.

Think bigger picture and factor in these six key considerations for how implementing a new small business phone system can meet your company’s short and long-term goals.

1. Improved call handling

Features like call transfer, three-way calling, call display, conference calling and automated attendants for off-hours help ensure potential clients are routed to the right person at your organization and calls are not missed. This can directly affect sales opportunities and foster strong client relationships. Some systems offer Session Initiation Protocol Support (SIP) which is used for controlling communication sessions over Internet Protocol (IP). A SIP-based VoIP phone system can give you added functionality with multi-user conference calls and even click-to-chat web pages. This sort of capability helps to increase the value and usefulness of your phone system, allowing you to serve customers better.

2. Improved accessibility

Being a small business requires staying flexible and dynamic and your employees are likely on the move. Giving your workforce the ability to make and receive calls from their smartphones, tablets and use their computers as phones allows them to stay productive regardless of location and where the work takes them. This is invaluable when you consider features now available like a single number reach means an employee can program their phone to a number they’re best reached at. Also, geographic factors are less limiting when you have remote workers who can still access the same voice tools and system as onsite employees.

3. Better response times

A new small business phone system can change the way you and your employees work and conduct daily business transactions. Workers who can have a single phone number that simultaneously rings on multiple devices and unified messaging with notifications to emails, text message or phone are always connected. And by using an option like video conferencing, key relationships with your remote staff, customers, suppliers and partners are enhanced very easily.

4. Easier internal communications

An integration with at CRM or any other internal system can allow your team to work more effectively with sharing information about potential sales opportunities. Some phone systems also come with paging and intercom abilities so internal communications in a space is at your fingertips. And popular features like instant messaging and presence technology can also help you or customers quickly identify people available within your company and how best to reach them at any given time.

5. Call reporting for measuring business analytics

The breadth of call reporting technology in some new phone systems these days can provide detailed statistics and information that can help your business to improve customer service and control steady sales growth. Often there’s an easy-to-use dashboard so you can access real-time reporting and see the flow of incoming and outgoing calls which gives valuable insight into usage and performance metrics. This provides concrete data to make management calls regarding operations or staff.

6. Quality assurance info for issue resolution and training

Today’s small business IP phone systems can consolidate essential communications and collaboration capabilities onto a single server solution. This reduces IT complexity and communications costs. Tracking information on the way the phone system is used can also provide greater accountability on performance and productivity. Alerts can also be set to identify unusual calling patterns and how the system capacity is utilized. Being able to identify and fix your capacity for handling customer calls and to focus training on needed areas means you can optimize how calls are managed so as to increase customer satisfaction.

Deciding on a phone system will be one where you’ll factor in the big things like location, size, your sector, and the complexity of the business integration, and level of tech savviness in the workplace and the available infrastructure you’re working with, but don’t ignore the bigger picture. An entirely new phone system can be a significant financial commitment, especially for small businesses, but the payoff with a truly integrated system can be huge.

Business Communications

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