Almost all businesses today require some form of phone system to receive and manage their calls effectively. But, depending on the type and size of business you run, you’ll need to figure out which features you need to manage your communications.

Here we look at the features available and how they’re useful for modern business, so you can pick the right one.

What is the best business phone service?

A good business phone service is the one that best suits the volume of calls you’re likely to receive and the level of management and response you need to offer callers on a daily basis. 

A phone system can be set up via regular desk-based telephone connections or as an internet based system that operates through your computer, tablet and mobile, as well as your desk phone via the internet.

An internet based service is likely to feature or integrate more of the features and applications you’ll need for advanced communications but to figure out the best business phone service for you, it helps to draw up a checklist of the things your business requires for its communications and identify which applications you need. For example…

Call forwarding and holding

If you need the option to receive calls to your mobile or another landline, calls can be redirected there with call forwarding. It’s also helpful to have this feature if someone calls and certain lines are busy, there’s no one there to pick up or the phone being called is switched off.

Call holding is another standard feature, with the option to have single or multiple queues to keep your callers waiting and hold messages and music playing while callers wait.

Call answering or virtual assistant 

If you receive a high volume of calls it can help to have a call answering or virtual assistant to respond to your calls when they come in and ensures you have someone qualified and professional-sounding to handle your enquiries. This is particularly useful if you’re away from the office regularly, work from different offices or virtual office. The assistant is a real person who responds to your calls, acting from your selected location. They greet, handle and route calls to the right person or to your voicemail. 

Auto-attendant 

This is a digital or virtual receptionist. It’s not a real person on the other end of the line but instead a piece of telephone software that takes calls and offers a menu of options to redirect callers to the extension they need.

Voicemail

It’s a phone system essential to have some sort of inbox messaging system and VoIP services will even forward those voicemails as a transcribed message to an email address. 

Conference calls 

This is one feature that most businesses make use of for meetings as it allows multiple callers to dial in for a group call or meeting simply and easily. The set up is slightly different for different phone systems, so you’ll need to assess what works best for you.

Call logs, dashboards and analytics

Depending on the type of service you provide and the nature of calls you receive, you may want to integrate monitoring and diagnostic software with your phone service such as call logs, call dashboards and call analytics to track and assess the quality of calls.

What is the best small business phone system?

Many small businesses choose to set themselves up on an internet-based or VoIP system. It allows for the access and integration of a large number of features mentioned above and since VoIP is internet-based, there’s no landline to install which can prove expensive for smaller companies and startups. 

Since the system operates entirely over the internet, they’re often more attractive to small businesses as they’re fast to set up and scalable, should the business expand quickly. They can also be set up and managed from wherever you are, which makes them a popular choice for smaller businesses or startups who may not operate out of a fixed location.

Fixed phone systems still are set up to host a whole suite of features, but can incur a greater installation and maintenance cost, so are often used by larger companies with greater internal telecommunication needs.

How much does a business phone system cost?

How much a phone system costs a business depends on the type of system you want to set up, how many people will need access to the system and the number and type features you need it to have. 

This means you’ll need to assess the phone and broadband costs of different providers — many will offer tailored costs — as well as feature packages from different software providers offering the services you need, which are often shown with tiered pricing.

Getting started

It’s important to consider the extent and features and services your business will need when choosing which phone system package to go for, but equally important is ensuring you choose a reliable system that offers a good level of support so that you can be confident your phone system will run smoothly and that you’ll get technical assistance quickly if anything goes wrong.

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