Today’s world may be dominated by smartphones – but you can’t run your business with one. Even consumers who are glued to their smartphones will call your business to connect. According to research from Luma Partners, over half of people who connect with a business after doing a mobile search will connect via phone.¹
As a small business owner, a professional phone system is essential. It not only helps you handle customer inquiries, it presents an elevated corporate image to the world and ensures that your customers and suppliers can easily connect with your company. Plus, it can often lower costs while delivering advanced features that increase your productivity.
But for a phone system to be effective, you need to choose the right one. There are countless options available and they won’t all be ideal for your company. Choosing the wrong system or the wrong setup can frustrate your customers and your staff more than help them. Downtime, a lack of telecom knowledge, and poor customer support are just a few issues we’ve seen businesses deal with on a regular basis.
To that end, here are a few key questions to ask when selecting a business phone system:
1. What is your business’s current call volume?
First, you need to figure out how many calls you’re currently receiving on a daily basis, and how many you expect to receive in the future. The larger your call volume, the more sophisticated your business phone system will need to be.
2. Do you and your employees work remotely?
If your business operates remotely much of the time, you may require a business VoIP phone system that you can manage and access from anywhere in the world. In these cases, a landline will simply lack the flexibility you need.
Even if your employees don’t work remotely now, using a VoIP system to enable work-from-home options and location flexibility could help you attract and retain top talent. For small businesses, that type of employee benefit is an easy way to get the best and the brightest into your company to help you grow and improve your market position.
3. Do you plan to add new locations in the future?
If you plan to have more than one location in the future, that should factor into choosing your business phone system. In this case, you’ll want a flexible system that can scale to meet your needs as you grow, serving multiple locations while maintaining a cohesive company image.
Having multiple locations can greatly increase the resources you need to implement a business phone system. For instance, traditional systems require infrastructure setup and hardware. Costs and time to implement will increase based on the number of locations you have and as you add new locations. If you have expansion plans, a VoIP phone system could reduce your cost, hardware, and infrastructure requirements while providing a faster, easier setup.
4. How many employees will you have in a few years?
Your business may be small now, but now that the economy has a healthy growth forecast for 2019 and the following years,² you’re in a good position to start growing. If your five-year plan involves adding new employees to the team, keep that in mind when choosing your business phone system. As you hire additional staff, you’ll need a solution that can support them.
5. What features do you need?
The features you need will heavily influence the business phone system you ultimately chose. For example, do you have an on-site receptionist, or do you want to outsource to a live answering service? Do you need to be available to clients twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week? What about:
The features you look for should correspond directly to the daily needs and tasks you have now, as well as the image you want to present to clients and employees in the future.
6. How critical is support and expertise to you?
A business phone system is one of the basic requirements to run a company, but it can also be one of the most frustrating to deal with. Complaints about downtime, trouble dealing with customer service, and poor issue resolution are common. For businesses that don’t rely heavily on phone systems, downtime and customer service frustrations may not be major issues. But for those that want to provide a uniform experience to callers, a provider with in-depth telecom experience who can provide high-quality support will help reduce future problems and ensure your business presents the image it wants over the phone.
Start your evaluation in this area with the sales reps. Companies that hire recent college grads as sales or business development representatives are typically more focused on the sale, while providers who hire experienced telecom representatives with 10-20 years in the industry are focused on providing a great experience and ensuring your success.
Choose a Phone System that Can Grow with You
When evaluating a phone system for your small business be sure to consider your current and future needs. Ideally, your phone system will help you provide great service to customers now while retaining the ability to grow with you. Ask yourself these questions before you even begin evaluating different options, including traditional landline phone systems and business VoIP solutions. Then, create a list of must-have features and capabilities that will guide your search and help ensure you choose the right system for your business.
Editor’s Note: This was most recently updated in 2019 to reflect new research and include more comprehensive information. It was originally published in 2017.