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What Phone system is right for my business - especially now so many of us are working from home?

We are all still a bit in limbo - most of us working from home, many not yet decided if they will go back to their office for a day or two a week, let alone for 5 days a week. Having spoken to many customers – most of them being in the Recruitment industry, it would seem many staff are ignoring the work phone and are preferring to make calls from their mobiles, or in some cases, making no calls and doing everything via zoom or Microsoft Teams meetings. This is happening for a number of reasons but mainly due to the mobile app not working well or that the computer app is clunky, slow, un familiar or simply doesn't work.

More and more of us are fine speaking over Zoom or Teams these days and this is of course fine..however.. this means that staff are potentially not making enough calls, calls aren't being logged on the company system, calls aren't being recorded (if the current phone system does this) and the CRM (whether it be Dynamics, Salesforce or a recruitment CRM such as Mercury, Bullhorn etc ) is not being utilised to its full potential. Furthermore, staff may be picking up the tab for their phone calls unnecessarily and maybe even charging the calls back at a high rate. There is no point paying for a company phone system that simply isn't being used.

So what can you do about it?

There are so many options out there and it can be a minefield trying to work out what to choose or what to look for. You don't know what you don't know - for example, what features you need, pricing considerations, contract lengths to be aware of, types of integration, features available, ease of use / interface, whether to use physical handsets anymore, what headsets to buy, where is the phone system hosted? Etc etc etc.

Let's look at some of the key areas to consider:

Handsets or Headsets

Since March 2020 sales of laptops and headsets have rocketed. It seems this is critical now for home workers. This also goes to show that most people want a phone system that can utilise this kit. Good news and bad news here - most reputable systems will work in this way ..the problem is which one to choose.

Microsoft Teams is the new kid on the block when it comes to a fully functional phone system (PBX) but it is gaining traction as so many people already live in Teams and so the desktop and mobile app is very familiar. If you see your business embracing Teams then don't rule Teams Voice out – it could be the right choice for you. But there are plenty of other things to still consider.

Many other more well know systems such as Cloud Call (in the Recruitment / Sales industries) and 3CX are also able to work via their own Apps. And of course there are many others to choose from.

If you require handsets as well, most systems will work with your existing Polycoms or Yealinks (or similar). Teams on the other hand prefers a Teams compatible handset. Less to choose from but also pretty cool to log in to a Teams phone and see all your calendar and contacts on screen.

The basics

All of the solutions mentioned in this article come with your PBX must haves. Call queues ..Auto attendant (press 1 for Sales etc ), Voicemail, Night service, ability to transfer and put calls on hold etc etc. This is one area you need not threat about as no matter what system you pick, you will have these things covered.

More advanced Features

Most reputable systems offer Call recording and things like call barging or whispering. Unfortunately for MS Teams lovers, these aren't available… yet... However there are ways to enjoy the best of both worlds if you think Teams is the way to go. Our ISP partner can provide routing via Teams known as Direct Routing) so you can still benefit from these features. Cloud call of course comes equipped with these as do many more

CRM integration

This can be key for some but not for others. You need to consider what level of integration do you want? Do you desire the ability to have "Screen Pop"? (Where the client's record flashes on your screen when they call you?) Or the ability to access call recordings right from the CRM – pretty call huh? Cloud call is your ideal solution if that's what floats your boat...if you just require click to dial... you have a plethora of choices as most if not all others can do this.

Calling from / to International numbers

Most systems can support a select number of countries, some more than others. This can be key if you have overseas offices, or if you work from the UK and want to give the impression you are set up in other countries.

Cloud Call handles this very well in our experience and can cope with most countries. As can 3CX. Microsoft is growing in this area and contrary to popular belief can actually provide very cost effective solutions around this...for example it is now possible to set up Teams to provide the desired Caller ID from many countries for free and to also route International calls back to users in the UK to those international numbers. Teams also has good international call plans for US and UK and competitive call rates for many other countries. Cloud Call also bundles call costs very competitively and will have the ability to call via Teams very shortly. Another partner we work with – The Technology group, provides a 3CX option and can also provide extremely good call rates.

Price and Contract length

The Good news is that these days pricing is fairly close across all systems. For example, Microsoft Teams list their prices online and for £12 a month an individual would have 1200 UK Landline and mobile minutes. This is pretty good..however there are some better deals around if you search for them. Keybridge can offer Teams via their Internet partner and provide c2000 minutes for the same price – however, this has some limitations when it comes to International numbers, as many are not supported outside of Teams. We can help narrow down your search and also help to broker the best deal depending on the system(s) you choose to shortlist.

Many traditional phone systems have 3 to 5 year contracts. Watch out if this is not what you want these days. 1 to 3 years is generally regarded as the maximum these days. MS Teams is typically a year but if you already have Microsoft licenses and are paying monthly you can add or remove whenever you like.

Set up and porting

This can be tricky to do on your own. It is advised you use a company well versed in porting numbers and managing new system set ups. Watch out for inflated set up costs though. In our experience Cloud Call and the Technology group have never had issues porting your numbers and more recently we have had great success porting numbers over to Microsoft when required.

In Summary

I have tried to cover some areas to consider when selecting a shortlist of new phone solutions. There are yet still more areas to consider, e.g Reporting. Every company is different and will have different needs. However, I hope that the points above will help you narrow down your choice and also give you food for thought. Should you require any advice or assistance, please get in touch

Next week I will be looking at all the things Microsoft 365 can do, that you didn’t know about

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