Phone systems remain central to business communications despite the ubiquity of email, Web sites, collaboration tools and other forms of personal communication. Yet many businesses endure suboptimal phone systems that cost them time, money and customers. Lack of money to replace an aging phone system is one reason. But many businesses are simply so accustomed to their phone systems' "little quirks" that they don't even realize how bad the problem is or what they are losing by not upgrading. Here are a number of telltale signs that it's time to replace or upgrade your business phone system:
1. Missed calls are an obvious sign that your phone system is not doing its job. If an employee is tied up on another call or away from his or her desk, a phone system should find a substitute live human being automatically.
2. Turnover in the receptionist's position is a sign that the job is too stressful and the phone system may well be to blame. A busy front desk is a hailstorm of flashing lights and ringing buzzers. If you phone system does not assist the receptionist by, at the very least, acknowledging callers and telling them their calls will be answered shortly, then it's time to implement that feature or buy a phone system that includes it.
3. Growth of staff and/or office locations usually means new phones and at least tweaking of the existing phone system's configuration. Often a whole new phone system is in order for new branch offices; once those systems are in place, it's customary to upgrade the system at headquarters, too. The rationale behind the upgrade is economies of scale and standardization of equipment and vendors.
4. Telephone tag between employees and customers is a sign that calls are not reaching your people as effectively as they could. Going through reams of "while you were out" notepads indicates that your business could benefit from location services and call forwarding.
5. High monthly phone service charges indicate that it may be time for IP telephony. A VoIP system saves large sums of money on long-distance and other per-minute charges. An IP telephony system can run on the same network as your data systems, simplifying network architecture and saving money. Implementing an IP telephony system on an existing data network is often easier and less expensive than replacing a stand-alone PBX (Private Branch eXchange).
6. Desktops overcrowded with phone stations, PC workstations, fax machines, phone books and Rolodexes suggest that it's time for CTI (Computer Telephony Integration). Replace all the clutter with on-screen directories of staff, suppliers, customers and prospects. Integrate all the forms of communication that modern employees need on a single workstation: voice, data, fax, video, chat, collaboration, and so forth.
7. Increasingly expensive service labor and parts are a sign that your phone system has long outlived its product life cycle. It's best to replace it before your business is shut down for an extended period by unavailability of a crucial part.
Don't "make do" with a phone system that is costing your business time, money and customers. Have a qualified telephony consultant evaluate your telephone business processes and recommend reconfiguration of the existing system, enhancements to it or a complete replacement.
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