Too often organizations wait too long to replace out-of-date business telephone systems. Often they are satisfied as long as employees can pick up their handsets, hear dial tone, and make a call to just about anywhere. This has been the major strength of circuit-switched PBX systems since their introduction in the 1960’s. But nearly 60 years later, the workhorse simplicity of circuit-switched PBX has also become its major weakness. Now, packet-switched Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) systems provide significantly more business value than merely placing and receiving calls.
Most small and mid-sized businesses rely heavily on their telephone system. Unfortunately, this part of their technology investment often takes a back seat to the computer network. Has this been your experience? If so, is it possibly inhibiting your business potential?
If you depend on your business phone system to maintain that critical connection with your customers, suppliers and staff, it may be time to explore the options.
Some key benefits, integral to a business, that IP communications can enhance are:
- Productivity: Employees can communicate from their offices or from virtually any remote location, or telework from home.
- ROI: A broader base of personnel, customers, and business partners can access and utilize resources.
- Customer Satisfaction: IP technology supports self-service capabilities and facilitates problem resolution. This makes for happier customers.
- Business Process Improvement: Gone are the days of the monolithic PBX; today’s communications systems must integrate into business processes.
- Competitive Edge: Enabling teamwork between different locations and distributed work groups reduces time to market for new products and upgrades.
Business Risks of Older PBX Systems
Organizations face numerous threats with older PBX systems. These threats not only impact business continuity. They also increase costs and constrain short- and long-term plans for growth.
Threats related to older PBX systems – and the ways IP communications can help resolve these threats include:
- Frequent Outages and Business Disruptions: Where older PBX systems can crash and require manual servicing, IP technology enables technicians to perform remote diagnostics and clear troubles, often remotely, without dispatching a technician. Remote service capabilities improve performance benchmarks.
- Increasing Costs of Repair and Maintenance: Vendors and dealers typically increase prices for older systems to motivate customers to move to current platforms. As a result, newer systems may be more cost-effective than keeping an existing system.
- End of Manufacturer Sales and Support: Vendors phase out support for legacy systems over time. IP communication platforms are typically software-powered, which enables vendors to offer perpetual software assurance agreements.
- Shrinking Manufacturer and Third-Party Supply of Spares: As systems require updating, companies may find it harder to locate hardware and ancillary components; circuit boards with compatible firmware release levels; system documentation; and skilled telecom technicians. Voicemail systems are especially vulnerable because backup electromechanical disk drives used for message storage are scarce.
- Increased Likelihood of Shadow-IT: When employees can’t get the features or capabilities they require from IT, they obtain it themselves often with consumer apps. Although this may solve their problem, it often creates significant issues for the organization and IT itself in terms of protecting customer data, compliance, interoperability, scalability, import/export, and integration.
- Limited Capacity for Adding New Elements: When PBX systems need to grow, companies may struggle with the ability to add users and trunks, voicemail boxes, call center agents, etc. IP communication systems often can grow by buying more software licenses.
- Dial Plan Limitations for New Regional and Global Locations: IP platforms from major providers generally conform to E.164, the ITU-T (International Telecommunications Union Telecommunication Standardization Sector) international public telecommunication numbering plan recommendation for the worldwide public switched telephone network (PSTN) and some other data networks.
- Inability to virtualize communication platforms: By definition, a hardware PBX is not virtual. In contrast, IP communications’ compatibility with VMware and similar offers from other providers support highly resilient implementations using a centralized data center model.
10 Features to Consider
- Call Forwarding: This is similar to call forwarding performed by a receptionist, although the process is completely automated. When a call is received at a designated number the system can be configured to automatically forward the call to other pre-set numbers, such as your cell or home phone if you happen to be working remotely or from home.
- Quality of Service (QoS) refers to the process of prioritizing certain VoIP features, such as call quality, to ensure uninterrupted service. You can program the QoS settings to defer to voice over other services such as email and video. QoS may also be improved by improving the internet connection. VoIP functions best on a fast, reliable Internet Service.
- Conference Bridge allows multiple callers to participate in a phone call by providing virtual conference room(s). Traditional 3-way calling limits the number of participants in a meeting. Conference bridges may be equipped to handle a larger group, and eliminate the need to dial through a central operator to access the call.
- Call Logging is an important phone system feature that can have a huge impact on your organization’s efficiency and your employee’s individual productivity. Call logging can produce statistical data which can be used for management and analysis purposes to set objectives and drive revenue. Statistics obtained can also be used to reduce the cost of calls. Businesses can ascertain when their calls are being made, which regions of the country are being contacted and how long the calls generally last.
- Automated Attendant informs callers of how long they can expect to wait until their call is answered as well as ensuring customers can reach the correct department by making menu choices with their telephone keypad. This is a vital aspect of customer service today as customers become more impatient over the phone and any unexpected delay could lead to disinterest and ultimately breakdown of relationship.
- Call Recording is often used for training purposes and can have a huge impact on the quality of customer service and overall communication standards throughout an organization.
- Music on Hold can make the hold time more bearable for the caller and can also be a marketing tool by interspersing music with announcements about products and services.
- Call Restrictions allow telephone system administrators to bar certain numbers so they cannot be dialed from within the network. This can also be set to stop users from dialing certain groups of numbers such as overseas numbers.
- Unified Communications (UC) integrates multiple communication channels into one centralized access point. A Unified Communications service allows users to communicate through their preferred channel such as IM. Whether you’re a small or large business, it’s quite common for employees to be dispersed across many locations. Unified Communications ensures that everyone can reach each other in real time, whether they’re traveling or working from a remote location. This often results in increased productivity. Also, UC users can be accessed on mobile devices, so they can work from any location.
- Contact Center: In today’s business environment, organizations must take advantage of the latest communication technologies to streamline their processes, enhance staff productivity and improve customer service. Contact Center software helps accomplish these goals by handling high call volume with a minimum number of resources. Combining this with UC enables users to login as an agent and view real-time queue statistics plus monitor Contact Center status of other agents. When call volumes are high, they can easily and quickly login to handle calls that are waiting in queue which results in improved customer satisfaction.
Interested in more information? Call now: 1-800-898-3336 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a complimentary needs analysis.
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Source credit to Dave Michels, TalkingPointz