1 A guide to finding your new phone system A step-by-step approach to finding the best solution for your business.
2 Forward The telephone remains the most popular method of everyday communication for almost all businesses. , web chat and even social media have all taken great strides in changing the way we speak to each other, but there are still situations where picking up the phone is much more effective at communicating the ideas, thoughts or even concerns we have. For this reason, choosing a new phone system for your business is important. It can also be a complicated, even daunting task for many people. While some businesses have a member of staff dedicated to managing their telecoms, many don t - meaning the project could be given to someone with little knowledge of the systems, or the reasons for change. To add to this, telecoms itself has become increasingly technical over recent years, resulting in more techy-speak as technologies like VoIP replace their more traditional counterparts. This is where our guide comes in. We ve crafted it to help both technical and non-technical people alike guiding you through the necessary steps to find your new phone system in a simple, clear and no-nonsense way. Drawing from over 40 years industry knowledge, our guide is the only tool you need before taking the next step in renewing your system. Enjoy! SImon Simon Lincoln Managing Director
3 6 easy steps to your new phone system... Step 1: Determine your needs We help confront your reasons for change - looking at what you ve got, what others have, and what you need - present and future. We look at how the size of your business, and what you re hoping to achieve, influence your decision. We discuss what s best: To lease, or to buy? Step 2: Choose your infrastructure How should calls be carried in and out of your business? Over your internet connection, or down traditional phone lines? We consider both options. We discover the world of VoIP, and the benefits it offers. Step 3: Where to host? Should your system be in your office, or in the cloud? We look at the features and benefits of both in-house and hosted phone systems - and how these may affect your business. Step 4: Consider features We look at the sorts of features and add-ons you can get for phone systems - and how they could benefit you. Features we discuss include hot desking, call logging, unified messaging and audio and video conferencing. Step 5: Choose a provider How do you go about choosing the device you need, with the provider you like? We look at elements of a proposal that can help set the front-runners apart, and give you some key metrics to ensure you re getting the best solution for you - physically, technically, and financially. We also address the importance of ongoing support and maintenance. Step 6: Implement So, you ve found the perfect system for you, recommended by a great provider. Now it s down to implementing: We look at how to go about getting your solution up and running correctly first time, in the most efficient way possible.
4 STEP 1: Determine your basic needs Before you begin comparing prices and researching features, you must first assess what you need, and want, from a business phone system. Putting time and thought into your requirements will ensure you receive a system that meets, or even exceeds, your expectations. Take stock of what you ve got Give your current system an earnest and thorough review, and consider why you want to purchase a new phone system. Some of the most common reasons are: Poor voice quality Outages or dropped calls The need for better call routing - ensuring callers get through to the most appropriate person first time, every time Reducing maintenance costs, particularly for older systems Wanting additional features to improve productivity, flexibility and mobility Get feedback from the people interacting with your phone system most frequently. Ask for input from your staff - both technical and nontechnical - as well as light and heavy phone users: Ask them what s working on the current system, and what isn t What frustrates them? And what do they struggle with? Do they find the phones comfortable and easy to use? Don t forget who s on the other side of the phone either; ask your customers, partners and suppliers about their experiences contacting your business: Are they able to reach the people they need easily? Are dropped calls an issue? Keep an eye on the competition It s also good to look at what your competitors are doing with their communications. Assess what you believe they do well, and what could be improved. This allows you to benchmark your requirements, and is a good example to give a communications provider like Nomis Connections, as we can discuss the ins and outs of such a setup with you. Alongside evaluating the benefits and restrictions of your current system, craft a wish list of features and options your users, and callers, would like in a new system, so you can pinpoint how you can improve user experience from all sides. Remember: The better you understand your current system, the better you can mould your new system to meet your requirements. In addition to usability, take a look at your current system: How old is your incumbent system? Has it been discontinued, making replacement parts difficult to source? Are maintenance costs becoming too high? Telecoms technology has been moving at a rapid pace over recent years, and when it comes to return on investment a new phone system will often provide a quicker return over maintaining a legacy system.
5 Size and flexibility The size of your business is an important factor in choosing a phone system. It s crucial to consider not only how many employees you currently have, but also how many you expect to have in the coming years. Are you planning to expand your staff over the next 3-5 years? Business needs are constantly evolving, so gaining an accurate picture of your user numbers is important. Using these figures, you can balance having to replace a system that s too small early, against paying for users that you won t have for another year or two. From this picture, providers like Nomis Connections can recommend a system that has the correct capacity at present, and can be expanded to meet your future demand. Lease or buy? Like a car, your phone system can be leased or purchased outright. Both are legitimate options, and as with any capital expense there are pros and cons to both. Once you have established your budget, and considered total cost of ownership (TCO), you can evaluate which is the more cost-effective choice for your business. Reputation and reliability count Like all things in the technology industry, with telecoms you get what you pay for. Because your phone system is essential to the day-to-day operations of your business, you want to get the best product from a reputable manufacturer. As an independent provider, Nomis Connections can make impartial recommendations based on your needs - ensuring you get the best solution to meet them. Note: As well as testimonials and case studies, ask any potential provider for user references from businesses similar to yours, and ask about warranties, support, maintenance agreements and costs. Consider VoIP gold reseller VoIP is the latest in telecoms technology that allows you to make and receive calls over your internet connection, rather than traditional telephone lines. The technology has been a rapidly growing part of the industry over the past 5 years, and is now overtaking ISDN as the primary method of carrying calls. VoIP is particularly popular due to its flexibility - allowing businesses to take their numbers with them wherever they go - and the significant cost savings it offers. We discuss VoIP in more detail in STEP 2.
6 Customise your needs Today s phone systems come with an array of features; it s a good idea to speak with potential providers about the wish list you created earlier - allowing them to match your wishes with available features. Here are a few to consider: Do you want audio, video and web conferencing? Would you like the ability to control your desk phone from your computer? Or even use your computer as a phone itself? Do you need multiple voic boxes? Do your employees share desks making hot desking essential? Would a message service that greets callers, and direct calls to appropriate staff members, be well-received? Tip: Think about the kinds of functionality that will give you a competitive edge, and speak to Nomis Connections about it - there s likely to be a solution that s right for you. A word of caution: While you certainly don t need to pay for options you don t use, it s better to grow a system s features than regret their absence. Retrofitting is not possible with some phone systems. Take mobility into account With the rise of mobile communication, the anytime, anywhere nature of business has put emphasis on phone systems to be flexible - facilitating office, home and mobile workers. Couple this with the UK s flexible working legislation and it becomes clear that it s more important than ever to have a system that can centrally manage your telecoms, without compromising on quality or productivity. The right system offers freedom and flexibility for all users. STEP 2: Choose your infrastructure: landlines or VoIP? Modern phone systems allow you to make and receive calls through two main types of infrastructure - landlines and VoIP lines (also known as SIP Trunks). Landlines are a more traditional way of carrying calls into and out of your business - either using standard analogue lines or digital ISDN lines - and the number of lines you have denote how many calls you can make and receive at any one time. This model is known for its familiarity and reliability, and is still popular among many businesses. Now, though, as the technology is becoming older, and the systems that use it outdated, UK businesses are switching to newer, more modern infrastructures. VoIP lines are just that. This technology carries calls into and out of your business in much the same way, but rather than traditional lines, VoIP carries these calls over your internet connection. The way that VoIP carries calls also conveys a number of benefits to businesses, including: High flexibility, great reliability you can route calls in and out of your business as you please. This flexibility also makes VoIP very resilient, which is great for Disaster Recovery. Superb mobility as the service isn t tied to a specific location, you re able to take your system, and numbers, with you when you move office. Such mobility is greatly
7 appreciated in modern-day business, where things are rarely static. Significant cost savings VoIP has a much lower rental and call cost compared to more traditional lines; our customers typically save up to 60% on their yearly call spend by switching to SIP. Great scalability SIP lines (also known as Trunks ) can be turned on and off like a tap, giving you great control of how many calls your business can answer at once. This is particularly convenient when you re growing, or if you experience seasonal peaks. If you re thinking that VoIP is the way to go, and you may be right, there are a couple of things you need to consider before-hand: The first is the quality and speed of your internet connection. Though most VoIP products don t require excessively fast internet speeds, some businesses with particularly slow connections may find that they lose voice quality. If your connection is also susceptible to frequent drops, your calls will cut off. This isn t to say VoIP is a complete write-off for you; a better internet service may be available for you to upgrade to, or you could have a separate broadband to carry your calls. Providers such as Nomis Connections will be able to help you assess these options. The second consideration is the quality of the VoIP network itself. This is slightly trickier to judge as it s behind the scenes. If your provider s network is too slow, has too much traffic running over it, or doesn t have a sufficient backup plan if things go wrong, the voice quality, and the reliability, of your VoIP system will be affected. So how can you find out about the network quality? The simplest thing to do is discuss it with the provider, and get references from their If you d like to find out more about VoIP specifically, our Quick and Simple Guide to VoIP can be found at voip-guide-download customers that are similar to your business and using the service. How popular is SIP? In short, very. Over recent years the UK SIP market has grown to 1.22 million connections, which is around a 45% swap-out rate from ISDN to SIP 1. Looking to the future, SIP connectivity is forecast to grow to over 3 million connections by the start of 2019, as more businesses realise its value. IF YOU RE UNSURE IF LANDLINES OR VOIP IS THE BEST INFRASTRUCTURE FOR YOUR BUSINESS, PROVIDERS SUCH AS NOMIS CONNECTIONS CAN HELP YOU ASSESS YOUR SITUATION, AND RECOMMEND THE BEST WAY FORWARD. 1 Source: Illume Consulting, July 2014
8 STEP 3: Where to host? In-house, or in the cloud? Next, you ll need to decide if you d like to host your phone system yourself in-house, or if you d like it in the cloud. In-house solution With an in-house solution, your phone system is housed in your office. These systems offer the latest telecoms technology and can easily integrate with an existing business network and applications. In-house phone systems offer businesses the choice of infrastructure (explained in STEP 2) - with both landlines and VoIP lines available. This gives businesses the option of VoIP if their internet connectivity allows it, or landlines if VoIP isn t for them. Most modern in-house systems also offer hybrid solutions - meaning businesses can blend VoIP lines with traditional landlines; most often using SIP Trunks as the main method of carrying calls, with ISDN or analogue lines serving as backups in an emergency. Finances, however, should be considered; inhouse systems mostly require much more upfront investment when compared to their cloud counterparts. In terms of life cycle, the majority of businesses will choose to re-evaluate their in-house system 3-5 years after installation. This timeframe allows businesses to accurately assess the total cost of ownership, and maximise their return on investment on the system. Hosted in the cloud Rather than having a box on the wall in your office, a hosted phone system utilises the cloud. Your phones automatically connect to the system via your broadband - meaning hosted systems work exclusively using VoIP lines. Instead of being a large upfront investment, most hosted systems operate on a monthly payment schedule - minimising, or indeed eliminating, any up-front costs and improving cash flow. Most business-grade hosted systems now give you all the functionality of an in-house solution, and as the system is hosted the upgrade cycle is often longer. However, be warned, some budget hosted options may not offer the quality you need (as discussed in STEP 2). Always pay close attention to the quality of the system you re thinking of buying. Both in-house and hosted systems have their merits; both support hot desking, flexible and mobile working. Both are also very powerful, and can benefit your business for years to come. Indeed, on the face of things, the two options can be difficult for businesses to decide between. Thankfully, expert providers such as Nomis Connections can drill down into your needs and use a wealth of experience to recommend the right system to move you forward. Aside from a technological viewpoint, we consider the following when deciding on a system with you: Cash flow - a hosted system may appeal to businesses concerned with cash flow due to its minimal capital expenditure. Otherwise, leasing an in-house system can also help manage cash flow.
9 Space - Workspace is finite, especially if you re in a small or serviced office. We ll consider where you ll be putting your system - in a comms/server room for example, or in the cloud. Work patterns - Do you have flexible working policies in place? Or perhaps your business is spread across multiple offices, along with home and mobile workers. These factors can influence the decision between in-house and hosted. Where your business is, and where it s going - as mentioned in STEP 1, looking at where your business is now, and where it aims to be in 3-5 years time, will influence the sort of system you ll have recommended to you. TCO - we often see a point at which an in-house system using SIP Trunks is more cost-effective than a hosted VoIP system. We assess the two technologies based on TCO, and recommend the best one for your needs. STEP 4: Consider necessary and beneficial features A business phone system is much more than a collection of phones on desks; it s an essential tool that allows staff to connect with one another, develop relationships with clients and get things done. The right phone system offers features that can improve these functions - making them better, faster and more efficient. If you look beyond the standard features of call transfer, speed dialling and voic , you discover a wealth of functions that can help you work smarter. Hot desking In many offices, it s convenient to have groups of desks and phones that are shared between staff members. For example, estate agents, who are often out of the office at viewings, may not need dedicated phones. Their office may have 10 or 15 desk phones between 20 agents. Hot desking allows users to enter a code on any phone on the system and automatically access their personalised phone settings, speed dials, voic and more. Then, when they re finished, they simply log out and a different user can log in. Hot desking makes phone sharing possible, and can help businesses save on equipment and office space. Call logging Call logging records all phone system activity and logs the information based on the data you want to capture. This data can then be formed into reports, giving management teams access to
10 powerful statistical information on the number of calls made or received, average call duration and how many calls are missed. Information can then be customised to monitor call patterns within certain departments, right down to specific members of staff. Call information can also be displayed on wall boards, which many businesses use to motivate telesales and support teams. Auto attendant You re already acquainted with this feature, even if you don t know it. An auto attendant is the voice that greets you when you call a business - giving you menu options so your call is directed to the correct person for your enquiry. For instance, you may be asked to press 3 for support queries. The auto attendant can also prompt callers to change the language of the spoken menu, dial an extension or listen to a pre-recorded message, such as your opening times. It can even direct them to leave a message in a dedicated voic box - which is particularly popular for schools when asking parents to record absences. Automatic call distribution (ACD) Sometimes customers call a company without needing to speak with anyone in particular, or they may not know who would be best to speak with. Automatic call distribution allows you to determine how calls will be distributed within your business, or call centre. Say you need to connect customers with support staff - you could set the ACD feature to route calls to staff members that have been idle longest. You could also route them in order of seniority, technical expertise or location; the power is in your hands. Audio and video conferencing Most phone systems include a conference call feature, which allows you to join more than two people in a call, though the exact number of participants varies depending on the type of system. As well as standard conferencing features, where you invite people to join by calling them, you can also have a dial-in conference bridge. This gives you a number that all participants of a conference can call, from wherever they are, and instantly become part of the conference. More advanced systems also include the capability for video conferencing, and indeed video conferencing solutions themselves are increasing in popularity as their benefits are being discovered. It s important to work with a provider when it comes to assessing your needs for video conferencing. Nomis Connections can help assess these with you, and recommend and supply the right solution based on these needs. Unified messaging Do you ever get tired of having to check several different devices to retrieve your messages? Unified messaging is designed to take care of that. It is the collection of all your voic , , fax and text messages in one place. Presence If you ve ever dialled more than one number to track down a colleague, you ll know the value of this feature. Presence is a status indicator for each person on your phone system. It allows every user to see each other s status at a glance so they can decide
11 the method of communication that s needed. For instance, if a user sees that the person they need to speak with is on the phone, they may choose to instant message or them instead. Another user may benefit from seeing their colleague s status set as in a meeting or gone for the day so they don t waste time trying to call them again. Do not disturb Do not disturb (DND) is perfect for when you don t want to be interrupted from the work you re doing. When this feature is activated, your desk phone will not ring. While this feature is widely-available, different systems handle this process a little differently. Some systems will offer the caller a busy signal, or a message that the user does not wish to be disturbed, while others will send calls to voic or forward them to a person of your choosing - such as a colleague. Forwarding and twinning Rather than not wanting to be disturbed, there are times where you really need to be available. Forwarding allows calls to follow you wherever you are, allowing callers to reach you on your mobile, or even home phone, by ringing your office extension number, or direct dial number (DDI). STEP 5: Choose a provider and device So far, you ve made some important decisions about what you need, and want, from your new phone system. Now it s time to compare providers and devices. Setup and support When choosing a phone system supplier, consider who will install the system and provide support for technical issues. Ask suppliers how much experience they have in installing systems and solutions in businesses of your size and likeness. Do they offer training and support? Do they have case studies and references to give you? When it comes to Nomis Connections, we have over 40 years experience in installing and maintaining telephone systems and solutions to businesses of all sizes across the UK. We offer system training upon install, and your system is installed, configured, supported and maintained by our in-house support team. Alongside phone systems, we offer a range of services including consultancy, calls and lines, businesses broadband and leased lines and business mobiles - offering you a single point of contact for all your telecommunications needs. It s also possible to have the same call ring in all these locations by twinning your phones, giving you one number anywhere.
12 Total cost of ownership (TCO) While many providers offer honest and competitive pricing, some phone system prices can vary widely. Some boast low monthly fees with hefty upfront costs, and vice versa. Others are more reasonably priced at the outset and on a monthly basis, but then require regular and costly upgrades or service fees. Finally, some providers will charge low rates for a basic system, with all other features available as chargeable add-ons. The best way to attain a fair comparison of what different providers are offering you is to look at your total cost of ownership. We can help you determine this number. While it will be an important factor in your decision making process, be careful not to over-emphasise cost in choosing your phone system. The adage of you get what you pay for is particularly true in the telecoms market - meaning businesses must find a healthy balance between quality, function and TCO. Finding a system that will serve your business well for the length of time you plan to have it is what s most important. Selecting a system that could negatively affect you, and your customers, won t be worth the few hundred pounds you will save over the system s life span. Aesthetics and ergonomics Now comes the part in the process that you may have been tempted to start with - the design of the device itself. Depending on your business, and whether or not your customers will ever see or directly interact with your phones, phone design may be an important factor in choosing a system. After all, you wouldn t want to put clunky telephones in your design agency, would you? The design of the user interface is key too. Are the phones easy to use? Will staff (and customers, if they ll be using them too) be able to work them? You also want to be sure to choose a device that is comfortable to use for extended periods of time. Does the handset feel natural to hold? Is it comfortable on the ear? Will your phones work with accessories such as corded and cordless headsets? Though this part of the process is very personal to you, it s good to give your honest thoughts and feedback to any provider, so they can highlight any preferences you have and address any concerns. STEP 6: Implement! Now that you ve considered all your options, and discussed them with a provider like Nomis Connections, it s time to make a selection and get a new system in place. It may seem as though your work is almost done - and don t worry, it is - but it s crucial to not rush the last step in this process. Failing to plan the implementation process with care could lead to mistakes that are costly - not only in time and resources, but also perception. Some providers, like Nomis, offer project management services as part of the solution. We re able to liaise with you to ensure your setup goes as quickly as possible, with minimal downtime, from provisioning lines and broadband through to programming and installing your system. We also offer training on installation day to ensure your staff are comfortable with the new setup, and continue to support your solution in its entirety throughout its life.
13 In a nutshell Here s a quick recap of the steps you should take when implementing a new system: 1. Notify staff Let staff members know that a new phone system is on the way so they can prepare themselves for implementation day. Assure them that there s no need to worry - they ll get all the training and support they need to make them comfortable. 2. Take stock On installation day, your supplier will go through all of your new equipment, including cables and peripherals, to make sure you have everything you need to get started. 3. Train users Many providers, including Nomis Connections, will offer training to your staff in order to familiarise them with the system - and further professional training is often available. Group training is great for giving an overview of the system and basic features, but you can also look at individual training so users can ask questions on functions they specifically want to use. Not sure how a function works? Contact your provider s support desk - they ll be able to guide you through it. 4. Celebrate! You re now all set up with a phone system that s easy to use, has the features you need, and is capable of taking your business forward for many years to come. We d say that s a success! Now, on to the next task
14 Is it time to buy a new business phone system? How old is your current system? < >10 years years years IS YOUR CURRENT SYSTEM HAVING PROBLEMS? HAS IT BEEN DISCONTINUED? ARE THE MAINTENANCE COSTS EXCESSIVE? OR DO YOU ANTICIPATE ANY OF THESE THINGS HAPPENING SOON? IS YOUR CURRENT SYSTEM NOT PERFORMING THE WAY YOU WANT IT TO? IS IT DIFFERCULT TO USE OR A HEADACHE FOR IT TO SUPPORT? HAS IT BEEN DISCONTINUED? NO NO ARE YOU LOOKING FOR NEW FEATURES? OR DO YOU NEED TO EXPAND YOUR NUMBER OF USERS/SITES? NO DO YOU WANT TO LOWER YOUR CONTRACTUAL COSTS? NO YES YES YES NO ARE YOU JUST LOOKING FOR A NEW TECH TOY TO UNBOX? YES YES OK, you ve stumped us! Call or us to let us know why you think you might need a new phone system, and we ll let you know our thoughts. It s probably time to explore the benefits of a cloud-based system. It s probably time to explore the benefits of a cloud-based system. It may be time. Not all phone systems allow you to add features or expand the number of users/sites. Ask your current provider. It s time to start looking nomisconnections.co.uk/ contact/ nomisconnections.co.uk /hosted-voip/ nomisconnections.co.uk/ hosted-voip/ nomisconnections.co.uk /contact/ nomisconnections.co.uk
15 About Nomis Connections We understand that efficient and productive communication in business is a must. Our commitment to you is to deliver a fast, reliable and friendly service to ensure your business telecoms solution is the best it can be, and to offer you a single point of contact for all your telecoms needs. Simon Lincoln - Managing Director, Nomis Connections. Nomis Connections is an established independent provider of telecommunications services and solutions to businesses throughout the UK. With experience spanning over 40 years, and many happy customers across a multitude of industries, we pride ourselves on our unrivalled expertise and dedication from initial consultation to postinstallation support always putting our customers needs first. Our portfolio includes tailored telephone systems, broadband and leased lines, call recording and reporting, mobile tariffs and devices, calls and line rental, VoIP and video conferencing. We offer expert, jargon-free consultancy as part of our service; ensuring you receive a robust solution that meets your needs, present and future. Alongside this, our in-house team fully support and maintain your solution through its lifetime. We are devoted to making businesses more efficient, whilst offering the best value for money, and achieve this through outstanding customer service acting as a single point of contact for your telecommunications needs. About Mitel Market-leading manufacturer of robust, feature-rich and future-proof telephone systems, Mitel is Nomis Connections recommended manufacturer of phone systems in the UK. With over 40 years experience, and 60 million end users in 100+ countries, Mitel power over 2 billion business connections a day. They offer systems that can, and do, suit the needs of businesses of all sizes from 2 to in excess of 600 users.