Phone Systems Buyer s Guide

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1 Phone Systems Buyer s Guide

2 Contents How Cri(cal is Communica(on to Your Business? 3 Fundamental Issues 4 Phone Systems Basic Features 6 Features for Users with Advanced Needs 10 Key Ques(ons for All Buyers Digital Vs IP 16 Calcula(ng Return on Investment Page 2

3 How Critical is Communication to your business? Communica(on is cri(cal to success in business and high quality, feature- rich phone systems are a cri(cal part of your communica(ons suite. While you do have a phone system in your business, are you sure that it is suppor(ng your business well? Could it be dragging you down and causing you loss of business? Modern technology has now made several op(ons available to business users. The technology you will use will be governed by your specific requirements. One size does not fit all nowhere is this more true than in the phone business. There are several technologies available in the market concurrently. Your selec(on will depend on what your needs are. Therefore there is need to analyze user requirements in detail before calling a vendor. This guide is designed to take the guesswork out of your decision. Page 3

4 Fundamental Issues Your selec*on of the system you use will be governed by your requirements. The needs of business users can be broken down and understood be<er by looking at user classes. Basic Buyers Basic buyers typically represent companies that have fewer than 500 users. The business does not have a very complex structure and is in all probability confined to a single loca(on. The buyer looks for a solid solu(on without many bells and whistles. Such businesses also tend to be very cost conscious and they look for a solu(on that is robust, cost effec(ve and can be implemented with ease. In many cases, such businesses do not expect to enlarge their user base very substan(ally in the near future and do not need the capability to increase their phone user base very markedly over the years. Intermediate Buyers Intermediate buyers are users with more complex requirements and have their workforce sca`ered between several different loca(ons. Part of their workforce could be mobile and they may need to use advanced features such as communica(ng over virtual private networks that provide enhanced security. The number of loca(ons such users work out of could change oaen and therefore there will be a requirement to extend the network to different loca(ons or to roll it back once the work is over. Such buyers oaen have considerable IT exper(se in- house and this can become an important considera(on when selec(ng a system. Intermediate size buyers oaen represent companies with 2500 users or less as a ball park figure. Page 4

5 Fundamental Issues Continued Advanced Buyers Advanced buyers have needs that start from around 2500 users and could have much larger numbers of users poten(ally. Opera(ons could span con(nents and their needs can be extremely complex. Such users will typically use all of the advanced capabili(es phone systems can provide. They will also stress on the need for unified communica(ons where voice, video and instant messaging etc will combine to provide communica(on in the broadest sense of the term. Page 5

6 Phone Systems Basic Features When buying a new phone system for your business, the last thing you want to be bothered with is a long list of acronyms and technology. In fact this is borne out by more than one study which has gone on to indicate that most (nearly 73%) buyers do not no(ce the difference between one technology and another. Technology is fine but only (ll a point where it provides the basic telephony features they need. If technology ceases to be a differen(ator beyond a point, what else is important? The key a`ributes are: Performance and Reliability Customer service, genuine 24x7 support Ease of implementa(on and maintenance Compliance with user needs Total cost of ownership Installed user base Vendor reputa(on Product features and extensibility Pricing models Page 6

7 Features What are the features of a solu*on that buyers do look for? Over *me, we have no*ced that the features most users do look for fall into a few main groups. These are: 1. Features for Call Management - these are the essen*al ones and naturally come to the top of our list Call back - you can ask for the system to no(fy you when a busy number gets free. All such systems also dial the number for you when you pick up the phone. Call transfer - transfer the ongoing call to another number without needing to involve the switchboard Call park/call retrieve - allowing you to transfer the incoming call to a designated parking number which allows another party to pick up the call by dialing the parking number. For example, in a warehouse, you can park an incoming call for a forklia operator and announce on the PA system for him to pick up the call. Call hold - you can put a call on hold and make a second call - possibly to get the informa(on that the caller wanted. Call wai(ng - give you an indica(on if there is another incoming call when you are already on a call. Page 7

8 Features Cont Call recording allows you to record a conversa(on Do not disturb stops any calls coming to your number Direct inward dialing allows an external call to land on an internal extension without operator assistance Call redirec(on allows calls to a par(cular extension to be forwarded automa(cally to another extension Speed dialing allows rapid dialing of frequently called numbers Voice mail Reminders Conferencing features Auto A`endant a voice based menu driven system that allows a number of func(ons Automated answer with a customizable gree(ng message Automated directory management and dialing facility Music on hold Page 8

9 Features Cont 2. Quality and Cost Management Track usage sta(s(cs and details Manage network use to minimize costs Detailed logs of use 3. Quality and Cost Management Security features prevent unauthorized calls, authen(ca(on, privacy and encryp(on Caller ID Manage network use to minimize costs 4. Addi*onal Features Intercom func(on Crea(on of personal directories and rapid dial seings Paging func(ons The above list, then, is what most buyers look for in their phone solu(on. This is the common denominator of phone systems. Adding more bells and whistles will not count for much with a buyer if what he is looking for is a basic phone system. Page 9

10 Advanced Features Of course, there are users who have more complex needs. Maybe they are running a contact center or a help desk. There obviously are companies that have opera*ons in a number of different con*nents and they want advanced func*onality from their phones. Phones could be using different networks or service providers in different countries and therefore these issues need to be nego*ated as well. For this class of user, the basic feature set is just not enough. Much more is required. 1. Advanced Features Call hun(ng where calls will ring on a number of pre- programmed extensions simultaneously so that any available person can answer. Call flipping transfer a call from a company extension to a mobile phone without any interrup(on Night answer mode automa(cally routes calls for a given number to an alternate number during specified (mes. Therefore if a supplier in China calls your and it is non- office hours in your (me zone, the call can automa(cally land on your home extension or mobile phone. Connect to CRM applica(ons and other documents. If you click a customer phone number on an invoice, the system automa(cally rings up that number. Page 10

11 Advanced Features Cont 2. Advanced Contact Center Support Features Call queuing managing a large number of callers and handling the queue and call rou(ng to contact center staff. In- Queue callback maintains a queue list and calls back the person in the queue as soon as a staff member is free. Queue status repor(ng, sta(s(cs of usage Interac(ve voice response system implement a menu driven system that responds automa(cally to most common customer queries. Integra(on with the enterprise computer system and allowing calls to be made directly from users worksta(on Managing the phone system through a browser interface Mul(media features and recording of calls, computer screens, instant messages etc. 3. Suppor*ng Mobility Crea(ng full featured extensions out of mobile phones. Your mobile workers can be anywhere and yet be connected to the enterprise phone system Enabling unified communica(ons by merging various types of communica(ons voice, video, , IM etc into a conversa(on. Find Me / Follow Me func(ons allows the phone system to find execu(ves Least cost algorithms select appropriate communica(on media to reduce the cost of phone connec(ons Page 11

12 Advanced Features Cont 4. System Administra*on Easy to use operator console On- screen selec(on/deselec(ng of features Browser- based management of en(re system Detailed sta(s(cs Comprehensive and centralized security Mul(site management links offices in different geographical loca(ons and makes them appear as if they are in the same building Connec(ng to emergency services bear in mind that emergency numbers will be different in different countries and that the system will need to route emergency calls appropriately. 5. Call Screening Features Secure some phones (for example to prevent the CEO from geing unwanted calls). Connect calls to voice mail box (an implementa(on of do not disturb) PIN Dialing Page 12

13 Key Questions for All Buyers Should your system be on- premise or vendor hosted? When you deploy your phone solu(on, you can set it up on your own premises or you can have them hosted on vendor premises. Companies that have an on- premise solu(on generally do it because they have communica(on needs that are not easily met by standard systems hosted by vendors. These companies look for close control over how their phone systems func(on and have trained manpower to manage these systems and their associated networking and IT infrastructure. These tasks involve integra(on with other systems, customiza(on, upgrades and maintenance. On premise solu(ons also tend to be favored by large companies with very stable needs. They do not need to change their user loca(ons frequently. Over many years, these types of systems can eventually work out cheaper than the alterna(ve, hosted phone system solu(on. If you are running a business that is totally centered on good communica(on for example a Contact Center or a Help Desk, then it will make sense to eventually move to an on- premise phone system. Page 13

14 Key Questions for All Buyers Cont When is a vendor hosted system be<er? The most striking issue about hosted systems is cost. Since you are only hiring systems on a per user basis, your ini(al cost and seing up (mes are both low. This can be cri(cal to small startup companies. If you have mul(ple sites and frequently shia loca(ons, or have a large mobile workforce, you will find it simpler to use a hosted system where you are only responsible for the phone instrument and the network inside your office. Page 14

15 What is this Digital vs. IP debate about? While digital devices are no longer cuing edge, they are s(ll the most prevalent phone systems around. They are s(ll being bought by companies though in smaller numbers for loca(ons that do not require advanced features an example is warehouses and similar low tech loca(ons. Most modern phones systems use IP technology. These adapt very well to interfacing with soaware and offering unified communica(ons that merge voice, video, , IM and so on. You also get hybrid systems that offer a combina(on of digital and IP and could be useful in special cases. Page 15

16 Calculating Return on Investment? Any ROI calcula*ons have to be indirect because phone systems do not by themselves create revenue. They increase revenue of other parts of your company. Produc*vity Improvement Different businesses have different measures of produc(vity. Define your measurement parameters and ensure that you have a snapshot of the business before you commence your phone system project. Obtain a new set of measurements aaer the new system has stabilized and determine the improvement that has occurred. If you need to put up a case for procuring a new system, you will need to carry out some research into the ROI that other companies in a similar line of business have obtained by the switch. Increasing Scope of Business There could be an increase in the scope of your business because of an improved communica(on business. Be`er voice mail, improved recording of messages and be`er handling of customer calls will result in an increased scope of business. Reduced Need to Travel Your employees will need to travel less because of improved connec(vity within your organiza(on. Reduced Call Charges Using modern IP PBX systems can result in significant cost savings. Page 16

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