Your Free Guide To Choosing the Right Telephone System

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1 Your Free Guide To Choosing the Right Telephone System

2 Introduction This guide will be helpful for you if you are thinking of choosing a new telephone system for your business. There have been major changes in telecommunications in recent years with the transition from analogue to digital telephone systems, the introduction of wireless communications, computer telephony integration and convergence of voice and data on IP networks. As the functionality of telephone systems has increased, the buying process has inevitably become more involved. It is no longer enough to simply select a telephone system on the basis of how many people you expect to be employing in 5 years time. You must also consider how closely you want to integrate the IT and phone system, how sophisticated a call centre you will require, whether people will work from home or in the office and many other questions. By providing an introduction to the features of modern phone systems and their business benefits, this guide will make the buying process a little easier. It covers all aspects of telecommunications including assessing your current system, considering what benefits a new system could bring to your business as well as thinking about what you should consider as far as the supplier/maintainer is concerned. Please contact us for further information we have 30 years of experience to share with you!

3 Get Help and Advice If at any time you need help and advice with choosing your new telephone system, please get in touch by phoning or As a business owner or manager, you may have had little or no experience of this kind of project and you re not alone! That s why many businesses have used the services of Connaught to offer a straightforward comparison of the available options with the best interests of your business at heart. Meanwhile, you can get on with what you do best - running your business! Please contact us to talk further.

4 Free guide, tips and insider secrets 1. LEAD-TIMES Possibly the most important element Ignore this at your peril! You may be considering a new telephone system for a variety of reasons. Often, we find customers decide to install a new system as they are moving premises. When you move offices, things tend to drag on, with leases to sign and legal requirements to adhere to and all of a sudden you find there is a huge rush to get things moving! You should try to make some early decisions particularly on the Telecommunications side, as it is this aspect that can often determine your relocation timescales. Depending on your location, telephone lines can take anything from a couple of weeks to several months to get in place. Therefore, you should ideally decide the specification and supplier of your new telephone lines and telephone system as soon as possible so that orders can be placed as soon as you have the go ahead from your solicitors. In our experience, if you rush problems can occur, so making an early start on things as important as phone lines will really help in making the whole move go smoothly. Standard phone lines can often be installed within a couple of weeks, but depending on what infrastructure is in place at your new site, it can sometimes take considerably longer. If you are looking to move existing telephone numbers with you, this can lengthen the process, so it s important to get an early start. Please note that it makes no difference if there are line boxes are already at the premises - the line provider will treat each installation as new installation!

5 Free guide, tips and insider secrets 2. CABLING What cabling do you have in your premises? If you already have sufficient voice or data cable then there should be no issues, but it s best to get your chosen provider to conduct a site survey as soon as you have access to the building, to ensure that there are no nasty surprises. The best scenario is to install a common data cabling infrastructure for both phones and computers (known as CAT5 cabling). Installed properly, this will allow your computers to run at Gigabit speeds, which is more than enough for a typical small to medium sized business. For improved performance, you could also install CAT6 cabling, but this is not suitable for all building environments and can be more costly. Your chosen provider will be able to advise you on the best route to fit your requirements. Your new premises may already have cabling installed by a contractor or legacy cabling from the previous tenant. We suggest you have this inspected as soon as possible to ascertain whether it is suitable for you. It may not be.

6 3. WHAT KIND OF TELEPHONE SYSTEM DO YOU CHOOSE This is a very important consideration. The telephone system is a business s main link with the outside world and the system you choose will have to meet medium and long-term needs as well as current ones. There are currently many different technologies available for new telephone systems. Some businesses may need a small basic system with little functionality. However, you will usually be better off in the long term if you in a digital or an IP-based system which will give you much more functionality and expansion capability for the future. We recommend that you involve different departments and key members of staff in compiling a specification list detailing what you need the phone system to deliver now and in the future. You should look for a phone system that can be upgraded to accommodate new technologies or changing circumstances further down the line. We strongly suggest you take advice on this from someone who can demonstrate their expertise. Buy from resellers who are fully trained and accredited by the system manufacturer. Select a supplier that can offer you all flavours i.e. conventional, Hybrid, IP-based, Hosted etc. Hosted systems sometimes look attractive on up-front costs, but beware of extras and consider that you pay forever, unlike a traditional system. You will also need to consider the network connection for your system. Most businesses these days have digital lines installed (ISDN2e or ISDN30) so that they can benefit from caller display, direct dial or call forwarding. However, SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) is the new replacement for ISDN and may be a good alternative. SIP has similar functionality to traditional ISDN and makes Geography Irrelevant. It also offers resilience and disaster recovery features and can be upgraded, downgraded and amended almost instantly, so there s no more waiting around for BT if you suddenly find you need an extra couple of lines to handle a big campaign This is delivered via the internet so it is important that you install suitable connectivity please ask for our advice.

7 There are many exciting and productivity enhancing features available on new phone systems. Here s just a few you might want to consider: Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) This links the telephone and computer systems, so that you can dial a telephone number from your database with one click. You will also be able to see who s calling you and enhanced CIT features will allow screen popping of a record in your CRM database triggered by an incoming call. This will give you great productivity benefits and help you to improve customer service by greeting people by name and quickly having all their account details in front of you as soon as you pick up the phone. Voice Processing Voic offers much more than an answering machine and can provide frequently requested customer information eg directions, opening hours etc. Auto attendant systems help callers go straight through to the right person or department, taking pressure off your reception staff. Interactive Voice Response systems, available on more advanced phone systems, will enable you to automate routine transactions. Unified Messaging This will display voice, fax and messages in one inbox. Messages can then be accessed by telephone, mobile phone, wireless device or notebook PC. Systems can also be programmed to automatically forward important messages from certain individuals to a specified device. Mobility Cordless communications devices will make your workforce much more flexible and staff can now be contacted wherever they are without being chained to their desk. Remote Working Broadband can be used to connect homeworkers to the company phone system and IP Telephony enables the centralised management of office based and remote extensions so you get full visibility of the status of all your users wherever they are. Mobile workers can also get full office functionality on their mobile devices.

8 4. EASE OF USE Not all telephones are easy to use. Take some time out to have a proper live demonstration so you can see for yourself. If the supplier cannot provide a demonstration, this should ring alarm bells. 5. SCALABILITY AND UPGRADABILITY Not all telephones are fully scalable and modular. Ensure you understand what capacity your new system will have both now and in the future and that you know what is involved when you need to expand. Some manufacturers have built-in upgrade paths so that you can evolve without throwing things away. Some are awful at this and launch brand new systems each time they have something new to add. If you choose the wrong system, you may find it will have been replaced by a new model after months!

9 6. WHAT ABOUT SERVICE AND SUPPORT (MAINTENANCE)? Whilst it is not mandatory these days to have your system maintained, if like nearly all businesses, you rely heavily on your telephone system, you should pay for service and support. This is normally charged separately and is calculated by working out the list price of the equipment the charge is typically 10-15% of the list price. When comparing system quotations, pay particular attention to the price of the support and what is covered, what response times are guaranteed etc. Normally you would need 4 hour response for total system failures and 16 hours for minor failures, although this depends on the mission critical nature of your telephone-related business activities.

10 7. WHAT ABOUT TRAINING? Like your computers, it is unlikely that your staff will use all of the telephone system s available features. It is the system supplier s job to find out what will be useful to you and your staff (departmental requirements may differ) in terms of saving time, looking more professional, driving economies and optimising efficiency. Ask them how they intend to do this. Far too many suppliers are more interested in getting your order than ensuring you, the customer, gets the most from your investment. For a small office, it may be that the installation engineers are given the responsibility of providing training. If they are good engineers then this normally works well and often you will have user guides ed to you. For larger organisation, it is often better to have a specialist trainer provide training after the installation. If the quotation does not include training or an option for training, you should question why not. Training will maximise your return on investment. What is the point in spending money on a new asset for your business when your staff and colleagues have not been shown how to get the most out of it?

11 8. HOW DO I CHOOSE A SUPPLIER? This choice is just as important as choosing the right phone system. Firstly, decide who you have met with that you like and trust, as you may have to deal with them for years. Next, consider how long the salesperson has been with the company and what their turnover of staff is like this will tell you a lot about the company and how good they are to work for. Also, how well established is the company and how many people do they employ specifically, how many fully trained engineers do they employ directly? Sub-contracted support cannot be relied upon, so it should ring alarm bells if this is how they operate. Is your prospective supplier local to you? If they are more than 2 hours drive from your office, it is unlikely that they will be able to offer you urgent support when you most need it. How many customers does the supplier deal with in your town? If they cannot give you references of customers they have supplied in your location or industry, this should be a concern. What kind of manufacturer accreditations does the supplier have? If they have invested in accreditation and training, this is positive as they have shown they value supporting their customers. Is the company financially stable? Ask for proof or download their latest accounts from Companies House. What kind of support do they offer? You should question their commitment to customer service levels. Did the salesperson take time to find out about your business and show an interest rather than trying to sell you something based on their own agenda? Have you seen a demonstration or been to their office? We urge you to do this as you can make some informed decisions about the solution and the company this way. What was their proposal like? Was it bespoke to your business and was it clear, concise and interesting?

12 9. HOW DO YOU COMPARE COMPETITOR QUOTATIONS? This is possibly one of the hardest parts of your role in this. Decide who you feel comfortable with and give them the specification of the other quotations (omitting pricing). If your instincts are correct, they will be able to tell you truthfully what the differences are and why prices differ from one to another. Telecoms is full of jargon and you may find it difficult to compare quotes unless you do this. Note that the supplier will have to earn a profit on the transaction they are in business to make money after all. You should have a frank discussion about pricing and if you feel that they are more expensive than another supplier, ask them to justify the price difference. On the whole, most suppliers will be buying at similar rates and will probably have similar overheads. If pricing for the same specification is vastly different, there will be a reason. The transaction has to be a WIN WIN situation you need to feel like you have negotiated a good deal for a good solution and they need to feel like they are earning enough money from the transaction to do a good job for you. If either is awry, there will be a problem and this will not bode well for a long term supplier/customer relationship.

13 10. HOW CAN I FINANCE MY NEW SYSTEM? Naturally you can purchase your system outright if you choose to. If your business has been going for 3 years or more and your accounts stack up, you should be able to finance the system on a lease rental agreement. It is unwise to finance a new system over a term of longer than 5 years, as the average life of a telephone system is 5-7 years. Lease rental agreements are just that you are normally not purchasing the system at the end unless you have the supplier specify in writing at the outset that this can be achieved. Normally, you would pay a residual rental per annum to keep the system after the initial term has expired. Some suppliers will not allow this and you should question why if this is the case. Currently, some manufacturers offer 0% finance which is obviously a good option. If you do pay outright, it is likely that the supplier will need a deposit (25%-50%) with the balance being payable upon completion. Normally service and support is an extra cost, which is generally included in the purchase price for the first 12 months. Any line costs will normally be charged on your telephone carrier s bill.

14 WE TRUST THIS GUIDE HAS BEEN A USEFUL TOOL THAT YOU CAN USE IN YOUR DECISION MAKING PROCESS. If at any point you need help and advice with choosing your new telephone system, please get in touch with Connaught by calling or e mailing You can also check out our website at

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