This page will give you some good ideas on where to start in the process of choosing a new telephone system. Most new systems we install are hosted but you still have to make the right choice as everyone is in a different situation.
The main things to consider are listed on this page but are summarised as follows:
Why do you need a system?
What is your budget?
How are you going to pay for it?
Do you know any potential suppliers?
Who do you know who may rely on their telephone system heavily?
How many telephone extensions (handsets) would you need?
What plans do you have for expansion?
Have you given any thought to what your customer’s experience is like when they phone?
If you were calling in to your business what would you expect?
Is your business operating from one location or more than one and what communications problems does this cause?
Where to find suppliers and what to consider
WHY DO YOU NEED A SYSTEM?
There may be an obvious answer here – you may be moving to a new office and you have an old telephone system so it may be a natural ‘watershed’ to consider a new telephone system. However, if you already have a system, it may not be necesary to change it. If it is an old system, it may be perfectly adequate unless you have identified some definite benefits that a new telephone system would provide.
Some telephone system manufacturers build in longevity to their products in so much as you can upgrade and keep up to date with technology. However, there is always a limit to this (Panasonic for example seem to launch new systems almost every year or two!!). The average telephone system last 5-7 years. Normally, once a system is ‘end of sale’, the system’s life comes to an end within 3-5 years when the system is no longer supported by the manufacturer. This does not always mean the end as there may be some reliable support companies able to support the system without the aid of the manufactruer.
WHAT IS YOUR BUDGET?
Naturally it is important to know you can afford a new system! Therefore, you have to have some idea of what you can afford. It is quite important to be up front with potential suppliers as to what you can afford – this can stop both parties wasting time on something that you cannot afford. However, you should try and be open-minded with your budget. If a supplier suggests something that is going to save you £ 500 per month in time, it is worth paying an extra £ 3,000 as you would obtain payback in 6 months. Therefore, always try and weigh up what the return on investment will be on different options. If there is no business case for a certain additional option, maybe you should ignore it.
HOW ARE YOU GOING TO PAY FOR YOUR NEW TELEPHONE SYSTEM?
Options here are:
Payment outright – agree terms up front
Free. This is a joke – nothing is free although some suppliers ‘give you a free telephone system’! They will be getting their money in some way!
Some advice here – if you are going to finance your new telephone system, in our opinion you should not finance anything over a longer period than 5 years. If you are also signing a support contract, this should co-terminate with the lease. Also, ask what your options are at the end of the agreement and get this in wiriting from the supplier on their headed notepaper signed by a director.
Note if your business is less than 3 years old, you may find it difficult to obtain finance, particularly in the current economic climate.
DO YOU KNOW ANY POTENTIAL SUPPLIERS?
Have a quick think about your contacts or any contacts your friends or family may have. Does anyone you know work in technology or know anyone who works in technology? It is probably better to get referred so a supplier than go out and find them yourself. However, in order to get several quotes you may need to rely on google searches or Yell.com etc.
WHO DO YOU KNOW THAT MAY RELY ON THEIR TELEPHONE SYSTEM HEAVILY?
This may sound like a strange question. But, is there anyone you know that relies heavily on their telephone system for their business. For example call centres, recruitment consultants, medical centres, schools – the list is endless. You could ask someone you know in one of these organisations who they use for their telephone ystem support.
HOW MANY TELEPHONE EXTENSIONS WOULD YOU NEED?
Count them up. Include the following:
Faxes, credit card machines, modems, bells, door entry systems, cordless phones, franking machines, plant remote access modems – anything that communicates. Out of all these devices, how many would need to be communicating at the same time – this will dictate how many lines you need to connect to your telephone system.
WHAT PLANS DO YOU HAVE FOR EXPANSION?
Plan carefully! Otherwise your telephone system will be the wrong option or be out of date before you can say ‘SIP’!!
How do you choose a new telephone system?
Start with asking yourself a few questions about your telephone system requirements such as:
Do I need a new telephone system?
Is my current telephone system doing what I want it to do?
Where is my current telephone system letting me down?
What would I ideally want my telephone system to do?
Is my telephone system old or new – can my telephone system be updated easily?
What does my telephone system do compared with my competitor’s telephone system?
Is there an upgrade path for my telephone system?
Did the salesperson do a good job and let me know my upgrade options as far as my telephone system is concerned?
Have I had second opinions on my telephone system from different telephone system support companies or telephone system suppliers?
Have I met someone I trust regarding my telephone system who can tell me what my options are?
Make sure you are happy with the technology being deployed and that it has been explained to you fully – eg digital, analogue, ISDN2e (BRI), ISDN30 (PRI), SIP trunks, SIP extensions, VoIP, H323 etc.
If you feel uncomfortable with any of the above answers our opinion is you are dealing with the wrong people!