An In-Depth Guide To Multi-Line Business Phone System
Switching to a multi-line business phone
Despite the increasing availability of the latest communication technologies, such as video chat, texting, email, conferencing, numerous businesses (particularly small and medium-sized enterprises or SMEs) still rely on traditional telephone systems for their daily correspondence.
In the U.S. alone, almost 30 million SMEs account for 99 percent of domestic businesses, according to a study from the Small Business Administration (SBA). Experts view that many of them are averse to change when it comes to upgrading their telecommunications infrastructure. One concern is the perceived communication disruption the technological change might bring to critical parts of their businesses, especially to suppliers and customers.
Businesses that depend on legacy phone systems use a single line that can support only a single phone call at a time. With only one phone number assigned, when the line is in service it cannot answer multiple callers once. Callers will either receive a busy signal or be transferred to a voice message.
Many enterprises may not be aware that switching from a single line phone to a multi-line business phone is possible without changing their infrastructure at all.
One way to do this is to modernize the existing system in order to effectively move to a multi-line setup. Such an upgrade will reduce communication costs, boost productivity, and raise customer satisfaction in the long run. Maintaining a dated phone system, however, becomes more expensive over time due to the limited accessibility of its parts and software.
But what exactly is a multi-line business phone system? Let’s find out!
What is a Multi-line Business Phone?
A multi-line business phone combines numerous phone lines into a single device to help manage multiple calls simultaneously.
A reliable multi-line system enables existing and potential customers to reach an organization directly, easily, and quickly. An efficient communication flow maintains healthy customer relationships resulting in improved business productivity.
In Microsoft’s global 2018 customer service study, 95 percent of the 5,000 consumers surveyed regard customer service as a significant factor in brand selection and loyalty. It adds that about 61 percent of respondents shift from a brand due to poor customer service.
Using multi-line business phones enables employees and executives to break their dependence on personal mobile phones to conduct business. While this may be viewed as normal since they are convenient and affordable, using personal cell phones for company transactions ultimately leads to less productivity and more distractions.
How do I set up a Multi-line Business Phone for my Business?
An article posted on Unity Communications about how to set up a two-line phone system, says installing your own multi-line business phone is feasible. For a cloud-based phone system, the only requirement is a stable internet connection.
Businesses choosing the standard phone system, such as a Private Branch Exchange (PBX) should seek the assistance of a telecommunications provider to set it up. PBX is an on-site private phone network that allows enhanced communication within the organization. However, successfully installing the platform is not a simple task and needs the broad experience of a third-party group to operate it. Not to mention that the setup is costly and involves physical space (server room) in the office.
Harnessing the power of the technology known as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), a cloud-based multi-line business phone runs via an internet connection instead of different phone lines. This latest system offers unlimited lines for phones to use since the data is stored virtually by a remote host provider rather than on your computers or servers
The article adds that a cloud-based phone network takes less than 30 minutes for your own team to install. You can complete the process in four easy steps.
The first step is to pick a business phone service provider and get a plan that matches your requirements. Many VoIP providers offer different plans to suit the communications needs of enterprises of all sizes. You can check this Unity Communications blog to start looking for the most suitable service and price.
According to the blog site, the next step is to allot phone extensions, short numbers that can be dialed to contact anyone in your team. To make internal dialing and call transfers simple and quick, you can assign individual internal extensions in the administration portal.
The third step is to start recording phone greetings that will impress people calling your office. Record and customize the voice message that will greet callers in case no one is able to answer the phone.
The last step is to initiate incoming and outbound calls. You can get a VoIP phone, a type of phone that maximizes internet protocol (IP) technology, to send calls. But you can also download softphone apps (free or paid depending on your provider) on your iOS or Android-run smartphones to make and answer calls.
Handling Multiple Lines
With a multi-line business phone, accepting multiple calls at once is possible. But managing your calls over multiple lines can pose an issue. If phone lines are poorly handled, this will hurt your business’ reputation because customers could become irate and dissatisfied with the service. It will likewise affect work productivity because your employees could feel frustrated and distracted.
One way to properly manage multiple lines is to supply your phone operators, such as receptionists and call center agents, with a suitable workstation. The workstation size will depend on the number of operators. Having a front desk where a single person can take and make calls is ideal if yours is a small enterprise. Putting up a separate work area large enough for several or many phone operators is recommended if you run a medium- or large-sized business.
Providing your employees with the latest tools, including wireless and Bluetooth-enabled earpieces and headsets for better multitasking, is another method of improving multiple call handling. If possible, your business phone should offer advanced features, such as voicemail, hold music, caller ID, and logging, to name a few.
Training your staff to deal efficiently with calls should be considered. In particular, staff should know how to minimize hold time so more callers can be accommodated. Using appropriate and polite language will likewise increase callers’ willingness to be put on hold for a little longer.
What does a phone line splitter do?
If you plan to set up a multi-line business phone and your office currently uses two or more landlines but none of them have the multi-line features, then a telephone line splitter is needed.
In telecommunications, a phone splitter is a device that separates a phone signal into more than two signals. Each signal has an assigned frequency range and can gather signals from different sources to combine them into one signal.
With a splitter, you can use two phone lines, for instance, without having two phone devices. What you need is a two-line splitter to divide the line. The first line is connected to one jack and the other line is connected to another jack.
You can buy a splitter at an online retailer or any electronics or hardware store. To split the phone wire, first unplug the phone line from the wall jack. Then plug the splitter into the jack. You can now plug each phone line into the splitter ports.
Transferring calls with a multi-line phone
As soon as your multi-line business phone is installed, your team can start transferring calls throughout the organization.
Call transfer is one of the benefits of a multi-line phone system. Also known as call forwarding, this feature is a way to direct an inbound call to another phone, usually with the use of software or a switch on a telephone device. Advanced phone networks not only transfer calls but also record notes and other information taken by previous call recipients.
With call transfer, employees become more available to customers regardless of their location. They can spend more time helping clients, even when they are out of the office. One function of a call transfer is that employee desk phone numbers can be forwarded to mobile phones so employees can be contacted anywhere during work hours.
Call transfer, which can be either announced (warm) or unannounced (cold or blind), improves a company’s customer service. The process facilitates communication between your customers and the business to address concerns or issues.
How Much Does a Multi-line Business Phone Cost?
A multi-line business phone that uses VoIP requires a high-speed internet connection. Nowadays, internet service providers (ISPs) typically offer three types of service — DSL, T1, or T3. Although the costs of these services differ from one another, they cater to businesses of all sizes. You can choose the right service to meet your business requirements.
An ISP delivers a business internet line with the necessary equipment to your business after you pay the installation fee. The provider will ask you to sign at least a two-year contract. The monthly bill will include other charges (one-time setup and equipment costs will be on the first bill).
Subscribing to a DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) plan, the most affordable broadband connection will cost you between $50 and $250 monthly plus installation and setup fees that can go as high as $600.
Faster than DSL is T1, which costs between $300 and $1,000 every month. T3 broadband is considered to have the highest speed, with monthly fees ranging from around $700 to $3,000. Installation and setup charges for T1 and T3 are the same as their monthly fees.
An article posted on the Office Interiors website says several factors determine the cost of a telephone system. This depends on how complex the multi-line business phone network is and what kind of setup (hosted or on-premise system) will be used.
The price of a standard desktop phone is at least $350 and a first-rate wireless headset costs not less than $300 per unit.
If you want to have your phone network running on a PBX system, then you need more than just the phone devices. The average price for a PBX hardware system that operates your phones and is housed on your office premises is about $4,500.
In addition, monthly per line phone costs are estimated between $20 and $50. An advanced phone line system called SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) is also available and costs almost the same as traditional phone lines, except that it has cost-saving features.
Installation cost is another factor to take into account. Setting up a new PBX ranges from $1,200 to $3,000, according to the blog.
Are business lines more expensive than regular lines?
Telephone lines in multi-line business phone systems are more expensive than those in a home phone system, according to New York-based information technology and service firm PNJ Technology Partners. In its blog titled “The Difference Between Business and Home Phone Services,” phones used for business and for personal calls have differences in terms of features, costs, and calling abilities, to name a few.
The article adds that the cost of business phone lines goes up faster than those of home phone systems, rising by as much as 120 percent in a given period. Prices of business phone networks, which provide more sophisticated capabilities than regular networks, can go as high as $1,000 per line.
The average bill for a multi-line phone
CostOwl.com, a website that provides average pricing data for various consumer and business categories, says a multi-line business phone can cost anywhere from $50 to $2,000.
In an article titled “How Much Does a Multi-line Phone System Cost?”, the website notes that you can get an AT&T 2-line phone unit, with features such as 3-party conferencing, speakerphone, caller ID, a 100 name directory, and etc., for about $50.
By contrast, a 4-line phone system from EnGenius DuraFon is priced at about $2,000. More powerful and flexible than the 2.4GHz phone systems, this product features a 30-number speed dial, multi-line capacity, Frequency Hopping Digital Spread Spectrum (FHSS), and caller ID, to name some functions.
Some phone service providers offering multi-line business phones give startups and small enterprises exclusive deals. The special arrangements are made by putting extra features in their phone networks or delivering additional communication services for free.
Notably, these startup deals include access to free services such as 15 or 30-day phone system trials; business phone or toll-free numbers with all their plans; number porting; professionally recorded greetings; messaging apps; business email address; and basic plan for up to two users.
Small businesses can avail themselves of more bargains when using VoIP technology in their phone systems. The reason is that more service providers offer this latest technology than those in the traditional business phone service.
What Should I Look for Before Purchasing a Multi-line Business Phone?
Before buying multi-line business phones, you should consider investing in basic equipment to support or complement the phones. These include desktop computers, laptops, workstations, high-quality headsets, uninterruptible power supply, mobile communication devices (cell phones or tablets), and VoIP phones (optional). You should also subscribe to an ISP that offers a reliable, high-speed internet connection. Purchasing security software is needed to protect your equipment and network from viruses and online attacks.
Setting up your own multi-line business phone system will allow your clients, suppliers, inquirers, and other related groups to contact you quickly and directly. Your phone network will enhance daily communications, resulting in higher productivity and stronger customer relationships.
Common issues of a multi-line phone system
Like any other technology, a multi-line business phone system has its share of problems. One common issue you might encounter at any time is that, for some reason, the line does not work. This means that your current customers can’t contact your customer service to get help with their concerns. Such a situation may lead to complaints that will adversely affect your business image.
Other problems include callers being unable to leave a voicemail, poor call quality (if you have limited bandwidth or transmission speed), receiving unwanted calls (e.g., solicitors, robocalls, wrong numbers), and dropped calls (the caller and your customer service are cut-off before finishing their conversation due to technical problems), to name a few.
Training staff to handle issues
To properly manage the problems that a multi-line business phone may pose, training your employees should be a top priority. One way is to teach basic and manual troubleshooting skills to enable them to fix minor issues, such as a sudden power shutdown, no audio or poor sound quality, and forwarding phones that do not ring, among other malfunctions.
The other ways of making your workforce better prepared to handle multi-line phone problems include providing them with online workshops and regular face-to-face training sessions, mentoring or coaching; promoting the use of constructive language or situation-specific sentences within the office and to customers; and encouraging mental preparedness (e.g., keeping calm under pressure and techniques to refrain from panic).
What are the Capabilities of Today’s Multi-Line Business Phones?
Multi-line business phones allow you to deal with several calls simultaneously and empower your employees to multi-task. These functions include placing calls on hold, forwarding calls, dialing internal or external numbers, or blocking unwanted messages, among others. They make your workforce more efficient and responsive to customers and suppliers.
What makes them distinct from single-line phones is that when one line is engaged, other callers trying to get through can still be answered quickly. By contrast, a single line usually gives a busy signal to callers when it is in use or transfers them to a voicemail.
Virtual answering feature
A multi-line business phone system using VoIP technology has a virtual answering feature. Also known as a digital receptionist or auto-attendant, this capability enables your business to show a professional image to callers. It can attend to your callers immediately and transfer them to the right recipient while your employees are busy with other calls.
A virtual assistant is a time-saver and productivity booster. It can direct a caller to the appropriate department or receiver. For instance, if the caller forgets the contact’s extension number but knows the last name, the digital receptionist will state the different surnames. The caller then presses the number of the correct name to ring the right extension.
Today’s multi-line business phones offer internet-based features, making them more advanced than traditional phones. These devices can be hosted on a cloud server, rendering unnecessary large physical equipment and extra space.
Accessing your multi-line phones through computers or smart devices is one of its web-based features. You can conduct business while away from the office at any time.
Since the latest business phones can run in a virtual system, you can easily modify several of their features, including voicemail greetings and assigned virtual numbers/extensions. You can make the changes by accessing your online account with your phone system provider via a mobile device, such as a tablet or smartphone.
Other important features
The latest multi-line business phones offer various features not found in conventional phones. One main attribute is call routing (ACD) and mobility, which is meant to give you flexibility for enhanced communications. Employees are no longer confined to an office desk and everyone can use a business phone number on any device wherever and whenever needed.
Among their essential features are:
- Audio conferencing
- Audit trail
- Business app integrations
- Call analytics
- Call blocking
- Call delegation
- Call flip
- Call forwarding
- Call screening
- Cloud telepresence
- Dial-by-name directory
- Directory listing
- HD (high definition) calling
- Hot desking
- Local and international availability
- Message alerts
- Multi-party conferencing
- Multi-site management
- Music on hold
- Number porting
- Secure VoIP service
- Team collaboration
- Visual voicemail
Multi-line business phones are here to stay because of the many and varied benefits they bring to a business. They are affordable to purchase and maintain compared to traditional phone systems that require sizable investments in hardware, equipment, and upkeep.
Not only do the latest multi-line phones help your business stay more in touch with critical resources such as customers and suppliers, but they also facilitate your organization’s transition to adopting next-generation communication technologies.
Choosing the right multi-line phones will depend on many internal and external business factors. The market abounds with service providers that offer a wide range of products and services. It’s up to you to assess which one will best suit your enterprise.