How to Set Up Your Small Business Office Phone System: Step by Step Guide
Communication is the backbone of a business, regardless of the sector. Having an adequate business phone system is a crucial ingredient.
In addition, business functions must be efficient, client-first, and professional in order to prevail in a competitive market and retain repeat customers.
Here, we provide a guide to office phone systems for small businesses to help you establish a unified communication system of your own.
What Is a Business Phone System?
An office phone system is a telephony system that integrates multiple phone lines and supports added features including handling and transferring calls, voicemails, teleconferences, and more. A business phone system offers both small and large enterprise companies a way to keep track of their inbound and outbound calls. The features of office phone systems vary significantly from those of home phone systems. Substantial office phone systems are developed to handle multiple calls at once and redirect calls within the business.
Today’s office phone systems for small businesses may include any of the following features:
- Auto-attendant: Current office phone systems have automated answering services that automatically greet and route callers to the respective team member.
- Call Forwarding: Call forwarding transfers calls to another number, or even to an email address.
- Conference Calls: Teleconference is an important feature since the majority of meetings are now conducted by phone with several participants joining the conference call.
- Handset Support: Modern office phone systems for small businesses must be compatible with wired and wireless headsets.
- Multiple Lines: Multiple line features give you the ability to transfer between calls, easily managing communication during high call volume. Ultimately, the number of phone lines your office phone has will depend on the size of your business. Usually, small- to mid-sized businesses work fine with only two to four lines.
- On-hold Messages: Business phone systems allow you to pre-record messages informing callers they are on hold and that their calls will be answered when a teller becomes available. This feature also enables you to play tunes while the caller on hold waits.
- Visual Voicemails: Visual voicemails do more than simply store recorded messages; they also write out a copy of the message and send it straight to the respective personnel via text message or email.
Why You Need an Office Phone System
For many small businesses, deploying an office phone system brings enormous benefits.
Better Client Service
Customer service process flow becomes a breeze thanks to a unified business phone system. They not only enhance customer service standards but also give small businesses a competitive advantage. Office phone systems enable small business owners to answer calls wherever they are, whether in the office or on the road. Additionally, small businesses get access to features such as call forwarding and service presence status which keeps clients informed and connected to the appropriate staff.
Modern cloud-based office telephone systems are extremely scalable. Scaling up or down is made easy thanks to the flexible subscription-based model.
Having an office phone system makes workflows more manageable because business owners get to mobilize advanced features such as ACD, advanced call routing, collaborative tools, automated attendants and so much more—all in one system.
How to Set Up an Office Phone System?
Want to give clients a way to reach your business by telephone? Deploying an office phone system is something almost all business owners will have to do at some point. Before you completely dive in to set up a new system, you must first know the process so you have a better idea of how to get successfully situated. We’re here to walk you through the process of how to set up the best office phone system for small businesses.
Need help connecting your telephone to the internet? Check out our previous article here: How To Connect Your Phone To Ethernet
(1) Selecting the Right Office Phone System for Your Business
Before you start deploying an office phone, you first have to choose among various available systems. Different systems work differently, and some might be better for certain business models with specific needs than others. The best office phone systems have the following options:
Multi-Line Phone System
A multi-line phone system is capable of handling multiple calls at once because it connects to the main system that routes the calls to integrated business lines. A multi-line phone system uses copper wiring, making it more basic. It often lacks features that are available to other phone systems. However, this makes the system extremely easy to operate. A multi-line system is also known for being highly durable and sturdy. Lastly, multi-line phone systems can be constructed both with local business numbers and toll-free numbers which makes this system a good option for multiple types of businesses.
Further reading: Analog Phone System
VoIP Phone System
VoIP phone systems connect phone calls with business phone lines through the internet instead of traditional copper wiring. Phone calls made through this system are fast and reliable, provided that the user has a good internet connection. A VoIP phone system allows businesses to house a variety of business lines and numbers from a single office. It also offers advanced features such as the ability to connect your phone system to business software like CRM, POS, and the like. VoIP phones remove the need for bulky hardware and a physical phone system because it functions over the internet. This means that typical telephone activities, such as routing calls, can be done through a mobile device.
PBX Phone System
PBX phone systems work similarly to multi-line phone systems, except they have one significant difference. Unlike multi-line systems that house all call information in a single telephone unit, a PBX system stores the data in a centralized cloud database. PBX phone systems are extremely adjustable which earned it its title as the customized office phone system. Since its features are customizable, businesses find this phone the easiest to use and the most efficient.
Check out our other article How VoLTE Works to find out more about Voice over LTE technology
Some Notes on Cloud-Based Systems
It’s important to remember that both PBX and VoIP systems are cloud-based. Cloud-based office phone systems are basically phone systems that utilize the internet. They do so to store and organize call information in one database and to connect calls to other business lines. Since internet-based telephones are the most commonly deployed office phone system for small businesses, the instructions below apply to the aforementioned systems.
(2) Choosing a Service Provider
After you’ve selected the most suitable office phone system for your business, you need to pick a phone service provider. Select a vendor that satisfies your business needs. Go for a provider that renders all office phone services in one place. You also want a provider that offers local numbers, virtual phone numbers, and toll-free numbers of all kinds.
(3) Picking a Business Phone Number
Once you have decided which phone company you want to work with, you can proceed to pick the type of office phone number you want including the number to accompany that line. A toll-free number is the most suitable if you want to provide a free and easy-to-remember number for your customers. You may also go with a vanity number that relates to your business by selecting digits connected with certain letters on the telephone keypad. Finally, a local phone number with the same area code as your customers is the best option if you want to contact clients in certain places.
(4) Selecting Office Phone Features
The next step after selecting a system provider and business phone number are to figure out which business phone line features are the most suitable for your business and day-to-day workflows. Depending on which service provider you choose, you may have access to features like unlimited extensions, visual voicemail, fax to mail, personalized greetings, automated call forwarding depending on the time of the day, and more.
Selecting the best office phone systems for small businesses is a tough choice, especially since there’s a myriad of features available. Not all telephone systems are created the same. Some might incur hidden fees; others are cumbersome to manage while others simply have questionable reliability. The biggest concern you need to consider is the cost of commitment, hardware, and savings opportunity. Run a cost-benefit analysis before signing up to see whether a certain feature is indeed worth the price.
(5) Configure The Admin Portal
Log in to the admin dashboard after you sign up with a phone service provider. Get to know which phone features are available and what each icon does. Collate any questions you have and connect with your point of contact. Knowing how to navigate the admin portal is crucial since this is the place where you will assemble your team and oversee all business lines.
(6) Establish Business Hours
Setting a schedule for business hours and holidays tends to be cumbersome in the beginning, but this step is something you should not skip. Although it includes a tremendous amount of work, establishing business hours is the foundation of automated attendant and call forwarding features of your office phone system. Accomplishing this right from the start saves your business much time and energy in the future. Once this is settled, you won’t need to worry about managing phone lines over breaks or holidays.
(7) Define Extensions for the Team
Depending on your VoIP system, you may be able to set up an extension for everyone in your company. When you have multiple departments, you will most likely want to give each department its own extension. The majority of businesses do not spend much time assigning extension numbers to departments and employees, but there is actually some science in selecting the right number for each extension.
Whether you choose to use one or 4 digit extensions, you can adjust them for memorability. British Journal of Psychiatry published research determining which sort of numbers are the easiest to note. The study concluded that there are four number categories people remember the most. Listed below, in order of memorability, are the number categories:
- Numbers with single numbers
- Teen numbers (10 – 19)
- Doubled numbers ( e.g., 55, 88, 11)
- Large numbers that appeared in the multiplication tables
You can make use of these memorability principles by adding them to your extension numbers. For example, it’s easy to memorize single-digit numbers if you only add zeros after each number regardless of how long the extensions are (e.g., 3000, 1000).
Take note that it’s preferred to add zero after the number and not before it. If you have extensions such as “0005”, callers might think that they don’t need to dial the zeros, which will lead to failed transfer.
(8) Figure Out the Call Flow
It’s important to know how customers feel when calling your company. Having a positive call flow ensures happier callers and repeat support.
Call flow pertains to the organizational process that dictates a caller’s experience before being assigned to an agent. Parts of a call flow may be an inbound automated attendant, IVR, or in-queue handling. To design a successful call flow, figure out what happens when a client calls your main toll-free number. Will a receptionist direct their call or will they be welcomed with a pre-recorded message? It’s also important to consider how your call center process affects the customer’s experience. As much as possible, try to minimize call transfers before an issue is rectified. You may also record your call flow for reference and future review.
Related: Why is Call Flow Important
(9) Enable Call Recording and Personalized Greetings
Are your business calls getting too boring? Add some vitality to it by using pre-recorded messages and custom greetings. You can try incorporating announcements before a teller picks up. You can also record audio tracks for automated attendants, or use music while the customer is waiting on hold.
Additionally, record all inbound and outbound calls for training purposes and quality assurance. Store old calls and occasionally replay them to mark noteworthy materials.
(10) Allow User Presence
User presence enables other members of the team to see who’s currently available, on a call or in a huddle. Setting user presence is crucial for businesses that are operating on remote set up. Most modern office phone systems enable the transfer of customer calls without placing them on hold. This is done by using the signal on the telephone or mobile device. The person in charge can easily see if a member of the team is on call and patch in if the user is not available.
Something to Take Away
Analog phone systems are almost on the verge of extinction. In 2004, more than 90% of American households had a landline. Now, only 40% still use one.
In workplaces, analog phone systems are slowly losing their relevance – businesses are deserting them for VoIP systems. Although landlines have greatly served many companies, VoIP simply provides far more scalability and flexibility – not to mention far more practical features at a friendlier price.
Analog phones still work the same way they did years ago. Service providers set up copper wires that transfer sounds using electrical pulses, making landlines highly reliable. However, such reliability comes with a steep price. Putting up an analog phone system is not only costly and cumbersome, but legacy infrastructure also requires consistent maintenance. Alternatively, VoIP uses digital data packets to send sound through the internet. This makes overseas calls as smooth and as cheap as domestic ones.
As valuable as landlines once were, they’re simply no match to the ease of use of modern office phone systems. It’s no wonder many businesses, small or large, are switching to cloud-based systems. Setting up a modern phone system is as simple as 1-2-3. All you need is a stable internet connection and a trusted platform to manage the calls.