Multi-Line Phone System: Why Your Business Needs One
What does it mean to have multiple phone lines?
Businesses have used the multi-line phone system over the past six decades. In the initial years, human operators handled the calls that went through the different telephone lines. These manual operators used public switchboards to direct calls, either internal or external, to the proper recipients.
Back then, an office typically had several telephone devices, each with a separate phone line. But every call made incurred a cost, including interdepartmental calls that cost the same as outside calls. As such, a company’s telephone expense was regarded as significant especially for an enterprise that used a large number of these devices for its daily operations.
Telecommunications technology, such as radio, satellite, microwave, television, and telephone, has advanced through the years. The industry has moved from entirely analog (using signals)systems to digital (using numbers) technology and has subsequently harnessed the power of computers, mobile phones, and the internet.
The multi-line phone system likewise joined the bandwagon. Gone are the days when businesses, particularly medium-sized and large ones, had to hire numerous switchboard operators and rent/buy telephones in large quantities to set up their own communications network.
Just what is a Multi-line Phone System?
A multi-line phone system runs like a regular phone but is built with two or more lines. It lets several callers simultaneously be on a phone with a single line, which can be external (customers and suppliers) or internal (co-workers and executives). Traditional phones are designed to allow only two parties (one caller and one receiver) to communicate at the same time.
Standard multi-line phone networks provide users, or in some cases operators, to use one phone device to host different phone numbers. They can take inbound or initiate outbound calls simply by pushing the assigned keys for multiple phone numbers. Small businesses generally adopt this type of system.
On the other hand, big companies and corporations have their own PBX systems to handle the large volume of calls. Short for Private Branch Exchange, PBX consists of hardware and servers that need a physical location, such as an office room or a closet. What makes it different from the standard system is that a PBX-based multi-line phone network has additional functions, such as call transfer, voicemail, call forwarding, auto-attendant, and more.
Nowadays, more and more businesses have adopted cloud-based multi-line phone systems where the data is stored on servers in different locations instead of on the office server. This type of phone network has the capability to host numerous phone numbers to receive calls and directs them to the correct virtual extension. There is no need for a physical location under a cloud-hosted system.
How can you have more than one phone line?
If your business currently uses a single-line phone and you are planning to upgrade to a multi-line phone system, then contacting a phone service provider is the ideal way to do it. You inform the company that you want to have more than one phone line. It will tell you how to add more lines to your account and offer other phone features (with extra charges) that you do not yet have, such as call waiting, caller ID, etc.
In the US, dozens of vendors specialize in multi-line phone networks. Leading phone service providers not only offer voice calls but also deliver unified platforms that combine all your communication needs, including text messages, video conferencing, instant and media messages, social media sites, and emails. Their offers range from basic packages to premium or high-priced options.
For your mobile phone, one way to add a second line is to download apps offered by some phone service providers. Although a few are available for free, most of these apps are priced between $10 and $15 per month. They also have extra features, such as text messaging, voicemail transcription, and auto-attendants.
Can you have more than one phone line in your house or business?
Having a multi-line phone system is also possible with a residential phone. If you are running a home-based business, then setting up your own basic multi-line phone network is recommended.
A regular telephone jack found in your house contains four wires. A phone line needs only two wires, so the remaining ones can fit another line. With the help of a technician (or if you have the technical know-how), you can have a dual-line phone system installed.
This two-line phone system is cost-effective and advantageous for remote workers. One phone number is used for business communication while the other number is for personal use.
You can likewise subscribe to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology which is available from several phone service providers. VoIP is an affordable option if you want to have your own multi-phone network in your house or home-based enterprise.
With the use of the internet, this latest technology can be used regardless of your location. Most VoIP service providers offer you a private line that you can access anytime for a fee of between $3 and $10 per month. Some of them provide you with unlimited long-distance calling and advanced features.
How many phone lines do I need?
A multi-line phone system is needed when your business is thriving and calls from customers keep on coming in. It helps your organization communicate efficiently with current, new, and potential clients. Callers hearing a busy signal because of a sub-par phone system is not favorable to your business.
Multiple lines can also quickly and simply divert inbound calls. The reason is that it lets users receive and make simultaneous phone calls with minimal interruptions. They can easily take calls and route them to proper receivers within or outside of your organization.
In addition, multiple phone lines have sophisticated features compared to traditional phone systems. They have useful functions, such as call forwarding, conference calling, display screen, automatic callback, call park, and abbreviated dialing buttons.
Solopreneurs who run a business all by themselves will benefit from using a multi-line phone network. The system gives them different phone numbers for business and personal purposes.
Similarly, entrepreneurs with a small team can maximize the capabilities of a multi-line setup. For instance, the network works best when more than two customer service agents require their own dedicated phone numbers to better handle inquiries and concerns.
The number of lines you need
The number of phone lines you need depends on the size of your business and the industry in which you are engaged.
There is no standard number of phone lines to install with a multi-line phone system. If your business is involved in professional services (advertising and marketing, accounting, legal, recruiting, and the like) with not more than 150 employees, then you should have at least 10 business phone lines for administration, teleconference, sales calls, online collaboration, and faxes.
A small or home office (solopreneurs and microbusinesses) with not more than three employees, one phone line for basic communication with clients and vendors will suffice. Retail shops with more than five employees will require two or three-line systems to accommodate calls from customers inquiring about orders, store hours, return policies, and other similar activities.
For small healthcare businesses, the number of lines should not be less than five in order to better take and make calls regarding medication, billing, insurance, appointment reminder and scheduling, and other medical inquiries. The hospitality sector (e.g., restaurants, bars, hotels, and similar businesses), on the other hand, will need only a four-line phone network for customer service calls, orders, and reservations.
Splitting a line
If your small or home office requires an additional phone to take more calls, you can divide your phone with a telephone line splitter, which is available in your nearest hardware or electronics retailers, and online stores.
Using a splitter is cost-effective since you don’t have to ask your phone company to provide another phone line in your location. This device lets you use your current phone connection without additional telephone charges.
To install a splitter, first, detach your phone line from the wall jack. Then, plug the device into the jack. Afterward, reconnect your previous phone line to the available ports in the splitter. You can use the extra port for another phone or a compatible device.
A word of caution: avoid overusing a line splitter as the voice quality of the phone line connection will be adversely affected.
What is an expandable phone line system?
Using a phone device that suits your needs can aid your home office in several tasks, such as handling a busy household or receiving important calls, while ensuring your privacy. Even with just a single phone jack, you can build a multi-handset phone network for your solo office or small business with the latest phone models. These allow you to add extra accessory handsets to your current base station.
These extra accessory handsets enable you to have an expandable phone line system, offering flexibility to address your business communication needs. With an expandable system phone companies provide the features that will suit your requirements, such as adding cordless phones for mobility, transferring calls, and using the intercom function between phones.
Can you have two phone numbers on one line?
Separating your business communication from personal calls is feasible when you have two phone numbers on one line. This is also possible using a Google Voice phone number for your business. Setting it up is easy and affordable.
Google Voice, a telephone service that offers voicemail services and call forwarding, is an app that lets you have two phone numbers using a single phone. Availing yourself of this free service means you don’t have to carry more than one phone, saving you money and freeing some space in your pocket or pouch.
To get your own Google Voice access, you should have a Gmail account. Go to its website (voice.google.com), and follow the instructions. You can choose your own number during the process. As soon as you have signed up for a number, go over the settings and start taking calls to ensure you configured it based on your preference.
The app also allows you to filter incoming calls. With the caller ID feature, you can modify and even set your Google Voice number as your business line. When someone is calling on that line, you will immediately know it’s a business call, thus giving you time to prepare before answering.
Another useful feature of Google Voice is that it lets you install a voicemail greeting for your number. If it’s a business number, then you can make an automated greeting that is professional and leaves a long-lasting impression on your clients.
Why your small business needs a multi-line phone system
Using a multi-line phone system in your business has several benefits. One is cost-effectiveness. A standard phone line is limited in that it can support only two parties at a time — the caller and the receiver. Calls are charged differently depending on where the call is made.
Long-distance calls, or calls made to a location outside the local calling area, are billed at a higher rate than local calls. With this kind of call, you are usually charged per minute in addition to the access rate and other costs. For long-distance calls within the US, telecom providers usually charge from $.02 to $.12 per minute, excluding additional fees.
In an article posted on its website, the Federal Communications Commission says the total cost long-distance service providers charge might be higher than the advertised rate. The telecom watchdog notes that it is best to do your research first and ask for a discount package from the phone company before signing up for a plan.
Another benefit of a multi-line phone network is convenience. The system allows your business to have a smoother flow of internal and external communication. Your employees and colleagues can constantly keep in touch with each other while customers and suppliers can more easily contact your organization. Using a multi-line phone system helps increase team member productivity and improve customer service leading to higher sales.
A multi-line phone setup also helps simplify business communication due to the multiple capabilities it offers. Some of the features are: call forwarding, automatic redials, caller ID, call monitoring, voice mail, call waiting, and speed dial directory.
In addition, a multi-line system enables your secretary or personal assistant to receive a call even without call forwarding or a mobile device. As a business owner or a manager, you can have your calls screened first before answering any of them. Not only that, this phone setup can keep track of the call times, receivers, callers, and call lengths of your employees in the organization.
One of the advantages of a multi-line phone system is scalability. As your business grows, you don’t have to replace your existing network, which is costly and time-consuming. Its flexibility allows you to continue adding more lines as you hire more employees. Your expansion will involve minimal costs to purchase additional gadgets, such as headsets or the latest security software.
Another reason why your business needs a multi-line phone system is that it can provide you with a unified communication setup. This means all types of communications – video conferencing, voice, data sharing, instant messaging – are combined in a single platform. The system becomes an all-in-one package, enabling you to pay just one service provider instead of paying two or more vendors for delivering different communication services.
A unified system offers a variety of ways to communicate within your organization. For instance, a team member tries to make contact with his colleague by phone but the colleague is unavailable. He will have other options to communicate with his co-worker, either by posting private messages on that person’s social media account or simply sending text messages.
The auto-attendant feature is one of the many helpful functions of a multi-line phone system. This takes the place of real operators and diverts inbound calls when the receptionists/receivers are away or engaged in other lines. So if your office is receiving calls but nobody is available to answer them, the auto-attendant will speak the recorded instructions. It will tell the caller to enter an extension or dial by name.
Adopting a multi-line platform takes your business to the next level. It projects a professional image to your clients, suppliers, and potential customers. Some service providers offer you a business phone system you can tailor to the way you want to communicate externally. For example, when callers contact your office, what appears on their caller ID is the name of your company instead of an unidentified phone number.
Lastly, a multi-line network reduces, if not removes, your conference call expenses. In a legacy system, calls involving three or more persons are expensive and are mostly carried out by executives. Some service providers offer a multi-line phone system with a voice conference feature. If yours doesn’t, then you can purchase such a service for a minimal cost.
The most common type of conference call is the 3-way calling. Priced monthly at around $5 per line on average, 3-way calling costs less nowadays. However, your expenses can increase if your business uses different phone lines that exceed more than three parties. The more participants there are, the higher the costs will be.
How can multiple lines solve common problems?
There’s no doubt that a multi-line phone system brings more benefits than issues to your business. It solves the problems a standard phone system commonly encounters.
- A multi-line phone has internal and external call transferring ability that allows an extension to direct a call to a number within or outside of the organization.
It also has an intercom feature that allows a receptionist/operator to speak to all phones simultaneously via the speakerphone, telling one or more employees of a waiting call. It can greet callers and route them to the proper information or recipient via that auto-attendant function.
- Multi-line phone systems can hold callers until you’re ready to answer.
Among its features is call waiting, a function which informs you of an incoming call if you’re already engaged on one line. This capability enables you to place one call on hold in order to take the other call with the use of your handset. This lets you always be prepared for each inbound call and helps answer all calls. While on hold, the outside caller can also listen to customized music that most standard phones lack.
- A multi-line network makes scheduling and professional calls easier for your business.
Some phone models come with an alarm clock, schedule reminders, and a “do not disturb” mode. Some versions offer advanced features, such as texting.
Also known as short message service (SMS), this option permits you to send some text to your customers or clients on their cell phones or other mobile devices with your current landline number. You can also schedule and verify business appointments and meetings using this function.
- A multi-line network improves your call management system and voicemail storage.
It has a feature called the personal directory, which is a phonebook in your company’s desk phone and from which calls can be made.
Another handy feature that stores important numbers for easy access and dialing is the speed dial directory. This is where you usually put all your high-priority numbers to make quick calls, such as emergency calls, security calls, and the like.
- A multi-line phone system can send calls straight to your voicemail.
So when you’re in the middle of a meeting or an appointment, this feature lets callers know that you are unable to take the call and are busy at the moment. Callers can leave their messages through voicemail if they can’t stay on the line for long.
Your multi-line network tells you the number of messages you have when you open your voicemail box. With a capacity of 30-40 messages per extension, the voicemail can store messages for up to 30 days regardless of the brand you use. Your inbox can be upgraded by your service phone provider so that it can hold as many as 80 messages.
Messages that are not saved after a month are removed. Saved messages, on the other hand, are accessible for 30 days. Even if you don’t delete these within this period, your voicemail automatically removes them. But before performing such action, your voicemail lets you know via voice or sound if your inbox is already full.