GUIDE: How to Choose the Best Business Phone System

Before we look at how to choose the best business phone system, let’s highlight why many businesses are frustrated with their current landline (i.e. on-site PBX) phone system:

  • High Up-Front Costs: Landline phone systems are very costly to purchase, install and maintain.
  • No Cost Certainty: Costs can fluctuate significantly from month to month based on factors like domestic long-distance calls. This makes budgeting and forecasting difficult and risky.
  • Lack of Scalability: If the maximum number of lines are in use, then it is necessary to purchase another system — which can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
  • Lack of Business Continuity: A landline system uses a network design with a single point of failure. This means if part of the system fails, then the entire system goes offline.
  • Lack of Support: Landline phone system vendors and phone companies typically do not “work and play well together.” When something goes wrong (and be assured that something WILL go wrong sooner or later!), they start pointing the finger at the other and playing the blame game. Trying to assign accountability and solve the problem is tedious, time consuming and costly.
  • Limited Features: Landline phone systems don’t offer built-in enterprise-grade features that today’s organizations need such as video calling, instant messaging, real-time presence indicators, handset paging, and more. Adding these features leads to higher costs.

Fortunately, there is a superior alternative: an all-in-one cloud phone system. Here are the key reasons why this is considered the best business phone system by a growing number of businesses across the U.S. and around the world, from small firms to large enterprises:

  • Significant Up-Front and Ongoing Cost Savings: There is no expensive on-site PBX system to purchase, install and maintain or any costly trunk lines to rent. In addition, all domestic long-distance calls (as well as calls to Canada) are free, and international calls are priced well below phone company rates. While the actual amount of savings depends on usage and capacity needs, it is not uncommon for businesses to save up to 50 percent a year — and in some cases even more — compared to a landline phone system.
  • Total Mobility: Employees can make and receive calls — and access other system features such as SMS/MMS/team chat, presence, call history, one-tap dialing, and more — from their smartphone, which makes it ideal for remote workers. They can also forward live calls to their car or any other Bluetooth-enabled device or system, and pick up voicemails on the go as audio files.
  • Business Continuity & Disaster Recovery: With a landline phone system, in the event of a local power outage there is no way to make and receive calls. However, a cloud system (with a backup power supply) will remain operational. As such, businesses can forward calls to other numbers, as well as change auto-attendant messages to keep callers updated on status, and more.
  • Seamless Scalability: A cloud phone system is built for seamless scalability. Adding new users is fast, easy, and very affordable. There are no cables or wires to install.
  • Advanced calling features: The whole team can access a full range of enterprise-grade calling features such as voicemail-to-email, video calling, auto-attendant, and more. They are standard and do not cost extra.

Choosing the Best Business Phone System

Now that we have looked at why many businesses are frustrated with the landline phone system and the game-changing advantages and benefits of a cloud phone system, we can focus on how to choose the best business phone system. There are four steps in the process:

  1. Discovery
  2. Evaluate
  3. Demonstrate
  4. Select

Step 1 in Choosing the Best Business Phone System: Discovery

The Discovery phase involves researching potential cloud phone system vendors and creating a shortlist of Dedicated Service Providers.

What is a “Dedicated Service Provider”? There are three types of cloud vendors in the marketplace:

  • Mass Market Vendors
  • Carrier Service Providers
  • Dedicated Solutions Providers

Mass market vendors care ONLY one thing: selling as much hardware as possible! Quality assurance and customer support are not priorities, and after-sales support is virtually non-existent.

Carrier service providers are traditional phone companies. As one would expect, they allocate the bulk of their resources to sales vs. service, and their focus is on selling long distance minutes and supporting their traditional phone service lines. And so, why do they even bother to sell cloud phone systems at all? The reason is simple: because it’s profitable for them! Carrier service providers have been around for a long time, and they have discovered that many customers will buy their inferior cloud phone system offering due to brand recognition.

Dedicated Solutions Providers are legitimate cloud phone service specialists, and have expertise helping businesses choose the optimal system for their current and future needs. They also pride themselves on delivering outstanding post-sales support and service. Only a Dedicated Solutions Provider will be able to provide the best business phone system.

Step 2 in Choosing the Best Business Phone System: Evaluate

After you have created a shortlist of Dedication Solutions Providers, the next step is to evaluate each one. Here are 10 questions that will help you conduct your due diligence and move towards getting the best business phone system:

1. Do you specialize in installing and supporting hosted VoIP phone systems?

While many Dedicated Solutions Providers exclusively offer and support cloud phone systems, some do not. You want to choose a specialist that lives and breathes cloud phone systems 24/7/365.

2. Do you offer comprehensive post-sales support?

When it comes to getting the best business phone system, the importance of post-sales support cannot be underestimated. You should focus on vendors who:

  • Do not charge you extra for support.
  • Offer guaranteed uptime.
  • Use multiple data centers.
  • Have backup options if there is an internet outage.
  • Provide support themselves (i.e. they do not outsource support to a third party).
  • Offer support 24/7/365, and not just during traditional business hours/days.
  • Provide support through trained and experienced telecommunications experts.
  • Provide support that is highly responsive and efficient, in order to minimize time-to-resolution (TTR).
  • Have the capacity to dispatch technical teams the same day or the next day (depending on when the inquiry is made).

3. Have you been doing this for several years?

There is no substitute for experience! If a vendor hasn’t been in the industry for at least 10 years, then it means there are scenarios that they haven’t faced and learned from.

4. What do your customers say about you?

When you ask a vendor for customer feedback, they should jump at the chance to point you to testimonials on their website, and also invite you to personally contact a customer to have a private conversation about their experience.

5. Will you visit us on-site?

While much information can be shared via video, phone and email, at some you’ll need each vendor to visit you on-site to assess your infrastructure and meet with your executives and IT staff. If a vendor balks at visiting you on-site, or worse if they do not offer this as part of their pre-sales service, then it is not just a red flag: it is a deal killer!

6. What costs are involved?

To get the best business phone system, you want to get a clear understanding of all up-front costs, as well as additional fees that you may incur during the life of the agreement. A reputable and professional vendor will be highly transparent and help you understand:

  • If there are any pricing or service tiers.
  • What features are associated with each tier.
  • If you will receive any third-part billing.
  • If there are any activation fees.
  • If you will incur any upgrade or maintenance costs after implementation.

Your vendor should also be happy to provide you with a comprehensive estimate with a detailed breakdown.

7. What features are available?

The most important features that should be standard for any system your purchase include:

  • Auto Attendant
  • Automatic Call Distribution
  • Call Analysis & Reporting
  • Call Queuing
  • Call Transfer
  • Caller ID
  • Company Directory
  • Conference Bridging
  • E911 Dialing
  • Fax Send/Receive
  • Hold Music
  • Live Call Forwarding
  • Message Notification
  • SMS//MMS/Chat
  • Video Conferencing
  • Voice and Fax Email Messages
  • Voicemail to Email

You should also have the option to purchase a wireless internet backup system, which automatically switches your system from your existing connection to a cellular connection in the event of a local power outage.

8. Do you support total mobility?

Remote working is here to stay. It’s vital for your employees to access an easy-to-use app on their smartphone (corporate supplied and/or personal device), so they can make and receive calls, chat with colleagues, and use other system features.

It is also essential for the app to be available for both iOS and Android devices, and that outgoing calls display your business’s Caller ID information — not your employees’ personal information. And of course, the app should be provided to you 100% free of charge.

9. What is the post-sales experience like?

It is very important to learn how each vendor will manage the post-sales experience in four areas: schedule, project management, training, number porting, and provisioning. Here are key questions to ask:

  • How long will deployment take?
  • Will you supply a dedicated project manager to oversee deployment?
  • Our training resources like videos and how-to articles available?
  • How long does number porting take and are there any fees?
  • Do you offer plug-and-play hardware and zero-touch provisioning tools?

10. How do you ensure security?

Choose a vendor that runs and manages their clou phone system on private and highly secure data network, which is protected by end-to-end encryption mechanisms including Transport Layer Security/TLS and Secure RTP for transmitting media. There should also be technologies and strategies in place to stop robocalls.

In addition, the vendor’s in-house expert team should regularly install and configure all security patches and updates, have multiple telecommunications fraud prevention systems in place, and all access and usage should be tracked for security, compliance, quality assurance, and auditing purposes.

Step 3 in Choosing the Best Business Phone System: Demonstrate

Next, it is time to go for a “test drive” to see how each vendors’ hosted VoIP phone system looks, functions and performs. You should insist on the following:

  • The demo should be completely free with absolutely no strings attached. If a vendor asks you to pay a fee, then cross them off your shortlist.
  • The demo should be offered to you on-site at your location, or over-the-web if you prefer. You may even want to schedule both.
  • During the demo, you should have ample opportunity to ask questions about anything that you deem relevant, such as features, costs, implementation, training, compatibility, and so on. There is no such thing as a bad question!
  • The demo should be at least 30 minutes long, but perhaps longer if necessary. You should also be encouraged to request an additional demo to cover different areas or being additional team members into the process (e.g. the first demo could be with your executive team to focus on business aspects, while the second could be with your IT team for focus on technical and security aspects).

During the demo, pay attention to the following details:

  • Did the vendor try and push you into making a purchase, or were they focused on educating and informing you in a professional and respectful manner?
  • Did the vendor answer all of your questions — including technical inquiries — in a clear and competent manner?
  • Did you feel comfortable asking questions during the demo?
  • Did you get a clear sense that if you selected the vendor that they would be eager to provide you with ongoing support and advice?

Step 4 in Choosing the Best Business Phone System: Select

The last phase is where you will select a vendor who will provide you with the best business phone system. This vendor should check ALL of the following boxes:

  • They are a Dedicated Solutions Provider that specializes in installing and supporting hosted VoIP phone systems.
  • They offer comprehensive post-sales support delivered by a team of in-house experts.
  • They have been operational for many years, and have a proven track record of success.
  • They have a long list of satisfied customers and have provided you with testimonials and references.
  • They have provided you an impressive and educational demo, and offered you the opportunity to have the demo delivered on-site at your location or over-the-web.
  • They have been transparent with all costs, and clearly shown you how their system will help your business save money.
  • Their system offers a full range of enterprise-grade calling features to help your employees — both in-office and remote — be more productive and efficient, and deliver better customer service.
  • They support total mobility.
  • They have comprehensive security strategies and technologies in place.
  • The experience has been professional, collaborative and positive — and you have a solid sense that this commitment will continue once an agreement is signed.

Once you are satisfied that ALL of the above are in place, then you’re ready to start a partnership and make a smart, safe and strategic investment that drives your business forward!

At Carolina Digital Phone, we are proud to offer the industry’s best business phone system. Learn more about our all-in-one cloud phone system, and our acclaimed commitment to customer service, satisfaction and success. We can connect with you over-the-web or in-person at your location. Call us at (336) 544-4000, or click the chat icon at the bottom of your screen.

Nicky Smith

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