Category Archives: Advanced Communication Systems

The Four Most Essential Integrations Your Business Phone System Should Have

Hosted business phone systems are popular for a plethora of reasons, but one of the best things about them is their ability to integrate with other software/solutions your company may use. If you adopt a VoIP system that permits you to manage numerous business functions through a single, unified system, you can have better customer service and reduced operating costs. I have listed the four most essential integrations your business phone system should have.

Cloud Backup Features

Cloud business phone systems are great, but some businesses worry about what will happen if their VoIP provider doesn’t take the proper steps to ensure that customer contact information and calls records are kept safe. Cloud backup features can minimize the risk of losing important data and automatically copy your VoIP information. Regardless of what happens to the provider, your information will remain intact.

CRM Software

Customer Relationship Management, or CRM, software compiles customer data, organizes it, and uses it to manage sales and find new opportunities for growth. When you combine your business phone system and your CRM software into one integrated interface, customer service reps can have relevant data at their fingertips during calls. By keeping records and details about all customer service calls, you can serve your clients more efficiently. This will strengthen your relationship with them and increase the likelihood of them becoming repeat customers.

Accounting/Bookkeeping Software

Reliable accounting software is a must for any business. When you integrate your account software with VoIP, your accountants can monitor transactions from their phone or laptop. This allows them to quickly identify errors or irregularities . Marrying your accounting software with your VoIP also allows you to send reminder calls to clients who are late in their bills.

Microsoft Outlook & Email Clients

The best thing about integrating Microsoft Outlook with your VoIP is that that you can make calls and manage emails in tandem. Companies that opt to use Outlook usually store the bulk of their contacts there—including phone information. When you integrate the two, rather than look up phone numbers in Outlook before you want to make a call, your Outlook information is automatically available in your phone network. The other nice feature is that you can receive messages as audio files in Outlook, which means that you can check your phone messages without having to leave your computer.

How to Boost Concentration During Business Phone Calls and Conferences

There have been many transformations to the business phone system in the past ten years, and we’ve greatly altered the way we communicate with clients and customers. With that said, one of the most effective communication tools is still the phone call or conference call. Unfortunately, some of today’s technology prevents these calls from being as effective as they could be and reduces concentration during business phone calls and conferences. 

For example, employees frequently bypass their desk phone in favor of their mobile phone. Despite employees comfortable relationship with mobile phones, they aren’t exactly the best way to handle large call volumes. For one thing, mobiles have limited battery life and it is not atypical for an employee to miss a call due to a dead battery.

However, the biggest problem with an over reliance on mobile phones is erratic signal strength. This particular problem multiplies in a busy office setting when numerous devices are attempting to connect to a limited capacity cell.

This is where the desk phone comes in; after all, there’s nothing worse than dropping off  due to poor coverage or a dying battery during an important call. With a desk phone, this problem is nonexistent. Desk phones also tend to have much better call quality.

Which brings me to my point: is there a variation in concentration levels when comparing desk phones to mobile phones? If employees are using a mobile phone that has poor call quality, inconsistent cell coverage, and poor battery life, are they going to become disengaged and frustrated?

The best way to solve the aforementioned issues is to invest in an advanced business telephone system. With a great business telephone system, you can marry the ease of relying on a mobile phone with the sophistication of a business telephone system. Here are the things to look for when getting a business telephone system:

  1. Latest Bluetooth technologies – By opting for a business telephone system with an upgraded version of Bluetooth integrated, employees not only get crystal clear calls when using a Bluetooth handset or headset, but they get a similar freedom that they might achieve from their mobile device.
  2. Mobile integration – Allows mobile calls to be received on an employ’s desk phone, in effect increasing the audio quality.
  3. HD audio – HD audio is among the best quality audio available. A sealed acoustic chamber is recommended for the speaker phone, which is really important to avoid feedback loops and stopping tiny vibrations from interfering with the audio.
  4. Avatars integrated into the desk phone – Actually viewing an image of the person calling makes the call more personal and can help improve the back and forth on calls.

By choosing a business telephone system with these features, employees will be a lot more attracted to their desk phones, and odds are, they will accomplish more throughout the day.

The Pros and Cons of Desk Phones and Softphones

The primary types of VoIP business phones are desk phones and softphones. As you’re probably aware, desk phones are the physical phones that sit next to your computer at work. Sometimes they appear akin to and analog phone, but instead of being a landline, they are actually connected to the IP network.

Softphones, while also a type of VoIP business phone, are entirely different. They are apps that are installed on your PC or laptop. They have dialing pads not unlike a cell phone. Softphones can also have applications for your mobile devices.

Trying to find which one is the best fit for your company can be tricky. Below, is a quick guide to the pros and cons of desk phones and softphones, so that your company doesn’t spend money on a phone that doesn’t work for your business.

Desk Phones

Desk phones have been entirely redeveloped since the creation of VoIP. What you might imagine when you think of a ‘traditional desk phone’ is not relevant to a VoIP desk phone.

Advantages and Disadvantages

This may go without saying, but people are used to desk phones. Even if the VoIP desk phone is entirely different than that of a landline, people are still comfortable with them. The other great thing about desk phones is that they tend to have superior call quality. Unfortunately, desk phones are more costly than softphones. Furthermore, the cost of a desk phone can increase with the more features you add to them.

Softphones

A softphone isn’t truly tangible; it is a software program on your PC or smartphone. It, via the Internet, allows users to make or receive calls over that Internet connection. Softphones generally offer a very friendly user experience.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Because tangible equipment isn’t involved, softphones are installed quickly and boast a budget friendly option to businesses. As long as a user has Internet connection, they can get or receive calls from anywhere. However, if your lose your Internet connection, or your equipment computer or smartphone crashes, you will be unable to use it. Also, if you aren’t a fan of headsets, you may not prefer using a smartphone on your computer, as you will need it to respond and listen to calls.

At the end of the day, you will have to decide which pros appeal most to you and which cons are deal breakers. As with all business phone systems, you have to determine what your company needs to fulfill its’ communication requirements.

 

The Top Four Business Phone System Aggravations and How to Fix Them

Your business phone system is, perhaps, your most vital communication tool. However, sometimes your business phone system can create so much aggravation that it seems more trouble than it’s worth. Fortunately, for each of the following aggravations, there is a solution.

#1. When The Phone Lines Go Down, I Have to Fix the Problem

Hosted voice solutions are delivered via the Internet, which begs a valid question: “When the Internet crashes, what happens?” Unfortunately, when the Internet is down, your phone will go dark until Internet service is restored. In this scenario, your provider will work on finding the problem and fixing it as soon as possible.

However, that doesn’t exactly answer the question of what happens with the phone lines go down? If your company has a traditional business phone system, then you are accountable for power, uptime, connectivity, vendor management, and carrier services. If the lines go down, you will be completely without service until you can take care of the problem.

The upside to hosted voice is that if your Internet crashes, while your phone will not ring at your desk, other features will remain operational due to built-in redundancy:

  • Call Routing
  • Voicemail
  • Auto-Attendant
  • Soft Phone
  • Direct Inward Dial (DID)
  • Find Me Follow Me – also known as Mobile Twinning

#2. It is Very Difficult for Employees to Make Changes, and Yet it is Our Responsibility to Make the Updates

One of the biggest problems with a traditional business phone system is that they are not easy to alter after they have been installed. The biggest reason for this is because they are proprietary—meaning they require a qualified engineer to make the necessary changes and updates. For this customer, that means that they have to pay (typically be the hour) each time the technician visits.

The great thing about hosted voice solutions is that you can make most of the basic changes or upgrades without help. Your provider will be tasked with making the large changes and upgrades.

#3. Scaling your Business Phone System is Difficult

Premise-based business phone systems aren’t easy to scale. Usually modular components and software licenses are needed if you want to expand your premise-based system. This puts a business in the challenging spot of attempting to predict what kind of phone system they will need 5-10 years down the line. Not only is that risky, but you can end up purchasing equipment you don’t need.

Hosted voice solutions remove this aggravation. Adding or eliminating users and services can be done without breaking a sweat by simply telling your provider when you need the change made. They can virtually make the change and adjust your monthly cost accordingly.

#4. The Only Thing my Phone Can Do is Make Calls and Receive Voicemails

Unfortunately, most business phone systems friendly to your budget are typically lacking in features. Budget-friendly business phone systems often are only capable of receiving/making calls and getting voicemails.

With hosted voice, however, you can get a vast assortment of advanced features. Here are the most popular:

  • Voicemail to email/text
  • Caller ID business name and phone number
  • Personal Attendant and Virtual Auto Attendant
  • Find Me Follow Me: allows your desk phone to ring on 5 different devices at the same time (so wherever you are, you can receive calls made to your office)
  • Receptionist Dashboard: give your receptionist an all-encompassing view of your phone system
  • Soft Phones: no handset needed because you can make calls right from your computer or web browser
  • Move Your Phone: from desk to desk, to conference room, to home (work from anywhere)
  • Reporting: how many calls in and out; full call detail records; available at any time

Many of the aggravations of your present premise-based business phone system can be erased with a hosted voice solution, assuming it’s a good fit for your business.

How to Chose the Right Business Telephone System Based on Your Company Size (Part 2)

As we discussed in Wednesday’s blog, trying to decide on a business phone system can be challenging considering the vast array of options on the market. One of the biggest factors a company should take into consideration is how large it is. The size of your company will largely determine the right business phone system for your company. In our last blog, we discussed the best business phone options for personal, small, and medium sized businesses. Today, we will examine the most popular choices for large businesses and enterprises. 

 

Large Business and Enterprise

Popular Options:

  • Business VoIP / Unified Communications
  • SIP trunking
  • On-premise PBX

Large businesses have entirely different needs than that of smaller or medium sized businesses. Large businesses have numerous office locations, unique sales and support operations, and executives with personal assistants. Usually large businesses will need unlimited calling packages, CRM and business software, and multiple local and toll free phone numbers. Most large businesses will also need call center capabilities.

The best option for large businesses are unified communications services. Most frequently these will come from business VoIP providers. Business VoIP has an online interface that permits account administrators to add users and configure features in real-time. They also offer web-based products that incorporate voice, video, and messaging, as well as other collaboration tools like multi-device compatibility and screensharing, to give a complete business communications solution.

Some large businesses prefer even more control over their business phone system. With SIP trunking and on-premise PBXs, companies have more customization options. The drawback is that SIP trunking and on-premise PBXs necessitate on-site servers and hardware. If you elect to go this route, you will need an in-house IT team to maintain and update the system.  

Customization isn’t the only advantage; on-premise solutions are often selected for security purposes. National companies, government agencies, and banks all have strict requirements to ensure secure communications. Doctor’s offices also need special HIPAA-compliant business phone systems to encrypt patient data.

Business Telephone Service: Finding the Right Fit

There are a plethora of business phone system options on the market, but recognizing the size of your business can eliminate a lot of options that simply won’t work. With that said, landline phone systems, in general, aren’t a great option for any sized business in the modern world. Besides being outdate and expensive, they have poorer call quality, less features, and are problematic in terms of scaling. Landlines will also typically require a business to sign a lengthy, non-negotiable contract.

Company size is one of the biggest factors when determining the best business phone system for your company, but it isn’t the only factor. A business will also need to consider their budget, as well as a business phone system’s reliability, user experience, and capabilities. Choosing the best business phone system will mean considering all of the above.

How to Chose the Right Business Telephone System Based on Your Company Size

Trying to decide on a business phone system can be challenging considering the vast array of options on the market. One of the biggest factors a company should take into consideration is how large it is. The size of your company will largely determine the right business phone system for your company. We’ve listed some of the most popular choices below, organized by company size.

Personal or Small Business (1-5 users)

Popular Options:

  • Consumer VoIP
  • Residential VoIP
  • Dedicated mobile work phone

Most small businesses (or personal home offices) don’t require a complicated business phone system; they can usually suffice with a limited feature set. In some instances, you might be able to get consumer or residential VoIP solutions (something like Google Voice) that are simple to maintain and setup.

There is always the option of getting a dedicated smartphone separate from your personal cell phone. If you only have one or two users, this is an attractive option.

Small and Medium Sized Businesses (SMBs)

Popular Options:

These types of businesses can’t get away with skimping on a business phone system. SMBs usually have moderate call volume and depend on good call quality, reliable service, voicemail management, and scalability for new employees. Many SMBs have remote employees and multiple office locations.

SMBs on a budget might want to consider bundling VoIP and Internet services offered by their respective cable companies. These types of business phone systems will frequently have additional features like caller ID, voicemail, and conferencing.

Virtual business phone systems, on the other hand, have higher service reliability and more advanced features when compared to consumer VoIP solutions. These types of services operate directly from your computer, smartphone, or tablet to create a virtual phone network. In addition to inbound/outbound calling, these services have basic call routing and call handling features.

Cloud phone systems are hosted business phone systems that offer web-based user portals and can be used with compatible deskphones and/or softphone apps. Cloud phone systems are a step up in terms of features; they have video calling, extension dialing, queues, and conference calling.

On Friday’s blog, we will take a look at the best options for large businesses and enterprises, and then we will offer a few concluding thoughts.

Tips for Selecting the Best Business Phone System

Some businesses can get away with using only a smartphone, but those tend to be one man operations. Most companies need a business phone system in order to operate in an efficient and professional manner. The trick to selecting the best business phone system for your company comes down to recognizing your needs while factoring in your future growth and budget. Below are the best steps to take in finding the perfect business phone system for your business.

Evaluate Your Needs

The first step in selecting the best business phone system is recognizing your needs. Phone service providers will offer a variety of services, such as call forwarding, speed dialing, caller ID, 3-way calling, voice mail, call waiting, and priority ringing. It is important to understand what features would help your business increase productivity and create a more efficient, day-to-day operation.

Decide if You Need a Landline or Cloud-Based System

The two main types of business phone systems are a PBX (private branch exchange) landline phone system or a cloud-based system. Again, consider your needs when deciding which route to go; if you require multiple phone model options and multiple features, a cloud-based system is probably your best bet. Cloud-based systems also have the ability to make and receive calls from anywhere you have an Internet connection.

Consider the Size & Structure Of Your Business

It goes without saying that a large business with numerous office locations will require a different business phone system than a smaller company. If you are a larger business, you may want to go with a premises-based business phone system. There are very attractive leasing options, many with 0% interest, that will make a prem-based system a very affordable option.

Check Compatibility with Other Office Equipment

The last thing a business on a budget wants to do is purchase brand new office technology when selecting a business phone system. For this reason, be sure that the business phone system you select is compatible with your conferencing tools and other various office technology that you have.

 

Maintenance Strategies to Ensure your Business Phone System Remains Operational

Have you ever considered, what would happen if your business phone system crashes? It’s a scary thought, as even a short disruption in services would be extremely problematic and frustrating; it may even result in havoc to business operations and result in considerable losses. There are multiple tactics your company can take to ensure the worst doesn’t happen. Below we have listed a few of the most important ones. 

  • Defective phone systems can damage your business productivity and reliability. There should be planned maintenance checks and back up plans to deal with any outage.
  • Early detection of faults can prevent major losses in business. A regular maintenance plan can ensure that minor faults don’t become major problems.
  • Scheduled backups ensure a simple disaster recovery plan in case of an unexpected issue.
  • Your service provider can aid your business in software and technology upgrades. When they are carried out, it guarantees a secure and reliable business phone system.
  • Most importantly, an overall, well planned maintenance program allows for total peace of mind for business owners. The risk of not having an efficient maintenance plan includes inflated labor expenses in case of emergency services, loss of competitive edge.  These cascading effects can bring the entire business system to a standstill.

Considering how much most businesses rely on their business phone systems, a dependable maintenance program is one of the most important strategies for a company to take in guaranteeing that your system is always operational. Furthermore, at Advanced Communication Systems we use the latest technology updates to ensure that your communication system is reliable.

An effective maintenance plan for business phone systems is important to ensure business continuity.  Large organizations depend heavily on various communication channels like fax, voicemail, communication and web connectivity and thus need a reliable business phone system for seamless and effective functionality.

Our typical maintenance program may include the following features based on the requirements of your business and budget:

  • Necessary software upgrades
  • Faulty equipment repair and replacements
  • Infrastructure changes
  • On-site and remote support for diagnosis and fault correction
  • Preventive maintenance checks
  • Dedicated plans to minimize costs

 

The Best Configurations for your Business Phone System

Think finding and installing a business phone system is easy? In some ways it is; however, there are many things you have to consider before getting the process started. There isn’t ‘one’ particular way to install a business phone system. You have to consider your budget, how much you will use the system, and staff size before you can decide the best configuration. Taking these attributes into consideration, and thus finding the best configuration for your business, will save your company a lot of time and money in the long run.

Different business phone system configurations (such as VoIP, hybrid solutions, and hosted PBX phones) will ultimately save certain businesses more money than others. What determines the best business phone system for your business will come down to your company’s needs and expectations.

Whether you’re setting up a brand new business phone system or upgrading your present system to include lines in different offices, there are a few things that are true regardless of the business. Consider these tips to ensure that you set up the best business phone system for your company:

  • We can’t stress the role bandwidth plays in VoIP phone system setup When you employ cloud-based systems, you are swapping telephone line traffic for Internet traffic. It will save you a lot of headaches to keep in mind your bandwidth capacity when configuring cloud-based business phone systems.
  • QoS routers can be invaluable if you are sharing VoIP, video, and a computer/laptop on one network. QoS routers will prioritize mission critical data, such as video and audio packets.
  • Paying a monthly fee for unlimited nationwide calling plans or excessive international calling is a waste of money if you have a dependable Internet connection. Remember that VoIP is best described as an information transfer service rather than a phone service. VoIP business phone systems compress call audio into data packets, which will reduce overall data transport costs for these calls. The only time that VoIP calls cost extra is when they are placed to a separate network instead of a number or phone within that VoIP network.

There isn’t a “best” business phone system configuration for every business. Business phone systems aren’t a one size fits all product. We recognize that your monthly budget, size of your organization, and number of lines/users will greatly determine which configuration will best work for your business.

If your business is opening a new location, requires a fair amount of work out-of-office, or is rapidly expanding, cloud-based VoIP will probably be the best option for your company. If you simply want to replace your conventional phone system with a more cost effective option, hosted or hybrid PBX business phone systems will serve you well. The greatest single question involved in configuration is what business phone system will best serve your company.

Time to Upgrade Your Business Phone System!

How effective is your business telephone system?  If your current phone system is only good for making and receiving calls, it is time to start shopping for a new system that offers more features.   An upgraded phone system can make the difference between a business that just gets by and a business that excels.

Top notch customer service is key to a successful business.  Making the switch to a new phone system is essential for providing your clientele with the customer service they need.  An updated phone system with more functionality will enable you and your staff to better communicate with one another both in and out of the office.

  • Compatibility with Software– New business phone systems have the capability to work with a variety of software. Older phone systems lack these options and this prevents you and your staff from flexibility and the ability to communicate with clients and vendors properly.

 

  • Lack of Features– Most old phone systems lack many of the latest features afforded by newer business phone systems. If you find yourself unable to do things with your current system that other business can do, it is time for an upgrade.

 

  • Options– There are a multitude of features that a modern PBX phone system offers: Auto attendant, call forwarding, call waiting, music on hold, conference calling, conference bridge, dial by extension/name and voicemail to email. Advanced features like find-me-follow-me are very useful for companies with highly mobile employees or sales forces.  Part of your plan when looking at a new business phone system should include if you have just one location or if you need something that enables remote connectivity.

 

  • Auto Attendant – One of the most important must-have features is an auto attendant. You never want to miss a potential lead or client because your phone lines are tied up. Auto Attendants essentially handle and transfer all your callers to the appropriate extension without a human receptionist or operator having to help them. As your business starts to grow, not only is this a smart strategy, but a vital one. The bigger a company is, the harder it is to catch every call. An Auto Attendant ensures that you will get every call, every time.

If you are ready to upgrade your business telephone system, call ACS to discuss your options.