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ARCHIVED  August 1, 1997

How to select a business phone system

Finding the right business phone system can prove a daunting task for many business owners, especially given advances in technology and the wide range of options available. But with a little research and forethought, the system you choose can help your business run efficiently, with few problems due to inadequate technology.

The most important thing to remember is that you should communicate clearly to a phone-system salesperson what your needs are, and what you want to spend.

Do you want to invest in a system that offers voice mail, or do you plan to sign on with a separate voice-mail service? Often, purchasing a system that offers voice mail is less expensive in the long run than paying an ongoing monthly fee.Consider also how many people will use your system, and the anticipated number of calls, both incoming and outgoing.
Communicating your needs is critical, especially given the fact that many phone-system sales people lack extensive knowledge about individual systems. Ask enough questions to ensure that the salesperson is doing his or her homework, too. That will ensure not only that you’re getting a system adequate for your needs but also that you’re not purchasing a system that is too advanced for your business.
Another important consideration is whether you should purchase a new or used system. If you have an existing system, evaluate what your current expenses are with used equipment vs. the cost for new. You often can buy a new phone system and have payments that are less than the cost of current service problems. Whereas your current system might require six service calls a year, a new one might require only two.
Be prepared to dicker. A wide range exists in the cost of phone systems, and used systems especially are ripe for bargaining. Shop around, too. One telephone-system provider might offer the same system as another company, but for far less money.
Consider the size and growth potential of your business when purchasing a phone system. Can you add lines if your employment level increases? What’s your anticipated fax and Internet usage?
Ask about technological innovations. The integration of computers and telephones has increased dramatically, more than most people realize. One use for the technology, known as telephony, is in sales and marketing. Say a customer calls into your company. The computer/phone system uses Caller ID to recognize the caller from a database, and as the call is being transferred, its data pops up on your computer. You’re ready to help the customer before you even answer the phone.
You can also access your e-mail through voice mail, and vice versa. Additionally, if you’re on the phone and get another call, you can use Caller ID to identify the caller, then click with your mouse on a customized message for that particular caller. The technology is here.
Think about extras, too. Additional features – which carry additional costs – include intercom, memory, speaker phones, display phones, call forwarding, background music, Caller ID and advertising on hold.
Choosing a business phone system can indeed be a complicated endeavor. But handling it as you would any major capital expenditure, with research and foresight, will help ensure that you buy or lease the system that’s right for you.

Finding the right business phone system can prove a daunting task for many business owners, especially given advances in technology and the wide range of options available. But with a little research and forethought, the system you choose can help your business run efficiently, with few problems due to inadequate technology.

The most important thing to remember is that you should communicate clearly to a phone-system salesperson what your needs are, and what you want to spend.

Do you want to invest in a system that offers voice mail, or do you plan to sign on with a separate voice-mail service? Often,…

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