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ARCHIVED  August 27, 1999

How to choose a business telephone system

When it comes to a business telephone system, it boils down to this: If you can’t receive a call and you’re in business, you’re losing business.

Picking the right business telephone system requires that you understand the need of your business.
Before you go shopping, take a close look at how your business uses the telephone. Scrutinize how your calls are handled now, where they come from and when your business experiences its heaviest call loads. This process may be as simple as monitoring the buttons on an existing system. How many times a day do you see them all busy and when?
As you consider your needs, don’t neglect Internet access and fax usage.
The industry offers an array of systems and options for business telephone use. Here’s a primer on the basics:
Key: The typical small-business phone system is a key system. In this system, all lines appear on all telephones and are accessed by buttons on each phone.
Hybrid: This system combines key systems with PBX or private branch exchange. It has pooled lines accessed either by button or a dial-access code. Incoming calls normally come in through an operator, who transfers calls to the appropriate telephone.
A more-complex version of the hybrid system allows an auto attendant to answer calls and transfer them. Callers choose from a menu of recorded options.
Direct Inward Dial or DID: This system uses a block of phone numbers with the same prefix. The four digits following the prefix reflect internal extensions. For example, calls made to 667-9100 will ring extension 100. Employees or stations within the business are contacted directly at their extensions.
When you choose a phone system, you’re also choosing a vendor. Take a close look at a prospective vendor’s company culture. Is it sales-oriented, service-oriented? How many products does the company carry? How are repairs handled? How are technicians trained — by the manufacturer or on a customer’s site? Is the vendor an authorized dealer of the system or systems it sells?
Ask for a letter from the manufacturer detailing the vendor’s standing.
You’ll also want to check references as you begin to narrow your choices in specific systems. Ask to speak with businesses using the system you’re considering. Carefully scrutinize warranty and service support. If the company selling you the system goes out of business, will you be able to get direct support from the manufacturer?
Telephone-system prices vary depending on the type of system; expect to pay between $300 and $600 per port, or station. Factors affecting cost include the size and complexity of the system and special services or options purchased.
Finally, don’t choose a system based on price alone. Consider quality and service, as well as price, when making a choice.

When it comes to a business telephone system, it boils down to this: If you can’t receive a call and you’re in business, you’re losing business.

Picking the right business telephone system requires that you understand the need of your business.
Before you go shopping, take a close look at how your business uses the telephone. Scrutinize how your calls are handled now, where they come from and when your business experiences its heaviest call loads. This process may be as simple as monitoring the buttons on an existing system. How many times a day do you see them all busy…

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