When is the last time you made a major personal purchase, like a car? How much time did you spend researching options before you finally made your decision? Turns out, most people spend 15 hours actively researching before buying a car. And once you buy it, you spend more money on gas, oil changes, tire rotations, and other maintenance. And the car’s value begins to depreciate as soon as you drive it off the lot.
When is the last time you purchased a new small-business phone system? How much time did you spend researching? Did you know what features and benefits to look for?
If you are in the market for a new phone system, it’s worth spending some time doing product research. Especially considering that unlike a new car, a phone system can actually save money or even help you make money.
5 things to look for
Simple management. Not everyone is a mechanic, so most people want a car that is easy to maintain so they don’t have to take it into the shop regularly. Likewise, most small businesses don’t have huge IT departments to manage complex communications systems. In some cases, you may have only one IT person who handles all your technology. When you buy a new phone system:
- Take a look at the back-end management and make sure that the upkeep requires minimal effort.
- Find out if it’s easy to complete day-to-day tasks like adding new lines, changing extensions, resetting passwords, etc.
Remember, less time spent maintaining the phone system means you can spend more time on other, more productive activities around the office.
Quick setup and personalization. Most people want to go into a car dealership and drive off the lot a few hours later. No one wants to spend several days without having a car to drive. You should expect the same thing when installing a new phone system. Setting up a new phone system can be painful, especially if you install a more complicated phone system.
- Make sure that the solution you purchase can be installed quickly, with little or no downtime for your communications.
- Confirm that the phone system can be customized quickly to meet any particular needs that your small business may have.
Pricing for small-business budgets. There are lots of small-business phone systems on the market, ranging from low-cost basic solutions to expensive enterprise-level platforms. At times the adage “you get what you pay for” can be true, so be wary of cheap phone systems offered by companies without IP telephony experience. At the same time, you probably don’t have the luxury of spending huge sums of money on a communications platform. Do your homework and find a phone system that meets your needs without being overpriced. And don’t forget to factor in reliability and maintenance (think gas mileage and oil changes) into the equation to understand the total cost of ownership.
Flexibility to grow with your business. Today, more than ever, companies need to be agile. One of the best ways to be agile as a small business is to implement a flexible communications system that can adapt with you. Would you buy a two-door coupe with a baby on the way? Verify that your phone system vendor provides an easy migration path for upgrades. Specifically:
- Look for subscription licensing plans that let you upgrade your software as new versions become available to simplify adding capacity.
- Double-check that you can use the same IP phones if you upgrade to a larger system since phones are a major investment.
Support of a trusted communications vendor. Would you buy a car from a brand you have never heard of? Countless vendors offer small business phone systems, but not all vendors are created equal. Your communications platform is the face of your company and a phone system is a significant long-term investment. It’s how your employees interact with customers and partners. Make sure you are working with a company that has experience providing reliable communications and will be there to support you for many years to come.
By Craig Burnham
Published with permission from blogs.cisco.com