Every business needs some kind of phone system. Well, nearly every business needs it. There are some businesses today who actually manage customer support entirely through email and other messaging platforms, but even for those who have the ability to do that, it’s questionable whether it’s a good idea to completely eliminate phones.
Back in the old days, there was only one type of phone system which consisted of landlines and nothing else, but then alternative types of systems were introduced, such as VoIP lines, virtual phone systems, and even personal cell phones. It can be pretty tough these days to choose one and to be sure that you’re getting everything you need to properly manage calls for your business.
That’s why we’re providing some points here to give you a basic barometer that will tell you whether or not your phone system has exceptional quality and performance. If your system doesn’t meet these guidelines, then it might be time for an upgrade.
1. You Get Good Feedback
One sure way to know if you have an excellent phone system that’s set up properly is when you get feedback from customers telling you they were happy with their experiences. One of the things that customers tend to be very vocal about is the experiences they have when they call into a business, so you’ll most likely know right away if there was something that upset them.
Getting positive feedback is actually harder to come by, not because people don’t have anything good to say about it but because when everything is working right, you won’t usually hear about it. You’ll inevitably receive complaints from callers if there are pain points when they call into your business, or if anything failed or went wrong.
That’s extremely useful for you to see what needs to be added or improved. Hearing about what was good about your phone system, on the other hand, is interestingly a bit tougher because people don’t feel the need to contact you if it’s working the way it’s supposed to work.
So, you might want to reach out to customers directly and ask them how it went for them when they called in. And, as we have mentioned frequently in this blog, it’s a good idea to test it out yourself or have friends or family members call into your business number to test it. Generally, though, if you’re not receiving any complaints, then it’s probably working pretty well.
2. It’s Easy to Make Adjustments
A good phone system gives you the ability to access all of the various features of your system and change anything that you need to change. During the period of time when you are first setting everything up, as well as later on when you need to make periodic changes as your business grows, or for whatever reason, it’s important that you can access every aspect of your phone system to make sure it’s functioning exactly how you need it to function.
There should be a central interface of some kind in one location, where you can adjust the settings for everything and easily change those settings anytime. This is typically much easier with a virtual phone system, as it is standard to have an online dashboard to which you can just log in and access your system settings from one unified control panel.
If you’re using one of the mainstream carriers like Verizon or Comcast, then you will have a harder time with this because if any changes need to be made to the general operation of your system, or you need to add or remove features, you might need to call them and have a service rep do it for you. That’s much more of a hassle than logging into an online dashboard and doing it yourself.
3. Variety of Features
Your business should have a phone system that gives you a lot of different features to serve all of the various capabilities you need to properly take care of customers. A great phone system has to, first, have all the essential elements like the ability to handle whatever volume of calls that you get on a daily basis, professional voicemail, and an easy-to-use call menu (if you choose to use one).
Secondly, however, your system should offer you additional features that streamline everything, help you to manage calls more efficiently, and give callers a positive experience that will never frustrate them. What if someone calls in but can’t tell what they’re supposed to do to leave a message for you?
What if they are placed on hold, but there’s no music or message of any kind that tells them they’re on hold? Some people might not need to speak to anyone, for example, but only need some quick information, which your system should be equipped to give to them and get them off the phone as quickly as possible.
4. Automation is Included
The entire system does not need to be automated, but you do want some automation available to cut down on the time it takes you to manage it. We live in a time now when just about anything can be automated, and although it’s not always a good practice to remove the human element entirely, there are a lot of scenarios in which there is no reason you should have to execute something manually, without the assistance of software and automation.
Business voicemail is one aspect where high-functioning automation is very needful. Of course, automation is the basis of voicemail, but you can benefit from advanced automation in your business voicemail, too.
In addition to letting customers leave you a voice message when you’re unavailable, it also helps to get mobile and email notifications when you receive a new message, as well as a section in your phone system’s mobile app that gives you the ability to manage voicemail from your phone. Adding an automated call menu is also a pretty standard feature.
Also known as an auto attendant or phone tree, a call menu is something that you don’t have to use but is really useful and makes your business sound much more professional. When you have an official greeting with a menu prompt that tells callers to, “Press 1 for Sales, press 2 for Support, and so on,” it signals to people that this isn’t some amateur operation, but that you’re a serious business that has it together.
A phone system that has various options for automation is one that is designed for the businesses that use it to be more successful. Even if you don’t utilize all of the automations for your system, it’s good to have them available for you to use in the future if the structure of your business changes as you grow.
5. Professional Voicemail
We’ve already touched on the subject of voicemail, but this is an important point because if your phone system doesn’t have professional-grade voicemail features, it’s probably not worth using. As a business owner, you need voicemail that’s made for businesses.
With a new business, you may start out just using the voicemail that comes with your personal cell phone, which you’ll need to upgrade as soon as you can by signing up with a service that can give you business voicemail. Personal voicemail may work alright for a while, but you’ll soon encounter problems that can’t be solved with your standard, consumer-level voicemail.
First of all, you want to have high-capacity voice mailboxes because if your mailbox(es) become full too quickly, you can easily miss messages from your customers. Most individual cell phone plans come with voicemail that has a pretty low capacity that can be kind of dangerous when customers keep leaving messages, even though you’ve already reached mass capacity.
Rather, your customers attempt to leave messages but are unable to because your mailbox is full. Another problem that can arise from that is when you need to save voice messages for later to access contact information in the message to get back to someone. There’s also a good chance, depending on who your cell provider is, that the system automatically deletes messages after a certain amount of time or when it becomes full.
You also need to be able to set a business voicemail greeting for the mailbox. You can obviously set a greeting on your personal phone, but since that mailbox is also used for your friends and family, it’s probably going to have a really casual, unprofessional greeting. If you’re using that same mailbox for your business, too, then it can be off-putting to customers when they call in and hear that kind of greeting.
6. No Outages
There are a lot of phone systems, even massive carriers like Comcast, who occasionally experience service outages. It is bound to happen, as the big carriers are increasingly becoming targets for hacks and the infrastructure that keeps it all running tends to break down from time to time; however, there are still service providers that will keep you up and running all the time without an issue.
Talkroute, for example, has a 99.98% uptime record. You can even use Talkroute as a backup system if you’re currently with another service, but it is designed with every professional feature you might need for your business and can serve you much better as the primary phone system.
You need a system that isn’t going to fail you and cause you to lose sales as a result of customers being unable to get through to you. Whatever system you decide to use has to give you the sense of security that comes from knowing it’s not going to fail without warning, causing all kinds of issues for your business.
7. Excellent Customer Support
You hopefully will never need to call into your service with a problem, but there are always those odd issues or questions you may have that need to be resolved quickly. Your service provider needs to be there to help in the event that you have some trouble with setup, you can’t figure out how to use a certain feature, or something else comes up.
When you have a technical question or need help setting up or changing something, you don’t want to end up struggling to get in touch with someone for support. If you subscribe to a provider who is nowhere to be found when you need help or takes forever to respond to your inquiry, that’s a big red flag and probably means that you might want to find a new provider.
That might seem hasty, but when you consider how serious it can become when something isn’t working with your phone system and you can’t get anyone from your service to help you fix it, bad service is a potential deal-breaker.
8. Great Sound Quality
A business relies on its phone system to handle all of its calls, first and foremost, and the last thing you want is for the calls to have bad audio quality. The audio quality you will get for business calls unfortunately varies quite a bit, depending on a few different factors, such as the phone network being used and the type of connection you have.
VoIP systems, for example, work over your Internet connection, which can be unpredictable and poor at times without additional equipment and a dedicated connection for the VoIP service. This is why Talkroute doesn’t use a VoIP connection. Calls are instead connected using the existing networks of your phones, resulting in better quality and a more reliable, consistent connection.
For whatever type of phone system you decide to use, it behooves you to do a little research by looking at the reviews from their customers about how good is the sound and connection quality.
Stephanie is the Marketing Director at Talkroute and has been featured in Forbes, Inc, and Entrepreneur as a leading authority on business and telecommunications.
Stephanie is also the chief editor and contributing author for the Talkroute blog helping more than 100k entrepreneurs to start, run, and grow their businesses.