STEP 2: SEPARATE YOUR NEEDS FROM YOUR WANTS
Once you’ve identified your key players, you can start to build an idea of what features your business needs to function. This is a great time to put all the options on the table and have users give feedback on what is most important for their roles. Once you’ve gathered all the user information you can, you’ll be able to track patterns in the flow of work that will help separate what your company needs in a new phone system from a list of nice-to-haves that would give your team a chance to reach the next level.
CUSTOMIZE YOUR NEEDS
There are so many features and capabilities available with today’s advanced phone systems, it’s important to sort through what your unique needs are. What kind of mobility and team collaboration needs do you have? What about Active Directories? Would you like the ability to program your speed dials through a computer interface? Do you need multiple voicemail boxes? Do your employees share desks? How about a message service to greet callers and route calls to the appropriate staff member? Do you want audio, web and video conferencing? Think about what kinds of functionality will give you a competitive edge. There’s likely to be a hardware and/or software solution. While you certainly don’t need to pay for options you won’t use, it’s better to grow into a system’s features than regret their absence. Retrofitting is not feasible with most older phone systems.
Some capabilities to consider:
In some offices, it may be more convenient to have a pool of phones that are shared by multiple employees. For example, salespeople, who are often out of the office, may not need dedicated phones. Perhaps the office has 10 or 15 desk phones for 20 employees to use. Hot desking allows users to enter an access code into any phone on the system and automatically have access to personalized phone settings, speed dials, voicemail and more. Then, when they’re finished, they just log out and a different user can log in. Hot desking makes phone sharing possible and can help businesses save on equipment and office space.
Many businesses have employees with explicit requirements to move around the office. Campus mobility through a DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications) can give your employees the ability to roam freely without losing the qualities of a desk phone. Look for DECT systems that can support both voice and data, with a single point of provisioning to keep your installation, setup and maintenance streamlined.
Many people associate mass notifications with emergency contacts, and for many institutions like education and government systems, this can be the case. But mass notification software can also be leveraged by businesses looking to automate outreach to customers. Many businesses utilize mass notification systems for billing requests, special offers, and other types of marketing outreach messages.
Businesses with remote teleworkers have a few options available when looking at phone systems. One option is to push desk phone units out to each teleworker. For businesses who want to avoid investing in hardware for teleworkers, a cloud solution that enables their workers to use a softphone or mobile device can be a great option. Cloud solutions can also provide teleworkers with unified communications and collaboration applications, which can help boost remote teleworkers’ productivity by reducing downtime and email overload.
Mobile integration on the desktop enables a user’s mobile phone to pair directly with a Bluetooth interface to deliver access to mobile phone features from the desk phone, allowing both cellphone and IP calls to be managed from a single device. Doing this allows mobile phone users to leverage their hardware and accessories for both IP and cellphone calls. The average cost of a bad or non-existent mobile strategy is $9,283 per information worker, per week. Make sure you’re considering your mobile workers when you’re building a phone system plan.
The MiVoice 6900 series is the latest innovation in premium desk phones, designed with the mobile workplace in mind. Mitel’s MobileLink capability enables the user’s mobile phone to pair directly with the 6900’s Bluetooth interface, to deliver access to mobile phone features from the desk phone and allowing both cellphone and IP calls to be managed from a single device. With crystal clear audio, the 6900 series works with Mitel’s MiVoice Business platform to create personalized, flexible communications at the touch of a button.
MANAGEMENT AND ACCOUNTING
This feature records all phone system activity and logs the information based on data you want to capture. Many phone systems offer standard reports, but customizable reports are available as well. For example, you may want to monitor call patterns within certain departments or track employee availability and call length.
You’re already well-acquainted with this feature, often simply called auto attendant, even if you don’t know it. It is the voice that greets you when calling a business that provides you with menu options so that your call is routed to the correct extension. For instance, you might be instructed to, “Press 3 to speak with someone in billing,” or fan-favorite, “Press 0 to speak with a representative.” The auto attendant can also prompt callers to change the language of the spoken menu, dial an extension or listen to a prerecorded message, such as the business’ address, fax number or hours of operation. Auto attendant has become a widely available business phone feature and comes standard with many systems.
AUTOMATED DIRECTORY SERVICE
Like auto attendant, this feature allows callers to be connected to a department or an individual within an organization without knowing which extension to dial. Some systems allow callers to search the directory by entering the first three letters of the individual’s last name while others allow callers to speak the person’s name or department.
Necessary features are what you must have to keep your communications operating in your current business state. Beneficial features are options you may be able to live without, but could substantially impact ease of communication and help your bottom line.
AUTOMATIC CALL DISTRIBUTION
Automatic call distribution helps direct your customers to the right person to solve their problems the first time they call. System administrators can build directories to help distribute calls within an organization, and they can even set up priority systems for distributing those calls among workers by certain worker characteristics. For example, if a cable company wants to connect customers with technical support staff, the system administrator can use the automatic call distribution feature to route calls to technicians who have been idle the longest. Calls can also be routed to staff in order of seniority, technical expertise or location.
AUDIO AND VIDEOCONFERENCING
Most phone systems include a conference call, or audio conferencing, feature, which allows users to join more than two phone lines on a call. Depending on the system, though, that number of participants can range from three to many. More advanced systems also include the capability for videoconferencing. Collaborating in person is so rare these days, the right audio and videoconferencing system can reduce travel costs significantly for your business.
UNIFIED MESSAGING AND TEAM COLLABORATION
Do you ever get tired of having to check several different devices or applications to retrieve your messages? Unified messaging is designed to take care of that. It is the collection of all your voice mail, email, fax and text messages in one interface. The access point for these messages can be an application that you can access from mobile devices, or from your standard desk phone or computer. Taking it a step further, team collaboration applications can provide internal and external communications streams to store and share information and correspondence. Keeping all your communications in one application connected to your phone system helps keep your team focused on the work they need to do, with the information they need right at their fingertips.
If you’ve ever dialed more than one number to track down a colleague, you know the value of this feature. Presence is a status indicator for each person in the system. Being able to see what communication method is available for a particular user at any given moment helps each user save time and effort. For instance, if a user sees that the person she needs to speak with is on the phone, she may choose to instant message him instead. Another user would benefit from seeing his co-worker’s status set to “gone for the day” so she doesn’t waste time trying his desk extension again and again.
This feature is pretty much the polar opposite of DND. It’s a type of call routing that allows you to program a list of numbers you wish to be tried, in order, for locating you when you’re not at your desk. For example, you could set the feature to route calls to your desk phone but if you don’t answer in a certain number of rings to try your cell phone. And if you don’t answer that, you could have it call your home phone. The phone system will attempt each phone number you’ve programmed in succession until the call is answered or the list is exhausted, in which case, the call is sent to voice mail.
Be strategic when thinking about which phone features your company needs versus the features that would be beneficial to your team. Don’t overlook the value of a beneficial feature just because it’s not on the needs list today, either. Today’s benefits can very quickly become tomorrow’s needs, so it’s important to think through how your communications system will change over time.