There are of course many things that people do right when shopping for an office phone system, but, there are also a few things that people do consistently wrong when purchasing and deploying an office phone system. I’ve been working with clients on deploying office phone systems for the over 25 years, and also meet with our sales and service teams frequently, and the same themes keep coming up.
Cabling, or Lack Thereof
Separate your voice and data networks not just logically on the network, but also physically with a separate drop for voice, and separate drop for data. If you’re planning on using digital phones then you must have a separate drop for voice and data anyway, but, if you’re planning on using VoIP handsets then the perception is that it’s OK to have a cable drop share one physical cable. Although the phone system will technically work, a problem with the network switch will take down both the voice and data networks. A small, seemingly innocuous change done by a qualified network engineer to the network switch can also cause issues that take time to resolve. Companies try to save dollars by using one cable drop for both voice and data. You might save a few dollars at the outset, but you will pay for it later. Do yourself a favor and separate your voice and data networks onto separate cable drops.
Crappy Internet Equals Crappy Voice
If you’re planning on running a hosted PBX system, or looking to install SIP trunks, and planning on running all your internet and voice on the same internet circuit, please make sure your internet is sufficient to accommodate both voice and data on the same internet pipe. For starters, you should always enable QoS at the network’s edge. QoS stands for Quality of Service, and QoS will prioritize voice over data at the network’s edge. Although QoS won’t guarantee great sounding phone calls, it’s a start. And then, if your company’s internet speeds are questionable at times, you might not notice how bad it is when surfing the web, but, you WILL notice how bad it is when you’re on the phone. Some things to look for with regards to your internet include amount of bandwidth, latency and jitter. And keep in mind, if your voice and internet come across one internet pipe, and the internet connection goes down, you lose both voice and data. You should always have a backup internet connection.
No Call Accounting, Get Some
At Digitcom I measure everything. My personal mantra is, if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. That includes everything from the obvious metrics like average days to collect, but it goes much deeper and includes all facets of sales, marketing, human resources, IT, accounting, service, and so on. And that also includes the phone system. How many calls came into a specific queue, department, person? How many calls did a particular individual make, or how many calls did they take? At Digitcom we run ad-specific marketing campaigns and attach a unique phone number to each campaign, and then measure the number of calls into that phone number. We know that we spent $1,000 on a campaign, and we received 100 calls, that’s extremely useful information, especially when we track the total sales volume from those calls.
Yes, of course your phone system will operate just fine without call accounting, but will your business? I say no. And call accounting isn’t expensive to implement. Track it, manage it, tweak it, measure it, and start again. The success of your business depends on it.
Auto Attendant Hell
Just because your phone system and auto attendant will support eight (8) options off the main menu doesn’t mean you should offer that to your callers. Figure out what the top two (2) things are that people inquire about when they call into your company, and make those options available off the main auto attendant. It’s usually sales and service, but, unless they call frequently for accounting, shipping, purchasing, don’t add those to the greeting. When designing the greeting keep it short and sweet, and please, always allow people to press 0 off the main menu to reach an operator. And please, always make sure that operator is there to answer the call. Remember, ring-no-answer means click-no-business.
Don’t Cheap Out on the Installation
No, it’s not okay to install the phone system yourself. Yes, you can likely get the system to work, but there’s a lot more to a proper deployment than just the dial tone itself. You need proper project management, planning, and staff training. At Digitcom we call these customers the “do-it-yourselfers”, and they almost always invariably go badly. In fact, I’m going to say we haven’t seen one go right yet. The company thinks they’re saving a few dollars on the install, and then we end up spending more time and money cleaning up the mess then if they had done it properly the first time. It takes time, patience, and proper planning to properly deploy an office phone system. If it sounds too good to be true, then it likely is.