How a business presents itself to its customers has to be the single most important factor in its potential success. In days gone by usually your first contact with new customers would have been through your storefront or through word of mouth, passed on by other satisfied customers. In today’s modern world, telecommunication plays an ever increasing role in reaching potential new customers.
In the last few years the rate at which computing and telecommunication technology has advanced is simply astounding. With this increased rate of technological development comes falling prices for products that were once extremely expensive. This allows smaller companies to take advantage of features and services that were once only available to much larger and richer organisations.
Once upon a time the telephone was the primary mode of communication, whereas now existing and new customers are able to reach you I a variety of different ways. This article will give a brief overview of what is available and how you can use it.
When the internet was first becoming popular, many experts predicted it would kill off the telephone. Little did they know that in fact the exact opposite would happen. The massive growth in online shopping has generated massive amounts of customer phone enquiries, making the telephone still the most important communication tool throughout the world.
The internet is undoubtedly an impressive medium for publishing information, but it is not a person. Some customers would rather deal with a real life human being rather than with a machine. There are many situations where a person is much better suited to talk to customers than a machine is. The internet is not so good at dealing with higher priced items. Customers enquiring about these higher priced goods would in most cases prefer to deal with a person, and that is where the telephone comes in handy.
The selection and installation of an appropriate phone system is probably one of the most important purchases a business will ever make. A bad phone system will repel potential customers; a good phone system will help them, guide them through a process, make it appear as though they have a direct line and most importantly make them feel like their business is both wanted and appreciated.
Phone systems with advanced features like voice mail, ACD (call queuing) and auto attendant, used to be extremely overpriced. Because of the integration between computing and telecom technology, prices have come down dramatically, although system performance and features have actually increased. Now a market that was once largely ignored by the telecoms industry and vendors alike is a thriving sector with manufacturers constantly improving and upgrading systems in a bid to attract your business.
The new phone systems developed for this small office/home office market sector can be split into three basic categories: key systems, mini-PBX’s (including PC-based phone systems), and LAN based phone systems.
In the past few years some of the best developments have been in low cost intercom style systems for small businesses of typically 12 or fewer users. The biggest market sector in the telecoms industry is undoubtedly that of small businesses who have 10 or fewer users. It now seems almost comical that this market was largely ignored in the past. New KSU-Less systems allow even the smallest offices to enjoy more advanced features that used to be only normally associated with larger more expensive systems. These systems are extremely cost effective and designed to make use of existing telecoms wiring.
The systems in this category that have benefited most from development investment are hybrid corded and cordless phone systems. These systems allow users to integrate cordless as well as corded phones within intercom systems. Office based employees would have corded phones whereas mobile employees such as warehouse operatives could have cordless phones.
Mini PBX systems are ideally suited to companies who have more than 10 employees, but fewer than 100. Mini PBX’s can give access to features like voice mail, automated attendant, intercom, computer integration and call distribution.
There are 2 categories of mini-PBX phone systems, self contained devices and computer based phone systems. There are a few companies who make self contained systems. These systems are easy to install and require very minimal computer and networking knowledge. These systems provide basic features like voice mail, auto attendant, intercom and a few others. It must be stressed though that although these systems will suffice for most small business applications, they cannot always provide all the specialist features each individual business may require. Mini-PBX’s that are computer based are generally speaking for the more technically advanced users, and can offer a wider range of features that can be customised to meet a businesses requirements. A good example of advanced features is advanced IVR (auto-attendant) scripts. This allows computerised phone systems to route calls to specific groups based on how the caller has responded to prompts. These computerised systems allow even small companies to handle their calls in a way normally associated with large call centres.
LAN (IP)-based phone systems
Companies that have installed a high speed local area network (LAN) for connecting their computers can use this same network as the backbone for their office phone system. Many phone system suppliers are edging towards this approach, and there are already several LAN-based phone systems which use a company’s Ethernet data network to transport phone calls and data.
LAN-based phone systems were a very experimental idea. They had unpredictable audio quality; neither did they offer features that users of conventional phone systems take for granted. This has all changed as phone system vendors have retooled the business phone systems to use data networks as their backbone.