Even though the internet has become the primary medium connecting businesses and consumers, the phone remains essential, offering real-time communication that emails, text messages and social media can lack. This lets your customers and clients feel as though they’re receiving more personal attention and aid. Setting up and using a business phone system, though, differs from using a home or mobile phone in some key ways. Before diving in and getting caught up in questions like “what is KSU?” or “do I need VoIP?”, take a moment to familiarize yourself with the basics so you can decide what your business needs.
How Business Phone Systems Work
Basic phone lines aren’t suitable for businesses—if you’re expecting to have more than one person calling at a time, sharing a line leaves callers waiting. Business phone systems, essentially, aim to address this, with one or more external lines, multiple internal lines and a means of routing calls. Most business phone systems have the same key features, such as voicemail, call transfers and forwarding, internal extensions, conference calls and auto-attendants. Traditionally, these systems are based on physical landlines and an on-site hub that handles internal and outgoing calls, either a private branch exchange (PBX) or key system unit (KSU). Alternatively, phone systems can use broadband Internet connections to relay calls as digital signals via Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).
What is the Ideal Phone System?
There is no single “best” phone system for all businesses. KSU and PBX phone systems still exist and see use today, even though VoIP technology is broadly available, because they have advantages over VoIP systems in given circumstances. One major advantage, for instance, is being resistant to Internet outages and latency issues. On-premises systems like PBX and KSU also give the business more control over its own phone service, without having to work around service maintenance or deal with vendor lock-in. On the other hand, these more analog systems are comparatively difficult to scale up because of the need for hardware, and VoIP systems are being innovated more by phone companies—your landlines may run the risk of being outdated.
Factors to Consider
When looking for a phone system that will serve your business best, start by deciding what capabilities you need. Think about the scope of your business—the expected call volume and the number of staff members that need dedicated internal lines, for example—both presently and in the projected future. If you expect your small business to expand considerably, you need a system that better supports scalability, typically meaning a hosted (off-site) PBX or a cloud-based VoIP system, since adding lines is more feasible with less hardware necessary. On the other hand, if you simply need a small, basic, reliable phone system, a KSU can suit you just fine. Consider the ease of use for your employees, as well as how effective customer service will be—a capable call routing system that keeps customers from waiting for assistance or getting lost trying to find the right employee or department is essential.
You will likely have to do considerable research before selecting a phone system. Take the time to ask questions and compare services in order to determine which system has what you need.