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One way to support your remote workers at this time is a company-wide phone system.
Phone systems can either be in the form of a cloud based Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) or VoIP private branch exchange (PBX). The VoIP PBX is a more modern version of the traditional PBX, using your broadband or data connection to receive calls. As there’s no hardware to install, it’s cheaper than the traditional version. VoIP gives you a higher quality of phone call and is free across multiple sites.
Cloud based VoIPs are another consideration and tend to be more flexible than a PBX system.
VoIPs are at times more expensive. They’re often determined by the number of employees who use it, as you’ll see in a minute. That said, it will still be generally cheaper than landline and these systems have more features than your standard phone.
Why should I upgrade my phone system?
There are huge advantages in everyone having the same system, especially when they’re working remotely. It’s easy to forward calls – it can done by name rather than wracking your brain trying to remember someone’s extension number. It’s flexible too, allowing your employees to take their calls wherever they go.
Take a look at some of the features that you can expect to find on your phone system.
Auto attendant: A digital receptionist which lets callers connect with the right person or department. But they can have the option of speaking to a live operator. Set an after-hours message (outside business hours) and can save your oodles of cash in staffing costs. Set scripts, connect after a certain number of rings
Business SMS: Some systems have business SMS. With this you can send texts to staff and marketing texts to customers, as well as follow-up SMS surveys. What’s more, you can send someone a text using email to SMS functionality, giving you the direct communication of SMS without all of the faff of typing on your phone.
Call queuing: Queue up callers rather than missing important conversations. You’ll recognise a call queue from ringing up other businesses and customer service lines. It’ll play ‘on hold’ music and/or a repeated message to let the caller know that they’re in a queue and in what position. Other perks include automating how long a customer is on hold before being transferred to voicemail and managing queues from multiple devices. Companies with several departments have the option of defining multiple destinations for callers.
Online faxing: Online faxing is cheaper than its traditional counterpart. Platforms allow you to send multiple faxes being sent at the same time and as documents go directly to the recipient, it’s a more private way to send than traditional faxes that can be seen by the whole office.
Video calls and conferencing: If you want to use slides or other images while you chat (or you’re just missing your colleagues), you can opt for video calls. If it’s a conference, you’re be able to record it for future playback.
Voicemail to email: This function records a voicemail, transcribes it and sends it to the recipient’s email address. You may receive an email with the recording attached, saved to your voicemail inbox (with or without a notification email). The voicemail file will include the time and date as well as caller ID info.
Which phone system should I use for my remote workers?
Below is a brief round-up of phone systems you could incorporate into your team’s day-to-day working.
Microsoft Team is one of the most widely used co-working platforms on the market. It’s a VoIP PBX system, which can be used with a headset, a device or an IP phone.
Put contacts on speed dial, put them into easy-to-find groups, a history of your previous calls, block callers, automatically forward them if you’re doing a presentation or a meeting. Leave options of what will happen if a call goes unanswered and configure voicemail.
Microsoft Teams free: £0; Microsoft 365 Business Basic (formerly Business Essentials): £3.80 per user per month; Microsoft 365 Business Standard (formerly Business Premium): £9.40 per user per month; Office 365 E3: £17.60 per user per month.
On RingCentral, you can flip calls to any device and set up local numbers. You can also set up visual voicemail, voicemail to email, internet fax, paging and answering rules as well as automatic voicemail transcription.
Entry: £7.99 monthly per user; Standard: £14.99 monthly per user; Premium: £19.99 monthly per user; Ultimate: £24.99 monthly per user.
Use the Ooma desktop app on your computer or on your mobile. It only takes 15 minutes to set up from the box and you can keep your number or port a new one. Other features include business SMS and the ability to program rings to come in on multiple devices. Create ring groups such as sales or customer service which can be directed through a virtual receptionist.
Ooma Office: $19.95 (£17.50) monthly/per user
Ooma Office Pro: $24.95 (£22) monthly/per user
8X8 is a series of cloud systems which vary across packages. Small businesses can choose between X2, X3, X5 and X6.
On X2, you have auto attendant, click-to-dial and call queues, desktop and mobile apps, 8×8 Team Messaging, 8×8 Video Meetings as well as G Suite, Office 365/Outlook, NetSuite and Salesforce integrations and unlimited calling within 14 countries.
X3 gives you the same functions as X2, plus an operator switchboard, additional storage and unlimited calling within 32 countries.
X5 has the features of X2 and X3 with added queued and web callback, interactive voice response, outbound predictive dialler, supervisor analytics and unlimited calling within 47 countries.
Finally, X6 has all of the above with 4,000 contact centre calling minutes, 8×8 Expert Connect, post-call survey, customer experience analytics and unlimited calling within 47 countries.
8X8 Express: £8 per month per user; X Series X2: £20 per month per user; X Series X3: £25 per month per user; X Series X5: £47 per month per user; X Series X6: £90 per month per user.
Take the Grasshopper virtual phone system to any location using mobile and desktop apps.
It offers up business texting, video and audio conferencing, screen sharing, voicemail transcription, incoming call control, call forwarding, extensions, call transfers, extensions, call blocking and email integration.
Grasshopper’s small business package is $80 (£70) a month.
Which phone system should I use for my remote workers?
Choosing which system to use is really down to features and cost. If you’ve got fewer employees, you could look at one of the more expensive packages. If your business is international, your main focus should be a service which provides international calls. If you’re unsure, do a free trial before you commit.