Finding and choosing a telephone system supplier is not always straight forward. Without detailed knowledge of how telephone systems work, you'll have to do some research to ensure you end up with a supplier who can provide the telephone functions your business needs
What do you want from your telephone system?
You should start by establishing what your telephone system requirements are.
- How do you want to manage calls, faxes, emails and data sent across your internet connection?
- Do you want to implement a unified messaging system, or do you simply want a telephone system that integrates with your customer database?
- Do you want to route your calls over your internet connection using voice over internet protocol (VoIP) to reduce costs?
If you can explain exactly what you want to potential suppliers, they will be able to explain how they can fit those needs, rather than simply quoting for what they think you want.
Finding potential telephone suppliers
There is no end of telephone suppliers out there so finding the right one for you can be a bit of a minefield. One approach to identifying potential suppliers is to speak to your business contacts. Ask them who they use and whether they would recommend the company.
Your local chamber of commerce or trade association might also have a list of approved suppliers it can recommend. Alternatively you can search the online directories and comparison sites. They will provide a shortlist of suitable suppliers based on your requirements.
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Watch for telephone supplier terminology
The telephone and telecommunications sector is one with a love of jargon. Many suppliers will speak in acronym-heavy sentences.
Make sure the providers you talk to can explain everything in terms you understand. It will obviously help to have some knowledge of the terminology yourself, but you shouldn't have to learn a whole new language just to talk to your supplier.
Who asks most questions?
When you talk to telephone system suppliers, take note of which ones ask most questions about your business. They're probably the suppliers who will take most time to understand what you are after, rather than just trying to sell you a standard package.
Also, remember that the supplier which tells you it can't be done, but then offers a workaround, probably understands exactly what you have asked for.
Last steps to choosing your telephone supplier
As telephone systems are complex, there are a couple of ways to make sure that what is being proposed will work before you commit to a particular supplier:
- If you are opting for a hard-wired telephone system, ask to visit an existing client of your chosen supplier. Ask the client if their system does everything they need it to. Find out how easy it is to use, and what the supplier's support is like.
- If you are going for a system which handles switchboard functions outside your business (also called a hosted service), make sure you can get a free trial before signing up. Most suppliers offer this as standard - it means you can be certain the system works well and does what you want it to.