We all know that phones are a vital business communication tool, and having a bad phone system can spell the difference between success and failure when expanding your company – a scary thought, to say the least. When searching for a phone system, choose a solution that comes with the features your business needs most.

Think Big: Features to Look for in a Phone System for a Small Business

1. Auto Attendant Greetings and After-Hours Business Voicemail

This should be present on any new phone system you’re getting for your business. When your customers call your office after business hours, the system picks up the call, greets them with a customizable message, and sends the call to voicemail.

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While setting an after-hours announcement on your phone system might seem like a tiny detail that doesn’t really matter, doing this will help you gain and retain customers when your team is out of the office.

This feature:

  • Prevents callers from becoming frustrated by multiple rings with no answer
  • Shows clients that you value their time
  • Keeps customers from giving up trying to reach you and taking their business elsewhere

This functionality may vary depending on the phone system you choose. Some phone solutions may provide a menu option that directs customers to specific voicemail boxes (ex. Press 1 to connect to admin, press 2 for sales, etc.) This is ideal for businesses with multiple departments. Some phone systems can answer multiple calls simultaneously and deliver a customized greeting or message before directing them to the correct voicemail.

Choose the option that best suits your business and you’ll never have to compromise professionalism or potentially lose sales opportunities. You can give callers the best first impression every time they dial your number.

2. Customizable Hold Music and Messages

The last thing you want your customers to hear when they are on hold is silence. According to Marketing Charts, callers are likely to hang up the phone if they do not hear any audible cues within 40 seconds.

With this add-on, you can help retain callers and maintain a professional image. Depending on what industry you are in, you can use upbeat or soothing music for customers who are waiting on hold.

You can also play promotional messages at timed intervals. Take your messages another step further by entertaining customers with interesting facts about your business or special announcements.

3. Voicemail Transcription

If you spend a lot of time on the phone, chances are you’re going to miss a few calls throughout the day. Have you ever had to listen back to messages multiple times to make sure you took note of everything that was said? It can be pretty unnerving – especially if you have a full inbox.

Rather than play and listen to every single voicemail, utilize a feature that allows you to read each message in your email inbox by activating the voicemail transcription feature.

This add-on uses a speech recognition technology to transcribe the audio from voicemails word for word. You’ll receive the transcribed message along with the caller’s original audio recording in your email. If you’re always on the go and would rather not spend your downtime listening to messages over and over again, this feature is a must.

4. Call Forwarding

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We know, we know, call forwarding is a pretty basic feature that all business phone systems have so, why is it on this list? When call forwarding doesn’t work properly, it can be a nightmare. Callers don’t have a ton of patience and getting transferred incorrectly or having their call dropped is not a good look for you.

It is important to take a look at reviews when shopping for a phone system for a small business, these will bring to light any problems or complications the system may have with call forwarding – we can guarantee you that if call forwarding is an issue, people will be talking about it.

Note: If you’re thinking of forwarding calls from your office directly to staff softphones, IP handsets, or mobile phones, remember to get the appropriate Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) lines and an IP platform to make this possible.

5. Mobile Twinning

We have all had a situation where we try to get in touch an employee and they are M.I.A or worse, a potential client tries to get ahold of an employee and they can’t be reached. Mobile twinning is great if you have employees who are difficult to track down. This capability allows you to pair mobile and desk phones. When you call the extension number of one of your employees, it rings the mobile phone and the office handset simultaneously. This add-on is ideal for:

  • Employees who don’t have voicemail (or their voicemail box is always full), but need to be available all the time
  • IT repair personnel who are frequently away from their desks
  • Large warehouse facilities that have a limited number of stationary phones

Another benefit of mobile twinning? You don’t have to give out your personal cell number to anyone if you don’t want to. Giving your personal cell number out to clients and employees could potentially put you in an awkward position. Let’s be honest, do you really want to receive multiple texts about proposals on a Friday night?

6. Conference Calling

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Few things are more frustrating than a conference call with bad sound quality. Choose a phone system that allows you to have multiple parties on the line without compromising quality.

Mosts phone systems offer basic conferencing functionality – where each party dials in at a predetermined time. This is likely the system you are used to using.

More robust systems provide conference bridging, a capability that calls and connects parties at a prearranged time.

The great thing about this feature is that you don’t have to do the time-consuming task of calling and adding different people into the conference. On top of that, you don’t have to send reminders or tell people about an upcoming call. Your phone system does that extra work for you.

7. Automatic Dialer

A sales professional makes an average of 45 calls every day. That’s a lot of dialing. This simple task can start to get draining after someone is 15 or 20 calls deep.

By turning on automatic dialing, you simplify and hasten the process of initiating calls. Just upload the contact list in the format accepted by the phone system and begin calling. If the other party fails to answer the call, the system moves on to the next person on the list. This add-on saves time and saves the frustration of having to dial numbers manually. Automatic dialers are fantastic for cold calling and follow up calls.

8. Call Script Creator

With this add-on, you can say goodbye to scattered sales or service notes. The call script creator allows you to come up with templates to help your staff service your customers or sell a product more effectively. It helps your employees focus on their call, hit the key points of the conversation, and keep the flow organized. Again, great for cold and follow up calls.

9. High Definition (HD) Voice

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We have talked about sound quality briefly in this post, but it deserves its own place on the list. The sound quality of a call can affect user experience, from responding to the IVR to noticing any subtleties in the voice of the representative. By boosting voice quality, you will cut down the need to repeat yourself and avoid any misunderstandings during the call.

This feature is especially useful for companies that have a lot of older customers who may find conversing on a second-rate phone system frustrating. With the HD voice capability, callers of any age will appreciate the broader sound spectrum and clarity of better audio.

10. Distinctive Rings

This add-on is the work-friendly and corporate counterpart of personalized ringtones on a mobile phone. You have the option to assign a particular tone for each Direct Inward Dialing (DID) and extension. Depending on how you configure it, your office phone can give a unique ring pattern for a particular inbound number.

The ability to set distinctive rings is ideal for businesses that have VIP clients or customers and busy offices with multiple departments on one floor.

11. Escape From the Call Queue

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Long hold times due to high call volume make people antsy. Instead of letting your customers wait for the next available representative, you can look for a telephone solution that has an “escape from queue” feature.

The feature allows customers to stop waiting without completely abandoning the call. When the caller is on hold for several minutes, the phone system can inform the individual to provide a contact number and leave a message or continue to hold. You can program the announcement to assure callers that one of your staff will get in touch with them as soon as possible.

This feature is highly beneficial for both customers and employees. Callers won’t become frustrated waiting for the next representative to attend to their needs and the customer service team won’t have to spend time apologizing to irate customers due to extended hold times. Everyone wins!

12. Do Not Disturb

The feature, as the name implies, prevents disruption by blocking incoming calls to the phone system temporarily. This handy feature is useful during business meetings, lunches, and conferences. Depending on the model, you may customize the feature to direct callers to voicemail or another number (see point number 5).

13. Disaster Recovery

Some issues are larger than software or hardware crashes. Natural disasters, such as earthquakes, storms, floods, and fires, are out of your control, but keeping customers in the loop with the right phone system is within your control. A phone system with a disaster recovery feature helps keep your business up and running during any serious interruption.

You can configure this phone system add-on to take on any customization or feature required in your business. With this functionality turned on, your employees can run on the backup system and speak with clients in real-time or you can create a generic message informing callers of the situation.

14. User-Friendly Interface

The add-ons in your phone system won’t be of much use if you are unable to figure out a way to access and activate them. When searching for a phone system, make sure it has a user-friendly interface that lets you make adjustments without a problem. An interface that’s simple to navigate and understand can make phone system tasks, such as transferring calls and setting up voicemail, easy to accomplish.

The features mentioned here are by no means exhaustive. These functions, however, can inspire you to search for a phone system that benefits both your employees and customers.

Providing Communication Solutions for Small Businesses

You don’t have to search far for a company that offers quality phone system solutions. Lingo Communications is a renowned provider of VoIP and PBX phone systems for companies of any size, click here to learn more.