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How to Select a Small Business Phone System

Think fast: How many phone calls does your business make and receive, on average, in a single day? Factor in sales calls, client pitches and ongoing reviews, discussions with vendors, customer service calls, and internal meetings.

There’s a good chance that you’re making and receiving a shocking number of calls daily, as is everyone else in your organization. That’s why it’s so crucial to choose a business phone system that is optimized for your business. 

There are so many options out there when it comes to small business phone systems that it can be overwhelming trying to make the right decision. In this post, we’ll walk you step-by-step through the decision making process so you can feel confident in the phone system you choose. 

Different Types of Business Phone Systems 

There are an abundance of different options out there when it comes to types of phone systems that businesses can choose from. Each come with their own pros and cons. Let’s go over each one.

Conventional Landlines

With conventional landlines, your employees will have physical phone systems placed at their desks. Some offices like conventional landlines, because they’re exactly that: Conventional. 

That being said, however, most businesses have shifted away from conventional landlines at rapid speed over the past decade because they’re so inflexible. 

Sure, you can reroute calls, but you need to do so from in-office, and it’s complicated. These systems are also typically more expensive, requiring the hardware; and it’s a whole thing when you need to expand into new office space, relocate a desk, or work outside of the office.

Realistically, you should never choose conventional landlines if you want your team to have the option to work remotely. 

Secondary Mobile Phones 

This strategy is straightforward; you give your employees a mobile phone with their business line. They’ll then have their personal phone and a business phone so they can be reached anywhere on the professional company line.  

Since Blackberries first hit the market, this business phone model has been popular. The biggest downside to this is the enormous cost. You’re not only paying for the cost of a line, but the cost of a device. 

Many large corporations who go this route opt for the most recent version of the iPhone, which typically needs to be replaced every other year or so at a lovely cost of around $600-1000 retail depending on the phone itself. 

It also requires your employees to keep up with two devices, which means toting them around, making sure they’re charged, and keeping both in good condition. It’s a big cost, and it’s a pain. 

VoIP Systems 

VoIP systems allow you to make phone calls through your internet connection instead of a standard landline. No copper wires need to be run through the office, which is a great bonus compared to traditional landlines, and you gain the ability to make calls from any device with an internet connection. 

If you prefer to still have a deskphone with a VoIP provider, you’re welcome to, but they’re pricey and require support and configuration. And, depending on the provider, you are at the mercy of an internet connection and may also lack certain business-friendly features that virtual phone systems have. 

Virtual Phone Systems

Virtual phone systems are rapidly becoming the most popular business phone system type for businesses of all shapes and sizes. You can create business phone numbers for each employee, and then all they need to do is download a mobile app on their existing personal device. They can make and receive calls and texts and access their voicemails and call recordings all from their mobile device.

Virtual phone systems are more cost-efficient, typically offering lower-cost phone numbers and not requiring any hardware to be purchased. It’s instant, it’s fast, and it’s easy to use. 

They’re also inherently remote-work friendly, as you can use them anywhere you have mobile service, and come with tons of flexible configuration options which makes for more flexible and improved employee and customer experiences. 

That’s what we offer here at Tresta. 

Now that we know the different types of phone systems available, let’s go through the process of choosing the system that will work best for you. 

1. Consider Whether You Need a System That Can Go Remote 

This is perhaps the most important step in the process: Do you want a conventional at-the-desk phone system, or do you want people to be able to take their calls remotely?

For most businesses today, the answer is easy. It’s why so many large corporations started providing secondary work phones to their team members, even though it was an exorbitant cost. 

Remote workers are saving businesses money, with the average cost savings for a business for each employee working remotely halftime hovering around $11,000 per year.  It’s quickly becoming more preferred by employees, too, with 77% of remote workers saying they feel more productive and 90% saying they recommended it. Having a phone system that allows users to accept calls from anywhere is a good call for most businesses.

While each small business is different and you need to consider what solution would work best for you, many small business owners are turning more towards virtual phone systems. 

The costs are substantially lower than all other options allowing for remote work. Employees will also always have their personal phones nearby, resulting in high accessibility whenever you need them. 

2. Decide What Features You Need 

What do you need your phone system to do?

Now, phone systems can do so much more than accept incoming calls and make outgoing calls, and it’s important to consider what features your business would benefit from now, and in the future.

Virtual phone systems like Tresta offer the following:

  • Auto-attendants to greet callers and get them to the right person quickly
  • Analytics to gain business insights using real-time call data
  • Texting capabilities, for both internal and external use 
  • Smart call routing to direct calls based on your configuration
  • Schedules that can be used to route calls different places at different times
  • Call recording to recall specific call details
  • Custom greetings for a branded phone experience

Some businesses may rely heavily on texting for internal communication. You may want to have call routing set on a schedule, sending all incoming calls after 6 pm to a call answering service. Instead of having an actual receptionist, you can rely on call menus or auto-attendants to get callers where they need to go. 

These features can save you time and money, help you achieve work life balance, all while streamlining the phone experience for your callers along the way. 

3. Calculate Your Budget 

When you’re choosing a phone system, you need to look at costs. What can you afford to spend per employee? 

Some phone systems cost much more than others. In-house VoIP systems, for example, require the upfront cost of the tools you need to keep the system running, which is expensive. And if you’re buying a second phone for your entire staff, you have to add that on to the cost of the phone plans themselves.

Find a system that has reliable support, great customer service, and all the features you need, and make sure it’s within your budget now and within your projected budget later. 

Keep in mind that as you scale, costs change, and you’ll want to budget for that in advance. You’ll have extra users, extra phone numbers, and potentially extra features that you may need. 

4. Choose An Option That’s Scalable 

Speaking of scalable, it’s essential to choose a phone system that will offer features that you need to grow your business. You definitely don’t want to be switching over phone systems when you have 50 employees who are already familiar with the one you have; it’s expensive, it’s time consuming, and it can be frustrating. 

You never know how quickly things could take off, so having a phone system that can scale alongside your business is a good precaution.

You want an option that’s scalable both in cost and in features. Extensions and auto attendant menus may not be a priority now, but that likely won’t be true as your business grows. You don’t want to have to change your phone system while rapidly growing your business, so find what suits your needs now and what will likely meet your needs moving forward, too. 

This is one reason virtual phone systems are so popular. Here at Tresta, we offer all of our features to all users for one flat per-line fee. There’s no catch, scaling is never an issue. You can create a new user and configure their call routing instantly instead of needing to order a phone and wait or keeping expensive inventory on hand. 

5. Read the Fine Print 

Some phone systems come with fine print. There are set limits for minute usage or message storage, after which you can get hit with expensive fees. Or maybe there are contracts that are difficult or expensive to get out of, even if your business has outgrown the service.

Read the fine print of any system you’re considering using. Look for hidden fees, which may include charges if you go over x number of minutes or use certain features. Some providers even limit storage for call recordings or voicemail messages. Make sure to read the terms prior to signing up and see if you can get a free trial before committing. 

What to Avoid When You Select a Business Phone System 

While it’s important to know what you should look for when choosing a virtual phone system (or any phone system, for that matter), it’s just as crucial to know what you should want to avoid.

Here are the biggest red flags that indicate that a virtual phone provider is not the one that you want to work with:

  • Support is conditional. Some phone lines only offer fast or thorough support for high-volume clients, making it impossible for small businesses to get the help they need if there’s an issue. Look for reviews that stress strong and quick customer service for everyone.
  • Lots of asterisks with hidden fees. If you see a “*Additional charges may apply” anywhere in the terms of service, ask what they are. Depending on where you live, there ARE additional taxes and fees that are outside of the provider’s control. However, outside of those costs, sneaky hidden fees and vague costs for features are avoidable. That’s why here at Tresta, we offer a single, flat per-line fee; exactly as it should be.
  • Higher charges for storage or more features. You shouldn’t need to pay add-on fees to receive more minutes, call recording features, or analytics. And you certainly shouldn’t have to pay more to access your past messages. Choose a provider that offers flat-rate fees, with no long-term contracts required.  

Ultimately, you want to find a virtual phone system provider that seems excited about offering new features and doesn’t charge for it. We rolled out texting to all of our customers (new and existing) without any extra cost, and we are happy to record custom greetings for you with our professional voice talent team for free. Choose a provider that works for you instead of one who works to nickel and dime you every chance they get. 

There’s a lot that goes into choosing a phone system, and with so many options out there, it can be difficult to try to find the right one. 

It’s important to look at all your options and decide what meets your business’s needs now, and which one you expect can scale with you to meet your needs in the future, too. The decision is hard enough the first time, after all; you don’t want to have to go through the process all over again in a year or two.