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How would you rate your office phone system? Is it outdated? Are you unsure that it meets your current needs? If you answered yes to either question, then you may want to consider upgrading your business phone services.

Reliable phone systems are essential for running a successful business. It’s key to successful business communication both with clients and employees. In addition, it allows you to monitor important metrics such as call volume, missed calls, and client satisfaction.

If you are considering whether your current business phone service truly meets your business needs, here are five features business owners want in their virtual phone systems today.

What is a virtual phone system? 

Simply put, a virtual phone system is a phone system that is not a premise-based piece of hardware. It doesn’t live in the business environment like traditional phone systems do. Instead, it’s usually hosted in the cloud (i.e. on the internet). The responsibility for managing it should be a part of the phone service provider’s offering.

There are many reasons why a business should choose a virtual phone system, not the least of which is a markedly improved communication experience between both your business and its clients and also internally within your organization. That said, identifying the features most useful for your business can seem overwhelming given the lengthy list that many systems offer. 

So how do you choose the key features most beneficial for your business? Start by asking yourself what’s important to your organization. How do you want to communicate with your clientele? In what ways could the process in which you can answer inbound phone calls or return messages be improved?

Why virtual business phone systems?

Here is a top-five list of key features that our clients want from their business telephone systems, whether that is a VoIP business phone system or a cloud-based PBX (private branch exchange system). Note that none of the following are considered advanced features or additional features of virtual phone systems.  

  1. Call Routing 
  2. Inbound Messaging
  3. Voicemail Delivery
  4. Auto-attendants
  5. Mobile or Hybrid Capabilities

#1: Call Routing

Call routing is sort of the front door of business phone systems. It’s getting incoming calls to the right people in a quick, appropriate manner. To do this, we usually give callers choices on what they can do, whether it’s dialing somebody at an extension (directly or choosing off of a list) or waiting for the next available operator.

All of that is customizable and can be adjusted based on what the business needs, what their volume of inbound calls is, how they want to improve their business, etc. Call routing is just one of the many fluid and flexible features of a virtual business phone system.

That said, call routing may not be for everyone. It depends on how people know you and interact with you as an organization or a business. If you want to deliver a live answer every time somebody calls in then you’re going to have a receptionist or other personality managing incoming calls for you. If you want to reduce call volume or offload some of the responsibility of managing calls, then maybe you should consider call routing.

#2: Inbound Messaging

Inbound messaging can be customized for every business. It can be based on time of day, time of the week, whether you’re open or closed, etc. You can actually provide messaging back to a caller that will help them make good decisions as to when to reach you (like when you’re available) or which choices to make with an auto-attendant.

Inbound messaging is often crafted to benefit an organization by offloading common responses or answers in phone calls, like location details, directions, or hours of operation so that the staff doesn’t have time to manage those calls.

Giving callers the choice to access this type of information through a prerecorded message can also reduce the number of callbacks, contributing to less call volume overall and a more positive client experience.

#3: Voicemail Delivery 

Voicemail is typically a standard feature of a phone system but how it’s delivered to the intended recipient can differ greatly by using a virtual phone system. Obviously, if somebody leaves a message, you want to get it to the intended recipient as soon as possible, especially if they’re not in the office all the time.  Efficient delivery will affect how quickly someone can respond to the message, and that response time is often critical in maintaining positive communication within and without the business.

With a virtual business phone system, the voicemail system manages the message as it would data. It can present the message as an audio file attached to an email, it can notify the recipient that they have voicemail, or the system can allow a user to go through them like a list with caller ID (complete with all the caller info).

Again, this is a feature that really serves to improve the experience of clients trying to reach your business and the experience of your employees when communicating internally.  

#4: Auto-attendants

By treating direct auto-attendant choices as a feature of a phone system you can begin to manage inbound phone calls in a very different way. A direct-to-auto-attendant feature can really define where calls go, and how quickly they can be managed, and provide backup information in terms of call detail records that tell you where you’re spending your time on the phone and how clients are reaching you. 

Direct auto-attendant choices are customizable depending on the time of day or time of year and give you incredible flexibility in directing calls for multiple locations or answering different phone numbers that signify different departments in an organization. You may even have some advertising that is promoted through toll-free numbers (or a phone number different from your business phone)  depending on what you want to track. In this way, auto-attendants streamline communications and offload call management that would be incredibly time-consuming, if not impossible, without it.

#5: Mobile or Hybrid Capability

Obviously, we’ve seen the nature of business change over the last several years. One of the big pushes is for a business to move to a remote, mobile, or hybrid office scenario. How does a phone system support that from a virtual standpoint? How can you ensure you stay connected with your team and that they stay connected to your clients or customers? If your business does have remote employees or remote teams,  you want to make sure that they’re part of the phone communication system. It’s really nice to be able to mix and match whether your team is in a brick-and-mortar location, on the road, or in a home office.

The virtual scenario allows us to choose different types of hardware and different types of software that support an organization working wherever they prefer to work in whatever way works best for them without the end-users or the clients who are calling in even knowing there’s a difference in where those employees are located.

The question becomes is mobile or hybrid capability the right choice for your organization? In an age where desk phones are often non-existent and instead business calls are taken on a cell phone, when video meetings and video conferencing are the norms, and when much of our work is done via a mobile app on our tablet, laptop, or mobile phone, it may seem like a no-brainer for every business to employ a mobile or hybrid feature; however, it may not be necessary for your organization.

The mobile or hybrid capability makes everybody in the organization, both brick-and-mortar and remote employees, a little more available, a little more of the time. That typically means that you have to manage how often or within what timeframe somebody is available on a mobile platform when working from home or while on the road.

One of the organizational choices that should be made when a provider is developing your business communication system a phone system for you is how much you want to be able to manage the remote or mobile environment for your users on the phone system. That can be managed in a number of ways, including by the time of day or by user login. Are you still using a traditional business phone system? Looking to explore these and more advanced features like instant messaging or text-to-email? Unsure what features could improve your communications and needs? Reach out to  Ohio.net today and learn how the right business phone service can help meet your organization’s communication needs today!

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