In our last article we looked at efficiency and why it’s important both in general business terms and in your business phone system. We identified 7 key signifiers that a business phone system is struggling, to help you to evaluate whether or not your existing set-up is efficient in a broad sense.
In this article we will be taking you through a step-by-step efficiency checklist. This will enable you to discover quite precisely the specific areas where a phone system might be highly ineffective.
This checklist can be used to uncover real data that might just back-up those nagging suspicions you have about your phone system. It will help you to identify improvement areas and might prove invaluable when it comes to arguing the case for possible system investment and upgrades.
To complete this checklist, simply print out our PDF version of the list and answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to each question. At the end you can total up ‘no’s vs ‘yes’s to gauge overall efficiency. Looking at the answers in each individual area will enable you to establish the key areas where your phone system is struggling.
1. Engineering call outs
Most businesses have a maintenance contract to support their phone system. This would normally cover areas such as a complete system failure and might include bundled support, such as 30 minutes of programming month.
There are always changes within a business — to things such as location and team members — which need to be replicated on the phone system. These “minor” changes should be able to be conducted in-house. If remote and onsite support is being used for the most basic of changes it can be both costly and time consuming.
1.1 Do staff have the basic training in order to make simple changes without the need to contact support?
1.2 Does your system have basic and intuitive user tools for your staff to make changes?
1.3 Is the system configured appropriately to cater for these changes? I.e. it doesn't require downtime to complete?
1.4 Is the system configured for ‘anywhere access’, so changes can be made remotely from anywhere at any time?
2. Legacy phone systems
As a rule, legacy systems (ones that are over 10 years old) lack necessary functions and features to be considered even slightly efficient.
Just like with every other type of technology, phone systems evolve over time. A question we always ask is “would you feel it is acceptable to use 10 year old mobile phone handsets in your business?” 99.9% of responses are “no”. So, why is it acceptable to run a 10 year old system that handles everyone’s calls?
New technology, new features and smarter ways of working are introduced as new phone system technology is improved; all with the goal of maximising the system’s application to a business.
2.1 Is your system less than 10 years old?
2.2 Is your system analogue/ISDN based?
2.3 Does your system easily allow the integration of new technology such as SIP?
2.4 Does your system notify you of necessary updates?
2.5 Can the system be upgraded without the need to change the main unit/components?
3. Hybrid phone systems
In the telecoms industry, a view is held that ultimate efficiency simply cannot be achieved without the ability to use IP alongside traditional fixed line technology. These systems are known as ‘Hybrid Systems’.
Being able to fulfil the latest communications forms and integrations with ease is something that most new phone systems today now offer. Hybrid systems integrate all forms of communication to enable businesses to operate at their maximum productivity and efficiency.
3.1 Is your system accessible via IP?
3.2 Can your system cater for the use of IP phones, reducing the need for TDM/Analogue expansion modules?
3.3 Are the use of softphones and mobile office solutions available?
3.4 Does your system have to ability to integrate with other systems in your workplace such as CRM and Outlook?
3.5 Can your system use multiple types of line technology (IP and traditional) to offer different call tariffs (this gives you access the most cost effective call charges)?
3.6 Can your system use multiple types of line technology to offer increased reliability through resiliency and redundancy?
To be efficient, a phone system needs to be scalable. It needs the capacity to add new users and the ability to add features and functions. The system needs to be capable of continuing to operate fully as the system is scaled up.
4.1 Does your system have the available capacity to deal with (at least) a 10% increase in staff, without costly upgrades/engineering?
4.2 Does your system have the ability to increase its functions (such as hunt groups, voicemail and licenses)?
4.3 Can the above be achieved without having to purchase upgrades/engineering?
4.4 Do you find that new features are easily available without substantial, time consuming and costly support, training and hardware?
Put simply, if a business phone system is out-of-action, it is at its most inefficient. But I trust this will be the last thing on your mind when you are actually dealing with phone system downtime!
Any piece of technology that needs constant checks or is consistently suffering failures, is a clear sign that an ‘out with the old and in with the new’ approach really needs to be employed.
5.1 Has your system been free of downtime in the last 12 month?
5.2 Has your system remained ‘up’ during essential firmware updates?
5.3 Does your system run a routine maintenance check?
5.4 Does your system alert you of potential threats (such as power issues, licenses, voicemail storage exceeded)?
6. Costly upgrades to software / firmware
A system that can achieve the maximum output with minimum cost and time input is what all business should be striving for; these are the key elements of an efficient system. If you are spending vast amounts of money upgrading software and firmware to access features and functions, you would be better in the long term to simply invest these funds into a new phone system.
6.1 Have you required few essential system upgrades over the past year?
6.2 Are upgrades normally handled without remote or onsite support and further downtime?
6.3 Can your system be upgraded without the need of additional main unit hardware (this excludes handsets)?
6.4 Can you offer softphones to low volume/infrequent users? This reduces hardware expenditure.
7. Paying extra for security features
Every phone system should come equipped with standard security features to stop outsiders from hacking the system and making unauthorized calls (that your business is legally liable for).
Having to pay extra for “standard” security features highlights an inefficient phone system.
7.1 Are you confident that you system is safe from hacking?
7.2 Do you have security measures such as firewall, penetration and intrusion tests in place?
7.3 Can your system detect and block outside threats without the need for an engineer to inform you first?
7.4 Have you or your support team put security measures in place to avoid and minimize hacking and SIP trunk fraud?
If you are mostly answering “no” to the above checks then I’m sorry to say it, but your business is not getting the most from its phone system. It is inefficient; it’s costing too much money for too few / low quality features.
This checklist can hopefully be used to pin-point real data to back up any suspicions you have about your system. You should be able to highlight specific areas of improvement, and this can be used to support your case for phone system investments. Next we’ll be tackling how to actually overcome these inefficiencies.