Buying a phone system is not easy. It's especially not easy for busy business owners who are barely getting their hands dirty using social media.
Kent Hellebust; Telanetix Chief Marketing Officer and General Manager, Individual and Digital Phone Services shares his advice on purchasing a phone system.
The current state of the economy has forced many small businesses to rethink everything from company structure to daily overhead costs. But deciding what equipment and services are necessary to keep your business afloat can be daunting and tedious for many financially strapped small businesses.
Every small business must now ask themselves- what services are absolutely necessary to keep daily operations running smoothly? Well obviously, you will need phones to keep your business running. But with the current market overwhelmed by phone service vendors offering “deals” on solutions for your company- how can you differentiate the pretenders from the legitimate vendors?
Here are some tips to consider in the small business search for an ideal phone service provider. Remember, phone service is really a combination of the proper equipment and the proper service, including all the business features and functionality you will need. Affordability does not have to mean “cheap service”, and your choice should be what’s best for your business not the vendor.
1. Consider VoIP. VoIP technology is the most rapidly growing segment in the telecommunications market, offered by all the major players. In general, a VoIP business line runs between $25 and $30 a month, versus a traditional business phone line running between $40 and $60. The price is much better because the technology is much more cost effective than older technology, and most vendors pass this savings on to you
2. If you are more than a sole consultant or one person shop, consider a true phone system (either a Key System or a full PBX). Phone systems deliver a huge savings lever called “line leverage”, in which one business line can be used to support 2 or 3 phones. This cuts the monthly cost of the phone line per person by 50% or 66%! Phone systems used to only be available to businesses with at least 15 to 20 employees, but new technology makes systems available to businesses with even fewer employees, giving them the opportunity for additional savings.
3. If you need to buy new phones to take advantage of new technology, look for a deal. They’re out there. Some providers will give you a discount on the equipment if you are willing to sign up for a 2 or 3 year contract. Others will provide you financing options, just like the car companies do to purchase a new car. Small businesses need to avoid large upfront equipment charges, and with the options available in the market today, they can do so, and still gain the phone system advantages that larger companies enjoy..
4. Beware of hidden installation fees. Buying a new phone system can come with a truck and an installation technician, who can charge you anywhere from $100 to $1,000 to install your equipment and phone wiring. There are systems available from value-conscious retailers like Costco Wholesale that don’t require this. Don’t spend money you don’t need to.
5. Take advantage of the new technology. Traditionally, it cost $100 per phone to install wiring in your home or office. Then, if you want to change the location of your phone, you have to pay the fee again! New wireless technology allows you to avoid this charge by buying a simple $35 wireless adapter, so you can put your business phone anywhere you want it.
6. When buying a rate plan, make sure to shop for a good unlimited long distance plan. Paying per minute charges is not something you should be doing in 2009, except for international calls. Even then, shop for competitive rates, as there are alternative providers that charge a fraction of what traditional telephone companies charge.
7. Look for a risk-free trial period, or money-back guarantee. If you are getting new service, new equipment, or both, you don’t want to find out after a week or two that you are dissatisfied, but have been locked into a two or three year contract.
You should have a few weeks at the beginning of any new service to evaluate whether it meets your needs, and you should have the same trial period for any phone equipment you purchase.
Phone service is necessary for your business, but now more than ever you have the power to manage the costs and features that are associated with it.
Ramon Ray is the editor and tech evangelist for Smallbiztechnology.com