Office phone systems differ a great deal from the standard phone seen in most homes. They often involve the installation of multiple phone lines that terminate in one location. These phone lines are then connected to the phone system for distribution to multiple extensions.
When shopping for office phone systems, the number of extensions and call volume play a large role in the size and type of system that is needed. For small offices, many large phone system manufacturers have small systems that are designed for offices for 20 or less users. For large businesses, an enterprise wide solution involves connecting one or more office locations into one phone system. This type of office phone installation can be quite complex and requires multiple phone lines in the form of T-1’s or specialized circuits. These types of circuits are designed for high call volume and are more cost-effective when dealing with large businesses such as call centers.
In smaller offices with 20 or less users, typically only basic functionality is needed. Voice mail, transferability, conferencing ability, and direct inward dialing are usually all that’s required. Additionally, some businesses prefer to have an auto attendant route calls when they first come into the phone system. This negates the need to have an operator or other person transfer calls. Music on hold is another benefit that many businesses like to utilize while the customer is waiting to speak to an employee. Not limited to music, the business can play promotional messages or other items of interest while customers are waiting.
In large scale operations, there are many more features that could be utilized by the business. These features are generally preferred by executives or call centers where additional functionality is needed. In addition to the basic features for small businesses, the large business will often need a more robust system were call volume is high. The system purchased for this purpose should be able to meet the demands of this high call volume and route calls quickly and efficiently Most office phone systems intended for large businesses have standard features such as call forwarding, call parking,, call monitoring and levels of security to limit which extensions can call which area codes. However, depending on the nature of the business, there are additional features that will be required.
An attendant console is needed when a business employs an operator. The attendant console has the number of buttons needed and the capability to receive and route a large number of calls. The specialized functionality of the attendant console is specific to operator functions. Not all phone systems have the ability to add an attendant console.
Call center environments are where the phone system becomes the most critical. Features like automatic call distribution are then a necessity to efficiently route calls based on the nature of the call and the abilities of the person taking the call. Known as split/skills, these groups are set up with agent extensions based on the skills of the agents and the nature of the call. The phone system then routes calls to these groups based on caller selection and the number dialed. In a call center environment, the office phone installation will include the addition of a predictive dialer that can interface with the phone system. The dialer automatically makes and receives calls based on pre-entered criteria. This is commonly seen in call centers where customer service or account collection activity occurs. This allows the business to make the necessary calls without relying on human intervention. The calls made or received by the dialer are automatically routed to agents. Some phone systems come with integrated dialers, however most call centers operating on a large scale have a dialer that is outside the phone system so that they can adequately handle higher call volume.
For a small office phone installation, setup and configuration usually requires minimal effort. Once the wiring is in place and the phone company has terminated the phone lines, the office phone system can be installed and configured with the required number of extensions. Most of these systems can be configured in under two hours and then the business can begin making and receiving calls. For large installations, greater planning is needed and multiple locations are usually integrated using a phased approach. Because of the complexity of these systems, it’s preferred to validate one location is working on the new system prior to bringing on the next. In the case of a completely new system, the phased approach is less critical and all sites can be brought online at the same time.
Choosing from one of the many office phone systems will be much easier when the needs of the business are considered prior to purchase. This will help to determine which features are vital to the day to day operation and which features will improve efficiency and performance overall.
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