Choosing a Phone System to Fit Your Facility
People either love or hate their telephones. Whether talking about personal or business use, a telephone becomes an extension of our personalities, and the right phone helps users communicate without effort, taking stress out of their day. The wrong phone reduces staff productivity and increases overhead. When selecting a phone system, facilities managers should be aware of several issues as they shop: What features are important to your users? What is the cost of purchasing and using specific products? Is the phone system known for reliability? Durability? Flexibility? Can the system accommodate the staff members who need service?
Before you are overwhelmed with choices, ask, “How will we use this phone?” In addition to basic sending and receiving of phone calls, what other features will help you work efficiently? What can you live without? This is not a personal phone, where users need to access social media, text their kids and post photos of their lunch. Think about applications that are truly needed to run the business, and you can trim a huge bit off your phone bills.
Consider functions that enhance operating fluidity. Make a list of common communication needs that you see daily. How many phone lines do you need? Who makes outside business calls? Where can two-way radios work for you? Can your warehouse manager call for assistance to handle an arriving shipment? Can you notify your security staff about a suspicious activity or a customer with a medical emergency needing assistance? Two-way radios can be used for these in-house calls, saving time and money, if your radio is secure and private.
Unless you are using a virtual phone service that works with cell phones only, you will need to choose (or know what you will be using) in terms of service providers. Will you be using a traditional land line, or a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) system, which can be self-hosted or available for cloud-based communications on a service provider?
Landlines—are the traditional phone systems that most people are familiar with; they are supported by a local phone service company and run on copper wiring. These systems rely on PBX hardware, and several extensions can be run through the system, allowing for call transferring and operator services. These may be the best choice for large businesses that can provide on-going maintenance.
VoIP Systems—rely on internet connections. Most businesses already have the connections, which are also used for online engagement. These systems support many great features, such as automated attendants and voicemail. Messages can be sent to email addresses, or converted to “soft phones.” This type of system is very useful for businesses that include remote workers. Caution should be taken for businesses that are located in areas where internet connection is spotty; however, the VoIP option can be very cost effective for small and medium-sized businesses.
Desk phones are the most common solutions, but the challenge begins when employees need mobility. Today, cordless phones are the preference of most users; they want to be able to walk throughout the facility without losing phone access. While cell phones are quite mobile, they are expensive to operate and they may distract workers with personal calls throughout the day.
Most businesses start with landlines supported by a local phone company. These use on-premise PBX hardware and run multiple extensions. Others have VoIP; both support in-coming and out-going calls. Selecting a system, or knowing which system is in place at a particular location, is the first step in up-dating phone equipment.
Without question, users are best served by wireless phones that allow them to travel through the facility and carry their “offices” with them. With many benefits, these wireless handsets often include a combination of phones and two-way radios (walkie talkies) to meet their various needs. However, some commercially popular phones, especially those intended for home use, lack the ability to preserve connections and quality throughout a business environment. Test any phone under consideration in terms of how it will make your day easier. Could you hear calls in the warehouse? Can you dial out from the parking lot? You never know when you’ll need to contact security or maintenance to handle a hot situation. You need to be able to depend on your phone wherever you wander in and around a site.
While several wireless phone systems function well in small spaces, most businesses need long-range capabilities. When evaluating wireless phones and walkie talkies, consider the size of your facility, parking lot and on-site storage areas. The handsets should be usable throughout your property (including outdoor areas) without compromising service, quality or privacy. Check the range noted by phone manufacturers.
Other Factors to Consider:
Privacy—Select a phone that allows you to protect confidential information. Whether talking to sales agents, the home office, legal consultants, Human Resources, or security, business conversations must be private and protected. Users should ask: Can I discuss prices, or alert loss prevention about on-going activities, without spilling the beans to those who should not have access to your private conversations?
Flexibility in Use with Other Devices—Most businesses have staff members working in such capacities as sales, purchasing, human resources, etc. These team members often need phones to communicate, but a two-radio (walkie talkie) may suffice for most in-house communications. Using hand-held radio phones cuts down on costs, and professional level devices can even receive transferred outside calls from phones in the system. The drawback – or beauty – of this option is that most cannot make phone calls outside of the system. This can help cut out personal use of phones and lost time.
Durability—Let’s be honest: many business operations are concrete jungles. A simple drop on a sales floor will demolish most popular hand-held phones. Think about that phone slipping from the belt of a warehouse worker, dropping a story or more to the loading dock. You can find phones and two-way radios that can withstand these “accidents,” saving costs associated with replacing units and revenue lost by time without a connection.
Past, Present & Future—When selecting a phone system, consider the equipment that you already have in place, and don’t throw that baby out with the bathwater! Some retail locations have a mix of older and newer phones and operating systems in place. If you have usable equipment in your inventory, look for a system that is compatible, and put it into your growth plan. You should also attempt to forecast your company’s future needs. Select a system that can be expanded as you add names to your company directory.
Obvious costs include the price of the system and the service fees for a provider. Accessories and expansion options should also be considered, but the most critical factor to consider may be the phone’s ability to allow your staff members to quickly and efficiently connect with each other, and with clients and other business contacts. You would never want to damage a relationship with an important client with phone-caused interrupts to a conversation, such as a dropped call. A phone that limits personal use can also help your bottom line. Limiting personal calls pays off in spades, and distracted workers are not productive workers.
You can find basic information on company websites, along with customer service connections to answer questions about features, costs, compatibility, warranties, and more. Consider your needs and your options to improve your bottom line.
Connie Jankowski is a media specialist at EnGenius Technologies, maker of DuraFon-UHF, the industry’s only dual mode, long-range, cordless phone system. The system is a complementary addition to any existing telecommunications platform, offering superior long-range performance – with high-powered 900MHz proprietary air protocol, featuring high RF transmission and sensitivity to provide superior range and coverage for the industrial market. Visit www.engeniustech.com to learn more.