One of cloud computing’s main advantages is that it enables a higher level of flexibility in applications. This is especially valuable in phone systems, which have traditionally been facilities-centric – inherently incapable of satisfying today’s more fluid workforce that needs anytime/anywhere communications.
Phone systems today have evolved to encompass much more than traditional features and capabilities by unifying key communications services that a business relies on, such as calling, faxing, video conferencing, and instant messaging as well as mobile and desktop integrations with third party applications like CRM databases all within a single system. While a greater level of flexibility is achieved now that phone systems are part of more sophisticated unified communications systems, the degree of flexibility they provide still varies greatly.
Some systems are limited in the capabilities they offer because of the amount of data that is actually stored in the cloud. Others simply reflect a perpetuation of the facilities-centric paradigm. Because of these differences, getting maximum value from a phone system today requires a full-on leverage of new possibilities. Look for the following capabilities in your next phone system to make sure you and your employees will be happy that you upgraded.
Make new-employee onboarding a snap
Traditional phone systems are notoriously complicated and time-consuming to add new extensions, phones and end user software, and extremely difficult to centralize the system across multiple locations. It no longer has to be that way.
Look for a system that can onboard a new employee in seconds – including assigning devices, permissions, and key profiles at any location – all through an intuitive online portal that helps you manage your system. The time saved will skyrocket when your company spins up a new office location or buys another company; what used to take days will now be finished in hours if the system supports bulk user uploads and profile assignments.
Make it equally easy for employees to work in different offices or even switch office locations
Just as it’s advantageous to easily onboard new employees, it’s important that the equipment can be shared and that the system makes it simple for existing employees to move between locations with no downtime – and certainly without having to involve IT.
If the system stores all user settings 100 percent in the cloud, making them available instantly at login, users should be able to utilize any phone or workspace in any location and gain access to their personalized phone services and settings such as voicemail, contact lists and speed dials, just as easily as they access data services when moving to a new office.
Say goodbye to system-defined feature keys and STAR codes
Office workers and even employees working with customers for years have fumbled with feature-key functions and STAR codes that have to be memorized – causing many to stick with just basic phone functions. Keys also have often been limited to use as speed dials and lines, with any change requiring a phone reboot.
For a phone system that users will really use, look for simple access to a rich set of desktop phone features, including the ability to program and activate custom keys from anywhere. When users can quickly enable functions such as do not disturb, forward to voicemail, and forward to coworker on-the-fly, they are far more likely to make the most of these productivity enhancers. For still more productivity gains, look for a system that offers one-touch keys, click-to-call, presence, chat, meetings, and integrations.
Integration with business application and mobility
Legacy systems are hardware based which isolates voice communications from other business applications and only allows forwarding calls to mobile devices.
In today’s online environment applications like Skype for Business, Google and CRM systems are critical to creating a good customer experience. A system that integrates seamlessly with these applications to enable click to call, directory integration and single sign-on are quickly becoming productivity boosters. For users that work remotely or travel often, mobile applications that keep them connected with their business phone, chat and company directories are also a huge benefit.
Digital convenience should extend to service and support as well
In the traditional service model for phone systems, getting a trouble ticket and checking ticket status meant calling the manufacturer’s account rep. That’s a pretty outdated concept of service.
For service and support convenience, the system should offer a consolidated, online means for accessing all customer support options, from online bill-pay and submitting trouble tickets to adding phones/softphones, locations, features, mobile apps, connectors, fax users and groups. If the system also offers online chat and a knowledgebase of answers from experts and peers, that 24/7 convenience can mean super-fast problem resolution regardless of the time of day or night – all from your online portal.
Focus on business analysis – no data assembly required
Phone systems generate a wealth of business data, yet manually organizing it often requires more time than actual analysis. With the right system, you’ll no longer have to download raw data for pre-analysis organization.
Look for a phone system that offers full transparency, with both built-in and user-defined reports plus graphical views that provide instant analysis. Extra bonus: Get reports that can be exported directly to your existing in-house reporting tools, such as Salesforce.
Do you or your users actually like your old phone system?
Thanks to cloud computing – and system innovations in general – today’s truly advanced phone systems offer a huge leap over yesterday’s. With a little homework and consideration of key factors, you’ll be ready to partner with a truly advanced solution that performs as your enterprise really needs it to.
Austin Herrington is Vice President of Enterprise Voice Product Management for Windstream. He oversees Windstream’s enterprise product strategy and roadmap. He and his team develop, manage and market advanced products and services offered to customers nationwide, executing programs to help businesses achieve a perpetual state of winning. He was previously director of product management responsible for Windstream’s Internet portfolio and value-added services. Prior to joining Windstream in 2006, Herrington was director of product management for Alltel. He holds an MBA from the University of Arkansas’ Sam M. Walton College of Business.