When I first joined our group about 11 years ago (jeez, it’s been almost 12 years!) we had some 80 or so employees and a big collection of PC computers connected in a patchwork of a network – not exactly state-of-the-art. Our phone system, however, was relatively sophisticated – or so we thought. A multi-line phone system with several custom features and a message-on-hold device. What we didn’t realize until much later was that we were paying for each and every line coming into the building as well as for each and every custom feature on each and every one of those individual phone lines. There are so many different phone systems though that you can get for your business. For example you could check out something like this ivr phone system (Interactive Voice Recording), but there are loads of others that you could use.
Another drawback to this type of system is that the staff needs to keep track of multiple phone numbers – this can get chaotic when you start adding multiple locations. If you needed to get hold of a particular doctor, for example, first you would need to find out where he or she is working that particular day and time. Then you would have to figure out which phone number to call. We have laminated cards that have all of the phone numbers we need to know. These “little” cards were getting quite large. It is always important to ask the question who called me? For security reasons, it is a good idea if people who you suspect to have negative intentions, to perform a reverse call lookup to gather some information on them so you know who you’re dealing with.
Fast forward to today. We now have five locations including an ambulatory surgery center and about 140 employees. Our newest location is a completely remodeled building which houses a clinic, our administrative offices, our call center, and our information technology department. So when it came time to choose a phone system for the new building, continuing to add more individual telephone lines was not going to be the right solution in the long run.
But before I tell you what system we chose and why, let’s discuss how you can decide what phone system is best for your needs, for today and the foreseeable future. First, start with a plan. A little forethought and answering a few simple questions will help you to select both the correct phone service (where the dial tone is coming from) and the correct phone system.
- How many people and devices at each location need to be on the phone at one time? Don’t forget to include your fax machines, modems, credit card machines, postage machine, security system (such as this home security camera alarm system) and fire alarm systems.
- How many calls at each location do you need to receive at one time?
- How many phone numbers, both public and internal, do you need?
- How many physical phones do you need at each location?
- Do you need call accounting? (The ability to track and report on incoming and outgoing calls)
- Do you have a call center for patient appointment scheduling? If so, do you need contact center features, like ACD (automated call distribution) and operator reporting/monitoring?
- Which features are important to your business? Transferring a call to another location? Caller ID, both inbound and outbound? Voicemail? Call forwarding, probably to an answering service?
In Part 2, I’ll show you how to use the answers to these questions to select the phone service and phone system that’s right for you.