There is no such thing as a simple business phone system anymore.
The business phone systems that populate the current marketplace are technologically sophisticated creatures with a full range of features and integration capabilities. As a result, it's more important than ever to thoroughly research and vet prospective vendors.
When you're in the market for a new phone system, your ability to assess vendor quality will directly affect the success of the system itself. Business phone systems are almost always sold by dealers, rather than manufacturers. In most cases, the dealer handles not only the sale, but also system installation and maintenance. Direct comparisons between dealers and products aren't necessarily straightforward. Here are some of the questions you'll need to ask to make an informed purchasing decision.
- What services do they provide? The first issue to address is the services the dealer provides. Although installation and maintenance services are standard in the industry, don't make any assumptions. Ask the dealer to clearly describe what services they offer and who will provide them (i.e. the dealer or a subcontractor).
- How much experience do they have? A long history in the industry doesn't automatically translate into dealer or vendor expertise. What you're looking for is a dealer who has a high number of successful installations of the phone system you are purchasing. Avoid a scenario in which you are a guinea pig for a new technology or system application.
- What features do they offer? The process of selecting a phone service can be confusing, primarily because there are so many features on the market. But not all dealers or products offer the same features. Make a list of the features that are most important to you and use it to guide your conversations with dealers.
- Can you test drive the system? Obviously it's not feasible to ask the dealer to install several different systems just for the purpose of a test drive. However, most dealers offer the ability to test various systems at another location, either in a showroom or in the field.
- How do they handle maintenance and service? Maintenance and service considerations should be at the top of your list when you start talking with vendors and dealers. Sooner or later, your system will crash. When that happens, you need a dealer service agreement that includes a response time of four hours or less. Premium 24/7 or immediate response times are available for an additional fee, but the best dealers also offer efficient, remote maintenance features.