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SMALL BUSINESS PHONE SYSTEMS GUIDE UK – UPDATED JULY 2019
Every business wants to choose the best small business phone system for their needs. Being able to communicate with the outside world is all too often a commodity we take for granted. Every day, we open the office, the hum of the server stack whirrs away in the background and then we fire up our computers, ready for a day’s trade ahead. Nestled away somewhere on our desk is our businessphone system. Always on, always ready. But, is your small business phone system the right one for your business? Have you looked at the business phone system options available? Are you cost driven or functionality driven? What could an integrated phone system do for your business? Whether you want to replace your existing phone system or are looking for a new business phone system we can help.
What is a phone system?
A phone system is when numerous telephones are connected to a public telephone network through a private exchange network, VOIP or a KSU to allow businesses to communicate through multiple phone lines or the internet. Phone systems have advanced features and functionality such as call forwarding, auto attendant, voicemail and call logging.
Let’s look at the basics of phone systems first.
Most small businesses throughout the UK use a very basic phone system and broadband package provided by which ever supplier they choose. On the face of it, this isn’t actually a terrible thing. If you’re one of those small businesses, you will likely be getting adequate coverage and a cheap monthly cost to boot. So why would you even consider changing?
Why Choose a Business Phone System for your small business?
Well here are a few things you should consider when choosing a small business phone system;
Yep, you might think your current provider is cheap, but you will be surprised. Certainly, if you’re with a large telecoms provider there will be savings to be madejust by switching to smaller providers.
Let talk about line rental firstly. There are in fact 2 types of line rental;
Wholesale – The rates that large telecom providers charge smaller providers for usage of their network.
Retail – The inflated cost providers pass onto customers, sometimes the profit margins are enormous. This is why switching to another provider can often save you a bit of money.
Now the trick is looking around to see if there are business phone system providers that are selling just above their wholesale rates in a bid to attract custom. You won’t have to look far, there are quite a few around.
When you have had a true comparison of what is available cost wise, you can then make an informed decision about whether changing telecom provider is in your best interest. It is worth addressing the steps below before making the choice though.
Do you have the functionality you need? We are in the age of information, gathering information about our business phone calls should be simple. The truth is though that many businesses don’t even monitor sales staff on calls. Even worse many businesses don’t have the in-built functionality to do that even if they wanted to.
Lets setup a scenario. A phone system that is able to monitor calls enable you to be able to tell the difference between your top salesperson and your weakest. It could also give you the insight to fix the problem; it could be something as routine as closing properly. Think about the gap in revenue between your top salesperson makes to your weakest. Now think about how much of a difference it would make to your company if you were able to close that gap.
Okay, we have worked out call monitoring is important. It provides a lot of raw data and information that is going nowhere unless you have the time to sit and manually input it into a spreadsheet.
What you need is a business telephone system that not only tracks calls in real time but also logs and records them for you. Many telephone systems will even integrate with your CRM from providers such a salesforce. Most of the big telecoms providers won’t have that functionality as they expect clients to work around their offering. Small and medium telecoms providers often go that extra mile to build a business telephone system offering that works around your business. Sometimes, even paying a little extra is worth having for the quality of service.
That’s right, you can use your business phone system to market to your clients while they wait on hold. It could be selling to your next prospect before they even reach you. Some phone systems have integrated automated messages that allow your team to put the next troubleshooting call through to a pre-recorded how to fix it guide. Freeing up their time to get onto the next call and sell.
With the right phone system at your disposal you have no more missed sales opportunities and enhanced sales prospects.
It could do wonders for your brand and reputation. Here’s a fun fact, the majority of customers prefer to watch “how to videos” or listen to “how to recordings.” rather speak to a staff member. So, it is building a trusted and well-regarded image of your company and brand in the process.
What are the different types of small business phone systems?
There are 4 main types of business phone system. Below is a simple rundown of each one. This will help you avoid confusion when dealing with a telecoms company and make an informed choice about which type you need. We also have a couple of articles going into a bit more depth on PBX and VOIP. Be sure to check those two out if you think they may suit your business best.
Key KSU Less
Standard, basic and cost effective (no added cost for installation of a central box) phone system that is ideal for small companies. Typically, this would benefit companies with up to 5 employees who are just looking for a phone that works. Advantage of a KSU Less phone system is its portable and flexible. Maintenance is often down to the customer rather than the telecoms company. They tend not to be interested in spending money to maintain their entry level business phone systems.
KSU (Key System Unit)
Chances are, if you haven’t had a VOIP or PBX phone system installed then this will be the phone system you have. KSU stands for Key System Unit. These systems rely on a central box (unit) to regulate connectivity across multiple lines. KSU is useful for companies ranging from 5 to 100 employees. Some call centres even use KSU so it is a robust system. KSU phone systems are easy to use and are comparable to the home telephone system. Maintenance is often done by customers in collaboration with a telecoms company.
PBX (Private Branch Exchange Systems)
If you have a large company of over 75 employees, then a PBX system is likely to suit our needs. PBX stands for Private Branch Exchange. With all the functionality of KSU but more flexibility. PBX systems allows companies to have greater control over their phone systems. They include a full range of customisable features that a KSU system likely lacks. PBX systems are highly scalable and the flexible. They allows businesses to configure the system to meet changing business need. Maintenance is almost always done by the telecoms company. As it is considered both a premium system it has intricacies that may prove too complex for the average client.
VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol Systems)
You have probably heard of VOIP. It is an increasingly popular and robust system that integrates with company CRM system. VOIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. A VOIP phone system does away with traditional phone system workings and instead uses the internet to send and receive calls. This means that a VOIP system can serve your remote employees as well as those in the office. It has a lot of the functionality of a PBX system. Plus it has the flexibility of being able to use your company phone line (same phone number) anywhere in the world that has an internet connection.
Cloud Based Telephone Systems
Cloud based telephone systems provide several benefits for small businesses. Hosted in the cloud and on a secure server online they can be accessed from anywhere and are extremely easy to maintain. It more cost effective than traditional phone systems and as everything can be stored digitally many businesses are starting to use cloud based telephone systems as their preferred choice.
I hope you have found the above relatively jargon free so far and has hopefully it has helped you have a better understand not only what phone systems are available but more importantly how beneficial it can be to have the correct phone system for your business. Upfront costs aside, having a smarter phone system can increase sales and reduce wasted staff hours along the way. Now let’s look at some of the top phone system providers for small businesses.
Top 20 Best Small Business Phone System Providers UK
Avaya is a global leader in providing office phone systems. With a wide portfolio of products and services they can cater to a company’s office phone system needs no matter the business size. Avaya systems are widely used by businesses not only to make and receive calls but to bring together conferencing, messaging and customer management into a single expandable system. Our rating (5 / 5)
Mitel phone systems are designed to improve efficiency and productivity. With a vast range of phone systems services Mitel have a solution for all businesses no matter the size. If your business is going through growth the phone systems are flexible enough to scale. Mitel’s highly affordable and powerful business phone system ideal for SMEs or large companies. Our rating (4.5 / 5)
3. 8 X 8
With attractive rates and market leading tech, 8 X 8 is a fantastic telecoms company. They focus mainly on VOIP systems that integrate with your existing CRM. Award winning services and customer help combine to make 8 x 8 a must check company on your road to finding the perfect phone system. They also pack in a whole lot of features that will keep you finding new things that the system can do for months to come. Although they are priced competitively, 8 x 8 isn’t the cheapest option on the market. Our rating (4.5 / 5)
BBT has specifically catered to the small to medium business market with their product Quantum. Allowing up to 48 users it should suffice for many small businesses and small call centres. The product is fast, reliable and full of functionality that will be enticing for small business up and down the country. The only problem? Well, it’s BT. When things do go wrong, customer service is lacking and often, ironically for a telecoms company, communication breaks down. Our rating (3 / 5)
Another big telecom name makes it onto our list. CISCO aim to create bespoke VOIP system solutions for small businesses. With a bunch of innovative features and a customer focused approach, CISCO has a refreshing take on VOIP systems. The only hitch? They are often not anywhere near the cheapest and other providers do offer more functionality. Our rating (4 / 5)
The first big tech company to wade on to our list. Panasonic has many products available, however, their KX-TES824 system is the one aimed at small enterprises. Panasonic provides great tech and functionality as well as a surprisingly competitive price package. The only downside is that compatibility with other tech isn’t optimal. That means Panasonic might not integrate as well as other systems with your company. Our rating (3 / 5)
Samsung are a huge name in the telecommunications market. Probably best known in the present day for the top of the range mobile handsets they provide to consumers Samsung are also huge in the business sector. They range of business telephone systems can cater to businesses of all sizes and their VOIP solution are some of the best in the market. Our Rating (3.5 / 5)
NEC claim to understand the needs of small businesses better than any other business in the telecommunications market. They have a range of communication products designed for small and medium sized businesses seeking an integrated approach. NEC phone systems are flexible, simple to use and are highly scalable in accordance to your businesses growth. Our Rating (4 / 5)
9. Virgin Media
Virgin Media’s business phone systems are known to be highly reliable due to the virgin owned fibre-optic network they run on. Packed with features Virgin offer 24/7 support, customisation and cost-effective bundles and tariffs. Our Rating (3 / 5)
10. Elite Telecom.
Elite is a premium service aimed at small business but with a lot of functionality as well. The Elite system is also one of the better looking phone systems providing a nice aesthetic to your office. It is a great option for successful small businesses that are looking to grow over the next year. Unlike other systems, Elite is a great system to support growth. It does come at a cost though so don’t expect the cheapest quote from them. Our rating (4 / 5)
11. AudioOffice iPhone Companion.
This is an innovative product that turns your Iphone into your telephone system. Ideal for one-man small businesses this is a brilliant way to get all of the functionality of your Iphone as well as functionality of a landline phone. The hybrid system is not that feature rich, relying instead on the functionality of the IOS system. It is also not a particularly cheap option. Given its almost non-existent scalability if your business is looking to grow then this probably won’t be the system for you. If you simply don’t want to put your iPhone down, then this is a real treat. Our rating (2 / 5)
12. Skype Business.
Another big name, another big offering of functionality and features. Another big price point. If you have used Skype before the interface and usability of Skype Business will be familiar, allowing you to hit the ground running. The system will fairly basic; but wrapped up in a Skype bow. Pricing is not very competitive and although you would expect Skype to pioneer with lots of options, they don’t. Our rating (3 / 5)
A cloud based VOIP system that focuses on SMS, MMS and marketing solutions. This is a great system if you often communicate with your customers or prospects by way of text message. Competitively priced as well, which makes for an all-round solid system. They may not be as feature rich as other providers, but they are still extremely functional on a small business level. Our rating (4 / 5)
Another of the cloud-based telephone systems that operates much like Skype, except its global offering isn’t quite as extensive. Allowing numbers in 30 different countries worldwide this company is a brilliant and relatively inexpensive option for small multi-national companies. Features again are not as exhaustive as other providers, but they fit their niche like a glove. Our rating (3.5 / 5)
15. TalkTalk Business.
A big company and a small price make TalkTalk’s business offering a refreshing option. Saving considerably on BT’s offering TalkTalk positions itself at the value end of the market. Solid and simple tech and good functionality make it an even more attractive package. If you go wrong though, customer service is not always as simple as one would hope and being a large company don’t expect any dedicated service. Our rating (3 / 5)
16. Lily Comms
Lily comms provide award winning phone systems to over 2,500 businesses across the UK. The company pride themselves in providing tailored solutions to their customers, as well as helping them to maximise efficiency and save on costs. Our rating (3.5 / 5)
Vonage believe in revolutionising business communication. With over 15+ year providing cloud based phone systems they are considered a trend setting in the VoIP market. Vonage’s business cloud phone cloud system offers flexibility, control and enables businesses to work smarter everyday. Our rating (4.5 / 5)
Ringcentral believe in creating a world where everyone is free to work together effortlessly. They work closly with their customers to reinvent and innovate the communications industry. As the number 1 Cloud communication provider worldwide Ringcentral provide a wide range of phone system solutions suitable for businesses of any size. Our rating (4.5 / 5)
19. XLN Phone Systems
XLN provide cloud based phone systems which are aimed at small businesses. Both their cordless and desktop phones are packed with all the features a small business would need out of a phone system such as auto attendant, ability to port numbers, call forwarding, call logging, voicemail features and many more. Our rating (3 / 5)
4Com pride themselves in providing phone systems to the UK SME market. With over 10,000 in the UK alone using their PBX and cloud based phone systems they have a good understanding on what communication means to businesses. With a wide range of business phones, improving software and UK based support they are becoming a popular choice for small businesses. Our rating (3 / 5)
All businesses requires a phone system. Whether if you are running a small one man operation or a large corporate business being able to communicate effectively with customers is key. Unlike in our personal lives......