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discover what type of phone system buyer you are

discover what type of phone system buyer you are

After three plus decades in this industry has enabled me to develop what I call ‘brilliantly simple’ phone systems. These solutions will make communications and collaboration second nature for your workforce. And of course they save you big dollars in ongoing phone costs… another reason why they are brilliant!

When it comes to telephony technology, I’ve found that many telephone system vendors tend not to spend the time to better understand the needs of each business, trying to sell the product with the latest buzz words to confuse the potential client. It’s not uncommon for inexperienced staff to stretch the truth when it comes to what their telephone systems can do.

I put this document together to help people become aware of the type of buyer they are so their business needs and future options (and pitfalls) are correctly matched with the ideal telephone system.

I’ve been able to piece all of this together because for the better part of my career I’ve installed, maintained and sold Telephone Systems. This has also allowed me to provide sound advice from ‘Feet on the street practical experience. The aim has always been to achieve the best solution and value for money for my clients.

Introducing Greg Eicke

My name is Greg Eicke and I’ve been working at the leading edge of voice communications for the past 35 years. During that time I’ve found the sheer complexity of many phone and data solutions to be a major frustration. The good news is that the complexity and all of its painful implications end with Greg Eicke!

Almost three decades in this industry has enabled me to develop what I call ‘brilliantly simple’ phone systems. These solutions will make communications and collaboration second nature for your workforce. And of course they save you big dollars in ongoing phone costs… another reason why they are brilliant

When it comes to telephony technology, I’ve found that many telephone system vendors tend not to spend the time to better understand the needs of each business, trying to sell the product with the latest buzz words to confuse the potential client. It’s not uncommon for inexperienced staff to stretch the truth when it comes to what their telephone systems can do.

I put this document together to help people become aware of the type of buyer they are so their business needs and future options (and pitfalls) are correctly matched with the ideal telephone system.

I’ve been able to piece all of this together because for the better part of my career I’ve installed, maintained and sold Telephone Systems. This has also allowed me to provide sound advice from ‘Feet on the street practical experience. The aim has always been to achieve the best solution and value for money for my clients.

Background To This Report.

This report is intended to help you identify your most important needs, so you can filter out the techno babble when evaluating which system will best suit your business needs. Your business is unique and has a strong point of difference so you can separate yourself from the challengers. Not dissimilar, phone systems aren’t one and the same either, each has individual unique advantages.

The world is changing very fast and jumping aboard the technology wagon is getting easier every day, just as it is to remain in the status quo. In fact many business owners agreed their technology purchases did not benefit their business in the way it was expected or imagined. The keynote element in this report is to educate you on the fundamentals so you to gain a simple yet strong understanding of the potential pitfalls. Someone else’s experience is the best teacher, read about other business owners who have gone before you.

Appreciating the type of buyer which best describes your business and its unique requirements means you can lead the sales process and remain in control, potentially saving massive amounts of time and money. You’ll also become further aware of slick sales spiel tactics used to gloss over vital considerations.

A genuine professional telecom expert will expand your knowledge revealing concepts where you can gain significant financial advantage. Additionally you’ll be exposed to opportunities to massively improve business processes. A Trusted advisor will more willingly “go the extra mile” for you when viewed as a trusted advisor rather than just another supplier.

“Greg also freely advised, without favour, on solutions which were outside his commercial realm”.

Tim Isaacs – General Manager. –FITEC.

Your business phone system caters to the voice communication requirements of your organisation, managing call traffic, voice mails, hold and transfers etc…. There are a number of telephone systems on the market, KTS (Key Telephone Systems), VoIP and hosted VoIP phone services.

For full comprehensive VoIP phone system check we recommend reading “The 74 Point IP Telephony Check List”.

There are usually 4 types of buyers, they are:

Basics (5 -15 users): Want basic communications, easy to use, low purchase price and low monthly operating costs.

Small Medium Business (15 – 50 users): Well established in business, Larger call volumes, more sophisticated needs, Solution focused, Looking for efficiency and productivity improvements, enjoy and want to take advantage of new technology

Small Enterprises (50 – 250 Users): Want advanced and customised business communication features to suit their complex requirements

Enterprise (250 Plus users): Demand tight integration telephony control, strict service level assurances, Mobility, Remote Worker Access and intricate call routing options.

Product Basics

Basic product features are available with almost all entry level phone systems. Small medium Business’s require more advanced features find themselves looking at established and respected big brand manufacturers like Panasonic, NEC and Samsung. This segment has shown they want reliability, efficiency and productivity improvements at a reasonable cost.

Enterprise telephony solutions cater for specific business needs coupled with a distinct issue to solve. This is the domain of multiple sites, mobile work force, complex software integration, remote workers with focus on redundancy, reliability, availability, and “total cost of ownership.”

The Low Down on Costs

Like most technology based products, the market penetration determines the end user cost, IP Telephony equipment is no different. I’d like to highlight typical costs associated with a typical office in a CBD area of a capital city in Australia.

Did you know?

A typical computer network costs 8 times as much as a VoIP phone system user, so let’s look at business infrastructure costs that almost every business in Australia has. This scenario is based on 50 staff.

 5 – 50 Users Total cost over productive life per user + GST Annual Cost per user + GST Total cost per user per day+ GST  Productive life
Computer Networks $5, 540 $1, 847 $7.10 36 Months
Cat 5 Computer Network Cabling $185 $31 60 Months+
Multi-Function Centre MFC – Copier, Fax, Scanner, Printer $875 $250 75 c 42 Months
Digital Telephone System $1, 120 $224 $1.20 60 Months
VoIP Phone System $1 551 $168 85 c 60 Months+
ExperiencedAdministration Staff $57, 680 $218.00 Per Annum

Buying In-Depth

Phone System Buyer Types

After 35 years at the leading edge of telecommunications, I’ve identified four buyer types when it comes to business telephone systems in Brisbane. I’ve detailed these below to help you better understand where to place your energy so you can avoid the traps and time wasting meetings we’ve all experienced.

Basics Buyers (5 – 15 Staff) want:

  • Trouble-free solutions that is easy to use.
  • Straightforward entry level technology.
  • Low purchase or finance rental cost.
  • Prompt installation.

The most suitable telephone system would be: An entry level Digital Key Telephone System from respected manufacturers like Panasonic, NEC, Samsung, LG Ericsson … etc.

  • Small Business owners tend to be very cost-conscious and usually will rent the phone system on finance over 5 years.
  • Have very basic telephone system needs.

Small Medium Business (15 – 50 Staff) want:

  • Some sophisticated telephony requirements
  • Business efficiency and Staff productivity gains
  • Enjoy new technology

The most appropriate telephone system would be: An enhanced Digital Key system or IP enabled Digital Key System from big brand manufacturers like Panasonic, NEC, Samsung, LG Ericsson. This segment wants the most advanced functionality as possible at basic buyer prices.

  • Would like more advanced business communication characteristics
  • Want possibility of some control over their business phone system
  • Limited internal support

Small Enterprises (50 – 250 Users): Want advanced and customised business communication elements to suit their complex business necessities.

The most suitable telephone system would be: An IP Telephony system such as Zultys, Cisco, Mitel or Avaya …etc. It’s important to understand that some IP phone system vendors deploy Digital Key Handsets to reduce their sale price. The rule of thumb when it comes to identifying a TRUE IP Telephony system is – If the system has or can have Digital Key handsets installed then the system is a legacy system that has been IP enabled.

A valuable example to better understand the potential implications is: Buying a Brand New car fitted with a reconditioned engine. It looks new, sounds new but simply does not perform to the standards of a new car you’d expect.

Sales of this nature are very common in this segment, buyer beware and do your due diligence.

  • Demand advanced business communication features.
  • Internal Personnel support IT and Telephony systems.
  • Third party software integration like CRM’s is a must.
  • Service provider redundancy options can be required.
  • Fail safe redundancy system is a high priority.
  • Rapid technical support response.
  • Ongoing reliable technical support for the life of the system.

Enterprise (250 Plus users): Demand high technical level of knowledge from all staff participating in the sale process. Their feature needs are very similar to Small Enterprises, however the complexity of multiple sites means each requirement is amplified.

The most suitable telephone system would be: A pure IP Telephony system such as Zultys, ShoreTel, Cisco, Mitel …etc. A very important point to consider when entertaining multiple site phone systems is redundancy. What happens if my Data Network fails, What happens if my CEO can’t dial his personal assistant, what happens if we have a telephone system failure, what happens if we have a natural disaster. These are all critical points and need to be addressed in very fine detail.

Redundancy is often glossed over by sales people who either don’t know or can’t provide a TRUE redundant solution with 100% fail safe regardless of any failure. Some phone systems like Mitel and Avaya need an identical set of equipment (at your expense) to sit beside the working unit just in case of a failure. There are much smarter ways to achieve redundancy and fail safe systems without the high cost of duplicate redundant equipment.

Sales of this nature are very common in this segment, buyer beware and do your due diligence.

  • Demand advanced business communication features.
  • Internal Personnel support IT and Telephony systems.
  • Third party software integration like CRM’s is a must.
  • Service provider redundancy options can be required.
  • Fail safe redundancy system is a high priority.
  • Rapid technical support response.
  • Ongoing reliable technical support for the life of the system.

Uncomplicated Features or Essential Requirements

Almost every business has 5 basic needs of their phone system, they are make a call, take a call, hold, transfer and speed dial. Every entry level telephone system will provide these elementary features. Most business big or small has the same fundamental common requirements varying slightly from business to business. It is commonplace for buyers in this category to not notice any variations among the vendor’s offerings when it comes to basic features.

Some of the more common features that a phone system must have to address include:

  1. Incoming call management features:
  • Call forward – redirect the incoming calls to a specified number
  • Call transfer – direct a call to an extension without routing to the central switchboard
  • Call park – place a call on hold, allowing anyone to dial an extension and pick up the call
  • Call hold – enables the user to put a caller on hold while a second call is answered or made
  • Camp on – a call can wait for a busy extension to become free; the diallers’ extension will ring with the call when the originally dialled extension is free
  • Call wait – receive a tone or a light indicating that another call is waiting for attention
  • Call pick up – take a parked call off hold
  • Call recording – feature to record a conversation or a conference call
  • Do not disturb – ability to ignore all incoming calls; it can be achieved by keeping the ringer on “mute” mode or by keeping the phone on “busy” mode
  1. Outgoing call management features
  • Direct inward dialling (DID) – allows users of the phone system to connect directly to desired extension without the operator’s assistance
  • Speed dialling – allows for fast dialling of frequently called numbers
  • Monitoring features – such as Caller ID, displaying the number and/or name of the caller
  • Reporting features – allow users to capture and monitor their phone usage. One such feature is Call Accounting, an application that captures and records the call data placed to or made from the telephone system.
  • Voice mail box (and voice mail features) – a system that receives and manages telephone messages from callers when the call is not received
  • User directories – personalised user directories to update name, address and other details
  • Basic three-way conferencing – allows a number of users to have a conference meeting
  • Password-protected security features – to prevent unauthorised access to voice mail, for example

Complex Features – Top Requirements

Most companies have communication requirements that are very specific to their business. An overview of advanced features includes:

  1. Advanced call management features
    • Call queuing – a method of handling calls until they are answered
    • Call Centre Features – Real time display of Calls, Agents and Queues. Comprehensive reporting and call handling.
    • Hunt groups – a group of extensions organised in a specific order to process some particular calls
    • Twinning – transferring the call from a landline to a mobile phone without any interruption
    • Night Service – re-routing incoming calls at night or at specific time to an external destination
    • Find me/follow me – an extension of call forward feature; call is forwarded to multiple numbers in a specified sequence
    • Remote Working – Easily access from home or while travelling to all the features you’d have at your office desk.
  1. Automated call routing features
  • Automated attendant (AA) – an automated system designed to answer and route incoming calls; guides a caller through the options of a voice menu
  • Automated call distribution (ACD) – a specialised device for handling and routing large volumes of incoming calls to designated stations in a predefined order
  • Software Integration – allows users to integrate their devices (fax machine, mobile phones, and so forth) and applications (Microsoft Outlook, CRM applications, and the like)
  1. Computer Telephony Integration (CTI)

This means software, processes and interfaces that integrate computer applications with telephone networks to provide more efficient customer interaction and reporting mechanisms; the two most commonly used applications that ensue from CTI technology are:

  • Browser-based system administration – Web interface that allows users to customise their phone system setup (configuring the actions of auto attendant, for example)
  • Soft phone support – allows users to make and receive calls on their computers
  • IVR (Interactive Voice Response) – a software application that enables users to input information by voice or to enter data using keypads
  • Unified messaging – a single messaging infrastructure accessible through a computer or a telephone that manages voice, fax and email messages
  • Advanced teleconferencing – includes multiple bridges for unlimited participants
  • Advanced voice mail features – includes voice mail–to-email forwarding
  • Advanced security features – such as tools to audit security status of every extension in the system or advanced password security configuration procedures
  • Advanced reporting features – providing customized reports on call details, real time status of call queues, system events, users
  1. Advanced Telephony Equipment Features

Terms like “Availability”, “Reliability”, “Expandability”, “Seamless” tend to explain the hardware features.

  • Some manufacturers must have a separate server to operate the complex features of the telephony. Additional purchase price for hardware, Licencing and continuous upkeep should be considered very carefully.
  • Hardware Reliability: Traditional Telephony equipment is very reliable and there is no reason why you wouldn’t expect the same form a VoIP phone system. You see traditional telephone systems usually operate on a “Real Time” software system and have no moving parts to fail. Whereas Servers have moving Hard Disk Drives which have a typical life of approximately 3 years. Redundancy Hard Disk Drives is imperative in any VoIP phone system.
  • VoIP phone systems require “Real Time” operating systems – Unfortunately for vendors like Asterix, Windows is not a real time operating system. No “hour glass” icons allowed with VoIP phone systems!
  • Power back up is critical and must allow a “graceful” shut down in the event of complete power loss. You see a server is very power hungry requiring a substantial Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS) to maintain acceptable telephone service to your Enterprise. If you server provides “Dial Tone” then you are open to potential down time failures unless precautions are taken.


Budget For the Full Price of the Project

Be sure to budget the entire project and to make sure you forecast costs to cover the Total Cost of ownership (TCO).

Pricing comprises the following three components:

  • Start-up cost (includes setup, hardware and installation costs) – You can expect at least $5,000 for a complete standard PBX system for the smallest offices. The cost can easily scale to as much as $10,000 to $25,000 for a 20 to 40 person office. Additional/advanced features come at additional cost.
  • Warranty and onsite maintenance cost – This includes the technical time, annual maintenance, license fees, and the cost for the services on call.
  • Internal staffing cost – This includes the cost incurred by maintaining a team to manage the on-premise system.
  • Data connection – If data connection must be upgraded to private IP, your per-month cost can be as follows:
  • Analog Line Rental – $35 to $42 per line per month
  • Standard business calling charges.
  • Advanced features charges – Adding advanced features, such as ACD, computer integration, conference bridges, call queues and call features, can raise your total monthly bill significantly depending on features added.
  • DSL connection: $250 to $650
  • Ethernet Over Copper Services: $300 to $2900
  • ISDN 10-20-30 connection: $1 800 to $3 000
  • New network switch and router – $1 200 to $1 800

What Other Buyers Have Said – What to Watch Out For

In the past 35 years I’ve learnt that buyers mainly have dissatisfaction in 3 areas. These are Sales person’s product knowledge, Project management/ deployment of the solution and finally after sales support.

Things to Consider About Your Potential Vendor

Sales Process

Identifying the vendor that can best meet your requirements can be challenging, as most vendors offer similar feature sets. I’ve learnt that, most of the buyers did not notice any differences in the sets of basic features when comparing products from different vendors. Therefore, besides product and cost considerations, vendor partnering becomes a strategic part of your decision. Make sure that you have all the information and ask the right questions before selecting a vendor.

Contribution from existing customers is a valuable source of unbiased information. Discussions with current customers as well as detailed feedback on vendor Web sites and independent third-party platforms can help identify best practices for vendor relations.

Implementation Process

After you have identified the vendor and the product, the next step is to ensure smooth transition from old to new. A number of factors must be considered to ensure a seamless implementation. A good sign to look for is when the vendor schedules a “projecting meeting”, this is where the dedicated project manager sits down with your team to ask you precisely how you want your new phone system set up. Details such as Staff names, existing extension numbers, office plan and layout, call routing plans, what to do after hours, who check voice mails…etc. Technical staff configure the system as you discuss your requirements so you can get on with business during deployment and not have a technician chasing you around all day asking how you want the system to work.

If the implemented phone solution fails to meet basic expectations there is a high possibility that you did not evaluate your existing network infrastructure adequately before carrying out the implementation. Perform a thorough application audit to determine whether the current network infrastructure can effectively support applications that are responsible for voice quality and other related parameters.

Prepare a comprehensive to-do list (74 point check list) for yourself as well as for the vendor. Involve the vendor at each step of the implementation process. Seek insight into areas about which you need more clarity. This level of involvement is key, as reflected in the end result. Buyers who interacted with the vendors during the implementation phase resulted in an ideal solution deployed exactly as they wanted.

After almost three decades in the telecommunications industry I’d recommend the following rules during the implementation process:

  • Be clear and specific about your requirements.
  • Have a complete understanding of the technical infrastructure requirements of the site where the system will be implemented.
  • Understand how the new system integrates with the existing hardware.
  • Keep a backup of your data.
  • Prepare a checklist of all the important activities, with a timeline to be followed.
  • Maintain close contact with the vendor and seek clarification on each step.
  • Consult with other customers and seek advice on the process they followed.

Support Process

Post-sales support is critical and often overlooked even by the most experienced buyers. As downtime impacts on business performance and let’s face it, we can’t afford for vital communications to be down for even a minute. Ask your vendor of an example where they had an irate client and how they handled the situation. After all we only know how good someone is when the chips are down.

A single point of contact is vital so you can be sure that someone is handling your case appropriately. Not some brainless idiot in a contact centre wishing he was on the beach rather than speaking with you about your telephone issues.

Due diligence is the key to a great telephony solution. Be sure to watch out for following:

  • Unexpected internal hardware costs
  • Unexpected implementation/installation costs
  • Staffing costs
  • 75% of buyers noticed no difference in basic features among vendors.
  • For SMB buyers, low cost is the # 1 factor in choosing the right product

 


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