Planning is the key ingredient to a successful business relocation. Just as your new office space must support your current and future business growth, so must your telephone system. An office relocation is a perfect opportunity to take an in-depth look at your telecommunications system and its effectiveness in meeting your needs and growth objectives.
There are several technologies to take into consideration when examining your telecommunications system, including:
Message Delivery and Access
There are several options when it comes to message delivery. Beyond standard voice-mail, there is unified messaging, a feature that allows e-mail, voice mail and fax mail to be delivered to a single “mailbox” on each individual computer. Choosing which feature is best for your business depends on the size and structure of the company. The key, of course, is making sure your customers can leave a message that will be returned promptly.
Video conferencing allows businesses to hold group meetings from two or more locations via two-way video and audio transmissions. This feature greatly reduces costs associated with business travel. It is also useful for companies with many employees who work from home.
Computer telephony is great for businesses with several departments and high volumes of calls. By linking a computer database with a telephone system, customer calls can be routed to the right department automatically based on call history and account status, effectively increasing productivity and efficiency.
IVR (interactive voice response) Systems
IVR is a phone technology that allows a computer to detect voice or touch tones using a normal phone call. This is another way for calls to be organized and routed effectively. However, it is important to have menus that customers can navigate quickly and easily so they do not become discouraged by a lengthy automated menu.
If you’re using IP Telephony, you’ll achieve significant cost savings by only needing to have one network installed — the data network — instead of separate networks for voice and data. IP not only offers cost savings to many businesses, but it is also a great option for businesses that support telecommuting employees. Depending on the connection, the quality of the voice call may vary. Check with your telecommunications vendor to determine what is best for your business. By transmitting voice calls via the Internet, IP telephony is the future of telecommunications and will no doubt lead to several new technological breakthroughs in the industry.
Whether you purchase a new system, or move your existing system, there are some steps that can be taken to ensure that your phone system supports your long term business goals. Here are some tips for relocating a business phone system:
- If changing phone numbers, you may want to set up a forwarding system for your old number. Your calls can be forwarded without having to physically keep your old lines in place. Your local telephone company can provide more information about this service, also called porting. The forwarded calls should be sent to a special number where the volume of traffic can be tracked. Be sure to test the forwarding feature after it is set-up to ensure that it works properly.
- Work with your telecommunications vendor to evaluate your needs and suggest how you can improve the use of your current system, whether it is by adding new capabilities or scaling back on features that have not been used to their full potential. Your telecommunications vendor should discuss several issues with you including:
- Do the existing services that you have now with your carrier (your local telephone company) offer the best pricing for local and long distance calling?
- Are you calling other branch offices within your company?
- Would you like to call desktop to desktop by just dialing an extension number?
- Would you like to have calls from existing/new customers bypass the operator and ring on your telephone or cell phone when out of the office?
You don’t have to make these decisions alone. Ask your employees what they would like to do with the system that they cannot do now. They can be a great resource in determining your business’s everyday phone needs. Your telecommunications technician should walk you and your employees through any new features after setting up at the new location. To keep up with ever-changing technological advancements, it is important to have your telecommunications needs re-evaluated on an annual basis.
- Evaluate your line capacity needs. Find out if callers are getting busy signals during peak times of the day, week, or your busy season. The telephone company will perform a busy line study, typically for two weeks, at no charge. This is a starting point. The best method is to install your own call accounting software for your telephone system.
- To avoid last-minute problems on the day of the move, make sure the telephone lines at the new location are working properly before you move your phone system. Most companies tend to not notify their telephone vendor and carrier until the last minute. This can cause major problems especially if you have a T/1/PRI or data circuit that needs to be moved. These circuits can take weeks to relocate and redesign, so you must notify your vendors early on in the relocation process to ensure a hassle-free move. Verify and check individual telephone numbers and their locations, especially for each fax, modem, and any other special devices you have on your system. Confirm that the telephone numbers the phone company provided you are the telephone numbers that actually ring in to the designated lines at your new location.
- Be sure the wiring you have installed at your new location is of the proper type and uses the proper connectors for phone (and for data if you are having this installed at the same time). Have your phone vendor verify that the telephone jacks are appropriate for the phones. Test all connections before moving your entire office to the new location.
It is critical to always be able to communicate with your customer. Be sure to include a telecommunications evaluation on your relocation task list. The initial planning will allow for a quicker, more efficient beginning to business in your new space!
Paul Durante is the COO of Select Telecom, a telecommunications company providing high quality products and services for their clients throughout the Northeast. Headquartered in Westchester, NY, they have two satellite locations in Milford, CT and Raynham, MA. He can be reached at 914.761.1313 or firstname.lastname@example.org.