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Written by
Katy Ratican
15 Sept 2022
5 minutes

Small business phone systems: What to look for, types and alternatives

Everything to know about phone systems for small businesses and how to pick the right one to grow your business
Phone systems for small business

Even in an age of email, messaging apps and social media, the phone system has only grown in importance. Many customers use their phones to contact businesses and employees rely on them for collaboration. That’s why business owners should make sure that their small business phone system can meet both internal and external demands.

The right small business phone system makes your business look professional and gives you a credible channel to engage with customers. In that sense, a phone is both a communication and a marketing tool. This guide to phone systems for small businesses discusses what to consider in today’s phones, some common choices and what technology better suits a small business.

What is a business phone system?

A good business phone gives you a dedicated number for work, which helps you separate your professional and personal communication. Along with ensuring privacy, a small business phone system aids in achieving a work-life balance. But that’s not all it does.

Modern small business phone systems come with advanced features to better engage with customers and improve internal collaboration. The right small business phone system will give you features such as voicemail, call forwarding, call queueing, organisation of work and personal contacts, auto-reply, number sharing and marketing automation.

Small business phone systems also help to bring down your operational expenses. Top-rated providers will only charge you for tools that you use. Moreover, you can scale easily without having to make additional hardware investments.

What to look for in a small business phone system

No two businesses are 100 per cent the same and neither will their phone systems be. Business owners should look for a small business phone system that helps advance their specific business goals and not be distracted by what others are using, as their goals might be different. These are the key features that you should look for in phone systems for small businesses.

Scalability

Your small business phone system should make your business more agile and help you effortlessly expand or downsize. If you plan to hire more sales reps or remote workers, it should be easy to reconfigure your phone system to include them.

Equipment

If your business is rooted in a single location and your team members don’t have to travel, you could opt for a landline and the associated hardware. But if you have remote or hybrid employees, or if your team has to frequently travel, you need a phone system that supports remote access.

Cost

You don’t want to pay exorbitant amounts for your phone system, especially if you are a small business. Unless you’re a large enterprise, look for a solution that saves you money on hardware, installation, maintenance, monthly charges and long-distance calls.

Features

Modern phone systems for small businesses offer much more than calling capabilities. You can use your device to increase your customer engagement and make your business seem more credible. To do that, look for call queueing, call forwarding, voicemail, auto-reply, advanced texting and group broadcast, among others.

Ease of operations

You shouldn’t have to put in a request and wait for technicians from your phone company to install your system. Your small business phone system should be effortless to set up, operate and maintain. It will be easier for you if it has a dashboard to track and manage your usage and add or remove features.

Customer service

Any interruption to your phone system might cause an interruption in client acquisition and customer service. Make sure that you have dedicated customer support that’s easily accessible and prompt to solve your problems. Search online to find other businesses’ reviews of phone providers and you’ll have a better idea about customer support.

Types of business phone systems for small businesses

There are four main small business phone systems that you can consider when looking for a business phone.

1. Landlines

Also called analogue phones, these use copper wires for transmission. They’re stable and reliable but are expensive to install, maintain and scale. If you consider getting one, remember that there will soon be a switch-off of landlines in the UK.

2. Virtual phones

These come as either browser-based or applications that you can use to make and receive calls over the internet. Since the system is hosted in the cloud, they are also called cloud phones or softphones. Highly affordable to install, maintain and scale, these are also remote-friendly.

3. Second-line apps

If you want a second number exclusively for work, a second-line app is your answer. Hosted in the cloud, you can get these apps downloaded on any connected device and start using them. These are highly scalable and cost-efficient for small businesses.

4. VoIP

Voice over Internet Protocol or VoIP technology transmits voice as digital packets over the internet. VoIP services come with a wide range of capabilities and feature integrations that make them the business phone system for agile and dynamic businesses.

VoIP: The most flexible phone system option for small businesses

A small business phone system that’s affordable, flexible and scalable. That’s what VoIP delivers. You don’t have to worry about buying any new device or additional hardware. It’s exceptionally easy to set up, manage and maintain.

As you know more about VoIP, you’ll realise that it’s the perfect solution for remote and hybrid work. In effect, it frees your team to work from anywhere and use several business-friendly tools for marketing and customer service.

On that subject, here’s a small business phone system that can significantly improve customer experience.

Get started with Chalkboard: Creating a better customer experience

Chalkboard is designed for small businesses that want to improve customer experience through a centralised phone system. With a dedicated second line for work, Chalkboard lets your customers reach you with ease.

Why worry about setting up a call answering service for small business when you can manage it at no extra cost? Number sharing ensures that your team members can share their numbers and always be there to take customers’ calls. If you’re busy to take a call, you can send auto-reply with a pre-written message.

By organising numbers into work and personal groups, you can separate your professional and personal life and achieve a work-life balance. Advanced chat allows you to talk to your customers like friends and build long-term relationships. Moreover, Chalkboard automates marketing by sending requests to your contacts for online reviews.

Download Chalkboard and start your free trial. It's the right phone system for small businesses that want to stay competitive and grow.

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