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Written by
Katy Ratican
12 Dec 2022
16 minutes

Small business phone systems: A no-nonsense way to grow your business faster

Everything you need to know about small business phone systems, including how you can choose the right one to quickly grow your business
Small business phone systems

A small business phone system isn’t merely about communication. It’s about empowering business owners with more time to focus on important tasks. It isn’t technology for technology’s sake. It’s about using technology to help your business grow faster while you live a more balanced life.

This guide to small business phone systems will help you choose the right solution, explain how it can help you grow and answer all your questions on business phones.

Contents:

How to choose the right business phone system
Your quick and easy guide to understanding small business phone systems

Five steps to selecting the right business phone system for your small business

How do cloud VoIP services help small businesses?

Can a new small business phone system save you money?

Looking to scale your business? Choose a phone system that can grow with you

The best ways to use your phone system to grow your small business
Why choose Chalkboard for your business?
Ready to unlock the benefits of cloud-based calling for your business? Try Chalkboard for free
Small business phone systems FAQs

How to choose the right business phone system

You know what to look for in your smartphone. You know the features you need. You know when to upgrade your phone. But choosing a business phone system is a more complicated process. Here’s how to get it right.

1. Understand how you use your phone system

Does your business get a lot of incoming calls or is your communication mostly done through email? Do you have remotely placed employees or do you always work from your office? Do you use messaging platforms and project management apps for internal communication and collaboration?

If everyone in your business works from the same location and you manage a lot of incoming calls, a traditional analogue phone system should suit your needs. But if you have a remote or hybrid workforce or have employees that frequently travel, you need a flexible small business phone system such as VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol).

2. Figure out the limitations of your current system

If you’re a freelancer or a startup getting into the business, there’s no need to do this. But if you have been operating your business for a while, you need to understand what’s ‘wrong’ with your phone system and how it can be improved.

You might be able to save costs by changing your small business phone system. Or if you’re adding more employees, you might find one that has more business features and is easier to manage.

3. Talk to your employees

Before finalising your small business phone system, it’s better to understand the requirements and usage patterns of your employees. You might find out that they’re more comfortable with particular software. This will help you identify the features you need in your business phone.

If you have a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy, you will be more focused on the service provider since the employees will have the device. What you don’t want to do is get a business phone system that your employees are uncomfortable with.

4. Check your internet speed

If you decide to switch to a cloud-based VoIP phone system, you will need a stable internet connection. In all likelihood, you might have an internet connection in your workplace that you believe is enough. However, remember that once you install a VoIP system, it needs additional bandwidth. So, if you don’t enhance your internet connection, you might experience jitter and latency. This is why it’s important to check your internet speed and get more bandwidth if necessary.

5. Identify the features you need

It is tempting to check out the features of a small business phone system online and then convince yourself that you need them because they sound so advanced. This is how companies end up overpaying for complex solutions they don’t need and can’t use.

Once you know your requirements for the immediate future, look for business phone providers that offer simple, affordable and manageable systems with those features. You should also have the flexibility to scale up should you need more functionalities.

If you’ve decided to upgrade your small business phone system, the next step is to understand all the options available on the market.

Your quick and easy guide to understanding small business phone systems

A business phone is more than a number. It’s a comprehensive system that allows you to unify, manage and improve your communications for greater collaboration and productivity. If you’re looking for a new small business phone system in 2022, you can choose from a PBX, IP-PBX or VoIP.

PBX

A Private Branch Exchange or PBX is a traditional business phone system that’s installed on the premises of a business. It’s a safe and secure phone system that doesn’t require the internet to work, but it requires a significant initial investment in hardware and devices. It’s also expensive to install additional lines. Businesses usually also have to manage their maintenance.

You could choose a PBX system if:

  • You have a large number of incoming calls

  • Your employees always work from your office

  • You don’t mind investing in the hardware and devices

  • You have the necessary space for the hardware

  • You have the personnel to maintain the system

IP-PBX

An Internet Protocol PBX or IP-PBX uses VoIP for calls. Instead of the traditional phone lines, IP-PBX relies on fast and stable internet connections. These are either located on the premises of the business or in the cloud. Users will have SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) phones given by the phone system provider. Compared to PBX, it’s cheaper to add users in IP-PBX.

You can choose an IP-PBX system if:

  • You want a VoIP service

  • You have a stable internet connection

  • You have the necessary space

  • You can invest in additional hardware

  • Your business is location-bound

VoIP

A VoIP small business phone system uses cloud-based software that you can access either through your browser or an app from the provider. All your calls will be routed through the internet and you will be able to use your number on any connected device. VoIP systems are flexible, scalable and cost-effective and don’t require you to buy new hardware or devices.

You can choose a VoIP system if:

  • You want a cost-effective business phone

  • You don’t want to invest in hardware or devices

  • You want lower call charges, especially for long-distance calls

  • You have remote or hybrid team members

  • You want business tools to improve collaboration and customer service

Five steps to selecting the right business phone system for your small business

These five steps will help you choose the right small business phone system that will help your business quickly grow.

1. Identify your needs

Team composition. If all your employees work from the same location and you have the space and financial bandwidth, you can choose a PBX system. But if you have a remote or hybrid team or have employees who frequently travel, VoIP is what you should consider.

The number of users. The second aspect is the number of users you have. If it’s a stable number not expected to grow and confined to a location, a landline could solve your problem. But if your small business plans to add users, VoIP is your best bet.

Features. Similarly, if you want added features to grow your customer base and better serve them, a VoIP solution is your answer. An advantage of VoIP is that you can add and remove features based on your business needs.

Budget. Next, what are the kinds of calls you make? If you have long-distance or international calls, VoIP services offer highly cost-effective plans. You should have a budget for your current and medium-term needs. Choose a business phone and subscription plan for those requirements and don’t pay for features you won’t need.

2. Compare prices and features

After finalising small business phone system providers, you can compare their prices and features. Look for the set of features in the different plans of your provider. Take into account any initial investments and maintenance costs such as what you would require for PBX.

Pricing plans depend on the number of users and features. List out each provider’s plans and prices and check them against your requirements. Remember that some providers may have additional costs if you want features not included in your chosen plan.

3. Check compatibility

The small business phone system you like may require you to upgrade your existing lines and equipment. Or there could be compatibility issues with your network. Before you commit to any provider, make sure that you understand whether you need to upgrade or make new investments.

These additional costs may not be reflected in the plan or provider you choose. Once the installation starts, it may be too late to opt for another phone system. This is why it’s important to assess the compatibility of your existing phones and infrastructure before you decide on a new phone system.

4. Do your research

Now it’s time to research the available options. When looking for small business phone systems, search for companies that focus on a particular category. As a small business, you don’t want expensive and complex features that will be cumbersome to maintain.

What you need are functionalities that increase your productivity, empower your marketing, and give you time to focus on the core areas of your business. Read reviews, especially concerning ease of use, flexibility and customer support. Your research might also bring to light factors you haven’t previously considered.

5. Make use of trial periods

Credible small business phone system providers will offer you trial periods. These allow you to try out the interface, call quality, user experience and additional features. A trial will also help your team spot any compatibility problems.

You can also learn about the system’s upgrades and downtimes during this period. Moreover, you will also know how quickly their customer support responds to your queries. The goal is to get a small business phone system that won’t cause business interruptions.

How do cloud VoIP services help small businesses?

From carwash services to salons to dental clinics to tax consultants, small businesses are opting for VoIP services due to the following advantages:

Higher savings

You don’t have to buy additional devices or hardware when you buy a VoIP small business phone system. Since it’s an app, there’s no need for maintenance as well. Your monthly expenses will also be significantly down by up to 50 per cent since VoIP calling charges are lower, especially for long-distance or international calls.

Easy to set up and customise

Download the app, configure your settings and select the features you want. That’s all it takes to get a VoIP number. You can also add and remove users with ease and empower them with the functionalities they would need.

Available on multiple devices

You can turn any connected device into a VoIP business phone by downloading the app. This enables you to use the service on your preferred device whether it’s a smartphone or laptop. It also means that you don’t have to worry about any one device running out of charge.

Made for remote work

Small businesses are shifting to remote or hybrid work because of demonstrable efficiencies. You might run a retail shop but you discover that your website and online customer service functions can be outsourced to remote employees. With VoIP, you can give all such employees access to your phone system.

Enhanced tools for business growth

VoIP business phones have functionalities that help you better allocate your resources, measure your team’s performance, boost collaboration and improve customer service. With number-sharing, call forwarding, call queueing, voicemail transcription, auto-reply and other tools, you get a comprehensive small business phone system.

Highly reliable

Since VoIP systems don’t require hardware or the traditional copper wire infrastructure, they’re reliable during disasters. In case there is something wrong with a particular network, VoIP services can easily switch to another and avoid interruptions.

Multiple integrations

If your small business uses CRM, communication or productivity apps, you can easily integrate them with most VoIP solutions. This saves time and gives you a holistic view of multiple functions.

Can a new small business phone system save you money?

There are three things to keep in mind when you analyse small business phone system costs:

  • Less hardware = Lower costs. The rule of thumb is that if you have any hardware, you will have to incur its initial costs and maintenance expenses.

  • Digital products are more competitive. Digital-first companies face intense competition. This forces them to offer competitive prices.

  • They’re also transparent. Most VoIP providers offer their pricing plans on their websites, which will make it easier to choose the right plan.

If you choose a PBX or IP-PBX phone system, there will be some unavoidable initial investments in hardware, devices and installation. You also have to take care of the system’s maintenance. Moreover, you have to contact multiple providers with your requirements to get an accurate quote.

With cloud-based VoIP services, you don’t have to pay for hardware, installation or maintenance. Since it’s a SaaS product, you will only be charged a subscription fee based on your plan. This translates to significant cost savings.

Looking to scale your business? Choose a phone system that can grow with you

You never know what you might need tomorrow. At least, not with absolute certainty.

Maybe you need more employees in your current location, or you might opt to have multiple employees working from home. Maybe you realise that you don’t even need an office. Maybe you decide to change your sales strategy and decide to go completely online.

What kind of phone system can serve those needs? What kind of business phone can help you scale your operations without asking for significant additional investments? What system can handle the uncertainty of not knowing what kind of resources you would need at any moment?

The answer is a cloud-based VoIP phone system. You can scale your operations as your business experiences success. You can easily onboard employees without having to buy additional devices. You can opt for new features without having to install new networks.

Depending on your sector, with a cloud-based VoIP phone, you might not even have to hire additional employees. You will have the freedom to hire them seasonally. All these help reduce your expenses and make you more flexible and agile.

The best ways to use your phone system to grow your small business

As a business owner, here are some of the ways in which you can use a cloud-based phone system to grow your business.

A second line for work: Get a dedicated number for work without having to buy a new device and keep your personal number private.

Set up a voicemail: A customised voicemail can elevate the customer experience. Some providers also allow you to listen to voicemail playback through messages.

Number sharing: Get a cloud-based VoIP with number sharing and you will increase collaboration and make your team seem bigger than it really is.

Contact separation: By separating contacts and creating lists, you will know which calls are business related.

Auto-reply: Send pre-written messages to calls you miss and keep the conversation going.

Mass text: Broadcast messages to groups of people based on the lists you create.

Enhanced chat: Talk to your customers using texting tools and an easy interface for better customer service.

Multi-media engagement: By sending audio, video and texts and centrally managing them, you can turn your phone into a unified communication system.

Why choose Chalkboard for your business?

Designed specifically for smaller businesses, Chalkboard excels not just in its advanced features and exceptional ease of use but also in its affordability. Here’s why you should choose this next-generation small business phone system:

Greater savings

Chalkboard will work on your existing device and give you an exclusive number for work. Your business won’t have to buy new hardware or manage its installation and maintenance. Designed for small businesses, the subscription plan is also very affordable.

Effortless instalment

Download the app and you will have your new small business phone system set up within minutes. The easy-to-use interface makes adding users and features incredibly effortless.

Work from anywhere

As long as you and your team members have a reliable internet connection, you will be able to make and receive calls and use all other features. Your new office is wherever you are.

Strong collaboration

With number sharing, any of your team members will be able to answer incoming calls. Internally, this improves collaboration while externally, this improves customer service.

Super reliable

With exceptional uptimes, you never have to worry about your business phone facing interruptions. As long as the internet connection is reliable, your phone will be up and running.

Ready to unlock the benefits of cloud-based calling for your business? Try Chalkboard for free

It’s time to say goodbye to the limitations of your old phone system and welcome VoIP technology. Chalkboard gives you an easy-to-use, affordable and feature-rich system designed for small businesses that want to grow.

You get everything you need to find new customers, build new connections and generate new revenue streams. You get the power of the cloud to work for your small business. You get to future-proof your small business phone system to take on the opportunities and challenges of tomorrow.

Download Chalkboard and start your free trial. A new chapter of business growth awaits you.

Get more from VoIP with Chalkboard

Looking for a small business phone system? Chalkboard allows you to unlock all the benefits of VoIP. Start your free trial today.

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Small business phone systems FAQs

Q: What to look for in a new small business phone system?

A: You should primarily look at its features, pricing, domain specialisation, ease of use, installation and maintenance costs, scalability and customer service.

Q: What's the best phone system for small businesses?

A: Since it has features that allow small businesses to reduce costs, discover new efficiencies, and increase profit, cloud-based VoIP is the best phone system for small businesses. It will help businesses save up to 50 per cent when compared to traditional alternatives.

Q: How do I set up a small business phone system?

A: With VoIP, all you have to do is download your chosen app to a connected device just like any other app you would have on your smartphone, laptop or tablet.

Q: When does a small business need a cloud phone system?

A: When it wants a flexible and feature-rich system that isn’t tied to a single location.

Q: What is a PBX system for small businesses?

A: With hosted PBX, a small business can split its VoIP into several lines with more phones.

Q: What equipment is needed for a small business phone system?

A: You can download a VoIP number app such as Chalkboard and get started without any additional equipment. Depending on your usage, you can then go for wired or wireless headsets with microphones.

Q: Can I continue using my existing numbers?

A: Yes, popular VoIP providers including Chalkboard allow you to port your current number.

All information provided in this guide was believed to be correct at the time of publishing. However, please be aware of future changes.

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