Today I am writing on what you need to know when buying a phone system; something I know a little bit about! This process will work well for you regardless of the type of system you’re looking for, be it IP, Hosted or Digital. All of our businesses depend on reliable communication. A phone system can cost anywhere from $500-$3500.00 per end user. Not a small purchase. The most effective selection processes I have observed during my years as a purchasing agent and sales person have been when a team of employees come together for the purpose of selecting a telephone system. The members of the selection team should represent the various business units within your organization. The business units charged with managing employees and those concerned with improving productivity need to have the most say in the process. When purchasing a phone system the following are guidelines:
1) Make sure you establish the size of the system you are looking for in terms of telephone lines, number and style of telephones, number of single line devices/FXS ports and future growth capacity. Your job is to get close to the number of telephones and lines as possible and not to change the quantities once you have asked for a bid. It does not need to be exact at this time because you’re only trying to get apples to apples pricing comparison.
2) Insist on itemized pricing and have the bidders list the presale and post sale pricing for each item quoted. Also, find out how long each suppliers system typically last.
3) Ask the people you plan to do business with what system they are using and who is the installing and servicing company. If you like what you hear invite their suppliers into the bidding process.
4) This is the most important part of telephone system selection: taking a detailed look at how your business currently processes telephone calls. Always ask the question is this the best way or is there a better way? The bidding supplier should have suggestions. (If you would like a copy of the questionnaire I use during my interviewing process please send me an email.)
5) Ask for your vendor’s best design. A poorly designed telephone system can cost your organization much more than the purchase price of the telephone equipment. A good company will also look at how you are using your existing lines and how you are using your Wide Area Network and incorporate network changes into the design to further reduce your costs.
6) Once you receive the quotes go over them line by line with each supplier. At this point in the selection process you have discovered that this journey is not going to be a simple. I’ve seen many potential customers choose the wrong system because of misinformation provided during this stage of the process. In other words have your “Baloney Detector” on high. Ask as many questions as you can so you are clear on the answers.
7) Visit at least one of the supplier’s references. Choose a customer similar in size to your organization and a company that has had the system for a couple of years so you know what to expect in the way of service.
8) After reading this article, Larry Evans, owner of PSI Contact Center made the point that total cost of ownership of 5 year span is also very important to consider.