1. What features are available with a phone system?
There is a large range of features that are available with a phone system. Some are basic and generally expected in most systems, such as:
- Direct In-Dial
- Least Cost Routing
- Music On-Hold
- Night/Holiday Service
- Ring Groups
- Tracking Calls (SMDR)
- Toll Barring/Class of Service
- Speed Dial Directoty
For more information on what exactly these features are and offer, visit the basic phone system features section of our Buyer’s Guide.
There are also many advances features available with phone systems, which are usually considered an add-on and will most likely cost extra. While at an added cost, these features can have massive benefits for the right business. Such features include:
- Automatic Call Forwarding
- Automatic Call Distribution
- Computer Telephony Distribution (ACD)
- Operator Console
- Voice Mail
- Wireless Mobility
For more information on what exactly these features are and offer, visit the advanced features section of our Buyer’s Guide.
2. Which features should I expect in a phone system and which should I expect to pay extra for?
There are a number of more basic features that you can expect with any phone system, as well as many more advances features which are add-on and come at an extra cost. Refer to the above question for a basic list of the key features involved.
3. What are the basic features of a handset?
While as with any product there are a range of features that will vary with manufacturers, there are 3 basic features that can be applied to virtually any model.
- Number of fixed and programmable keys: both for line and extension appearances or for commonly used features. These keys often incorporate multi colour LED to identify status of calls on their own or other handsets or if a feature has been activated. Fixed functions usually include the commonly used hold and transfer keys
- The LCD display: which usually provides information on calls in progress such as the name and extension of an internal caller, the duration of call, and in some cases, caller ID. It often provides an interactive menu to access the telephone system features. There are now phones with large LCD displays
- Speakerphone capability. Speaker phones can be half-duplex, which means that only one person on the call can be heard at a time, or full-duplex, which lets both parties talk simultaneously, like a regular phone. Some phones also have a ‘listen only’ mode for speaker phone, which is useful for monitoring a conference call or while on hold.
4. What are the benefits of headsets?
The key benefits of headsets are:
Ergonomic: There is no need to sacrifice personal comfort when talking on the phone, as with a headset you won’t have to prop the telephone between your neck and shoulder. You can kiss those aching muscles and neck strain goodbye!
Hands-free Advantage: Headsets allow you to enjoy the freedom and comfort of not having to hold a telephone handset. With both hands free you’ll be more comfortable and be able to perform other tasks when speaking on the telephone.
Multi tasking efficiency: Headsets free your hands and give you increased productivity and efficiency. Whilst on the phone you will be able to write notes, access documents or use your keyboard during your telephone conversations.
Mobility: With a wireless/cordless headset solution you are completely free to move about the office. Whilst on the phone, you are free to gather information, consult a colleague or go to another desk or office – all during your telephone conversation. Cordless Headsets also include the ability to answer your phone while you are away from your desk.
5. Is it true that cordless phones are more expensive than corded ones yet less reliable?
As a general rule, cordless phones are typically cheaper, however it’s true that they do have some limited capabilities. If transferring a call from a typically corded phone to a cordless one, the call is essentially stuck there as you can’t transfer the call back or put the caller on hold. One option to combat this is to invest in a full-DECT solution which would allow you to transfer calls and place them on hold, although this is a significantly more expensive option.
6. What is a Soft Phone?
A softphone is a phone that allows you to receive and make calls using a computer and the internet. This is usually through VoIP, and can occur without necessarily having a physical phone set. As the name does imply, it is a piece of software (as opposed to hardware), that has the ability to act as an interface, carry out phone functions using a screen (being that of your computer) and your mouse, keyboard or keypad. Commonly, the interface or program screen that you would use resembles a phone pad with buttons representing the keys, which you are able to press using a mouse. An example of a soft phone is Skype. For speaking and listening purposes, just a headset with a microphone, or a separate microphone are enough. You can also use an IP phone or handset, if you have one.
7. What is the difference between an IP hard phone and a traditional digital phone?
At first glance, there are no distinguishable physical differences between the IP hard phone and the traditional digital phone. Looking more closely at the IP hard phone, you will notice it requires an additional power supply or Power-Over-Ethernet (POE). In addition, the back of the IP hard phone contains an Ethernet switch which also connects a PC. Only one network cable is required to network both the IP hard phone and a PC! The IP hardphone does double duty in the office environment. It can easily be transported to a home or hotel room taking the convenience of your office extension with you world-wide! The traditional digital phone connects to the phone system and is powered by a separate cable used solely for voice communication. This phone is commonly known as a “desk phone,” meaning it cannot leave your desk/office and function away from the phone system. As far as features and applications, both handsets, IP hard phone AND traditional digital phone, operate identically.
8. Why would I need a Full Time Auto-Attendant?
A Full Time Auto Attendant is a feature that allows your voice mail system is to answer every incoming call as it comes (in live time). There are several reasons that you may want to have your system use Full Time Auto Attendant:
- Usually, your system would utilise auto-attendant mode for after hours operation. This can assist your clients by minimising the amount of time surpassed before they are actually able to leave a message in your voice mail box to be retrieved the next day. Additionally, you can provide clients with information, after normal business hours, that they may have otherwise had to wait until the next business day to find out by speaking with a representative of your company to help them.
- Auto-attendant can also alleviate the need for a full time representative of your company to be designated to handle all incoming phone calls. The voice mail system, in auto attendant mode, can replicate many of the services of a full time receptionist.
- You may need to have the phones answered immediately during the day for example when one or all of your employees will be out of the office for an extended period.
- Alternatively, perhaps you want to use the Full Time Auto Attendant feature to give your clients the perception that your company is larger than it actually is.
9. What is a ‘hybrid’ phone?
‘Hybrid’ phone systems are a kind of middle system between key systems and PBX telephone systems. Hybrid systems combine features from both types and as a result have the ability to offer benefits and features of both types and cater to almost any small-medium business.
10. How do 1300 numbers work and what’s the best way to get one?
A good start for attaining a 1300 number and finding out more information is by visiting the SmartNumbers site (www.smartnumbers.com.au/smartnumbers/action/viewHome) – this is the government owned site that manages the sales (auction) of all 1300 numbers/1800/13 numbers. It covers how to buy a number direct and also what to do once you get one.