So here you are, 2018 is a right around the corner, and you still haven’t done anything about that ancient phone system of yours. You know, the same one you were sure you'd replace before Obama left the Whitehouse… I understand, if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it, right? Wrong! Let’s face it, your duck taped digital dinosaur is causing more trouble than it’s worth. Your IT team is spending entirely too much time troubleshooting; your employees are working with 90s technology and expected to perform at 2018 standards, and you fear the system could crash at any time.
If you are like many administrators and business owners, you have been considering a migration to a modern phone system for years but haven’t quite pulled the trigger. We get it, the process can be overwhelming and time consuming – not to mention expensive… But if you have to take the plunge, where do you start? You want something reliable, easy to use, and something that won’t cause a lot of downtime for your business. You also want all the bells and whistles the vendors keep talking about like CRM integrations, auto-receptionists, multi-level IVR, and mobility. You want the ability to chat and collaborate across all your departments. And how about in-depth reporting and analytics? Sounds nice, right?
Here’s the catch: just because you invest in a new phone system, doesn’t mean your employees will utilize its new capabilities or that your IT team will leverage all the new tools. Launching a new communication system is like planning birthday party. You need buy-in from all the stakeholders before you light any candles and bust out the party favors. You have to take stock of what you already have so you aren’t overspending, and you need to look at all your options before sending out any invitations.
While most administrators or business owners might turn to Google to lay the foundation for evaluating a new phone system – often the best research can be done internally before engaging any outside information. Listed below are a few suggestions we have for you and your team that will help paint a clear picture for your evaluation and ensure a successful process and a maximized investment.
Engage Your Team
When you on-board a new solution or even update your phone system to the latest software, you are making a change that affects many stakeholders in your organization. Be sure to engage each department and create a unique wish list for each group of employees. Ask the question: “In a perfect world, what would you like to see in your communication system?” Always have your end-users focus on function not feature. You will want to think through what your current system does that is critical to your business and what are the challenges it presents. Remember that each department may have different ways of using your phone system currently. By engaging the various teams in your organization and discussing what matters to them, you will not only have a clear picture of what you are looking for in a new system, but you may very well find ways to improve processes and productivity along the way.
A great way to ensure success in this process is to involved a partner from the very beginning. Some questions are easily overlooked if you don’t know what you are looking for or don’t have the experience to know what is possible. Modern phone systems can provide many advanced features not found in legacy PBX systems, so having a partner who understands what a new system is capable of will shed light on the conversations and possibly uncover new use cases for your business. In the case of a large retail client of Matrix Networks, the Marketing Department rarely used their phones and relied heavily on email communications. This knowledge allowed for the client to provide the Marketers with a scaled down version of their software that came at a reduced cost and saved the business from unnecessary expense. In another scenario, involving an in-depth discussion with a Matrix Networks’ Project Manager and the Office Manager at a local healthcare provider, they discovered that all calls were going into a centralized queue regardless of client need or circumstance. This was creating a ton of wasted time and low customer satisfaction scores – both of which were significantly improved post-install but may not have been addressed at all if the right questions weren’t asked up front.
Know What You Currently Have
The starting point for any discussion about a new phone system should be around your current network environment. It is imperative that you know if you network is up to snuff to support a modern voice solution. Today's IP systems are only as reliable as your network. Make sure the internal network has Layer 2+ switches and PoE for internal QoS and reliability. If you are using your wide area network for SIP trunking or a Cloud voice solution, you need to also consider your Internet connectivity and look at options such as SD-WAN technology to ensure a quality experience.
When it comes to dial tone, contractual obligations with your existing dial tone provider may prohibit you from moving forward with a new system or at minimum might require a hefty fee for breaking your contract. A new phone system often requires a different carrier service package, so knowing what you have before you invest time and resources into the process can save you the headache of having a project stall. Contact a trusted partner in advance to schedule a dial tone review.
Download Matrix Networks' Cloud Phone Comparison Guide
Comparing Industry Leaders in Cloud Phone Systems: RingCentral, 8x8, and ShoreTel
Develop a Plan in Advance
The key to any successful business technology is user adoption. What good is great tech if your end-users don’t take advantage of the tools? We already know that each department is different. An executive who is always on the road is going to use her phone different than an Accounting Manager who is always in the office. The same thing goes for customer service reps, team leads, or any number of other individuals in your organization. Since you have already taken the time to understand their various nuances and wish list items, it is time to put a plan in place to ensure the vision becomes reality.
A major mistake many businesses make is leveraging vendor resources such as webinars, or pre-recorded videos to teach their employees how to use their new system. Most vendor provided resources are too general to be of any service to your end-users. Along with mediocre training tools, you also will not get the support you are looking for when contacting a vendor directly.
Best practice for ensuring successful user adoption is to work with a partner who will establish a training plan, provide customized training, be at your location on first-day-live, and continue to provide support long-term. At Matrix Networks, we have developed our Concierge Service (specifically for Cloud Phone Deployments) that allows our clients to build out a custom deployment experience. The right partner will be there for you and provide additional resources for your migration.
Your 2018 New Year’s Resolution
This year, make a resolution you will actually keep. Make 2018 the year you finally move your organization forward with an updated communication system. Just be sure you do it in a strategic way that will protect your investment and maximize buy-in from your team members. Remember: Google should not be the first place you turn to when evaluating a new phone system. If there is one thing that all the vendors have working for them, it's good marketing. Every vendor will tell you they are the best. The truth is, your business is unique and not every system will be a perfect fit. Start from within and when you are ready, engage a partner like Matrix Networks to go even deeper and ensure a successful launch of a modern business phone system in 2018.
Cheers & Happy New Year!
Author: Ryan Graven