Should I outsource our phone systems?

I run a marketing company with 30 employees. We’re growing rapidly and I know we’ll need to upgrade our phone system soon, but it’s also been suggested I consider outsourcing to a different provider. Could this save me money and what do I need to consider?

A. Paul Bensley of X-on writes:

Spurred partly by the wide press coverage of Voiceover IP (VoIP), businesses like yours are becoming aware of the real alternative of having ‘the phone system’ hosted, in the same sense that the company website is hosted.

The economic benefi ts are generally unquestionable. An outsourced provider takes the hardware, software and complexities of a phone system and maintains it in a data centre. The system will have features often considered chargeable extras on an in-house box, such as call recording and call-centre style agent management with call distribution and queuing. Maintenance also comes cheaper when you don’t require anyone to actually visit your business.

Determining how big a system you need (or worse, how extensive a system you will need when your three-year lease runs out) is a headache with a fi xed system, but a service provider will be able to offer virtually unlimited phone lines to ensure callers don’t get busy tones come the Christmas business rush.

You may also be considering switching to VoIP – sending calls over the web to reduce costs and take advantage of new technologies – but have not totally unjustified reservations regarding tales of quality and reliability issues. A decent provider should be able to deliver calls to either VoIP phones, or landlines or mobiles, giving you the resilience and cost savings with the added benefi t that any phone or PC in the world can become part of your phone system.

Phone calls are often the company life-blood and you will need to check that your provider has the pedigree and infrastructure to avoid a haemorrhage. This does not mean that you need to be tied to monoliths such as BT – it’s useful to be able to make a call and have a change to the system made within minutes (or do it yourself on the internet), rather than join the inevitable call centre queues.

Outsourcing should be a low-risk, pain-free and money-saving way of planning your telecommunications system. Additionally, it’s simple to try the service without making any commitment – as there’s nothing to send back to the supplier!

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