The other day, I was flipping through TV channels and stumbled upon one of my all-time favorite movies: Blade Runner. The film is set in “the future”, which is now only a few years away (2019), and as I watched a scene where the main character places a video call, I realized how accurate that film (and the book it was based on) was at predicting where communications would be in our modern time.
As your legacy, premise-based phone system reaches end-of-life and you have to explore your options for a new system, it’s important to identify the most important features you need for your business to be competitive. Cloud-based systems especially offer many exciting features that improve productivity and collaboration. Here’s some of the top features to be sure your new phone system includes:
1. Mobility Features. Today’s workforce is more mobile than ever before, so it has become business-critical to enable on-the-go associates to communicate as effectively from the road as they can from their desk. There are several different “find me / follow me” features, such as the Anywhere feature – also known as twinning – that enables users to receive calls on mobile device and transfer calls seamlessly with desk phone and place outgoing calls from their mobile devices. These features, as well as click-to-dial call control, on-phone corporate directory, and others, enable knowledge workers to be more efficient, regardless of their location.
2. Integration with CRM and other business applications. Businesses need to identify and take advantage of every efficiency possible to be competitive. When your phone system is integrated with your CRM, it provides such features as a screen-pop when looking up caller ID information, click-to-call, access to call settings, enterprise phone presence, and more – providing efficiencies that can’t be beat.
3. Unified Messaging. Unified messaging delivers multiple types of messaging (voice mail, email and fax) to a single email inbox. It enables users to receive voicemail on the handset, a .WAV file of the message delivered to email, and receive an SMS notification alert. This means that users can share and manage their communications in the most convenient, effective way. This could also be considered a mobility feature (see #1) as it is especially helpful to road warriors. While on the road, they can quickly and easily hear their voicemails without having to dial in and enter access codes and navigate through a voicemail system to hear their messages from the road.
Additionally, some systems also offer voicemail transcription, where you receive a transcription as an email along with the audio recording file attachment, so you don’t even need to listen to the audio file.
4. Integrated Instant Messaging (IM&P). This unified communications feature is extremely powerful when it is integrated with both your calendar and your phone system. With a business-class IM & P feature, your integrated phone state enables users to see their colleagues’ availability in real time, whether they are in a meeting, available or on an active phone call. Advanced communications tools like these are imperative to today’s collaboration- reliant businesses.
5. Administrator Portal. With a web-based Administrator Portal, your staff has administrative control to manage their communications system in their own time without racking up costly move, add & change fees. The admin can log into their portal from any location to change call routing, reset passwords and more, on the fly – rather than relying on submitting a ticket to their provider and waiting for them to make the changes.
6. Video Calling. Your more advanced phone service providers should offer integrated video calling for easy, face-to-face interactions between colleagues from any location via video-enabled HD Voice desk phone, Windows or MAC soft clients, or mobile on both the iOS and Android device.
A recent Evolve IP survey found that 76 percent of organizations are using some type of video communication solution.
7. Group Directory. This feature enables users to search your corporate directory from the handset, making it quick and easy to find an internal contact and dial their extension. Although this is a fairly common feature in phone systems these days, it is still a valuable tool in increasing efficiency. Additionally, many unified communications systems include a group directory integrated into their IM & P feature, allowing them to escalate an IM chat to a phone call with the click of their mouse.
For fear of overwhelming, I’ll stop at seven, but there are many other productivity-enhancing features available in today’s cloud-based phone system. Just don’t forget to also look beyond the features and ensure you are working with an experienced service provider with a system on a solid platform. To learn more about what communications features are in demand from North American businesses, click here to check out our 2015 Business Communications and Collaboration Survey paper.
For more information on selecting a cloud-based phone system, click here to download Evolve IP’s Business VoIP Buyer’s Guide.