> Choosing and Installing 4-Line Phone Systems
|Need an entire PBX phone system?
4-line phones offer:
- A solution for smaller offices that handles multiple lines
- Important features only found on phone systems (auto-attendant, transfer, intercom)
- Fully-networked, business-grade communications
- Easy installation
Is a 4-line system right for your business?
The very first question you should be asking yourself when choosing a phone system is:
> How many lines do I need now, and how many do I anticipate needing over the next couple years?
The number of lines essentially translates into how many people can be on the phone at the same time. Thus, 4 line phones may allow
you to set up 16 stations (phones) but a maximum of 4 people can actually use the phone at the same time.
Not sure how many lines you need?
It's a good idea to allow at least a 2 to 1 ratio of employees to lines (so with 6 employees you'd need 3 lines). However, this ratio
largely depends on your call environment. Some companies may find a 1 to 1 ratio imperative, while others whose employees use the phone
less than an hour a day and have a low volume of incoming calls may be able to get away with a 3 to 1 or even 4 to 1 ratio (9 or 12
employees to 3 lines).
Decide what ratio makes sense for your business situation (note, it always makes sense to have at least 2 lines, even with a one person
staff). If a 2 to 1 ratio makes sense, I don't suggest having any more than 8 or 9 employees on this system. Which leads to the final question.
Will your company likely remain within 9 employess over the next 2 years?
||A 4 line phone system makes the most sense for your operation.
Look into small sized PBX systems, which can
expand their capacities as you grow. These systems come in all different maximum sizes from maxing out at 6, 8 and 12 lines for smaller
systems to 32 lines for medium systems. Larger systems do require larger staffs to make economical sense. So choose a size that best fits.
Easy installation ...
4-line phones save you the cost of installing and programming a KSU (PBX brain) - usually a $250 to $350 cost.
Okay, I think a 4-line phone system is right for us, so where do I begin?
Setting up a phone system is an expensive process – especially if you're not armed with the right knowledge.
For example: if you have an installion company act as a one stop shop for installation AND equipment, at best you'll
be limited to choosing between a few over-priced systems.
To avoid this, and avoid 'surprise costs', I've outlined the whole process of getting a phone system installed along
with the expenses to anticipate.
Phone company and wiring setup:
First, you'll need to have your phone company install the number of lines needed (my phone company charges $67 a line).
Your phone company will connect the phone lines to your main phone board (this is in a phone cabinet or phone room outside
Those charges do not include wiring your building with phone jacks; This is something you can shop around for. Find out how
much your local phone company charges for jack installation (one my phone companies charges $135 for the first jack and $70
for each additional, and the other $100 for first hour and $84/hr thereafter). Local phone installers may charge somewhere
closer to $60/hr. If you don't go with your phone company, be sure you're working with an insallation group you can trust
not to inflate their bill.
Tip: you can save yourself a lot of money if you have your installer combine 2 lines on each jack. Yes, each jack and each
phone cable CAN carry up to 2 lines. This cuts the number of cables they need to run by a factor of 2. Later, if you need
to separate lines on a combined 2-line jack, you can use a simple decoupler (you probably won't ever need to do this).
Now you should have X live lines running to each room – where phones are needed, of course; a jack in the bathroom
might be a little over zealous.
Next, you'll want to have your phone company set up 'call rotation' on your lines (also known as a 'roll over group' or
'line hunting'). What's call rotation? If a caller calls your main line when it's in use, the call is automatically
forwarded to the 2nd line; If that's busy, the call is forwarded to the 3rd line, and so on. This is a relatively cheap,
but important service. It allows you to advertise only your primary number (line 1) and still use the full benefit of
having 3, 4 or more lines.
Also consider setting up an 800 number for your main line. My phone company charges $5/mo plus 3.9 to 6 cents a minute
(depending on the long distance plan). Yes, depending on call volume, this will cost you a few hundred each month (probably
100 - 300). But your callers are your business, and it's important to give off a professional image. Of course, in end you
have to decide whether it's worth it to your business.
Voicemail's another pricey option (don't worry, there's not too many more) but its worth collecting those calls you'd otherwise
miss and answering calls that would otherwise ring into infinity (not professional).
Voicemail through your phone company will typically run you $20/mo and a $20 setup fee for each mail box. Since this adds up
from $500 to $600 for the first two years, most small businesses choose to set up one general mail box to collect all overflow
and after hours calls.
If you're willing to pay a portion of this amount up front, some 4-line phones offer built in voicemail. 4-line systems with
voicemail typically run $60 per phone more than those without. The upside is that you can get well-integrated, personalized
voicemail boxes (a more professional solution than the phone company's) and there's no monthly fees – in the long run
Select a phone system:
The fundmental aim of any phone system is to effectively handle multiple lines and network office communications. Important
features include the ability to transfer calls, intercom (quickly speak with staff around the office) speakerphone, caller-ID
missed-call log, Music On Hold, voicemail, and an auto-attendent (automatically directs incoming callers to the right extension).
The first 4 features are standard phone system features included on newer systems – for the missed call log, you'll need to
subscribe to caller ID services with your phone company ($8/mo per line, but worth cost). All systems can also be expanded to
include Music On Hold with On Hold Plus systems.
However, voicemail and auto-attendant, which always come bundled together, are not standard features, but can definately be worth
their weight in gold. To have these last two voice processing features, you'll need to select a phone system that has them.
To compare and contrast the major 4-line systems on the market today,
Set up your phones:
Connect each phone to each phone line. Note: all 4-line phones only allow two phone cables to connect to them. So how do you
connect 4 lines? Well, each phone cable can carry up to two lines, and if your phone jacks don't already combine 2 lines on each
jack you'll need a line coupler
to do this.
Then, plug in each phone to the power outlet. And last, you'll need to set up and program the features you wish to use on each
phone. Don't worry, with a little help from the phone's user manual you'll get the hang of it and be done pretty quickly.
That's it. You should now have a fully operational, professional communications solution working for you.
I hope you find this information helpful. If you have questions, ask me on the phonetechfinder.com