If your organization is planning an upgrade to a cloud phone system, then you’re definitely on the right path. Across the country and around the world, organizations of all sizes — from small dynamic start-ups to large established enterprises — have said goodbye to their costly, inflexible and restrictive landline phone system, and hello to a cost-effective, agile, scalable and future-proofed cloud phone system.
However, before you rise to the cloud and reap the benefits, you need a plan that dots all of the i’s and crosses all of the t’s — otherwise, instead of enjoying a successful implementation, you’ll face a regrettable experience that takes longer and is more complex and disruptive than you expected.
To help your team head in the right direction, here are the key elements of a robust cloud phone system game plan:
1. Build Your Leadership Team
The starting point for your game plan is to identify key internal team members who will take the lead on different aspects of the new cloud telephone system. For example, you want to identify the point person for:
- Implementing the system.
- Administering the system on a day-to-day basis.
- Providing user training.
- Ongoing communications and liaison with the solutions provider.
It is perfectly fine if one team member is the point person for more than a single role, provided that he or she has the time available and will not be overloaded. It is also fine to assign more than one team member to a role.
What’s more, if you choose a reputable solutions provider (discussed further below in point #7), they will take ownership of implementing the system (i.e. they will come on-site and take care of everything), and provide ongoing back-end technical support. However, it is important for at least one person in your organization to be the main contact for these activities, so that communications are streamlined and efficient.
2. Analyze Pain Points
Once you have identified your key team members, the next step is to engage your workforce in order to identify their frustrations with the existing phone system. These can include (but are not limited to):
- Being forced to make and receive calls from their desk instead of from anywhere.
- No ability to pick up voicemails on their smartphone.
- No ability to text colleagues through the phone system.
- Service interruptions that can last for hours or days if an outside telephone pole is damaged due to bad weather or a vehicle accident.
3. Identify Required Features
Once you have identified your team’s pain points (and different types of users will have different frustrations), the next step is to see how a cloud telephone system will alleviate them through advanced features such as:
- Unlimited Auto Attendants and Nested Attendants
- Day of Week and Time of Day Call Routing
- Caller ID with Full Caller ID Name
- Live Call Forwarding
- Voicemail to Email
- Voicemail to Text Transcription
- Call Transfer (blind transfer or announced transfer)
- Call Pickup for Another Extension
- Automatic Call Distribution
- Call Center Reporting
- Online Message Access
- Call Announce
- Company Directory
- Music or Custom Message On Hold
- Message Notification
- Call Queuing
- SMS Text Messaging From Your Desktop
- Call Recording
- Video Calling
- Conference Calling
Since a cloud telephone system offers so much more than a conventional landline phone system, it is very likely that all of your team’s pain points will be addressed. What’s more, they will get access to additional features that make them more productive and efficient, and also make their jobs easier and more enjoyable. Simply put, they will be able to do much more than before — but at a lower cost to the organization. Everyone wins.
4. Identify Number of Users & Phones
The next step is to identify the current and projected staff members, including remote workers and outside contractors and consultants, who will use the system.
As part of this process, you also want to identify the number of IP phones that you will need. If you are not familiar with this technology, IP phones are specifically designed to work on cloud telephone systems. Some models also feature HD displays for video calling.
Also, if you are concerned that your office does not have sufficient conventional phone jacks on the walls to accommodate all of the IP phones that you need, then don’t worry. IP phones connect to the back of a computer or laptop, and are powered by a standard AC adapter that plugs into any outlet or power bar. There is no need to add any new phone jacks.
5. Evaluate Your Infrastructure
One of the biggest advantages of a cloud telephone system, is that it runs on the data network that your organization has already deployed and uses on a daily basis to send/receive emails, connect to the web, share files, and so on. There is no need to create and maintain a separate voice network complete with an on-premise PBX.
However, it is likely that you will need to make some upgrades to your data network infrastructure, so that it can handle the added load once you add voice and unified communications. For example, you may need to increase your server capacity and your broadband speed. You may also want to add backup power supplies so that the system remains operational during a local power outage. Be assured that even if some upgrades are necessary, you will still save thousands of dollars per year vs. a conventional phone system.
6. Create the Schedule
Do you want to upgrade to a cloud telephone system ASAP, or is it necessary for you to schedule the project for a more optimal time when there will be minimal (or no) disruption to staff or customers?
It is also important to keep in mind that you do not need to implement the full cloud phone system all at once. You can opt to implement it in stages. For example, you may want to onboard your sales and customer support teams first, so that they can start taking advantage of the new features to drive more sales and improve customer experience. After that, you can roll out the deployment to other teams.
7. Choose a Solutions Provider
This last phase in the game plan is the most important: choosing a solutions provider. The key thing to know here is that not all solutions providers are created equal! Essentially, there are three types of vendors in the VoIP marketplace.
The first type of vendors are mass market companies that are only interested in selling as much hardware as they can. They operate with low margins, and as such at first glance their pricing seems attractive. However, the old saying “you get what you pay for” applies, because they offer virtually no service and support. If you run into a technical or configuration challenge (and you will), then you will either spend weeks or months of time trying to figure things out, or you will have to hire an expert consultant who charges hundreds of dollars an hour — and any money that you initially saved will be wiped out.
The second type of vendors are conventional landline phone companies that also sell cloud telephone systems. Why would they do this? Because they want to make as much money as possible, and the cloud telephone system marketplace is booming. However, as you would expect, these companies earn the bulk of their profit from their conventional landline customers. As such, most of their service and support resources are allocated to that side of the business. This leaves cloud phone system customers on the outside looking in. They are not the priority.
The third — and by far the safest and best — type of of vendors are solutions providers that are dedicated exclusively to selling and supporting cloud telephone systems. They don’t dabble in different business lines, or cut corners when it comes to service. They work with their customers every step of the way, from developing their game plan, to optimizing the system during and after implementation.