Every modern business needs the capacity to communicate, and in many situations, this includes the ability to handle multiple phone calls simultaneously.
Multi-line phone systems aren’t for every business, such as startup companies just getting off the ground. However, small businesses that only handle a few phone calls each day may need to scale up at some point. Basically, every business should at least consider a multi-line phone system.
If you’d like to know more about these phone systems, how they work and what benefits they provide, you’ve come to the right place.
What Is a Multi-line Phone System?
While a single-line phone system can only handle one call at a time, a multi-line phone system allows companies to make and receive calls simultaneously without disruption. At its most basic, it allows employees to place a call on hold, make a second phone call to an internal or external number, get the information they need and then return the call on hold.
Of course, a multi-line phone system can do much more than that, which we will get into.
How Does a Multi-line Phone System Work?
For many years, analog technology was the way to go for a multi-line phone system. While the use of analog phone technology is in serious decline and largely obsolete, the same operating principles apply to modern digital systems.
The simplest analog multi-line phone system is based on a single landline that is specially wired to offer two-line functionality. Using this system required paying the phone company for an extra line. It also used handsets that were capable of placing calls on hold and switching phone lines.
Although it exists today in digital form, private branch exchange (PBX) is another type of analog technology that has been in use for many years. Have you ever worked at a company where you had to dial ‘9’ to make an outside phone call, and then you used a traditional PBX? As an analog system, a PBX has multiple phone lines provided by multiple landlines.
These systems grew to offer more advanced features like voicemail and call forwarding. One major drawback of the old PBX system is that callers would get a busy signal if all the lines were in use. This would be a concern for businesses that deal with a lot of phone calls.
Incidentally, Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) lines are still in use today, but their use has largely been relegated to legacy and niche cases like fax machines, elevator phones and security phones.
Which Types Are There and When Should They Be Used?
Modern multi-line phone systems address the shortcomings of analog technology and add features that are only possible through modern digital and Internet technologies.
Developed in the mid ’90s, Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) is a digital method for receiving and making phone calls. SIP trunks our virtual phone lines that can connect to the public telephone network or the Internet for voice service and digital functionality. Although this technology has been in use for some time, SIP trunking is still a cost-effective approach for a multi-line phone system. SIP trunks can easily be scaled up or down, depending on what a business needs. They can also be used with many phone systems, including traditional PBX and cloud-based voice services.
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) has revolutionized phone communications and the technology is especially useful in the business world. Instead of being based on landlines and wires, like an old-school PBX system, VoIP phone systems are internet-based.
All of the functionality in a VoIP system happens through the same data cables and digital signals used to connect a computer or device to the Internet. Because it uses the Internet, you can access a VoIP system in several ways: through a traditional handset, computer, smartphone and various internet-connected devices.
Some key features of a VoIP system include:
- High audio quality. Call quality on a VoIP system will always be superior to quality on a traditional system if the VoIP system has adequate bandwidth.
- Built for business. Although you can use VoIP for personal communications, a service typically includes standard business features like unlimited calling, unlimited voicemail, call recording and call statistics.
- Easy to set up. Compared to the installation of a traditional phone system, setting up a VoIP system is very simple and can usually be done in about a day.
- Minimal hardware requirements. Because a VoIP system is all virtual, very few physical components must be installed. In fact, people on a VoIP system can often access it through a smartphone they already own.
- Easy integration. Modern businesses have all kinds of business intelligence systems, and a VoIP solution can be easily integrated.
- Scalable. Because a VoIP system is software-based, it’s easily scaled or modified through an administrative dashboard.
Cloud-based Multi-line Phone Systems
A modern VoIP system can be based on-premise, or it can be based in the cloud. “Cloud PBX” or “virtual PBX” is the modern business standard and the system is spread out across disparate servers. When you make a call with a modern PBX system, an IP phone connects to a service provider in the cloud and the call has passed on to its destination. During the call, the IP phone converts audio into data packets sent into the cloud and passed on to the receiver, while the audio data sent by the receiver is converted into sounds you can hear.
Handling massive amounts of calls is when a virtual phone system really shines. There’s no need for miles of physical phone lines or dozens of phone jacks. A cloud-based system can hold, queue, and park hundreds of calls per line. Also, there are no physical limits when it comes to the number of phone lines.
Key Features of Modern Multi-line Phone Systems
This technology is a far cry from the old clunky analog phone systems that are it into a single location with minimal functionality. Cloud-based VoIP systems also host voicemail and other functionality in the cloud. Let’s explore some of the main features that your company might want in its phone system.
Call Holding and Parking
Call holding and parking are essential business phone functions that you have probably dealt with countless times. Call parking, in case you didn’t know, is similar to call holding, but this function allows many different people on the system to pick up a call that’s been put on hold. A call-holding system can also be programmed with the standard hold music or important audio messages designed to inform and engage callers.
In addition to transferring calls internally, modern multi-line phone systems offer the ability to forward calls to personal devices. Calls can also be forwarded to an individual’s voicemail, desk phone, or smartphone. Call forwarding helps to connect callers to the right people at the right time. It makes your callers feel heard, Even when they can only connect to someone’s voicemail.
Call routing is essentially an automated call forwarding function that directs inbound calls to a line based on predefined criteria, such as time of day or caller ID. This function can be used in several ways:
- Call distribution across a customer service team
- Routing calls to an available representative
- Routing a single call to a group of phones that can be answered by anyone who picks up
- Sending calls to various representatives based on a predetermined volume ratio
This function lets people direct their call to a person or department using input from their phone’s keypad. This helps to engage your callers and improve their experience. Auto attendants can also help convey professionalism, which can be great for emerging businesses.
In addition to the standard voicemail function that we all know and love, modern multi-line phone systems can produce voicemail transcripts that can be sent via email.
Audio conferencing is typically an add-on feature for landline-based systems, but it often comes standard with a VoIP system. With this built-in functionality, there’s no need to rely on a third-party app or service to hold conference calls. VoIP systems also provide superior audio quality compared to old analog systems, which makes a big difference when multiple people are on the same call.
Call recording is a function many people have come to associate with business phone calls, especially calls to customer service representatives. Call recording provides training opportunities and helps to hold people accountable. But it can also provide customer experience insights that you can use to make sure you are serving your customers as best you can. Recordings are stored in a server, so managing storage devices or media is unnecessary. Recordings are also searchable and highly accessible.
Every single industry is being disrupted by big data and analytics. Even though your company might not be using this technology, there’s a good chance your competitors are. Modern multi-line phone systems can analyze call data and connect it to various business goals. Modern phone systems can also show real-time call data for superior monitoring of activities.
Popular in call centers, screen pop is a functionality that automatically presents information about a caller as soon as the phone rings. This information can include data on past interactions and customer sentiment. When integrated with a CRM, screen pop lets your staff members provide a top-class customer experience.
Setting Up a Multi-line Phone System
In the past, setting up a multi-line phone system required installing dozens of physical phone lines. Modern digital systems require much less physical setup and a lot more technical setup.
The first step is to select a business phone service based on the needs of your business. Providers can customize a multi-line phone system based on the needs of your business. When talking to different providers, describe your needs in as much detail as possible so they can outline a solution that best suits your business.
After you’ve settled on your provider, you are ready to start setting up a multi-line phone system for your company. The first step is migrating your phone numbers to the new system. This ‘number porting’ process can take more than a week, and providers have measures to ensure there’s no communication disruption. There is no need to change existing numbers or shut down lines while the number reporting process is taking place.
Setting up an individual account on a modern business phone system only takes a few minutes. It usually requires fairly standard steps like providing an email address, password, and other basic information. Individual team members can add themselves, or an administrator can handle adding new employees.
It’s crucial to enter your hours of operation into the phone system. This establishes when your business or individual departments are able to receive calls. Make sure that you consider time zones when entering the company hours, which isn’t necessarily straightforward for companies that do business across different time zones. Entering your hours of operation then lets you add auto-replies or call forwarding for after-hours calls.
Download Web and Mobile Apps
The biggest benefit of using a cloud-hosted PBX or VoIP solution is the ability to access it on various devices. Simply downloading a mobile or desktop app unlocks the ability to make and receive calls on these devices.
Employees should be invited to download the apps and start using them. This transforms your multi-line phone service into a flexible solution matching the modern workplace.
You can also provide shared numbers to staff members so they can communicate over texts and calls. This can increase efficiency and help your support members provide a superior customer experience.
Integrate Business Tools
Many companies rely heavily on CRMs, analytics platforms and other third-party tools. Modern business phone systems can integrate with most of today’s business platforms. Be sure to properly set up any integrations to ensure you’re getting the most out of your multi-line phone system.
CRMs and other platforms also have native integrations that let you perform various voice activities from one interface. For example, an integration could let you make calls directly from your CRM.
Set Up Voicemail
Recording voicemail greetings for customers and clients is critical and the importance of getting it right is often overlooked. Ideally, your voicemail greetings should both inform and instruct callers. They should have a sense of why a person or department cannot be reached. They should also understand what information they need to leave in order to have a prompt response.
For example, a greeting could tell customers that training limits the number of available agents and that leaving their names and numbers will ensure a timely response.
Ensure that sales and customer service agents have time to review and respond to voicemail messages. This helps to prevent customer questions and concerns from going unanswered.
Set Up Call Flows
If done correctly, setting up call flows can be a game-changer for your customer service teams. A call flow is a type of flowchart that establishes how different types of calls will be handled from the moment they enter the system.
Setting up call flows starts with understanding how the nature of your business relates to various types of incoming calls. For example, is it critical for all calls to be answered by a person, or are you happy sending calls to voicemail? Do you want all calls to pass through reception, or should people be able to call extensions directly?
You should also figure out how you will handle calls during off-hours and different times of the year. For these calls, a general rule of thumb starts with an incoming phone number, then goes to determine if there is a holiday, and then goes to determining if the business is currently open or closed. Auto attendants and voicemail are critical components of any modern call flow.
Switch on Call Recording
Call recording is a valuable feature in most multi-line phone systems that lets you make use of your previous calls. Call recordings might be useful for training, documentation, quality assurance, analytics, etc.
Most systems let you switch on auto recording to capture each call, so sales and service representatives don’t have to hit the record button ahead of taking a call.
Set Up Extra Features
Many modern business phone systems offer functionalities that go beyond call features. Depending on the nature of your business, different extra features can enhance productivity and enhance workflows. Some useful features that meet the needs of the requirements of modern companies include:
- Call monitoring. By listening in on different calls, you can better train and track the progress of sales and service agents.
- Business messaging. SMS messaging is a very useful tool to engage with customers, especially younger customers. Additionally, bots, automation and bulk messaging campaigns can significantly improve your team’s productivity.
- Custom workflows. Customized workflows leverage the power of automation to cut down on wasteful tasks or process bottlenecks.
Testing, Refining and Training
Ahead of launching your new multi-line phone system, it’s a good idea to test out the system to work out any kinks. If issues are found, you can work with your provider to sort them out before going live.
It’s also critical for your staff to get used to a new system before launch. Hold demo sessions to get people familiar with how it works. Dry runs can also help you understand if all your functions and features are operating correctly.
Desk Phones for a Multi-Line Phone System
Choosing desk phones that match your phone system capabilities is also important. Consider the following kinds of multi-line phones:
- Two-line phones. These phones are best for small businesses with a predictable and moderate volume of calls. Two-line phones are best used in small offices with a handful of employees and small retailers that need one line for customer calls and another line for management calls.
- Four-line phones. If you are in a small company that regularly needs to transfer calls or place calls on hold, then four-line phones are a good option. These phones are best for small companies with sales representatives and account managers. Four-line phones are also ideal for small customer service teams that often call customers and vendors. A four-line phone is also a good option for receptionists in small companies.
- Executive-range IP phones. Executive range IP phones are designed for company leaders who require a multifaceted device that meets modern communication expectations. These phones have fairly large display screens, and some offer the ability to make video calls. These phones have built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth functionality, giving them much more flexibility than standard desk phones.
Benefits of a Multi-line Phone System
Multi-line phone systems require an investment. There’s no doubt about it. However, these systems do provide a number of business benefits, and these benefits can translate into a significant return. If you need more convincing about the value of a multi-line phone system for your business, consider the following benefits.
Modern multi-line phone systems require a lot less physical hardware and wiring than traditional analog phone systems. This means less need to maintain or replace these physical items.
Also, modern VoIP systems offer much more functionality at the same cost as a traditional PBX. In some situations, going with a VoIP or cloud-hosted PBX is even cheaper.
When the communication system in your business goes down, it can be very costly, depending on the size and type of company. When your company relies on a traditional on-premise phone system, it is more vulnerable to equipment breakdowns and outages. Cloud-based and VoIP systems rely on multiple data centers, and this gives them built-in redundancy. This seriously reduces the risk of downtime, keeping your phone system up and running. A service provider will also handle any upgrades and back-end maintenance, ensuring that your system is kept up to date.
The modern workforce is a flexible one. Your company is probably hiring remote workers, switching people into hybrid positions, or planning on moving offices. A modern VoIP phone system is largely based on the Internet, and this supports a significant amount of workforce flexibility. Many modern VoIP systems also have digital apps that allow your employees to use their own devices.
By comparison, a traditional on-premise phone system doesn’t support remote work, and rearranging the system or moving it requires significant labor.
If your company is growing, you need a phone system that can grow with it, and modern systems are built for scalability. Cloud-based PBX and VoIP systems let you add phone lines quickly and easily. There’s no special skill or knowledge needed. Simply add lines through an admin dashboard on your computer.
Internet-based phone systems can provide your company with a unified communications solution to bring your employees together across multiple platforms. Presence management, instant messaging, softphone, conferencing and other features let office workers, remote offices and remote workers act as one.
Live details on employee status, such as “in a meeting” or “on the phone,” help people communicate and get the information they need. Most systems let you edit this function so you can let people know the best ways to reach you.
Send and receive text messages across your organization. The ability to chat with someone down the hall or around the world lets you get the right information at the right time. Messaging platforms also let you memorialize what was said, which helps with clarity and accountability. Unified messaging lets users view attachments or faxes from a computer or mobile device.
A softphone function lets users make calls over a data network or the Internet using a computer or mobile device. It’s another way to quickly and easily communicate with others in an organization.
Audio and Video Conferencing
We all got very familiar with conferencing solutions during the COVID-19 pandemic. These let collaborators work together, or all get on the same, either at the drop of a hat or by schedule. When conferencing is included with a voice solution, it eliminates the need for third-party solutions and services.
It seems like today’s workday is filled with countless apps, vendors, platforms, devices and systems. Providers of multi-line phone systems make life simpler for your employees by providing phones, lines and all types of functionality. Also, auto attendant and other automated functionality can streamline operations while keeping you connected to clients and customers. By simplifying and streamlining communications, your employees become more productive.
Let’s Make Sure Everyone is Connected
At Taylored Systems, we’ve provided technical solutions to Indiana companies for over four decades. We are as familiar with legacy technology as we are with the latest and greatest solutions.
If your company is currently interested in business phone services, Taylored Systems can help. Through our various provider relationships, we can connect your company with a best-fit voice solution that keeps costs down while keeping you connected. We can analyze all the different services out there and create a solution that’s right for your organization.
We’re proud to say that our reputation precedes us at Taylored Systems. We understand that building strong relationships is more important than any single sale, and that’s why people keep coming back to us. We’re not here to sell you on the latest and greatest. Only what works best for your company, we can help you meet short-term business goals and plan for long-term objectives.
Simply contact us today to set up a consultation. Let our knowledge and experience take your company’s communications to the next level.