Princi Thilak, Author at Access4

Everything you need to know about business phone systems

For organisations large and small, activating a functional business phone system is one of the first critical installations required for day to day operations. For many businesses, once complete, it’s rarely thought upon again, until the existing system requires a substantial investment to upgrade or the technology can no longer facilitate business requirements. Today, business communications have transformed from a simple inbound number to an enhanced customer experience platform and a feature-rich collaboration space for employees. So it’s worth the review to see ensure your business phone system is truly working for you.

What is a business phone system?

In simple terms, a business phone system facilitates internal and external calls for a company via multiple lines and allows for a range of business-critical features such as call routing, transfers, voicemail and call queues. Traditionally, business phone systems relied on the installation and maintenance of on-premise hardware, also known as a Private Branch Exchange (PBX). Capable of maintaining small-to-medium business requirements but known for their high investment and technical costs, business owners with traditional PBX systems often reach a point where the cost to upgrade the hardware and functionality becomes too excessive.  In contrast, cloud based phone systems offer flexibility by removing the hard-line connection to the public phone network and with a virtual connection via the internet.  Cloud business phone systems eliminate the need for technical installation and maintenance associated with physical hardware, and use Session Border Controllers (SBCs) commonly housed in datacentres to connect securely with voice carriers via the internet. This solution offers a high level of security and business continuity, ensuring phone lines are active regardless of any in-office event.

Technical detail aside, business phone systems also have a unique role to fulfill. They need to be able to facilitate internal interactions across multiple locations, provide a reliable route of contact for external calls and ensure customer interactions are efficient and satisfactory, linking the relevant department to suit the customer’s individual needs.  We’ve identified four main business phone system requirements to use as a guide:

  • Businesses with a single reception desk which pass calls through to the relevant extension.
  • Businesses with call filtering via IVR (Interactive Voice Response) functionality.
  • Businesses with multiple reception desks and medium-to-high call volumes.
  • Businesses experiencing high growth or with mobile workforce requirements.

Understanding where your business falls in terms of these requirements is the first step to determining how you can find a platform that will suit your business as it grows over time.

How to choose a business phone system

When looking to select a new business phone system the first logical step is to consider what is missing from your current phone system and what you are trying to achieve. Some of these measures could include:

  • Increasing and measuring staff productivity (particularly in relation to call centre/customer-based operations)
  • Tracing missed calls
  • Better management of busy call lines
  • Adding improved reception facilities
  • Quick identification of customers and CRM integration

At Access4, our technical team regularly help customers with their phone system requirements and conversations seem to align to similar challenges. “We need a business phone system that is easy to use”, “It needs to be simple”, “It needs to be simple to configure”, and so on right down to, “can we change the amount of rings?” and “can I schedule call redirections”. What rings true here, is that business phone systems need to be simple, portable, customisable – and to exceed expectations, scalable.  Let’s break this down.

Keep it simple

Business phone systems should require minimal training, feature quick installation and inspire fast adoption within the team. Partnering with a trusted managed service provider is a great way to ensure that you’re provided with an intuitive system that has synergies with your existing business software (such as Microsoft Teams Calling), features plug and play devices for easy scaling and can offer data driven insights into your customer services. For collaboration focused departments, features such as shared resources across multiple sites and live calendar integration offer seamless alignment for onsite and remote users.

Distributed Workforce ready

Any forward-thinking organisation will already be aware of their ability to quickly move to remote operations and this is key to your choice of business phone system. Important features to look for are: Real time syncing across multiple devices, full functionality across office phone and mobile apps, DID integration into collaboration platforms, carrier grade infrastructure and geo-redundant data centres.

Customisable and scalable

An agile phone system that offers drag and drop advanced call features such as custom on hold music, voicemail to email, time of day routing and seamless technology switching (without changing providers) is key to enabling flexibility for growth as your business requirements change. Another important consideration is the ability to quickly scale up and down in response to seasonality or external environment conditions. Are you able to quickly add phones to support additional contract staff during busy periods and remove them again when you return to BAU?

Join the cloud

We’re all familiar with the benefits of utilising cloud services in our personal lives, and when it comes to our business phone systems the advantages are limitless. Combining ‘as a service’ consumption with the latest innovation and technology cloud based phone systems deliver further advantages, particularly around disaster recovery and control.  By enabling application or web based management tools services can be enabled or disabled in seconds, and relocated to almost anywhere an internet connection is available. True mobility and collaboration tools can further enhance your experience, and give you a competitive edge.

How much do business phone systems cost?

Determining an exact cost for your business phone system will of course be dependent on the scale and the unique requirements of your business, but there are some key areas you can look out for to ensure you’re reducing costs where possible and getting the most value out of your phone system and call plans.

  • Look for no upfront costs: no hardware and no installation.
  • Plan for a predictable bill and avoid bill shock by selecting a plan with included calls gives you flexibility for budgeting.
  • No lock-in contract. Get the flexibility you need to upgrade your technology in line with your business goals.

It’s hard to look past the significant benefits of cloud-based business phone systems when considering costs. There’s typically no upfront capital investment requirement, and, in Australia, tax benefits for operational costs undertaken. Communications as a service also eliminates the potential for ongoing costs associated with hardware including maintenance and upgrades, engineering and other technical support, data centre and business recovery measures and platform management resources.

Choosing the wrong business system can have lasting effects on your organisation. How much does it cost you to miss a phone call? How many of your customers will jump to a competitor if they hit a voicemail? It’s a hard choice to make, and that’s why we recommend choosing a provider that understands your business and can deliver a solution with the right technology to suit you. At the end of the day, your phone number is the door to your business, will you be there when the bell rings?

By Tim Jackson

This pandemic has been the single biggest catalyst to get everyone thinking about their work practices, home workspace needs, transport frustrations and commercial leases. Employees have realised they don’t need to be in the office 5 days a week to communicate and feel part of an organisation or team.  Employers have learnt that with a small amount of effort and planning, they can implement initiatives to help their staff feel connected and included while being distributed.  

I talk to my team regularly, here’s an insight into what they have shared with me: 

  • I’ve realised it’s possible to work from home most of the time while my kids are in school. I only need to be in the office once or twice a week.”  
  • “I’ve always wanted to move to my holiday home and travel in once a week, or even fortnight.” 
  • “Working virtually actually makes sense, I can’t believe we have all been going to offices for so long! 
  • “My one-minute commute from the kitchen to the study is amazing. Why have I been wasting 2+ hours a day in peak hour traffic, spending thousands of dollars on transporting myself to the office five days a week?” 
  • “I’m feeling a lot healthier being able to exercise earlier or structure my day totally differently because I’m at home and the typical 9 to 5 no longer applies 

As an employer, my own conversations are turning to the question of company spend, culture and overheads. 

  • “If everyone continues to work from home, we don’t need so much office space. 
  • “With less people physically in our office, overheads and utilities have reduced significantly 
  • “We were outgrowing our office. With our shift in flexible working, even with our projected growth, the team could stay put for another 5 years. Now I can maximise the office space with a redesign focussed on collaboration or move to a purpose-built collaboration space. Not to mention we’ve eliminated the need to buy more space and parking. 

It’s time for businesses and individuals to review their old ways of working, there’s no going back. 

Business leaders operating successfully through COVID-19 have adapted and invested in distributed working so their teams could keep performing. Now is the time to continue and provide flexibility wherever possible. 

Organisations of all sizes should review and implement distributed and flexible work policies. Ensure there is transparency and that all staff can participate in shaping these new agreementsAt Access4, we found it helpful to be clear about the difference between flexible and distributed working. 

Distributed Working is the ability for staff to seamlessly work outside the designated office. This could be at home, a café, co-working space or while travelling. They are not reliant on attending a company office location to successfully perform in their role. 

Flexible Working is the ability for an individual to work on the days, and range of hours they desireWith this approach we recommend also including designated contact hours (e.g. be available to others from 10am-2pm weekdays) to ensure availability for meetings and collaboration but start or finish times are left up to the individuals’ personal preferences
 

We learned a lot putting our own policies in place. The key areas we focused on were: 

  1. Challenge historical thinking and identify which positions can be flexible and distributed. 
  2. Are the distributed working conditions suitable for a wider range of working hours? Wellbeing and ergonomics are important, an OH&S focussed checklist can help. 
  3. Use a roster or booking system for your office desks and workspaces to spread out contact and manage attendance limits. 
  4. The physical or fit out changes your office needs to help team members spread out or collaborate more effectively.  
  5. Communication and technology systems needed to support teams and their distributed collaboration needs when connected with each other, and your customers. 

It’s clear the time is now for businesses to adapt and throw out the ‘old school’ mentality that ‘you need to be in the office to be productive’. For those willing to make the change you can expect to see more engaged staff, retention of top talent, and improved recruitment attracting new candidates from markets and locations previously out of reach.  A renewed focus on metrics that matter ensures your team are clear on the outcomes expected from their roles. Bring transparency to those metrics through easily accessible business performance dashboards and BI tools as everyone adapts to the new ways of working.  

You aren’t alone in this. There are speciality providers to guide and facilitate the changes that businesses are going through, like workplace designers to add more collaborative and break out space to your existing offices. Access4 partners are here as your trusted Managed Services Provider to ensure that voice, video and collaboration systems, in addition to your hardware are ready to keep staff and your customers connected. 

Ready to connect with a Managed Service Provider? Send us a message:

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Communication, Responsibility, Experience and Knowledge

PConnect delivers for healthcare with Access4

A little over 10 years ago Geoff Boyce and Gerard Buscombe saw an opportunity in the market to create an affordable, reliable, adaptable telephony service that was easily understood yet flexible enough to meet the modern business demands.

They established a company called Precision IT to offer a range of innovative services and solutions for small, medium and large sized organisations across Australia.

Geoff Boyce, Director and Founder of Precision IT said, “There was so much jargon out there in IT land. We wanted to make it straightforward for customers, take the complexity out of IT services and make things transparent, dependable and easy to understand.

The business model we built is underpinned by four crucial commitments we make to our clients: Communication, Responsibility, Experience and Knowledge. We believe this sets us apart in the outsourced IT industry and we are proud of that. We work hand in hand with our clients to adapt the latest technologies to suit their individual needs.”

This approach has proved to be a winning formula that has seen Precision IT go from strength to strength.

Over the past few years, the company has developed a strong speciality in the healthcare sector, such that the business now supports more than 50 GP and specialist medical practices nationally and truly understands medical IT systems.

“We have built solid working relationships and partnerships with key medical industry providers including Stat Health, HCN, Best Practice, Genie Solutions, Medical Objects, HealthLink, Shexie, Direct Control, Clintel, MIMS, Argus, Appointuit, DocAppointments – and many more,” said Geoff.

“We’ve been able to help a number of clients within the healthcare industry as we understand the legalities and complexities inherent in the industry and are able to simplify them into a succinct service offering that meets all of their requirements – from functionality and reliability through to reporting and other legislative requirements.”

In the healthcare industry, IT services are mission critical. A completely stable and reliable platform is a key success factor to ensure systems are 100% available during required hours to provide access to patient notes and deliver the highest levels of patient care. To meet the needs of its various clients in the healthcare sector, the company developed a solution called Precision Connect, a highly reliable internet and WAN service.

“We love new challenges and the opportunity to work with clients on innovative solutions. Out of the Precision Connect solution, we have built a business called PConnect, a company that was created from a client need and allows us to continue to innovate around the solution as new technologies and capabilities emerge,” said Geoff.

PConnect provides a range of services supported by a high-speed backbone network, allowing businesses to establish a corporate private MPLS networks that connects multiple sites securely. With a 99.98% uptime guarantee, this high-performance network offers multiple connection options including fibre, ethernet and fixed wireless.

“While it’s technology innovation that gets us out of bed in the morning, we’re also excited by the opportunities presented by the healthcare industry. We understand the challenges the industry faces around time to delivery, consistency and dependability. PConnect is the business that is able to tick all of those boxes.

At launch, PConnect did face a major issue with former providers. The solution was being impacted by network outages and a lack of platform stability, which meant we were not able to meet the commitments we had made to our clients. We undertook an in-depth market review for a new platform partner as our previous suppliers had completely let us down.”

The PConnect solution has since been transitioned to Access4, where the upgraded platform and portal leads to faster, more reliable use and provides the opportunity for customization.

“The decision to move to Access4 was a simple one. At the centre of our relationship is a shared value system; we both believe in taking the complexity out of the service; making it transparent, dependable and easily understood. We are both focused on continued investment in new technologies and advancements. And we both value reliability and clear communication.

Transitioning our business telephony back-end onto the Access4 network has been a real enabler for our team to deliver on the ‘can do’ attitude we have built our business around. Our clients sometimes ask for miracles and Access4’s team and product suite has enabled us to deliver quickly and easily,” said Geoff.

Working with Access4 has also allowed the company to introduce voice services, and its integration with Microsoft Teams provides a one stop shop for all a clients’ voice and data needs.

“With more than six years of experience in developing tailored solutions for the healthcare industry, PConnect now aims to make voice and data platforms an industry standard, responding to a pressing need for easy, deliverable and reliable systems,” said Geoff.

The integration of MS teams provides a seamless telephony service and makes PConnect a turn-key unified communications solution for clients regardless of the industry they are in.

“What’s more, the SASSBOSS platform with its automated deployment and billing platform means we now have the ability to spend 70% more time on acquiring new clients and strengthening our client relationships rather than processing billing and manual provisioning of new endpoints. We are that much more efficient! The Access4 platform ensures we are up to the task in healthcare and we are now focusing our R&D on new integrations like nurse and duress alarms and making video the new default for electronic communications in patient care.”

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Microsoft Teams Calling – Better product, better process

Access4’s latest innovation, Microsoft Teams Calling pairs the flexibility of the popular collaboration software with customisable, advanced features to create a complete business phone system. The incredible growth of remote working solutions and collaboration software has made this a popular choice for Access4 partners, and today we’re happy to announce a new set of features to enhance the sales and provisioning process.

New product options

Available in three flexible options, MS Teams Calling can be purchased via a contended channel model suited to large deployments, a per user license model and an enhanced user model which includes a license for BroadWorks hardware and software deployments and is compatible with SASBOSS add-ons such as CRM Integration, Call Recording and Contact Centre functionality.

Provisioning improvements

Provision to suit the capabilities of every business. Choose from automated fully scripted options through to downloadable customised scripts, or opt for the basic manually configured option.

With a range of pricing options from PAYG through to included calls and bundling, We’ve focused on providing scale and flexibility with options to suit customers looking for a basic Teams rollout all the way to complex hybrid environments utilising BroadWorks contact centre solutions.


Activate Microsoft Teams Calling for your business

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MSPs are at tipping point

Unified Communication as a Service (UCaaS) provider, Access4, announced that it recently signed its 100th Partner, with over 60 new partners signed in the past 12 months alone.

Tim Jackson, Managing Director of Access4, said that demand was being fuelled by MSP’s frustrations with Tier 1 carrier reliability and service delivery. “One of the key areas of our growth has been from large MSP’s joining our Channel Program. Their long-term issues with Tier 1 carriers range from network outages to the recent loss of offshore call centres. This, combined with unprecedented demand for work from home solutions during COVID-19, has become a tipping point for large MSP’s, who have frankly run out of patience. An example is our new partner, PConnect, who faced a major issue with former providers.” Geoff Boyce, Director and Founder of PConnect (owned by Precision IT) said, “Our solution was being impacted by network outages and a lack of platform stability, which meant we were not able to meet the commitments we had made to our clients. We undertook an in-depth market review for a new platform partner as our previous suppliers had completely let us down.”

The PConnect solution has since been transitioned to Access4, where the upgraded platform and portal has led to faster, more reliable use and provides the opportunity for customisation.

Boyce said, “The decision to move to Access4 was a simple one. At the centre of our relationship is a shared value system; we both believe in taking the complexity out of the service; making it transparent, dependable and easily understood. We are both focused on continued investment in new technologies and advancements. And we both value reliability and clear communication.”

Jackson said, “Our partners have found they cannot afford to take risks around service delivery and performance. I personally understand the pain MSP’s are experiencing. The idea of Access4 was born out of my frustration from trying to find a quality end-to-end UCaaS solution from Tier 1 carriers in Australia when I was running an MSP a few years ago.

The story of the Access4 beginnings was a simple case of identifying a problem in the market and then developing a purpose-built solution to eliminate every challenge and barrier to entry. Now, with the advent of COVID-19, as organisations pivot to working from home, we have quickly moved from a niche provider to partner of choice for MSPs and SI’s in the Australian and New Zealand market.”

More than ever, remote work solutions are mission critical for companies to stay in business and be competitive during these exceptionally challenging times.

“COVID-19 has been the catalyst for the ‘great working from home experiment’ as businesses are now required to implement an ‘any device, any time, any location’ approach, which is at the core of a solid UCaaS platform. Our robust, quality solution that includes a BroadSoft collaboration and an MS Teams Calling option is fundamentally why we have experienced significant growth in all areas of our business,” Jackson said.


Transitioning to remote work? Speak to a specialist

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New FastPort technology allows call redirection within 24 hours

video-conferencing

Unified Communication as a Service (UCaaS) provider, Access4, today announced it has created a fast track programme for partners. The programme will help them deal with an expected increase in demand to support work from home arrangements for employees to minimise the impact of COVID-19 since the World Health Organisation declared coronavirus a global pandemic.

Tim Jackson, Access4 Managing Director, said that the programme introduction recognised the need to support and stimulate small and medium business across Australia and New Zealand to ensure business continuity and allow them to trade during this potentially difficult time.

“Our top priority right now is to deliver the product innovations and process improvements we have made that allow our partners to handle significantly increased demand for remote work and work from home solutions from their customers.

As the provider of choice for companies wanting to move phone systems in a relatively short timeframe, we can now have customers set up on Microsoft Teams making and receiving calls to the public network within 24 hours using our new FastPort technology.

The FastPort solution provides customers with a single 1800 number to manage redirections during service migration and connects customers prior to the completion of the port. Once porting is complete, the service transitions automatically, resulting in a seamless customer experience.”

To help encourage small business customers to adopt MS Teams, the company will also support a recent Microsoft initiative and remove its licensing component from MS Teams until 30 September 2020, lowering the cost by up to 50%.

Jackson said, “For smaller organisations, the impact of implementing a remote work or work from home policy could be beyond the cost of consideration. This offer, combined with our product suite, makes industry leading software accessible to business, no matter their size. Offering flexibility in application, consumption-based licenses, simplified scaling and instant provisioning.

We believe Microsoft Teams Calling is a great solution because it’s a platform that any business using Office 365 has access to. Our enhanced product also gives customers the ability to add tailored business features without any on-site hardware or installations – all within the one system.”

After an intensive search, we’re delighted to introduce you to Cliff, your new Training Manager. With a background in telco, higher education and the technology sector, Cliff will help further innovate and evolve the training we offer you.

“I’m excited to bring a digital-first mindset and modern learning strategies to the pathways we offer to partners today.” Cliff says, “There’s a great foundation here thanks to my predecessor, I’m making it a priority to help this continue to scale as our partners, and Access4 continue to grow.”

In the coming weeks and months, partners can look forward to:

  • Transformed online learning pathways focusing on your user experience in addition to being much more engaging and interactive.
  • A 100% self-paced learning option, for those of you who don’t want to wait for webinars or just want a faster onboarding.
  • Learning from anywhere! Responsive bite-sized content that you can consume from any device or location.

Cliff also comes to us with experience in digital enablement, so you can look forward to improvements to the help and guidance available in SASBOSS and the Partner Resource Centre too. From Cliff, “We use some of the best tools on the market for online learning and digital adoption including Rise360 and WalkMe. Our partners are going to see significant benefits as we continue to leverage their capability and make help easier to access in the moments it’s needed.”

Unified Communication as a Service (UCaaS) provider, Access4, today announced it has appointed former Vocus Executive, Scott Carter, as Chairman of the Board.

Tim Jackson, Access4 Managing Director, said that the company had actively targeted Scott for the role given his significant experience leading fast-growing tech businesses.

“Scott has a track record of success with driving growth in the channel and our goal is to double our partner base in Australia and New Zealand over the next 12 months. He will provide the experienced leadership needed for this next phase of aggressive growth and also play a pivotal role in the Series C capital raise the business is currently undertaking.”

Scott Carter brings over two decades of industry experience to the business, most recently as CEO of

enterprise and government at Vocus Communications, CEO of Vocus Consumer and COO of M2 Group. Carter said, “I am excited to join this specialist fast growing business that has solved the challenge for channel partners to allow them to capitalise on the market opportunity presented by unified communications and grow their profits.

I have seen first-hand the cost, complexity, time to market and deployment issues encountered by the channel to deliver UC solutions and how this has held them back in the past.

Access4 solves these issues through its proprietary SASBOSS platform, a turnkey solution that delivers an intuitive suite of communication products from global leaders including BroadSoft (Cisco) and Microsoft Teams,” said Carter.

Jackson said, “We see exciting times ahead from a product development perspective, especially with the new Microsoft Teams product, which will open new partner markets. Demand is set to be high for hybrid business communication utilising BroadWorks and MS Teams Collaboration.”

Design + code by Jalapeno Creative.

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