Phone Systems Don't Need To Be Complicated

Our experience with most phone systems is that they're overly complicated and poorly documented. We’re convinced they’re built like this to force you to work with (and pay) a vendor for the life of the system. You must work with specific hardware from specific vendors, and it’s all supported by specific companies. You could say it’s specifically designed so you keep paying. We worked with a client to move them off their migraine-inducing Iwatsu system to 3CX. It worked everywhere, and just worked.

Their issues with the Iwatsu system probably felt endless to them. Do these feel familiar to you?

  • The system was constantly crashing. Who would think a phone system could crash? This one did often, though, and the vendor had to be contacted every time to fix it.
  • The client couldn’t administrate it on their own. Add a new extension or someone change names? Call the vendor and wait for them to do it.
  • The handsets were $400 each and could only be purchased from one source, the vendor. That’s almost as much as a cellphone and not nearly as useful!
  • The system worked only in the office. Working from home or a small office? Out of luck.
  • The phone system could only be maintained by certain vendors that covered a region. If the client wasn’t happy with the service from their support vendor, they had nowhere else to turn.

Taken as a whole, these issues made the client feel trapped and like their wallet was being bled dry. They didn’t have a phone system; they had a vampire that could take calls.

One of the first steps of a good deployment is learning what the client needs. A lot of companies will throw out all the awesome feature their product has, but if none of those meet the needs of the client then that awesome product is worth nothing to them. To make sure we had a good cross-section of needs we met with everyone willing to talk. Front desk, sales support, sales, operations, purchasing, and owners. They had a lot to say. We learned that their wish list was short once it was all boiled down.

  • Low maintenance. They wanted a system that would work without having to babysit it.
  • Easy to use. Both for the end-users and for the people that administrate the system. They wanted to be able to complete basic functions, like adding extensions, on their own.
  • Remote extensions. The client was opening offices all over the country and had many home-office staff. Wouldn’t it be nice to have one system to maintain instead of separate phone systems at every office?
  • Scale for the future. They had every intention of growing and their phone system wouldn’t be what held them back. Their estimates were to expand their workforce by three times in three years or less.

While we have many partners we work with, we are solution agnostic. One of our founding ideals is that we find the best solution for our client, not the one that’s best for us. Over the years we’ve accumulated a great deal of phone system experience. InterTel, Iwatsu, ShoreTel, Asterix, FreePBX, Digium, and 3CX. For a company that doesn’t specialize in phone systems, it seems like we work with them a lot. After consideration of the client’s needs, both current and future, 3CX was the best fit. The client agreed with our assessment and the deployment moved forward.

After months of discussions, research, planning, and preparation, it all came down to one weekend. In a single weekend we migrated two-hundred phones across five offices to their new 3CX system. The 3CX system came in at $60,000 cheaper in upfront hardware and $30,000 cheaper in annual licensing. Since the system was brought online in 2014, it has handled over 1,900,000 calls. It has scaled to cover fourteen offices across the country and numerous home-office staff. It was specifically mentioned as being instrumental in the successful weathering of the COVID-19 shutdowns.

These are some of features that the client now benefits from:

  • Virtual phone system – The system was built on virtual hardware. This allows for easy addition of new resources or migration of the phone system for handling increasing demand.
  • Handsets are vendor agnostic – The 3CX phone system works with most major handset suppliers. This allows for price shopping, ease of finding hardware, and deploying the best fit hardware for the need.
  • Software based phone system – The system is software based (and virtual in this deployment) so it can have additional features or licenses added without waiting for expensive hardware to arrive. It can handle a couple calls or thousands. This also permits the system to be hosted in the Cloud if the deployment calls for it. This is part of this client’s backup and disaster recovery plan.
  • Very low maintenance – Other than adding extensions, which can be done by anyone with a few minutes of training, the system requires almost no maintenance. Anything that needs to be done can be handled by anyone with basic technical skills.
  • Built for mobile workforce – The 3CX system is built to be used by anyone, anywhere. The desk phones work in the office as well as the home-office. The software-based softphone can be installed on desktops, laptops, cellphones, and tables for use no matter where someone is working. The web-based phone can also be accessed anywhere without the need for software installation.
  • Reporting – Customizable reporting comes standard with the system. Most platforms have very limited reports for additional cost. The 3CX system comes with built-in reporting that’s easy for anyone to work with.