When was the last time you evaluated your current phone system? Yes, I said phone system. For many advisors, your phone system is not likely a high priority. In fact, perhaps you have been using the same phone system for years. Maybe you wouldn’t even refer to it as a phone system.
Your initial needs for your phone system were probably very simple and didn’t require much sophistication. However, as your firm continues to grow in assets and employees, is your phone system keeping up with all of your needs? More advisors are spending time working outside of their main office—whether it is at home, a second home or another location for an extended period of time. Given this situation, how many phone numbers does it take to keep track of your comings and goings, and those of your associates? Do your clients or associates first try your office and then your mobile phone and then perhaps even your home number? The good news is that the technology behind phone systems has really improved over the years. In addition, today there are also a number of phone system providers that target small- to medium-sized businesses.
As with any technology purchase, selecting the right phone system or determining if your existing solution is adequate requires a thorough needs assessment. Many of the phone systems available have an extensive list of features and functionality. Examples include a “follow me” feature where you instruct the system to ring a certain phone depending on the number dialed. Specifically, you can direct your main phone number to ring your office first and then your mobile phone. Or you could direct the system to immediately ring your home office when your main office phone number is dialed. In this case, your client knows one number to contact you and you direct the phone or phones at which the main number will ring.
Another more sophisticated example of the latest features is utilizing the “heads-up” display that several phone systems install on your personal computer. This software is especially useful if you have multiple associates in different locations. The software can tell you if someone is on the phone, who they are speaking to, and how long they have been on the phone, as well as many other details. This technology simulates an environment in which everyone is located at one location because of the information available on each associate’s computer screen. These are just two very different examples that demonstrate the variety of features available with the phone systems that are on the market today. There is a long list of features available, so it is important for you to consider your specific needs before you fork over any cash and perhaps overpay for a solution.
One of the reasons why phone systems have made so much progress over the last several years—particularly for systems available to small- and medium-sized companies—is the availability of broadband Internet connections which are at the foundation of VoIP-based systems. VoIP, which stands for Voice over Internet Protocol, is the technology that allows voice communications to be delivered over the Internet on IP-based networks. In the early stages before broadband, the quality of VoIP phone systems was very inconsistent and unreliable. Today the technology has improved significantly and many businesses (including my own firm) use a VoIP-based phone system. Put simply, VoIP technology allows a firm to achieve a number of the upscale benefits of having your own customized telephone switchroom within your own office, where previously it required much more expensive hardware, software and network infrastructure. The costs were simply too prohibitive for most advisors to consider. Score another gain in productivity improvements made possible by technology advancements.