Business telephone system features

Business telephone system features vary significantly from basic analogue Multi-line systems to sophisticated IP-PBX and VoIP phone solutions. This guide describes the common features available from UK business phone system suppliers.

This is the main photograph for the article Business telephone system features. It shows a close up of a softphone headset in front of a laptop.

Photo by Petr Machacek on Unsplash.

We have set out below descriptions of common business telephone system features that you will find being offered by business phone system suppliers in the UK market.

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Business telephone system features

Anonymous call reject: Anonymous call reject is used to block (anonymous) callers who have withheld their caller ID information.

Auto(mated)-attendant: An auto-attendant allows a caller to be automatically routed to an extension without the intervention of an operator. This feature can be configured in a number of ways including offering a caller a menu of options for them to select to route their call to specific extensions (through an automated directory) and/or providing a range of messages such as clarifying offices hours.

Auto call back: Auto call back is an auto dial feature which is used where an outbound call is not answered or cannot be connected. In this situation the phone system is instructed to retain the telephone number and re-call the number when there is an available line or the telephone number is no longer busy.

Automatic Call Distribution (ACD): ACD is a function that answers and distributes calls to a specific extension or group of extensions within a business. It is particularly used in contact centres.

Auto dial: Auto dial is used to automatically dial telephone numbers and deliver an automated message or connect the person answering the call to one of the business’s employees.

Call analytics: Modern phone systems allow data, such as session metrics, behavioural trends and individual employee performance, to be collected and analysed to improve employee efficiency and increase business productivity.

Call blocking: Call blocking is used to screen and block unwanted calls from a specific telephone number.

Call forwarding: Call forwarding allows inbound calls to be received by one user and then forwarded on to another extension. Modern business phone systems allow calls to be forwarded to an outside number (e.g. an employee’s home) or a mobile phone.

Call hold and pick up: A caller can be placed on hold to enable the employee to carry out an action in private e.g. find some information or to check if a colleague is available to take the call. At the right time the employee can pick-up and re-engage with the call.

Call monitoring: Call monitoring can include monitoring – allowing a third person to listen in on a call without either of the two parties to the call hearing that person (e.g. to ensure call quality); whisper – allowing the person listening in to a call to speak to the internal party during the call without the external party hearing (e.g. a manager providing advice to a trainee); barge – allowing a person to join a call that is in-progress so that both original parties to the call can hear that third person.

Call recording & logging: This feature allows a two-way recording of a telephone call. The recording is logged and saved as an audio file for later retrieval and review.

Call transfer: An employee can transfer a call to another extension within their office, or in modern phone systems, to an outside/mobile number.

Call waiting and hold-music: This feature allows a message to be given to a caller informing them that they are on hold and/or to play music during the hold period. Studies have shown that callers are prepared to wait longer on hold if music is played rather than if there is just silence.

Caller ID/phone book: Caller ID identifies the number of an inbound call. As modern phone systems incorporate a phone book, the caller’s company or other information can be seen depending on what data has been input into the phone book. The phone system can also be configured to recognise a caller ID and route the call automatically to a specific extension. Outbound caller IDs can also be customised to only show certain information.

Click to call: A customer can click a button or keyword on a business’s website and a call will be automatically placed to one of the business’s employees e.g. a customer representative.

Conference calling: A conference calling feature connects multiple extensions together to allow a multi-person conversation. The number of extensions permitted on a conference call may be limited by the business phone system supplier.

Contact/Call centre functionality: Modern phone systems can provide a range of contact centre functionality as standard. This can include management of call flows, call recording, queuing and ring groups, wallboard, statistics and CRM integration.

Custom greetings: Custom greetings allows a user to use or record messages to be played in different situations e.g. if they are on another call, if they are out of the office or if the call is to be transferred to voicemail.

Do not disturb: A do not disturb feature allows the phone to be used for outbound calls while any incoming calls will not ring and will be routed to voicemail.

Find me/follow me function: This feature allows the user to set rules as to how a call will be transferred between its telephony devices e.g. do all of the user’s devices ring simultaneously or should they ring in a certain sequence. As an example, a call may be made to the business’s main telephone number in which case it would be received by its auto attendant. The call could then be routed to an employee’s office extension, then to their mobile phone, then to a colleague’s office extension and finally to their voicemail. The routing will depend on the rules set by the employee.

Headset enabled: Due to the volume and length of calls headsets are essential in business environments such as call centres. However, they are also becoming much more common place in other office settings. They are also often used with softphones to ensure privacy during a conversation. Most modern telephone handsets will be handset enabled.

Hot desking: Hot desking allows an employee to log into the business’s phone system, and automatically retain all of their phone settings, from any workstation in their office or other offices.

Hunt group: A hunt group (of extensions) can be set up so that an incoming call causes all extensions within the group to ring in unison or it can be configured so that the call is automatically routed to the first available extension in the group. If that extension is not answered the call is then routed to the next available extension and so on until the call is answered.

Intercom and paging: An Intercom feature allows an announcement to be made, or a message to be sent, to a single extension and made via its phone speaker. It is a two-way communication system allowing the recipient to respond. Call paging allows a business to notify all, or certain groups of, employees of certain information by sending a one-way message to the relevant extensions and broadcast via their phone speakers

IVR (Interactive Voice Response): IVR is technology that allows a caller to interact with a telephone system by using their telephone’s keypad touch tones or through the use of voice recognition software.

Microphone muting: Microphone muting allows a phone to be muted during a call, for instance if an employee needs to respond to an urgent question from a colleague at an adjacent desk. The call will continue and the employee can start communicating again by un-muting their phone.

Mobile apps/support: Mobile devices, such as tablets and mobile phones, can be used to make and receive VoIP calls by installing a VoIP app. VoIP apps should be supported by the VoIP phone system supplier.

Presence: A presence feature provides an overview in a handset’s display of the phone status of other extensions. It is possible to see if a call is trying to connect to an extension, if that extension is already on a call, or if that extension has put a call on hold. In addition. Presence can also be used to speed dial those extensions shown in the presence display.

Push to talk: Push to talk is a two-way feature that provides simple communication between two extensions, switching a device from voice transmission to voice reception mode at the push of a button.

Redial: Redial allows the phone user to redial the previous caller, at the push of a button, for instance if the call has been disconnected by mistake.

Soft phone capabilities: A softphone is software that allows telephone calls to be made over the internet using a computer or other internet enabled device. A softphone installed on a computer is usually used with a headset to provide privacy during a call.

Speed dial: Speed dial is a function that allows a user to make a call by pressing a reduced number of keys or often only one key.

Team messaging: Team messaging allows instant messaging between a designated group of two or more employees. Team messaging organises conversations into groups, often called channels or rooms, focused on different topics. Groups can be public, where all employees can join in, or private, limited to two or more employees.

Video conferencing (VC): Video conferencing features connect multiple devices together to allow a multi-person visual (video) session. The number of devices permitted on a video conference call, or the time allowed for the video conference, may be restricted by the business phone system supplier.

Voicemail & remote voicemail access: Voicemail provides a caller with the ability to leave a voice message if the extension that they are trying to reach is busy or not answering. An employee can record one or more greeting messages (or use pre-recorded messages) which are played depending on the situation e.g. if the employee is on another call, out of the office or on holiday. Modern business phone systems also allow for voicemail messages to be accessed by an employee while they are out of the office and, in some cases, for the voice message to be sent to an employee’s email address.

VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol): VoIP is a group of technologies that deliver voice communications (and other multi-media) over IP networks such as the internet.

VoIP app: A VoIP app is software that allows computers and other devices, such as tablets or mobile phones, to be used to make and receive VoIP calls.

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