Phone System Buyers Guide

Phone System Buyers Guide

Phone System Buyers Guide

The following buyers guide tips have been compiled from years of experience. Our staff hear horror stories everyday about telco companies that misled, confused and only verbally communicated promises with customers (which they later reneged upon leaving customers with no legal recourse).

Make sure you’re protected by asking the right questions and getting everything in writing, for your next phone system solution.

Zytel provides the ultimate written guarantees, affordability, and peace of mind and that’s why we challenge other companies to put up or shut up. We hope this guide helps you find the right solution and the right company to implement it.

Popular Systems

The first rule is don’t buy an obscure phone system brand! Buying popular phone systems guarantees you spare parts and a choice of suppliers. You don’t want to end up with a phone system that you can’t service or be held to ransom by a supplier with no other alternatives. This is why Zytel offers a huge selection of all the leading brands. Whether you end up choosing a VoIP, Hosted, IP pbx or even a used solution make sure it is widely sold and supported.


You need to know you are buying from a reputable company. All systems come with a minimum 12 month warranty.  Plus we offer local, ongoing support for all solutions we provide.

Easy Payment Options

You have 2 common choices – rent or buy.

  • Rent: this is where you elect to make monthly tax deductible payments over a specific term of either: 24, 36, 48 or 60 months. Download the benefits of renting…
  • Buy: pay by cash or credit card and the system is yours.

No matter which option you decide is best, we always advise you get independent financial advice from your accountant or financial advisor to find the payment method that best suits your cash flow and accounting methodology.

Bundle & Beware

Bundling is a fantastic way to purchase your system but make sure the provider can answer the following questions.

  • What are the call rates they are offering to you?
  • How do those rates compare to what you are paying at the moment? You don’t want your phone bill to actually go up do you?
  • How long are you locked into those rates for? (rates are constantly getting cheaper and good rates today are bad rates tomorrow. Contracts are to be avoided at all costs!)
  • Do you own the phone system at the end of the term?
  • Do you have a choice of phone systems?
  • Are they VoIP phone calls or normal phone lines?

This is particularly the case with many of the latest VoIP and hosted offerings. Some customers prefer to simply purchase the phone system and then treat their phone lines, mobiles etc as a separate consideration. Some believe this allows them to achieve the best overall deal and not be locked in to the one provider. The choice is entirely yours.

Lines, Numbers & Cabling

When looking at a new phone system you also need to make sure everything else is taken care of otherwise you end up wasting money unnecessarily. If you’re starting out, or need extra lines, make sure this is organised before the phone system goes in otherwise it will require additional visits from the phone technician that you will have to pay for.

Also there are different types of lines available for you to choose from – PSTN, ISDN, VoIP, SIP trunks and others. Make sure you speak to an expert to ensure you are getting the correct type of service for your actual needs. Some providers, especially Hosted and VoIP, may only offer their own brand of technology and this doesn’t afford you choice to guarantee you are getting the best deal available.

If you’re getting more handsets on your new phone system than you had on your previous then odds are you will probably need additional phone cabling as well.

Phone Cabling is where your phone plugs into the wall and the line runs back to the main phone system. This is an extra charge so make sure you tell the consultant as this is not included in any standard quoting by phone companies.

At Zytel we always conduct a free site inspection for clients prior to installation to ensure there are no surprises. Make sure whoever you choose offers the same otherwise it’s too late once the system is being installed. 

One Stop Shopping

To make your life easier you may prefer to deal with a company that can coordinate not just the phone system, but also setting up:

  • New phone lines, fax lines and Fibre lines
  • New phone numbers
  • Internet and data requirements
  • Coordinating existing number diversions
  • Cheap, no contract, phone call charges
  • Normal PSTN and ISDN capped plans
  • VoIP phone calls and plans
  • New PABX Systems (IP pbx, pbx and Hosted IP pbx options) 
  • A large range of used phone systems 
  • 1000’s of spare parts and spare handsets 
  • Messages On Hold
  • Wireless Headsets, Corded, USB and Bluetooth (Plantronics, Jabra and Sennheiser)
  • Polycom Conference Phones 
  • And much more…

and everything else you need to set up and communicate efficiently and as cost effectively as possible.

This will save you hours of running around and being stuck on the phone to phone carriers – everyone hates being on hold for telephone providers, so why wouldn’t you want to delegate this?

Phone System Features

More mistakes are made here than anywhere else. It’s the optional extras of a phone system that genuinely make the biggest difference. Look at comparisons of different systems and find out if the system you’re getting will do what you want today and tomorrow.

Here is a list of some of the most popular features on new phone systems:

  • Voicemail
  • Voicemail to email
  • VoIP phone calls and SIP trunking
  • Day & Night Greetings
  • Call queuing
  • Transferring to staff and also transferring to mobile phones
  • Linking multiple sites with VoIP
  • Making and receiving calls from your computer
  • Call recording
  • Linking Remote workers
  • Call accounting for staff monitoring and cost allocation
  • Cordless users for additional mobility
  • Ability to administer the phone system yourself which can potentially save you R1000’s over the life of the system

This is not a definitive buyer’s guide however it will provide you with an excellent starting point and we hope it helps you make the right choice. Make sure you speak to one of our friendly consultants for your free quote today on 011 2062908. 

Top 13 Phone System Features

Below you’ll find a very helpful list and accompanying explanations of the top phone system features required (needed) by customers across a diverse range of industries. It provides an excellent starting point and should help you discover which features are relevant to you and which aren’t. This will ultimately help you set you your new phone system to be able to get the most from it.

Daytime & after-hours greetings/announcements

This is arguably the most important feature on any new system. Day and night greetings ensure your business never misses a call (day or night) and they sound incredibly professional. It’s so much better than the alternatives:

  • The phone ringing out
  • Callers getting frustrated trying to get through
  • Potential customers giving up and calling your competitors!

But how do they work?

It’s so simple but so effective. For example, if your receptionist hasn’t picked up after 5 rings the system will pick up the call for you and greet them with your own customised message. “Thank you for calling Zytel incorporated, your call is important and we will be with you in just a moment…”

Some phone systems can even answer multiple callers at once. While other phone systems allow you to present callers with options to choose from such as “press 1 for sales, Press 2 for admin etc”. This is great for very large companies with multiple divisions or for small companies without a receptionist.

No matter which option you select for your business and customers, the result is you will never lose another opportunity, compromise professionalism or hurry through one call simply to take the next! You will now give every caller the best impression, every time.

With a Zytel solution you can also program the system to answer with time specific messages at different times of the day, week or year. That’s intelligent call management!

Some phone systems charge for this whereas many now include it at no charge. Make sure you do your homework if this feature is important to your business.

Voicemail (and Voicemail to email)

Voicemail saves time and money. Handwritten messages waste time, resources, and are often to blame for ineffective communication.

Just like your mobile phone voicemail, phone system voicemail allows callers to tell you exactly what they want, while maintaining their privacy. Voicemail saves unnecessary return calls and allows you to prioritise call backs.

Which staff members actually receive voicemail is entirely up to you. You may only opt to give it to key staff, or everyone – it’s your choice.

Many of the latest phone system also allow you to get voicemail to email. Anywhere you can access your email you can now receive your voicemail. This is fantastic for companies where staff are on the move. You could be 1000km away and receive notification on your smart phone seconds after a customer has left a message for you on your office desk phone.

VoIP phone calls and IP phone systems

VoIP is the latest technology and a fantastic way to slash costs. Any reputable phone system can integrate with cheap VoIP calls but not every system can actually offer VoIP phone system features or SIP trunking (the best type of VoIP available for ultimate call quality and cheapest services) .

VoIP system features are used for linking multiple sites, or remote workers. They allow other users on the phone system to see, transfer, and receive calls, from other sites and staff no matter where they are located.

If you’re only after cheap calls then it really won’t have any bearing on the system you buy (unless you want to use SIP trunking).

Transferring calls in and out of the office

Even though it is a basic option, “transferring calls” is a key reason many small businesses upgrade to a phone system. It’s important that you and your staff can transfer incoming calls to the right person easily and efficiently. Different brands achieve this in different ways and you need to understand how the system you’re looking at actually works (not just looks). It may not be the right option for you.

If you are looking to transfer calls from your office to staff mobile phones or directly to remote workers IP handsets or softphones you will need to ensure you have ISDN lines for the former and an IP platform for the latter. In the right environment transferring calls can send productivity through the roof. This is particularly relevant for sales environments and companies that have remote workers or home workers. It gets callers and potential customers seamlessly and efficiently through to the people they need to speak to.

Wireless (DECT and cordless) phones

Sounds simple but a basic cordless phone added to a standard phone system can redefine the way you use the pabx. This is especially true for retailers, customers with warehousing or large areas that become costs prohibitive for office phone cabling and for staff that are constantly on the move.

If your space/office isn’t excessively large then you may be lucky enough to get away with a standard cordless phone. They’re cheap, effective and will connect to any phone system via an analogue extension. The downside is they’re not purpose made for the phone system and therefore cannot replicate normal desk phone handsets functionality (transfer etc). That said they are perfect for receiving calls and that’s all that most companies need.

If you are unlucky and the range of a standard cordless phone doesn’t cut it then you may need:

 A DECT network created with handsets that are proprietary to the phone system. Here if you have an Alcatel phone system you can get an Alcatel DECT system.

These options are traditionally perfect for:

  • Mining companies
  • Schools
  • Large industrial companies
  • Transport companies

Either of these options can be rather expensive compared to a normal cordless phone but again, in the right environment, this type of solution is worth it’s weight in gold and can pay for itself in no time in productivity and associated communication efficiencies.

Customer System Self Administration

Historically every time you wanted to change something on your phone system you had to get in a phone technician. This was time consuming and sometimes very costly over the life of the system. The alternative which many companies adopted, was to simply ignore the fault or wait till many faults backed up to justify just one expensive technical visit.

No Longer! Many phone systems (albeit some better than others) have computer interfaces that allow technicians to make adds, moves and changes to the phone system programming. Most phone companies don’t tell you about this because they want to continue to profit from you for many years to come.

At Zytel we believe that empowering users with this technology allows them to control their own phone system and makes their owner and user experience much more rewarding. Did we mention it could also save you R1000’s over the systems life?

It means that you can log on (password protected for administrators) and make changes to almost everything in the phone system:

  • How the phone rings
  • Where the phone rings
  • Announcement messages
  • Setting up a new user
  • Deleting an existing user
  • Day and night timers
  • Call queuing timers and messages
  • And much, much more

The only thing we don’t show users is how to change the very technical phone line setup. One mistake here in programming and your phone stops working! Customers love this incredible functionality and the fact they get it for FREE when they choose one of our solutions. No longer do they put up with annoying errors or idiosyncrasies. They can make changes to the system anytime, day or night and those changes are then effected real-time and are instantaneous.

Call recording

Call recording is a fantastic addition to any sales orientated company. You can spend countless hours trying to train staff and improve call quality but none of this has the same effect as playing a call back to a staff member.

They can hear first hand exactly how they sound and respond to callers. This is one of the most effective training exercises you can do and is brilliant subject matter for sales meetings. Some phone systems will even allow you to email WAV. files (sound files you have recorded). This means you can email other staff members to illustrate a great call and is especially beneficial when you have remote workers or staff in other locations.

Call recoding is also great for storing and being able to replay calls at a later stage. This is great for stock broking firms and other companies that accept verbal recognition for products and services.

Please note that it is illegal to record a caller without them knowing. This is why you will often hear messages saying “please note that this call may be recorded for training purposes”.

Linking Multiple Sites & Remote Workers

When you have more than one location VoIP can be the single greatest phone system addition you can do. Not the cheap VoIP calls referenced before but intelligent VoIP system features that are used for linking multiple sites, or remote workers.

They allow other users on the phone system to see, transfer, and receive calls, from other sites and staff no matter where they are located in South Africa and even around the world. Imagine these scenarios:

  • Being able to answer a call in Johannesburg and by simply looking at your phone handset see if someone in Durban, or any other site is available to take the call
  • If the phone in Durban isn’t answered in time it can overflow to other sites where other staff are available to answer. It will even come up as Durban overflow so they know how to answer the call
  • Having a person log on with a laptop and automatically be able to make and receive phone calls just like they could in the office
  • Have staff work from home and be able to make and receive calls just like they were in the office
  • Be able to see all staff on the phone at a glance no matter where they are in the world

The possibilities are almost endless and can literally redefine the way you work and communicate. Geography and distance is no longer a deterrent to the way you communicate.

Speaker phone & Conference phones

Speaker phones are great for conferencing or just being able to talk, or dial numbers, without having to pick up the phone. Most basic models do not offer speaker phone capabilities. Make sure you get the right handsets for your staff and their needs.

If you are the type of company that has a lot of meeting and conferencing requirements then a dedicated conference phone is a great idea. They are affordable and allow multiple participants to communicate with crystal clear call clarity. You can even now get a wireless conference phone that allows you to take the equipment to any room in the office for a conference call. They are about the same money as a traditional conference phone and the quality is almost identical.

Warranties & Guarantees

Technology is not infallible and ensuring your new system comes with a warranty is a must. You wouldn’t buy a new car without one and a phone system is no different.

In terms of ongoing maintenance and support it is important to check the bona fides of the company you’re dealing with. If you are buying from a one man operation then they may not be available when you actually need them. You need to know that a company doesn’t just install a system, but that they have the staff and technical expertise to quickly resolve any problems that arise in the future.

Alternatively, for maximum peace of mind and insurance you may prefer to opt for a Service Level Agreement. A SLA guarantees your business a specific service level agreement and response times to any problems you may experience over the life of your phone system.

Conference calling (how many parties can you link?)

This is different from a conference phone and just making calls. Here we are referring to the phone system capabilities. You see some phone systems will only allow you to have a 3 party conference call while others allow up to 64 party conferencing!

The number of conferencing parties means how many independent people you can call/conference at once (it is not how many people you can fit in one office). If conferencing is important to your business then it pays to know a system’s limitations.

Some phone systems also offer sophisticated conference bridging etc while others only offer basic functionality. Conference bridging is where the phone system will call and connect to parties at a predetermined time. Just think…you want to initiate a conference call at 1pm tomorrow. You tell the phone system what time, who the conference parties are and their contact details. At 1pm the system automatically calls and tells the participants that they are being connected for a conference call. You didn’t have to do a thing. Conversely you can tell people to call a phone number at 1pm and the phone system takes care of the rest. Clever isn’t it…

If conferencing is important to you then make sure you also ask about full duplex conference phones. Full duplex makes a massive difference to call clarity and quality.

Call accounting

Call accounting is the ability to see and allocate costs for each and every call made in your office. Some companies use it because they have different departments and want to allocate cost centres. Other companies are more interested in playing big brother and seeing if their staff are abusing call privileges.

You might be interested in none, one or both but call accounting is a great way to keep costs in check and let staff know not to take liberties with your money!

Call accounting is relatively inexpensive and can be added to any phone system. Some phone systems have a call accounting option but the best call accounting is from third party companies like Man3000 and the like that have built specialised platforms exclusively for this purpose.

Music & tailored on hold messages

If you genuinely care about your company image then nothing has as much impact as messages on hold. Not just music but messages about YOUR business. They sound incredibly professional whilst also educating and entertaining your callers.

When you consider that over 70% of callers are left on hold for a staggering 43+ seconds it’s not difficult to see why messages on hold are so popular. At Zytel some of our phone systems include messages on hold for FREE. Enquire today and see how you can save over R10000.00 with your own tailored message on hold package with your new phone system.






















































































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