What Business Phone Systems Features Do You Need?


If you’re working from a home office or working on-site, you need a phone system that fits.

A phone system that fits is one that has the features you need right now. The phone system should also have features you may need in the future.

Why Phone System Features are So Important

Many phone system features are common. Even the most basic home phone has features like caller ID, answering machine, and volume control.

Better features help you up your game and be more professional. For example, if you’re working from home and using the regular home phone – do you really want to just place the phone on a counter, or would you rather place a customer on hold?

Let’s dig into features. Phones loaded with features aren’t much more expensive than the basic desk phone. Better to get all the features you can, than wish you had – and have to buy another phone system.

40 Best Phone System Features List

Here’s a list of what we feel are the40 best phone system features. There are dozens of more features available. We’ve chosen the ones we feel most apply to small business owners.

1. ACD System

ACD stands for automatic call distributor, which means the phone provides callers with a voice menu of choices, such as Press One for the sales team, or Press Two for the marketing team.

2. Artificial Intelligence

Think of this as similar to getting a message on your laptop, that a program is automatically speeding up an App. This works the same way with a phone. In the inner technology of the phone is the capability to speed up a process.

3. Audio Paging

A person can create an announcement and make an audible page. Such as “John, you’re wanted on Line 1.” Audio paging includes the capability for a person to create an announcement, store and review it before making the page.

4. Auto Attendant

Auto-attendant is a voice menu system that works like a receptionist would, but it’s a digital receptionist. A prerecorded voice directs callers to a voice menu system.

5. Automated Phone Directory

While Auto Attendant takes callers to a menu, an automated phone directory takes it a step further. Instead of directing callers to choose from a department, such as sales or technical support, the caller can choose a person. The names are stored in the directory. Check closely – the size (number of people) in the directory can vary.

6. Caller ID

The phone number and name connected to that number, for incoming calls.

7. Phone Call Queue

When calls come into the company, callers get a prerecorded message and are put in a queue or line. The caller will be told of their position, and listen to music while waiting. For example, “thank you for calling our company. Your call is currently third in line.”

8. Click and Drag Configuration

This works with PCs or laptops that use Microsoft Windows 10. This feature on an Android phone makes it possible for someone to move files – click and drag – from the phone to the computer, and vice versa.

9. Click to Call

This feature can be part of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) systems. Instead of physically dialing, the internet can be used to establish a connection between two callers.

10. Conference Call Setup

This is a must-have feature for workers who need to communicate as a team, but can’t always meet face-to-face. Being able to professionally take part in a conference call is always important, but even more important if you’re working from a home office when you need to be part of a team.

11. Dial-By-Name Directory

Callers can listen to a directory, and leave a message for a specific person. Sometimes a phone system has a vital add-on to this feature – the message goes to a specific employee and also to a general mailbox. It’s a great way to cover all the bases if an employee is off sick or on vacation.

12. Distinctive Ring

Sometimes an office phone system supports multiple incoming lines. The lines can be differentiated by rings, such as one ring, two quick rings, and triple ring. This can be a great feature for a home office. Work-related calls such as from suppliers can come on one line, customers on a second line, friends and family on a third line.

13. Do Not Disturb

When this feature is activated, it means that all calls will go directly to voicemail.

14. Excellent Analytics in Real-Time

This is an add-on to an office phone system that has multiple lines and phone numbers. The “analytics” come as the company owner checks out how many calls came in on each line. Each line has a separate phone number. It’s a great marketing tool and here’s how it works. A company places ads in various places, perhaps social media, a billboard and a magazine ad, each giving a different phone number. The company can see which type of advertising generates the most response.

15. Fax Sending Abilities

Back in those old days, many of us were accustomed to the shrill tones of a fax machine doing its work. People still send and receive faxes, but the technology is very different. Using a third-party mobile app, you can send a fax from a mobile phone. You can also send a fax using VoIP systems. And of course, a business phone system can include a typical fax setup.

16. Forwarding of Calls

On most phones, you can manually forward an incoming call. The technique varies a little – you would either press #72 or 72#, listen for a dial tone, and then press the phone number where the call is to go.

It’s just simpler and faster to have call forwarding as a ready selection. You can forward calls to other employees, or set up the phone to forward all calls to a mobile phone.

17. Fraud Monitoring

Calls that are routed through the internet can be monitored using fraud detection software and/or risk management software. This capability is important for businesses.

18. Group Phone Calls

A conference call is a number of individual users, all connected on the same call. A group phone call – just as it sounds – connects groups of people or employees. It’s a conference call that involves groups instead of individual users. It’s needed to connect groups of people who are working as a team.

19. Headset Enablement

You really need to use a headset. A headset for a call does more than just free up your hands to write or work while you listen and respond. A headset – used with a telephone system, PC, or laptop – helps block background noise.

20. Instant Messaging

Instant messaging is immediate text sending, either phone to phone or over the internet. You can also IM using VoIP systems.

21. Music on Hold

If you don’t think you need this one, check out this statistic. More than half of customers who are put on hold with no music, hang up the call. Customers don’t like to be put on hold. Even more, customers don’t like to be put on hold without music.

22. Interactive Voice Recognition

IVR is a feature that allows a caller to be recognized by voice. The person’s voice is prerecorded. When the person calls, the phone system automatically responds to the caller’s voice. IVR systems can also be set up to respond to a caller’s specific code, which the caller types in on the keypad when prompted. IVR is important for businesses handling private financial and medical information.

23. International Calling

There are all kinds of ways to save money when making an international call. For example, as long as two locations or business partners are licensed to use Microsoft – such as one in the US and one overseas – the licensed users can call each other using a special program. Some VoIP systems also have a flat, low rate for international calls.

24. Linked Sites

Android (Galaxy) phones can be linked to Windows 10. Once the two are linked, the users can transfer files, and respond to messages and calls.

25. Microphone Muting

Some phone models have a mute button but this feature is more common on headsets. The mute is a simple on/off.

The feature has a couple of advantages: For example, you’re listening but don’t want the other person to hear what you’re doing, such as noises from your home office or workplace.

26. Multi-Device Support – Link to Mobile Phones

This is often called Twinning, which makes sense. Twinning is a form of weaving, and that’s what you’re doing. You’re pairing a mobile phone and a desk phone.

Why would you do that? Well, Twinning allows users to make and receive calls on two separate devices. It also gives users the capability of sharing information from the desk phone – such as a company directory – to the mobile.

27. On-Phone Corporate Directory

A digital receptionist can direct callers to a corporate or company directory. With some office phone systems, each phone in the system can access that directory.

This feature really builds efficiency. For example, let’s say the person who handles the service department of an auto dealership is on a call with a customer who says they are shopping for a new car. The customer wants to talk to somebody in sales. The service manager knows that two salespeople are out on the lot, but a third salesperson is available. By accessing the company directory, he smoothly transfers the call and the customer’s lead is not lost. That’s the kind of knowledge workers need to be more efficient.

28. Phone Call Forwarding

This feature allows users to redirect a call to another location, such as another employee. It can also be used to redirect calls from an office phone to a cell. An employee can set up the phone to work that way as he or she leaves the workplace.

29. Recording of Calls

Right, we know, it’s not legal to record calls when the person doesn’t know you’re recording it. But being able to record a call – when initiated by one person and agreed to by another – can be an important feature. It can be used by a lawyer or a reporter, for example.

30. Redial

Yes, you can check the Caller ID to get the number of all calls. The redial feature allows you to automatically dial the most recent call. With some phones the redial feature allows users to dial up to 3 most recent callers.

31. Remote Phone Use

This is the name for the Android phone App that allows the Android phone to connect to the Windows 10 PC or laptop.

32. Routing of Incoming Calls to Any Device

With this feature, you can set up the phone to route incoming calls to different phone numbers. After-hours call control is an important feature for many businesses.

For example, let’s say you run a heating/ac technician service. The first after-hours “trouble” call goes to your first chosen number, the next trouble call goes to the second chosen number, and so on.

33. Screening of Calls

Caller ID can be used to screen calls. Calls can also be screened through a VoIP phone system. Calls can be screened through a service platform. For example, Nextiva call screening and blocking is a standard feature of its business phone service platform and united communications system.

34. Screen Sharing

This is a much-needed feature. With screen sharing, a computer screen one person is viewing can be shared with another, or with a group. Teams of employees can look at information, which helps them work together.

It’s an important feature for a business that deals with charts or columns of figures, such as an investment company. In that type of business, screen sharing is a customer service tool.

35. Secondary Ringer

With this feature, an inbound call also rings on a secondary device. For example, an inbound call will also ring where an employee is connected using a laptop and headset. It’s an important feature to have so that no calls are missed when an employee is not present to answer the main office phone.

36. Speed Dial Capabilities

Phones are various capabilities for storing numbers for speed dial. With some phones, you can only set up 3-speed dial numbers, with others, up to 9. You can set up 9 “speed dial” Skype numbers.

37. Video Conferencing

This feature allows conferencing using video and audio. There are two or more users, at two or more locations.

38. Voicemail

Voicemail can be recorded as part of the phone or as a separate piece of equipment. Voicemails can also be received on VoIP systems and listened to by clicking on an audio file.

39. Voicemail to Email Feature

With some VoIP systems, you get an email notification that you have received a message. You then click on the audio file and listen to the message.

A newer feature actually transcribes the voicemail to written words. The feature works similarly to how it works in cell phones. With cell phone texting, users can opt to speak into the cell phone microphone and have their words transcribed into a text message.

The voicemail to written words works much the same way. But instead of cell phone voice to text, it’s voicemail transcription to email written word. Voicemail to email is a good feature for someone who needs to multitask – handling one phone call while seeing what a separate caller has left as a message.

40. VoIP Phone Calls

Vo IP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. Instead of using a phone line, the call is made using IP. Vo IP works best with high speed, broadband internet access if you want all the available features. But if you don’t have high-speed internet, if you can email, you can use VoIP.

Best Business Phone System Options for a Small Business

If you’re a sole proprietor or a company owner with a small number of employees, your organization may not need all the features of a communications system. But if you hope to grow, you may want to choose available features proactively to get the best rated phone systems for small business.

During the pandemic, small business owners adapted. They used technology because they couldn’t meet face to face. Even if you’re a sole proprietor or manager of a small group of employees, you may be interacting with larger companies.

You can bet that the larger companies are using video conferencing for communications. Having that capability may be the single most important office phone system features today.

Types of Office Phone Systems to Consider

In the past, everybody used what’s called PSTN, or public switched telephone network. In other words, PSTN is a landline for communications.

You need high-speed internet to use VoIP communications. If you tried VoIP in the past, you may have been turned off by poor sound quality. That’s changed. VoIP calls through a desktop computer or laptop, are just as clear as a landline.

Cloud phone systems are very user-friendly in business applications. The options for accessing the cloud phone system are varied, and that’s one of the reasons it’s a popular means for communications for businesses.

Should you kick your landline to the curb? What if your business has been using the same phone number for years? You may be able to port that number over to a VoIP service.

Other Office Phone System Options

Here are a couple of features that may fit certain businesses:

Time-based Routing

Route calls to various locations based on time zones.

Unified Messaging

Multiple types of messages go to one inbox.

Baby Monitor

Some phones can be connected to a baby monitor, an especially nice option for employees working from home.

How do business phone systems work?

Phone systems work in two main ways, over traditional phone lines, or via the internet. With the internet, phone systems can be cloud-based or VoIP.

What is the use of a telephone in an office?

A business may still need an actual telephone in the office, even if a business doesn’t use the telephone in the traditional way.

For example, calls are received by the business phone and routed with a digital attendant. Or the business phone can be set up to route calls to another phone or cell phone.

An actual business telephone in the office is still important. It can act as the hub that disperses incoming calls to the proper location.

What are the different types of business phone systems?

The main types of business phone systems are PSTN (landline), VoIP, and cloud-based.

A cloud-based phone system sends voice and information over the internet. Users can then access the information that’s in the cloud. The information can be accessed through a variety of devices, such as cell phones.

What is a cloud based phone system?

A cloud-based phone system transmits voice and data over the internet, and that information is stored in a Cloud. Users can access Cloud information by using a variety of devices, as long as the devices have an internet connection.

Using the Cloud creates convenience for all the users. It doesn’t matter what type of device the user has – cell phone, tablet, laptop – as long as there is an internet connection, the user can access the information.

What are VoIP phone systems?

There are a growing number of phone system providers using the VoIP system for communications. Communications over the internet using VoIP are often less expensive than traditional communications systems.

Here are some VoIP providers:

  • RingCentral
  • GoToConnect
  • 8 X 8
  • Verizon Digital Voice
  • Magic Jack for Business

Image: Depositphotos

Lisa Price Lisa Price is a staff writer for Small Business Trends and has been a member of the team for 4 years. She has a B.A. in English with a minor in journalism from Shippensburg State College (Pennsylvania). She is also a freelance writer and previously worked as a newspaper circulation district manager and radio station commercial writer. In 2019, Lisa received the (Pennsylvania) Keystone Award.