Small business phone systems should not be the focus of any growing business, however often that is exactly what happens. Unlike large enterprise businesses the same guy that does payroll, sales and technology management is you. You end up wearing many different hats, so what you really want to focus on when you are on that sales call is not the fact that the call quality is bad. A phone system should enable you to do the more critical functions of your business, not be a deterrent.
So as a small business owner what can you do? Whether you are looking at replacing a phone system for the umpteenth time or making your initial purchase your focus should be the same. No one understands your business like you do, so take the time to outline your most basic needs. Things to consider are where you are at presently, where you anticipate growth will occur over the next 2 - 5 years and what type of services you need with your phone.
This will sound a little harsh, but this is an industry that really doesn't understand the customer needs or the level of support that is required to do business. The sales people are on equal footing with used car sales people. See, that was harsh but it is a reality. So do yourself a favor and speak with other small business owners who have installed phone systems. It's best to seek these individuals out on your own instead of requesting referrals from potential providers.
Consider why you might want VoIP and the quality of service needed to meet your needs. A traditional or hosted PBX may be the best solution too. Last, a virtual auto attendant may be something to consider as it provides your business great flexibility and functionality.
Frustration may take place in your quest for the perfect phone system; you may feel like you have only the option of a limited or complex system and that there is no middle ground. There is middle ground; you need to decide what that is and not a service provider.