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Bizfon 680 Phone System

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Professionalism has always been a key component of business success. And in today's fast-paced internet economy, the image you project is even more important. If customers detect immaturity, they can use search engines to quickly seek out your competitors.

So ask yourself honestly: do you want your company's initial contact with customers to start with your present phone system?

Thanks to inexpensive products like the Bizfon 680 Phone System, you can convey big business credibility no matter how small your office actually is. Supplying you with 8 extensions, 15 optional virtual extensions, voice mail, music-on-hold, informational messages, Caller ID, teleconferencing, remote access, and the ability to configure extensions to telephones anywhere in the world (including mobile phones), the Bizfon can help you promote a high-service image. Don't need as many as 8 extensions right now? This expandable system can grow as your business grows.

Hello Direct sells the Bizfon control unit on its own (for $1,899.99) or you can purchase a discounted bundle that bundles the control unit with a 1-year service agreement and 4 of Bizfon's BizTouch feature phones. Whichever method you decide upon, the Bizfon system is an excellent way to handle your calls.

Installation and feature setup

Setup couldn't be much easier. After plugging in the control unit and inserting incoming and outgoing phone lines into the well-marked jacks, pressing a central button runs full diagnostics. While this takes about one minute, it does everything from optimizing voice quality to verifying extension hookups.

Once this is finished, you can pick up any extension telephone and the voice prompts will guide you through the remaining setup options, from passwords to line configurations.

Whether you decide to connect BizTouch phones, your own phones, or fax machines, as many as 6 incoming lines can be directed to 8 different extensions. An extra port that bypasses electrical circuitry is also supplied to provide emergency phone access in case of power failure.

After line setup, if you need to initialize a specific feature (say, pager notification, call forwarding, or voice mail), just press "*" and voice prompts will lead you through feature setup. The prompts for each feature are layered in a time-effective manner so you don't have to weed through a laundry list of options to find the desired function. Often when features are active—such as after-hours answering, call forwarding, or do not disturb—they are announced when you pick up your receiver. If you no longer require the use of one of these functions, when you access your personal settings the ability to turn off this feature is pushed to the beginning of the prompts. Such conveniences make using the system so easy that I rarely had to consult the manual at all. But should you have any questions, dialing 299 from any extension will connect you with a live Bizfon representative. Depending on the package you purchase, full support is available—free—from 30 days to up to 2 years after purchase, after which full support costs $299.99 per year.

External setup
One of the few things not handled by Bizfon is hunt grouping, the service that dials numbers in a circular sequence if the first line is busy (i.e., calls to 555-1000 are forwarded to 555-1001, then 555-1002, and so on). You need to contact your phone company to organize this feature. And while you're on the line, you'll want to cancel Call Waiting, as Bizfon provides an equivalent feature. In fact, if you don't cancel Call Waiting, your system may malfunction.

Review of features
Extensions
The Bizfon system provides 8 physical extensions (201-208) that can access any of the 6 incoming telephone lines. The first extension is preset to serve as the operator, though this default can be changed to any extension. In the standard mode, a caller hears the automated greeting first, and is then asked to dial an extension or request the phone directory. After the caller indicates the desired extension, the extension will give one-ring tones for internal calls, and two-ring tones for external calls.

If 8 extensions aren't enough for your business, 15 additional virtual extensions (250-264) are available with the optional Bizfon Voice Vault memory card. The virtual extensions have their own voice mail and are perfect for offsite workers as they provide full access to the system. For example, extension 251 can be permanently assigned to one of your freelance employees who works out of the home. Any calls to extension 251 will contact this worker directly. If the worker is unavailable, the call will roll into the Bizfon voice mail (versus the freelancer's). Using his or her extension password, this employee can retrieve messages and also gain access to all other Bizfon features. For instance, (s)he can make long distance calls and transfer them to other extensions, join the Meeting Room, or use the Public Address (PA) system without ever leaving the system. By giving offsite workers this internal access, phone activity is centralized and billing management becomes much easier.

Greetings and after-hours modes
Several configurations of the Bizfon system are available during both daytime and after-hours modes. For instance, you can have calls directly ring one of your extensions or have them fielded by the automated attendant. The automated attendant's greetings are pre-recorded on each control unit at the factory, but in order to make use of the informational messages you'll probably want to record your own. Accessible from the greeting by pressing 4 or 5, the informational messages are great for providing office hours, directions, or promotional details. Two messages are standard issue and 4 more are available through the optional Voice Vault memory card. These additional messages are helpful for directing non-English speakers to the proper extensions. And if you'd like customized greetings by a voice more soothing than your own, for $79 you can e-mail a script to Bizfon and they will upload a professional recording into your system within a day or two.

Since the employees who are available to take calls after-hours often vary from day-to-day, the Bizfon system allows you to program the after-hours mode to ring all extensions (even the virtual ones). This group ringing feature is especially helpful when you have offsite employees.

Voice mail
As I see it, the only flaw with the Bizfon system is the amount of voice mail space it offers. One hundred minutes of recording time is the standard supply for the entire system. So if you are planning to attach a lot of extensions, you might want to purchase a Voice Vault memory card that provides 2-4 hours of additional space.

Otherwise, the voice mail system is excellent. When you pick up any extension, the number of new messages in your mailbox (and the operator's mailbox if it's configured to your line) is immediately announced, followed by retrieval options.

Voice Vault (optional)
A small space is provided for a Voice Vault card in the center of the Bizfon. For $299.99, you'll get the 15 virtual extensions, space for another 4 informational messages, and 2 extra hours of voice mail space. Pay another $100 ($399.99, total) and you receive the same extras along with 4 hours of voice mail space. (Hello Direct does not carry this 4-hour card right now, but you can order it from the manufacturer.)

Call forwarding
Although the way we do business today is changing, most consumers still prefer to think that their calls are taken from professional settings, rather than from a car or a private home. Using the Bizfon, calls can be forwarded seamlessly to any phone, keeping this illusion intact. It works like this: after the customer calls the main number and enters your extension, your cell phone will ring. When you answer, the Bizfon lets you decide if you want to take the call or if you want the call to go to your voice mail. So if you're in a restaurant or movie theatre, or attending a party, for example, you're still in control of your calls. And you still "look good" to your callers.

Be warned though, the Bizfon needs another open line to forward calls; otherwise, the customer will receive a busy signal. I tried setting up the system with just 2 incoming phone lines and the call forwarding worked fine. But after the initial rings the caller was given a busy signal instead of being dumped into voice mail. The addition of a third incoming line solved this problem. Also, if you have your local phone company's Call Forwarding service, make sure you cancel it, as it will cause the Bizfon to malfunction.

Meeting Room
By dialing 290, up to 5 callers can meet in the "Meeting Room." If people are already in the Meeting Room, the attendant announces "a meeting is in progress" and gives them the option to join. You can also transfer people in, or if you're talking to them on a BizTouch phone, they can enter with you. The only restriction for meetings is a 5-participant maximum. Otherwise, any internal or external caller with the password can leave or rejoin a meeting at any time without disrupting the connection. A simple tone acknowledges a new participant and when the last Bizfon user hangs up, the Meeting Room is closed. This is an outstanding feature that is especially useful when you have offsite employees.

Music-on-hold and PA
The Bizfon can be connected to musical devices to give callers on hold something to tap their feet to. And though I doubt many smaller businesses will utilize the capability, you can also hook up an external PA through the Bizfon. The PA is then accessible from any extension by dialing 249. The PA is a good way for a remote worker to contact the main office in an emergency situation, especially when the availability of onsite co-workers is unknown.

Customer care
Bizfon service is beyond excellent. You can receive information between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday, any time you need help. Simply dial 299. Purchase of the Bizfon control unit includes an orientation via phone and full service for the first 30 days. Or, if you purchase one of Hello Direct's starter kits, you receive 2 years of service. BizCare Complete gives you such extras as routine backups of critical files (i.e., voice mail) and archiving of programming. Should your system break down, Bizfon will replace your entire unit (including your custom programming and backed-up files). If you don't want full service, you can pay $35 per call when problems or needs arise.

The only problem I had with the Bizfon involved Caller ID: for some reason, I couldn't make it work for me. The representative I spoke with was very helpful, and though neither of us was sure what the problem was, an engineer was notified and everything was fine within 5 minutes. For the most part, you won't have to wait around for a service technician with the Bizfon. Most operations performed by the control unit or BizTouch phones can be configured remotely. So for those people who'd rather not hassle with feature setup—as long as you have a service agreement—you can have Bizfon set everything up for you. They'll even arrange for technicians to wire your office.

Control unit design
Sleekly dimensioned at 8.5" x 17.5" and less than 4 lbs. in weight, the Bizfon control unit is refreshingly unobtrusive. It's almost small enough to fit in your front desk drawer—a huge improvement in phone system sizing.

BizTouch telephones
The Bizfon system allows you to hook up any phone, but buying one of their models gives you one-touch access to features, and makes using it much more intuitive overall. Also, accessing some of the features is not possible on regular phones. For instance, if you're on a non-BizTouch phone and a second call comes in through Call Waiting, you cannot toggle between the calls; you must complete the second call, then return to the first.

There are 3 types of BizTouch phones, each with its own merits:

BizTouch2 Speakerphones
This telephone is equipped with speakerphone, conference calling, Caller ID, and few other standard features. Custom-labeled buttons (for do not disturb, transfer, Call Waiting, and other extension pickup) keep conveniences accessible and visible. There's also a configurable button that's handy for people who often dial in remotely.

Individually purchased, BizTouch2 speakerphones cost $99.99.

A bundle that includes the control unit, a 1-year service agreement, and 4 BizTouch2 speakerphones is available from Hello Direct for $2,499.99.

BizTouch3 Line Appearance Phones and Call Appearance Phones

These telephones ($229.99 each) provide the functionality of the BizTouch2 speakerphones as well as a few extra features. Both the Line Appearance and Call Appearance phones have 200-person speed-dialing (as opposed to the BizTouch2's 10-person capabilities), one-touch forwarding, 16 line/call/extension buttons with indicator lights, and the ability to automatically activate speakerphones when using the intercom. The only difference between the Call Appearance and Line Appearance phones is how they utilize the 16 line/call/extension buttons, otherwise they are similar.

Line Appearance phones work like KEY system phones and utilize the 16 buttons as follows:

Buttons 1-6 - configured to incoming phone lines 1-6
Buttons 7-14 - used to show activity and transfer calls to extensions 201-208
Buttons 15-16 - customizable

The main benefit of Line Appearance phones is that any extension can pick up a specific line once the call is put on hold. For instance, if you have a PA system (or a booming voice), you can answer a call, put it on hold, and ask the appropriate employee to "pick up line 1."

The Call Appearance phones utilize the 16 buttons as follows:

Buttons 1-4 - configured to hold first 4 incoming calls (no matter which line they are from)
Buttons 5-16 - used to show activity and transfer calls to up to 12 extensions

The Call Appearance phones are best for businesses with high call volume and work like PBX phones. Each extension can juggle up to 4 calls but the calls are not line specific. If you want someone else to attend to a call after you've already answered it, you have to transfer it to the appropriate extension (by pressing that extension's button).

Should you decide down the road that another configuration of your BizTouch3 phone would better suit you, Bizfon can reprogram your Call Appearance phone as a Line Appearance phone—and vice-versa—from their offices. No service technicians. No shipping nightmares.

A starter kit that includes the control unit, a 2-year service agreement, and 4 BizTouch3 phones (Line Appearance or Call Appearance) costs $3,199.99

Multi-unit/multi-tenant capabilities
The new multi-tenant kit can serve up to 3 separate entities (with separate call routing and customized announcements for each business), all through the same central unit. Or for those companies that require additional extensions and capacities, any Bizfon control unit can be connected to other control units. For the cost of a cabling kit ($49.99), 2 control units can be joined, giving you 12 lines and 16 extensions; or for $149.99 , up to 4 units can be united, giving you 24 lines and 36 extensions. With a system like Bizfon, you don't have to worry about outgrowing your phone system. It can grow as you grow.

What I Liked Best   What I Didn't Like
  • Easy setup
  • Virtual extensions for remote workers (optional)
  • Professional greetings
  • Call forwarding to any phone
  • Thorough, well-configured prompts
  • Meeting Room
  • Music-on-hold
  • Excellent customer support
  • Compact design
  • Reasonable price
  • Multi-tenant/multi-unit capabilities
  • User-friendly BizTouch phones
  • Cost-saving starter kits
 
  • Customers given busy signal if forwarded call can't find another line
  • Call Waiting for non-Bizfon telephones isn't fully functional

Recommendation
For $1,499.99 you can receive a Bizfon control unit and build your own system from scratch; or, for as low as $2,499.99, you can buy a package that includes the control unit, 4 extension phones, and 2 years of Bizfon support.

Whatever package you decide on, the Bizfon system is a truly exceptional product. Externally, it helps you project a confident, stable company devoted to customer service. Internally, its ease of use and multiple features such as call forwarding and virtual extensions can liberate you from a host of time-consuming tasks best left to a machine.



 


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