After conducting extensive research and analysis in 2017, we recommend ShoreTel as the best business phone system for call centers. We chose ShoreTel from a pool of the dozens of business phone systems we considered. To understand how we selected our best picks, you can find our methodology and a comprehensive list of business phone systems on our best picks page. In addition to ShoreTel, we were impressed with Avaya's call center services. You can read more about why below.
ShoreTel's phone system is available as an on-premise or cloud-hosted solution that includes all of the tools and features needed to run a successful call center. ShoreTel's call center services cost between $1,700 and $2,200 per user for the on-premise system or between $160 and $170 per user, per month for cloud users. Here is a detailed breakdown of why it's our best pick.
Multiple Deployment Options
ShoreTel's multiple deployment options make it an attractive phone system for businesses that need call center services. The system is available as an on-premise or cloud-hosted solution. Each option offers the same features and tools, but their installation and pricing structure vary greatly.
On-premise systems are housed and maintained within your business and typically require professional installation. Their primary components are a main server and voice switch appliances. The voice switches provide the IP PBX phone system capabilities, call handling and trunking.
One aspect of the on-premise system we found appealing was the built-in fail-safe that helps ensure the system is always up and running. Because each switch and site functions as an independent call processor and the switches also tap into landline connections, the phone system will continue to operate if your system's network goes out.
In addition to the hardware, the on-premise system requires software to prioritize voice traffic on your business's network, as well as PRI circuits or SIP trunks in order to connect a dial tone to the system.
What's nice about the on-premise system is that once it's installed, you can easily scale the number of users up or down. Basically all you need to do to add or remove users from the system is plug in or unplug the phones.
It is important to note that with the on-premise option, you and your IT staff are responsible for all of the system's maintenance and updating.
The cloud-based system is very simple to launch. This system does not require any special hardware or circuits. All you need are IP phones and voice prioritizing software. The system is basically ready once you are signed up.
Whereas the on-premise option puts you in charge of maintaining the system, the cloud-based option ensures ShoreTel handles everything and acts as your company's communications IT department. ShoreTel and its reseller partners manage the experience of moving to the cloud, providing the circuits and switching phone numbers over from your current carrier.
To help ensure that calls always sound clear and the system is always up and running, ShoreTel uses LBC codec for landline call quality, has a range of Tier 1 voice and data providers, and connects with individual telephone and data carriers that span multiple locations, so calls can be rerouted if issues arise.
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Overall, ShoreTel reports that its cloud service had an average uptime of 99.988 percent over the past six months. We like that ShoreTel provides uptime data on its website. Although many of the other phone system providers we looked into boasted their high uptime percentages, ShoreTel was the only one that offered a month-by-month breakdown.
Whether you are using the on-premise or cloud-hosted solution, the entire system is controlled via a web-based portal. Within the portal, administrators can assign extensions, set preferences and monitor activity.
Call Center Services and Features
Rather than having to purchase a separate phone system for your business and your call center needs, you can get everything in one complete package with ShoreTel. The company's call center plan is a service that is tacked onto its general office phone service. This allows you to purchase the call center tools only for the employees who work in that part of your business.
Out of all of the phone systems we examined, few offered more call center features than ShoreTel. Overall, the system includes nearly 50 call-center-specific features and tools.
The system includes a variety of different call queue options, including queue-based routing, which gives you the option to route callers to different types of queues, and skills-based routing. In addition, there are multiqueue logins, which allow agents to be part of more than one queue at a time.
The call center service also offers valuable integration options. ShoreTel's contact center services integrate with a number of popular customer relationship management (CRM) programs, including Salesforce, NetSuite, Microsoft Dynamics, ACT!, Zendesk and desk.com. In addition, the system can be configured to integrate with virtually any CRM.
Other calling features include call logs and history, call recording, three-way conference calling, voicemail and voicemail-to-email.
The call center services also include a host of tools specifically for supervisors. One we like best is the listen, whisper and barge tool that gives supervisors the ability to listen to a call secretly, whisper to the agent without the caller knowing or take over the call completely.
Additionally, the system offers a number of analytics reports that give businesses advanced statistics regarding call center activity. Specifically, there are reports on how a specific queue or group is performing, how specific agents are performing, and reasons for customer calls.
Phone System Features
In addition to the robust call center offerings, ShoreTel has an equally impressive business phone system for the rest of your office. This is critical, because the phone system is the base for the call center services. Without a suitable phone system, the call center offerings won't be of value, no matter how robust and comprehensive they are.
The on-premise and cloud-based systems each offer more than 100 calling, mobility, messaging and collaboration tools and features. Specifically, the system offers an auto-attendant, music on hold, call screening, call blocking and the ability to dial by name or extension.
Businesses will find the variety of mobility features especially appealing. ShoreTel offers a mobile app for both Android and iOS devices that allows employees to make and receive business calls, conduct conference calls, have video chats, check voicemail, and message colleagues.
Other mobile tools include the ability to use a "softphone" to make and receive calls via any internet-connected computer and a "find me, follow me" feature that allows calls to be forwarded based on call routing rules that users set themselves.
Some of the other features the ShoreTel phone system offers include conference calling, voicemail to email, Microsoft Outlook integration, call recording, online faxing, call blocking and desktop sharing.
Overall, we were pleased with the level of support we received from ShoreTel and the local reseller they connected us with. Whereas some phone system providers handle all of their sales, installation and support on their own, many of those that support larger systems partner with dealers and resellers in local communities to handle those responsibilities. ShoreTel is one of those companies.
To test the type of support you can expect, we called ShoreTel, posing as a business owner interested in a phone system and call center services. Our call was answered by a pleasant representative who answered a few of our questions and gave us a brief overview of the ShoreTel system. However, instead of giving us more detailed information, he took down our contact information and said he would pass it along to a specialist in our area who could give us more specifics on the system.
The next day, we were contacted by a representative from a communications consulting firm that serves as a ShoreTel reseller in our area. We were very happy with the level of support we received from the reseller. They provided all of the specifics we were looking for on how the system could be deployed, the features it included, the specific call center services offered, and the cost.
We think it says a lot about ShoreTel that the reseller in our area was so professional and helpful. It is a sign to us that ShoreTel likes to partner with professional people and cares that the end user has a positive experience when trying to gather information on the systems.
Of all of the companies that used this type of sales setup, ShoreTel was one of the best we examined. Some of the other providers refused to answer some of our basic questions before passing us off to a reseller, told us to find a reseller on our own, or said they would have a reseller contact us but no one ever did.
Once you have the system installed and running, you can work with your local reseller on any support issues that may arise. However, ShoreTel also has a host of valuable information on its website, including user guides and how-to videos.
ShoreTel is not rated or accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB). According to the BBB website, there have been just three complaints filed against ShoreTel in the past three years. That was among the fewest complaints we found while investigating phone system providers. However, it is important to note that some users who did have complaints may have filed them against the reseller they partnered with and not ShoreTel itself.
ShoreTel's pricing structure depends on which system you are using. The on-premise system is made up mostly of one-time costs, while the cloud solution has all monthly fees.
It is important to remember that because ShoreTel is sold through resellers across the country, the pricing we were quoted may not necessarily be what the reseller in your area charges. In addition, prices also can vary depending on the number of users.
The prices we were given were based on having between 100 and 150 overall users and between 20 and 30 call-center-specific licenses.
For the on-premise system, we were quoted one-time costs of about $700 per phone system user, plus another $1,000 to $1,500 for each call center license.
However, when determining your full costs, it is important to consider the installation charges, plus the monthly fees for your dial tone service and calling minutes. We were not given specific pricing for these additional services.
For the cloud service, we were quoted prices of $31 per user, per month. However, when we added mobility features, the price rose to $38 per user, per month. Call center licenses were an additional $130 per month.
With the cloud option, however, there are no other additional costs for dial tone service. Additionally, the cost includes unlimited local and long distance calling.
The other costs you have to consider for both options are the prices of purchasing or renting phones. With the on-premise system, you buy the phones outright for several hundred dollars each. With the cloud system, you can rent each phone for about $5 per month.
The biggest limitation of ShoreTel was the cost. Both the on-premise and cloud-based solutions were more expensive than many of its competitors. However, we felt the product ShoreTel provides was worth the extra investment. If ShoreTel is too expensive for your business, we would encourage you to check out our second-place winner in this category, Avaya. You can read more about Avaya below.
Another negative is that ShoreTel is not accredited by the Better Business Bureau. Although we found nothing concerning in ShoreTel's BBB report, we would feel more confident in knowing that the company took the extra steps to earn the accreditation.
More About Avaya
Editor’s Note: On January 19, 2017 Avaya filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. At this time, we are continuing to recommend them as one of the best business phone systems for call centers. However, we are monitoring the status of the company and if necessary will adjust out best picks as the situation evolves.
Avaya's phone system is also an excellent option for businesses that need call center services. Similarly to ShoreTel, Avaya's system is offered as an on-premise or cloud-hosted solution. In addition, the system is available on several different platforms that differ in robustness and number of users.
The two main options are the Avaya IP Office platform and the Avaya Aura platform. The IP Office option is designed for small to midsize businesses, while the Aura platform is better suited for enterprise organizations. Overall, the IP Office system supports five to 3,000 users and 250 call center seats. The Aura system supports up to 250,000 users, including 5,000 call center seats.
Avaya's business phone systems are among the most feature-rich we found during our research. Overall, the systems offer more than 600 different features, many of which are part of the call center services.
Avaya's call center service features include skills-based routing, task-flow management, call recording, an Integrated Voice Response system that allows for specialized call routing and announcements, and the ability to access historical call reports.
The phone system itself also offers a host of valuable features, including conference calling, auto attendants, customized caller greetings, voicemail, voicemail-to-email, automatic call back, music on hold, message waiting indicators, and mobile options that allow employees to make and receive calls from their mobile devices.
Similarly to ShoreTel, Avaya partners with local resellers who are in charge of selling and supporting Avaya users throughout the country. With that in mind, the prices we were quoted by our local Avaya reseller might be different from those you receive from your local reseller.
We were provided cost details only for the IP Office platform. The prices we were quoted were based on estimates of between 100 and 150 employees, including between 20 and 30 call center seats. The on-premise phone system costs between $500 and $550 per user. This price includes service, phones and installation. The call center service costs an additional $1,200 per user. These quotes do not include the monthly fees required to bring the dial tone into the system, or calling minutes.
The cloud-hosted system costs about $25 per user, per month. There is an additional one-time $400 cost for phones and installation. These prices include 500 minutes of local and long distance calling per user. Call center services cost an additional $36 per user, per month.
You can find more details about the Avaya phone systems on the Avaya website.
Best Business Phone Systems
Ready to choose a business phone system? Here's a breakdown of our complete coverage:
- Business Phone System Buyer's Guide
- Roundup: The Best Business Phone Systems
- REVIEW: Best for Small Businesses
- REVIEW: Best for Small Offices
- REVIEW: Best Virtual Phone System
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