• United States
by Michael Hommer

Readers respond: Give us our telephony features

Jan 27, 20033 mins

Survey says nine features offered by traditional PBX systems are a must for VoIP deployments.

In a recent Tester’s Choice column we turned to our readers to help settle an argument about which telephony features they wanted to see carried over from traditional TDM-based systems into the new generation of IP-based telephony.

Of the 68 respondents to our online survey, 35% were IT/MIS managers, 25% general managers, 15% sales personnel and 10% telephone company personnel. The majority — 59% — worked in companies with at least 1,000 employees. Just more than half had TDM-based systems, while 40% already had installed IP-based systems. The remaining 9% didn’t know what type of PBX was installed on their premises or did not answer the question.

We asked the respondents to rate the 50 telephony features from 1 to 5 with 1 being “never even heard of this feature” to 5 indicating “use it daily or consider it vital.”

On the most-wanted feature list were support for intrude, call forward all, message waiting indicator, night service, call return, call hold, auto call back, call block and call drop. Each of these received a rating of 4.5 out of 5.

It was no shocker that commonly used features, such as call waiting, call forwarding and automatic callback, scored high. But we were surprised to see features such as intrude, which lets specific users intrude on calls in progress, and call drop, which allows termination of a call without hanging up the receiver, to be in high demand.

But beyond this rather narrow list of nine features, the remaining 41 all were rated an average of a 3.5 on the scale, which indicates that these features were used — not daily — and were not especially vital.

We were surprised that features such as intercom phone-to-phone, audible message waiting, and direct transfer to voice mail landed lower on the list.

In the top five feature tally, call transfer, conference call, call forward all types, call hold and message waiting indicator, repeatedly headlined the list.

We also asked respondents what they consider the most basic telephone features. Not everyone took advantage of this opportunity, but those who did brought up some very good points. Several comments focused on our list of features.

Our list focused on station-side features and did not fully address the back-end system.

Many respondents disagreed with some features we considered basic, wanting to include others they deemed more worthy. This was particularly true for the IT/MIS managers answering the survey, who were more interested in some of the back-end administrative features than those targeted to the end user.

One respondent noted that having to adapt to a smaller feature set supported on an IP PBX forced his company to adapt the way they did business to what the phone system supported, rather than the other way around.

Thus, our goal of defining a universally accepted list of 50 definitive telephone features remains elusive. For those of you who haven’t yet taken our survey, click here to give us your opinion. If we get at least 100 more respondents, we’ll report back.

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