Who do you want to be available to?
As an example, service companies will always want to ensure that existing clients are given the best possible service and possibly a priority over everything else. After all, it's more profitable to maintain an existing client base than find new ones. Therefore, you may wish to be able to filter enquiries, whatever the medium. Even if you do not choose to ignore an email or telephone call, the fact you have the choice makes life easier and more manageable.
How are you available?
Smartphones can easily provide two very common forms of contact - telephone calls and email. This can be built on by using 'apps' to provide additional forms of contact, i.e. web chat or social media, and applications which provide control over how that contact is advertised to the world.
You may also wish to control or automate 'switches' to the best form of medium for each type of communication at any given time. For instance, if you are at a desk with a landline, it would be preferable for telephone calls to start there, rather than over a potentially degraded mobile signal.
What happens when I am not available?
In this day and age, in business, a busy tone or endless ringing is far from acceptable. In the same way, many people expect a form of response to know that their enquiry has been noted or that someone else is likely to be able to help shortly - via presence messaging, automated responses or alerts to those who can provide some form of backup to the primary contact.
PABX or Voice Switching Solutions
Using A PABX or 'Soft Switch' to control Voice Enquiries is a highly flexible way to control all enquiries that come in over a voice network. Many modern telephone systems incorporate integration to a computer network for managing parts of your voice communications via a computer, smartphone or tablet - giving you live statistics, collegue's availiability, controlling your own availability and so on. Integration to data networks may also provide 'free' telephone calls over data connections you have already paid for - thus eliminating the need for separate, expensive telephone lines. This can be between geographically separate offices or to the public telephone network (PSTN).
Many telephone systems will also integrate to other forms of messaging - such as providing an email transcript of a voicemail you have recieved or converting inbound fax communications to emails for a paperless and immediate notification of a fax message.
A common and highly useful feature of many modern systems is to offer a call to your 'business telephone number' both to your desk, mobile and home phone at the same time - without any noticible difference to the caller. This means you can be available in 3 places at once without having to 'manage' the routing of calls. It is important in this type of feature to ensure that the caller's number is maintained throughout the routing so that you can see who is calling at any location and actively manage your calls.
Scheduling can often be incorporated to automatically change the way telephone calls are routed, based on the time of day.
Querying, via an automated attendant, PIN number or the caller's own CLI can help automatically change the way a call is handled and redistributed.
Non Geographic or SIP Number Routing
Using a 'hosted' range of telephone numbers can have a variety of advantages. This service is where you have a range of telephone numbers on the public telephone network which can be re-routed to another number.
They can usually be managed by a web portal, meaning the destination of the call can be managed from anywhere with an internet connection.
The same number is advertised to clients or Joe Public regardless of the location of your office today or in 10 years time - it never changes!
You can obtain standard Non Geographic numbers that are free to any caller or pay for themselves - or accrue revenue when people call them - a useful way of potentially paying for the support you provide.
Hosted numbers mean you can provide a virtual 'presence' in any local area across the world. For Example, you can acquire a telephone number in Timbuktoo and route the call to your mobile in the UK or an office in North America. The caller perceives the office they're calling is in Timbuktoo.
Integration to web sites can provide simple and flexible methods of being available. For example, many sites now have a simple web-based 'chat' button which will instigate a simple messaging window where you can type responses to someone who can be helped with a quick enquiry.
These forms of button can also be used to instigate a 'callback' - whereby an enquirer leaves a contact number and the enquiry is delivered to someone who can help, who is automatically or manually able to contact the person who has enquired.