ShoreTel is the best phone system for businesses needing call center services because it offers multiple hosting options and a large number of features and tools, and it can serve everyone in the office, not just those in the call center.
In addition to being one of the best call center phone systems, ShoreTel is one of our contenders for the best on-premises phone systems and best phone system for enterprises.
- Best for: Call center, on-premises and enterprises
- Phone service: VoIP
- Hosting: On-premises and cloud
- Costs: On-premise systems have one-time fees of $700 per user, plus an additional $1,000 to $1,500 for call center seats. Cloud systems cost between $30 and $40 per user, plus an additional $130 for call center seats.
- Support: Phone and email
- Mobile app: iOS and Android devices
A big plus to ShoreTel's VoIP phone system is that it is available as either an on-premises or cloud-hosted system. This gives businesses an option in where the system's equipment is located and who maintains it.
The on-premises system is stored inside your business. Its primary components are a main server and voice-switch appliances. The voice-switch appliances provide all of the system's features and call handling. The on-premises solutions also require software to prioritize voice traffic on the network, as well as PRI circuits or SIP trunks in order to connect a dial tone to the system.
With the on-premises system, your business's IT staff is responsible for keeping it up and running at all times and handling all of the maintenance and upgrades when necessary. Also, the ShoreTel on-premises system requires professional installation, which is an added cost.
A nice aspect of the on-premises option is the system's built-in fail-safe, which is designed to keep it up and running should the online connection stop working. When a network goes down, the system automatically taps into a landline connection so calls can still be made and received.
The cloud-hosted system offers the exact same functionality as the on-premises system; however, instead of being installed within your business, it is hosted in the cloud. This means there is nothing to install and all of the maintenance and upgrades are taken care of by ShoreTel. The only equipment needed with the cloud solutions are IP phones and voice traffic prioritizing software.
ShoreTel's cloud system had an impressive reported uptime of 99.986% between August 2016 and January 2017. This means that the system was down for only a few minutes over those six months. To keep the system up and running, ShoreTel uses multiple data centers across the country and works with multiple carriers so calls and data can be redirected if problems occur.
The two hosting options make ShoreTel appealing for not only businesses with call centers, but also a broader spectrum of large organizations. Some enterprises may prefer to have their own in-house IT staff handle the upkeep of the on-premises system, while other large businesses may prefer the flexibility the cloud-hosted solution brings to table. With ShoreTel, everyone can choose what works best for them.
The ShoreTel phone system is packed with features for not just those working in the call center, but for employees throughout the business. Overall, the system offers more than 150 calling and cell center features.
It is important to note that all employees, not just those working in the call center, can use ShoreTel's phone system. The basic phone system is provided to everyone in the office, with call center services tacked on for only those employees and supervisors who need it.
Its call center services include several call queue options, such as queue-based routing, which can route callers to different types of queues, and skills-based routing. In addition, there are multi-queue logins that let call center agents be part of more than one queue at a time.
ShoreTel's call center services also have built-in integrations with a number of customer relationship management programs, such as Salesforce, NetSuite and Zendesk. In addition to the built-in integrations, the phone system can be configured to work with nearly every CRM.
A host of analytic reports that provide businesses with deeper looks into their call center operations are also available. There are reports on reasons why customers are calling and how different queues, groups and individual agents are performing. In total, ShoreTel offers more than 50 call center-specific features.
In addition to the large call center feature set, the rest of the system offers an even wider array of tools. Overall, the on-premises and cloud-based systems provide more than 100 calling, mobility, messaging and collaboration features. Some of the calling features are call screening, call blocking, call waiting, caller ID, intercom and paging groups, and announced and unannounced transferring.
The system includes a number of ways employees can communicate with each other, such as instant messaging, peer-to-peer video chats and conference calling. Other collaboration tools are desktop sharing and a presence feature that quickly lets employees know if a co-worker is free or on the phone.
The ShoreTel mobile app, for iOS and Android devices, extends many of the features employees have on their desktop phones to their mobile devices. The app allows them to make and receive calls from their business lines, initiate conference calls, check voicemail messages and chat over video.
The complete list of features for the cloud-based and on-premises systems can be found on the ShoreTel website.
The pricing structure for the on-premises and cloud-based systems are very different. The on-premises system comprises mostly large one-time costs, with the cloud-based system charging smaller monthly fees.
Instead of receiving price information directly from ShoreTel, you get quotes from your local ShoreTel resellers. Since each reseller is different, the pricing we were quoted might not be the same as those in other communities. Also, pricing fluctuates based on how many users you have and what types of features you want to include. The prices we were quoted were based on a business having 100 to 150 overall users and up to 30 call center licenses.
For the on-premises 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. Not included in these prices are the monthly costs for the dial tone service and calling minutes.
For the cloud-hosted system, the prices we were quoted ranged from $31 to $38 per month, per user. Call center licenses were an additional $130 per month.
None of the prices for either system included the cost of phones. Phones can be purchased with the on-premises system for several hundred dollars each, or rented for $5 per month for the cloud-hosted solution.
It is important to remember that, since the pricing we were quoted was based on our specific requirements and given by a reseller in our area, the costs your business is quoted may be different. We would encourage all businesses to contact the local dealer ShoreTel refers them to early on in their research process to get specific price quotes for their exact needs.
To gauge the level of support available, we had to speak with both ShoreTel and our local ShoreTel reseller. Instead of handling all of its sales and support in-house, ShoreTel works with resellers all over the country. These resellers work with individual businesses in choosing and installing the phone systems.
We first contacted ShoreTel directly, posing as a business owner interested in phone systems. Our call was quickly answered by a representative, who was friendly and able to answer some of our initial questions about the system and how it worked. In order to get more specific information, including pricing details, he asked for our contact information and said he would pass it along to one of ShoreTel's reseller partners.
The following day we received a follow-up call from a representative of a communications consulting firm that serves as a ShoreTel reseller in our area. The consultant we spoke to was very helpful. She provided a ton of specifics on both the on-premises and cloud-hosted systems, including the features they offer, how they are installed and maintained, and how much each costs. She also offered details on ShoreTel's call center services. By the end of our conversation, we had a clear understanding of how ShoreTel's systems work and how much they would cost.
While we were initially disappointed that we had to work with a local reseller, the level of support we received from the reseller eased those concerns. In all, we were quite pleased with the service the consultant provided. Out of all the phone system providers we spoke to that partnered with local resellers, we thought the service we received from the ShoreTel consultant was among the best. Our call, and subsequent email follow-ups, left us feeling confident that the support we would receive moving forward would be just as impressive.
Although we were pleased with the reseller in our area, we can't guarantee resellers all over the country offer the same high level of service. Similarly with pricing, we would encourage businesses to spend some time speaking with the reseller they are referred to get a better idea of the type of support they can expect. While you would likely work with your local reseller on issues you have with the system, ShoreTel does have a comprehensive support section on its website that features a variety of user guides and how-to videos.
To read reviews of other phone system providers, or simply learn more about business phone systems, check out our business phone systems buying guide.