How Does a Multiline Phone System Work?
Multiline phone systems are one of the best office tools around because they condense multiple phone lines into a single device so you can manage and screen multiple calls from your desk. Models of the phone unit themselves vary, but they have similar functions and work on the same principles. These phone systems also allow you to have multiple telephone units work off of the same telephone lines, allowing an executive office and a reception desk to use the same line.
How It Works
Multiline phone systems come in two flavors: multiline phones and private branch exchange (PBX) lines. For standard multiline phones, typically up to 10 phone lines are connected to each phone unit and can be answered individually — these are typically represented as lines — and are usually supported by a receptionist. A PBX system uses an automated directory to funnel callers where they need to go. You have likely used these and been requested to “press 1” for certain features.
Multiline phone systems have a variety of features, like call waiting, caller ID and basic conference calling, all of which are available on single-line phone systems. However, these systems offer additional features, such as transferring or forwarding a call, personalized voice mail for different extension or lines, and support for a receptionist to answer multiple lines from a single desk. By publishing each phone number you have, customers can call your main office, different departments or specific individuals in your company.
One option for your multiline system is called a rollover system. For these, you use typical multiline phone devices but only publish one line in phone directories, websites and other press or contact materials. This allows you to have one phone number that your customers call, but the system will use multiple lines in an ascending order when the first is busy, allowing you to put customers on hold, transfer calls to other people and have multiple employees answer lines.
Private Branch Exchange
The big difference for a PBX system is that it uses menu options to direct customer calls instead of a receptionist. This allows your system to handle many calls at the same time and process those calls without initially taking up a phone line. These systems also support extensions by allowing users to dial an extension and be directed immediately to that desk. PBX platforms also allow you to hold employee conferences on lines without placing calls to an outside line.
If you have two telephone devices and two phone lines but neither are multiline models, you can still have two different telephone numbers for your home or office. First, obtain a two-line splitter, which has a double-headed jack on one end, from either your telephone company or a local electronics store. Plug this device into the wall jack and then you can connect two separate phones to it, one to each of the jacks it provides. Typically the top or right jack supports the first line you registered to your address. These splitters are limited to two lines, so you will need a multiline phone system for three or more lines.
About the Author
Geoff Whiting is a writer and copy editor who has specialized in business technology, consumer electronics and research reports since 2007. He has written for national magazines like American Shipper and BIC Magazine, has written daily news articles for FierceMarkets, and has crafted research reports for Rider Research, Intel and Spotify.