Fortunately, telephone switchboards no longer need a dedicated room to fit in and one or more receptionists to pull wires from here and plug them there in order to connect a call to the intended interlocutor.
Depending on the scale of your operations and depending whether your primary need is to distribute incoming calls or outgoing ones, modern telephone switchboards come in many forms and work differently.
How modern telephone switchboards work
Modern telephone switchboards usually rely on a simple hardware configuration, or sometimes even just software to operate.
Modern telephone switchboards are automatic...
Today’s systems usually need a private-branch exchange installation to work. This type of installation uses a computer, router and switch to create an enterprise telephony system, setting up more lines and extensions than installed physical lines, then connect to the outside world through the plain old telephone system, or through the internet in case of an IP-PBX system.
All you need is to complete the setup is a series of special phones capable to distribute calls within the enterprise network.
You can then manage call queues, automatically detect which correspondents on the network are available or not (with the “presence” function), put callers on hold, and route calls to the correct extension anywhere;
... and sometimes even virtual
Virtual PBX systems are distributed completely online. This means that users sometimes even don’t need to download any software, in the case of cloud-based systems: the switchboard is completely virtual and operated through the computer terminal, through a user interface.
Major types of telephone switchboards
Modern telephone switchboards may add interactive voice response, automatic call distributor, or dialler functionality to the basic private-branch exchange system.
Interactive voice response
Interactive voice response systems, or IVRs, are indicated for incoming calls. They are widely used in customer service: either through choices made on the caller’s telephone keyboard (“please press 1... and so on”), either through speech recognition, callers are eventually directed to the right queue and right correspondent.
This type of setup is great for companies which do not want to allocate resources to a human operator position.
Automactic Call Distributors
ACDs are a more advanced technology to handle incoming calls. This type of automatic telephone switchboard is more often used by very large companies taking thousands of calls per day.
Through predefined business rules and a connection with the CRM and WFM systems, the ACD automatically directs the call to the employee with the matching skill set or experience.
Diallers are intended for companies or professionals doing lots of outbound or outgoing calls, for example telesales calls. Automatic diallers will use correspondents lists fed into the system, which detects which operators are or will soon be available to make a call and dials the numbers in the database immediately - this is called predictive dialling.