System Features Accessible To The Desktop Telephone Working With A PBX

Outgoing Calls

Placing a telephone call to an outside location: On most business telephone systems (PBXs) you dial 9, wait for an outside line dial tone, and dial the telephone number. You then hear a ringing signal that is sent to you from the local telephone company central office to let you know that the other end has not yet answered. You are not hearing the actual ringing of the telephone you have called. On other systems (smaller Key Systems), when you pick up the handset you already have an outside line dial tone and need only dial the telephone number, without dialing 9. Dialing 9 has become an accepted convention. There is not a technical reason that a telephone system cannot be set up to dial a different digit for dialing out, provided it has not been used for any other function.

Intra-office Calls and Intercoms

Placing a call to another telephone inside the office: Most business telephone systems enable you to reach any other telephone on the system by dialing the three- or four-digit extension number of that telephone. The called telephone may ring differently (probably a different cadence) to indicate an intra-office call. The display of the ringing telephone may indicate the name of the person who is calling.
There are many different types of business intra-office communications. In addition to simply dialing another extension number, most systems have other capabilities sometimes known as intercoms. Some are separate group intercoms for a specific department, or there may be two-way "boss-secretary" intercoms. The "boss-secretary" intercoms are designed to emulate the older style button and buzzer type intercoms that worked very well. These intercoms took up two buttons on a multi-button telephone, one for the buzzer and the other for the intercom path on which the conversation between the boss and the secretary took place.
Some intercoms have voice announce which enables the voice of the person who calls you on the intercom to speak to you and you to respond back, without having to lift the handset. Off-hook voice announce (less common) enables someone within your company to speak to you through the speaker of your telephone while you are on an outside call using the handset.
Dial intercoms are subgroups within a business telephone system, enabling members to call each other by dialing one or two digits without having to dial the complete extension number. The call may also ring on a separate button on the telephone, rather than on the button of the main extension number.
Some business telephone system intercoms have paging, enabling an announcement to be made from the speaker of every telephone at the same time (no more than 15 telephones simultaneously on most systems.). Other systems enable access to a separate overhead paging system.
Smaller business telephone systems (Key Systems) tend to have more flexibility in terms of the internal communications options than do the larger systems (PBXs).

Incoming Calls

Receiving a telephone call from either outside or inside the office: If someone is calling you, you answer by picking up the handset and saying "Hello." Some systems enable you to answer by just pressing a speaker button and saying "Hello" without lifting the handset. Other systems enable you to just say "Hello" without touching anything (seldom used but has application in environments where the recipient can't lift the receiver himself). Incoming telephone calls may provide the telephone number or name of the caller with Caller ID providing your system in equipped to accept and display the number (or name) of the person calling.

On Hold

Putting a call on hold: Many telephones are equipped with a button, often red or orange in color, which enables you to put a call in progress on hold. This means that the call is still at your telephone. The caller cannot hear you, so you are free to do other things such as call someone else, take another call, search for a file or gather your wits. Multi-line telephones almost always have a hold button. Some single-line telephones have one as well.
Some telephones have hold recall, which signals you with a ringing or other sound when you have left someone on hold too long.
Other telephones have individual hold, or I-hold. This means that if you put a call on hold at your telephone, no one else in the office that has the same line or extension can take the call off hold from any other telephone.

When a call is on hold, the light on the telephone where the call is holding rhythmically flickers to distinguish it from a call in progress (usually a steady light) or a new ringing call (light flashing on and off). Most systems also provide the ability to distinguish a call you put on hold from a call someone at another telephone put on hold it you both have appearances of the same extensions or outside lines on your telephones.

Call Transfer

If you wish to send a call to another telephone within your office and the extension the call is on does not appear on that other telephone, you must transfer the call. Most telephones are equipped with a transfer button that you press prior to dialing the extension number to which you want to transfer the call. You announce that you are going to transfer the call to the person at the other extension, and when you hang up, the call is transferred. If you do not announce the call and the extension to which you have sent the call does not answer, the caller may end up back at your desk, at the switchboard or in Voice Mail. This depends upon how the system is programmed.

Conference Calls

Most telephone systems are equipped with a conference button on the telephone. This enables you to set up a conference among three or more people, connecting people within your office to others outside the office. Systems vary in the number of inside and outside callers that can be conferenced. Typically, it becomes hard to hear on a conference call with more than three participants unless you are using specialized conferencing equipment that is separate from the telephone system.
For conferences of more than three or four people, it is advisable to use special conferencing equipment (called a conference bridge) or an outside conferencing service. It is important to know how to drop off one of the conferees from your conference call without ending the call. Not all systems can do this. If you have set up the conference call from your telephone and you hang up, you may disconnect the other call participants.

Last Number Redial

Many telephones store the telephone number you have just dialed so that if you reach a busy signal and wish to try again you need only press the last number redial button. On some telephones you do not need to lift the receiver to do this. Pressing the redial button will activate the speakerphone. Some telephones have a similar feature called save and repeat. This usually takes up two buttons and enables you to place other calls while the telephone still retains the number you want to retry at a later time.

Speed Dialing and Automatic Dialing

These capabilities enable you to store frequently called telephone numbers in your telephone. Then you need only press one or a few buttons rather than dialing the entire telephone number. If you have spare flexible feature buttons on your telephone, these can often be set up to automatically dial a telephone number by pressing just that one button (typically called Automatic Dialing or Autodial). Or there may be a button for speed dial that you press, followed by a one or two digit code (on the dial pad), which represents the stored number. On many business telephone systems there is station speed dial, specific to a particular telephone, and system speed dial, accessible to authorized telephones throughout the system. If the telephone system requires dialing 9 to dial out, you may have to program the 9 into your speed dialing, although some systems have built in intelligence to add it for you.

Call Forwarding

If you are not going to be at your desk, some telephones enable you to forward calls to another telephone either within your office or at an outside location. Many systems can forward your calls to different destinations depending upon whether your telephone is (1) unanswered or (2) busy, and whether the caller is (3) inside the office or (4) outside.
Some telephones are set up with a button that, when depressed, will send your calls directly to Voice Mail if you are not at your desk. This prevents the caller from having to wait for your telephone to ring several times before going to Voice Mail. Off-system call forwarding enables you to forward your office telephone to your cell phone or home telephone.

Call Pick Up

This function enables you to answer another ringing telephone in your office even though the extension number that is ringing does not appear on your telephone. This is usually accomplished by pressing a button on your telephone labeled call pick-up. If you have a display you may see the name of the person whose call you have picked up, which will enable you to answer appropriately, "Rose Bodin's office," rather than just saying "Hello." Group call pick-up lets you answer any ringing telephone in your pre-selected group. Directed call pick up requires you to know the extension number that is ringing and to dial it after pressing the call pick up button.


In business telephone systems, it is customary for more than one telephone to pick up the same extension number or outside line such as a secretary's telephone being able to answer the boss' extensions. Privacy prevents someone else who has the same line or extension from inadvertently cutting in on your conversation. If you want to let him in, you may do so if you have a privacy release button. Not all telephone systems are automatically equipped with the privacy feature.
Some systems have automatic privacy, while others require that a separate button on each telephone be activated to ensure privacy. A separate button called privacy release can let a person at another telephone in on a conversation if you want him to join you or listen in.


Most telephones working with a PBX have a release button. When you press it, the effect is the same as if you hung up the receiver and then lifted it up again. Pressing release disconnects a completed call and gives you back the dial tone to place another call.

Do Not Disturb

When the "Do Not Disturb" button is depressed, on most systems, you will not receive internal calls or intercom calls. This button often overlaps in function with a button that, when depressed, sends callers directly to your Voice Mail box without ringing your telephone.

Call Park

This enables you to ask a caller to wait, place the call in limbo in a numbered "parking place" in the system (the call will no longer appear on your telephone when parked). You can go to any other telephone on the system and retrieve the parked call by dialing the parking place number. This is also used by switchboard attendants who park calls and then announce over the office paging system, "Tom Taylor, dial 23." 23 is the parking code.

Call Waiting or Camp-On

If you are on a call and do not have a second extension, a second call may still get though to you using Call Waiting (also called Camp-On in older systems). You will hear a tone indicating a second incoming call and may press a button or the switch-hook to answer the second call without losing the call you're already on. The first caller cannot hear your conversation with the new caller.

All of the previous capabilities are features of the PBX accessible from the desktop telephone, usually accessed by pressing a specifically programmed button on the telephone, but sometimes requiring the dialing of a numeric access code as well.
There are also features that have to do with the physical makeup of the telephone itself such as the display and the speakerphone. 

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