A PBX Request For Proposal (with sample questions)

Whether you are upgrading an existing system or purchasing a new system, put it in writing. This gives you a better chance of getting what you need and avoiding misunderstandings. It also provides a basis for comparing systems.

Here is an excerpt from a written description of a telephone system. There are also sample questions from a Request for Proposal used for one of our clients at DIgby 4 Group, Inc. We believe that technical specifications should be accompanied by clear English (or whatever your language is) descriptions of how you, the client, want things to work.

Description of the Telephone System Operation

Incoming calls from outside callers will ring into the system in one of several ways.

  • A caller dials the main telephone number 212-883-0000, which is answered by the switchboard attendant and extended to the requested person. There will be two switchboard consoles, but sometimes only one will be in operation.

  • A caller dials a direct inward dial number, which rings directly to the telephone of the person dialed. Each telephone, except for telephones in common areas, will have a direct inward dial number.

  • A caller dials 212-983-0000, which is the first of four separate outside lines (not direct inward dial) that appear on the telephones in a customer service department.


The following describes what is known as Call Coverage. This means, "How are we going to be sure the telephones are answered?" If a person is not at the desk when the telephone rings, the call can be covered in one of several ways.

  • Answered by another person who has a direct appearance of that extension on their telephone. Live coverage is a key objective, so coverage of this type will be widespread.

  • Answered by another person who has depressed his call pickup button to answer the ringing telephone, although he has no direct appearance of that ringing extension. The display on the telephone of the person answering the call will indicate the name of the person for whom the call was originally intended, so that the call can be answered appropriately.

  • Answered by another person to whom the call has been forwarded by the person who is not at the desk.

  • Answered by the switchboard attendant. Our objective is to have most calls handled at the department level rather than returning to the switchboard console.

Unanswered intra-office calls are forwarded to Voice Mail that will enable the caller to leave a recorded message.

Anyone answering a call, including the switchboard attendant, will be able to offer the caller the option of leaving a message in the Voice Mailbox of the person being called. The caller will then hear the personal greeting of the person being called and will leave a message.

All telephones will have the capability to send unanswered calls to Voice Mail. This will be done by each user before leaving the desk, by depressing a button on the telephone. This button may also work to enable redirecting of incoming calls when the extension is busy.

The capability to automatically forward calls from unanswered and busy telephones into Voice Mail must be a part of the system, although we may elect not to use the system in this manner at the outset.

If a person is busy on another call, an incoming call can be covered in several ways:

  • The call can "roll over" to another extension which appears on the same telephone and rings simultaneously on one or more other telephones. Please let us know if there is a limit to the number of multiple appearances of an extension.

  • Once the call has rolled over, it can be answered by another person by depressing the call pick up button, although there may be no appearance of that extension on his telephone.

  • Answered by another person to whom the call has been forwarded by the person at the busy telephone.

  • Answered by the switchboard attendant, although, as stated above, it is our intent to have a minimal amount of callers return to the switchboard.

Intra-office calls to a busy extension can be answered by Voice Mail, giving the caller the option of leaving an automated message.

Any caller reaching Voice Mail will have the option of reaching a live attendant by holding on at any point in the process. Instructions for escaping from Voice Mail by dialing 0 are included as a part of the system.

Outgoing calls will be made by dialing 9 to access a group of combination trunks or a T-1 for long distance calling. Automatic route selection in the system will select the lowest cost circuit for placing the call.

Internal calls will be made on the system intercom by: (1) dialing a three or four digit extension, (2) on a separate group intercom or (3) on a boss-secretary type of intercom. All three types must be available and work when the person called on the intercom is on an outside call.

Most telephones in the system will be multi-line with a display. The display will have the ability to indicate the name of the person who is calling on internal calls and the source of the call (trunk identification by type and telephone number assignment - 7 digit) for incoming outside calls. It will also display the name and number of the outside calling party, when available.

Required System Capabilities

The following capabilities are required for the proposed system to be considered. Please state in your response whether each capability is standard, optional or not available in the proposed system. (Note: This list was prioritized for our particular client.)

  1. Capability to obtain a traffic study, on demand, indicating use on the T-1s and other trunks carrying incoming and outgoing calls. Also must be able to track recalls to the switchboard from unanswered and busy extensions and internal calls.

  2. Capability to make system changes on-site such as relocating telephones (to cabled, system activated locations), changing extension appearances or system forwarding.

  3. Capability for incoming calls to forward in four different directions for internal/busy, internal/no answer, external/ busy and external/no answer.

  4. Capability to accept an ISDN PRI type of circuit.

  5. Capability to integrate with an Interactive Voice Response system.

  6. Station and system speed dialing capability (state number per station).

  7. Built-in speakerphone capability on multi-line telephones.

  8. Conferencing of up to five people. This must include the capability to drop calls to a busy or unanswered telephone from a conference call already in progress.

  9. Differentiated ringing for internal and outside calls and for different telephones within the same area.

  10. Toll restriction and the capability to override it.

  11. Last number redial.

  12. Capability to provide both boss-secretary and dial intercoms, which can signal another telephone while it is in use with an audible tone distinguishable from the regular ringing telephone.

Desirable System Capabilities

Please state in your response whether each capability is standard, optional or not available in the proposed system.

  1. Capability to generate a printed directory of extension users.

  2. Capability to provide some Automatic Call Distribution (ACD)-like reports as an indicator of staff productivity, such as the number of calls handled by each extension and the duration of the calls.

  3. Capability to recognize Caller ID and ANI information sent to the PBX from the central office.

  4. Capability to retain Caller ID or ANI digits with a call that is transferred or a call coming through the Automated Attendant.

  5. Capability for off-hook voice announcement on the intercom.

  6. Capability to set up a busy lamp field for the switchboard attendant console and for individual multi-line telephones.

  7. Toll fraud security features on the PBX and Voice Mail systems.

Please provide the maximum for the following:

  • Number of times the same extension can appear on other telephones.

  • Number of extensions in a call pick up group.

  • Number of call pick up groups in the system.

  • Number of times a call can forward when the original extension is unanswered or busy.

  • Number of forwards for which the original destination of the call or the Caller ID will continue to appear on the display of the ringing telephone.

  • Number of buttons on each telephone instrument proposed which can be used for extension appearances.

  • Number of speed dial numbers per telephone and system wide.

  • Number of participant capacity on a conference call.

  • Number of ports for each type of circuit board proposed.

  • Number of spare slots in the cabinet as proposed.

  • Number of ports for telephones and outside lines in the proposed system at its maximum capacity.

  • Number of seconds for the set-up of an outgoing call.

System Specifications

Please base your pricing on the following requirements:

  • One digital PBX.

  • Two T-l/PRI circuit board for each 24 DID (direct inward dial) and both-way trunks.

  • One T-1/PRI circuit board for access to a long distance carrier.

  • Growth capacity in cabinet for a third T-1/PRI

  • 20 Combination trunks (growth capacity in cabinet to 60)

  • Two attendant consoles with DSS/Busy lamp field.

  • 250 Multi-line digital display telephones with a minimum of ten buttons which can be programmed for line appearances and system feature access (Note: Line Appearance refers to a button on which a PBX extension is located)

  • 50 Multi-line digital display telephones with a minimum of twenty buttons which can be programmed for line appearances and system feature access

  • 8 Digital single line telephones

  • Growth capacity in cabinet to add 40 multi-line telephones

  • One system administration terminal and printer

  • A call back modem to prevent unauthorized access into the remote maintenance port

  • One Voice Mail system integrated with the proposed PBX. - 8 ports (Growth capacity in cabinet to 16 ports)

  • One Voice Mail system administration terminal and printer (Please state if the same terminal and printer can be used for PBX system administration)

For the above-described system, provide a total price and the components, showing how the price was computed.

Once we have agreed upon the extent of recabling or reuse of existing cabling, please provide a separate price for all cabling related work, separating materials from labor.

Provide Optional Pricing for the Following

  • 4 and 8 hour battery back-up.

  • Back-up to maintain DID trunks on the T-1/PRI in the event of a power failure.

  • A PC-based Call Accounting system to work with the proposed PBX (including hardware and software). Please mention any toll fraud detection capability of your PBX or Call Accounting system.

Additional Information Requested

  1. Add-on pricing for all system components including stations, circuit boards and additional cabinets. Note: The term Add-on is used to refer to any addition of equipment to an original purchase agreement.

  2. Maximum capacity of PBX - in existing cabinet, and with additional cabinets.

  3. Maximum capacity of Voice Mail - in existing cabinet, and with additional cabinets.

  4. Number of hours of memory in the Voice Mail system as proposed.

  5. Is a two-way speakerphone on the multi-line display telephones standard or optional? If optional - what is the cost?

  6. How many pairs of wires does the proposed multi-line telephone require?

  7. With your proposal, please include copies of your standard purchase and maintenance contracts.

  8. Please enclose a picture of the proposed telephone stations and attendant console.

  9. Please provide a description of the intercom options with the proposed system and of exactly how they are operated by the extension user.

  10. Is the proposed Voice Mail system capable of incorporating remote fax retrieval capability? If so, please explain how this is accomplished.

  11. Does your installation price include all coordination required with the telecommunications service providers? Please describe your procedures for providing this support.

  12. Does your installation price include training? Please provide detail of the scope of training provided.

  13. Does your maintenance agreement include support of the Call Accounting and telecommunications management software, including a hotline for customer questions?

  14. Does your pricing consider any "trade in" on the existing PBX?

  15. Does your company sell and support Video Teleconferencing equipment? If so, please describe these capabilities.

  16. Are the handsets in the proposed system hearing aid- compatible? Can a TDD (Telephone Device for the Deaf) be used to call to and from the proposed system?

  17. Please provide a list of at least ten customers using the proposed system (same release for PBX and Voice Mail and same system administration software for PBX).

Maintenance Support Requirements

  1. Two-hour emergency response and 24-hour standard response is a requirement.

  2. The proposed system must have remote diagnostic capability. Please explain your procedure for monitoring the system performance remotely. Can the remote point be deactivated by the customer to prevent unauthorized access?

  3. Please provide the point of dispatch for your repair technicians.

  4. Does your company reduce the cost of the maintenance agreement if the customer agrees to provide coordination of repairs with the local and long distance carriers?

The above is considered to be a brief Request for Proposal document. Some are much more detailed, particularly for larger systems with more than 200 telephones. The purpose of including it here is to give you an idea of some of the questions to ask and the level of detail required to purchase a telephone system.


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Ram Chauhan said...

Thanks for posting such a nice blog.Keep posting these types of blog.
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