Three Questions to Ask Your VoIP Provider Before Signing on the Dotted Line

    There is no disputing the fact that it is becoming increasingly ubiquitous for businesses of all sizes—and across all verticals—to integrate VoIP solutions into their business offerings. In fact, IDG Enterprise predicts that by 2018, the VoIP market revenue will soar to $20 billion and Infonetics Research predicts that a cumulative $377 billion will be spent on business and residential/SOHO VoIP services from 2012 to 2016, fueled primarily by SIP trunking and hosted VoIP/UC services.

    Just because businesses are flocking to VoIP services, though, does not mean they are asking the right questions of their providers before inking the deal. Here are three questions that should be on the minds of your C-suite before moving forward with a prospective VoIP provider.

    Will You Go the Hosted or Managed Route?

    No two businesses are alike and therefore no two VoIP services should be identical. While a hosted VoIP service might work well for your competitors, a managed hosted VoIP model may be better suited to your unique needs. Before deciding whether to go the hosted or managed route, get a firm handle on your core competencies, chief differentiators and specific business goals.

    To begin, assess where you see your company three days, three months and three years from now. Determine whether a massive scale up or downsize is in your future. Companies in growth mode ought to choose a managed VoIP service provider—one that is able to keep up with the dynamism of the technology world while still delivering exceptional service. On the other hand, companies that are eyeing a restructuring can benefit more strongly from a hosted VoIP provider.

    Understanding your specific needs gives you greater insight into whether to go the hosted or managed route. To further help you decide, consider the following:

    • What type of equipment and service do you need in order to bolster communications and business processes?
    • Is application integration important?
    • How do you make and take calls?
    • Are you comfortable with day-to-day management of equipment, software and operations?
    • Does your IT team have time for ongoing maintenance and management?
    • Are you looking for enhanced flexibility and scalability without cost-prohibitive infrastructure spending?

    Your answers will help inform whether you should go the traditional, on-premises route or host your VoIP services in the cloud with a third-party provider.

    What Features Do You Need for Your Employees, Key Stakeholders?

    There are a plethora of call management features that could augment your core business processes and enhance your customer service experiences, but choosing from all of the available features can be an incredibly daunting process.

    Before taking a step further with your VoIP provider quest, determine which features are most important. After all, a great number of providers offer basic call management features—such as caller ID, voicemail and conferencing—but only managed providers deliver advanced add-ons like contact center call queuing, computer technology integration and multimedia recording. Let’s take a look at some of the chief value-adds

    1. Find Me/Follow Me: This call routing feature allows incoming calls to be received at different locations on different phones—a capability that is hugely attractive for the mobile workforce. If your company has an ever-growing mobile workforce (75 percent of the workforce in the U.S. is already mobile and IDC predicts that by 2015, that numbers will reach 1.3 billion, or 37.2 percent of the global workforce), Find Me/Follow Me is a feature worth exploring.

    2. Unified Communications (UC) Support: Some VoIP providers offer comprehensive UC functionality as part of their business phone service. If your company is interested in BYOD, presence technology and conferencing support, UC integration is something to keep top of mind.

    3. Coaching Tools: If you are looking to amplify the customer service experience, cast your eye toward a VoIP provider that offers barge and whisper coaching tools. Barge allows your managers to listen silently in on conversations between employees and key stakeholders without interruption. Whisper allows them to provide tips and advice while on the line, without the other party being aware.

    Are There Hidden Costs?

    Most likely you have decided to go the VoIP route in order to increase efficiencies and productivity without crippling your bottom line. But all too often providers have you drowning in a sea of hidden costs that can burn a whole through your wallet.

    Find out from your provider what the initial upfront costs will be and if there will be additional expenses related to equipment purchases and set-up. Moreover, find out what the monthly charge will be based on your number of subscribers as well as the charges associated with the equipment and cancellation fees.

    Further, find out what VoIP services are included and which will cost you additional dollars. For example, adding on a toll-free number of virtual number may mean you need to foot per minute charges and monthly bills. Similarly, find out the rates for international calls as one of the biggest cost savings with VoIP service should be the charge for international calls.

    Have additional questions about how to go about selecting the right VoIP provider? Then click here to read our ebook titled “9 Things to Consider Before Choosing a Cloud Phone Provider.”

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