Choosing a VoIP provider might sound simple & you may think that there isn’t a big difference between them.
That’s not true. Unfortunately the distance between the best and worst VoIP services can leave your head spinning.
With there being so many providers it can be a difficult decision to make – so the question you’re probably asking is…
‘WHERE DO I START?!’
And how do you separate the gold from the rocks?
This brief and helpful guide should give you all the advice you need to make the most informed decision when choosing a VoIP provider.
You might think this is a pointless exercise but before you get signed up to a specific VoIP provider, start by going to their website to see if they are hiding their contact details. It may either be really small or practically impossible to find. Amazon is a good example of this – probably due to the amount of customers they have.
Once you hopefully find their contact details, try calling them. Their response time could be a very good indicator of where they place themselves on the market, and whether or not they care about their customers.
A quality provider doesn't have to hide behind web forms and e-mails – if they’ve got something to shout about they’ll put these, what should be easily attainable details, in plain sight. If they haven’t it either means they are overwhelmed by problems & issues or they simply just don't want to talk to their customers. And if they don’t want to talk to you, you probably shouldn’t try to talk to them.
You can usually find on the website a set of codecs a telephony provider allows you to use - make sure they have G.711A. This is the exact digital quality the ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) has - that means you are sending the best audio quality you can to the person at the end of the line.
Otherwise it could sound like you’re speaking from a mobile phone in your office, giving the impression of being unreliable & not interested in hearing or speaking to your future and current clientele.
The quality of your line though is not determined by just this single test, as your connectivity and the cost of the service also come into play.
What handsets does the provider use or recommend? You will find that some enforce use of their handsets and some just have a recommended list.
Does the provider allow you to use software phones? This can be a convenient way to use your telephony account on your smartphone.
Does the provider also allow you to register multiple devices against a single account? Otherwise you could get stuck with one phone.
Are they future proof? Are they selling products that will be useful for the next 5-10 years? Can they keep up with the growth and evolution of your business? With the evolution of technology and software today, you need a handset and service that will be parallel with the market. You don’t want to have to switch to another provider half way through the year because your current one can’t keep up with your growth.
These are all questions you should be asking when looking for the best telephony provider.
4. WEB PORTAL FUNCTIONALITY
Although being able to call the support team to change anything with your telephony service is definitely a good thing, you should also explore how much functionality a provider’s online management portal gives you, or if they even have one.
If a provider puts your support needs first, they will have a management portal allowing you to have more control over the services you have paid for.
5. ADDITIONAL FEATURES OF THE SYSTEM
Call forwarding, mailboxes, automated response systems (IVR), hunt groups, pick up groups, call recording, conference calls & queuing of the calls are all features that may seem to come as standard, but the ability to have them all should point you towards a real business tailored telephony system.
6. YOUR CONNECTIVITY
Telephony usually works on top of your Internet connection and is subject to the quality of your connectivity – bad connection equals bad telephone line. If you have any issues with your Internet access you can be sure that your telephony service will also be affected. An inconsistent Internet connection will instantly decrease your call quality - dropping calls will later most likely follow suit.
Is your router also capable of supporting VoIP? The amount of routers that do not support VoIP is staggering and the results can be anywhere from one way audio on incoming calls to not being able to call out at all.
Choosing a provider that is support focused will be hugely helpful if anything should go wrong. And when things go wrong they tend to be at times that are the least convenient for everyone.
For some businesses having an issue at 3 in the morning can be a massive loss, 24/7 support can also be incredibly useful.
The support team for your new VoIP service will not only maintain that service, but it is also very likely to be keeping a check on your Internet connection too.
A good VoIP provider should also advise you before you join them about the set-up of your new system and what you can expect from it.
8. MANAGED SOLUTIONS
The amount of options and technical understanding needed to set-up a system like this can be quite overwhelming. At this point you might also want to consider a provider who can offer a managed solution that bundles connectivity and telephony into one service/package. This can save you a lot of hassle crosschecking requirements and designing your new phone system.
9. THE COST
When VoIP was introduced the main advantage that ‘they’ were promoting was the cost, and although it is still a big deciding factor, keep in mind that cheap systems can cut corners in places that you may not want cut.
Those cuts can be for things that reduce the quality of outgoing calls and the support service that you get. The reason why businesses, and even home-owners, will one day eventually migrate from PSTN is because of the functionality that VoIP offers.
Once you’ve tasted the best, it’s difficult to go back to second-rate quality - so make sure that if you are choosing a cheap service, they aren’t cutting corners in the wrong places and you’re getting your money’s worth.
10. TEST ACCOUNT
When you make the decision to purchase a telephony service from your chosen provider, enquire about getting a test account from them.
A test account lets you see for yourself how the solution works and what the level of support is that the provider will supply.
This can be a good way to find out if the decision you’re about to make for sure is going to be the right one.