Considering the VoIP industry’s consistent growth, choosing the right option for your business can be challenging. Determine your business’s phone system needs and gauge a provider’s ability to meet them by asking the following questions.
1. Do You Provide Hosted or On-Premise VoIP Solutions?
With VoIP, businesses can either purchase and operate their own phone equipment combined with premise-based options, or tap into the provider’s VoIP PBX with cloud-based hosted solutions. Most businesses and VoIP call centers choose hosted services to avoid the cost and time commitment of on-premise system maintenance.
While owning equipment gives businesses more control, on-premise systems are more difficult to update and tend to fall behind cloud-based VoIP’s continually developing technology. Additionally, hosted systems are not tied to a location, and allow businesses to move office sites quickly and easily in the event of rapid growth, structural damage or other unforeseen circumstances. Ask providers which solutions they offer, and determine which is best for your business.
Tech Tip: A “PBX” is the call routing equipment that handles calls inside your office. VoIP PBXs are the cloud version of that device.
2. Tell Me About Your Customer Service.
Extended phone downtime can drive productivity losses; ensure your provider can quickly and expertly remedy any problems that may arise. Ask providers about their support team’s availability and policies to ensure they are compatible with your business’s needs, and check company reviews for repeated reports of long wait times, unhelpful service or other red flags.
Additionally, with VoIP’s growing complexity and internet dependence, keep internal support streamlined by clarifying which teams are responsible for which steps of the troubleshooting process. For example, Operations might handle issues with telecom phone line providers since they often work with billing and property management offices and could quickly arrange the logistics of time, place and people management; VoIP, however, may require both Operations and IT in order to maintain connectivity for non-phone needs, end user complaint collection and troubleshooting – this may even solve problems before the need to reach out to a provider.
3. How Many Users/Lines Do I Need?
With VoIP, affordable line pricing and burstable SIP VoIP trunks relieve the pressure of developing a rigid estimate of necessary lines. Providers can assess your current setup and phone needs to determine how many lines to start with when drawing up a quote.
Ask potential providers about the policies, processes and costs associated with adding or removing users. For example, some providers only allow businesses to increase lines. Ensure the vendor you choose provides a model that can adapt to any business changes.
4. Is There a Contract, and What Are the Terms?
Find out whether the provider requires companies to sign a service contract, and whether the terms fit your business’s needs. Ask providers about contract length, termination policies and early cancellation fees. Some contracts, for example, do not allow businesses to port out vendor-provided numbers, which can complicate service termination. Ask about number portability before signing.
Additionally, check whether the contract requires the provider to notify companies of rate changes or restricts clients’ ability to make changes to their service. Terms like these can lock businesses into a service long after it ceases to fulfill their needs.
5. What Features Do You Offer?
VoIP call forwarding, user customizability, CRM integrations, and management, monitoring and reporting features are more detailed and flexible than traditional phone service’s offerings.
Take advantage of all that VoIP has to offer by choosing a solution with features capable of fully supporting your business. Ask providers which features are included in each package, and whether any services come à la carte. Note that additional features like VoIP toll-free numbers and conference bridges still run much cheaper than their landline counterparts.
6. Do You Offer Phone Installation and Training?
For businesses new to VoIP, the initial installation and set-up process can be tricky. Ask providers if they offer installation services, and what they cost. Additionally, look into office phone training to keep productivity and performance high by quickly getting employees comfortable with the new system.
7. Follow-Up Questions to a Quote
Some phone service vendors purposely mislead prospective buyers with low quotes—but beware “the catch!” Sometimes, a quote will include only basic features, excluding capabilities most businesses require to function successfully. Always ask vendors what a quoted price includes.
Secondly, ask whether the quote includes all taxes and fees; if not, request a quote that does. Often, taxes and fees can be hefty additions to the original price.
Finally, ask if the offer is promotional and what its terms are. Some quotes require a minimum contract period, are valid for a limited time or require an additional purchase or commitment.
Prepare and Set Expectations
Fully prepare your office for a new VoIP system by asking potential providers the following additional questions:
- How much bandwidth will I need to support my business’s VoIP needs?
- What equipment will I need, and how much will it cost?
- How does the provider help ensure call quality?
- What does the provider do to help businesses during outages or unplanned downtime?
The best vendors are those that address businesses’ needs with genuine advice and expert support. 4Voice’s VoIP solutions are committed to providing businesses advanced, customizable and affordable phone service. Learn how 4Voice could help support and grow your business in our infographic on the 10 benefits of 4Voice’s VoIP solutions.