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The Case for Full Service Hosted VoIP vs. DIY

Posted by Mark Greim on Jul 27, 2018 1:02:15 PM

Most small businesses have already made the shift to a Hosted VoIP phone service. Many have been unable to take full advantage of the features and flexibility of these systems due to the inability to navigate the do-it-yourself programming portal pushed by the nationally branded VoIP providers.  This has led to frustration with the technology. The good news is that there are Hosted VoIP providers that can take care of the complexities of the programming and help conform the phone system to the needs of the business.

The national VoIP brands are very good at product development and marketing.  They have pushed the industry toward more integration with the tools of business, helping the industry reach that Utopian "unified communications" goal that VoIP has been promising for years.  Product roll outs and up-market targeting has helped them expand rapidly.  They are also a marketing machine.  Any VoIP related web search is dominated by the national brands.

Full_Service_vs_Self_Service_VoIP-3Where their focus clearly has been on top line revenue growth and product development, the national VoIP brands have left a sizable hole in their strategy for other hosted VoIP providers to fill.  Phones are drop shipped and businesses are provided a portal for configuring their phones and administering them going forward.  Pushing service to the end user assumes that these customers not only understand the technology, but also the capabilities!  They also need to understand how to navigate the portal and remember this on future visits.

Every day, hosted VoIP providers like sipVine are converting businesses over from the national brands to their local service.  "In 100% of the cases where we've converted a customer from a national brand, the basic programming of the phones have been an obvious miss", says Robert Conner, CEO of sipVine, Inc.  "When we're done with our work, the customer always admits that they couldn't figure out how to work through the programming and they didn't understand all of the options with their previous provider.  Furthermore, the service center support basically continued to push them to the portal for their DIY servicing."

Hosted VoIP Configuration MeetingSo, what specifically is the difference between the "full service" vs. the "DIY" approach to Hosted VoIP phone service?  The effort basically starts after the sale, where the sales representative or an installation support resource interviews and consults with the customer to gain an understanding of how their business communicates both internally and externally.  This information is used in the programming of the customer account on the service.  Some specific areas covered are:

  • Lines and Busy Lamp Fields (BLFs) - VoIP phones can be set up in a variety of ways. For example, one of the phones sipVine deploys is the Polycom VVX400.  It has twelve buttons for programming.  A typical set up would be two buttons for the user's direct dial/extension, two for a customer's main line (if that user is on the main line ring group), and the balance for BLFs.  These BLFs are essentially speed dials to other users on the system that can be lit up when the person is on the phone, hence the name "busy lamp".  With a DIY phone from a national, we typically see that all fields are showing the user's extension, so the programming to make the phones operate better for the customer was never explained or understood.
  • Ring Groups - Calls into the main line or to groups from an auto attendant can be programmed to flow to best meet the demands of the customer's callers and to match internal staffing requirements. Calls can "ring all" or ring one or a few, then others.  This is a key step in making sure the phones work for all of the parties, and one missed routinely with DIY programming. Ineffective call flows can lead to dissatisfied callers and an inefficient use of internal resources.
  • Auto Attendants - These can be set up before or after the main line ring group, depending upon the desires of the business. Options will route callers to their appropriate parties in a variety of customized ways.  Again, understanding the customer's need and doing the programming is typically performed by the full-service Hosted VoIP providers.
  • Customization to the User - Each user can have a variety of set up choices. Examples would be voicemail received to the phone, to email, or to both; caller ID delivery set up for their direct dial number or the main line; and add a duplicate soft phone app to their cell phone.  BLFs can also be different for each user.

These are just a few of the up-front programming options covered by the full service approach.  These ensure that the VoIP phone service is set up to the delight of the business and their callers.  Perhaps even more meaningful is the service after the install.  Where it can be nice to "self-administer" your phone system, it can be refreshing that when you contact your VoIP provider they, first, know who you are and, second, are willing to quickly make any and all changes for you.  This keeps the expertise required to perform these tasks with the provider and not with the staff of the business, so they're free to perform the work of the business and not the administration of the phone system!

So, when searching for the best phone service among VoIP providers, the answer isn't always the recognizable national brand.  Yes, these brands will always be on the cutting edge with new features, but they are outperformed routinely by the full service VoIP providers!

 

About the author:  Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVine, a provider of a variety of VoIP phone solutions and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and has a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments. 

Tags: voip service provider selection, Customer Service

sipVine Supports Small Businesses with Hosted VoIP

Posted by Mark Greim on May 2, 2018 10:52:27 AM

This week is National Small Business Week, a celebration and recognition of small businesses across the country. Small businesses make up over 99% of the employers in the United States and are responsible for two out of every three jobs. Thus, it is no surprise that nearly all of sipVine's Hosted VoIP customers are also small businesses. We'd like to recognize and thank all of our customers for their loyal support and continuous referrals.

Businesses_Moving_to_VoIP-2

Small businesses gravitate toward the Hosted VoIP phone services for a variety of reasons. We recently drafted an article covering the 5 Reasons Small Business Choose Hosted VoIP where these are detailed. Here we'd like to focus on why they are choosing sipVine as their provider of choice!

Concierge Approach to Customer Service - The national VoIP providers have done a good job developing a self-servicing portal and have driven their customers to handle their phone administration. At sipVine, we were out to set a new standard for customer service and the concept of "self service" didn't fit in with the strategy. Moreover, we have heard from numerous former customers of the national VoIP providers that such portals were not that intuitive and drove more frustration than freedom. Thus, sipVine handles all of the phone administration and programming for our customers. The standard we set is to be seen as their phone department, not a provider.

VoIP-FromEntrepreneurtoEnterpriseProgramming Service to Meet Specific Needs - One of the benefits of the concierge approach is that we conduct a pre-install meeting to go over all of the specific requirements of the business. The call flow, auto-attendant, feature utilization, and specific phone layouts are all considered. The designed is turned over to our technical team and they handle all of the programming. Again, we do not push customers to self-provision. We have witnessed on 100% of customers moving to us from the national providers significant misses in how their phones were programmed. Let sipVine handle the phone programming and you can get on with managing your small business!

Large Coverage, Local Feel - sipVine covers over 90% of the rate centers across the country, but we support our customers with a local approach. We don't deploy a call center approach to support or sales. All of our support and sales personnel are located at our corporate headquarters in Kansas City, MO and we do not off-shore or contract out such important customer-facing activities. Because we get to know each business and how they want the system programmed, we are able to support them the same way.

sipVine is deeply rooted in the business community and feels a kinship with each and every customer. We invite you to call and feel the difference! We'd love to welcome you to the family!

 

 

About the author: Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVine, a provider of a variety of VoIP phone solutions and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and has a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments.

Tags: small business phone service

5 Events Signaling it is Time to Change Phone Providers

Posted by Mark Greim on Feb 20, 2018 10:16:00 AM

Changing phone providers isn't (and shouldn't be) top of mind for most businesses.  Investing in and managing the core business is always the priority, with infrastructure investments left to wait for the right time.  So, when is the right time?  There are some advantages from a strategic and efficiency standpoint that could make sense to implement at any time, but there are also some clear events that signal that it is time to change phone service providers and move to a VoIP phone system.

My_Phone_System_Crashed.jpgMy Phone System is Failing.  As phone systems age, businesses spend more and more time and resources on keeping it working.  This is an expense that is often overlooked when evaluating a system change.  The clearest signal that it is time to change is when the contractor used to maintain the system no longer supports the model.  Many times, parts are no longer available through normal distribution channels or are no longer being manufactured.  If your phone system parts are only available on eBay, then it's definitely time to make a move!

A great alternative to on-site phone systems is moving to a Hosted VoIP solution.  The problems cited above will not recur as it is the responsibility of the provider to maintain the phone system.  The business only purchases the VoIP phones, thus the only expense down the road will be for the occasional phone addition or replacement.

My Business is Moving.  This is a great time for businesses to evaluate their current phone system and provider.  Instead of spending the money on moving an old phone system, invest in a Hosted VoIP system.  The investment costs in Hosted VoIP are low because only VoIP phones are purchased.  The money saved on moving a system and potentially selling that system will more than likely offset the cost of the new VoIP phones.  Additionally, moving to a Hosted VoIP platform will provide additional flexibility to the business, as phones can be deployed anywhere there's access to high-speed internet.

Term_Contacts_bad_for_Phone_Service.jpgMy Telecom Contract is Expiring.  This is an obvious time to evaluate options, both on the phone service and phone system.  It is an opportunity to potentially save money on the monthly expenditure and remove the potential for non-budgeted expenses on phone system maintenance and obsolescence.  As stated earlier, the phone system and service are not necessarily top of mind for business executives.  Take a moment to review your current telecom contract to find the expiration date.  Your current provider will not likely remind you that your contract is expiring and you will find yourself auto-renewed.

You will find the telecom landscape has changed since you last signed your contract.  Most Hosted VoIP providers do not require contracts.  If they do, evaluate providers who do not, as there is no value in a term contract, except for the provider.  If the term contract is to secure pricing or concessions, you will find other providers have similar price advantages without requiring a term contract.

Phone Bill Rate Increase.jpgMy Provider Raised My Rates...Again!  One of the biggest complaints we hear about traditional phone service providers is that they raise their rates routinely.  There's typically fine print in any contract signed that allows for rates to be adjusted mid-term.  Moreover, rate increases are hidden in mysterious new surcharges that somehow appear on the bill.  They always sound "official" like "Recovery Fee".  The fact of the matter is that traditional telecommunication companies are losing traditional land lines in droves, and they're trying desperately to maintain margins by increasing their rates.

Get out of the cycle of absorbing rate increases and evaluate your options, as there are plenty out there!  At sipVine, we have never increased prices.  If fact, we have only lowered our prices since our inception in 2005.  Moreover, our published rates include any real surcharge costs we incur and we only add sales tax to our invoice.  Clearly, there are great alternatives to your current situation!

SIP_5ptchecklist_300x400.pngMy Competition has a Communication Advantage.  It may not be easily identified, but if your competition has moved to a Hosted VoIP platform, there are a number of advantages they have when it comes to their communication strategy.  Many areas can be made to be more efficient with direct inward dialing, call flow decisions, heightened remote or key contact availability, auto attendant features, and many more advanced communication features.  Where the previous four events are not high mindshare activities of business executives, leveraging infrastructure to create a competitive cost, efficiency, and communication advantage should be.  This is a great reason to evaluate a Hosted VoIP solution today!

About the author:  Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVine, a provider of a variety of VoIP phone solutions and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and has a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments.

Tags: Hosted VoIP, Phone System Replacement, Moving Phone Service, Telecom Term Agreements

5 Reasons Small Businesses Choose Hosted VoIP

Posted by Mark Greim on Dec 13, 2017 9:33:00 AM

Small businesses are the lifeblood of America and the driving force behind the proliferation of Hosted VoIP phone service.  According to a 2016 report by Babson College, small businesses make up 99% of the employers in the United States and existing businesses account for 60% of the private sector's net new job growth.  This statistic emphasizes the importance of a flexible, scalable phone system for small business and is one of the many reasons small business chooses a Hosted VoIP platform.

Below are five reasons small businesses are discovering the benefits and moving to Hosted VoIP phone service.

Small Businesses Choose Hosted VoIP.jpgEnterprise-Level Features and Benefits  - Whether the business is large or small, businesses compete.  They compete for the attention of their target audience.  They compete to keep their customers' loyalty and satisfaction.  Therefore, they look for a competitive edge over their competition. Small businesses deserve the same competitive advantage as their large counterparts, but rarely can afford the solution.  This is not the case with Hosted VoIP phone service.  Hosted VoIP platforms include the same features and benefits of an enterprise-level phone system all in an affordable package, perfect for businesses of all sizes.

Affordability - According to the Babson report, business owners value technology and are hindered by costs.  The affordability of Hosted VoIP technology and the value business owners place upon technology is one of the reasons why this technology has been so widely adopted in the business marketplace.  Many times, businesses with Hosted VoIP see their monthly outlay for phone service and phone system maintenance decrease when compared with their old traditional analog phone system.  Additionally, the value most inherent to a Hosted VoIP phone system is the fact that businesses are not purchasing a physical phone system!  They only need to purchase the VoIP phones and those phones are connected to the cloud-based phone system maintained and managed by the Hosted VoIP provider!  Thus, these businesses achieve a lower monthly outlay for a low cost of investment.

Flexibility - Small businesses are nimble.  They expand and contract as the market opportunity dictates. They need a phone system that can grow with them and match their level of nimbleness.  With Hosted VoIP, businesses can add phones when and where they need them.  Business do not have to overbuild a phone system to accommodate growth, but only add phones as they grow.  Also, because they are connected to a cloud based system and not a system housed in their  office, they are able to deploy phones wherever they need.  If their growth necessitates phones in another location or if they need to deploy a work at home team, Hosted VoIP phone service can accommodate their needs.  To the caller, they would have no idea where the phone calls are being answered!

Remove Walls to Communication with Business VoIP.jpgAdditionally, growing businesses can move locations with no downtime with Hosted VoIP.  They do not have to worry about the physical move of a system and contacting the phone company to move their lines.  They simply move their phones to their new internal office network and they're in business.  During the move, they can forward their calls, or even move a phone or two to the new location while keeping calls coming into the old location until all are ready to move.

Future Proof - Given the pace of technological advancements, small businesses worry that their investments in infrastructure and technology will be rendered obsolete in a short amount of time.  This is reinforced with their past investments in phone systems, as parts or replacement phones become more expensive or difficult to find and service calls become costly.  With Hosted VoIP, the responsibility to maintain the phone system is shifted entirely to the Hosted VoIP provider.  They are charged with keeping the phone system and features on the cutting edge and certifying the newest VoIP phones on their platform.  As time goes on, businesses are introduced to new features and capabilities.  As their phones age or are damaged, they can be replaced with newer models that will work with any old phones they continue to utilize.  A safe technology investment is music to their ears!

SIP_5ptchecklist_300x400.pngCompetitive Advantage - So, small businesses choosing Hosted VoIP receive enterprise-level features, monthly cost savings, a low cost of purchase, flexibility in deployment, and avoid obsolescence!  They can program the features to improve their communications, internally and externally.  All of this delivers a competitive advantage to their business, helping them flourish and succeed in today's market climate.

If you're responsible for a small business, take time to research Hosted VoIP providers and gain this advantage over your competition!

About the author:  Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVine, a provider of a variety of VoIP phone solutions and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and has a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments. 

Tags: Hosted VoIP phone service, small business phone service

The Most Important Feature of Hosted VoIP

Posted by Mark Greim on Oct 26, 2017 10:34:52 AM

Over the years, we've discussed the variety of advanced business phone features that a Hosted VoIP phone service delivers to businesses of all shapes and sizes.  These features have created a new standard for phone service, effectively making analog phone systems and service obsolete.  Moreover, they have transformed the communication practices of the businesses who have deployed them and utilized them to their fullest extent.  So, what is the most important feature of Hosted VoIP?

SIP_19ways_300x400.pngAfter over a decade in this business, I'm convinced that it is not a feature at all, but an "opportunity" made possible with a Hosted Phone Service.  That "feature" is customer service!  Every Hosted VoIP provider has the opportunity to excel at customer service because the phone system now goes hand in hand with the phone service.

Customer Service as a Feature

How does Hosted VoIP present an opportunity for excellent customer service by the Hosted VoIP provider?  Because these providers are hosting the phone system, there is an opportunity to really get to know the customer during the design and implementation stage.  This also can carry over to the administration stage.  However, not all Hosted VoIP providers take advantage of this tremendous opportunity!

Many of the larger, national VoIP providers insist that the customer utilize the online tools they provide so that set up and administration are totally the responsibility of the customer. This secures cost savings for the provider.  Alternatively, other Hosted providers deliver more of a concierge approach to design and administration, putting them in a unique position to provide outstanding customer service. These providers realize your time is valuable and you don’t have time to be a phone expert in addition to all your other work duties.

The Concierge Approach to Customer Service

Concierge Customer Service with VoIP.jpgThe concierge approach begins in the design/planning phase. While national companies have templates, look for a provider that customizes a phone solution that matches your business. Here's how.  First of all, Hosted VoIP is essentially a program.  This program can be customized for each business so that the phone system matches exactly how they perform business.  From designing a flow for incoming calls, to auto attendant design, to the user experience, Hosted VoIP providers can really get to know the customer during the design stage.  This knowledge of the customer can carry forward to the technical and customer support personnel who will administer the system as the customer experiences needs for changes.

Hosted VoIP providers who build this kind of relationship with the customer are uniquely positioned in the telecom industry.  When was the last time you contacted your phone service provider and the personnel actually knew who you were?  You're lucky if the call can be even handled by the first person you talk with and if that person is even located domestically!  Are you assigned a dedicated customer service representative?  This is entirely possible with Hosted VoIP providers who take the concierge approach.

How sipVine Differs from the National Providers of Hosted VoIP

sipVine's own experience as a Hosted VoIP provider has demonstrated time and time again that businesses move to Hosted VoIP for the features and capabilities but stay as customers due to customer service.  We have kept our pricing competitive while resisting the cost savings that we could achieve by forcing customers to self-service their design and administration, but have not charged extra for the customized design and concierge approach to customer service.  The trade-off has been a remarkable customer retention rate and a very loyal and evangelistic customer base.

Early on in sipVine's operation, we found that most businesses were simply switching to Hosted VoIP from traditional analog phone systems as their systems were failing and their old models were no longer being supported.  However, we are experiencing a wave of new customers coming in from the large, national VoIP providers.  Despite their vast array of features and a self-service portal, most of these businesses are leaving due to frustrations over the customer service.  Once we examine their phone deployment and call flow, it is clear that there was not an up-front process utilized to effectively customize the phones, call flow, and user experience to match the customer's needs.  The expertise to do this over a portal themselves did not exist or carry forward to the ultimate implementation.  Then, they experienced a failure in customer service to rectify or salvage the deployment.

Please hold for customer service.

Calling the customer service of the large VoIP providers tend to deliver solutions such as "increase your bandwidth" or "run your phones out of a separate internet connection."  These solutions may be practical, but they also may be unnecessary.  This is a failure in effectively diagnosing network trouble that impacts the phone service call quality or registrations. 

Hosted VoIP providers who are more engaged with the customer for their initial design and on-going administration can leverage such an engagement to help them diagnose the network trouble that negatively impacts the phone performance.  They can run tests to determine if the problem originates with the internet connection.  Or, they can dive in deeper to determine if the customer's router has settings that are conflicting with IP phones, if there's a local network problem, or if the customer is saturating their internet circuit either from a normal routine (cloud back-ups) or something like a specific computer that has a virus or is streaming video.

If your business is looking to make the switch to Hosted VoIP or if you are not satisfied in how your new Hosted VoIP phones have been deployed or administered, research alternative providers based upon how they engage with the customer.  Look for providers who will discuss with you how you want the service programmed up-front and ultimately deliver everything to you pre-programmed and ready for deployment.  Look for a concierge approach to customer service, not a self-servicing portal.  Your long-term satisfaction with such a provider will be virtually certain, as they will act more like your phone department and not a vendor.  This will be the best "feature" of your service, and it will help you make the most out of the new technology.

 

About the author:  Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVine, a provider of a variety of VoIP phone solutions and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and has a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments. 

Tags: Hosted VoIP, voip business phone system, Business VoIP, Customer Service, Customized Business Phone Plans

The Evolution of the Voice Over IP Marketplace

Posted by Mark Greim on Aug 15, 2017 10:18:00 AM

Now that we have a little longevity to the VoIP for business Marketplace, we can see that the market has evolved quickly with traditional market maturation undertones.  What may have been a surprise to us all is how quickly businesses moved to the new technology, as voice over IP installations are the preferred solution when compared to the old analog phone technology.  Even more surprising was how slow to respond were the traditional large telecommunication companies.  They have effectively ceded the business phone service market to VoIP providers, relegating themselves to wholesale roles.  Let's take a view of how this market has evolved.Evolution of VoIP.jpg

sipVine, a Kansas City-based voice over IP provider, has been operating since 2005, essentially bearing witness to this evolution.  "We knew we were on to something, but we were even surprised at the pace of overall adoption of the technology by businesses large and small," shares Robert Conner, sipVine's CEO.  "What has been very clear are the four stages of market evolution that can be identified over the years." 

Early Adoption Stage - As with any new technology, you have your early adopters.  Fueled by a vision of the technological impacts to their business, these early adopters embraced the technology for what it was and what it could be.  This went from "wow, we can process phone calls over the internet" to "look at these great new features that can actually improve our communication practices."

Later in the early adoption stage were the businesses looking to save money over their current analog service.  Telecommunication firms were not responding to the price advantages VoIP providers were delivering, leaving the door open for a great amount of savings to be delivered.  The cost and flexibility of a hosted VoIP system was so much better than purchasing an on-site system that many companies were seeing a full return on their investment in under a year. 

There were challenges during the early adoption years, namely voice quality and bandwidth availability.  At sipVine, we were able to develop technology to solve the voice quality concern, but the industry was not getting a good reputation from providers who did not provide such a solution.  The answer always was "increase bandwidth", which wasn't necessarily the right answer or easily accomplished.  T-1's and DSL circuits were the options available, although some alternative providers (like cable) were making inroads into the bandwidth challenge.

My_Phone_System_Crashed.jpgThe "My Phone System is Failing" Stage - Even as businesses were embracing the new technology and finding ways to save money, the early adoption years basically covered the same time frame as the economic recession.  Many businesses simply were not in a position to invest in new technology, even if there was a quick return on the investment.  Infrastructure expenditures were deferred and phone systems were put on life support.  As recessionary pressure eased, the industry experienced a wave of new customers that were very ready to replace their outdated or failing phone systems.

This is also the stage where many businesses were seeing their peers or competitors experience positive results by moving to a VoIP system and they were ready to make the change themselves.  This was the time of the greatest growth of the VoIP industry and the technology was clearly on the move to pass analog installations in the business community.  National VoIP providers and some regional/local providers were at the forefront of technological advancements to the product capabilities and provided a new level of customer service when compared to the traditional communications firms.  Businesses flocked to these alternatives in droves.

The Last Staw Stage -  As with any market, there are always late adopters.  These were the folks in the earlier stages that would say, "my phone system works, why change?"  Or, "I've been with XX&X for years, and I'm loyal."  Several things happened to these businesses later in the game.  Either their phone system became too expensive to support or they may have gone through a location move and it would be more expensive to move the phone system than to go with a hosted VoIP platform.  Or, they became tired of their loyalty to the phone company being rewarded with rate increases or outsourced/off-shored customer service that lacked any resemblance of service.  There were many, many examples and references of businesses that had made the move years earlier, and they drew upon that success and made the move themselves to voice over IP.

Full_Service_vs_Self_Service_VoIP.jpgThis stage was also marked by a proliferation of bandwidth availability.  In markets like Kansas City where Google Fiber entered and disrupted the market, businesses had more choices for bandwidth, especially as the cable and telco providers responded to the competition.  Bandwidth availability of 100 mb/sec to 1 gigabit per second became available and affordable.  Not only did this provide another big boost to the VoIP providers, it allowed businesses to move more and more of their IT infrastructure to the cloud. 

Let the Cream Rise Stage - Throughout the first three stages, most of the "wins" by VoIP companies were at the expense of the traditional telcos or cable companies providing analog service.  This current stage of the market is marked by many wins coming at the expense of other VoIP providers.  VoIP providers who have continued to add to their functionality, better customized the experience for their customers, or who have created a customer service model that differentiates them above the other VoIP providers are continuing to experience good growth during this current stage of a very mature market.

There are still businesses who are switching to voice over IP for the first time.  For those businesses, there are a few tips to be mindful of as they select their provider:

  • Choosing_a_Hosted_VoIP_Provider.jpgSelect a provider who can provide a number of references and those references can speak to the level of customer service delivered.
  • The provider should be able to customize the solution to meet your needs.  VoIP platforms are very adaptable.  Some providers, however, make this the responsibility of the customer to deploy and program their phones.  Good providers do this for the customer, as they have the expertise and experience across a number of market segments and are in a better position to do the programming.
  • Look for a provider who does not require term contracts and offers only high quality VoIP phones that are not locked down to their service.  There are many VoIP phone manufacturers, but not all phones can be reused on another VoIP company's platform.  At sipVine, we only sell Cisco or Polycom phones because they rarely break down and they are commonly used by other providers.  Of course, our service level is high enough that customers rarely leave, but we believe strongly in providing such flexibility to the customer.

Following these tips will help ensure that you are finding a provider who has already risen to the top.  This will keep you away from further disruption by needing to switch again later.  You should experience fantastic benefits by moving to VoIP which you can guarantee by selecting the right provider!

Tags: Technology in Business, VoIP Trends in Business

May the VoIP be With You

Posted by Mark Greim on May 5, 2017 10:39:55 AM

Most businesses today are moving toward the light and implementing VoIP Phone Service.  Specifically, cloud-based services are quickly taking over as the technology of choice for business, with traditional analog phone systems or even IP-based on-site systems becoming the way of the past.  As evidenced by Toshiba's recent announcement that it is exiting their phone system business and Avaya's Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Hosted VoIP phone deployments are taking over the market.

May the VoIP Be With You.jpgJoin the Resistance.   Is your current analog phone system on life support?  Are you finding it difficult to secure parts for the system, replacement phones, or locating a service company to support the system?  Are you intrigued by the features and benefits other businesses are enjoying with their cloud-based VoIP phone service? Well, it is time to investigate your alternatives! 

Businesses in this situation are finding that moving their phone service to a Hosted VoIP provider is very economical, both in the short-term and over time.  The up-front capital required is a fraction of the investment in an on-site phone system. Additionally, there is no need for service contracts, as you are only investing in the VoIP phones required for your business. Concern over future parts availability or obsolescence of your system is totally alleviated with a cloud-based phone system.

You Must Learn the Ways of VoIP.  As a part of your research and consideration, check out the websites of Hosted VoIP providers and engage in a few conversations with their sales associates. You should see features that will help your business transform your communication practices, internally and externally.  This includes items your current analog system cannot do, like connect multiple locations, allow for a seamless implementation of remote or mobile workers, and be easily programmed to match or enhance your desired call flows.  Automated attendants, voicemail to email, virtual faxing, overhead paging integration, direct dialing to associates, and find-me/follow-me features are just a few of the advanced communication features businesses have enjoyed once moving to a Hosted VoIP platform.

These are not the VoIP Providers you are Looking for.  Like any decision, choosing your partner is important. There are many entrants into this market, including traditional telecom providers who are trying their hand at a hosted service. Making the move to Hosted VoIP is an opportunity to remove yourself from the shackles of working with the large telcos, or even large VoIP companies, and find a local or regionally focused company that provides customer service the way you expect and deserve. Some Hosted VoIP providers even take care of all of your phone system administration, rather than provide a self-servicing portal. This keeps you focused on your business and not dividing the attention of you or your staff on your telephone operations.  So, in your investigative calls, find those providers that meet your specific requirements, both from a feature set and approach to customer service.

So, conduct an investigation today and transform your business!  May the VoIP be with you!

 

About the author:  Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVine, a provider of a variety of VoIP phone solutions and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and has a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments. 

Tags: Benefits of VoIP, VoIP Phone Service

Perform a VoIP Comparison for Your Company Phones

Posted by Mark Greim on Mar 14, 2017 10:15:00 AM

When evaluating your company phone system and service, a VoIP comparison is necessary to evaluate the opportunity before you. This VoIP comparison will take you down two separate evaluations: one, to compare your existing system and service with a VoIP alternative and, two, evaluating the differences in VoIP providers.

VoIP Phone System & Service vs. Analog Based Solutions

Many businesses have already switched their company phones to a VoIP-based system. However, there remains a good number of businesses who, for a variety of reasons, have not made the switch as of yet.There are several comparisons to make for this evaluation:

  • Compare Features and Functionality - There are analog-based phone systems that provide a good set of features. However, the features of VoIP platforms are robust and expanding. Our first recommendation is to take a look at the features offered by a number of Hosted VoIP providers with an eye on how these features could impact your business in a positive way. Such features can improve your communication accessibility with your employees and customers, provide a platform for mobile or remote employees, and streamline your internal call handling processes.
  • Compare Costs of Equipment - If you are looking to replace your business' current analog phone system, the cost to move to a Hosted VoIP service is hands-down much more favorable. The biggest factor in this calculation is that you do not have to invest in a core system with Hosted VoIP. Only the VoIP Phones are required along with some other minor equipment. If you are comparing a Hosted VoIP service against maintaining your current analog company phones, it is likely that the one-time cost of the Hosted VoIP equipment is still favorable to a service contract or the on-going replacement/maintenance cost of the analog system.
  • Compare the Cost of the Phone Service - In the wake of mounting customer losses to VoIP providers, traditional telecom providers have been raising their business phone line costs to maintain revenues and margins. Even before such moves, the monthly costs of Hosted VoIP services have provided a monthly cost savings and helps provide a quick return on investment for the capital required. Solicit a few bids from Hosted VoIP providers and compare to your current phone service with the recognition that the traditional business phone service costs are rising over time.
  • Compare the Cost of Administration - With your current company phone system, changes or programmatic updates (if even possible) are the business' responsibility. You may have some elements that are included in a service contract with the system provider as well. With Hosted Phone Service, there are providers that will take care of all of your administrative needs as a part of the monthly service. Research Hosted VoIP providers that will relieve you from this cost and responsibility.

VoIP Phone System Providers

VoIP Comparison.jpgThe second lane in your VoIP comparison is to evaluate the various Hosted VoIP providers. The number of options out there are vast, and narrowing the list down can be challenging. We would suggest comparing a couple of the national named brand providers alongside alternatives that are regional or local to your area. One key to the local/regional list is to find a provider that has stood the test of time, operating a minimum of 5 to 10 years. Such a tenure would suggest that they are fiscally and technically stable and have a solid and loyal customer base. Another key with this set of providers is to make sure that they are not simply a reseller of a white-labeled national product. Resellers do not handle the technical customer service directly nor are they responsible for the on-going research and development of their product.

Once you receive bids for your company phones and service from these providers, be sure to contact references provided. They should be able to provide a reference from a company of a similar size and operate in the same or similar industry. Inquire about how the solution has improved their business along with how the overall experience has been for them. Are there any issues surrounding call quality, and how are they addressed? How was the initial installation and programming handled? What has been the approach to on-going administration and how easy are they to deal with for customer service

You should find that the national providers have a robust technology, but drop ship the phones and provide the customer a self-servicing portal for programming and administration. Local providers tend to be more engaged on the initial set-up and on-going administration, thus scoring quite well on the customer service approach.

If your business is being pinched by the costs of maintaining and old phone system and absorbing continued increases in telecom costs, this evaluation becomes very timely and critical for you. Not only can you save money overall, but you can transform your communication model and make a noticeable impact in your customer service.

About the author:  Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVine, a provider of a variety of VoIP phone solutions and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and has a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments. 

Tags: Phone System Replacement, Changing Phone Service Providers

Tear Down Walls with Business VoIP

Posted by Mark Greim on Jan 30, 2017 10:30:00 AM

Leave the talk around building walls to the American political scene.  As a business owner, your business will benefit by figuratively tearing down walls and removing barriers to communication with the help of a Hosted VoIP phone service.  With Hosted VoIP, the walls of your business become translucent, as your phone system is no longer confined to your physical location.  Additionally, as the world becomes more and more "always-on" in terms of communication, your business can adjust communication practices to meet the evolving demands of your customers.

Hosted VoIP:  A Be Anywhere Phone System

By its very nature, Hosted VoIP delivers a single phone system to wherever your business is conducted.  Because the system is cloud-based, the business deploys physical or soft phones where it best meets the internal communication needs and the demands of their customers.  Making all of the phones work together as one system and implementing a call flow is a function of programming and does not require physical phone systems where you deploy resources.  This opens the door for extreme flexibility and creativity and will give your business an edge over the competition.  Examples of ways businesses have torn down the walls and deployed Hosted VoIP are listed below:

  • Expanding the Business Presence Beyond a Primary Location - As a business grows, pressure on square footage can become acute. Instead of adding resources to a tight environment or going through the expense of moving a business, a business owner can look at alternatives to placement of employees.  Locations can be added where resources are plentiful or economical or in areas where business volume dictates.  Virtual employees can also be deployed where it makes sense for the business, allowing for expansion without taking on the cost of new locations.  A Business VoIP phone service can tie all of these employees together on the same cloud-based system, facilitating efficient internal communication while external callers are served as if everyone was under the same roof.
  • All Locations Work as One - There are certainly direct economic advantages of all business locations being on the same phone system. Through Hosted VoIP, phone bills are typically lower as there are economies of scale built into most pricing practices of the hosted VoIP providers.  Indirectly, the business can benefit through the programming of the service to best meet the needs of the business and demands of the customers.  You can centralize main line calls, where all locations incoming calls are directed to a central group of people.  Calls can be directed to where the customer is best served.  You can decentralize functions as well.  For example, a customer service group can be made up of several employees located in several different locations.  Businesses can right size their functions based upon call requirements, not the number of physical locations.
  • Inclusion of the Mobile Work Force - Many businesses have employees spend a lot of time in the field, whether it be sales personnel, site managers, or service technicians. Most utilize the personal or business cell phones to conduct their business.  Thanks to soft phone applications, these employees can receive and make calls on their business number or extension and not have to give out the cell phone number.  When they make calls, they are delivering the caller ID of the business, not the cell phone.  Voicemail messages are crafted for their business, and not a personal cell phone.  This can be advantageous to the business in many ways.  Calls can be transferred to the employee without needing to think about whether they are in the office or on their cell phone by transferring to the extension.  External callers don't have try to reach this person via a cell phone, they just call the business or the direct dial of the contact.

Meeting the Customer Demands

Remove Walls to Communication with Business VoIP.jpgWith the flexible deployment options described above, call flows and communication practices can be revamped to meet the growing demands of an always-on customer base.  Calls can be answered all of the time, regardless of where the resources are deployed.  Auto attendants can route callers by need to the appropriate group of employees, again with no requirement of location.  Direct dial numbers can be judiciously utilized for customers who need direct contacts.  After hours on-call personnel can be equipped with soft phones.  Calls can be programmed to deliver to the entire group, but the only ones that will ring are to those designated to turn them on for the period.  No complicated programming or a physical requirement to be in the office is necessary.

These are just a few examples.  Every business is different and the caller demands can vary widely.  However, the flexibility offered by a Hosted VoIP service provides the business with the opportunity to be creative.  Let your imagine fly and think of ways your business can communicate better with your customers and prospects and set your business apart from your competition!

 

About the author:  Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVine, a provider of a variety of VoIP phone solutions and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and has a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments. 

Tags: Hosted VoIP phone service, Phone Service for Multiple Locations, virtual workforce, Business VoIP

Don't Forget Hosted VoIP with Your Cloud Investments

Posted by Mark Greim on Nov 21, 2016 11:32:55 AM

As we approach year end, many businesses are making their IT infrastructure plans for the next year.  As you may expect, investing in cloud infrastructure is high on the list. One of the most common cloud initiatives for businesses focused on cloud investments is moving the phone system to a Hosted VoIP platform, or Cloud Telephony.

Information Week recently conducted a poll of readers, as they were interested in where the information technology spending will be focused on this next year. Although not intended to be scientific, it did present an informal take on the areas of focus.  "More than a third of respondents (36%) cited cloud as the technology that will receive the greatest investment at their companies in 2017."

There are many forms of cloud investment, and cloud telephony is often overlooked as a great source of securing significant benefits to the organization. This includes reduced costs in both the short and long term, increased flexibility, and an upgrade in applications supporting the business.

Reduced Costs

Dont Forget Cloud Telephony.jpgAs businesses invest in Hosted VoIP, they are able to replace their outdated phone system with a state-of-the-art system at a fraction of the costs.  The investment for Hosted VoIP is low, as you only need to purchase the VoIP phones.  The physical system itself is hosted by the provider and it is not a cost incurred by the business.  Thus, the business will no longer need to worry about a phone system replacement in the future.  Additionally, many IT managers are challenged to support and maintain old systems.  They are either bearing a high maintenance contract or paying a high price for parts that are difficult to secure.  All those concerns go away with Hosted VoIP. The only future costs will be handset replacement or addition.  Again, if current models are outdated, the business can replace with newer models and not necessarily have to replace all of the phones.

The monthly cost for phone service may also be reduced by moving to Hosted VoIP. Along with standard all-inclusive packages for local and long-distance calling, the cost of hosted user fees are typically lower than the all-in phone line costs for analog systems.  Additionally, many Hosted VoIP providers serve as your phone administrator, making changes to user names, call flows, auto attendant recordings, and such.  Some provide user interfaces for self-servicing, but look for the provider that will make these changes for you at no additional cost.  This will provide the business with internal labor savings dedicated to keeping the phone system up to date.

Increased Flexibility

Cloud Telephony provides much of the same degree of flexibility as Cloud Computing. Specific to your phone deployment, businesses no longer are confined to the walls of the office for the reach of their phone system. Associates can be deployed across multiple locations, whether an office environment, a work from home assignment, or a strictly mobile device.  Calls can be directed to or made by these associates with all appearances that they are working in the physical office.

For increased associate availability for calls, a soft phone application can be downloaded to a smart phone, tablet, or computer. If a person has a desk phone, this application can be designed to ring at the same time, assuming it is turned on. Thus, no matter where or what time a call needs to be made or received, the associate can utilize the soft phone to increase their availability.

Upgrade in Applications

Moving to a Hosted VoIP phone system from a traditional analog phone system, the business will likely benefit from an upgrade in the feature set.  They can customize the call flow and add ring groups. The auto attendant can also be customized to match the needs of the business and their customers. They can also have different attendant messages and options based upon the time of day and/or day of the week. The service also comes with standard features like direct inward dial numbers for each phone, voicemail delivery to email, call transferring and conferencing, and call recording. All features and call flow programming are designed to enhance the communication experience for customers and associates.

It's budget season, so make sure your IT plan for next year includes adding cloud telephony to your other cloud initiatives. It is an easy way to drive further budget savings while enhancing your communication capabilities!

 

About the author:  Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVine, a provider of a variety of VoIP phone solutions and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and has a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments.

Tags: Hosted VoIP, Cloud Telephony

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