Telecom competition is as hot as it ever has been with the entry of many Hosted VoIP providers. The major players still dominate market share, but a significant slice of the market is shared by alternative providers. With nearly an oligopolistic hold on the marketplace by the major telecommunication providers, one is left to ask: “why have alternative business voice providers been able to take meaningful share from the big guys?”
Certainly, there are many possible and legitimate reasons, but I’ll cite a few. First, technology advancements have allowed for this to be possible in the first place. Businesses can jettison their old, antiquated phone systems and, for a relatively inexpensive investment, receive a feature-rich system that works over the internet. VoIP providers needed to deliver great features and reliability before the market would significantly expand. Clearly, those hurdles are now past and the marketplace has accepted this technology.
Second, most of the major telecom providers have turned their focus toward wireless offerings. Sprint spun off its local phone service division when it merged with Nextel. ATT and Verizon did spend millions on new technology for their local units, but they do seem to be consumer focused and not business focused. It may not be totally fair to say that these companies have taken their eyes off the local business offerings, but they are certainly measured on The Street for their wireless subscriber metrics.
However, what we hear most about why companies are even exploring leaving their incumbent carrier relates to customer service. Personally, I worked for one of the big guys for many years. Celebrating being number one in customer service was tempered, as the entire category wasn’t delivering phenomenal customer service scores. Businesses are now gravitating toward companies who, along with reliability and features, deliver a better customer service experience. There are some VoIP providers who, due to their growing size, need to be wary of the lessons in this market space as told by current market leaders or they will also fall victim to this driver.
Listening to our customers has told us many things about the customer service expectations for this space. We will continue to strive to meet and exceed expectations, but here is a good list of evaluation points for your current or future provider:
- Do you know your account rep, with a direct dial and email address?
- When calling for service, do you speak with the same people you have dealt with in the past?
- How well do the account and service teams get to know you and how your business operates?
- Does your provider customize their offering to meet your business needs, or did you have to "fit" how they do it?
- Are there multiple avenues for you to get into the service queue? (web, phone, email)
- Even if the provider is located in another state, do you feel like they are servicing you as if they were a business in your neighborhood?
- Do you feel like service is being provided by a contracted vendor, either domestic or international?
These are just a few questions to ponder relative to the customer service you are receiving. If you feel you deserve better, try going with an alternative provider!
About the author: Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVine, a provider of a variety of digital phone solutions and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments.