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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

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

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