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Unsure Which Direction to Go? Find the Best Phone System for Your Small Business.

Posted by Mark Greim on Feb 12, 2019 9:36:00 AM

You know it is time for a new phone system, but you're overwhelmed with how to start your search.  This will help you determine what type of phone service provider is best for your small business.  Many small businesses have determined that their existing phone system is outdated and past the point for repair and they are looking where to turn to maximize their new investment.  Their current phone system is failing or falling behind the features and functionality their peer businesses or competitors are now enjoying since moving to a Hosted VoIP phone service.  Even though it is clear through high adoption rates that most companies have selected Hosted VoIP as the best phone system for small business, it is more of a challenge to find the service provider that will work best for you.

SIP_300x400_SmallbusinessBullishThere's a new competitive landscape in the world of business phone service and systems.  In the old days, you would seek out a phone system from a local manufacturer's representative and the phone service from the Regional Bell Operating Company.  Today, Hosted VoIP providers deliver both the phone system and phone service to the business, essentially a "new telecom bundle".  The challenge is that there are a myriad of Hosted VoIP service providers, from large global/national providers to regionally focused service providers and down to value added resellers of a white-labeled product.  By comparing the capabilities of each type of organization and matching to the unique requirements of your business, selection of the phone service provider that is right for you becomes more clear.

Global/National Hosted VoIP Providers

This category of providers is best suited for small businesses who have:

  • In-house IT resources familiar with telephony programming
  • Needs for cutting edge phone features

Internal IT resources can spend the time required to program the phones and call flows themselves and take care of on-going administration.  Businesses who don't have the in-house capabilities or time to take on the programming and administration are less of a fit and tend to be frustrated with the customer service engagement with these providers.  The focus by the provider is to instruct the business on how to utilize the service portal rather than solving the issue.

Searching for Hosted VoIP ProvidersGlobal VoIP providers are typically publicly traded companies and tend to be on the cutting edge of new product development.  Their areas of focus are marketing and product development, as they are under the watchful eyes of their shareholders for new customer additions every quarter.  They dominate the paid search marketing strategies, so you will have no problem finding them on line and receiving a quote for your service.  These providers drop ship the phones and provide a robust customer portal for businesses to self-service their phone programming.

Regional/Local Hosted VoIP Providers

This category of providers is best suited for businesses who:

  • Do not have in-house IT resources
  • Prefer working with local businesses they can trust
  • Elect to have the systems programmed and installed by the providers, rather than DIY

Businesses who do not have an in-house  IT resource or have the time or expertise to handle the programming and administration of the phones and call flows are best suited to be served by a Regional/Local Hosted VoIP provider.  Typically, these small businesses are looking to maximize their communication strategies with current technology.

Providers in this category are typically privately held organizations with a singular focus on VoIP service.  They are not resellers or have secured a white-labeled platform from a major provider, but have their own platform and service.  Being privately held and internally responsible for product development, these companies tend to follow the larger providers when it comes to new feature development.  However, where they really shine compared to the nationals is in the level of customer service provided.  These providers tend to provide more of a full-service administration for their customers, rather than pushing customers to a portal.  They typically handle the programming of the phones and system for their customers so that the business requirements are better met.

Searching for Hosted VoIPWhen searching for these providers on-line, add your location.  For example, search for "hosted VoIP providers in Kansas City," and review the non-paid search results on the first or second page.  Not only visit their website to make sure they are truly local, but check out their Google listing and reviews.   Once in touch with these providers, asking specific questions about their platform (is it their own or do they resell or white label) and their approach to customer service (full-service or self-service) will help you confirm that you've found a provider in this category.

VARs and White Label VoIP Resellers

This category of providers may be a good choice for businesses who are:

  • Looking for a high level of features
  • Expect some degree of support

Small businesses can take advantage of this model and receive higher level features from a robust platform. What may be a challenge is that the Hosted VoIP company here is not ultimately responsible for the pricing, support, system up-time, and stability, and they may or may not disclose this fact with you.  You would need to decide if you are comfortable trusting your phone communications with this structure.

There are many businesses who have a specialty in another business service, such as IT support, who have added Hosted VoIP to their service offerings.  There are two ways they go about doing this, one more transparent than the other.  Value Added Resellers (VARs) or even independent sales agents like a telecom broker can resell a national provider's service and receive a commission.  There are some VoIP businesses who have been built around using a white label platform.  What this means is that the technology, system, and true back end support are provided to these businesses as a platform, but the businesses are able to place their logo into the structure and promote it as if it were their own.  These companies make money on the margin, the amount they can sell above the wholesale price.

Resellers or White Label VARs have less pricing flexibility and less influence over the actual solution to a service concern.  They may offer a tier-one type support where they can handle some customer service items through the platform's portal, but they would need to place a ticket into that provider for more complicated support issues.  However, for relatively very little risk and cost, they would have access to a very feature-rich VoIP platform.  For businesses who do more than just VoIP, this is an easy way to add value to their customer base.

Many times these opportunities are presented to you by your IT support company, who has added Hosted VoIP to their offerings via a reseller or white label relationship. 

Now that you’ve chosen the type of provider, what’s next?

Search_for_Right_VoIP_Provider-3Once you have determined what type of Hosted VoIP provider is the best match for your business, you can begin your search for the best provider for you within the category.  Again, finding the nationals is easy.  But, if the regional/local or Reseller/VAR works best for you, it will require a bit more effort to find one.  Once you do, the following list  of questions will help you determine if they are the right company for you.

  • Do they own the platform and system up-time, or are they reselling or utilizing another's platform in any way?
  • How do they handle customer service (DIY or live, local support)?
  • Do they perform all of the pre-install programming along with the physical installation of the phones?

Answers to these questions will allow you to know which category the provider is operating within and narrow the list of whom to get proposals.  Best of success to you in finding the right VoIP service provider for your business.

 

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, small business phone service

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

Narrowing the List of Hosted VoIP Providers

Posted by Mark Greim on Oct 24, 2016 11:07:28 AM

If your business is ready to make the switch to hosted VoIP phone service, or you are ready to look for alternatives to the national hosted VoIP providers, how do you narrow down the seemingly large group of alternative providers in the marketplace?  It isn't an easy task and it will take a little effort.  However, the reward for find the right solution for your business will benefit you for years to come.

Choosing_a_Hosted_VoIP_Provider.jpgThe national hosted VoIP provider list is well known, and they certainly dominate internet searches for a variety of terms.  Their features are, as expected, robust and cutting edge.  However, for all of the reasons you were ready to move away from your old phone service provider, they possess many of the same challenges, namely customer service.  This article will focus on how to find and what to look for in an alternative hosted VoIP provider.

There are many out there, and finding the right one is important to your business.  There are IT service companies who dabble in VoIP telephony as an additional service line to their business.  They are either reselling or white labeling a larger provider's service or have created a VoIP service line using a PBX firmware.  Be wary of resellers or companies who do not focus on or specialize in VoIP.  Look for companies that operate their own VoIP service and have been in business for at least ten years.  These providers have stood the test of time and are responsible for their own customer service and customer experience.  Below are some other areas that will help you narrow the list:

Look for a Local Provider - There's nothing better than being supported by a local provider. How refreshing will it be when your phone company actually knows you and your business?  There are companies with a national footprint that provide the "feeling" of local support, and this is also acceptable.  If their customer references provide testimony that the customer service delivered is grounded in specific customer knowledge and relationships, then this is the hosted VoIP provider for you!

Concierge, not Self-Service - One of the models of the large VoIP providers is to place responsibility for the system programming upon the customer through a web portal.  This shifts the cost of administration from the provider to the customer.  Not all businesses have a dedicated IT staff to handle such activity and not all portals are robust enough to handle more sophisticated call flow and design.  There are hosted VoIP providers that see the administration as their responsibility and do not charge for providing updates and any call flow adjustments.  As your business moves more activity to the cloud, finding a hosted VoIP provider that handles all of your telephony updates and maintenance will help you actually drive savings from your move to VoIP.

Customization - If you are able to locate a provider that delivers a feeling of local support as well as handles your phone administration, chances are they are able to customize their system to meet the needs of your business.  There is a large degree of customization that can be delivered.  If the provider holds meetings with your business in advance of installation to understand your unique requirements and to program call flow and other features to match those needs, then you have the right hosted VoIP provider.  Ask the prospective provider what the install process is like.  Look for a configuration meeting where they would gather the information required to provision the phones prior to installation.  If the provider speaks to delivering a website interface for self-provisioning, then you will be challenged to maximize the benefit of the system.  Not all portals can capture the full range of VoIP programming capabilities.  If they do, they typically are too complex to be handled by your staff, or will certainly require a lot of time by your staff to be ready for implementation.

Features - You are looking for a provider that has a robust set of features that will actually advance your business and improve your communications.  For the most part, such features should be included in the standard monthly fee.  If you see that you are charged by feature or for features that should be considered as standard, you are likely dealing with a reseller or white label VoIP provider.  Many providers look to make their standard user fee to be published as low as possible, then ramp it back up with add on features and surcharges.  Others include the majority of the features in their standard fee.  Going through a proposal process with multiple providers should identify one approach from the other.

VoIP Phone Selection - There are a variety of VoIP phone options out there for you.  They vary widely in price, sophistication, and quality.  One of the reasons to look at moving to hosted VoIP is to gain the benefit of not purchasing or maintaining a phone system ever again.  Your purchase of the actual VoIP phones is important to match your ultimate goal.  Going with the top end manufacturers of VoIP phones like Cisco or Polycom will ensure you will have a quality phone with a solid warranty and lifetime expectation.  Additionally, there will be a clear upgrade path as time goes on. You should also ask the provider if their phones could be reused by another provider if you should choose to make a change.

Finding a hosted VoIP provider that best matches the needs of your business is not an easy task, but is well worth the effort.  The answer is not always with the ones you see advertised heavily on the web and other areas.  There are gems out there.  Find one who conducts business the way you do! 

 

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, Hosted VoIP, Changing Phone Service Providers

You do NOT Need More Bandwidth for VoIP

Posted by Mark Greim on Mar 14, 2014 11:47:00 AM

There is no nice way to put this, but certain national Hosted VoIP providers are giving theHosted VoIP QoS industry a bad name.   There are countless examples of businesses who are experiencing poor voice quality with these providers and receive the standard recommendation to increase their internet bandwidth.  This solution costs more money and isn’t always the best advice.

The fact of the matter is that VoIP calls do not take much bandwidth, less than 80kb per call.  However, because voice and data packets are sharing the same connection, there is always an opportunity for voice packets to be interrupted by data packets.  Expanding bandwidth doesn’t always take care of the problem.

One of sipVine’s biggest differentiators in the market is that we believe that call quality is best controlled on the customer’s network.  We provide a router or a transparent bridge that has Quality of Service programming built in, ensuring your voice calls have priority.  This allows your business to right size the amount of bandwidth to match the needs of the business and not overbuild just for VoIP. 

Certainly, there are occasions where the amount of data activity is over-saturating the internet bandwidth.  In those situations, QoS will not be able to work as well as it should and the bandwidth will need to be addressed.  However, we are bringing businesses on to our platform on daily bases that have experienced this poor advice from a national hosted VoIP provider.  In addition to providing a localized QoS device, we have helped our customers troubleshoot issues with their internet circuit to find the root cause of the call quality concerns.  This has saved them from blindly adding bandwidth, thus saving them dollars on a monthly basis.

To learn more, check out our whitepaper, Voice Quality: The Ultimate Differentiator in VoIP Providers.

 Download Whitepaper

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 Bandwidth Requirements, voip service provider selection

sipVine Blog | Add Coolness to Your Hosted VoIP System

Posted by Mark Greim on Nov 14, 2013 11:45:00 AM

One of the great advantages of implementing a Hosted VoIP Phone Service is that it can be customized to match the needs of the business.  There are a variety of standard items that should be customizable in any VoIP phone solution.  The right hosted VoIP provider can serve in a consultative manner to discern how those items should be programmed to meet the business requirements.  Great providers can take customization to another level and have your system do things to delight your associates and customers.

As you compare providers, be mindful that some provide “do-it-yourself” web portals.  These are great for routine administration, but higher level customization requires a provider that is willing to create the program and able to understand the business application.  At sipVine, a mid-western based national hosted VoIP provider, we made a strategic decision to provide as much customization as possible.  Robert Conner, sipVine’s CEO, states:  “Frankly, custom programming to specific customer needs doesn’t fit well in a mass-volume, high-margin approach.  However, we believe that customers will become long-term, loyal fans if you position yourself as their personal phone department.  We have the technological talent to be able to do some great things with the software, so our customer should be able to reap the benefits!”

There are some customizable aspects of VoIP systems that are table stakes for any hosted VoIP service company, whether it is from a provider like sipVine or from someone who provides a web portal for option setting.  These should include the following:

  • Call flow direction – ring groups
  • Time of day routing
  • Automated attendant options

However, there can be some cool things your system can do if you choose the right provider.  Here are a few examples of custom programming in which sipVine has provided to their customers:

    • Dynamic on-call programming – there have been several customers who deploy a varied on-call schedule through a selection on their after-hours auto attendant.  They are simply able to punch in some codes on their phones that select the specific person or ring group they want to be on-call for the day or period.
    • Multiple caller ID delivery – some companies have multiple subsidiaries or brands they represent.  sipVine can fix a specific caller ID being delivered by various associates, and provide the ability to deliver different caller IDs depending certain outside line access selections. 
    • E911 notification – one of sipVine’s customers requested a central notification process if a phone in their context dials 911.  This is unique and important to their application.  If a 911 is dialed from phone on their network, a central phone is immediately notified with an audible message and email notice is delivered to designated parties.VoIP Customization

Colin Wells, sipVine’s CTO expands, “We have built quite a number of custom applications for customers that we have since rolled out as standard options.  The best ideas for new capabilities definitely are born out of real world applications.  We haven’t figured out how to get the phones to empty the trash, but we can certainly automate a notification to a phone that it is time to empty the trash!  In all seriousness, there are even more custom programs that occur behind the scenes that most people don’t know about, like security scripts and automated setting back-ups.  We think they are cool, but our customers are not aware of them.  They just know that they are in good hands.”

There are a number of choices out there for a hosted phone service provider.  As you conduct your research, see which providers are “quote driven” and which ones want to know about your business and how you utilize the phones.  That will give you a pretty good idea as to how they will service you going forward.   

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 has a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments. 

Tags: voip service provider selection, Configuring digital phone service

Is your Business VoIP Ready? Here’s Your Checklist!

Posted by Mark Greim on Oct 10, 2013 10:19:00 AM

Most businesses looking to upgrade their phone communications are taking advantage of the benefits a VoIP system and service has to offer.  Productivity, internal communications, and customer satisfaction all can achieve measureable improvement through VoIP technology.  Below are a few items to review to ensure your business is ready for a conversion to VoIP.

  • Hosted vs. On-site – The first question to be addressed is if yourvoip for business checklist business should invest in an on-site VoIP system versus a Hosted system.  The advantage of a Hosted VoIP Service is that the up-front investment is much lower, as you are only purchasing the VoIP handsets and some minor equipment.  Typically, the hosted provider will handle your administration as well.  Your monthly service is a function of the number of users/phones you have on the system.  On-site systems are much more expensive up-front and you have responsibility for administration.  However, if you provision sip trunks to the system, you only need to provision the number of trunks to match your maximum concurrent call volume.
  • Existing Telecom Contract – Check with your current phone service provider to determine whether you are under contract.  Many have automatic renewals that kick in without notice.  If you are planning on switching in the near future, understanding the nature of automatic renewals and cancellation notice requirements is important.
  • Bandwidth RequirementsVoIP does not require much bandwidth, only 80kb per call, both upload and download.  Gain an understanding of your maximum concurrent calls as well as your current bandwidth utilization.  A wired internet connection to the building is highly recommended.  If you are already experiencing the effects of bandwidth saturation, you should consider expanding your bandwidth prior to deploying VoIP.
  • Ethernet – VoIP phones require an Ethernet connection to the phone.  Most VoIP phones have two ports, so it can share an Ethernet connection with a computer.  Most of the VoIP phones have 100mb ports.  If you have built your internal network to gigabit speeds, there are some VoIP phone models with 1gb ports.  One “gotcha” we run into a lot when converting companies from analog phones to VoIP are wall mounted locations.  Ethernet cabling will need to be run to those locations and power delivery is also a consideration.
  • Power Requirements – VoIP phones require power, and there are a couple of options.  Traditional power cords from the phone (provided with the phone) to an outlet are the least expensive alternative.  You can also deliver power to the phone over the Ethernet cabling if you deploy Power over Ethernet (POE) switches on your network.  This is a very nice luxury, as it removes the power cord from the desk area, but POE switches come in at a premium over standard switch pricing.  If you are deploying a wall mounted phone or phones, or even a conference room phone where you don’t want to be inhibited by a power cord, POE becomes more than a necessity.  If you don’t want to spring for a full switch that is POE enabled, there are some single port POE injectors that will deliver power to the single phone.
  • Paging – Many VoIP phones and hosted service provides offer paging to phones, direct paging, and paging groups.  Additional considerations come into play if you have any overhead paging systems tied into the phone system.  There are some adapters on the market that will allow for this, but be sure to have a conversation with your potential providers to see how they will accommodate your needs in this area.
  • Provider Selection – The good news is that you have a large pool of potential providers to choose from.  For hosted services, your phone equipment and service will come from the same provider.  Every company has their own priorities and goals that will influence provider selection, but there are a few characteristics that should be table stakes for your potential provider:
    1. Do they promote best in class VoIP phone manufacturers?  Cisco and Polycom are great examples.
    2. Does their service footprint cover your potential for growth and expansion?
    3. How do they address Quality of Service?  Most suggest more bandwidth.  sipVine contends that QoS is best handled by a local device to prioritize voice packets.  Read more in our VoIP Voice Quality whitepaper.
    4. Does the provider require a term contract and do they build the phones in a locked manner?  Hosted VoIP providers confident in their delivery of service do not build in such restrictions.
    5. Do they provide a consultative service to effectively build your system to match how you do business?  Good providers help you take advantage of the power and flexibility of these solutions through custom programming.  If the providers provide a web portal for you to do it yourself, be wary.  It is cool, but it also speaks to their service philosophy.
    6. What is the provider’s customer service philosophy?  Do they essentially become an extension of your company and function as your phone department?  Wouldn’t that be refreshing?  It is what your business deserves!

I hope this checklist of items has been a good resource for you as you evaluate the potential of moving to a VoIP system.  Your comments are welcome!

 

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 has a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments. 

Tags: voip service provider selection, voip business phone system, Phone System Replacement

19 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Hosted VoIP Phone Service

Posted by Mark Greim on Mar 12, 2013 1:48:00 PM

sipVine, a national business VoIP service provider, has published a new ebook that provides many insights on how to fully take advantage of your hosted VoIP phone service.  If you are currently utilizing the service or are investigating hosted VoIP for your business, this ebook will provide you with many ideas on how to leverage the new technology to enhance your communications with your customers and employees.

In the eBook, 19 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Hosted VoIP Phone Service, we cover the following topics:

  • Delight Your Customers with an Effective Call Flow and Auto AttendantHosted VoIP Phone Service
  • Streamline Your High-Customer-Touch Associates
  • Generate Efficiencies in Your Business
  • Accessorize Your System
  • Select the Right Provider
This free ebook is available for download.  We hope you enjoy it!
Download eBook

Tags: voip service provider selection, Hosted VoIP

sipVine Blog | Does Your Business Phone Provider Deliver?

Posted by Mark Greim on Jan 24, 2013 9:55:00 AM

What if your phone service provider delivered customer service as if they were located next door to your office?  Fantasy?  Perhaps, but your business deserves it!  You should consider moving to a hosted phone service where your business phone equipment and phone service are provided by the same company.  The formula will be in place to make awesome customer service delivery possible, and it will then be a responsibility of that provider to make it happen.

At sipVine, we have built this concept into our core beliefs and practices, as we understandPhone Company Next Door what it will mean to a customer to feel that they are receiving remarkable customer service from a telecommunications provider.  The marketplace has been under serviced, subject to a series of a voice recognition entry points just to have your call delivered to a service representative who doesn’t have a clue of who you are and how your business uses communication services.

There are a few ways in which we make this possible:

No Contracts – sipVine’s philosophy is that no customer should be bound to a term contract with us to achieve discounts or other advantages.  We have a simple rate schedule that drives savings to our customers.  Moreover, we sincerely believe that we need to earn our business each and every day, and have built such a belief system into our culture and practices. 

Customization – Customers expect that their investment in new technology will provide them with features and benefits that their current system doesn’t offer.  However, we take that one step further in that our technology is very flexible and can be customized to meet their needs or enhance their communication practices.  We hold extensive configuration meetings with the customer prior to installation so that we can fully understand their communication patterns and consult on the best design for their system deployment.  We then handle all of the programming to make this happen.  Not only does this help guarantee satisfaction, it gives us the opportunity to get to know our customers in a very detailed way. 

The Phone Company Next Door – Because we get to know our customers in great detail and that knowledge is specifically passed to all service personnel, we are able to deliver a feeling to our customers that we are their personal phone department.  We handle all of their phone administration for them, and thus are in position for routine contact with a variety of people within the organization.  Whether we are servicing a company based in Kansas City where we are located, or one of our customers in other cities across the country, we routinely delight them through this approach of providing service as if we were the phone company next door.

As I mentioned, the capability of delivering such service is quite possible for any hosted VoIP provider.  As you research potential providers, ask a series of questions that will uncover their approach to service and reveal if they are leveraging the unique opportunity to deliver superb service.  Here are just a few:

  1. Are you able to customize the call flow and other features to meet my unique business needs?  Do you do this programming or is it incumbent upon me to do the set up via a web portal?
  2. When I call for service or administration, where does this call go?  Will I be talking with someone who knows my business and the unique configuration we may have?  Are your technicians contract or overseas?
  3. Are the officers of the company engaged in service delivery in any capacity?

This should help provide an idea as to how they approach customer service.  Happy hunting and remember, your business deserves it!

 

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. 

Tags: voip service provider selection

Why sipVine Promotes Cisco and Polycom for VoIP Phone Selection

Posted by Mark Greim on Oct 2, 2012 9:06:00 AM

There are a number of VoIP phone models and manufacturers, and choosing the right ones can make or break hosted VoIP phone service providers.  sipVine, a nationwide provider of hosted phone service, chooses to promote Cisco and Polycom models for its VoIP phone line-up for a variety of reasons.  VoIP Phone Selection

Best of Breed – Certainly, there’s an element of name recognition in these phones that provides credibility to a privately held provider such as sipVine.  Selecting Cisco and Polycom, both best of breed manufacturers, provides obvious advantages to companies in this segment.  Quality manufacturing, product warrantees, and overall reliability are extremely important, and the benefits are felt by end user customers.

Ease of Use – When end user customers are transitioning to new technology, delivering phones that allow for the vast VoIP feature set to be intuitive and easy to use is paramount to the success of a hosted phone service provider.  sipVine has found that both of these manufacturers have crafted their phones to be easy to use and adapt to a variety of VoIP software platforms.

Flexibility in Programming – End user customers are not interested in how easy a phone is to configure with the software, but they do benefit in the outcomes of flexible, adaptable phones.  As an example, sipVine is able to keep the phone system affordable to the end user by virtue of the ability to devise configuration scripts which can mass configure large numbers of phones.  Setting up small and large businesses is quick and easy, which keeps installation charges low.  Additionally, sipVine has been able to add several features and custom design the customer configuration in large part due to the phone line-up selected.

Phone Line Up is Not Proprietary – With the Polycom phones and the Cisco Small Business series, the phones are not proprietary to a manufacturer base system.  This allows hosted companies to adapt the phones to its particular VoIP software.  It also fits well with providers such as sipVine, which does not hold their customers to term contracts.  sipVine recognizes that companies are making decisions both on the technology and the provider and wants to allow customers the flexibility to move their phones to another hosted provider if sipVine doesn’t meet all expectations.  Fortunately, this flexibility has produced very infrequent movement away, but is a compelling message nonetheless.

Additional Benefits Specific to Cisco – Simply put, sipVine and end user customers loveCisco VoIP Phone
these phones.  They are very easy to use and provide a number of custom approaches in deployment.  The screens and menu options are very easy to understand and follow, and the line appearance buttons allow for a variety of use, such as speed dials with user presence indicators, park placement and retrieval, and direct dial and main line delivery.

Additional Benefits Specific to Polycom – Hands down, Polycom speaker phone technologyPolycom VoIP Phone is the best in the business.  For end users who utilize the speaker phone feature routinely, they cannot go wrong with a Polycom phone.  Certainly, most people are very familiar with the conference room phones offered by Polycom.  Because of the quality of the speaker on the desk phones, many customers deploy a desk phone in smaller conference rooms to save on the expense of the more traditional conference room phone.  Polycom phones are also easy to use and, if it matters, they are just darned good looking as well!

A quality line up of VoIP phones is an important criterion for hosted phone service provider selection.  You cannot go wrong with Cisco and Polycom phones in a provider’s line up!

 

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. 

 

Tags: voip service provider selection, VoIP Phone

sipVine Blog | How to Determine the Best Phone Service Provider

Posted by Mark Greim on Jun 27, 2012 8:48:00 AM

Deciding upon the best phone service provider can be challenging for any business.  Given new technology, there are a host of new options available to you in the marketplace and you are no longer bound to your traditional telephone provider.  You should start by determining your organization’s ability/desire to utilize new technology in your communication practices and identifying the characteristics of a phone service provider that will meet your expectations.

If your company desires to utilize new technology in your communication practices and you want to keep the capital expenses low for such an endeavor, you can consider a hosted phone service provider.  This literally opens up the competition to a number of great providers.  These providers provide both the phone service and phone system, as the phone system is provided in a cloud environment and the service is delivered over the internet.  Additionally, if your company has points of presence in multiple cities or has virtual employees, they all can be on a common phone system and you can consolidate service providers!choosing the best phone service provider

The process of narrowing down your potential list of hosted phone service providers can be
quite daunting.  Set your expectations high, as new entrants in this marketplace have helped push customer service to new heights.  Here is a list of questions for potential service providers that can help you narrow the list:

  1. Describe your approach to customer service.  Do I have an account team to rely upon?  How are requests for service handled and are there multiple ways to create a service ticket?
  2. Do you conduct a consultative session with me on customizing the configuration for the hosted phone service so that it conforms to how we do business?
  3. How do you handle VoIP voice quality management?  Do you deploy a device on our network or do you manage this solely by bandwidth expansion?
  4. Describe your hosted platform.  Is it located in a secure data facility?  What redundancies are built in? 
  5. What disaster recovery options are available to me with your service?
  6. Given our industry, what features do you believe we will benefit the most from?

These questions will help qualify candidates and you can narrow down competitiveness of bids from the providers who answer the above qualifications to your satisfaction.  First and foremost, judging the potential provider on their willingness and ability to get to know you and your needs through the qualification stage is a great indicator of the type of service they will provide.  Those providers who are experienced in working in multiple industries and can provide the consultation necessary to appropriately customize the solution to meet your expectations will clearly rise to the top.

Many focus on the features, coolness factor, and price, but fail to be able to truly understand your business and what is important to you.  Your business deserves to be supported by a provider who can be seen as your phone department rather than a vendor.

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. 

 

Tags: voip service provider selection, Technology in Business, Changing Phone Service Providers

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