Not too long ago, this article would have focused on changing your business phone service from a traditional phone service provider to a VoIP provider. Hosted VoIP services are becoming widely accepted as the technology of choice for the small to mid-size business market, manifested by the fact that many companies are now switching from one VoIP Provider to another. It is also a signal that selecting a provider at the outset needs careful research and deliberation.
Every day, we are installing customers who are moving from big name VoIP providers to sipVine. Common reasons for the shift are frustration with level of service, poor call quality, and complicated web portal processes for self-servicing. Thus, as a part of "getting it right", you should start with those items when researching VoIP providers, whether it be for moving your service from a traditional phone service provider to a VoIP service or for switching VoIP providers.
- Customer Service - Seek out references or testimonials relating to how the VoIP company provides customer service. Do they understand the customer and can resolve the issues quickly? There's a unique opportunity with hosted VoIP service in that the provider is delivering both the phone system and service. Thus, they have an opportunity to leverage this situation to get to know the customer's business and configure the system to match their needs. Find out from references if the VoIP provider has taken advantage of this opportunity as shown through their on-going service. If not, move on to the next provider.
- Poor Call Quality - VoIP providers still have some work to do in the area of call quality. This is the primary reason sipVine converts existing VoIP customers from other providers. If the answer to "how does your company provide for VoIP quality of service?" is along the lines of adding bandwidth or running over a separate connection, then they do not provide any QoS. Having a QoS solution is key to your decision on moving to a business VoIP service, or you will be a candidate for a switch to a VoIP provider like sipVine. You will be surprised that the major players in this industry do not have a solution for this.
- Self Servicing - Many VoIP providers offer a web portal. Where this provides some glitz to the sales process, the reality is that the objective is to push customer support opportunities to the customers themselves. Most customers of VoIP providers we convert have shared stories of complicated portals and more frustration with the situation than benefits derived from self-servicing.
As an aside, we also see many lost opportunities for customization of the VoIP service when we are converting a customer from an existing provider. Most phones are built with their most basic configuration option. Be sure to select a provider that will meet with you in advance of the install and work through items like call flow, custom attendants, phone line appearances and/or busy lamp fields, and several other customization options. If not, then a large opportunity is missed to build your system to match your needs.
Outside of researching the areas above, when preparing to move from one VoIP provider to another, there are a few things to be prepared for:
- Make sure you are out of contract. Most VoIP providers do not have term contracts, but it is always good to double check. If you have had documented problems with voice quality, you may have some grounds to break the contract.
- A VoIP phone may be locked or password protected. Be sure to get them unlocked or find out the password prior to switching providers, assuming that provider can reuse your specific brand of phone.
- Be sure to capture all of the numbers you wish to port to a new provider. If you have not published your direct dial numbers (DID) widely, it may be prudent to only port over your main line and fax line and have your new provider deliver a new block of DIDs for you. Whether you port all of your numbers or not, you should cancel your service and billing from the other provider once you have confirmation that the ports have been completed.
We hope this information is helpful. Don't be discouraged if your initial foray into VoIP didn't go well. There are some fantastic providers of VoIP services and some wonderful benefits to the businesses who use them.
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.