Every day, you face decisions regarding your business, some easy, some difficult. The successful business makes more decisions that prove to be favorable than they make decisions that they regret. When moving your business communications to a VoIP phone service, you simply cannot afford to regret the service provider selection. Customer communications and internal processes need to be enhanced, not impaired by your decision.
There are pitfalls to avoid when choosing your Hosted VoIP service provider. Below are several for your consideration:
Trap: Mind-blowing technology
Pitfall: Programming it to work correctly
Most of the larger, national brands do have cutting edge technology and capabilities. However, they are set up to scale their business rapidly. Their investments are in technology and marketing, not in a customer success model. Their model is for customers to service themselves, from initial phone programming to on-going administration. Customer service call centers are designed to educate customers on how to access and navigate the online self-servicing portal. Thus, unless your business has personnel who can be dedicated to the research required to learn the technology and suffer through the programming trial and errors, implementing the technology that sold you in the first place is a significant and real challenge.
Trap: Pricing Promotions
Pitfall: Limited length of promotion, add-ons, surcharges, limitations, or worse
Did a pricing promotion catch your eye? Most of these promotions are limited in length, such as three months at a discounted rate before reverting to standard pricing. Moreover, many of the “packages” offered by national brands have levels of features that differ as you go up in price. Some of the lower end user rates provide minutes of use limitations with per minute charges once the thresholds are met. Watch out for surcharges and fees added on top of user rates, as these can impact your monthly obligation by as much as 25 percent! Finally, selection of promotional rates may trigger a term contract commitment.
Trap: No Initial Outlay for VoIP Phones
Pitfall: Monthly phone rental, lower-end phones that don’t meet your needs, or worse
On the surface, not purchasing your VoIP phones up front can seem very enticing. You can be lured by hardware costs that are paid monthly or “free” phones. Make sure this isn’t a trap. Paying for phones monthly eventually leads to paying massive premiums for the phones. Most phones offered for free are lower end phones that may not effectively meet your needs or are at the end of the manufacturer’s life cycle. Again, selection of such offers may require a term contract commitment.
Trap: Search Engine Rankings
Pitfall: May miss better alternatives
Doing a search on business phone service providers most often delivers the paid search advertising of the national brands or ranks these same brands organically very high. The national providers are quite simply a marketing machine. They robotically bid up search terms and have teams of SEO strategists, content generators, and deploy a variety of other paid lead generation techniques. Have you ever seen a list of the best VoIP service providers that didn’t include the national brands? These seemingly neutral web sites simply provide quote opportunities in mass quantities to whoever can afford the large monthly commitment. The “get a quote” options on these sites generate the lead which is sold multiple times over to several providers, resulting in you receiving numerous sales calls and emails.
How to Avoid These Traps
It is easy just to say avoid the national brands without understanding the alternatives available in your market. There are quite a few good regional or local VoIP providers who have a far different business model than described by the traps above. However, you need to dig a little deeper to find them and know what you are looking for as an alternative and why.
- Digging Deeper to Find Alternatives – Look beyond the paid search categories or paid lead services to find local or regional alternatives to the national brands. Scroll through the organic search rankings to see if other alternatives come to your attention. Check with some of your peer local businesses or chamber of commerce to see who they use.
- Get Multiple Bids – Go ahead and test a national provider against a local alternative. You should be able to tell from the sales process if the local provider is much easier to work with and ready to understand your unique business requirements. From the outset, you should be able to tell a difference. Make sure the local provider isn’t just a white label vendor or a reseller of a national brand. Several IT companies have ventured into VoIP through various reseller models.
- Validate Support Model – Make sure the provider will handle your phone configuration and call flow programming for you. Have them describe the on-boarding process. If they mention drop shipping the phones and providing you with an online portal for self-servicing, they do not provide the programming and you will find the solution falls short of your requirements.
- Ask for Pricing Details – If your pricing has promotional hooks, ask what the standard pricing is and when the promotion expires. Determine if you are signing up for a term contract with the promotion. Make sure their bid includes all surcharges and fees that are added to the monthly invoice. This will ensure an accurate side by side comparison with a local provider who may not have an expiring promotional price, term contract, or may absorb surcharges in their rates.
- Determine Alternatives to Free or Monthly Phone Rental – Find out what phones are not offered as free so you can see what you may be missing. Compare the offering of the local provider against the free phone and ask the local provider why their offer will better meet your needs than the free phone. A good local provider should be able to explain the difference. If there’s a monthly phone rental, ask if the rental has an end point to where the phones are yours and the monthly rental fee ends. If there’s no end, it simply will never make economic sense. If there’s an end, do the math and compare what you are paying over time against the upfront purchase of phones from an alternative provider.
Local providers deliver better service and offerings that generate fierce loyalty and satisfaction among their customers. Don’t fall into the many traps set by the national brands. Avoiding these traps will lead to a no-regret decision regarding your business phone 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.