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?
After 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
The 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.