Where the National Business VoIP Providers Fall Short

Posted by Mark Greim on Jan 27, 2021 9:30:00 AM

Most businesses have made the switch to Hosted VoIP phone services, taking advantage of powerful features to improve their communication strategies both internally and externally. They also received the added benefit of finding an alternative to their traditional telephone provider who reciprocated their years of service with rate increases, outsourced customer service, and old technology. In making the switch, many have gravitated to the “national” providers whose marketing budgets cast a wide net over potential customers. In doing so, these businesses have found similarities to their previous relationships with their telecommunication provider and have been left underwhelmed and underserved in the process.

VoIP Custom ProgrammingNational Business VoIP Providers have fallen short on customer service, plain and simple. They have a wonderful and ever-expanding feature set, but their approach to customer service is “self-service”. Calls to their customer service group, in whatever country in which they are located, tend to lead back to instructions on how to use the self-servicing portal. Such a portal is fine for administrative changes. However, for troubleshooting, call flow programming, and best practices advice, it falls short. Businesses are left frustrated with the fact that they can’t take full advantage of all the features as advertised as they don’t have the time or capacity to figure out the programming. Many times they don’t even know they are missing out on benefits, as the national provider does not provide a support contact to guide or steer them down the right path, let alone actually do the programming for them.

“Our experience in 100% of our customers who have left a national VoIP provider is that their phone system was not living up to its full potential as it wasn’t set up and programmed specifically for their needs, and training wasn’t provided,” states Robert Conner, CEO of sipVine, Inc. “Simple things like how calls are routed, to how a direct dial/extension appears, users’ availability, and auto attendant programming are not set up correctly or at all. This is an indication that the business was never able to successfully navigate the self-servicing portal for their set up and programming.

Search_for_Right_VoIP_Provider-3What are the alternatives to going with one of these well-known providers? Consider looking to Hosted VoIP providers that are local or regional to your business. These providers tend to be more in tune with the needs of their business peers in the market they serve. They also tend to be more flexible and nimbler, both in approach to customer service and responding to the unique needs each individual business may present.

Businesses need to research potential candidates carefully, assuring themselves that they will find the right provider to partner with on their communication needs for the long-term. Here are some tips:

  • When searching for a Hosted VoIP provider in their area, be sure to by-pass the ads. These tend to be the national providers who have out bid local providers for common search terms. Also, avoid the “lists” of VoIP providers in your area. These lists or rankings are lead drivers to the nationals, as they pay for lead opportunities from clicks on the site. Look for providers that are truly local or regional. Their website should have their business address.
  • It may be a little more difficult to determine but eliminate providers who are merely reselling a national brand or are using a “white-labeled” product. These businesses tend to have added VoIP to their service offering, like an IT support company offering VoIP. In these circumstances, the provider has less flexibility or control over pricing and is more of a go-between on where the actual customer service is performed.
  • Ask the provider how they handle the onboarding of new customers. The right provider will meet with you to discuss your unique needs as a business and will program the phones and system before they install them. Yes, they should also install them!
  • Inquire if the provider will make changes on the system programming and handle other administrative changes for you after the install. This provides a good idea how customer service is handled and keeps you out of the phone programming business and focused on your business.
  • Check references! Ask for businesses supported in your part of town. This will help insure you’re not getting a stacked response of obviously good references.

Supporting local businesses always feels good, as you would expect other local businesses to support you as well. In the case of your business phone service, a local provider will actually deliver what you need and help you take full advantage of the technology more than a national provider.


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, Business VoIP

Hosted VoIP, Fully Integrated

Posted by Mark Greim on Apr 14, 2020 9:15:00 AM

Hosted VoIP continues to evolve and has proven to be the best way to integrate business communications. Its flexibility, scalability and mobility keep the business connected…and saves businesses money over traditional phone service.  Whether your business is large or small, a cloud-based phone service possesses the adaptability and flexibility to match your current communication requirements and advance them forward.

Let’s review what a Hosted VoIP communications platform has brought to organizations for years before we examine the latest advancements in the technology .

Flexibility in Deployment – With a cloud-based phone system, businesses no longer need to think about their phone service being confined to the walls of the business. If a business has multiple locations, they can consider all the ways the locations can work together under a common communications platform.  Ring groups and call queues can be staffed by any associate regardless of their location.  Additionally, it has never been more applicable to consider work at home or highly mobile working arrangements for associates.  With a variety of phone options to choose from, associates working remotely seamlessly operate under the same call flow rules as if they were at the office.

Call Flow Management with Hosted VoIPCall Flow Improvements – Many businesses have operated under the customer services strategy of “the phones always get answered.”  However, with utilizing the flexibility of Hosted VoIP, calls can be directed to the person or associates based upon the specific need of the caller.  So, the phones always get answered by the exact person who can help the customer

There are many ways to achieve these improvements.  With Hosted VoIP, all associates can have a direct dial number.  If your customers routinely work with a specific individual, say an account manager, they should be provided the direct dial number of the associate.  That associate can essentially be “always reachable” by utilizing a soft phone on their smart phone for times they are away.  Obviously, there are times when these people are busy.  Voicemails can be forward to their email so they can view them wherever they are located and contact the customer when they are available.

Additionally, the auto attendant can be programmed to route to call groups of people in specific departments as well as provide the caller with a directory and/or the ability to enter the extension of the person they are looking for.  Businesses should explore the top four or five reasons someone would call them and provide options in their auto attendant to route to individuals who can best address these needs.

Expand or Contract with Business Needs – Hosted VoIP can ebb and flow with the business. If the business adds associates, all they would need to do is secure another VoIP phone for the associate and include them in whatever ring groups or queues that are applicable. No longer do they need to worry about their phone system being able to support additional phones or the number of “lines” they have available to meet call demand.  Because the service runs over the internet, every person can be on the phone without a line limitation.

If the business contracts, they can remove phones from service and reduce the user count they are being billed.


Now, as the technology continues to evolve, businesses can take advantage of the efficiencies of integrating Hosted VoIP to the desktops of their associates.

Desktop Integration – Imagine a web interface that allows you to view on your monitor/desktop the phones on your network, who is on the phone, and who they are talking to.  Further imagine the ability to click on one of the phones to dial the person or transfer a call to them.  Many associates utilize their computers throughout the day and having such a screen provides them the ability to quickly integrate their phone processes with their keyboard and mouse.

Contact Center Hosted VoIPTo take integration to the desktop even further, they could eliminate the desk phone and only utilize a soft phone on their desktop.  This gives them the ability to click to dial from websites, their CRM, and other enabled software or websites.  Other integration options include the receipt of screen pops from their CRM showing the caller’s data profile.  Again, this “phone” can be taken wherever the computer can connect to the internet.

Contact Center Management – If a business has a group of associates who handle incoming calls, this can be considered a contact center.  Calls can come into a ring group or be set up in a queue.  Many Hosted VoIP providers have a web interface, like the one described above, that can view calls in queue and which agents or associates are on the phone or away from the queue.  Supervisors can drop available associates into a queue to pick up a call at the click of a mouse.  They can listen in on calls and provide “whisper” advice to the associate or click on a chat session on the interface to provide such advice or encouragement.  Non-queue or ring group associates can transfer  call into the groups with a mouse click.

These are only a couple of examples of how the technology has evolved for the betterment of business.  Traditional phone systems, outside of very expensive ones, do not even come close to matching this technology.  Most exciting is that this technology is affordable and available to businesses of all sizes.

Early adopters to Hosted VoIP should review their current state of programming and refresh their approach.  Are they aware that the feature set of their Hosted VoIP service has continued to evolve? Are there ways to take advantage of the new capabilities of Hosted VoIP to improve the current communication flow?  These businesses should think through their current call flows and communication tools and work with their provider on creating improvements.

There are also businesses still out there that have hung onto their old technology, as it has been working fine.  However, competitors in their field who have adopted Hosted VoIP are gaining an advantage, both financially and through customer satisfaction improvements.  Chances are high that the old technology is showing its age, evidenced by the inability to expand, difficulty in securing replacement parts or phones, and difficulty in adapting to new goals and requirements.  These businesses should contact a provider of Hosted VoIP phone service willing to consult with them on the specific benefits that can be delivered to their 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 Trends in Business, Business VoIP

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

Tear Down Walls with Business VoIP

Posted by Mark Greim on Jan 30, 2017 10:30:00 AM

Leave the talk around building walls to the American political scene.  As a business owner, your business will benefit by figuratively tearing down walls and removing barriers to communication with the help of a Hosted VoIP phone service.  With Hosted VoIP, the walls of your business become translucent, as your phone system is no longer confined to your physical location.  Additionally, as the world becomes more and more "always-on" in terms of communication, your business can adjust communication practices to meet the evolving demands of your customers.

Hosted VoIP:  A Be Anywhere Phone System

By its very nature, Hosted VoIP delivers a single phone system to wherever your business is conducted.  Because the system is cloud-based, the business deploys physical or soft phones where it best meets the internal communication needs and the demands of their customers.  Making all of the phones work together as one system and implementing a call flow is a function of programming and does not require physical phone systems where you deploy resources.  This opens the door for extreme flexibility and creativity and will give your business an edge over the competition.  Examples of ways businesses have torn down the walls and deployed Hosted VoIP are listed below:

  • Expanding the Business Presence Beyond a Primary Location - As a business grows, pressure on square footage can become acute. Instead of adding resources to a tight environment or going through the expense of moving a business, a business owner can look at alternatives to placement of employees.  Locations can be added where resources are plentiful or economical or in areas where business volume dictates.  Virtual employees can also be deployed where it makes sense for the business, allowing for expansion without taking on the cost of new locations.  A Business VoIP phone service can tie all of these employees together on the same cloud-based system, facilitating efficient internal communication while external callers are served as if everyone was under the same roof.
  • All Locations Work as One - There are certainly direct economic advantages of all business locations being on the same phone system. Through Hosted VoIP, phone bills are typically lower as there are economies of scale built into most pricing practices of the hosted VoIP providers.  Indirectly, the business can benefit through the programming of the service to best meet the needs of the business and demands of the customers.  You can centralize main line calls, where all locations incoming calls are directed to a central group of people.  Calls can be directed to where the customer is best served.  You can decentralize functions as well.  For example, a customer service group can be made up of several employees located in several different locations.  Businesses can right size their functions based upon call requirements, not the number of physical locations.
  • Inclusion of the Mobile Work Force - Many businesses have employees spend a lot of time in the field, whether it be sales personnel, site managers, or service technicians. Most utilize the personal or business cell phones to conduct their business.  Thanks to soft phone applications, these employees can receive and make calls on their business number or extension and not have to give out the cell phone number.  When they make calls, they are delivering the caller ID of the business, not the cell phone.  Voicemail messages are crafted for their business, and not a personal cell phone.  This can be advantageous to the business in many ways.  Calls can be transferred to the employee without needing to think about whether they are in the office or on their cell phone by transferring to the extension.  External callers don't have try to reach this person via a cell phone, they just call the business or the direct dial of the contact.

Meeting the Customer Demands

Remove Walls to Communication with Business VoIP.jpgWith the flexible deployment options described above, call flows and communication practices can be revamped to meet the growing demands of an always-on customer base.  Calls can be answered all of the time, regardless of where the resources are deployed.  Auto attendants can route callers by need to the appropriate group of employees, again with no requirement of location.  Direct dial numbers can be judiciously utilized for customers who need direct contacts.  After hours on-call personnel can be equipped with soft phones.  Calls can be programmed to deliver to the entire group, but the only ones that will ring are to those designated to turn them on for the period.  No complicated programming or a physical requirement to be in the office is necessary.

These are just a few examples.  Every business is different and the caller demands can vary widely.  However, the flexibility offered by a Hosted VoIP service provides the business with the opportunity to be creative.  Let your imagine fly and think of ways your business can communicate better with your customers and prospects and set your business apart from your competition!


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 phone service, Phone Service for Multiple Locations, virtual workforce, Business VoIP

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