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Customer Service and Hosted Business VoIP Providers

Posted by Mark Greim on Feb 14, 2012 3:09:00 PM

Telecom competition is as hot as it ever has been with the entry of many Hosted VoIP providers.  The major players still dominate market share, but a significant slice of the market is shared by alternative providers.  With nearly an oligopolistic hold on the marketplace by the major telecommunication providers, one is left to ask: “why have alternative business voice providers been able to take meaningful share from the big guys?”

Certainly, there are many possible and legitimate reasons, but I’ll cite a few.  First, technology advancements have allowed for this to be possible in the first place.  Businesses can jettison their old, antiquated phone systems and, for a relatively inexpensive investment, receive a feature-rich system that works over the internet.  VoIP providers needed to deliver great features and reliability before the market would significantly expand.  Clearly, those hurdles are now past and the marketplace has accepted this technology.

Second, most of the major telecom providers have turned their focus toward wireless offerings.  Sprint spun off its local phone service division when it merged with Nextel.  ATT and Verizon did spend millions on new technology for their local units, but they do seem to be consumer focused and not business focused.  It may not be totally fair to say that these companies have taken their eyes off the local business offerings, but they are certainly measured on The Street for their wireless subscriber metrics.

However, what we hear most about why companies are even exploring leaving theirCustomer Service in Telecom incumbent carrier relates to customer service.  Personally, I worked for one of the big guys for many years.  Celebrating being number one in customer service was tempered, as the entire category wasn’t delivering phenomenal customer service scores.  Businesses are now gravitating toward companies who, along with reliability and features, deliver a better customer service experience.   There are some VoIP providers who, due to their growing size, need to be wary of the lessons in this market space as told by current market leaders or they will also fall victim to this driver.

Listening to our customers has told us many things about the customer service expectations for this space.  We will continue to strive to meet and exceed expectations, but here is a good list of evaluation points for your current or future provider:

  • Do you know your account rep, with a direct dial and email address?
  • When calling for service, do you speak with the same people you have dealt with in the past? 
  • How well do the account and service teams get to know you and how your business operates?
  • Does your provider customize their offering to meet your business needs, or did you have to "fit" how they do it?
  • Are there multiple avenues for you to get into the service queue?  (web, phone, email)
  • Even if the provider is located in another state, do you feel like they are servicing you as if they were a business in your neighborhood? 
  • Do you feel like service is being provided by a contracted vendor, either domestic or international?

These are just a few questions to ponder relative to the customer service you are receiving.  If you feel you deserve better, try going with an alternative provider!

 

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: Changing Phone Service Providers

Considering Business VoIP? Here’s Your Checklist!

Posted by Mark Greim on Aug 29, 2011 10:05:00 AM

There are many things to consider when moving your phone service to a hosted VoIP system.  The right VoIP service provider will answer “yes” to all of these!VoIP Provider Checklist

  1. Does the provider custom provision the phones and call flow to match your business requirements?  If they drop ship and expect you to program your set up via a web interface, you may miss the mark on what a VoIP platform can do for you.
  2. Does the hosted platform reside in a secure data facility with redundant servers, internet connections, and telephone network connections?
  3. Are the phones provided from top end manufacturers of VoIP phones and are they delivered in an “unlocked” manner?  This provides you with flexibility if the provider does not meet your needs.
  4. Does the provider offer a no-contract policy?  Good providers believe in their service and do not coerce you into signing term contracts.
  5. Are you able to port your existing local numbers to all of your locations and potential locations?  And, make sure they can deliver e911 service locally.
  6. Are the features offered robust and comprehensive?  The phones themselves deliver many standard features, such as call forwarding, transferring, and three way conferencing.  But, does the provider offer ring groups and queues, custom auto attendants with time of day routing, remote forwarding, meet-me conferencing, voicemail to email, fax to email, simultaneous ring to cell phone and other more robust features?  They should!
  7. Do they provide a network device at your location to manage call quality?  Some providers only suggest you add more bandwidth to remove data/voice contention.  Good providers deliver packet prioritization devices to ensure your voice quality is optimal and your use of bandwidth is efficient.

Moving to a hosted VoIP phone service will enhance your business in many ways.  Choosing the right provider will ensure you get the most from your system and improve your communication flow.

Tags: Changing Phone Service Providers

Tips When Changing Phone Service Providers for your Business

Posted by Mark Greim on Jul 14, 2010 9:44:00 AM

Making changes for your business can be filled with anxiety, and changing phone service providers is no exception.  There are several items to consider and plan for that should ensure a smooth and seamless transition.

Porting Numbers – The good news is that regulations allow you to keep your existing phone numbers when you change phone service providers.  The challenge is that this process is a potential minefield of challenges.   Your new provider can guide you through this process, but you need to provide key pieces of accurate information to ensure a smooth transition.Tips for Changing Phone Providers

  1. Letter of Authorization – You will be asked to sign a letter of authorization to allow your new phone service provider to assume responsibility for your phone numbers.  The name of the business needs to match the name that appears on your bill with your current provider.  The individual signing the letter of authorization needs to be the authorized representative on record with your current phone company.  If you are not aware of who is the authorized representative, contact your current phone company and ask who the authorized contact that appears on your customer service record (CSR).
  2. Time Frame – If you are with a major carrier today, ten business days is typically enough time to allow for the porting process to take place.  Some other providers can take up to thirty days, again depending upon who you choose as your new provider.  If you have a move, contract expiration, or other key milestone events that you are timing with this change, make sure you provide enough lead time for this process to take place.
  3. DSL Number – If you are going with a Voice over IP (VoIP) provider and you are going to utilize your existing DSL service to carry your new voice traffic, knowing which of your numbers includes your DSL line is critical.  You should not port the phone number associated with your DSL line, or you will not have DSL when the transition takes place.  The other option is to provision a new, separate DSL with no voice service attached (a “dry loop”).  This is the best solution for this situation.
  4. Forwarding Numbers – As a precaution against potential delays or issues in the porting process, ensure that you have the capability to forward your existing numbers to temporary numbers that can be provisioned by your new carrier.  Make sure you have forwarding enabled with your existing carrier and your new provider can accommodate this potential solution.
  5. Cancelling Service – Your porting of numbers to a new phone service provider typically stops the billing cycle and ends your service with your current carrier.  However, after the port, it is a good practice to contact your previous carrier and cancel the account.

 

If you are moving your service to a VoIP service provider, ensure that they can provide numbers local to your business.  They should also be able to configure their equipment and service to how your business operates.  There are numerous advantages to switching to a digital solution, so check out our previous blog on tips for choosing a VoIP service provider..

About the author:  Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVinea 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: Changing Phone Service Providers

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