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.
National 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.
What 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.