Hosted VoIP Solutions: 3 Tips when Shopping for Providers

hosted_voip_solutionsI recently attended a client meeting where I found myself having a familiar conversation. The prospective client is already using a hosted VoIP network (although “struggling with” may be a better description). So far, he’s had disappointing experiences with not one, but two separate providers, and unfortunately his complaints are pretty common:

• The phone and data service quality are poor.
• The support people he’s been dealing with to resolve his issues? They’re even worse.

Ouch. He told me he still likes the concept of a hosted VoIP solution, but he feels the promise he was sold on (better technology and cost savings) has not been delivered.

This is a good segue into how we, at Barry, do hosted VoIP solutions differently. Rather than have the conversation in your office, after your initial vendors crash and burn, maybe the following advice can save you some time.

Because hey, it’s easy to make claims like “feature-rich” or “all-inclusive.” But how often do you see providers getting deeper on these points—spelling out what their sales bullets really amount to? If you’re curious about the substantive factors that distinguish Provider A from Provider B, here are some key points to keep in mind:

1. When it comes to hosted VoIP and UC technology, the “how” is as important as the “what.”

Today’s unified communication systems can do things your predecessors probably never imagined. Phone-based coaching tools, conditional call forwarding, find me/follow me mobile reach, personal auto attendants, the ability to upload your own preferred hold music… (That last one’s huge. Just ask Twitter.)

Hosted_Voip_Solutions

Meanwhile, business VoIP offerings are difficult to compare. It’s easy to get caught up in the features of different products/services—especially when sales and marketing teams do such a good job blurring real distinctions.

Just don’t lose sight of how all these features will come together for you. Ease of use—both for your end users and your administrators—should always come first. As ShoreTel partners, we’re fully onboard with the tagline “Brilliantly Simple.” We believe communications technology should give you the power to conduct business across continents, time zones, and devices—with tools that are always reliable and comfortable. In fact, a big part of our job is staying current on available and coming innovations, so we can recommend optimal equipment/configurations for your business needs.

2. The new normal in customer service should make you uncomfortable.

Across the board, customer service has become mechanical—completely removed from personal, direct relationships. Instead of reaching someone who recognizes your voice and understands your problem, you reach an operator who asks you to enter your account number and choose from a list of pre-programmed issues. From there, the aggravation continues…

This is particularly true among the larger, hosted VoIP solution providers, where support staff turnover is high and training is questionable. Most customers now accept poor service as the new normal. If you’re younger than me, you may not remember a time when standards were any different—when you could get a knowledgeable person on the phone without wasting half your day. (Sigh.)

But that’s not to say customer service is dead. As you shop for hosted VoIP providers, use Net Promoter Scores (NPS) to weed out the lowest performers in customer satisfaction. NPS is calculated by taking the percentage of customers who are “Promoters,” and then subtracting the percentage who are “Detractors.” Brands like Apple and Trader Joe’s routinely score in the 70’s. Telecommunications companies, as a whole, score in the single digits.

We’re different—dramatically different, if you consider our NPS (somewhere between 95 and 100 at last check). In striving to be the best VoIP provider, we focus on earning the trust, respect, and loyalty of each customer. It’s how we do business. While we wish there were more industry metrics to prove our commitment in this area, the NPS distinction and our many VoIP customer testimonials are a good start.

3. Support isn’t just a courtesy issue; it’s a bottom-line factor.

When phone communication is central to your business (e.g. you maintain a call center, an order department, a help desk), you need a reliable phone system with a top-tier support company working behind the scenes. Some carrier/cloud organizations are promising the moon and the stars via “network-based” phone systems. The hidden cost? Your IT department will end up saddled with help requests, picking up slack for the provider—eating up resources and working hours in the process.

At Barry, we deliver unparalleled support from the very beginning: onsite meetings to review the implementation, onsite training, and ongoing service support with quick access to high-level technical resources. It’s part of our mission to be customer-centric, but it’s also how we ensure you achieve the full cost benefits of hosted VoIP solutions.

Want to see for yourself? Read how we combine advanced cloud-based technologies with old-fashioned service and delivery values. Browse our customer case studies.