Questions to Ask Potential VoIP Service Providers

A mobile phone juxtaposed with an network cable implies VoIP service connectivity.

Making the transition to VoIP technology is not nearly as daunting a prospect as it used to be because it’s a much more mature technology now. The glitches of the past have long since been ironed out. So, when you’re considering the issue of whether or not to switch to VoIP service, technical difficulties are not an issue that you need to worry over. However, there are still some things you want to be aware of, just as you would with any change to your business. Anything that could conceivably impact your customer relations and the conduct of business itself could conceivably have an impact on the smooth operations you’ve come to enjoy. Probably one of the most significant considerations with switching over is making sure that you select the best option among existing VoIP service providers. Finding the right provider is vital, insomuch that you must be sure their services fit your needs, and that you won’t get charged an exorbitant amount of money for services.

So right off the bat, you should check with any potential VoIP service provider about their fees, their provisions for security, and their record for reliability. While these constitute your ground-floor questions to a service provider, they shouldn’t be the only questions you ask. Here are a few other big points to ascertain from any potential VoIP service provider.

What Kind of Service Level Agreement do They Offer?

When you contract with any VoIP service provider, one of the components of that contract will be a service level agreement (SLA). The SLA stipulates the level of service you may expect from a hosted cloud service, which can be very important in the conduct of your business. The SLA component should spell out for you what will happen if some outage in service develops, and you are left without phone service for an extended period. You’ll also have detailed for you what kind of remediation would be available to you in that event.

One thing to be aware of in the area of service level is the precise method of calculation used by potential VoIP service providers. For instance, some providers do not include scheduled maintenance in their downtime calculations, which of course could have an impact on the percentage of uptime and downtime. You should also make a point of determining whether downtime refers to all of your phones being out of service, or just a certain percentage of them. Lastly, make sure to find out what kind of compensation is available to you in the event of any downtime.

The networking equipment used by VoIP service providers receives routine maintenance.

When discussing network specifications with a new VoIP service provider, it is important to determine the amount of scalability provided by their hardware.

What Level of Flexibility is Available?

While VoIP service is by its nature flexible, that is not to say that potential VoIP service providers will be able to accommodate business changes you might encounter in the future. This could be a simple matter of business growth and scalability, or it could involve brand-new products or services that your company offers, which would need to be supported by your phone system.

The thing to look for in this area is the nature of plans offered by your potential VoIP service provider. Are there pre-set plans that cannot be swapped, or is there more of an à la carte arrangement, where you can include services or easily drop them? When considering the flexibility issue, you should try to envision where your company is headed over the next five to 10 years, and gauge whether or not your VoIP service provider will be able to support that.

How Would Potential VoIP Service Providers Handle Technical Issues?

When things are running smoothly, and without any issues, probably almost any VoIP service provider will do just fine. But what happens when there are problems – how does your VoIP service provider react to those problems, so that the impact to your business is minimal? As an example, you might encounter issues with their equipment, with the software involved, or with the service itself. When you need customer support or technical support to resolve these issues, how available will they be, and what level of support can you expect?

When your business has an emergency, you’re going to want immediate resolution, or something very close to it. Will your potential VoIP service providers be up to providing that level of support, when you most need it?

The three main areas that most companies require substantial support from are in the areas of training and help for company employees, billing and service questions, and with any technical troubleshooting which might become necessary. You would be well advised to delve deeply into these issues and have a good understanding of how any VoIP service providers intend to handle support requests, as well as the availability of their customer service team on a regular basis.

Along these same lines, you should make a point of determining what kinds of assistance they offer to new users, possibly in the way of online training manuals or regular webinars which explain services and features clearly.

If you can get satisfactory answers to all these questions, and you feel confident that potential VoIP service providers can effectively support your transition to the new technology, then you will probably have found a suitable provider to partner with. But until you are satisfied that your new host is fully capable of providing the kind of service and support your company needs, you should keep looking, and not settle for a company which merely offers great-sounding promises.

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