How to Evaluate VoIP Service Providers
How to Evaluate VoIP Service Providers
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service has a lot to offer for businesses of all sizes and industries. Knowing the right questions to ask these providers as you shop, though, can help you separate the less-than-ideal companies from the great companies. It can be challenging sometimes to know how to find the right organizations to help your business. That’s why you’ll need a careful plan that helps you evaluate service providers and choose the right one for you.
VoIP can be a powerful help in the growth and expansion of your business. Just taking that first step to find the right VoIP provider can help your business tremendously. To start evaluating, you’ll need a few basic questions and any of your own as well. Ranking your priorities can also help you find the best provider for your business while still getting the main features you actually need.
In this article, we’ll help you determine how you’ll evaluate VoIP service providers. We’ll also look at ways to find the features you want in your service plan and strategies that can guide you through the shopping and implementation process.
- General Features to Look for
- Specific Questions to Ask VoIP Providers
- Getting Started with a New Plan
- Other Ideas for Evaluating Plans
We’re trying to give you the tools and ideas you’ll need to evaluate VoIP providers as you shop for the right service for your organization. Learning all that you can about VoIP will likely give you a great deal of help in the process and enable you to discover more about VoIP plans that you didn’t know. Visiting our site, we have a wide range of articles that may be helpful to you throughout the process of finding the right plan and shopping around with different vendors. Feel free to use our website as a guide and a resource as needed.
1. General Features to Look for
With VoIP, there are certain features that can make your life easier if you have them. These features enable you to set up a business phone system or even a unified communications system for your business. As such, you may want to be on the lookout for them as you shop around and compare different options.
Here are a few great VoIP features:
- Auto Attendant: If you are looking for a customized greeting and menu for callers to choose from, this is called an auto attendant or interactive voice response (IVR) system. You can choose the questions and have a menu provide options such as different departments to call or different virtual extensions to dial. You could also set-up prerecorded messages with information about the company or other forms of assistance for callers.
- Voicemail Transcription: Get your voicemail messages transcribed and sent to your email or provided as a series of messages you have access to when you need them.
- Virtual Extensions: Get virtual extensions and have access to the phone lines you need for every member of your team and every department. Many plans allow unlimited extensions or have a specific number offered. If you have a lot of users, it may make sense to get a large number of these extensions.
- Other Forms of Communication: Many plans come with fax, SMS text messaging, and chat capabilities. You can use these forms of communication alongside your phone service to help you communicate externally with the public, but you can also obtain internal communications tools that can be enormously helpful.
- Software Integrations: You can access a wide variety of software integrations with your VoIP service, which can help you with productivity, analytics, customer relationship management (CRM), or something else. Even custom integrations are generally available for use.
2. Specific Questions to Ask VoIP Providers
Once you start identifying providers who might be right for your organization, it’s time to come up with questions to ask them. Check out these suggestions and see if any of these make sense for you:
- What is your contract like? How long is it?
- What level of support is offered for users? How about support for the system as a whole?
- Will you help with implementation?
- Do you have publicly-available statistics on your service?
- Will I have to pay for upgrades to my phone system, or are they included?
- Do you provide support for the phones and equipment, too?
- How much of your technology is your own and how much of it is licensed from third parties?
- Do you offer redundant service and equipment?
- Did you make your own softswitch?
- What is your network infrastructure like?
- How do you expect to respond if a natural or man-made disaster happens and causes some downtime?
Product and Service Development
- Do you consult with your current customers to help develop new features and functions? What does that process look like?
- How do you decide what your development priorities are?
- What new products are you planning for the upcoming year?
- How much effort do you devote to software development and engineering?
- What can you say about your company’s financials? Are you going to be around five years from now to continue providing phone service?
Of course, you may also have plenty of questions of your own. It’s important to write these down as you think of them and prepare for your upcoming conversations with vendors as you shop around for plans.
3. Getting Started with a New Plan
Regardless of whether you already use VoIP or not, you’ll need to think about equipment, contracts, and other considerations. You’ll look at your budget and make sure you can get the right features from your new VoIP plan. Before you sign on to a plan, cover all of your bases by asking the questions above and looking at what you will really need for your phone service.
To start, here’s what you’ll likely need:
- Phones: Softphones, headsets, handsets, or adapters allowing you to use non-VoIP phones
- Internet: You’ll need an Internet connection that’s high-speed and ready for VoIP
- Integrations: Depending on the software you want to use, you’ll need to arrange use of integrations with your system
- Computer/Networking: If you have multiple users and departments, your plan will likely be bigger than that of a small business and may involve networking equipment and computers. Even smaller businesses can use computers with their phone systems, of course, so if you plan to use computer equipment then you’ll be adding that to your list as well.
4. Other Ideas for Evaluating Plans
As you move forward towards a VoIP plan for your business, it makes sense to consider going deeper to find the right plan. You might want to consider:
- A soft migration, or trial run of a system alongside your original phone system. This allows you to see how the phone system performs without fully migrating your phones over just yet.
- A free trial. Some companies offer free trials for a short period of time, so you can see how their system works before signing a contract.
- Doing a demo of the VoIP plan that interests you may help you discover if you’re actually interested in moving forward or not.