Even after you have decided that a hosted phone solution is right for your business, cutting through the sales speak and selecting the right service provider can still be a huge challenge when a lot of the providers are saying similar things.
Here are five important things you should evaluate when comparing different providers, and notice that price is not one of them:
What is the service provider’s approach to customer service? There are some big differences out there. Some cloud phone providers deliver their solution 100% remotely via the phone, web demos, and emails with no salesperson, voice engineer or support technician ever setting foot on the customer site. These providers often rely exclusively on self-help videos or online quick reference guides, and to the extent there is any live human support it is strictly from offshore call centers. Other providers take a more hands-on approach, allocating more resources to in-person support from experienced people. So, be sure you know what you’re buying.
Ask your service provider what the underlying platform is for their hosted offering and make sure that it is enterprise-grade, scaling all the way from the small business to the large enterprise with rich functionality. Broadsoft, Cisco HCS and Genband are examples of robust platforms. Some cloud providers are simultaneously trying to compete in the software development business while at the same time trying to directly sell and support customers. It is hard to do multiple things well, and either capabilities or service levels invariably falter. Redundancy is also essential. Having the service hosted in multiple carrier hotels with seamless fail-over capability is something you should require.
Call flows within a business can often be complicated, with multiple auto- attendants, hunt groups and call trees frequently required within the same corporate environment, particularly as you move toward the enterprise. Make sure that your service provider has expertise in these areas and will provide you with the support you require. Some cloud providers have years of experience and will set all of these things up in person as part of a white-glove implementation. Other providers will ship you the phones and leave you to install them. Either approach can work, but again, make sure you know what you’re buying.
As call quality and bandwidth have greatly improved in recent years, more and more service providers are running their communications traffic over-the-top to meet their customers’ needs at the lowest price point possible. Customers save money by eliminating local and long distance charges and their legacy voice line. The impact of this is that monitoring the customers’ networks and verifying sufficient bandwidth exists for real-time communications has become an important part of the service provider’s offering. The best service providers perform network assessments on the front end, and then install a network monitoring tools to provide visibility for support on the back-end. Be wary of a hosted provider who will sell you a hosted system without addressing these points.
Again, there are potentially large differences in functionality and price across the various providers depending on what you want your communications system to do. Some service providers offer inexpensive Internet calling tethered to the lowest cost device possible (or no device at all) with minimum features. Others offer full-out unified communications with the latest devices, video calling, web collaboration and mobility clients. Understand the differences and select what works best for you.