Questions to ask to your VoIP Provider

Questions to ask to your VoIP Provider

The use of VoIP phone systems is increasingly common in both the smaller and larger businesses.  The advantages and benefits provided by VoIP phone systems over traditional POTS systems are undeniable.  The business owner needs to ensure that their VoIP service provider can provide a level of service that meets their business requirements.

The wide range of services, tariff plans, bundled deals and other incentives available from potential VoIP providers ensures that a deal can be made that meets the requirements of potential Business VoIP users.  However, the potential user needs to be careful as the proposed deals may not be all they seem to be.

On the assumption that the potential Business VoIP user is still at the evaluation stage, there are some basic questions that potential suppliers need to answer.

Most contract deals are like a restaurant menu.  Some are standard fixed-price contracts. Some are specific one-off deals.  These are usually set out as an array of different options from which you choose your requirements for features and support.  These will cover the basics of voice and data, and other added value addons like voice mail, number portability and BYOD support.  Unfortunately, suppliers of Business VoiP tend to compete on price as the main differentiator. This can tend to restrict choice and lead to lower service levels.   Just remember that “There’s no such thing as a free lunch”.

It is vital that you know and understand what you are getting and what you are paying for on a capital and a recurrent basis.   This must be set out in the agreement between you and your supplier, particularly if you are opting for a managed service.

If equipment is to be installed in your premises, the hardware and software for the VoIP Phone system needs to be set out in the contract, and supplied, installed and configured as part of the deal.

The contract must specify the options purchased and minimum service levels for each.  As an example, the maximum number of dropped calls in a set period.

Something else that is sometimes neglected is to set out the duties and responsibilities of each party to the contract, yours and theirs.  Some suppliers may try to slant the duties and responsibilities in your direction and assume that if it isn’t in the contract it’s your responsibility.

In short make a list of all the essential features, including support, that your Business VoiP system needs and ensure that the supplier and the VoIP Phone system itself can meet them.

  1. Ask for a sample contract so your legal eagles can have a look at it.

    Ask for a sample contract so your legal eagles can have a look at it

    The VOIP Phone System is the gateway to your business.  Lose it, and your existing and prospective customers won’t be able to contact you.  A blip in service can run from individual dropped calls to a complete system outage.   How the prospective supplier deals with the smallest to largest outages is critical to your business.  You need to be up and running again with the minimum delay.

  2. Ask to see their downtime procedures

    Ask to see their downtime procedures

    • Backup communication links in the event of the primary comms link being lost.
    • Data backup, retention/preservation and restoration
    • How they communicate with customers in the event of a loss of service
    • Malware prevention and detection procedures
    • Restarting the service

    They should be happy to share.  If not be suspicious.

  3. Ask for a list of their current customers and phone them.

    Ask for a list of their current customers and phone them

    If they can’t or won’t give you a full list be suspicious.  They may be a good reason why they don’t want you to speak to a particular customer.

    You should also check out their business reputation.   Use the Internet to see if anyone has been complaining about them or praising their services.   Company websites and brochures can be stuffed with testimonials from happy and smiling customers.  Social media will give a view much closer to reality.

    Check with primary suppliers with whom they claim to hold agencies that they do in fact have a business relationship with them.

    Early termination of a contract is a fact of life.  It can reflect a change in business need rather than any dissatisfaction with the supplier.  Make sure that any conditions for early termination are set out in the initial contract.  Ask what they are, and if not acceptable, change them. They are easier to negotiate at the start, rather than later.

  4. What are your normal early termination procedures, terms and conditions.

    What are your normal early termination procedures, terms and conditions

    Remember a VoIP Phone System is just a tool to help you to carry on your business more effectively and efficiently.  It is a background service.  You use it, just like the traditional system without conscious thought about how it works.   Making the best choice at the outset goes a long way to easing your mind.

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