The phone system can be one of the most significant expenses for a business, and one that you don’t want to have to deal with switching if the service isn’t up to par. Fortunately now, VoIP phone systems are much easier to deploy than traditional landline and on-premise systems, because there’s no hardware and configuration can all be done remotely. Even office phones can be preconfigured for individual users at different locations and arrive ready for calling once they’re plugged in.
Still, before you sign on with any phone system provider, it’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into and how to get out of it, if it comes down to that. Moving to a new service provider can still result in switching costs given the due diligence time, and even more so if termination fees are involved.
As part of your due diligence, here are 7 questions you should ask before committing to a new phone system, so you can avoid hidden fees, lack of customer support, and difficulty managing your services, among other potential issues.
1. Where can I see your system status log?
A system status log monitors how a platform has been running. It shows you any incidents of downtime, what areas were affected by the downtime, and how long it took for them to recover.
What matters is how frequently they have outages, and how quickly they are able to repair it. A system status log should be easily accessible before signing up, and tells the true story of the system’s reliability.
2. What level of customer support is included?
Some providers limit the amount of customer support you get if you’re not spending over a certain dollar amount. This can be a huge problem if the service has interruptions, or if the interface is not easy to use. Fixing a problem can be as simple as updating a setting on your phone, but if you can’t get the support you need, these problems can cause hours of downtime and losses.
As a small business you may be outsourcing your IT, or may not qualify for full support from some providers. Thus, if your phone system doesn’t come with a user friendly interface that you yourself can manage, your hands are going to be tied every time you need to manage your services.
3. Who are your competitors?
You’ve likely spent a good amount of time researching the different VoIP services available to your business. There are a handful of providers that dominate the ad space, and also lesser known options that could be viable options. Finding these alternatives can help you make a more informed decision that’s not influenced by sponsored posts, and help you compare products side by side.
What’s important is understanding where your pain points are, and how the different models offered by various VoIP providers affect those areas. Whether it boils down to features, the interface, or simply cost, one provider can paint a very different picture than another. It’s up to you to decipher what works best for your situation now and for the future.
For example, if your business has 100 employees, and only 10 of whom are frequently on the phone, you won’t need a plan with “unlimited” minutes for every user. If so, you’re likely to be overpaying for usage you don’t need. On the other hand, a pooled-plan where all your users share minutes, and it doesn’t matter how many users you have, might make more sense. Telzio is the only VoIP provider that offers cost flexibility in this regard.
Perhaps it’s unlimited Call Recording that you need. Does the provider support unlimited recordings or are there additional fees?
Part of the due diligence is to really understand what’s included in the plans and what you’re actually going to be paying for.
4. Is there a fee to port my number away?
Some providers charge a monthly “portability fee” to keep your numbers portable. Number portability determines whether the number can be transferred out to another provider. A portability fee could be reason enough not to choose a certain provider, based on principle alone.
5. How long is the free trial?
More importantly than asking how long the trial is, is to ask when you need to cancel by before you get automatically renewed. Some providers have automatic renewals that kick in just 2 weeks into a 30 day trial, so this is a date to look out for.
6. How do I cancel my service?
Some providers unfortunately make it unnecessarily difficult to cancel your service. Some might require account owners to call in to request cancellation, or worse require a physical letter to be mailed. Unfortunately these tactics are notorious with some large service providers. Customer reviews can reveal how a provider handles account cancellations. Just try searching “how do I cancel my _______ account” and insert the name of the provider in the blank.
7. Can I use my existing IP phones?
If you already purchased IP phones to use with your current VoIP service, you certainly don’t want to have to replace all of them when switching to a new provider. Ask if the IP phones you currently have are compatible.
If you don’t have IP phones yet, ask if you can buy them separately or if you have to purchase them through the provider. This is important because if they do require you to purchase the phones directly from them, you should ask follow up questions like – are you leasing the phones or are they yours to keep if you leave? And do they lock the phones? Some providers will lock the software on the phones, which makes it difficult, though not entirely impossible, to configure them with a new provider.
If you are able to shop around yourself for IP phones, find out what IP phones the VoIP provider recommends and has experience with, to make sure you’ll have the support you need.
If the provider offers reasonably priced phones that can be preconfigured, it’s always the recommended option, simply because they will be able to provide you with better support on the phones they’ve provided, versus phones that have been used or supplied by a different vendor.
VoIP providers are not all created equally. Sometimes you’re forced to dig into the fine print to find real answers, but if you know what to look for you can find what you need faster.
Some other questions you might want to ask:
- Do I need any other service to use your system? (i.e. internet, a landline, SIP trunk)
- What’s your fair usage policy? (for unlimited plans – this could be vague or a specific number of minutes per month)
- How do you store my personal data? (i.e. credit card and billing information)
- Do you keep my call records stored even after I close my account?
Jennifer is part of the content marketing team at Telzio, providing insight and tips on how Telzio can be used to optimize business communications and customer service.