Choosing the right provider of hosted voice services is a lengthy process. There are literally hundreds of VoIP providers in the UK, and more to consider if your business has sites in other countries. There are providers that send out one or two phones for self-install and others that provide complex hybrid-network deployments in the hundreds of thousands.
A flick through key industry websites gives you a sense of what you are working with. However, when you've been appointed to find hosted voice services, there's still some work to do.
There are technology consultancies that specialise in VoIP, but come at a cost. You could utilise an IT partner for their expert opinion or you could go it alone. There’s a lot out there. When it comes to selecting the right provider of hosted voice services, there are some key matters to address.
It’s imperative that you check out the support offering when vetting a hosted voice provider. Here are a few items to add to your checklist when it comes to getting the right vendor to support your business.
To drive first rate support, process is key. Check out if your vendor adheres to industry recognised practices such as ITIL and COBIT. If not, you’re well within your right to question what process they do adhere to.
It’s not too much to ask a vendor for recent incident management logs. A hosted voice provider should have these to hand and have no reason to withhold them from a prospective customer. The aim here isn’t to uncover the incidents that have occurred, but to discover how well they are remedied.
For planned work, it’s important to understand how projects are planned. Materials should exist for historical migrations or implementations. Whether the company operates using Agile frameworks or PRINCE2 methodologies isn’t too much of a concern when it comes to hosted voice. As long as there is a proven project management structure, you can be comfortable that the provider can deliver service for you.
If your business operates 24/7, you need to know how supported you will be. Some vendors only operate 9-5. This makes logging a ticket or scheduling out of hours work difficult.
Matching the NOC (Network Operations Centre) availability to your hours is important for continual service and support.
It’s also relevant to check out the NOC if the opportunity arises. Monitoring platforms and analytics are crucial to ensuring availability and quality of service.
Image: SAS Global Communications NOC
Great support teams are run by great people. Find out whether your support package includes self-service, online help and access to skilled support professionals.
When you need to talk to support, it’s often urgent. Quiz your provider on typical hold times and ask for statistics to back that up. Knowing how many customers a provider has, in proportion to the number of support staff is important. How many support agents will be available to answer the phone at any one time? A reasonable ratio will ensure consistent support.
It is important the provider you choose has experience in your sector. Whilst not every provider’s model, and not always intentionally, most providers specialise in one or two select industries. We’ve included some examples below that transfer across multiple disciplines.
For some sectors, the knowledge of specific verticals is transferable. Take retail as an example. The focus on retail is customer experience and managing a defensible brand. Where this has been such a decisive factor in the retail industry continuing to operate in such a digital-first world, lessons and knowledge can be leveraged in all customer serving businesses.
Heavy Duty Environments
More bespoke providers specialise in environments such as warehouses or factories. This example is perfect for manufacturing or logistics firms who have different requirements and different customers to retail and customer service companies. Retail is all about digitisation and increasing the spend in a customer basket. A warehouse operating fork lifts, ladders and heavy machinery will first and foremost need to make sure their specialist handsets can survive in the given workplace.
Media business is all about design. Design requires input from lots of stakeholders. When selecting a hosted voice provider, you need to ensure your provider has experience of providing collaborative solutions across multiple sites. Investing in a new voice service should reduce the burden on other silos in your business. Media specialists should be talking about virtual meetings, content sharing and collaboration spaces.
You know the provider in question is a provider of hosted voice services. But, hosted voice means different things to different vendors. Every provider has their strengths and weakness. Typically, these are split into the following categories. These each come with things to look out for when choosing a provider.
The SME space is full of specialist VoIP providers that help small businesses transition from analogue and ISDN to VoIP. You do need to be mindful that just because their case studies reference clients similar to your business, it doesn’t mean they are the perfect fit for you.
If you have seen a client in the same industry as you that’s consuming voice services from one vendor, you have to query whether you want to mirror their setup or push yourselves to better them.
It’s easy to imagine that the enterprise is utilising bleeding edge technology. Certainly, some are. However, with security and compliance regulations, adoption of new technologies is restricted. As businesses grow beyond a certain size, teams exist to govern and safeguard the business. Enterprises need to be risk averse. Huge businesses have lots at stake. Be it people’s jobs, high value contracts or simply company reputation, failure to catch any risks could have repercussions. Providers specialising in enterprise need to have security at the top of their agenda.
More and more providers – both SMB and enterprise level - have to include some kind of collaboration service in their portfolio. If your business relies on lots of messaging, team work or meetings, you’ll need to consider more than just a core voice solution.
From simple services such as instant messaging to persistent chat rooms, it’s important to take stock of what is available in the provider’s portfolio. You must also consider where your business is going to be in years to come, with voice services enabling so much more than just telephony services.
There’s a lot to take when searching for a new hosted voice provider. Basing your search around these three key themes of messaging, verticals and specialisms should lead you to a select few that are a good fit for your business.
To find out what is included with our hosted telephony package, check out the next post in this blog series.
If you would like to find out more, then you may like to read one of our other blogs or downloads, or request a conversation with one of our consultants. We are always happy to discuss, without obligation.