Telephony may well be the most important service to any business. What would happen to your business if the telephone system stopped working? This makes selecting a reliable telephony service provider one of the most important decisions.
As with any Infrastructure purchase, it is important to wade through the marketing information and dig down to the get the answer to questions that matter. It truly does pay to do your homework! By asking the right questions up front, you can avoid signing with a risky provider — or one that doesn’t offer what you need.
The WhichVoIP.co.za Team rank features, calling plans and support, first over price as we believe that the difference of a few rand a month will not make you a more satisfied customer in the long run. If you don't get the features you want, or get the support that you may need then pricing becomes less relevant.
Voice over the Internet will drastically change the shape of our communication world.
Here are some useful questions to ask your VoIP provider
1) What are my initial upfront costs going to be?
Too many times people see one cost or price only to realize that there are other additional costs, equipment needed, airtime or setup charges that they are required to pay upfront. Some providers have a monthly charge based on a subscriber committing to a minimum amount of months, particularly if they supply you with free-no upfront cost for equipment.
Remember, there are costs involved in providing a service and many times a provider will not even break even until some amount of time passes. That being the case, get specifics about the cost of the equipment, the length of the contract and what is the early cancellation fee and policy. If they are not providing any equipment, but you are paying for it, ask if there are still cancellation penalties. Ask if you can you change your plan without having to start your contract period over.
Be truthful if you are using it for business purposes and expect to make your decision based on the business plan price. Some providers will look at minutes and also the relationship of incoming and outgoing traffic.
2) Will the service work with my equipment?
It's always a good idea to explain some things about your particular situation and the equipment that you use to a make sure that it will integrate with the VoIP service.
Does the service require any special equipment? This could include VoIP gateways, routers, and other equipment that you haven't even planned on needing. And what is the cost of that equipment? Find out if any special adapters are needed or if the ones that you already have will suffice. Most provider's VoIP devices (ATA) will accept normal phones, but make sure.
3) What features are included?
Certainly features may be the greatest reason one decides on VoIP, and if they’re not now they may be in the near future. VoIP can give a "big communications system" at a fraction of the cost. The initial interest may have been spurred by lower costs, but it's the features that will make the biggest difference for the betterment and ease of business and your communications. And these features will certainly save additional costs in the future, especially if they are included.
So, place features as a priority, especially if you are a small business. One feature that should be important is the automatic forwarding that can be set in the event of an Internet outage. "Having researched a few providers, it became obvious to me that features and service were going to be more important than a couple of rand a month one way or the other."
4) What features are available at additional cost?
You may need an extra virtual number, or the ability to do conferencing, so find out the monthly charges and any extra per minute charges for these services. Ask about any other additional charges that are not included with the overall monthly charge.
5) How is the quality of your service?
Quality may be one of the most difficult questions to answer because it's not easy to do a call sampling on different providers. But, asking the question is worthwhile. With any new technology there may be some issues and experiences that are just part of the growth pattern. This being said, some providers are going to offer a better sounding, and more stable network than others. In some cases, price may be indicative of this.
6) What kind of support can I expect?
If it's one item above all others that may be important after the initial decision of which provider you select, the support is it. Not only customer service, but help and assistance with technical issues.
Support can be critical when things aren't going well, so find out what the provider's hours of support are and where they are located. And it's not just the hours, but the attitude and capabilities of the support personal which can make a big difference with your overall satisfaction with the provider. No provider is perfect, and if they tell you they never have an outage or a network issue, then you should look for one that is going to be upfront with you.
7) Is the provider going to stay in business?
Every provider plans to grow and remain in business, but eventually some current providers are going to fail. Try to join one that you have confidence in will be there for the long haul.
By asking simple questions about how long they have been in business and then by doing a little research on both their website and Google, you may get some indications of their overall viability. In some cases, agents and resellers are actually reselling another larger VoIP provider's services and in these cases the strength of the provider may be better than realized. Many small providers have folded, as the inevitable business fall out cycle has occurred. Realise that low prices can make a provider have a harder time staying solvent.
Consider what is important for you and your organization
- Cancellation fees should be a flag, if a provider insists that you pay a cancellation fee upon leaving their service and they have not supplied equipment free upfront, be cautious.
- Customer service and technical support should be considerations that rank high in your personal criteria.
Many of these questions are answered in our VoIP Comparison Section, but should always be confirmed before choosing a provider.