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7 Tips To Help You Navigate 500+ Hosted Phone Providers

March 22, 2017
CTG has been in the voice and data technology business for 18 years. We’ve deployed hundreds of hosted phone service installations through countless technology providers.  We’d like to share some wisdom we’ve gained from this so you can learn from our experience. At Corporate Technologies Group, Inc. we know what problems can be solved by what phone companies and technology when it comes to Hosted Phone Services.

There are 500+ hosted phone solutions and 200 things to consider when buying a Hosted Phone Service. But, I am going to provide you with the key areas to look at when investing in cloud phone technology.  Here are 7 key features to consider and why they’re important:

1. Agility

Businesses need the ability to react quickly in today’s competitive climate. When looking at Hosted Phone Services, understand what the provider’s customer portal allows.  You are buying the service because of the flexibility. A big part of that is what you can do on your own without an outside resource. You lose money and potentially create bad customer experiences when calls are missed. Agility helps you avoid those situations as well as enhancing productivity. Ask the provider for a demo of the customer service portal to get a view on how your needs can be addressed.
Other things to consider:
  • What tools do you have at your fingertips to make changes?
  • Typical MAC-D (move, add, change, and disconnect) should be at your disposal through the portal
  • How user-friendly is the interface?
  • What level of internal technology expertise will you need to make changes?
  • How is call routing integrated? Does it include office, call center and call flow? Can calls be routed from other locations if needed (i.e. if someone needs to work from home?)

2. Scalability

Scalability is one of the greatest benefits of a cloud solution, as far as I’m concerned. Every business has fluctuations, some are seasonal, some are tied to market trends, but we all have them. Having the ability to expand and contract your resources, like call centers, on an as needed basis within the course of single day is incredibly valuable. You can virtually eliminate the threat of downtime during a peak time, keeping your customers happy.  Being able to scale up or down will provide you with a cost savings that matches your business with your cost.
Hosted Phone Services are not a fixed investment like premise-based phones.  You need to understand what you are contracting for – does the hosted phone company you are looking to work with have a seat commitment that limits your flexibility?

3. Bandwidth = Call Quality

It might go without saying but, Hosted Phone Service is run over data packets (private networks such as MPLS or Internet Access).  Often, what was once its own separate network for voice traffic is now converged with the client’s data network. Therefore, traffic management is vital. Bandwidth analysis is often the least considered component of a hosted phone solution because the provider isn’t providing that bandwidth (BYOB – bring your own bandwidth). When choosing a vendor, understand how much bandwidth each call will take and how the provider will manage the data to ensure a quality phone call.

When evaluating bandwidth, consider who is managing the traffic on the network.  Do not rely on the hosted provider’s bandwidth assumptions. You need to manage traffic today (prior to installation) and tomorrow (after installation), as your network will continue to evolve. It is important to understand how the provider evaluates bandwidth at your location.  How do they understand the quality of your wide area network as well as quality and stability of your connection?  Not all networks are automatically ready for cloud technology.

Many Hosted Phone Services are bundling SD-WAN with their hosted phone solution. This approach helps the client mitigate their needs for a private connection, as well as eliminate the exposure for bandwidth issues that cause voice performance problems.

4. Installation, Implementation, and Training

A telephone is a productivity tool and hosted phones offer a lot of capabilities that will enable your staff to be more productive. A big part of the decision to purchase Hosted Phone Services is gaining the extra productivity offerings at a good price point.  If you fail to get the proper training on the front end, then a large benefit of the purchase is lost.
Cloud services bring quicker rollout and evolution than premise-based services do. With Hosted Phone Services, make sure that ongoing training and feature adoptions are in place as a service commitment from the vendor.  These features can help enhance how your company reorganizes your work processes.
Because CTG has 100+ cloud providers in our portfolio of service providers, we have seen it all. Some providers take a DIY approach – they ship the phones and you install them. Some providers feel that “project management” is getting the phones delivered and providing off-site management. And then there are others that will truly provide full tech installation. All come at a different price point. Therefor it is important that you evaluate what you can handle. If this is for a local installation or cross country deployment, you will need technical assistance somewhere along the line.
In addition, evaluate what the onboarding or training of the system looks like, as that varies greatly from YouTube videos to webinars to on-site training. You need to consider your staffs’ need to adapt to the new technology and be able to take advantage of the many features.

5. Resiliency

Resiliency is how fast you can recover. The very notion of downtime is becoming unacceptable to many clients. If you are an e-commerce business, the second your “store front” goes down, you start losing customers that you may never get back. Downtime costs are staggering. What does an hour of phone service downtime cost?  What can be done to eliminate downtime?  How does your hosted phone provider develop your business continuity plan? How easy is it to recover in a down situation?  In 2015, the Ponemon Institute suggested that the cost of downtime per minute was $5600. That is a bill that adds up quickly.

It is important that you evaluate what a hosted phone company’s disaster recovery options are as well.  Some have as many as six different options of where calls can be redirected in case of a disaster, others have one option, and others will actually sit down with you and formulate the plan.

6. Mobility

If you’re hoping to attract new talent to your organization, offering flexible work schedules can be very persuasive. Science has supported that flexibility in the workplace can boost productivity, increase job satisfaction, and increase staff retention. Hosted phone allows your team to have the same access as they would in the office, but from anywhere.  You need to understand what the hosted provider’s offerings are in and out of the workplace, what is possible, and what is needed for your respective situation.

7. Hosted Phone and CRM Software Integration

With the integration of hosted phones and cloud-based CRM, organizations can gather all information for both internal and external employees.  This data helps keep the activities within the organization noted within the CRM, so you can know all “Touch Points” on a given account. Software solutions such as Skype for Business, SalesForce, MS Dynamics, Clio, NetSuite, Bullhorn, Act, Sugar, and many others can also be integrated with hosted phone solutions.

Other CRM Integration benefits:
  • Gives the ability to the inside support team to identify callers automatically and look for any open cases on an account.  This integration has allowed clients to save up to 60 seconds per call in identifying callers and identifying the respected case.
  • Reporting with Hosted Phone Systems and CRM allows an easy way to obtain important data which can be massaged or sorted, allowing management to better understand client data, company needs, as well as provide better input for training to CSRs.
  • Reporting on internal and external staff members can be identified, which makes staff / client touch points much more effective.
If any of these features make sense with your business objectives, perhaps you need to consider a hosted phone system. Contact the Hosted VoIP experts at Corporate Technologies Group today. Read our Hosted Phone Readiness Checklist for more information.
VoIP Readiness Checklist
If you want to learn more, visit our blog on hosted phone service at CTG Hosted Phone Blog.