What’s important in a business VoIP service? (win a free WiFi VoIP phone)

March 27, 2009 by Garrett Smith

Over the quarter I’ve met and chatted with a number of business VoIP providers.

The conversations have ranged in topics, but the one question that always comes up is, “What’s important to customers looking for a business VoIP service?”

To me it’s an intriguing question. For two reasons:

  1. No two service providers give the same answer. And often they’re not always sure themselves.
  2. There are quite possibly hundreds of answers. Answers that are always changing and often heavily debated.

Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s not like service providers and I are completely clueless about what customers want (and need).

It’s just that markets and customers are always changing and the collective readership here has far more insight into the expansive list of “important items” then a few dozen individuals.

So since it’s Friday, the sun’s out here in Buffalo, the weekend and the end of the quarter is upon us, I’d like to hear from all of you what YOU think today’s business customer is looking for in their VoIP service.

Oh and since it’s not snowing one commenter will be selected to receive a FREE QuickPhones QA-342 WiFi VoIP Phone.

Let’s hear it!


18 Comments

  • Marc Abrams

    From experience with many customers and quite a few phone system installs, I would say:

    1. ease of installation
    2. reliability
    3. customer service
    4. voice quality
    5. price

    marc.

  • Anis Dhakal

    The key factors are:
    Security, Cost, 911 calls location.

    Security: Since everything will be on the internet, business customers can’t compromise their critical data over the internet.

    Cost: If the business customer has existing PBX lines they can’t directly switch over to VoIP right away because of the cost. They might wait for few more years depending upon the business scalability.

    911 Calls: The customer should be able to call 911 regardless of their location. 911 operators should be able to locate 911 calls via VoIP.

  • From my experience, business customers are looking for the following.

    #1. Stability – It has to be as stable as there old analog services. The includes PRI’s which would be translated to SIP trunks. And the IP PBX which would translate to key systems.

    #2. Quality – When they pick that handset up, they want a clear dialtone. When talking they want clear conversations. Anything less in not acceptable. The quality of your phone call directly effects your customers opinion of the quality of your company. A choppy call does not convey professionalism.

    #3. Price – Now more then ever business’s are looking at way’s to save money. Telecommunications is a huge expense. Business want to be able to cut there bills in half. They want to have more phone features for less money.

    -TJ

  • QOS – Service – Price – Quality.. are all givens, and agreed very important.

    The transition aspect is the biggest deal IMHO – if I have 4 analog devices ie security, fire alarm, fax, some polling solution -> does the ITSP make the transition seamless and transparent? without changing the way I do business?

  • Mark Petersen

    Well there is 3 answers to this question:
    A. Features sales has made him think he needs
    1 Unified communication
    2 exotic, custom features
    B. thinks he believe is important
    1. Fast installation
    2. Low Price
    C. What he expect as default
    1. Stability (works better that the old system )
    2. Voice quality (sound better than the old system)
    3. Free 24/7 on-site support on everything
    4. No training needed (works just like the old system)

  • M

    1. Price: unfortunately this seem to be number 1 in this economy
    2. Reliability: How many pop’s? 24/7 Network Monitoring? SLA’s? Disaster plans?
    3. Security: I don’t want anyone listening in on my business calls, and I’m sure you don’t either
    4. Transparency: The transition form POTS to VoIP should be totally transparent to my customers and as transparent as possible to my non IT/pbx staff (number portability, call quality, etc.)

  • Alex

    Basics are assumed: Service – Price – Quality

    But one of the key features that made me go with our current provider (OnSIP) was their pricing model. They charge for usage, not by seat. This allowed us to roll out phones to everyone at our firm (about 50 seats) without worrying about if they would use $50 a month worth of calling. Something like this can be a huge differentiator in a crowded market.

  • nicklaz

    i believe that this really depends one the business. you can’t really lump all business or even all smb’s into one bucket.

    my company for example would not make the jump to voip for customer communications (we’ve already switched to voip for inter-office calls but that is a much easier step to take) unless the reliability/stability and voice quality was at least equal to pots lines. price would not play a huge role in our case assuming that there would be some savings to motivate one to switch.

    obviously, there will always be differing view points on this topic depending on the level that a particular business relies on their phones for communications as companies have a number of alternative communication tools at their disposal.

  • Rob

    Great topic Garrett.

    Beyond the standards (Price, Quality, Service, Ease of Use), here’s a few more business voip frequently requested characteristics:

    1. Open Standards Based: When people buy phones, network components, etc. they want to be sure they aren’t buying proprietary stuff that won’t work with other services should they make a change.

    2. No contracts: The ability to add/cancel/modify/upgrade/downgrade services at any time is critical. The internet is an on-demand world. Internet phone services are no different.

    3. Features that work: Lot’s of providers roll out features that frankly don’t work yet. Yuck!

    4. A company that is ONLY a business voip provider. Residential and business voip are two very different beasts.

    5. Stability: Is the company going to stick around or end up in the VoIP Provider Grave Yard? Check for a D&B profile, ask for references, etc.

  • For me it’s simple…

    1. Reliability
    2. Quality
    3. Price

    You need all three to be good– very good.

    Sometimes the customer may not know they need all three… until one of them is compromised. They may just initially look for price… and then realize you need quality and reliability.

  • Stephane

    I think it’s:

    0. SIP protocol
    1. Reliability
    2. Quality
    3. Price
    4. Great services
    5. Good Support
    6. No sting
    7. Easy installation
    8. Transparent changes

  • Matty

    I think most of all is ease of use, second to seamless integration … it may be cost effective to move to voip for some, but it can be intimidating to those who are not as tech savy … best regards -matty

  • Jack

    I’d definitely say that Reliability is #1, and voice quality is #2. But one thing that may be overlooked is a degree of familiarity, otherwise stated as “old habits die hard.” In other words, if there are two branch locations and for 30 years people at each branch have been used to dialing 8+extension number to reach the other branch, the new system had better be able to provide the same 8+ dialing that people have grown accustomed to. It’s also best if, when replacing an existing system, the current extension numbers can be preserved, at least initially.

    Too often it’s the human factor that’s overlooked – people are used to doing things a certain way, and change brings difficulty for many people.

    And the other thing that is so important – excellent customer service! When your phone system goes down, you don’t want to be talking to some outsourced worker that doesn’t give a fig and just wants to get you off the phone. You want someone who cares, and will work with you to to “whatever it takes” to get your service restored as quickly as possible!

  • Kerry

    First off a service must be reliable, that goes without saying. Some people put quality as a second item but it goes hand in hand with reliability. The service needs to work, and work properly.

    Second, a service must have good tech support. When something does go wrong you need someone on the phone NOW!!

    Third, their billing system must work properly. I had to cancel a service with a well known provider because they messed up the billing for 5 months straight.

  • Petros

    From the final customer/user perspective I’d say:

    1. price
    2. customer service
    3. comfort noise generation

  • Dave Fullerton

    Reliability – I want my VoIP service to work with the same or better reliability as my PSTN service. Outages and hiccups cost money in lost productivity or lost customers.

    Quality – My phone calls should be clear, without stutter or echo and consistently so. Granted some of this is dependent on the connection between me and my provider, but with the right conditions I should have perfect calls nearly all the time.

    Service/Support – If I need to add/change/remove DID’s or channels I want to be able to reach someone either by phone or email. If by email I expect a response usually within an hour or two, not necessarily that the changes are made that fast, but I want my request acknowledged within that time frame. I also don’t want to hear “I’m sorry we don’t support platform X” end of discussion. I want to hear “We don’t provide support for your platform but we can give you the all information necessary to set up the connection yourself on your side.” Billing issues shouldn’t take more than one billig cycle to correct. If I want bills messed up for months on end I can use AT&T.

    Pricing – Pricing should at least be competitive. I’m willing to pay for reliability and quality but only to a point. The ability to negotiate contracted rates would be a nice option as well.

    Payment – Now, I haven’t done much looking in this area, but it seems that most services are pre-pay and you must maintain an account balance. For some businesses this seems counter intuitive, the place I work for instance would have a hard time with this. We prefer to be billed and then issue payment. Also, many pre-pay setups require the use of a credit card, something a medium sized business may not like. Wire transfers or a service that allows wire transfers like PayPal would be helpful.

  • Business VoIP is useful if it:
    1. Works all the time.
    2. Delivers MOS 4.1 or better
    3. Provides correct CLID/CNAM to agree with company PR department rules.

    I’m willing to pay a little extra for a service that actually delivers QOS via whatever interface, and can back it up with an SLA with teeth (free service for a month if calls out of spec for x minutes).

    Cheers!

  • Victor Matson

    Drop dead easy with One Presence, many locations.

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