The top 5 things to consider for businesses upgrading to a VoIP phone system
Learn the top 5 things to consider before upgrading to a VoIP phone system at your business.
When it comes to upgrading anything, everyone want to be an informed shopper. Whether you’re looking at the new iPhone or a new car, understanding the nitty gritty helps you make the right decision.
When it comes to VoIP phone systems at a business, the same concept applies. No one should blindly jump into any sort of commitment, and that goes double for your methods of communicating to your customers, vendors, and fellow employees.
When it comes to choosing to upgrade to a VoIP phone system at a business, there’s a lot to consider, but over the years we’ve generally found these to be the biggest five factors to consider when considering a VoIP phone system
1 - Are you currently in contract with your phone carrier provider?
When I say contract, I mean with your T1, fiber or analog phone line provider. If you have any contracts with an existing telecom company, say someone like Verizon perhaps, you need to double check your contract status before moving ahead. It can be an annoying road block preventing your business from finally replacing that aged and dated phone system with something better and less expensive.
Additionally, some organizations may be under some type of contract with a leasing company for their phone hardware.
Regardless, before you decide to upgrade to a VoIP phone system at your business, it’s crucial you look into your contract status, because this can help determine the amount of Early termination fees, or ETFs, on your phone lines or equipment. If it costs many thousands of dollars to get out of your contract, it might not be worth looking at a VoIP phone system at your business until you get closer to the end of your agreement (i.e. 6 months left).
Just so you know, most T1 agreements typically roll over, so if you haven’t contacted your T1 provider, chances are good you’re still in some sort of contract. And, these auto renewals usually range between 12 to 36 months, doesn't that stink!
Here’s a tip - the carrier that gives you the exact amount for your “early Termination Fee” must and should be able to provide a signed contract with the clause that clearly reads the contract language. If they can’t find a signed contract this is typically negotiable and puts you the client at an advantageous position.
2 - Who is the VoIP phone provider(s) you are evaluating?
I ask this because there are many options to choose from all across the country. Really, it boils down to either going with a national level provider, someone like RingCentral, Vonage, 8x8, Shoretel Sky or a local company, like Tele-Data Solutions among many others.
Naturally when people are looking for new information on a subject they turn towards the all mighty Google search. Well, if you Google "VoIP phone providers", you’ll be inundated with options and packages which are all packaged uniquely. Clients tell me the sheer volume of information available on-line may overwhelm or even confuse the buying process.
Having said that, here’s what we normally recommend to people.
First off, depending on your organization, we highly encourage you to shop local in addition to evaluating national providers. We recommend taking a meeting onsite at your business with a VoIP specialist in person so they can size up your needs and physically see your organization and how it operates. They’ll be able to ask specific business related questions that will help you zero in on the right type of VoIP phone system for your business and avoid you making assumptions in the buying process.
Also, we recommend customers to ask around. Either someone that’s referred to you, or someone you know that’s used the services already. We encourage this because if you make the wrong decision (and let’s face it, no one’s perfect), you’re stuck for awhile with your new VoIP phone system because it's VERY difficult to undo it, unless you're willing to open up your wallet and dig deep and battle. The reality is it’s hard to undo a bad choice with any phone system, including a VoIP phone system because your numbers will be with company.
3 - Anticipate what phone technology you’ll need and want 3-5 years down the road.
Think of your future business needs and what type of future staff you will hire (aka Millennials). Now I know that’s a lot to ask, but do some soul searching and think where you want, or expect, your business to be a few years down the line. Will it include remote workers, additional offices, etc. Small businesses are typically so busy with putting out fires today it's difficult to think long term. And we get that! But, I really encourage you to do some thinking.
We’ve seen clients ignore things like remote workers, desktop software, smartphone apps, and other mobility options because they don’t anticipate they’ll need it. In today’s fast paced world, business change quick. Chances are pretty good your business in 2 years won’t be the same business as it is today.
For example, ignoring future hires (millennials) and understanding how businesses can and are changing in the next few years is crucial. There’s a whole generation entering the workforce that wants flexibility and options, and you need to anticipate that because you’ll typically have a VoIP phone system and/or tech in place for 5 to 10 years. In other words, you’ll make a decision once, and keep it for a long time.
4 - What if you keep the status quo and don't make any change to your phone system?
So in the same sense of thinking ahead, this is more of thinking at the present. It’s very common for customers, due to how busy they are and current priorities, just to keep what they have. It’s the if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it mentality, and there’s nothing wrong with that except your current situation may be hurting you and you just don't know it.
You can either keep things at the status quo, or bring the future to the present.
For example, most customers don’t think of the worst-case scenario, but what if your existing system fails? Do you have a vendor that can fix it? Do you have manufacturer support for bigger issues? Do you have an existing phone system dealer you can depend on for reliable & speedy support?
Most importantly, are you dealing with tech issues that is impacting your client's ability to communicate with you? I can’t even guess how many companies we’ve helped that accepted the fact that their phone service or system was garbage, and their customers had a hard time getting in touch with them.
Here’s the big issue, if you’re existing system is hanging on by a thread and fails, you’ll pay out the nose. You’ll be forced to buy something quickly, without having the luxury of research, comparing options, or shopping around. If you buy something quickly with no strategic planning involved… no matter how you cut it, it’s a bad business move for you.
5 - Loop in your IT consultant or trusted technology consultant.
Scaled businesses with 20+ employees typically will not make a decision like this without the input of their outsourced IT vendor, or someone or some organization they trust related to their IT network.
It’s very common to bring in an IT consultant on a face to face or over the phone meeting with your potential VoIP phone provider to make sure everyone’s on the same page with technical design and the installation process. This is a best practices because it helps everyone avoid mistakes that will cost you time, money, and aggravation.
Not bringing in the IT vendor in the beginning may result in additional costs because it's common for the IP address to change, or the internet service to get updated, or wiring to be redesigned, new IT hardware may be needed to be purchased and installed, etc. As you can imagine, this can get more costly and annoying if it’s not considered up front.
BONUS! - Build yourself a cost comparison.
Here’s an extra on the house.
It’s very easy to understand the hard dollars you are currently spending. You can look at your current T1 phone bill, your Verizon analog line invoice internet statement, and maintenance for your phone system, and tally up what you are spending today.
But, we really encourage you to think about the soft dollars. For example, is your old technology holding you back? Are you missing client calls in any way on incoming call during or after hours? Can you manage your busy hours through real time calling metrics? How much time is wasted dealing with support issues? The amount of time, money, and energy wasted on a current system might be harder to identify, but these dollars are making a difference in your business.
And, remember, when it comes to researching a new phone system, your time counts there as well. We recommend anyone, whether they're considering a traditional phone system, or new VoIP phone technology at their business, have an expert come out and help you figure out what would work best for you.
To learn more about VoIP phone systems and if they're right for your business, you can click here to contact us online, give me a shout directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or touch base with me at 908-378-1218.
By Vincent Finaldi
Vice-President, Tele-Data Solutions
E-mail: email@example.com | Direct Line: (908) 378-1218
What brings me satisfaction is meeting with New Jersey–based businesses and genuinely helping them solve communication and business problems. As someone who has lived in New Jersey my entire life, I love working and playing here. I live in Morristown with my wife, Lisa, and root for the New York Giants.