пятница, 15 января 2010 г.

How to Pick the Right Hosted VoIP Provider

The VoIP industry is continuing to make strides forward, especially in the form of hosted VoIP technology. The technology is being further refined every day, and this is really getting people excited.

With a barrage of fly-by-night VoIP service providers popping up daily, business owners are having an increasingly difficult time sifting through the mess to find a legit service. With this in mind, I’ve decided to create a quick and easy checklist so when it comes time for you to choose the right hosted VoIP provider you know what to look for.

1. Make Sure Voice Quality, Is “Business Voice Quality.”

Many companies out there, ourselves included, have put serious time and money into developing and refining call-handling architecture in-house to cut out jitter, echoes, and the other disruptions. Today, a hosted VoIP provider can easily deliver the same type of call quality as a premise based system or the public telephone network. Before committing to a hosted service, make sure you confirm that the call quality is up to your standard. The best ways to do this are to take a test call using their service or to ask a current customer about their experience with the product.

2. Double Check the Feature Offering

One of hosted VoIP’s big draws is the range of features offered. Here are some features that should come standard with your system:

  • 3-Way Calling
  • Call Transfer
  • Hold Music
  • Do Not Disturb
  • Speed Dial
  • Speakerphone
  • Off-Hook Call Placement
  • Call Mute
  • Distinctive Rings

3. What Additional Perks are Offered By the Service?

Many hosted VoIP services have additional perks. These usually come in the form of added features and services, which, depending on the service, can come at no extra cost to you. Here are some perks to keep an eye out for.

  • Unified Voice & Fax Messaging: Wouldn’t it be nice if you had a single phone number for both voice and fax. How about if you could send all voicemails and fax messages as email attachments to the addresses of your choice and access everything through email or an online control panel? There are services out there that provide these unified communications capabilities at no extra charge.
  • Outlook Integration: Make sure your hosted VoIP service integrates with Outlook. This will save you time and you’ll love the easy to use click to dial feature.
  • Recorded Calls: Can your hosted service record some or all of the calls you receive? With this feature you can cut down on taking notes, improve quality control, and review disputes..
  • Advanced ACD & Call Queue: Advanced automatic call distribution allows you to choose how your calls are forwarded, including round-robin, simultaneous, least-time, and skills-based distributions, while advanced call queue lets you better control calls during peak hours. Some services offer these capabilities, allowing you to better manage call volume and get calls in the appropriate peoples’ hands.
  • Internet Control Panel: Hosted VoIP phone service runs over the internet, so why wouldn’t you have the benefit of an Internet control panel to manage things like call routing features, voice and fax messages, call reports, account information, and more. Make sure your hosted provider gives you this level of access, you and your employees will enjoy being able to easily manage voicemail and change personal settings online.
  • Visual Call Reports: These reports allow you to clearly see everything taking place on your business phone system at anytime. With this feature you’ll be able to generate, filter, and export detailed call reports online with easy-to-read spreadsheets and graphs. You’ll also be able to view a display of which employees are logged into their phones and be able to listen in on live calls. A select group of providers offer these features, make sure it’s part of your service.
  • Voicemail Transcription: This technology is coming onto the scene fast! Imagine being able to convert your voicemail messages to text and deliver them to your email or mobile phone. This is a great feature, but not every provider offers it, make sure to ask!

4. Is the Service Compatible with the Right Phone?

There are a variety of phones that work with hosted VoIP service, some are obviously better than others. We’ve always found Polycom to be a top notch VoIP phone. Make sure that the phone you want to use works with the service you are interested in purchasing.

5. How is their Customer Service?

When you’re using a hosted provider customer service is key. Remember, you’re not going to have someone onsite to help you troubleshoot issues, so you’re going to want to have access to a qualified representative over the phone. Make sure your hosted VoIP provider prides themselves on customer service, because if something does go wrong, you want to make sure there is someone available to get you back on track.

6. Finally, How Much Does it Cost?

You can’t shop a hosted VoIP provider on just price alone, the saying that, “you get what you pay for” definitely applies here. At the same time, you need something that fits within your budget. Make sure you pick a product that is not too cheap, and at the same time does not seem overly expensive after you have evaluated the complete product offering. The good news is that you will undoubtedly be saving money once you switch to VoIP. Remember, a professional phone system tells customers they are dealing with a professional business. You’re going to want a hosted VoIP service that makes your company shine. When picking a hosted provider, make sure the provider fits your company.

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