Top 10 Questions to ask your phone vendor

top10questionstoaskyourphonevendorAre you considering making a change to your communications infrastructure? With the rise in popularity of The Cloud, people are flocking to it by the dozen. While there are numerous benefits to embracing The Cloud, with new technology comes new concerns. Here are my top 10 questions I recommend people ask their phone vendors before pulling the plug on their old clunker PBX.

1. How will this solution scale with my business? Many companies are cash strapped these days. Budgets are small, yet needs are plentiful. Your vendor has just proposed a solution that meets your needs today. The question is, how will this solution scale when your needs change? Suppose in 6 months from now you hire 5 more people. Will this solution enable you to accommodate that growth? What if, in a year from now, you opened a new office in another city? Will this solution enable you to seamlessly transfer calls between cities just as you once transferred calls between departments?

2. What happens in the event of a disaster? Many of us in New York remember Superstorm Sandy. The subways were flooded, and power was out in many parts of the city. Suppose your company was affected by the storm and your office was without power for a week? What would your callers experience if they were to call your office during a similar power outage? An acceptable answer would be that your phone lines still continue to function, despite your office being without power. Callers will hear your automated attendant greeting, and transfer to people’s voicemail boxes. Messages will then get distributed via email. An even better answer would be, besides everything that was just mentioned, callers will be transferred to people’s mobile phones. You never miss a call, even during a natural disaster! Let’s take this one step further. What were to happen if your cloud provider was the one that was affected by the storm, yet your company was in a different region, unaffected by the disaster? Suppose their data center got completely flooded and was destroyed! What happens to your phone service? Do your phones continue to function? The answer you want to hear is that they have multiple geographically redundant data centers. Your business should never be affected by a disaster at a data center.

3. What happens during an outage? Sometimes your service provider may have an outage. We hope it never happens. It usually doesn’t. However, you’re still concerned about how you will be affected in case there is, God forbid, a service outage. The answer I’d want to hear is that they’re setup to automatically route inbound calls to your mobile phone, so that you never miss an important call. Of course, you can always opt to send your calls to an answering service, like doctors use. However, the point is, there should always be a provision for an outage.

4. What happens when my Internet goes down? I hear this one all the time. “My cable Internet is down.” The point of failure when it comes to The Cloud is your Internet connection. There is no way around it, you need the Internet to access The Cloud. Depending on your uptime requirements, your phone vendor may suggest getting redundant Internet connections from two different providers, or even having a 4G LTE Cellular Data backup so that your phones can still continue to function, despite an Internet outage. Due to financial considerations, having a redundant Internet connection may be out of reach for some small businesses. A good Cloud provider can still continue to process calls even if the Internet goes down at your location. Acceptable options are as follows:

a. Inbound calls continue to route to the main company greeting. Upon attempting to transfer to an extension, the call will immediately route to voicemail. The voicemail will then be emailed to the called party, who can then call back via his or her cellular phone.

b. Inbound calls will be programmed to route to a designated cellular phone or 3rd party answering service.

5. Who do I call for support, and what are the hours? This is extremely important. First of all, you want a phone number where you can reach a live person. When you’re having a service affecting issue, you don’t want to send an email, nor do you want to leave a message for a callback. You need to have access to someone who can help immediately! You phone is the lifeblood of your business, and any phone vendor who is honored with your business, needs to respect that fact. While it’s OK to have 8×5 M-F support hours for non-service affecting issues, the only acceptable answer to this question is 24x7x365. I have a customer who had a service affecting issue on New Year’s Day. He texted me about his problem, and I, his phone vendor, jumped on it immediately. Realizing that this issue is beyond my capability to address, I escalated it to the Cloud Provider. Being the top notch company that they are, within minutes I received a text message from their VP of Operations that the matter is being looked into immediately. I then received a call back from their Technical Support manager, who called me from his house during a New Year’s Day party! This is the kind of dedication you want from your phone vendor.

6. What is the turnaround time for support? Just to be clear, there is a difference between reaching a live person, and having the right person address the problem. Many times, when you call into a support organization, you’re speaking to someone who creates a trouble ticket. This ticket then gets passed on to the appropriate level support person. The turnaround time between opening a ticket and working with an engineer should be pretty short, depending on the severity of the problem.

7. What is supported? This one is a no-brainer. Everything should be supported. However, be careful. Sometimes your router or firewall may not be supported by your new Cloud Provider. Sometimes, your data network is not up to speed. Have your phone vendor articulate what components of your network infrastructure is supported and what is not.

8. What is your warranty policy? The answer you want to hear is that everything you purchase is under warranty for the duration of your service agreement. If you purchase brand new phones and signed up for a 5 year agreement, then your phones should be covered for 5 years. If a phone stops working, it should be replaced at no cost to you.
9. What is my eligibility when new features are rolled out? One of the advantages of The Cloud is that new features are made available to you immediately. Most of the time, it’s at no extra cost. You don’t have to go through expensive upgrades as you do with an on premises PBX. Find out upfront what’s eligible and what’s not.

10. What are my self-service options? While it’s really nice to have your Cloud Provider service your phone system, sometimes it’s a lot quicker doing certain things yourself. For example, if people move around frequently at your company, it’s much more efficient for you to be able to log onto a portal and make those changes yourself, than to call your provider every time a change is needed. This is especially true with larger organizations. Find out what options are available, and if it serves the needs of your business.
My question for you is, what questions are you asking your phone vendor to ensure that you get the best value for your business?

A little bit about SimiPlex. Your phone is an integral part of your company. For some of us, it’s the lifeblood of our business. This is why we, at SimiPlex Technologies, consider ourselves to be much more than a phone vendor. We become your trusted advisor, a role that we take very seriously.
We do this by focusing on much more than just the phones. We help you solve business problems in your business. For example, a hair salon owner who is looking for help on whether or not to hire a full time receptionist. Or a real estate broker who is concerned about preserving his brand identity when opening a new office. Or a doctor who is looking for help to keep his waiting room calm.
What we offer is the latest in technology, state of the art Cloud Based phones, where we save you time and money by not having to wait for a telephone company technician to arrive when something breaks. The reason being, there is nothing to break! You no longer need to purchase expensive equipment that breaks down or gets outdated. All you need are your state of the art phones, plug them into a high speed Internet connection, and they just work! With regards to your high speed Internet connection, we offer that too as well as the cabling that brings it all together.
As Steve Jobs once said, “Be a yardstick of quality. Some people just aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.”
We, at SimiPlex Technologies, are the yardstick of quality.
To learn more about how we can help you with your communications needs, visit our website at http://www.simiplex.com, or call us at (212) 372-9847.

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