VoIP and UC offer tremendous advantages for business communications. The shift from the traditional phone network, or PTSN, has been so widespread that major phone carriers and even the FCC have forecast the death of the PSTN. But the road to change isn’t always easy.
Here are some VoIP pitfalls to watch out for as you guide your business into the new paradigm.
1) VoIP Pitfalls – Wrong Expectations
Buyer beware. This is true of any product, but with something as powerful as business communications the old adage becomes more vital. A good sales rep from a VoIP/UC provider will not only educate you on the technology, but also understand your business operations and show you specifically how the technology can enable you to grow. Ideally, that rep will also have the courage to explain the limitations of the system so there are no surprises after implementation.
CURE – 1) Find a provider with a sales representative or a consultant you trust and consider to be an extension of your team. 2) Do your research while shopping and understand that there are major differences between VoIP platforms.
2) VoIP Pitfalls – Rocky Implementation + Bad Support
Your VoIP provider might have a great product and a slick sales presentation, but if they are swamped and understaffed on implementations, it will be a painful experience for you and your employees. And the problems only START there – once trouble is up on your workers’ and customers’ radars, every little nuance with your communications becomes the carrier’s (and the decision maker’s) fault.
CURE – Look up your prospective provider’s Net Promoter Score (NPS), find out about their customer churn, find out how many implementations they have in queue, and GIVE THE IMPLEMENTATION PROPER TIME TO INSTALL. I can’t stress this last point enough – do your research now before you are forced by circumstances to make a hasty decision.
Net Promoter Score explained
3) VoIP Pitfalls – Poor Sound Quality
Maybe your tolerance for poor audio is high – if so, here’s an inexpensive solution for you. If your tolerance for poor audio is moderate to low (like most businesses that are used to the consistent quality and reliability of PSTN calls), here are some attributes to consider that will ensure high quality on your VoIP calls:
A) Quality of Service (QOS) on your Local Area Network – this means that network activities of employees such as downloading movies or sending large files will be de-prioritized and won’t affect voice quality. This is achieved through an intelligent voice appliance that your provider installs and manages on your network.
B) QOS on your Wide Area Network (WAN) – this means that no data traffic that is sent from outsiders will affect your voice quality. This is actually a rare characteristic of most providers unless they provide you a private circuit back to them.
C) Mean Opinion Scores (MOS) – this is a compilation of more than a dozen attributes like jitter and latency that measure each handset’s voice quality in realtime. If a handset’s MOS falls below a certain value, carriers can be alerted proactively to correct the problem.
D) Using a good CODEC – G711 and G722 provide high quality and high definition voice, respectively. A provider that defaults to or only provides G729 should be viewed with suspicion, if you value voice quality.
CURE – Understand that all of these features are available from reasonably priced providers. Ask your potential voice partner if they are able to provide these services before you sign.
Don’t let billing or operational issues give you headaches
4) VoIP Pitfall – Gotchas
Here are a few sly tricks that I’ve seen in the industry over the years, and if you don’t ask, your sales rep is unlikely to bring these up before you sign:
A) Charging for local INBOUND minutes (in addition to outbound),
B) “Unlimited” plans that only offer a fixed amount of minutes, after which you’re charge an exorbitant amount
C) Unreadable bills that don’t allow you to assign costs to different locations or departments, or understand how you might be able to reduce your costs with your carrier by changing your usage habits
D) Limited training that leaves you unable to use your newfound features, like owning a hovercraft but only being able to park it in the garage and not drive it on the streets.
CURE – Ask for references, understand your needs and make sure they’ll be addressed, be blunt with your sales rep and ask for the “gotchas,” or use a consultant that’s been down this road before and who will be able to guide you around these pitfalls.
5) Poor Carrier Planning = VoIP Pitfall
Poor planning could happen a number of ways. It could arise from a geographically non-diverse infrastructure during an emergency, or an operations department that isn’t ready/willing/able to scale with a product as sensitive and complex as VoIP is. It could also occur from a platform that cannot grow and evolve (no HD Voice, UC component, 3rd party integrations, or new features) or a merger.
CURE – Talk to higher level engineers and product developers and have them differentiate their offerings. Find out the provider’s 5-year plan and understand what happens in a merger.
Take your time and do your research, or partner with the right consultant. You’ll successfully navigate the VoIP Pitfalls that might trip up your competitors, and grow your business faster than they can.