Practical advice on how to select the right VoIP platform
Whether you like it or not, office landlines are a thing of past. Our private communication has almost completely gone digital and business communication follows. VoIP is getting more and more popular, not only in the shape of fun apps on fancy iPhones but also as a feature on your regular office phone.
Points to consider before the research
Most of these points are written for an end/business users. We added some extra tips for distributors were the VoIP platform is (or on its way to be) a critical element in their core business.
What are your (and your customer’s) business restraints?
- The platform itself
- What do you need to solve these restraints?
- Quality & Scalability
- Integration / vendor lock-in
- Can I build custom features and integrations with other systems (via an API)?
- Who will be providing your voice service?
- Additional systems: Are there out of the box billing and customer portals available?
- Is there affiliate functionality for your sales channels available?
- Business case
- Investments (implementing)
- Cost of operations (running)
- Revenues (what profits can I make from the service)
- Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
- Contract Terms & duration
- SLA / Support
- Time to market
- Additional switching costs
Tips on how to choose the platform
(1) Business restraints
Identify where you are experiencing challenges in the use of your current PBX? Is it the lack of flexibility? Do you experience high maintenance costs or do you see that other vendors simply have more elegant and easy to use platforms? Are you able to easily bill your invoices?
(2) The platform itself
If you are not quite familiar with VoIP features, investigate what each of the features means. Modern PBX platforms go well beyond plain voice. Think about: messaging, video conferencing, presence and collaboration, an all-in-one solution. Be aware: most platforms don’t tell you a lot about how their redundancy is designed. Do they use multi-tenant setups for example? Think about not only what you need today, but what you might need tomorrow.
(3) Integrations / vendor lock-in
If you really want to go beyond standard features, look for a platform that has the ability to program additional software on top of it with an API. In this way, you are able to make tailor-made applications. One of the most important questions to ask would be: How can I send out invoices and reward channel partners? The billing and customer portal play an essential role in it. The trunk provider determines your calling quality and calling rates.
(4) Business case
Some platforms require a lot of resources to implement. Therefore it can have an enormous impact on your organisation and the amount of money that’s needed. Ask for one fixed price to be sure investments are not exceeding your budget. When checking the running cost, carefully examine features that are included. Also, determine how much time it will take to manage and support the platform.
If the provider really believes in their own solution, there are no long-term contracts associated with it. This is really important because it could happen that in the end, the solution does not fit your needs and you could stay locked in the platform. It’s also good to know what your supplier is doing after you decided to use the platform. Are they offering any kind of SLA/Support? How long will it take before the system is up and running and are there any hidden costs (like training, or other systems that you need)?
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