3 ways to get the most from VoIP 2.0

VoIP_2.0_David_ScultWhen I joined Fonality, we had to convince people cloud VoIP was a viable option for their business phone system. Dial tone and cost savings were all many of them required to become converts once that was out of the way. A lot has changed in three years.

Today, more than 30 percent of businesses have tried a hosted VoIP solution. Enter the era of what I call VoIP 2.0. Many are already been sold on VoIP’s quality and cost savings. You want more, you need more and you deserve it.

"Bundling unified communications as part of a business phone solution should be table stakes."

Bundling unified communications as part of a business phone solution should be table stakes. Thanks to companies like Fonality, business owners and IT professionals can expect their VoIP desk phone to be part of an ecosystem that also includes a soft phone and mobile app. The value you get should also include employee presence, chat, call queues, and audio conferencing – as well as options like voicemail transcription, high‑definition video collaboration, and more. All this would have cost hundreds of dollars per user per month not long ago. Now, you can expect to pay just $30-$50 per user per month.

As VoIP 2.0 gains momentum, there’s a lot to consider when evaluating business phone solution providers. Here are three things I recommend when it’s time to upgrade your business communications:

1. Customer service-centricity

There was a time when some providers focused just on closing new customers. But in a subscription business, contract or not, customers get to vote every month. In this software-as-a-service (SaaS) world, some churn is inevitable. New customer acquisition is expensive. So leading providers understand the need to delight customers.

This starts with 24/7 customer service, of course. But it also includes things like a consolidated bill. It sounds simple, but it is a pain point for almost any traditional software provider to introduce a robust subscription service. Yet adding users to a monthly subscription and getting that one bill right is essential to high customer sat! Look for providers who invest in their back office for changes, adds, and deletes.

Also look beyond the basics. At Fonality, we’ve started using analytics to predict potential customer issues. So rather than waiting until someone screams, we’re developing predictive models based on support ticket trends and getting proactive with what I call health checks. We want to be able to predict when a customer is going to have an issue and head it off. Once a customer has reached their boiling point, it’s usually too late.

2. An obsession with solutions

When you hear “solutions,” you might think about features that address known needs. But what about the ones you might not even know about?

Take line porting. Unfortunately, it’s fairly archaic and labor‑intensive by nature. The FCC has not applied standards to porting business phone numbers the way they have with cellphones. So while it sounds strange, it’s a leading cause of customer dissatisfaction for the telecommunications industry.

Why? A businesses phone number is the lifeblood of almost any business, and you need it to move with your service. If a provider can't seamlessly port a line in a reasonable time period (and forward your numbers in the interim), things really start off on the wrong foot – and for good reason. Asking about the line porting process is a great way to get a sense for how solution-oriented your potential vendor may be.  This may sound crazy,, but the last time I checked, you COULD not port an existing phone number to Skype!

3. Flexible offerings

As Millennials increasingly influence the workforce, consumer tech trends are going to keep moving into the workforce faster than ever. BYOD and gamification are just two examples.

In our industry, we see some movement away from desk phones – or at least from desk phones only. Work is now wherever your computer or smart phone is. Your hosted VoIP provider should be all over this trend, extending your system your computer desktops, smart phones and tablets. If fact, you shouldn’t even be required to connect or use a traditional desk phone unless that’s what employees want.

It’s fascinating to see how these cultural shifts impact how business gets done. Consider our customer with a 250-person call center. Not a single call center agent is in an office. They work from home using a soft phone on their personal – not company-issued – computer. Serving such a distributed workforce requires a flexibility and diverse product portfolio no one could have imagined when Fonality started ten years ago.

The key is to team up with someone who can help you meet today’s challenges and become the business you are going to be tomorrow. Look for things like flexible deployment options (Public Cloud, Private Cloud or Hybrid-Hosted®), multiple calling options (desk phone, softphone, mobile app), the ability to easily scale as you add users or locations, and no long-term contracts.

Bottom line: expect more from your business phone provider

VoIP 2.0 is about more than dial tone. It’s about better productivity and functionality in a world that demands both. My advice is to look for the differentiators that ensure your long-term customer satisfaction.

"My advice is to look for the differentiators that ensure your long-term customer satisfaction."

I’d also suggest looking for a provider who listens. At Fonality, we hear from customers about new capabilities they want or how they’re using our call reporting to optimize incentive plans and to better train staff with best practices and benchmarking. And we’ve listened, because our customers are the real drivers behind VoIP 2.0. I can’t wait to hear what you tell us next.

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