So here is a little-known and rather embarrassing fact about our industry that nobody wants to tell you: The computer repair and IT consulting industry is not regulated.
Yes, I know, it’s shocking. Unlike many other regulated professional service industries, anybody can claim they are an “IT expert.” Automotive repair shops, electricians, plumbers, lawyers, realtors, dentists, doctors, accountants, etc. are all heavily regulated to protect their customers from receiving substandard work or getting ripped off. Unfortunately, this reality does not apply to the computer industry which means that our industry is still highly unregulated without enough laws in place to properly protect the customer.
This is why we take the time to educate all prospective VoIP and IT clients on what’s available and what their options are, even when we don’t offer some of those options ourselves. These 7 questions are designed to help arm you with all the information you will need to identify unqualified VoIP technicians and sales consultants so you can keep your investment safe.
Want a better understanding of what VoIP is first? Read this post first, Why Your Business Needs VoIP- 4 Reasons.
7 Questions to Ask a VoIP Salesperson That Will Save You Thousands of Dollars:
1) Is my current network fine for VoIP or do I have to make any changes?
If your VoIP provider explains that you won’t be required to make any changes without first doing a thorough evaluation of your network and understanding your business goals, sprint in the opposite direction. There are two different types of networks, one’s set-up and configured correctly, and ones slapped together. Without having your network evaluated it is almost impossible to know whether the system they are suggesting will work correctly and you could end up wasting your money. Furthermore, if the provider does not take the time to evaluate your network and suggests the wrong configuration, the voice traffic may end up competing with your PCs, laptops and other devices for bandwidth. This is a huge red flag and almost always equals problems with sound quality.
Expert Tip: When looking for a VoIP Provider, ensure that you choose a company that also installs and supports computer networks. This is very important because your VoIP system will run on your computer networks and if it is not setup correctly you will suffer from poor sound quality, slower internet speeds, and dropout problems. Without a comprehensive understanding of how to properly assess your business’s firewall, routers, network traffic, Internet connection speeds and a host of other considerations, it is almost impossible to get your phone system to operate ‘as advertised’. While people who only install phone systems will tell you they are qualified to set up your system, they are not usually network technicians.
2) Will VoIP cost me more than what I am currently paying?
If the salesperson tells you VoIP can only save you money, then he or she is only worried about making a sale and doesn’t care whether it is the correct solution for your business. The truth is, often VoIP saves you hundreds of dollars but sometimes it will cost you the same as your traditional phone system and sometimes it’s an absolute rip-off. It all depends on your business environment and your technology goals. If you get a great price on a VoIP system, but it doesn’t have all the features you really want or need, it may end up costing you way more in the long run.
3) What was your uptime last year?
What is Uptime?
Uptime is the VoIP system’s ability to make and receive calls to the correct destination or specified failover destination. While VoIP runs over the Internet, power outages, natural disasters, and other factors can often result in system downtime (system inoperability). For example, typically, 99.999% uptime is equivalent to 5.26 minutes of unscheduled downtime per year. If an individual office happens to be down due to an Internet outage or power failure, for example, your failover destination to your mobile phone or voicemail will still function. This type of downtime is not generally factored into an uptime promise as these factors are outside of your VoIP providers control. If the use of failover destinations due to local faults are a frequent occurrence despite your provider’s claim of 99.999% uptime, this can call into question the quality of the hardware or installation work that has been provided.
4) If my phone is unreachable for whatever reason, what happens to the call?
Should your internet go down or your desk phone be having problems your VoIP phone system should automatically jump in and ensure clients and prospects can still reach you and your team. A business-class VoIP system can do this by auto-forwarding calls to your mobile phone or laptop( see What is A Softphone– for more on this), redirecting it to another working phone in the office or a myriad of other options depending on your business needs.
5) How long is the contract for my phone service and who is the contract with?
The world of VoIP has many different solutions and configurations so it is important that you understand what your contract commitments are and who those contract commitments are with. In a VoIP contract, it’s entirely possible that you could have a contract with more than one provider and each could have different terms. Make sure you know exactly what you are getting yourself into and with who.
6)What happens if I cancel it early?
Be careful of providers that want to tie you into a long commitment. Some solutions require 3-5 year commitments and at the rate, technology is changing and improving, you want to be flexible so that you can switch services when a better/cheaper/faster solution presents itself.
7) Will our phone features be the same when we move to VoIP?
Never make this assumption! Sometimes even basic features such as call forwarding might not be included in your new system. You would be surprised to learn how many VoIP systems fail to have the most basic features included. To avoid any ‘surprises’ and disappointment we recommend insisting on seeing a hands-on demonstration to prove the features and functionality you want will be present.