In today’s hugely competitive telecoms world, choosing a provider is far from easy. You might think that selection is all about price, but this is no longer the case. VoIP telecoms is a commoditised market, with wholesale providers especially able to offer very competitive rates.
Selecting a provider is about more than comparing the services they offer. It involves looking into their SLAs for call quality and support, considering their reputation in the business, their longevity and the value they can add to your business in the short, medium and long term. Here we will look at two of the key value-adds, footprint and features. We will begin by comparing carrier types.
Carriers fall into one of three types:
Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (CLEC)
These carriers normally manage their own facilities and are licensed for specific states. They are linked directly into the Number Portability Administration Centre (NPAC). This allows them to offer highly competitive rates in those states, but you will require additional carriers for other areas.
Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier (ILEC)
These are national carriers, such as AT&T, supporting a larger footprint than CLECs. They typically offer very competitive rates but have a high minimum commitment per month. Wholesale DID origination provider – a provider such as IDT Express will partner with CLECs, ILECs and other wholesale providers to offer a huge virtual footprint at very competitive rates. Owing to their high call volumes, they typically require lower monthly commitments. The combination of multiple carriers and providers means that they have to rely on professional staff to manage business relationships and support the additional infrastructure.
The requirements for footprint will be driven by the location of your customers:
If your customers are predominantly local, or within your region, begin by considering a CLEC. If your customers are national, start by considering an ILEC. In either case, but especially if you have international customers (or suppliers), consider a wholesale provider. Think about which countries you need to support, including target markets, and look for a provider with good coverage there
Weigh up the features provided by each provider and whether they will add business value. Some features may add value to your customer and partner relationships, such as caller ID, video conferencing and SMS.
Other features may give flexibility for busy teams, remote working and on-the-move connectivity, such as:
- Calling multiple phones
- Automated call routing
- Voice to email transcription
- Unified communication – using VoIP on mobile phones
- Connecting customer call recordings with the CRM system
Finally, consider features that provide management with a clear view of costs and an opportunity to improve business efficiency:
- Using call information analytics
- Customised billing and online account management
Having selected the most appropriate carrier type and weighed up the features which will add value to your business, you can now begin to look into particular providers and what they offer; not only features but call quality, support, reputation and longevity.