Buyers Should Ask

Questions you should ask when buying services


There are different components of a telecom service you need include in your telecoms assessment. These include phone systems features such as the number of extensions you require, is audio/video conferencing, call recording or intelligent call monitoring required. What management of VoIP services is offered and is it as an on-premises
business managed systems or hosted phone systems? Is internet connectivity with
fiber or other types of Ethernet or wireless connectivity required?

Reliable service delivery: You must be confident that your service providers up time meets industry standards and has the support structures in place to ensure they are able to restore the service as fast as possible if it goes down to mitigate any business loss.

Network security: Due to increasing Cyber-attacks, the system you select must be able to withstand attacks from cybercriminals. It must fully conform to the latest standards in cybersecurity.

Flexibility: Telecom technology is ever-changing, and the service provider you choose needs to be flexible enough to provide timely upgrades and inform you about them as they become available.

Customisation: The service you choose should provide the ability to select only the services relevant to your business and perhaps offer customized inclusion.

Customer support: This is a very important aspect of your service and you must know how fast your service provider responds to your need and how they are able to understand your changing requirements and provide clear reporting when required.

Best value for money: In business, a higher price doesn’t always imply the best service and you therefore need to find the telecom service provider who offers you the best value for money for your specific circumstances.

Things you need to take into consideration when selecting the right VoIP and Internet Services are:

  • What phone, Internet or VoIP service are you currently using?
  • Do you have 4G redundancy for your internet connection?
  • What are the features needed in your VoIP and Internet services?
  • Are there features, and security levels required for these services in your company depending on the job function or position?
  • Type of phone service needed whether standard phone, Soft-Phone and/or IP phone with routing capabilities?
  • The budget that is available for the service?

A managed VoIP system is more expensive initially as the entire set up will be installed in your premises, you will need to provide a secure and airconditioned environment, need to protect your equipment, be prepared to troubleshoot issues that need immediate attention and be effectively responsible for the management and maintenance of your VoIP setup. Whereas with a hosted set up the entire equipment and service will be managed by the service provider or a third party.

Look for a VoIP system that comes with mobile integrations as the world moves to mobility. It will give you and your workers with the ability to participate in video conference calls and answer direct calls even when they are outside your office improving productivity.

QoS is an essential feature that prioritizes internet traffic for voice over data traffic to maintain voice quality.

The quality of the VoIP system depends on the quality and type of internet service you use. This will test your current internet speed. Ascertain from them if your connectivity is adequate or requires improvement.

Your internet connectivity will need to be matched to the size of your operation. You may be connected to the NBN or have a bandwidth which will do the job for a 15 – 20 person office and the type of work that office does. You may also employ a call centre that requires Fibre connectivity or you may need to use ethernet to connect to a local exchange for a first mile or last mile solution. The cost of these solutions will affect the cost of any solution.

This should come out at the proposal stage but you need to get a ballpark idea of the cost you may need pay for the VoIP service as part of your short-listing process. This includes connectivity costs, the cost of equipment and installation and other service-related expenses. Are you going to be charged for managing and maintaining your system in addition to the call charges? Check if they are adding some unneeded services as a part of the package and adding more to your overall costs. You need to decide if this provider is realistically within budget.

When you are expanding, your VoIP system also must expand to provide the required level of service. Ascertain if the service you are selecting now is cloud-based and can be scaled up to your required level at any time. Again, check if future expansion plans will suit your connectivity requirements.

As maintaining high-quality calls on your VoIP service is necessary, it would be very helpful if a shortlisted company could provide any application or equipment to test and check the quality of service as part of the management of the ongoing service.

This is to check if there is a real cost advantage of going for a VoIP service over using the regular phone service. Do the comparison you may find that sticking with your current set up is in fact your best option.

This will provide you with the features that come bundled with the service package and help you determine that the service you are selecting has all the necessary features required for your business. This may include reporting and advanced analytics for calls centre solutions.

This is an essential part of your contract and will help you exit the service if you do not want to continue with your VoIP service provider.

Check if they are going to charge for the equipment you have used when you cancel the service and implications of any other terms.

This will give the main terms of the service you are getting from the provider. Understand payment terms for cash flow requirements and warranties for service delivery redress. Don’t avoid checking the detail as there is real money sitting in those terms.

Portability is the ability to move a number from one carrier to another. Understanding portability is essential. Is your number tied to a number block limiting number portability? There are categories of number for porting purposes both CatA, a standard port and Cat C, more complex port. Be prepared to allow 20 plus business days minimum if you have a CatC port with multiple numbers that may be tied to a hunt group. CatA is a simple port that can be completed within a week or two.

This is an opportunity to reduce add-on costs. You can avoid paying more for some of the features that you will only be using occasionally.

This will help you continue your business communication without any downtime while the an outage is being fixed ie internet auto changes to 4G.

Your provider will include VoIP phones that are specially made for VoIP services. This will address operational costs, the total cost of ownership and cash flow. A VoIP router is also necessary equipment for allocating the right bandwidth to your VoIP service and maintains quality of calls.

This relates to the situation when you are forced to change the providers, as equipment including phones can range from a couple of hundred dollars to well over one thousand dollars per phone dependent on your requirements.

This will help you understand the pricing your provider is going to charge you, and the discounts, coupons and freebies available to you that will add more value to your service.

Are they providing 24/7 customer service through technically qualified people and what is their level of commitment for very high uptime and what is their contingent plan for rectifying any outages at the earliest possible time?

This gives the reliability factor for your service. Is it 99.999% uptime and do you need 99.999% for your type of business.

This is to know the service escalation points or “go to” people in an organisation based on issue severity and to maximize response levels.

Ask this question to find a product or service that has not been offered in case they have an undisclosed offering that may be a better fit.

On-Line Development

  • They take their time to understand your requirements and listen to your ideas.
  • The team is locally based. That doesn’t mean the developers need to be locally based but the people managing the project need to be locally based to ensure clear communications are maintained.
  • They know digital marketing and know how to market your business ideas through your online presence.
  • They design and develop your website by including the best CMS available for easy content management.
  • They design the website that is compatible with all devices and adds the required degree of responsiveness to the website. They have many live websites in their online portfolio that you can check up on to access their experience and level of professionalism in design and development.
  • They must have long standing experience in the web and mobile app development Industry.
  • They should not only design with UX and appeal in mind. They should also design for good conversions by implementing the proper layout, navigation and calls to action.
  • They should have worked in various industries to demonstrate their ability to provide versatile and exclusive looking websites.
  • They must have wide exposure by designing for various audiences. Ideally they should have designed for local businesses as well as for those operating in the national and international markets.
  • They must be able to provide a modern looking website.
  • They quote a price that you consider appropriate for the nature of work they have undertaken to do.
  • They understand we live in a mobile world and developing with mobility is at the centre of their design understanding.

This is the starting point of your discussion with the development team. This question will help you understand their resource and availability and that if they intend to become your development partner, they will need to do their best in creating the right online presence to your business.

This will let you understand the industry experience of the developing team; the longer the better, as they would have got experience in working on various website and mobile app development projects covering various industries.

You need to know the preparedness and the plan the developer has for building your website or your mobile app. Pay attention to how they can implement their plan. Here their experience will play a great role as an experienced developer will be have a ready made project plan. They will know how to approach your set of requirements and take them to a higher level of execution through a well-founded step by step process. The answer to this must be convincing and give you confidence as this is a key factor in your decision to contract a developer.

Past clients can give the right type of input and comments on the way in which the development team has worked on their projects. They can tell you how their requirements were implemented on the website or mobile apps and whether they are satisfied with what they got for the price paid and the level of satisfaction they enjoyed with the team. Do not hesitate to talk to as many of them as possible to know the work standard and the expectations you can have of the development team.

A designer or a developer who is committed to other projects will ask for some time to begin working on your site. If they say that they can begin working immediately, you have to be wary about the work they are already doing as a busy developer or his team will not be waiting idly to take on your project immediately.

This is important as most of the time, development companies have running arrangements with other companies that may have inferior standards to work for them. Though it is not possible to do the entire range of things that are necessary for completing a project in- house, you must know what are the requirements that will be outsourced and the ones that will be done by them. This will be a clear indication that the developer is facing a shortage of required skill sets or wants to cut costs.

Most of the developers include a complete maintenance package for a certain period of time after the launch and this will be included in the overall cost of the Site/ App development. However some other companies do not do so and may even want to enter into a separate contract for maintenance. You need to know in order to decide based on your specific requirement.

This will ensure that they have a solid execution and implementation plan that will help them complete the website and mobile app work on time for the set launch date. As this is an essential part of the development work you need to pay attention to this and their response. Higher priced developments will accept penalties for overdue developments.

The design and development of the website or the mobile app involves using many elements that may belong to third parties. The designer and developer must be very cautious in the materials they are using in your site so that none of them infringes any copyright or other legal matters. This will protect you against future possible litigation.

Usually a development company completes the project and uploads them to the server, and does not give the original files to the buyer. In this case if issues arise and you need to fix them, you will not be able to get the original files. To avoid this you have to get all the original files from the developer soon after the launch of the site. These are only some of the general questions that will help you decide the suitability of the development team for your website or mobile app project and will help you ascertain how the company will respond to requests and help you bring your business idea to life and take it to the world.

Business Messaging

Will a messaging application solve a problem and result in an increase in revenue, reduce expense, improve cash flow and ensure customer satisfaction? The application of messaging services is key to their effectiveness.

  • Overdue accounts are putting pressure on you?
  • Are you looking for better ways to communicate with your key stakeholders?
  • You need an alert system if your IT goes down?
  • Communication processes are manual and slowing you down?
  • Need to build better feedback capabilities for your clients?
  • People just don’t turn up for appointments costing you money?
  • Sending daily price updates needs fixing?
  • Sending daily or weekly specials to your members?

Inserting variable data personalises the call, maximising positive call responses. From inception make sure your database has all the variable data required to create effective messages. First name is essential for marketing purposes. Automated technical or regular commercial messages require connections to operating systems such as SAP to access data. Email to SMS or and API will be used for message delivery.

Automating messaging streamlines the process, improving productivity.

If a system can generate an email reminder, then an E2SMS can be generated out of an operating system such as SAP.

This is used for inbound SMS campaigns such as surveys, appointment confirmations, trigger for a  donation campaign, IoT relay notifications etc.

This is a simple website that allows you to upload a list of recipients in Excel/CSV and SMS a message with or without variables, sent either scheduled or for immediate send and report back on the success rate.

Do they provide online reporting, delivery reports to your email and show pending and sent Reports? Do you have a choice of the type of report you receive ie a detailed report, summary report or report only if a message is not delivered?

This relates to the throughput of your messages. If they require immediate delivery you do not want to be stuck in a queue. Two-factor authentication, emergency notifications and alerts require speed in delivery.

Some providers charge low send rates but then charge for extras like delivery receipts.

Check that they can schedule a message to be sent up to 2 to 4 weeks in advance to create full messaging campaigns.

If you send marketing messages, you must wash your list with the DNCR so you don’t breach standards.

An opt-out capability is essential either by inserting a keyword to stop receiving messages or by directing a recipient to a website where they can opt out.

Some service providers offer the ability to build HTML5 landing pages for mobile. This sends an SMS with a shortened trackable link to the landing page you have created for surveys, real estate follow up, payment gateways, etc.

This will open up the possibility to send text to voice messages that can call either land lines or mobile numbers with a voice message. Using IVR, the recipient can be asked to select a number to speak to an operator or pay the bill via an online payment gateway. This also substantially improves the number of calls you can make as you are only dealing with inbound responses to outbound messages.

While TTS has improved amazingly, this provides much better call quality.

Validating a person is vital, remember that no personal details can be provided.

Inserting variable data can validate the person on the other end of the phone and personalises the call maximising positive call responses.

If a system can generate an email reminder, then an E2SMS can be generated out of an operating system such as SAP.

This can been used to escalate collection stages which substantially improves cash flows. Look for a voice and SMS message broadcast service provider as an all-in-one solution provider.

This is often mandatory for some government departments and valuable to the community.

This can be used for areas such as airport arrivals/departures boards to send updates to individuals or even provide an 1800 dial-in service to hear the information.

You can transfer a call to a voice platform to auto read disclosure statements then after selecting 1 number to confirm agreement you are transferred back to the call centre. Saves time and optimises agent workloads.

In this busy world, sometimes it is easier to have news updates pushed to you on a regular basis or participate in surveys, hear a motivational message etc.

You can send voice messages with an alternative script if it goes to voicemail. This can be a human voice or text to speech, depending on if you need to incorporate variable data into your message or need keypad entry to validate a recipient’s identity for privacy purposes.

When messaging SMS notifies and voice alerts. Consider the required response time to decide which medium you use – or use both for maximum effect.