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Business Phone Evolution – Part 1

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Perhaps you were expecting it, or maybe it was a surprise. Your long time and large Business Phone Service Provider (like Bell, Rogers or Shaw, etc.) notify you that a substantial rate hike on the upcoming contract renewal of your legacy business lines. The reality is that many of the analog voice clients have left their expensive infrastructure. Now the costs are spread across those legacy lines that remain.

Business Phone Contract Renewal Feeling

Given your loyalty and history with your large providers on Data, Voice, and Managed Services this may feel like an unnecessary gouge. Canadians have implemented proven VoIP solutions given the evolution of this technology and the true value delivered to mid-sized enterprises. Know that the recent evolution in Cloud PBX technology and delivered service quality, you could look at this event as an opportunity to drive savings and optimum productivity into your organization.

Now, what are your alternatives?

This event is an opportunity for you to examine alternate solutions from mid-range Cloud PBX service providers. They are tuned for mid-sized Canadian businesses and are growing for all the right reasons. Use the business phone contract renewal period as an opportunity to evaluate your options. Likely you can go on a month-to-month contract arrangement on current Business Phones or lines as you investigate.  New innovations and solid offers from Versature, RingCentral, VoIP Much, and many others are posted and reviewed by your peers on

What do you need to consider? How do you get there?

To get to a decision on the migration to a Cloud PBX and the ultimate selection of a new partner, we’ve outlined some decision criteria and a high-level methodology to go about it. Consider the following data points in your own situation and create a thumbnail business case of expenses and efficiencies.

1. Is my Internet connection ready for the VoIP traffic overlay? Is your current WAN stable and is there approximately 80kps up and down for each concurrent Business Phone user? Extra care needs to be considered in a Call Center deployment or where streaming video is in constant contention with new voice traffic on the data WAN.

2. What is the human profile of my employees using Business Phones daily and intermittently? Count and assign a budget for individual profiles be it local office workers, mobile road warriors, and power users that need to be always found and connected.

3. What are my desired ‘Base Features? A catalog of familiar and new features will be presented by every potential new partner. First, do a self-verification of must-haves in the initial deployment of Cloud PBX. Likely it includes call forwarding, conferencing, ID logging, an Intuitive console, and Long Distance to start in your new phone system.

4. What are my desired Future Features? After the initial Business Phone rollout, turn on voicemail to email, management analytics, fax integration, business SMS, and integration to office systems like Outlook, Salesforce, Slack, and other CRM or ERP platforms.

5. Evaluate on Price. From the list of the base, we need to look at the price packaging from each vendor to see where you should start. Likely you can later easily move up the chain from Bronze, Silver, and Gold packages as you experience growth and your readiness to turn on Cloud PBX productivity features. Chances are there is little appetite for a Business Phone customized solution in mid-market engagements, but more and more features are being included in base services for the same prices. Probe vendors to get maximum included features after understanding your own base needs.

6. Evaluate on Service Quality – Deployment. Each Cloud PBX service provider will sing a great song and the features offered may be similar, or exactly the same. Ask about your particular roll out and what amount of Project Management or professional resources are included in the sale. Ask for typical Project Plans or Statement of Work examples for a similar-sized existing client. Judge if the new potential Cloud PBX partner is listening and anticipating potential challenges for your particular role.

The Evolved Business Meeting Room

7. Evaluate on Service Quality – Support. Examine and perhaps tour the support center each Service Provider uses to take your trouble calls and requests for changes. Note the hours of operation and if an escalation process is in place. Use to look at customer reviews. A long history of dissatisfaction may be a red flag but service call handling in the past 1.5 years is perhaps the best indicator of your expected support experience.

8. Evaluate Manageability. Obviously, you want to retain visibility and control of your new Cloud PBX solution. Look to the administrator tools provided to be sure the Phone System console is powerful yet intuitive. Base statistics are interesting but you may have specific analytics requirements for management reports that prove the productivity gains justified in your initial plans.

9. Evaluate on Image. Your selection of a new service provider for a Cloud PBX should include the intangibles of image and increased client perception of your brand. Which new solution will be most effective in showing your clients a fast and effective touchpoint from your sales and service departments.

10. Evaluate Business Relationship. As these new service providers compete for new Phone System clients some are offering a ‘no contract’ relationship for Cloud PBX. No long term commitments are to your advantage as it minimizes your risks. Often they will also offer a free trial for some selected Business Phone users so you can visualize the ease of use to operate. Inquire about SLA reporting and refunds.

11. Would you need all the new phones? Migrating to a Cloud PBX does not necessarily mean a forklift of all current desk phones. Often IP phones form a current IP PBX that is compatible with a new platform. Your new service provider can determine and commit support of your phone make and model at the time of quotation. If you need to use existing analog telephones and fax machines an inexpensive ATA (analog telephone adaptor) can be purchased to get the device on your LAN and Cloud PBX. Caution that your legacy phones may not have all the screens, bells, and whistles that bring out the full future productivity features desired on the new Cloud PBX solution.

Can you just go using mobile phones?

Mobile phones are ubiquitous throughout the enterprise and a personal choice by those on the go.  The topic of going Cloud PBX with smartphone-only clients are explored in Part 2 of this series.

Leverage the evolution! Get to a decision.

Assemble your business case with known hard expenses, base, and future needs, a use scoring system for vendor selection against the ‘do-nothing’ case of renewing with the incumbent large supplier after a rate hike. Evaluate the options of making the inevitable migration to Cloud PBX now, or later.

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