During a recent enterprise size VOIP migration (200+ users) from a 10 year old VOIP phone system to a cloud based VOIP solution (vonage), I discovered some questions I never thought to ask potential VIOP providers.
These questions were not thought of because they are expected when looking for a VOIP solution for a call center or enterprise level provider.
- Businesses love stats and metrics.
– Does the provider’s solution require everyone to have admin rights to the full account in order to run a basic report?
I found out this is how Vonage works and has proven to be a nightmare. I had to give all managers admin access to the Vonage account just so they could view and run metric reports on their sales and call center team members. Users were making changes to the configuration without knowing what they were doing.
- If you are a call center you want your managers and team members to have the ability to see who is logged into the call queue. After all, if you are a call center you don’t want everyone to take a break or go to lunch at the same time.
– Does the provider’s solution have the ability to allow everyone in the call center to see who is logged into the call queue?
I discovered that Vonage only allowed admin users the ability to see who is logged into the call queue. Imagine the time your managers will now need to spend coordinating breaks and lunch times for all your call center members.
- Since we have discussed stats and metrics, how nice would it be to have the ability to run a custom report based on users of a certain call queue with: who answered how many calls and what the average length of time on the phone was. We took simple reporting functionality for granted and never asked how the providers reports work in detail.
– Does the provider’s solution have the ability to run custom reports or do you have to download a bunch of excel spread sheets from multiple tabs, extract some information from each spreadsheet and combine the information in another spreadsheet, just to get the basic information you need for your reports?
- When you operate a call center, how the call queues function is important. If your call queue always sends new calls to 2 or 3 of your agents and never sends any calls to your other 6 agents, it is probably not a great solution.
– Does the provider’s solution have an “equal call distribution” function and does it actually work correctly?
I spent two days trying to get this to work in Vonage. I started with a multiple tiered call queue with tier 1, tier 2, tier 3 agents. I quickly discovered this function did not work. If all agents in tier 1 were on the phone, calls would go into “waiting” status instead of sending the calls to tier 2 for overflow. Then I tried changing the call queues to “Least Recently Used.” This would only send calls to a few agents and never send calls to other agents.
- Security is important in any business. Choosing a VOIP provider who takes network security serious is also important. If your provider required you to create a firewall rule that states “ allow anything from anywhere to anything from anywhere” defeats the whole purpose of a firewall.
– What security policies are you required to create in your firewall to allow the VOIP solution to work?
During the onboarding process with Vonage, I was told to create a policy in my firewall that allows all traffic from anywhere to anywhere on all ports. Failure to do so might cause poor or non-functional phone service. The reason for this is because Vonage does not use elastic (static) IP’s on any of their servers and their IP addresses could change at any time. Being a network engineer my response to this was “Absolutely NOT!” It took a lot of research and a lot to time doing packet captures to find out what ports and ip addresses Vonage uses.
- Timing of when your phone numbers are ported to your new provider is critical. Choosing a provider who only ports numbers during the middle of the day on a business day could cost your company $1000’s or more. To see your actual cost, calculate the cost of missed opportunities for your sales staff and call center agents if phone do not work correctly for 3- 6 hours after the numbers have been ported.
– At what time does your selected provider port numbers?
Finding a provider who can port your phone numbers after hours or on weekends is the best choice and could offset any cost saves of using a cheaper provider who only ports numbers during business hours.
What lessons should you take away from this?
- Make sure your potential VOIP provider provides a full try before you buy trial period that is adequately long enough for you to test the features provided.
- Use online feature comparisons that are not sponsored by your potential provider.
- Get all features promised and guaranties in writing.
- Get call center managers to participate in the trial test drive. They will know if the features provided meet the company’s needs.
- You will always forget to ask certain questions.