Once your business has decided to move away from traditional phone services, searching for the best VoIP provider becomes a critical step in modernizing how your team communicates.
Choose the right partner, and it'll be easier to scale the technology as your business grows and expands into new markets. You'll be able to support new devices as they emerge. Customer experiences will also improve because your team can respond more quickly when someone needs help. And cost savings mean you can allocate more money toward other business areas.
If you fail to choose the best VOIP provider, you'll not only miss out on the benefits but also might have to take on new challenges. These could include troubleshooting quality of service issues, increased costs, and even security risks.
What Is VoIP?
Phone services were initially developed based on public switched telephone network (PSTN) lines operated by local, national, or international carriers. Businesses used private branch exchange (PBX) systems to route calls internally and externally to the PSTN.
That all changed with the arrival of the internet, which made it possible to send voice signals as data packets. VoIP meant calls could be transmitted like email or chat messages over the network.
Beyond the technical innovations it offered, VoIP also changed the competitive landscape for phone services, with many companies vying to position themselves as the best VoIP provider.
Different Types of Providers
Some providers focus on VoIP systems and services. Others include VoIP as part of a broader offering that provides unified communications (UC) solutions or IT security services. Others might also offer VoIP hardware, such as giving handsets that a company's employees would use on-site.
And note that companies may market their services using different terms. Cloud calling software, IP telephony, or simply “business phone systems” describe VoIP services.
5 Steps to Follow When Choosing a VoIP Provider
Whether your business is moving to VoIP for the first time or you're dissatisfied with your current provider and want to shop around, follow these five steps to find a provider that meets your needs.
1. Understand your business communication needs
Choosing new technology usually falls to the IT department, but it's a decision that can affect everyone in your organization. So start by understanding what VoIP services key stakeholders will need to do their jobs.
Ask questions like:
- What's the scope of phone use typical across your organization today? This includes both inbound and outbound calling. Are sales teams reaching out to prospects by phone or when it's time to close a deal? How much of your customer service operation is based on customers reaching out by phone, even if you offer other channels like email, chat, or social media?
- What kind of customer or employee journeys do your calls take? In other words, do calls often have to be routed from one team member to another to get an issue resolved?
- What's the long-term plan or outlook for your company? You'll need your VoIP services to scale accordingly if you foresee opening up additional locations or even pursuing a merger or acquisition.
- Where is “work” happening? Many organizations are exploring hybrid work models in which employees have the flexibility to work at the office or remotely.
- How do you define excellence in terms of collaboration? You may text and videoconference with team members regularly, but what VoIP services will make it easier to have rich conversations and brainstorm?
2. Read reviews and customer stories
When you're downloading an app or finding a movie to watch, you might look up the average star rating or reviews it's received from other consumers. Similarly, when searching for a VoIP provider, read its reviews, testimonials, and customer stories.
Look for reviews from companies similar to yours in size, industry sector, or business requirements. And see if a provider offers case studies demonstrating how it transformed its customers' communications infrastructures. This can be more helpful than a provider's star rating alone. Finally, go beyond the reviews on the provider's site and read those that appear on third-party sites.
3. Compare prices and look at your budget
Cost savings might be one of the critical ways you built the business case for moving to VoIP, and the hardware tends to be less expensive than traditional telephony systems. But you'll need to research whether a provider might charge additional fees. Clarify from the outset whether your business tends to depend on making or receiving many internal calls, for example. Or a primarily domestic business might need a specific type of plan.
Your investment in VoIP today could also become part of a broader digital transformation strategy as your business grows. You might be looking for essential cloud-calling software today, but you might later want features that digitize other business processes and allow you to collect and analyze data. Develop a budget that accounts for future scenarios.
4. Dive into features and integrations
Besides UC solutions, the best VoIP provider will offer a range of other tools, such as:
- IVR to manage the flow of inbound calls (from customers calling with a service issue, for instance)
- Automated attendants to provide customers waiting on hold an update about where they are in the queue
- Content to enhance the calling experience, whether it's music or promotional offers and service updates
- Integrations that allow you to feed VoIP data into CRM systems to understand your customers better
- Connections between VoIP calls and artificial intelligence tools like chat
5. Research each provider's support offerings
VoIP services ultimately have to deliver high performance and reliability consistently for your business to continue operating successfully. That being said, don't assume all providers offer the same level of service.
Talk to the companies you're considering about whether they have plans for 24/7 support versus a few services during specific hours. Even if they pledge around-the-clock support, find out whether that means using self-service tools like chat or perusing articles in a knowledge base versus talking to a live agent.
Finally, don't feel you have to search for the best provider entirely. Aircall has access to experts who can assist with the transition to VoIP and works with local partners with a proven track record.