What to look out for when making a move to phones in the cloud
Moving to UCaaS can be such a huge benefit to your business. We gladly engage businesses of all sizes that are looking to make the upgrade to a hosted solution. We constantly strive to match the right provider with the right customer for the right applications. But some providers, no matter their size, should be a non-starter with your organization. Here we won’t single out bad providers; just give you a few insights on how a problematic UCaaS provider may operate
For the record, I want to make it clear that this is not an airing of grievances. I know that many UCaaS operators have valid reasons for doing the things mentioned below, possibly to keep their systems reliable, or their prices low.
Number 1: ETF’s or no month-to-month options (with a caveat)
UCaaS is viewed by some as a commodity these days (that’s not true- but that’s a whole different article). Some providers look to be stuck in 1992 and lock you in a contract and throw away the key. If a provider doesn’t offer a month-to-month option if you purchase the upfront equipment (there’s your caveat), then make sure you know what you are getting into.
This seems like child’s play, but read the contract (or have your legal/accounting team do it). Seriously. It’s long and boring, but not reading it and then trying to weasel your way out of it, could be costly should things go south. One provider that we used to have in our portfolio has a “30 day money back guarantee” …but only if you “have not used over 50% of the allowed minutes in your metered subscription plan or 500 minutes in an unlimited plan.” The worst-case scenario is when you have to pay a penalty equal to the unused service contract. In other words, if you have a contract for $100/month for two years, and you cancel six months in, you still owe them $1,800.
Number 2: You Spot Little Mistakes
A mistake on a website or an error on a piece of collateral may not seem like a huge deal, but sometimes it can mean they are willing to let things slide. If it’s a technical term, crucial to get it right. A spelling error means they don’t have an eye for detail. Outdated or old pictures or logos on their site may mean they aren’t paying attention to the industry.
Number 3: No one asks about your network
As customer advocates it’s a telecom agent and/or consultants job to make sure your infrastructure is ready for a transition to a UCaaS platform. Some organizations are just more comfortable working directly with a provider. That’s fine, but when you work directly with one of the UCaaS providers out there, they should always ask about these three things in some shape, form, or fashion:
- What type of bandwidth are you using (ISP, connection type, etc.)
- What is the speed?
- Has your network been tested to make sure your firewall and/or router are compatible with their service?
If they don’t make sure that your network can handle their service, your call quality and overall UCaaS experience will go horribly wrong. If they don’t work with you to make sure you’re capable of using their service, they don’t have your best interests at heart. If they do recommend that you update infrastructure, get a second opinion and make sure you aren’t just being upsold.
Number 4: Lying
“Absolutely it can do that”
“We do that all time”
“It doesn’t offer that today, but it should be available in Q3”
Any service or product looking to get your business is going to make a lot of promises about features, reliability, and capabilities. Sometimes, you can see if they’ll make good on those promises before you sign on the line. All you need is a working phone.
One UCaaS provider that we do business with (for now) in the past has boasted of “24/7/365 US Based Support”. Well, that’s sort of true. They have recently moved their main call center off shore, and then the calls get routed back to a US based tier 2 or 3 engineer. They may promise 24/7 support, but a closer look at their web site may reveal that they have 24/7 only for emergencies or for the highest paying customers only.
You can also find out how often they have service issues, either on their web site or on watchdog sites. A 99.99% uptime means only 8 seconds of downtime per day, or 1 full minute every week. You can crunch those numbers yourself and decide if they are telling the truth about their predicted high availability. An SLA means they will give you a partial refund for lost service. Typically, their SLA doesn’t cover network outages on your end or your ISP- so they can pretty much be window dressing. In addition, less expensive SMB type providers often are “best effort” service providers; meaning much like coax and DSL services, they only have to make a best effort to provide the service.
Number 5: The Reviews Seem Fishy
Can’t find one negative thing about a UCaaS provider? See only 5-star and 1-star ratings? Sirens and bells should be going off and flags should be going up. Seldom are review sites policed well. Usually, rely on the honor system. A real company is going to have consistent results. They could be consistently good, bad, or in the middle. But if you see a lot of 1-star reviews mixed in with the highest rating, you should be suspicious that they are phony.
Number 6: They don’t offer E-911 services
The E-911 surcharge is required by the government. If a provider ever tells you it can waive that fee, or not give you E-911 service, they are not saving you $1.75/month, they are breaking the law. Any provider that connects with the PSTN must have E911. Because UCaaS is not location-based the way old fashioned phones were, traditional 911 service is incompatible. Unless you are doing all of your business through Google, Skype, WhatsApp, or some other personal service, you need E-911, and any provider that tells you differently is risking the lives and safety of you and your employees.
Number 7: Their whole value is based on price
We all want to get the best deal. Many UCaaS providers may negotiate with you if you’re leaning towards another provider with a lower price. But, there comes a point where that breaks down. In the industry we often use the term “race to zero” If you come to them with a quote of $14.99/user, which is by far one of the best deals out there, and they give you $14.98/user, they’re aren’t to be trusted. If they are more interested in giving their service away for “less than the other guys”, then their product isn’t very good. Or if they offer more than 1 or 2 months free service- that’s a sign that they are hunting for customers.
This deserves repeating: Not every provider who does one of more of these things is necessarily a bad company. If you’re looking for a UCaaS provider and they check 3 or more of these boxes, then it’s time to move on.