If you’ve been looking into VoIP for your business, you’re probably wondering how to go about picking the right VoIP provider.
When implementing a VoIP solution, picking the best VoIP provider is of vital importance. Businesses need to have a reliable telephonic solution to ensure they are online and available. Voice communications comprise more than 30 % of customer interactions and they are often the most critical interactions. On stable Business communications platform helps keep operations running smoothly and maintains customer satisfaction. The right business phone and VoiP system will also help you support your team, whether they are dispersed across the country or located in one central location.
Below we run through some helpful considerations and tips to keep in mind when picking a VoIP service provider to ensure your business communications solution is a success.
Table of Contents
- What is a VoIP service provider?
- How to choose the best VoIP provider
- Final thoughts on picking a VoIP provider in South Africa
What is a VoIP Service Provider?
VoIP service providers are generally defined as companies or entities that offer Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services to customers.
A VoIP service provider will enable businesses to make calls using VoIP technology – which allows you to utilise an internet connection, rather than a regular analogue landline, to make and receive calls. VoIP is cost-effective, easy to roll out rapidly, quick to expand and also provides a range of standard and advanced features to help you manage your business communications effectively.
While many providers in South Africa offer VoIP services, this doesn’t mean that they have their own network infrastructure, which may include LTE towers and trenched fibre networks. The majority of VoIP service providers in South Africa have agreements with Tier One network providers such as Telkom, MTN and Vodacom and utilise their underlying infrastructure in order to offer VoIP services to their customers. Below we will lay out some critical elements to consider when reviewing VoIP Provider options.
How to choose the best VoIP provider
VoIP is a modern solution that provides businesses with a wide range of benefits, but there are many options on offer and it can be difficult to know how to choose the best option for your business. Choosing the right provider can greatly enhance your business’s telecommunications with a reliable and effective solution. Choosing the wrong provider can present some of the same challenges associated with any other analogue phone system.
To help you make the right VoIP service provider choice, we’ve put together a list of some of the most important factors to consider when choosing the right VoIP provider in South Africa.
1. Consider VoIP solution pricing and align with business demands
While picking the cheapest VoIP package might look like a good idea at first, it may not be the best decision for your organisation in the long term. When looking at the pricing for VoIP solutions, you should ensure you have a full understanding of what you are getting for that price and whether or not it aligns with the demands of your business.
The cost of a VoIP solution is determined by the cost of several items that are required for your setup. These items include your business’s connectivity service (Fibre, LTE, Wireless, etc.), network equipment and hardware (handsets, a network switch, an access point, etc), the software and hardware used to create the VoIP lines and your call usage costs.
An important cost to look out for when comparing service providers is whether they bill per second or per minute and what that rate is. Many VoIP providers bill calls at a per minute rate. This means that if you only speak for 20 seconds, you will still be charged for speaking for a full minute. United Telecoms’ billing increment is in per second. So, if you only speak for 20 seconds on a call, we will only charge you for those 20 seconds.
If telecommunications are crucial to the functioning of your business, paying a little more for better uptime, more personalised support, and a higher quality service is well worth it.
For example, downtime can cost your business significantly, and having a good understanding of the uptime your provider claims is important. When assessing prospective providers you should also consider their after-sales support and network design, among other factors.
2. Enquire about the provider’s network design & redundancies
A provider’s network design and any redundancies they have in place will determine the level of uptime you receive as a customer and how reliable your solution will be in the long-term.
When considering a VoIP provider, enquire about their network design and whether they have fail-safes in place for power outages, voice interconnects not functioning properly, critical hardware failures and other issues. Providers are likely to experience network issues, these are unavoidable, however, the layers of redundancy the provider has in place will determine whether the customer has issues with their phone system and ability to place and receive calls. Systems with light redundancy design are vulnerable to downtime, discuss how many failivers your provider has in place. Expect the best, but plan for the worst!
Find out whether your provider relies on multiple Interconnect network providers and data centres so that your service can be distributed to another data centre rapidly if there are any issues. All serious providers will have at least 2 or 3 redundancies at points of failure to ensure the system has resilience.
United Telecoms believes in implementing multiple layers of redundancies in order to ensure that uptime remains exceptional. We have agreements with the multiple network providers who provide trunks into our PABX in the cloud. We also have multiple backups for our data centre hardware which ensures that if there is a problem with your primary network, you don’t spend time offline.
3. Try to get a thorough understanding of a provider’s after-sales & technical support teams
A VoIP service provider’s after-sales service and technical support service are also important to consider. It’s always best to deal with a human being – (Not a chatbot or call centre) on the provider’s team so that when issues come up you can ensure you reach out to the right person immediately to get assistance.
90% of all troubleshooting for VoIP-related issues takes place remotely. Therefore, it’s important to find out whether your provider has a dedicated support team, and what their usual turnaround times are for rectifying problems.
In addition, if you can find a provider that relies on their own on-the-road technical support team, it can make taking care of more complicated issues in a timely manner, much easier.
Some VoIP service providers may not rely on dedicated support teams which can influence turnaround times for troubleshooting issues remotely or on-site – which means you may remain offline or unable to operate efficiently.
You can find out more about a provider’s support team by querying the sales agent and asking the right questions. You might also be able to glean insights from assessing customer reviews related to their VoIP services.
4. Try to find prospective VoIP providers’ customer reviews
Looking through customer reviews of your service provider on various trusted platforms can also give you an indication of their level of service, after-sales support and the relationship they have with their customers.
It’s also important to keep an open mind and as with all review sections online you may want to read them with an open mind and a pinch of salt.
If your VoIP provider also provides other internet or communication-related services you may need to filter through the reviews to find ones relevant to their VoIP offerings.
While negative reviews centred around VoIP might give an insight or comment on reliability, cost, and other important factors – it’s always worth taking up any foreseeable issues with the service provider directly. You can also ask a prospective service provider for references if you are looking to go the extra mile and feel completely comfortable in your decision.
If a provider regularly turns a negative review into a positively resolved situation, this can be a sign of attentive customer service.
As much as it’s easy to find negative reviews, it’s also worthwhile to explore all positive reviews, which can also provide a good indication of a company’s best service offerings and locations in which their products and services are most successful.
- Explore HelloPeter’s Telecommunications and Business Service categories.
- Try to find a prospective provider on TrustPilot.
- Explore prospective providers’ Google My Business reviews.
Visit prospective providers’ Facebook pages and view their reviews.
5. Assess your provider’s terms and conditions & any contracts
Your VoIP provider’s terms and conditions can also influence your service and it’s beneficial to explore their terms in their entirety.
Typically, VoIP providers’ terms and conditions cover aspects such as payment, your personal data, limitations of service, ownership of solutions, grounds for terminating a service, service standards, portability, prohibited uses and more.
It’s best to only sign on the dotted line once you’ve reviewed the terms and conditions of your VoIP service provider in full so that you completely understand the level of service you can expect, any obligations you have as a customer, and any risks you may face as a result of the conditions outlined.
The same can be said for reviewing any contracts provided by your VoIP provider if you are planning to set a long-term agreement in place. Beware common industry pitfalls, our solutions consultants have a document containing a detailed list of things to watch out for and common industry pitfalls when reviewing contracts, ask us about getting a copy here
6. Consider the level of security of the VoIP systems.
VoIP providers typically use Transport Layer Security (TLS), which works by encrypting the signalling of calls, while Secure Real – Time Transport Protocol (SRTP) is used alongside TLS to secure data packets that are transferred between two or more parties.
Securing data while having active calls over VoIP is important, but it’s also necessary to secure any call logs and call recordings securely which is usually set up using hosted call recording whereby this data is stored off-site, in the cloud.
For most businesses, the security VoIP providers offer will be sufficient for their operations. However, for corporate entities (like financial service providers and insurance companies) with security set as a distinct priority, this kind of data may need to be stored and/or secured on-site for an added layer of security.
7. Find a provider that gives honest, professional advice.
A VoIP provider should always provide honest professional advice. Rather than being completely sales-oriented, providers should always recommend the most fitting solution for a company’s communication needs.
For example, for most modern businesses, VoIP is the technology of choice for facilitating and managing business communications. However, sometimes factors such as a lack of a fast reliable internet connection or special security requirements could require other, more appropriate types of phone system and voice channel implementations.
Therefore, it’s important that a provider takes the time to assess the communication needs of a business, including factors such as a company’s existing network infrastructure, security requirements, design and size of offices and warehouses and any features that they require depending on a business’ communication structure and demands.
If a provider simply wishes to offer you the lowest cost solution or upsell you on non-essential features, it’s best to find a provider that can speak openly with you about your custom requirements and provide a matching VoIP phone system.
If you’re searching for a friendly customer service team with the expertise to implement a communication solution that meets your precise requirements, United Telecoms is here to help – you can contact us to find out more.
Final thoughts on picking a VoIP provider in South Africa
Although there’s a lot of competition around South Africa with VoIP offerings, exploring the ins and outs of your provider’s VoIP solutions will enable you to weed out any providers that won’t match your business demands.
In summary, it’s important to consider the following:
- VoIP pricing and business needs
- Provider’s network design, and any failovers/redundancies.
- A provider’s customer & technical support teams, turnaround times & availability.
- Customer reviews on reputable platforms.
- A VoIP service provider’s terms and conditions.
- The level of security of an intended provider’s VoIP solution.
- The level of professional expertise and advice a provider is able to offer.
If you’re looking to learn more about VoIP, we recommend exploring our other content including How To Port Your Landline Number to VoIP in South Africa; 11 Benefits of VoIP lines vs Analog Lines for your business; as well as the benefits of United Voice VoIP.
We assist businesses across South Africa with fully customisable and personalised VoIP ranging from micro, medium and large phone systems to suit the demands of a wide range of businesses. If you’re considering switching to a VoIP solution, contact us to find out more and get answers to any queries you may have.