Making a Success of Hosted Ip Telephony for Small Businesses

by : Stanley Gallor

Hosted IP Telephony for small businesses, if developed well, should be easy to use, intuitive and simple to install. This makes it a fantastic, easy-entry opportunity into the IP telephony supply and provision space. When it comes to selling hosted telephony there are a number of fundamental principles that will ease the initial process, and help businesses make it a sustainable success for them.

Small businesses will always be focused on cost containment and, of course, price is very important. But, with hosted IP Telephony small businesses can factor-in and focus-on other equally important elements: efficiency, productivity, image and customer responsiveness.

Key features of Hosted IP Telephony

1) The most significant benefit of hosted telephony over-and-above traditional systems is numbering flexibility. Sales pitches and marketing effort should always heavily feature the benefits of flexible numbering. Most businesses may never realise that they can have different dialling codes for a single office regardless of its location. It is also worth remembering that many small businesses relocate as they grow. The ability to retain their numbers, no matter where they relocate to, is an extremely powerful proposition. The voice service provider must know how to port numbers; otherwise a compelling service feature could easily turn into a difficult migration to hosted telephony.

2) Consider central directories as a focus for the product positioning. Hosted services can provide these for businesses; they are accessible on-line and can be used to provide a short code dial plan across multiple sites for fixed lines and mobiles - all this can be set up and managed by the businesses themselves.

3) A Disaster recovery solution isn't something a small business would ordinarily expect to hear about when purchasing a telephony service! But with the right hosted IP telephony service (one with real time and on-line customer control of call divert and forwarding features), it is very much achievable.

To make utmost use of you need to take care of following factors as well:

Get the broadband right

Broadband access is the foundation of any hosted IP service, so make sure your service is built on a solid foundation. Where possible provide the broadband access through your chosen provider. Make sure the supplier conforms to following qualities.

&bull??? The supplier should only serve business users
&bull??? They must be VoIP-aware; and can demonstrate that they manage VoIP appropriately across their network
&bull??? They should manage issue differently to data service issues
&bull??? They are peered directly to the hosted platform being used (avoiding any unnecessary network elements and associated degradation)

Ensure availability of bandwidth

Ensure you have the right product for your customer base - i.e. enough available bandwidth for the expected maximum number of calls and for the Codec that is to be used - the program that encodes/decodes the data stream. Always ascertain the availability of bandwidth at the beginning of your sales process.

Know your router

Where there is broadband, there is a router! And where there is a router, there are interoperability considerations. Always try and provide the router and standardise the model and the configuration used. Where you can't provide the router, then build the likelihood of variation in to your sales and support processes; start by understanding common issues encountered with broadband routers and VoIP.

Find a hosted supplier who takes an interest in access

Although it will always be your responsibility to source and support the correct access where it is not supplied as a part of an end-to-end solution, some hosted suppliers are only interested in their "software" and nothing else.

Use a hosted supplier who provides tools that monitor the status of the broadband line connected to their platform and a supplier that has thought about the common issues surrounding broadband access and has developed a set of support processes around them (line retraining and session drops for example).

Decide whether managed installation is right for you

For multiple user opportunities consider providing a managed installation. This won't eat in to your cost of sale as it's a service that can easily be charged for (and a model that is successfully being used by a number of providers). The upfront effort of managing an installation always pays off in the long run; a correct and known configuration across all service components means less support calls and headaches.

Having someone on site installing the service also provides a very valuable opportunity to train the customer on using the service. More importantly it's an opportunity to show the user, according to their behaviour and requirements, how to get the most out of their new hosted system. This reinforces customer loyalty and could even be enhanced with a follow up review.

For single user or SoHo installations a managed install would be inappropriate, but the installation has to go right for customer to stay with the product. Make sure you always follow up orders with a support call. Be ready to help customers who are having installation problems - create a robust telephone support process to help users get the installation right. Do this through having an in depth understanding the common issues that will be encountered - this is something your hosted IP telephony supplier should be able to help with!