We will likely have to switch from our present voice provider to a new one at one point or the other in our business lives. There are a variety of reasons why this change happens. The reasons range from increased business benefits to cost savings. The process of switching tends to be a very in-depth and sometimes complicated process. A key to a successful deployment is good communication between the voice service provider and the customer. The combined efforts of all parties are what will help ensure a smooth transition.
The Role of the Voice Provider
The service quality of a provider from the moment a potential customer makes contact is vital. Providers try their very best to make the transition process of every customer as smooth as possible.
Telecom is a process-centric field. In it every deployment is a project with a timeline and necessary steps that are inter-dependent. A typical project consists of:
- Client Network Evaluation
Voice provider estimates bandwidth and throughput requirements to ensure reliable call quality, fax, and message delivery. When the amount of required Internet bandwidth is not sufficient, the customer may have to commit to procuring additional capacity.
- Document and Contract Processing
During this phase, service contracts and orders are typically countersigned. The customer forwards the bills from the losing carrier.
- Service and Billing Provisioning
This step is a crucial part of the deployment process. It requires tight participation of all parties:
- The provider will configure billing and other backend systems, allocate and assigns IP addresses, issue temporary or permanent phone numbers.
- The provider or customer will configure endpoint devices (IP phones, ATAs). These can be either shipped to the customer or deployed on-site.
- Customer will then configure 911 emergency settings and appoint system administrators.
- Customer Orientation, Training, and Onboarding Meetings
During this phase customer’s appointee responsible for the phone system sits down with the project manager and a technical specialist. Together they establish business logic to route calls to the appropriate destination, configure routing tree, auto-attendants and establish a go-live (turn-up) date.
- Service Turn-Up
Service turn-up typically kicks off billing and number port from prior carrier (provider). All IP phones should be installed and activated, routing tree and business schedules are configured along with the automatic attendants, address books, IVR, etc.
- Customer Training and Maintenance
As it is with any new service – while old and new services may share some of the same features they may have different user interfaces and different ways to activate them. A new service is likely to require user and administration training.
Voice provider has a duty to its customer to make the transition comfortable. When they successfully meet this obligation, it creates a great foundation block for future business relationships. Before the transition process begins, the provider should adequately inform their customer of what the transition process will entail.
The provider must draft reasonable contracts that clearly outline all terms. The arrangements should be straightforward and specific with no hidden terms – an ambush in the contract clause is hardly a way to build a lasting business relationship.
The provider should also confirm that customers have provided all the required documentation.
The Role of the Customer
More often than not, customers make the mistake of waiting until the last minute to pull the plug on upgrading their telecoms system. Most tend to assume that the transition process is something that can happen instantly. Contrary to that belief, the reality is that the change to a new service provider can be a multi-step process. This process requires a fair amount of time, information, discussion, and planning. To ensure a successful switch to a new provider, it is not enough for the provider to do everything right. Both the voice provider and the customer have significant responsibilities to live up to. It is also critical that the customer plays their part well to reduce the chances of a failed installation or any surprises springing up along the way.
Sadly, today’s reality is that many customers do not do the things they’re supposed to. Customers do not review their contracts before signing them. When certain matters related to the agreement come up along the line, they tend to surprise customers. Surprises are never good and often lead to clashes between the customer and the provider.
Porting to a new voice provider may sometimes take about three days and as much as ten days in some cases. So, the customer must provide all the documents required to port numbers on time.
Telecom providers give quotes based on the information available to the provider. That said, the provider can come across an undocumented or unspoken requirement. If it is essential and required, customers should expect increased costs outside of the original quote. The customer must also provide detailed information on how they would like to use their new system. For example, how to route calls inside the business and whether there are data-enabled devices like credit card readers or fax machines connected to the existing system.
The telecom provider does not bear the sole responsibility of a smooth transition. Customers also have their own role to play in ensuring a smooth installation process. When the installation is unsuccessful due to failings on the customer’s part, it is unfair to blame the telecom provider. Customers should, therefore, try as much as possible to handle their responsibilities properly. Their active role will reduce the number of future surprises and the number of fixes to be made. It will also ensure that the business is immediately up and running smoothly once the migration is in flight.