With so many options available, how do small businesses know which service provider is going to solve their problems and be the right fit?
And for the person tasked with the job of selecting the business’ new telecommunications service provider, the task can be overwhelming.
With adaptability and reliability a core requirement for small business operations, having the right telecommunications partner has never been so vital.
Business telecommunications service providers can help businesses meet or miss these core requirements. Flexibility is important because small businesses move much faster than larger ones. Reliability is important because they have thinner margins and less secure cashflow.
So, what should small businesses be looking for from their telecommunication services? Here are our top six tips on what we think you should focus your attention on.
1. Understand what you have now
Firstly, you need to understand what your current service is providing in terms of speed, technical support, security, and service inclusions so that you can compare services. This will also help you understand what your pain points are and what requirements are important for your business. You will also need to know what your current contract term length is.
2. Look beyond the sales pitch
When it comes to internet speed, you need to look further than the advertised or ‘promised’ speeds. Many service providers advertise ‘up to’ speeds, not actual speeds. When looking into a new service provider ask for their actual speeds and whether their connections are contended. Contended connections often perform worse because your business is essentially sharing services with other businesses or home users to save the service provider money. The term ‘time is money’ is no more prevalent than when it comes to small business. As a small business owner you cannot afford to be offline and you certainly do not have the time to be sitting on the phone waiting to find out when your internet will be restored.
3. Plan B
Some providers offer a backup connection (often called a redundant connection) in the event of an outage. This could involve switching over to a wireless network, or it could rely on a secondary wired connection into the business. If your business relies on the internet to make money, then we suggest placing service providers that can offer an automatic failover service at the top of your comparison list. When you are looking for providers that can offer redundancy, make sure that the backup connection can be provided on a “diverse path”. This ensures that the physical infrastructure your connection is reliant on for your backup connection is separate to your primary connection. This means that if a back-hoe goes through a fiber optic cable down the road, you won’t lose both your primary and backup connections as the secondary connection won’t run through the same trenches in the ground.
4. Technical support
Another item that should be at the top of your selection criteria is great customer service and technical support. And we are not talking about a chat function on a website where you are talking to a chat bot. If your business relies on your website to make money or you run your operation out of the cloud, you cannot afford for your hosted infrastructure to be offline and will need to ensure you are signing with a service provider that has good customer and technical service reviews. You might also wish to try calling up their support line (before you sign up) and see how long it takes you to get through.
With adaptability and flexibility now a small business staple, you need to ensure your telecommunications service provider is also adaptable and flexible. If you need to scale up, you will need your telecommunications to scale up with you.
6. Bundle up and save
Bundling services together such as phone call packages, team collaboration tools and video conferencing can save your business money. Sifting through all of the offerings that come with different bundles can be time consuming and overwhelming, so we suggest before starting this process, list down your company’s pain points, must haves and nice to haves in three separate columns. This way you can then work through the lists one at a time and see which one/s solve your pain points and tick off must haves. Our suggestion is to only go through the nice to have list once your pain points and must haves have been ticked off by that service provider though so that you don’t get caught up by all the bells and whistles on offer.
Bundling services comes with the added advantage of avoiding the finger pointing that can often occur between providers when something goes wrong. It can also lead to faster resolution times for support issues because the provider has access to all of your services and isn’t stuck only seeing part of the picture.
Your telecommunications service provider is much more than an internet or telephony provider. They can solve many small business problems and help your business grow and adapt. Selecting your right service provider can be a time-consuming task, however it is definitely worth investing the time to get it right.