How to Choose a Telecom Provider
Author: Gary Nieboer
January, 2008 Issue
We live in a world of choices. On a daily basis, business owners and managers make myriad decisions when selecting the services they use and the businesses they decide to call partners. As the senior vice president of a telecommunication services provider, I know there are more options than ever for choosing a telecom provider.
Think big and go local
No matter what size business you have, you need a telecom provider that offers highly reliable service, a solid support structure, great product offerings and scalability.
Many large telecommunications companies have the resources to provide great products, but choose to centralize much of their operations in a few large cities---as a financial benefit---rather than distributing their teams to be closer to you, their customers. Unfortunately, this typically doesn't allow for personalized service and can even impact service reliability.
On the other end of the spectrum, a small company that touts personalized service may be located in your market, but it may not own its own network, which results in issues regarding reliability and scalability.
The best of both worlds is a company large enough to own its own network, fund its own development of new products and services, and still provide personalized service by placing sales, customer care, repair and local executives in each of the markets it serves.
Personal customer service
Be certain to make customer service a primary factor when choosing a telecommunications provider. We can all recall times we've received bad customer service. It's likely you've questioned why you chose to employ the organization's services in the first place.
When you're determining which telecom company is right for you, don't be afraid to ask each company to provide you with customer references or examples of great customer service. You can also ask that they explain the steps they're taking to provide your business with the best possible communications experience.
For example, if you have a billing question or want to upgrade your service, will your service provider know who you are? If it's located in the same area, it's more likely to do so. Also, don't forget to find out where decisions are made. Be sure there are company executives in your market. Someone familiar with your business is more likely to find solutions when you need them.
Some telecom companies operate on a decentralized business model, which means they may provide service to many states, but always operate on a local level to ensure the highest level of service.
Insist on reliability
Your telecom provider should help you grow your business, not slow your business. Unfortunately, too many companies find out they didn't ask enough questions about reliability until they have an outage and the resolution is sub-par. Your business is your livelihood, and your telecom provider should help you serve your customers while growing your business.
As a business owner, ask yourself how much business or money you'd lose if your phone or Internet service was down for 15 minutes, an hour or even a day.
No doubt the answer would be hundreds, thousands and upward. Knowing you have a reliable telecom provider who stands behind the reliability of its service is invaluable. Sure, all telecom providers may have an outage due to weather or unforeseen circumstances, but the difference lies in the ability to repair the service while minimizing the impact on your business.
Ask your potential providers if they own their own fiber optic network or lease it from others. Ask about their repair escalation procedures, and find out if you'll get a recording or a live person when you call into their repair or maintenance line. Try it! Look up the repair number on the company website, and call. Did you get a recording or a friendly, helpful person?
Demand flexibility and scalability
In any service-oriented business, you should be wary of companies that don't allow for flexibility. You should be able to upgrade, add services or select new product options incrementally as your company changes. Also, with the pace that technology is changing, make sure the company has a history of upgrading its network and expanding its product set for businesses like yours.
The bottom line
Finally, as with the selection of any business partner, don't forget to ask for references. If the company is worthy of your business, it will gladly provide you a list of customers who have been pleased with its service.
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