HOW TO SELECT A TELECOMMUNICATIONS SOLUTIONS PROVIDER
By Rick Endres, President, The Washington Network, Inc.
Alexandria, VA — February 23, 2009 — Today's business environment has never been more competitive. Companies in virtually every industry are working overtime to increase profits, outperform the competition – or simply to survive.
To maximize their efforts, they are looking at ways to help their employees increase and improve service to customers. One method with tremendous potential: taking full advantage of the quantum leaps in technology being offered by today's telecommunications systems.
Ignoring a telecommunications system that’s rapidly becoming obsolete can mean failing to meet your customers’ expectations, losing opportunities and losing revenue. While you must make every effort to control costs and increase productivity, you should realize that a state-of-the-art telecommunications system can start paying for itself from the moment you activate it.
But remember: a telecommunications system is a major investment and a complex combination of technologies. It should be able to grow with the company. The provider should consult with you to select the right system, install it, provide training and long-term assistance with any problems, and install future system upgrades.
Take the following list of considerations to heart when selecting a telecommunications systems provider:
- Manufacturer Authorized or Accredited
Is the telecommunications provider authorized or accredited by the system's manufacturer? If not, the firm may be able to install the system, but not able to provide the ongoing support, including upgrades to the system and correcting any software problems. If the provider does not have access to the manufacturer for the resolution of these problems, it places you, the customer, at a high risk.
To determine if the provider is authorized or accredited, get more than just his word. Ask for a comfort letter from the manufacturer, or call to the manufacturer's regional office for a provider reference. It is also a good idea to visit the vendor's office to take a look at the inventory, facility and day-to-day business operations.
Voice and Data Experience
In today's rapidly evolving telecommunications marketplace, you need a provider with a significant amount of both voice and data experience. The long-awaited convergence of voice and data is here. Work with a provider that has technical expertise in computer telephony integration (CTI).
Full-Service Telecom Provider
Your provider should be a single point of contact for consultation, design, installation, implementation, training and maintenance of voice, data and video communications cabling and equipment. A wide range of top-quality, reasonably priced products and services should also be available to you. Is the provider simply going to sell you a piece of equipment, or provide your company with a complete solution.
The provider's reputation is as significant as the product you buy. Check with the Better Business Bureau. Ask the provider for a least five customer references. Then call each one. How long have they had the system? How is the providers' ongoing support? Have they demonstrated an ability to resolve any problems?
Understanding Of Your Business
Does the company have an understanding of your business? Do they understand the technologies and applications that most benefit your company? For example, a trade association may need different telecommunications functionality than a manufacturing operation. Select a provider who understands your business requirements.
With many large telecom providers, you may never speak to the same person twice after the original purchase. Giant companies simply aren’t designed to develop relationships with small businesses. Flexibility and responsiveness suffer. Select a provider who will be your partner in growth, who will understand your business and anticipate not only your needs, but opportunities for using new technologies that give you a business advantage – before your competitors get them.
Does the provider offer you the option to lease, finance or buy? There are plenty of good reasons to lease equipment – especially technology equipment that tends to lose resale value quickly. Use the financial records related to your current system as a reference point. Factor in the initial cost of the system, potential enhancements and repair costs.
What type of warranty does the company offer? Understand your warranty options and determine whether they cover parts and labor. This will give you security, comfort, value, dependability and peace of mind.
Remote System Access
Make sure you have the option for remote system access. Remote access enables your provider to make adds, moves or changes to your telecom system from off-site. This can reduce costs over the long-term.
Local Support and Service
Does the telecom system provider have a local technical assistance center staffed by highly trained, certified technicians? Will the company come back to your business after time has passed, assess what has changed, and make recommendations to improve your system? Your previous telecom provider may have recommended a technology that was great for your business five years ago, but the environment has changed. There are better solutions today, and there will be better solutions tomorrow.
Customer Employee Certification
To some providers the less the customer knows, the better. Reality is the more you know about your system, the better off you will be over the long-term. Will your telecom provider send your designated employees to a certification school for training on the system? Once they have been trained, they can have access to your system switch for adds, moves and changes. This lets you control service costs and enhance flexibility. In addition, a trained employee will be able to "talk the talk" with a certified technician if a problem ever arises.
Many companies make the mistake of simply buying the equipment rather than solving their telecom problems. Remember that you are shopping for a solution, not a product.
Your provider should perform an audit of your existing system and either integrate more efficient equipment into it, or design a totally new system.
The technology must align with your specific business needs. It should improve the communications capabilities of your company and give you a competitive advantage. And the great thing about today’s technology – it can do all this while saving you money. Make sure you enjoy all these advantages by choosing a provider who is qualified and wants to create a lasting relationship.
ABOUT THE WASHINGTON NETWORK, INC.
Founded in 1987, The Washington Network, Inc. in Alexandria, Virginia, provides computer networks, VoIP phone systems, IT support and other technology solutions for associations and businesses in the Washington, DC Metro area.
Serving clients without a large in-house IT staff, The Washington Network lowers operating costs while increasing worker productivity. The company’s flat-rate managed services include remote network monitoring, preventive maintenance, help desk, redundant back-ups and on-site support.
A member of the Northern Virginia Technology Council and Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, The Washington Network has been honored as the Chamber’s Professional Service Business of the Year. Through its strategic membership in the Technology Assurance Group, The Washington Network serves and supports clients with multiple locations across the U.S. and Canada.
The Washington Network is located at 30 South Quaker Lane, Alexandria, Virginia 22314. For more information call 703.212.7100 or visit www.WashingtonNetwork.com.