As an Internet Telephony Service Provider, having a good quality carrier for Direct Inward Dialing is one of the most important decisions you will make. Finding and managing multiple networks can be an overwhelming experience that can consume a lot of your time and focus. As small business operators, we tend to sometimes get stuck working in our business rather than on our business. DID management is one of those necessary components that can be complex and overwhelming. However, there are tools that some carriers can provide to make that process much easier.
I talk to a lot of owners who get obsessed with finding the best pricing and the cheapest VoIP DID Providers. In their minds, getting the best price is the key to whether they will succeed or fail in their venture. The reality of the situation is that many carriers have comparable pricing and DIDs are a commodity just like phone service itself. However, some carriers have been operating the same way for several years and have failed to innovate. ITSPs want flexibility in pricing, functionality, and service. But how do you know if your carrier can offer the tools you need to successfully run your ITSP? Here is our top 10 list of items to look for in a carrier.
1. DID Warehouse Portal
2. DID Footprint
Your carrier should provide as many rate centers to you as possible. This should not only include domestic but international as well. Make sure they cannot only provide the DIDs, but provide the features like T.38, CNAM, etc., for those DIDs. Remember, coverage is king.
Telecom is a reseller maze. Even though you may be buying from carrier A, they are reselling carrier B. You never really know who you are buying from. It all seems like a silly game that we have all come to accept. However, the industry is changing and ITSPs are demanding more transparency. Some carriers are now adopting this change. Some of them are even implementing a ranking system of those carriers based on network statistics and customer feedback.
4. E-911 Service
E-911 is a necessary component when offering VoIP service. Not offering the service can be a huge liability for ITSPs. However, some carriers will support E-911 only on their DIDs, require huge setup fees or require you signup directly with a 3rd party agency that handles these calls. ITSPs are looking for convenience; your carrier should allow you to register both on-net and off-net DIDs on their network. There are also innovative new features like email and text alerts that notify pre-selected contacts when 911 was dialed from a particular DID.
You buy DIDs from your carrier. They have all the data associated with your usage. Shouldn’t they provide you with customized reports and information that give you the necessary information to optimize your business? How about instant reports on how many DIDs you have ordered this month or last month? How many DIDs have e911 registrations? How many have CNAM or caller ID enabled? The more information you have regarding the services you purchase, the better you can control your margins and increase profitability.
Some carriers are strictly class 4 providers of their service. But what if you aren’t operating your own switch and your client’s switch goes down? Your carrier should offer failover or forwarding service for DIDs so you can quickly reroute to the clients cell phone, answering service, or other location.
Porting can be a frustrating process. In the past, you would complete an LOA, fax it to the carrier, and then wait weeks, if not months, for a status update. Some carriers now offer a semi-automated process that includes online LOA with online signatures, a dedicated porting department, and updated progress reports. Efficient carriers are now averaging 10 days or less on porting numbers. Be sure to ask for statistics from your carrier. If they don’t know, it is not measured and is probably not a priority for them
Organizing your DIDs, Endpoints, and E-911 registrations can be an overwhelming task. Some carriers now provide a CRM type of backoffice environment that makes management of these items a lot easier. Some even include a brandable end user portal that includes usage and CDR reports for the ITSPs' clients.
9. Other Services
What else does your carrier offer to make your life easier? Do they offer a billing solution for you to bill your clients? Do they offer any products like traffic analysis, security, fax, or conference calling? What is that carrier doing to help you differentiate yourself from the hundreds of other ITSPs out there? Ask them what makes them different.
Having good customer service sounds cliché. But good is the enemy of great. Don’t settle for mediocre support. Find out if they outsource their call center and where it is located. Do they offer SLAs on their support? What are their hours of operation? Make sure those hours are in sync with your client’s hours. There is nothing worse that talking to a client whose phone service is down on a Saturday and your carrier is closed until Monday.