As discussed in Part 1 and 2 of this white paper, choosing a DID origination provider can be an overwhelming task in today's thriving VoIP market. In Part 1, we outlined the three main types of providers, as well as identifyi9ng and selecting a provider based on their footprint and DID features. Part 2 focused on how to purchase usage (per min or per port), identifying MRCs and NRCs, and what to look for in a contract.
In this final section of Selecting a DID Origination Provider, we will discuss the less appealing parts of selecting a solid vendor; support, number porting, and billing. What do all these have in common? They are all operations. Operations define an organization, yet have the power to make or break a company. It’s the same old story, a team develops a product, marketing and sales teams secure the customers, and operations drops the ball on service. All the goodwill earned to this point is right out the window. Choosing an upstream partner that has these same issues can be equally devastating to your organization. It takes a significant investment and real dedication for an organization to provide exceptional operational services. In the technological industry it comes down to three operational functions; support, number porting, and billing.
Customer support is the first line of defense. How an organization deals with an issue defines who they truly are. Great support comes from great communication and engaged employees. It is essential that the provider you choose has fanatical support, stellar communication, and enthusiastic staff. A good organization understands that support is the heart and these employees are what make it beat. Using a management technique called “Top Grading” to hiring “A” players is the key to success. VoIP Innovations adopted the Top Grading technique and as a result, has seen tremendous growth in their support employees and processes.
Here are a few important questions to think about when researching potential providers. Do they offer 24x7 support? Do they operate using a ticketing system or simply emails? Does their BackOffice provide me with tools to trouble shoot issues? What is their outage and escalation process? The answers to these questions can help differentiate between a good provider, and a great provider. If you can’t get ahold of support, getting your problem resolved will be difficult. Using a ticketing system instead of emails allows your team to track, assess, and manage issues in real-time. Most of us will help ourselves, and actually prefer to help ourselves, if given the proper tools. A company’s support defines what an organization is all about and you can learn how important support is to them by the people they hire.
Along with customer support being a huge part of operations, number porting is equally as important. Earlier we spoke about sales doing their job and delivering customers to operations and operations dropping the ball. Imagine operations, more specifically number porting, dropping the ball before one call is made. This can be very demoralizing to your sales team. Miss the boat with number porting and not only is your customer without service but they are extremely unhappy too. In the wireless cell phone industry, number porting is much simpler. There are only a handful of carriers (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, etc.) and they all port numbers using the same system. Number ports are done in real-time or while you are standing in a Verizon or AT&T store. This is not the case in the VoIP world. There are thousands of carriers and all of them are do things their own way. Finding a service provider that can perform this task, with the least amount of errors, is challenging. All carriers claim they can perform this critical task but in reality, most cannot. Some experienced providers, such as VoIP Innovations, have dedicated many resources towards mastering the VoIP number porting process. What did they do? The answer is simple; they built automation and processes, which in turn produced quick number ports and fewer errors.
Prior to deciding on a carrier, there are several things to consider. Does the company have a dedicated number porting department? What is the average length for a number to port? Do they offer an online LOA (letter of authorization) or do they still use paper forms? Can I track my number ports through their BackOffice? A company that can master number porting will have an advantage over the rest of the industry. VoIP Innovations might be on their way to doing just this.
Along with zealous support and error-free number porting, comes the exciting billing side of the business. Billing sounds straightforward and something a company should be able to do if they are in this business, right? Wrong. This continues to be the Achilles heel for the VoIP industry. We discussed MRC and NRC billing in the second part of this three part series and truly understanding what services you are being billed for. The many different types of MRCs and NRCs make it difficult for you to track, audit, and dispute carrier bills. Not to mention the fact that oftentimes bills are not even correct! It’s important to look at each bill in-depth until you understand what and when you are being charged. Once you have a few months under your belt, your will start to see patterns (total spend, total DID costs, Average LNP fees etc.) and when one of these metrics is outside the acceptable variance, you can dig deeper to find an explanation.
Regarding billing, there are a couple things you will want to consider. Will my invoices be available online? Can I retrieve my CDRs online and in real-time? Will I be able to make payments online? Does their system provide notification alerts? In order to proficiently audit your carrier invoices you will want a provider to have your invoices, transactions, and CDRs available online and in real-time. You will also want your carrier to provide online payments (one-time and recurring) and send account alerts informing you of critical account actions. Offering these features plus a smartphone app is what VoIP Innovations’ Titanium III BackOffice solution offers to its customers.
I hope you have learned something from this three part series on Selecting a DID Origination Provider. In summary, Step 1 is to define your coverage area, DID feature set, and type of carrier you wish to partner with. The next step is to decide how to purchase usage services, identify MRCs and NRCs, and review the MSA (master service agreement). Lastly, Step 3 focuses on learning about a potential provider’s support, number porting, and billing. Although this process may sound overwhelming, researching providers before making a commitment will be beneficial to you in the long run. Laying a solid foundation for your business gives you the best chance for success in a demand focused economy.