When should SMEs review their telephony?

How crucial is telecommunications to your business? Maybe you are an SME business owner, for whom a missed call not only has a corporate impact, but a personal one. Or you might be in the finance department, dealing with margins so fine that overpayment for an essential service has a greater impact than it might for a blue chip counterpart.

The fact is that having the ability to make and receive calls, access data and line of business applications, and get online is crucial for every SME. And so is value for money.

As such, every small business should closely monitor how their comms systems are performing, and whether or not they are getting the best deal they can for the best service in the current market. If everything isn’t as it should be, it may be time to switch. The big questions are when to review, how and who to switch to.

A good time to move

There is no ideal time to switch telecommunications provider during the business year. And there is no guarantee that better deals will hit the market. Unlike with consumer telephony, businesses can’t rely on January sales.

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Phone systems for SMEs

If you are thinking about reassessing your telephone supply, and potentially making the move, the best thing is to know when it will cause the least disruption. For B2C businesses, Christmas is to be avoided at all costs. However, B2B outfits may find the festive period the perfect quiet time to assess the performance of essential business tools.

A good rule of thumb for all SMEs is to begin assessment of comms systems three months before the contract is due for renewal, particularly if looking at alternative technologies to a traditional fixed line service. And to never forget that date.

Is the cheapest deal the best?

There is no shortage of telephony package offers on the market. Some will more than likely be cheaper than the one you are currently on. But the lower cost option is not always the best. The rock bottom rate may look attractive, but it might not include the kind of 24/7 business support that SMEs depend on. Nor the additional functionality to support your growing business’ needs – mobile working, for example.

The loss of customer revenue from an uncorrected systems outage is likely to end up costing more than a slightly higher priced — and better serviced — comms system would have.

Where to look for help

Your current supplier should be the first port of call for help on assessing your current telecommunications system. Reports, data and analytic insights will all be necessary when trying to ascertain whether you should stick or twist.

Some providers also offer free independent cost analysis to prospective customers. This takes the arduous job of price and service comparison out of your hands.

What to look for

One of the most important factors that should influence the decision of whether and when to switch telephone providers is billing and finance.

Some providers now offer a mixture of CAPEX and OPEX billing, with payments structured to be either up front, financed or monthly to meet your needs.

That same provider should also be able to understand your drive to switch and to facilitate the move. Usually system end of life, office relocation or expansion influence the decision to change comms providers. Whichever it is, your new partner should be ready to project manage the design, installation and aftercare of the new system. As well as administering training for all users.

Changing a major piece of infrastructure has the potential to be a stressful and unsettling process for SMEs. Especially when that piece of infrastructure is the means by which the business speaks to its customers. But with the right advice, information and provider, moving telecommunications supplier can be an easy way to a better, more effective service to support your business growth.

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15 February 2016 | Jamie Ward

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The views in this article are the personal views of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by Gamma.