Last month we looked at five smart questions to ask in order to find the best Unified Communications (UC) provider for your business. Finding the best conferencing provider for your organization follows many of the same guidelines, but there are a few unique considerations to account for.
A provider’s experience, knack for innovation and flexibility are still important, but factors like network infrastructure, support staff and international reach should also play a part in your decision. Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all model when it comes to selecting a conferencing provider. Whichever firm you choose will vary depending on your specific needs, but there are a few questions you should ask to guide the selection process:
1. Does the provider offer a robust product portfolio?
When identifying a conferencing firm, the flexibility to choose between managed and hosted solutions can be critical, especially as your business grows and adapts. You also should have a broad choice of services, ideally a set of proprietary products as well as those offered by leading providers like Cisco, Microsoft or Adobe. At the same time, VoIP capabilities and high-resolution video conferencing support are quickly becoming “must have” features.
2. Does the organization own or outsource their network?
Conferencing providers with outsourced networks are able to cut costs and pass on the savings, but your call quality may suffer in the process. Providers with their own networks have more control over the infrastructure and are better equipped to responsively address issues as they arise and ensure reliable service.
3. How broad is the firm’s geographic scope?
A valuable conferencing provider should offer both global reach and local support for your organization and international partners. This may take the form of international toll-free dialing or dial-in/dial-out services.
It’s also important that your provider can maintain conferencing security, regulatory compliance and quality, regardless of where calls are placed. Locally, your provider should have the presence and capability to offer support when necessary.
4. Does the provider’s products encompass the functionality you need?
As organizations grow, their conferencing needs change. Your provider should meet your needs today, be prepared to accommodate new requirements as they arise and deliver products that offer more than the basics.
Look for providers that push beyond traditional audio and web solutions (e.g., with mobile connectivity options, integration with existing collaboration apps and interactive capabilities).
5. What levels of support can the firm offer?
There’s a reason why you are enabling your company to use conferencing services, so to encourage usage and adoption, those services have to be easy to use and offer technical support when necessary. Your provider should offer training, online help and live troubleshooting.
Keep an eye out providers who might charge you for training or have limited options for technical assistance, i.e., availability only at certain hours of the day, long response times, fee-based levels of support. You want to make sure your selected provider is poised to support your business with any challenges before, during or after the implementation process.
6. Does the provider have a good track record?
It’s important to know whether your provider has deep conferencing technology experience or if its products are merely recent additions to an existing business. If a provider offers proprietary audio or web conferencing services, that’s a strong indication of its familiarity with the technology and the business needs conferencing solves.
If a firm simply resells third-party products, it may be new to the space. Ask potential providers for case studies to determine if they have experience meeting needs similar to your own.
7. Are you getting a good value?
Free or “freemium” conferencing solutions may seem like a good deal, but you get what you pay for. Budget concerns are important, but the point of conferencing solutions is to improve—not inhibit—productivity and communication. Low-quality conferencing platforms reflect poorly on your firm and come with few (if any) value-add services.
8. Can you customize your billing arrangements?
Not every organization has the same billing needs, so it’s important that a provider is willing to meet yours. Agencies, for example, need the ability to track conference calls by billing code to manage conferencing costs per client.
On the other hand, your provider should offer flexible payment options that include support for a variety of currencies; fluctuating conversion rates and fees can add unnecessary complexity and hassle to the billing process.
Any other questions you think should be asked before signing up with a conferencing provider? Share your thoughts in the comments section.