Choosing a Phone Service Provider
Customize your communication services to fit your needsIn the past, choices were limited when it came to choosing a phone service provider for your business. But thanks to new technology and an increasingly competitive market, businesses now have a number of options.
You can choose local, long-distance and international calling plans from a variety of providers or bundle all your services with a single company. Finding plans that meet your specific communication needs is key. When choosing telephone service providers, consider the following:
- Anticipated growth of your business
- Your local call volume
- Your long-distance call volume
- Your international call volume
- The percentage of incoming calls vs. outgoing calls
- The number of employees who will likely be on the phone at the same time
Look for small business specialists
Order phone linesThe number of phone lines you'll need depends on the size of your business, your call volume and the number of employees who'll likely be on the phone at the same time. In addition to voice lines, your phone service provider should offer lines that allow you to access a fax machine and the Internet.
Get a local calling planEvery business — no matter how small — needs a local calling plan. Look for plans that offer unlimited local calling.
Compare long-distance ratesYou don't need to order long-distance service from the provider who handles your local calls. In fact, you may find a better rate from another provider, so shop around. Some plans allow you to make unlimited domestic long-distance calls for a flat rate.
Shop international calling plansIf your business phone calls to foreign countries, set up an international calling plan. Shop various providers to find the plan that suits your needs best.
Choose your extra phone service featuresMany calling features cost extra but are worth it. For starters, consider including voicemail, call forwarding, caller ID, speed dial and conference calling. Accounting codes can be especially useful if you need to track calls by client, employee or department. Call blocking, which allows you to block employees from making unauthorized long distance calls, can be a useful tool for some businesses.
Bundle servicesIf you bundle local and long-distance services, as well as data and IP services in some instances, with a single provider, you may be able eligible for discounted rates.
Manage your account onlineLook for a phone service provider that allows you to review past bills, make payments, request repairs or make changes to your account online.
Consider voice over IP (VoIP)With VoIP, you can take advantage of your high-speed Internet connection to make local and long-distance phone calls, generally at a fraction of the cost of typical phone service providers.
- Look at all your options for local service. The company you've always used may not be your only choice anymore.
- Don't agree to new offers over the phone. Ask service salespeople to fax or mail you the information, including all the pricing details, so you can take a few minutes to determine whether it's really a better deal for you.
- When choosing a phone service, take into account regular monthly line charges, the local call area and whether the plan you're considering is the most economical for your call needs and business size.
- Take a good look at the company's repair policies and its level of customer service. A bargain isn't really saving you money if you can't use your phone.
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