in Telephone System

The frustration of buying a telephone system

This blog post in the New York Times is a couple years old but still excellent (and is not behind the NYT paywall).

It speaks to the many frustrations experienced by our customers:

  1. Feeling overwhelmed when purchasing a telephone system. There are not a lot of great research sources, and what resources are out there are compromised by the ad and consulting money of the manufacturers they write about and review. You are relying on salespeople.
  2. Finding out that the system they were promised will not work because the salesperson did not do enough discovery – in this article, it sounds like the salesperson in the call center forgot to ask if the customer used computer cables (to plug the VoIP phones into).
  3. Using vendor-shopping services and getting hustled and overwhelmed by phone calls after hitting ‘submit’ – brace yourself, as you will be called, immediately, by any number of eager salespeople. These salespeople will ask a handful of qualifying questions and email you a quote. Great solution for customers that are educated on installation and that are primarily looking for the cheapest possible system.
  4. Transitioning to VoIP can be painful if you are not careful. Cloud-based providers make their living on a 50% cancellation rate – they are not going to invest a lot of time troubleshooting with you, and are mostly doing everything over the phone so there is a limit to what they can accomplish if you have something on your network causing a problem. Many IT guys – like the person they hired to do the install in this story – are fantastic at desktop support but not all that schooled in computer networking and specifically, voice over IP.

A better approach to buying a new telephone system:

  1. Take the time to meet with a handful of local, established companies. When the you-know-what hits the fan, you will want a technician that is familiar with your system, your system’s programming, and your network. The cost of an extra couple hours of downtime is HUGE relative to the savings you can wring out up front from an untested or unprofessional vendor.
  2. Perform a network analysis before you purchase a new system. Many VoIP companies will provide you this at a discount or rebate you if you buy the phone system from them.
  3. Do a few speed tests from resources like and see what internet bandwidth you are actually getting. Try to write down what the upload and download speeds are at different times of day. Doing a speed test at 6pm when no one is at the office is a useless test – try for standard business hours.
    VoIP Speed Test screenshot

    Megapath’s SpeedTestPlus is a great tool for testing your bandwidth’s health

    Megapath’s SpeedTestPlus is a great tool as it includes stats that will impact your VoIP call quality like packet loss (audio drop-outs), latency (lag time), and jitter (echo and distortion). The human ear picks up on distortions at around 1% packet loss, 20ms of latency and 5ms of jitter.

  4. Ask for a phone bill analysis. Using new phone system technology such as SIP, you can drastically cut your monthly phone bill, and internet circuits are only getting cheaper. You should be shopping new phone and internet services every 2 to 3 years – if your contract is 4 years old, you are overpaying for a commodity.
  5. Look at Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). This concept is very important – there is an upfront cost to the system, and then the cost of repairs, upkeep, and upgrades over the years. Try to nail down these TCO costs for the first 5 to 8 years of ownership when you are shopping for a solution.
  6. Kick the tires. We will set our customers up on our phone system with a couple of phones and our desktop software to try out a Mitel or Zultys solution. The beauty of voice over IP systems is that no matter if our customers are in Los Angeles, Ventura, Orange County, Riverside or San Bernardino, they can connect to our phone systems in our St. Louis, Los Angeles or Boston data centers so long as they have an internet connection.

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