It’s becoming increasingly more difficult to navigate the technology labyrinth of the modern world. Every week brings a new SaaS product, gadget, widget, or term which has no agreed upon definition.
One of the areas this is true is in regards to hosted phones. What it’s important to understand is that the term “hosted phones” is like the word “car.” It’s a very general concept that encompasses many different types of systems, features, and use cases. No one would try to say that a Toyota Camry and an Audi A4 are the “same thing.” They’re both technically “cars,” but anyone who’s driven both would tell you they’re as different as fire and ice.
However, this is not how most people look at hosted phones. To the average business owner or user, Ring Central, Jive, Dialpad, Nextiva, Vonage, 8X8, and all the rest are basically just a different brand of the exact same thing. They’re all “hosted phones” right?
This couldn’t be further from the truth. While it’s true that, on some level, these systems all operate similarly and deliver a similar range of features, there are significant differences in the quality of service being offered, the robustness of the infrastructure they operate on, and the quality of support they offer.
In addition, every hosted phone provider has their own way of pricing and the complexity of pricing options is designed to make the different brands all appear to be on a level playing field. When you dig a little deeper, you’ll find that it’s not what it appears.
Ring Central advertises that their hosted phone plans “start at” $19.99/mo per user. If you dig a little deeper, you’ll find that you only get that price if you pay for a whole year in advance. If you pay monthly, that price actually starts at $29.99/mo. That’s just for the lowest tier user. When paying monthly, the “most popular” user they have goes up to $44.99/mo. Another thing they don’t tell you is that this monthly amount doesn’t include the phone handset. If you want a handset, it’s an additional $150-$200 depending on the type of phone you want.
In summation, that “starts at” $19.99/mo just became $44.99/mo for the profile you actually need + $150 for the handset. That means that for the profile most people actually use, on a monthly payment plan, the real price is $450 higher per year per user than Ring Central is advertising.
However, Ring Central wants to look like they have the same pricing as a company like Jive, which offers a stripped-down kind of hosted phone system that is cheaper and less stable than Ring Central.
To further illustrate the point, nearly every hosted phone provider says that they offer some sort of emergency support or 24/7 support. Again, when you take a closer look, it turns out that it’s really a call center in India or a chat agent that you can talk to “24/7.” But what happens if you have a real emergency and your phones are down? Phones are often vital to a business’s ability to run. If you are considering a hosted phone provider, you need to be sure that if an emergency actually arises, you’ll be able to get the help you need as soon as possible and not get stuck in a chat queue while your reputation and revenue walk across the street to your competitor.
Finally, the vast majority of hosted phone providers are “over-the-top” phone system providers. This means that, while their voice service runs over your already existing internet connection, they have no control over issues that may arise with your internet. 8X8 support won’t help you if your internet goes down. Since hosted phones mean your calls run over your internet connection, if your internet goes down, your phones go down. All the major hosted phone providers like to point to the vast array of features they provide. All the features in the world don’t mean anything when you can’t make or take calls because your internet is down.
All of this is to say, it’s incredibly important to thoroughly investigate the hosted phone system providers you are considering.
A few things to keep in mind:
- A local company is always a better bet for customer support and customer service.
- Price is not always what it seems.
- Features aren’t as important as call-quality and dial-tone stability.
If you approach your hosted phone provider decision with those 3 things in mind, you’ll be much more likely to end up with a system that serves you well.