Cost is always a factor, whether you're shopping for toothpaste, a new smartphone, or business communications solutions. But cost is a tricky concept. Sometimes short-term savings lead to greater long-term expenses. Just as bargain-bin toothpaste might mean higher dental bills and a clearance-priced smartphone will soon need to be replaced, cheap communications solutions quickly become outdated as technology evolves and as your business grows.
Price alone is not how to choose the right communications solution. When evaluating vendors, ask the following questions to ensure you're choosing a communications solutions provider that can meet all your communications needs — internal and external, now and in the future.
1. How Robust Is the Solution?
Unified communications as a service (UCaaS) is a major market — projected to be worth $79.3 billion globally by 2024, according to PR Newswire — with many different players. In general, UCaaS refers to any cloud-based platform that combines different communication functionalities. Those functionalities can include:
Voice, telephony, messaging, and mobility support
Meeting solutions like video and web conferencing
Communications-enabled applications, such as integrated contact centers and communications platform as a service (CPaaS)
But not all UCaaS providers offer all these services. That might not seem like a problem if you only need a few of these services, but what happens if you need the others in a year or so as you scale? You would have to start over with a new UCaaS provider or piece together different solutions from different vendors with different bills. Either way, the more you grow, the more you'll pay.
If you choose a more robust UCaaS solution from the start, you can combine all internal and external communications solutions into one platform (with one bill), and you can scale or add services as you grow. You might even be able to eliminate some redundant solutions that you're already paying for.
2. Who Owns the Technology Stack?
Many UCaaS vendors offer a full suite of unified communications solutions, but they don't own all the pieces. For example, they might own the voice and messaging technology, but then they white label other providers' CPaaS solutions, contact center technology, and video meeting applications.
If these tools have been properly integrated, the solution might work just fine. If you have a customer support problem your vendor can't solve, however, suddenly you're dealing with a new company you've never worked with before. Just as importantly, your vendor doesn't control the development road map for these applications.
That's why it's critical to find a provider that owns or has acquired the entire technology stack, including its own CPaaS solution, contact center platform, and video meeting technology. By owning the entire technology stack and controlling its development, these vendors can innovate based on customer feedback, as well as advances in artificial intelligence, IoT integrations, and other emerging technology.
These UCaaS integrations can boost productivity by streamlining workflows, enabling greater automation, and making it possible for employees to access customer information within the UC platform.
3. What Integrations Are Possible?
When determining how to choose the right communications solution, don't just look at what the technology can do. Also find out if it works with your other technology.
Unifying communications is only the first step. The real UCaaS magic happens when it's integrated with CRM, cloud productivity tools such as G-Suite or Office 365, and other business applications that your team uses.
These UCaaS integrations can boost productivity by streamlining workflows, enabling greater automation, and making it possible for employees to access customer information within the UC platform. Not only does this save your company time and money, but more knowledgeable and efficient employees can also provide a better customer experience.
4. How Compliant Is the Solution?
Particularly if you're in a highly regulated industry like healthcare, compliance should be a top criteria for how to choose a provider. You want a vendor that provides guidance and enablement for compliance with industry regulations — including HIPAA compliance for healthcare companies, PCI for protection of financial data, and overall compliance with global privacy standards such as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
If your UCaaS provider white labels certain components of their technology stack, your vendor's compliance strengths and weaknesses aren't the only ones you need to worry about. Before investing in any solution, find out who owns what, and just how well they maintain compliance. Or better yet, find a provider that owns its own full technology stack and takes compliance seriously.
5. How Much Support Will You Get, and From Whom?
What sort of training and onboarding does a UCaaS vendor provide to new customers? How much ongoing support will you get, and what will that experience be like? If the company doesn't own its entire technology stack, do they provide customer support for the applications they don't own, or would you need to reach out to a separate company if you needed help? How often does the vendor roll out new updates and functionality, and what is that process like?
These are great questions to ask any potential vendor. Better yet, ask their customers. Check online reviews from users and industry experts.
While it's easy to rest on "you get what you pay for" logic, it can be more difficult to think about how your organization's needs might grow with time. The price tag is only one element of a quality product, so make sure you're asking the right questions and getting what you need — for now and for the future.