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We've prepared this worksheet to help you keep track of the questions to ask (and the responses) when requesting personalized quotes and information from phone service companies. Fill in the information below as you speak with representatives from each company so you can determine which provider offers the best service for the right price for your company. Plan to spend at least 20 to 30 minutes on the phone with each company. 


Be Prepared to Answer Questions

When you call a phone service provider for a quote, the representative will typically ask a few questions about your small business in order to gauge the level of service, equipment and systems you will need. Be prepared to share the following:

  • The name of your business
  • The number of employees who will need a phone
  • Whether you will install a new system, replace an existing one or expand your existing system
  • The calling features you will need
  • Which collaboration features – e.g., conference calling, video conferencing, instant messaging – you will need
  • Whether you will connect cell phones to the phone system
  • The type of phones you'll need
  • Whether you will need assistance setting up equipment

Reminder: Do not sign a contract with a phone service provider until you are certain you have all the equipment you need and are ready to commit to a long-term contract with that phone company.

What Matters Most to You?

When selecting which phone service provider works best for your company, there are a number of factors to consider. Between pricing, contract lengths, equipment and calling features, you will want to nail down the factors that matter the most to you. Doing so (before you talk to a persuasive salesperson) will help you choose the service that best fits your business. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Reliability (does the company have a record of 99.9 percent uptime ensuring you always have service)
  • The fees it charges
  • Cost of equipment
  • Calling features

At the end of each call, ask the customer service representative to email you the price quote and contract for further review. Make sure before you hang up that you have the following information:

  • The pricing plan and rates the company offers
  • Whether you rent or buy equipment and the associated price
  • The features included in the plan
  • The amount of customer service involvement

Pricing

One of the most important factors when choosing a phone service provider is pricing. After determining how many phones and features you will need for your office, the customer service agent should give you a personalized quote. In addition to the cost of the plan, there are typically setup fees, equipment costs (whether you are renting or buying) and sometimes termination fees.

Questions to Ask:

  • What are the startup costs?
  • What is the total price for the plan, equipment and any other associated fees?
  • What is the duration of the contract?
  • What are the contract's terms and conditions?
  • What is the maximum number of lines I can have?
  • How easy is it to add new lines?

Information to Record:

Number of Service Plans: _______
Name of Desired Plan: _________________________
Number of Phones: _____
Equipment Cost (rental/outright): ________
Startup Costs: _________
Contract Length: ____________
Termination Fee: _______
Terms and Conditions: ______________________________________________
Total cost: $__________

Equipment

After you determine the total cost involved in setting up and maintaining a phone system, you will want to learn about the type of equipment you will need to purchase (specific to an on-premises system or a cloud-based system) and any associated fees.

Questions to Ask:

  • Is the equipment bought or leased?
  • What type of phones do you offer?
  • With an on-premises system, what equipment do I need to buy?
  • Are there any fees outside of the subscription plan for cloud-based systems?
  • Are there any porting fees so I can keep my same number?
  • When can I expect an operating phone system to be ready by?

Information to Record:

On-Premises System Fees: __________
Cloud-Based System Fees: _________
Porting Fee: ______________
Types of Phones to Purchase: ______________________________________________
Expected Time Frame: _______________________

Collaborative Features

Once you know which subscription works best for your company, as well as the associated fees and exactly what equipment you need to buy, you will want to find a plan that incorporates the collaborative features you need to communicate across your company.

Questions to Ask:

  • Does the system have an online portal for employers and employees?
  • Will the system integrate with my smartphone via routing or through an online portal?
  • What conferencing options do you offer: instant messaging, online meetings, video conferencing or conference calling?
  • What monitoring options do you have: call screening, logs or silent monitoring?
  • Do you have a voicemail-to-email option or a voicemail-to-text option?
  • How does the system alert you to messages?
  • What answering options do you offer: auto receptionist, music on hold or calling queues?
  • Does the system integrate with third-party programs like Salesforce or Outlook?
  • Does your phone system include faxing?

Information to Record:

Smartphone integration: __________________________________________
Online Portal (y/n): __________
Conferencing Features:
Instant Messaging (Y/N): _________
Online Meetings (Y/N): __________
Video Conferencing (Y/N): ________
Conference Calling (Y/N): _________
Monitoring Options:
Call Screening (Y/N): ____________
Logging (Y/N): ________________
Silent Monitoring (Y/N): _________
Voicemail to Text/Email (Y/N): _________
Answering Options:
Auto Receptionist (Y/N): ________
Hold Music (Y/N): __________
Calling Queues (Y/N): __________
Faxing (Y/N): ________________
Third-Party Integrations: ______________________________________________

Customer Service & Follow Up

After learning about the pricing, equipment and features included in your plan, you will want to learn more about the company's customer service. Ask how many data centers the company employs. This will help you understand the service's speed and whether the company has enough data centers to ensure 99.9 percent uptime.
Additionally, the service's warranty serves as an important document if you encounter problems. (It also clarifies the best way to reach the provider.)

Questions to Ask:

  • How many data centers do you have?
  • Do you offer 24/7 customer service?
  • Where are your corporate headquarters located?
  • Do I have to pay extra for technical support?
  • Do you offer a warranty? If so, what is it?
  • What is the best form of contact?

Information to Record:

Number of Data Centers: ______________________
Customer Service Information: ______________________________________________
Warranty Information: ______________________________________________

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