Regardless of industry, customer service is an essential component of any business. VoIP, as a service based industry, requires a certain level of customer service and support in order to ensure users of sustained workability and operability. While this support is more necessity than commodity, how can providers determine if their support is inclusive, expansive, and all encompassing enough? What even delineates quality customer service? Is it location and accessibility, or variety and option? Though subjectivity can be argued in any direction, users typically look for knowledge, resource, and availability. As customer support expands to meet users’ increasing demands, there are some “pillar” qualities users should look for.

Simplicity: In looking for simplicity, users need to think basic. Instead of calling operators/live representatives to be transferred through departments and employees, users should want support to be accessible from any point of knowledge. For example, if you were to call your provider to discuss echo problems that you are experiencing, you should be able to contact your provider and be transferred no more than once – from the operator/auto attendant to a representative. Aside from multiple transfers, on-hold time during a call is something users should look to cut down as much as they can. Users should seek a provider that understands how valuable time is, and thusly fully optimizes time efficiency. In doing this, users can (and should) research hold times for providers.

Additionally, a simplified customer-management relationship is often called for. Users should always feel valued by their providers; therefore, management should put themselves at the users disposal at all times. With a direct line to a manager-type/level employee, users can better feel they are being treated with priority. Also, in speaking with a higher rank (manager as opposed to representative) users feel as if they command more authority, which in turn reinforces the idea of self-worth. A good example can be found in a billing dispute. If you call your provider about an unwarranted charge, you typically want to speak with a managerial representative to express your concerns and thoughts (usually anger). If a manager or authority is not available to you, you may feel under-whelmed by the provider and thusly more inclined to drop that provider.

Live Representatives: Users ultimately rely on providers’ customer support to amend any problems or discrepancies that may arise within a system or service. Therefore, users should actively seek providers that offer knowledgeable representatives that are capable of guiding both experienced and new users through any problem. Users typically look to deal with real people in sorting out any problems that may arise. In dealing with a live person, users often feel that it is easier to understand and follow directions, as live reps can better elaborate and explain wherever necessary. Additionally, live reps offer a personal touch that helps users to feel a greater sense of importance and worth with their provider.

Aside from navigating service/hardware issues and/or setup, users should seek live representatives as they are helpful in mediating any situations that may arise. For example, if you are upset and contact your provider to cancel your service, a live rep may be helpful in diffusing your emotion and in determining the correct approach to the situation, i.e. find you the right solution. In relation to this, live reps are also useful in the way they can help providers retain customers through compensation, i.e. discounts, promotional offers, add-ons, etc.

Web Support Options & Availability: A provider may not be able to provide live rep assistance 24/7; therefore, users should look for providers that implement the use of online portals, video tutorials, live web chats, FAQs, and/or other web based alternatives as well. In seeking these services, users are given a much wider range of support that aids in addressing any problem at any given time. With online portals, users can access information from anywhere to help them self diagnose and remedy a number of situations.

Service Availability & Location: As mentioned above, live representatives may not always be available. If this is the case, providers must be sure to offer alternatives. Despite the availability of alternatives, many users still require live representative support; therefore, If providers cannot accommodate or produce a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week live support staff/schedule, they should offer an extensive schedule. For example, providers offer live reps M-F from 7am-6pm, Sat and Sun from 8am-3pm, in addition to their other support alternatives. Aside from availability, the location of support is important to users as well. Customers will want to look for support that is offered from within the US, as opposed to outsourced teams. With national support, there are fewer barriers between the provider and the user (for example, language and time zone). With domestic support, users will not have to worry about variances in time zones and support hours. Users should look for US support to truly optimize around the clock service. Also, in seeking out domestic support, users may feel more comfortable as they see reps to be more accessible and tangible.

Warranties & Return Policies: Providers should implement their own warranties or honor manufacturer’s warranties for hardware that users purchase from them. Whether the warranty reimburses cash or replaces hardware, users should want providers and companies that stand behind their products. In working with these companies/providers, users can feel more at ease as they know their products are quality, as well as replaceable if need be. For example, Jive Communications honors the manufacturer’s warranty for one year. As with warranties, users should also look for return policies for equipment/hardware. These policies typically indicate certain requirements or time allotments in which users are allotted to return an item to a provider or manufacturer. Some requirements may include condition and stipulation of functionality, where time allotments refer to the amount of time a customer has to return the item for reimbursement. Along with hardware policies, users should research the financial guarantees associated with service. For example, are there money back guarantee periods, or are there any types of refunds of startup fees. Users should not only look for providers that offer this, but offer it with fair conditions, i.e. 30 day money back guarantee.

Each of these “pillar” categories notes dos and don’ts’ that are similar to those present in choosing a VoIP provider; therefore, users should actively investigate and pursue. For users just switching to VoIP from traditional service, the change can be intimidating; therefore, it is important that you find providers that offer extensive and through customer service and support. Additionally, the VoIP industry offers proficient reliability. So, aside from new users, experienced users should continue to pursue providers that offer long term service and support to the same extent. As stated above quality customer service is subjective; however, it is only so to a certain degree. Users want providers that offer incorporative support to the fullest extent. Just as quality customer service can ensure business, poor customer service can repel it. Users know this, and subsequently search for timely straight forward solutions. Any hindrances in support should not be tolerated. The VoIP industry is ultimately a service industry. While providers are sure to offer quality solutions and services, users should be sure that these services are implemented with the appropriate customer support.