Saturday, 16 April 2011

A Tale of VoIP Billing Woe

We recently signed up with a Voice Over Internet Protocol provider at work.  At the beginning there was a lot of hesitation to use a technology we thought was considerably young.  Even though in technology age it's pretty old, having been created in the mid 90's.  Still, there were a lot of concerns about reliability and use.  Previously nobody in the office had, had any familiarity with with Voice Over Internet Protocol, which is often shortened to VoIP, and pronounced voyp. 

At the beginning things were frustrating, and we quickly learned that you shouldn't have your VoIP tied to an unreliable internet connection.  Also, we quickly discovered that using our VoIP for faxing was going to be inconvenient.  On top of that we signed up with a service provider who was less than helpful.  One particularly disturbing incident was just recently resolved.  After a couple months with our VoIP we noticed a discrepancy in our bill.  We had signed on for auto-bill pay and when we looked at our bills we noticed that our monthly charges had jumped from the original quote of $39.99, to nearly double.  When I called our provider they explained that when we had signed up they had given us a "free" extra line.  However, after a couple months the offer had expired and the second line was no longer free.  What made the experience even more aggravating was the second line cancellation fee which was something like $40.00.  After talking with the timid operator, who recognized my situation for what it was, a scam, he agreed to drop the cancellation charge.  But we were still out almost $100.00 in charges for that second line. 

This experience left the business with a sour taste in our corporate mouth.  This wasn't so much due to VoIP, but to our VoIP provider.  It was unfortunate that we didn't do the research necessary to find a quality VoIP provider. 

During this whole experience we placed calls to other providers, and we quickly discovered that we had jumped the gun in selecting our voice over IP provider.  These other companies seemed twice as friendly and a far better deal over all.  However, doing this research was like pouring salt into an already gaping wound.

When we had selected our provider, we had merely glanced at the top three VoIP companies out there.  After a brief comparison between companies we made our decision.  Part of the problem was that our decision was made in haste.  This was because we were a start up company and needed a phone number quickly.  Having an operational phone were our customers could reach us was more important than heavy research on voice over IP providers.  On top of that we had to have advertisements made and business cards printed.  So much in business revolves around that phone number and we needed it fast.  That haste decision has cost us an extra $100.00 so far,  plus the additional stress associated with working with a less than hospitable company.

I'm writing this all down so you can avoid the pitfalls that I encountered.  During the time of frustration with our current VoIP provider we discovered that there were lots of smaller companies out there, who offered sometimes more for less than what we are currently paying.  If only we had done a little searching we could have made this discovery and avoided a massive headache.  I've penned this cautionary tale in order to encourage you to seek out these smaller and lesser known providers.

Currently, things have become a little bit better.  But it still hurts to pay our provider every month knowing that there are companies out there who are willing to provide us the same service with a smile.  We would cancel with our current VoIP provider but they have forced us to live in fear.  Fear of having to go through it all again.  Not only would canceling their service come with a charge, but it might also mean we would have to go through the headache all again.  It's the cowards way I know, but it's more convenient then the alternative.

Using voice over internet protocol has been great.  We get our voice messages in emails, and phone calls can be routed to our cell phones if we have to step out.  As far as I'm concerned I wouldn't want anything else in the office.  I only wish I had gone with some other VoIP provider.  The good news is, you still can, and even I can in a year or two.  So do the research and find the right VoIP provider for you.  You won't regret it.



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