Choosing a provider
Increased competition in the telephone service market has made it possible to choose different vendors for each facet of your phone service. Since almost all providers use similar technology, call quality is consistently high. The two main criteria to use when making your decision are price and customer service.
Discount providers may seem attractive due to their low prices — but they may not offer the same level of customer service you'd get from a more established provider. Take the time to ask about support hours and policies, and make sure you get references to other customers. In contrast, the peace of mind that comes with a big name provider can be very expensive. Balance your needs for savings with your expectations of customer service.
Another important distinction between telephone service providers is the billing increment: the smallest amount of time you can be billed for. Some providers have increments as large as one minute, meaning that a 61-second call gets billed as two minutes. Try to get the smallest increment possible — many providers offer six second increments.
When reviewing billing increments, there are two elements to check for. First is the initial billing increment, which is applied as soon as your call is connected. After that, the rest of your call is billed using the additional billing increment. Both have a big impact on your overall bill, particularly for companies that make a lot of short calls. Reducing your billing increment can save as much as 10-15% on your overall bill.
Also investigate the billing services each vendor offers. Do they just send you a bill at the end of the month, or do they have an online service that lets you track your usage on an ongoing basis? Do they offer online payment options? Make sure the telephone service provider you choose offers the flexibility you need.
Finally, most but not all providers include basic features like call waiting, caller ID, and call forwarding as part of their standard packages, so be sure to ask. Some providers also include extras like auto-attendants, conferencing, and voice mail. If your phone system hardware doesn't include them, consider turning to your telephone service provider.