In Search of Business Phone Service? Tempted by Cable's Triple-Play? What SMBs Might Consider First

Are you a small business owner shopping for phone service? If you're one of the shrinking number of residential cable customers for broadband, TV and voice, you might start by looking to the same source for your workplace. But you might be well advised to go another route when it comes to business. Why?

Not designed for business from the ground up

An adaptation of their residential service, cable's voice platforms haven't been designed for business from the ground up. They have the basic small business Hosted PBX features: extension transferring, conferencing, ring groups, and auto attendants. But cable often falls short on the enhanced UC features, the click-to-call plug-ins, video chat, self services portals, and more. Productivity tools like Slack integration and advanced APIs to build custom apps are typically not available. Neither are modern web-based calling capabilities, like seamlessly embedding real-time video calling into your web sites, enabling a visitor to engage with your team face to face, right from their browser. These come from the UC-only providers like OnSIP.

Want to use the latest IP phones?

Check to make sure the cableco supports that phone; many such providers only support a limited number of VoIP phones. Worse, when you want to add an employee across town, or someone across the country who is on a different ISP, some providers’ services just won't work. If you can only bring folks on the same ISP into your business phone system, you’re restricted in who you can present as part of your company. Today we build great teams by “hiring the best, not the nearest.” That means you need to be able to connect employees regardless of their ISP.

Dedicated Support staffIs great customer service important to you?

Cable companies aren’t typically known for that. Comcast, for example, routinely leads Zogby Analytics'  "Hall of Shame" in a poll commissioned by 24/7 Wall St. If your local cableco has low customer satisfaction scores, know that you have a choice where voice is concerned; you needn’t put all your eggs in cable’s basket.

Do you like to buy direct from the supplier?

Voice services typically aren’t under cable’s direct control because they haven’t developed their own platforms. Voice service came as a fill-in for cable companies, which got their start delivering video over coaxial cable, replacing roof antennas atop homes. They added Internet service years later, when data speeds started exceeding the capacity of dial-up connections, and they started grabbing residential voice away from telcos when IP telecom emerged.

But they arrived at this triple-play chiefly by outsourcing. Cablecos did not build the technology that powers their phone service; they still chiefly license it from third-party software companies that, like the cableco, were built first for the residential market.  As customers -- not owners or developers -- of their communication platforms, they stand in line for vendor response, just slightly ahead of their own customers, if and when they want the new calling, video and mobility features being promoted by today's cloud-based, comm-centric providers.

Cable lags behind the march of UC progress

Fierce competition has forced cloud-based phone system providers to innovate, price attractively and scale. The same is not true for cable, which competes with one telco, if anyone, for its ISP business in most markets. So most cable business phone offerings are aimed at the most basic requirements of very small businesses, as noted above. They also tend to lag at least two years behind the market in functionality, as cable companies dread upsetting their customer bases with new software releases not under their control. Under these circumstances, cablecos are not your best source for phone system smarts or design help. The staff won't take the time to learn about your business and help you deploy the features that will have the greatest effect on your bottom line.

At OnSIP, because our platform is our own, we never wait in line for improvements to our service. We are free to continue developing and testing new features in response to customer or market needs and our own inspiration.

video-chat-doctor-laptop-healthcareStreaming video, wireless-only customers spell trouble for cable

The fact is that cable companies are under revenue pressure, as customers increasingly cut the phone cord and the TV cable, too; the rise of IPTV in Netflix, Amazon Prime, Google, Hulu and now Youtube is very real. Of the triple play, the surviving data service is a commodity, with the price pressure that implies.

To compensate for these losses, cable companies do all they can to block the exits. Check the length of your cable contract; it's typically two years, or priced significantly higher per month for shorter commitments. The same goes for bundling: Don't take voice and you may find yourself "punished" with broadband rates that rise to make up the difference. In fact, customers often take cable's most basic voice package just to get the best deal on the other two services, then subscribe to a true UCaaS provider for business communications.

Naturally, we recommend OnSIP as your best true provider. We'll even let you poke around our UCaaS for 30 days for free, and if you've got IP phones, there's nothing to install. No long (or even short) term contracts. We bet you'll be won over with all the tools and efficiencies your business can gain from a system designed, maintained and continually enhanced by us, your business communication specialists.  

Topics: Business Technology, SMB Leadership