Will they use it as a defensive shield, or a way to prove their value?
You’re singing along to “Cry Me a River” because the VoIP service you selected is … well, just not working out. They’re singing along to “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden.” Meanwhile, your employees aren’t singing along to anything at all. They’re busy grumbling.
Something’s not right when you and your VoIP vendor aren’t singing the same tune, and this should never have happened. There’s a crucial part of any successful relationship that must happen if everybody wants to sing in harmony. But first, here’s a promise: No more silly love song analogies.
Doing your homework
This is where most articles will pontificate about the importance of vetting your VoIP vendor:
- Did you read the fine print in the contract?
- Do they charge for things that others provide as part of the service?
- Does their website make boasts or promises that reviews don’t back up?
- Is VoIP a focus for them, or just a value-added service?
- Does their 24/7, “well never let you down” technical support have so many asterisks (leading to caveats) that you can’t even keep track of them?
This is not another one of those articles. Some of these points might be actionable advice that saves you from buyer’s remorse. But it’s like going to the doctor and being treated for the symptoms instead of discovering the cause of your ailment.
A proper diagnosis
Before you get married, you may choose to enter into a prenuptial agreement. It acts like an agreement about your commitment. The most notable feature of a prenuptial agreement is that it settles beforehand who’s entitled to what if the marriage fails.
You have a similar agreement with your VoIP vendor. While it may spell out obligations in the event of a breakup – which makes it sort of a VoIP “prenup” – its main and more important purpose is to clearly state what you should expect to get.
Your Service Level Agreement (SLA) is a pivotal element in the relationship with your VoIP vendor. It’s like a warranty, in a way. Your SLA is a set of ground rules that establish the expectations you and your vendor have about the services provided.
There are 3 important things to keep in mind about it:
1. The service levels should be clear and understandable, so there is no room for issues caused by differing interpretations.
2. The agreement isn’t all about your VoIP vendor. It can also include responsibilities and expectations that fall on your shoulders.
3. SLAs often keep their focus on minimum measurable criteria, meaning that you can’t challenge your vendor to improve service if you’ve agreed that these levels are the best they must achieve.
Sticks and carrots
The thing about a VoIP SLA is that most of it is going to be written from a highly-technical perspective. While there may be some areas that need no explanation, such as a statement that a troubleshooting technician will contact you within 3 minutes, other sections are complex.
What’s your level of understanding of data throughput, latency, or packet loss? Your VoIP vendor may want their performance to be measured on criteria that could leave you clueless. How would you know if their minimum level is acceptable, when you don’t even know what they’re measuring or why it’s important?
You’re about to enter into a partnership with a vendor who will supply a highly-technical service. Shouldn’t they take the time to make sure you understand everything they’re about to guarantee they’ll deliver? It’s a good sign if your vendor takes the proactive step of inviting you to an unrushed review of the SLA before they push a cost proposal your way.
You can apply this approach to any vendor where an SLA is a part of the relationship. We’ll expect you to apply it to us.