10 Questions to Ask
10 QUESTIONS YOU SHOULD KNOW THE ANSWER TO BEFORE BUYING A PHONE SYSTEM
1. DO YOU KNOW THE MANUFACTURER’S REPUTATION FOR QUALITY?
There’s a reason that we’ve chosen to work with Toshiba for more than 20 years. Their quality is legendary. Their products are manufactured in factories with world-class quality control. But you probably already realize this about Toshiba, because they’ve made a point of making a reputation for their quality, with all of their products, for many years. If you’ve never heard of the manufacturer, let alone know their reputation for reliability, do you really want to trust them with your company’s primary means of communications? We didn’t think so.
2. IS YOUR POTENTIAL VENDOR AN AUTHORIZED DEALER?
There’s a reason that Toshiba has chosen to work with us for more than 20 years. We have met certain high standards for customer service and have met certain financial and training commitments to Toshiba. And we maintain these standards, commitments and training certifications on an ongoing basis. It’s not an easy task. But as an authorized dealer, we can buy directly from Toshiba. And we enjoy direct, free access to their technical support. Be wary of the potential vendor who is “affiliated” with a manufacturer by way of buying through distribution. They will certainly not have the same level of commitment and support behind them.
3. IS THE PHONE SYSTEM INTUITIVE?
You’d think that the all of these big companies who make phone systems would design them so that they’re easy to use. That’s not always the case. (We’re not going to trash those manufacturers on our web site cough-Nortel-cough-Cisco-cough-cough, but we’ll be happy to tell you about their design flaws in person.) It can be expensive and time consuming to train new staff on something a common as the phone system. Toshiba understands this, and has gone to great lengths to make their phones simple to understand. And to the extent that these ease-of-use features are “programmable”, we’ll take care of that from day one, by configuring the system right, labeling the buttons clearly, training your staff, further training a system administrator, and supporting you forever.
4. CAN THE SYSTEM BE DEMONSTRATED EFFECTIVELY?
We’ll be pleased to come to your office and demonstrate the features and administration of our phone system. And we mean OUR phone system. We’ll bring an IP phone that’s an extension of our own working office phone system and allow you to make and receive calls, slam the receiver, and smack the buttons with a rubber mallet if you’d like to test the durability. And if you’d like a real dog-and-pony show, we can bring our Toshiba representative along. We can arrange for you to visit one of our existing customers in your neighborhood. Or we can arrange for a meeting in the new demo room at Toshiba headquarters in Irvine. They’ll usually spring for bagels and coffee too.
5. DO YOU KNOW THE POTENTIAL VENDOR’S REPUTATION FOR CUSTOMER SERVICE? Check references. Unfortunately, some companies (and that list starts with the big carriers) have an apathetic approach to customer service. We take pride in pro-actively servicing our customers beyond their expectations, and we’ll be happy to provide solid, independent references of our heroic commitment to customer service.
6. WHAT’S THE PHYSICAL ADDRESS OF YOUR POTENTIAL VENDOR?
It sounds silly, really. But if the guy is working out of his garage, he’s probably not going to have the inventory or technical staffing level to handle your urgent needs. And he’s certainly not going to be factory authorized.
7. HOW WILL THE PURCHASE TRANSACTION BE CONSUMMATED?
For new customers, we require a 50% deposit on any hardware sale totaling $500 or more. (For existing customers, we may raise that threshold.) But we won’t ask for another dime until you’re 100% satisfied with the installation, configuration, and training. Be wary of the potential vendor who asks for more up front, or who will demand the balance just prior to installation. For service calls, we may ask a new customer to pay upon completion. Thereafter, we’d be happy to send an invoice, and as long as you pay that invoice in a timely manner, we’ll continue the relationship on the same basis.
8. HOW WILL YOUR PHONE SYSTEM BE CONFIGURED?
There are literally thousands of features in a phone system that can be turned on or off, or otherwise programmed or adjusted in some way. In many cases, after taking over for a less-than-reputable vendor, we’ll see that all of the default settings have been used. This typically means that the vendor simply took the order, hung the phone system on the wall, collected the money, and vanished. (Sometimes it means that the customer got a deal on a used system from eBay without realizing the complexity involved with installing it.) We’ll ask you about your business, what PERCEPTION you want to give callers, your expectations for making the most EFFICIENT use of your employees, the FIXED and RECURRING costs associated with the various options and features. Based on your input, we’ll customize the phone system. And once it’s installed, our price includes 60 days of on-site configuration changes, and unlimited phone support to help you configure the many features that Toshiba has intended you to be able to change.
9. HOW WILL THE PHONE SYSTEM BE MAINTAINED?
If we do our job right (and we won’t expect you to pay us until we do) you shouldn’t need us to do anything else until you need to help with a move, add, or change. So why pay a monthly recurring maintenance charge? While we do offer an enhanced service level guarantee to some customers who want it, we don’t force it or even push it on you. In the unlikely event that there’s a major problem, we’ll take ownership and push less critical engagements around to get to you and fix your issue. (See the question above about customer service, and ask our references about our level of commitment.) To the extent that you’re comfortable with your knowledge of the system features, we’ll give you the software tools and the training to use them so that you can make common adjustments. To reset a voicemail password and/or change the name on the phone when a new employee starts, for instance.
10. HOW MUCH WILL A SERVICE CALL COST?
We’ll be right up front about it. (Of course, it’s question number 10.) Our rate is $95 an hour. While that may sound a bit steep, it’s less than most of our competitors. And our technicians are factory certified, with direct access to factory technical support, so they won’t be there for three hours to finish a 30 minute job. There is a one-hour minimum for on-site work. Maximum travel time you’ll be charged is 30 minutes, so if we’re stuck in traffic, the meter won’t be running. We can also configure your system to be programmed remotely. Then there’s no travel time involved, and our minimum drops to half an hour.