From the Cloud, Calling
The Best Voice Options to Grow and Protect Your Company
Prior to the advent of cloud communications, phone service was essentially “one of everything.” For better or worse, you had a single source handling everything with minimal modification. Calls occasionally went through with static and occasionally not at all, but that was how it was.
There are many different providers available nowadays. You have the option of domestic, international, or toll-free outbound (“termination”) and/or inbound (“origination”) calling. For each, you can employ a different provider. You can utilize a platform like Twilio, Nexmo, or SignalWire to establish a platform and manage your calls, then plug in a carrier solution to send your dials (like SimpSocial) to get the best of both worlds since the range of capabilities can vary from one provider to the next and everything works together. (Ask for a demo. It only takes a few seconds to add.)
Even for those of us in the industry, all of the options are, well, bewildering! Inbound and outbound calls depend on whether you’re making or receiving them, right? Every phone number can place and receive calls, right? Why do I need more than 40 carriers, too?
Understanding the terms and how they differ will enable you to customize your calling package to best suit your corporate or SaaS organization while boosting your profits and competitiveness.
Several Important Calling Features
Clear, crisp calls that always connect are a high requirement, whether the majority of your company’s calling is inbound or outgoing or your software as a service incorporates voice communication features. These days, it’s an integral part of the customer experience. Call quality and deliverability, however, are influenced by the providers you select, the services they provide, how they are set up, and your geographic location (as well as the location of the other party on the call).
Not all service providers are created equal! Key characteristics include:
Gotta love automation! Intelligent Call Routing (ICR) When a provider utilizes software to find the most affordable path for your calls among various carriers, the process is known as ICR (also referred to as Least Cost Routing, or LCR, by others). Most suppliers provide some variation. Only SimpSocial employs machine learning to identify the most efficient and effective routes. If your business values scalability, you should at the very least use least cost routing. You want more intelligent call routing if the customer experience is crucial.
Redundancy is also known as the number of carriers a supplier employs. The size of the footprint (i.e., geographic coverage and number availability), pricing, and scalability, as well as call quality and deliverability, are the most crucial factors. For instance, SimpSocial employs almost 40 couriers. The recovery process after a disaster must include this. For further information, go here or to the chart below.
Disaster recovery: Depending on where you are, any number of your calls could be impacted if one of the carriers that transports them goes down. Many of them are affected if a big one fails. You’re in trouble if your provider only employs one carrier or uses their own. For a call center, even one hour of downtime can be financially unsustainable. The majority of all providers and carriers, fortunately, have systems in place to minimize these (often confidential information, but you can inquire). However, having more carrier options and actual (as opposed to virtual) data centers always lowers your risk.
* Footprint and Number Availability – A provider’s footprint is essentially its geographic coverage. For instance, SimpSocial covers the majority of North America, or 95% of the +1 area. This results in calls of higher quality coming from more locations, as well as more readily available numbers in those locations.
Control and openness: If a call center is a vital component of your organization, you should give this alternative significant consideration. Very few providers allow you to see how your calls are routed, let alone take control of those routes. Although SimpSocial automatically chooses the best and least expensive path for your calls, you have the choice to switch carriers in real time, enabling you to avoid interruptions practically immediately. Find out more here.
Additional Factors and Limitations
All networks are not created equally, just as not all providers are. ILECs and CLECs, virtual and internet vs. copper and landlines, proprietary networks, aggregators, and other terms will be frequently mentioned. Despite the fact that most of the material seems to be intended to confuse, it all revolves around network architecture, which is crucial since it determines the features that a provider can offer, how much they will cost and the likelihood of an outage.
A single carrier provider has total control over their network, but also assumes all of the overhead and probably has a smaller calling footprint; obviously, there is no redundancy and fewer disaster recovery options. An aggregator uses multiple carriers, which decreases overhead but also lessens control and increases redundancy. They may or may not be willing to divulge which ones they use. The best of both worlds can be found via a Virtual Local Exchange Carrier, or VLEC (SimpSocial is one).
Which is best for your needs? Inquire about the network configuration and the benefits and drawbacks of each provider. You can also infer something from the features they offer. For instance, if they don’t have redundancy, they only offer one carrier.
Customer service, fraud prevention techniques like STIR-SHAKEN, and other features of cloud communications may also be crucial to your company. Although they are provided by all providers, the levels can differ. For impartial confirmation, you may also want to check out the provider evaluations on G2.com.
Inbound, Outbound, or Toll-Free Call Center?
Many businesses get many more calls than they make, while others primarily place calls. For example, a support center that answers questions takes orders, handles returns, etc., primarily needs inbound calling. If you want to make it easy for customers to call you – including calling for free – you want a toll-free service. If your company does telemarketing and cold calling for sales, chances are that outbound voice services will meet the majority of your needs. (And yes, technically any phone with inbound or outbound calling can do the reverse; the numbers still work both ways.)
The category that best describes your company, along with your budget and risk tolerance, will help determine the features you need and what you should look for in a provider. You might need both inbound and outbound services and prefer to deal with a single provider. (The good news is, unlike some areas of life, there isn’t a direct correlation between cost and quality; you don’t need to pay an arm and a leg for great service!)
Although choosing the right provider for outbound is important for call quality and deliverability, it’s easier than inbound. There are more to choose from, selecting phone numbers is mostly irrelevant, and it’s super easy to switch from one provider to another (of course you’ll still want to ask them about redundancy, disaster recovery, etc.).
Toll-free voice utilizes fewer carriers, and you’ll need to get a phone number(s), which can be tricky if you want your number branded (for example, 1-800-FLOWERS), but it’s still easier than “local” inbound because of the way toll-free numbers are administered on a national basis. For similar reasons, it’s relatively easy for a provider to offer toll-free redundancy if they utilize multiple carriers and are configured to support it. (SimpSocial offers toll-free transparency and control to the customer.)
Inbound is the most complicated, with the least number of major carriers and a great deal of complexity around acquiring phone numbers because they have to be “locally” obtained from a bazillion different sources. Providers with a small footprint can take a lot longer to acquire customers. As you might guess, having so many sources also complicates redundancy, which is not only moving a number between carriers but also essentially moving a number from one source to another. Last but not least, while outbound providers can be changed in a matter of minutes, inbound voice takes some work to set up when you switch.
For these reasons, if inbound calling is a core part of your business, you’ll want a provider who handles a lot of inbound traffic, has a large footprint, and has a network specifically set up to handle inbound redundancy. (To learn more about how SimpSocial handles inbound calling, register for our webinar on June 23, 2022!)
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Bottom line: You don’t have to know every acronym in telecommunications or understand the ins and outs of how a provider’s network can be configured. But, you do need to know the importance of inbound vs. outbound voice traffic, whether having a toll-free number makes sense, and how critical calling is to your organization. If losing even an hour or two of business could cause major damage to your profit margin or your bottom line, then you need to know the basics described above and choose your providers carefully.
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