Have the low margins in VoIP eliminated Customer Support?

There’s a lot of unhappiness out there among companies that have jumped head-first into an IP-based phone system (VoIP), looking to save money and improve communications, only to discover the vision falls short. Let me tell you how this has come to be…

Big Profits in Dial Tone?

A short story… back in the day, BC Tel, year in, year out, clamored at the CRTC to raise their trunk and line charges…PBX trunks (ground start) in Vancouver reached $84.90 per month, Key System “overlines” (loop start) were $72.00 or so… each!  Among the highest prices in Canada or the US.

Then the CRTC allowed competition for business lines… Group Telecom came along to offer them at $60.00 per month… everyone would be happy… customers would line up to save big, GT would make a healthy profit, what a great concept!

The week they rolled out their first lines, KABOOM!  BC Tel cut all their dial tone prices by 40% or more! What was poor old GT to do? Why, they followed suit of course, and the rosy profit forecasts?  Poof!  (Welcome to the majors, GT… that’s how the game is played.)   Nov. 21, 2002 – The TSX delisted GT Shares.

Ten years later in the “Dial Tone Wars”, there are success stories out there on the competitive side; some companies have figured out how to profit on thinner and thinner margins. What’s diminished is the service level and support once available pre-sale and post-sale, from either side… telcos like Telus and Bell, or the scores of Independent Providers offering SIP trunks or Hosted PBX Services.

Telus and Bell have transitioned technical and support resources from the wired or “wireline” end of the business to the unregulated mobile wireless side; and the slimmer profit margins affects the ability of VoIP competitors chasing the Telco’s wired customer base to offer high levels of service.

In my experience, if your company is spending a minimum of $15K per month on telecom, you’ll likely getting the attention and support level you might expect.

However, for the vast majority of Western Canadian businesses spending less, not so much.

How do you win in this complex, competitive world?  That’s in my next post.

Do you have a Telco or VoIP horror story?  Tell me about it…

Robert McNulty rmcnulty@skywaywest.com