1300 Numbers: Which Provider is Right for your Business?
The telephone is a critical tool for many businesses.
It's an important communications channel between you and your customers (and between you and your suppliers). It's also often the primary way new customers contact you, so it forms part of their initial impression of your business.
If things ever do go wrong with your business phone, it's important that they're fixed ASAP. You may be able to survive with a dodgy phone service at home for a week or so, but that's not acceptable for a business where every hour without your phone costs you money!
When choosing a 1300 number provider for your business, it may be tempting to sign up for a cheap plan that saves you $5-10 each month, but you need to be careful those savings don't end up costing you many times more than that amount!
Customer service is critical
Every telco promises exceptional customer service, but unfortunately not all deliver.
Larger telcos often provide impersonal service, and if you're not a large company yourself, you may end up feeling that your business is not very important to them. Small telcos (1-3 employees) are often too small to be able to provide the level of service and support your business requires, and at times find themselves stretched to breaking point trying to service all of their customers.
You need to think like Goldilocks: choose a telco that's not too big or too small, but is "just right." You should be able to reach them whenever you need them, have them immediately attend to any problems that occur, and feel that they value you as a customer and want to help your business to succeed.
Can you reach them when you need them?
Phone potential 1300 number providers at different times of the day on different days of the week:
- Does someone answer when you call? Or does your call always go through to voicemail (or a messaging service)?
- If you have to leave a message, does someone get back to you in a timely manner?
- Do you speak to the same person every time, or does the telco have more than one person answering their phones?
- Were you always greeted in a friendly, professional manner, or did some early morning calls sound like you'd woken someone up?
It's critical that you're able to get hold of your telco if you have a query or problem.
Some 1300 number providers are sole traders operating from home offices. While this may be a suitable model for some types of businesses, it's not ideal for a telco.
If you're concerned about the size of a 1300 number provider, check the contact details on their web site. If the only address they provide is a serviced office (which is sometimes simply a post office box!), chances are that they're too small to pass the Goldilocks test.
Do they provide quality after-sales service?
Something that is (unfortunately) not unique to telcos is that they often love you and are very helpful and attentive ... until you become a customer. Once you've signed on the dotted line, it becomes harder to get hold of them and they're nowhere as helpful as they were.
It's a good idea to check out their reputation for after-sales service. Talk to your colleagues about which telcos they deal with, and who they do and don't recommend.
Many telcos also provide testimonials on their web sites. You might consider contacting a few of the testimonial providers if you've got any specific questions you'd like to ask.
Do they specialise in business telecommunications?
A telco that specialises in business services is best suited to understanding your business and its needs.
They understand the importance of keeping your phones running reliably and quickly fixing any problems. They also know the importance of keeping you informed about any outages or maintenance that may affect your business, and of scheduling routine maintenance at times when it will least impact your business.
A dedicated business telco is also more likely to be able to offer you a range of business services (not just a 1300 number). This makes it easier for you (dealing with a single supplier for all your business telco needs), plus can often save you money through discounts for bundled services (e.g. virtual office packages including 1300 numbers, live answering, and Fax2Email virtual fax services).
Porting inbound numbers you have to another provider is a simple process, so don’t let that put you off from switching to more specialised telco.
How do their prices compare?
Let's not forget price or value for money! It's important how much your 1300 number costs.
1300 numbers were first introduced to make it easy and affordable for customers to call you:
- You provide your customers with a national number that they can call from any landline in Australia for the cost of a local call.
- You share the cost of the call: the first minutes of the call are free for local calls landline-to-landline (covered by the customer). For example, Alltel's most popular plan gives you 30 free minutes: you don't start paying until minute 31.
Some providers are offering cheaper monthly plans that don't give you free minutes. They make their money back by charging you more for calls. Not only does this negate one of the benefits of getting a 1300 number, it can also end up costing you a lot more than a plan with a higher monthly fee that includes 30 free minutes (or more). Check out our post on Comparing 1300 Number Plans for tips on how to work out exactly how much a plan will cost you.
Choosing the 1300 number provider that's right for you
There are a number of things to consider when selecting a 1300 number provider (including some we haven't touched on here, such as whether services are offered as pre-pay or post-pay).
Most importantly, it comes down to finding a telco with a good reputation and competitive pricing that is big enough to deliver and small enough to care.
And the good news is that if you get it wrong the first time, it's easy to move your 1300 number to a better quality provider!