There are alternatives, but you already knew that because you're constantly being bombarded with calls, emails and flyers from different communications companies. How do you wade through this overload of information to find an actually decent supplier?
Well, here are the top things I think you should look for in a supplier:
1) TransparencyIn this age of 'the customer' and instant communication, there really isn't any excuse for a supplier to practise the dark arts of deception and confusion on you.
Firstly, make sure their Terms & Conditions are easy to understand. If your business employs fewer than 10 employees, it's no longer legal to be signed up to a "rollover" contract (one where the contract is automatically renewed for another lengthy term at the end of the initial term you signed up for). Any mention of this within the T's & C's is a good indicator that the supplier is either attempting to pull a fast one on you or has been lazy updating their documentation. Neither of these things bode particularly well.
You should also check for hidden charges in the small print (such as minimum call charges or call set up charges) that they would rather you didn't notice.
Thirdly, are their invoices easy to understand? Because they should be - telecoms billing is not rocket science, and it is perfectly possible to produce telecoms invoices and reports in plain English.
2) Single Point of Contact / Accountability
No communications service can be guaranteed to be up and running 100% of the time. Sometimes, things go wrong and when they do you find that you cannot make or receive telephone calls. But when this happens, who do you contact?
Company A supplies your broadband, Company B supplies your phone lines, Company C supplies your calls, Company D supplies your mobiles and your telephone system is maintained by company E.
Believe me, this way it's going to prove very difficult to get your hands on the relevant telephone number, or to establish who to contact in the first place. It is probably time to merge all of this under one roof. Unified communications means a single point of contact to deal with whenever issues or queries crop up. Just imagine how much easier life would be with just one number to call. More than that, knowing who to call will enable you to speak to a real, breathing person in your country. They should take responsibility for any issues you're experiencing right through to resolution.
3) Is the supplier forward thinking?
The buzz words of the moment are IP Telephony, convergence and Unified Communications. The question is: Is your supplier embracing the ever improving 21st century technologies as much as they should be?
Like it or not, the above mentioned technologies are here to stay, and this is a good thing. They provide flexibility (you can upsize or downsize at the click of a button), portability (you can keep your telephone number wherever you go), "follow-me-anywhere" technology (customers can ring one number to get through to you at the office or on your mobile), and a whole raft of other features.
If you are looking to change supplier, make sure at the very least they offer these three key services I've listed here. You want your communications to be future-proof, so don't go with a communications dinosaur.
Duncan Laker is the Managing Director of Welcome Telecom, a Unified Communications company providing the full range of IP Telephony and cloud computing services for business. Here is a little secret - dinosaurs still exist in 2013, spread the word!