Benefits of VoIP
WHY ALL PHONE COMPANIES SUCK–EXCEPT ONE.

THE AGE-OLD QUESTION

One winter many years ago, my son asked me, “Dad, is there really a Santa Claus?”

I didn’t have the heart to tell him.

Years later, after he had graduated college and was starting his own business, he came to me and asked me something similar, “Dad, is there a phone company out there that doesn’t completely suck?”

Now this was a question I could answer.

 

THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER

I’ve spent the last 30 years working for phone companies. I started with Cellular One in the early ‘90’s, which later became GTE Wireless, and then morphed into a company we all know, Verizon Wireless. I then dedicated 20 years to EarthLink, which was formerly Deltacom, and then merged with Windstream. Well, therein lies the first and most telling clue as to why so many phone companies suck–and why people cannot stand them.

Many phone companies are publicly traded or have gone through years of mergers and acquisitions. On the surface that sounds smart: who doesn’t want to build a bigger and better brand? But pull back the curtains and what you’ll find is a wellspring of extreme operational dysfunction.

Every time a company merges with another company, the goal is to realize synergy through the merging of products, networks, people, and systems. With back-office I.T. systems, however, the idea is to have the two companies settle on the stronger set of back-office systems. In practice, it rarely works out that way. Have you ever tried to sunset or retire an IT system? There’s always a reason it needs to remain in use–either somebody’s using it or for whatever reason, you cannot eliminate it.

Take this scenario and play it out repeatedly, one merger after another, over and over, hundreds and hundreds of disparate systems, and you end up with a dysfunctional cluster muck. Hard-working, well-intentioned employees are stretched to their limits trying to figure out how to work with so many old and aging legacy systems. Training new employees on so many various systems is insanely difficult. This should start to give you a sense of what creates this seemingly never-ending customer exasperation.

 

OUT OF THE FRYING PAN, INTO THE FIRE

Like pouring fuel on a fire, many companies look to “increase wallet share” by offering more products and services beyond their traditional phone servics. From cloud-hosted infrastructure, storage, security, backup, Wi-Fi, you name it. With each added product, however, comes additional problems. With complex installation challenges and so many disparate systems, the probability of delivering a positive customer experience quickly evaporates. From the start, the odds are against these providers. It’s next to impossible to deliver on the promises made. Customers end up irritated, angry, and often pushed to their breaking points. Many unsuspecting customers stake their entire careers on significant transformation projects that end up going to hell in a handbasket.

When working with the provider’s back office, you’ll begin to sense the immense pressure they’re operating under. Many project managers would tell me they feel like professional apologists: many times when they speak with the customer, they end up apologizing repeatedly. In the eyes of the carrier, it’s not simply increased wallet share, but also what’s called creating a “sticky customer”. The more products you offer, the stickier the customer is, meaning the harder it is for them to leave.

With most providers, there are immense company-wide frustrations related to constant service delivery delays, installations taking forever, equipment shipped to the wrong addresses, 3rd party technicians continually showing up on the wrong day, incomplete programming, and chronic outages, to name a few. This constant cycle of mistakes and apologies, failed or delayed installations, sales rep turnover, and tyrannical leadership, is a vicious cycle. Right on cue, many customers end up hating the phone company with a passion. After being in the industry for so many years you become callused. I learned to accept it, honestly believing it was just the way it is. I assumed every provider was similar, that it was simply the nature of the industry. You either learn to accept it, or you’d go clinically insane.

 

THERE IS HOPE

Good news though–there are genuine options.

A little over two years ago, I ended up taking the reins of a small 15-person sales organization at SpectrumVoIP in Plano Texas. I was intrigued: this was a family-owned-and-operated, 25-million-dollar Cloud Hosted VoIP provider, that happens to be in Legacy West, the coolest, hip, and trendy part of North Texas. The office and the NOC were stunning. I immediately knew something special was happening here. My office now sits right above J Crew and Victoria’s Secret. I suppose you could say it was love at first “site visit”.

The most intriguing part was SpectrumVoIP, already 15 years old, had never bought or merged with another provider. They had never had even a single iota of debt. Think about that for a second. Zero debt.

The company was 100% organically grown and 100% bootstrapped from the very beginning. Our owner, founder, and CEO, Dave Leidy, and our Chief Operating Officer, Jake Leidy, were never in a hurry to grow, but rather spent years focusing on cracking the code to provide an exceptional customer experience, every time. Feeling as if that was now the case, they believed it was the right time to laser focus on bringing this extraordinary experience to the masses and grow the business–which is exactly what we did.

Our organization now stands at 250 hardworking, dedicated individuals. We have collectively grown the business from 25 million, to a sales run rate of $100 million annually (with a forecasted $200 million run rate by end of 2022). This is all while staying in the black with zero debt, and focusing on smart, measured growth. Our “hyper growth” strategy was set to kick off in March of 2020, as such we applied for Paycheck Protection Program funds. We are proud that we used those funds exactly as intended, meaning we never had to lay off or furlough anyone, and continued to aggressively hire right through the toughest times of the pandemic. We protected paychecks, and we protected our employees.

Without the program, I’m sure the outcome would’ve been much different. Most other phone companies are under significant pressures to increase wallet share, lose less customers, and constantly cut expenses. Many times, the choices they make have a devastating effect on service level. At SpectrumVoip, our focus has been on “smart growth”, specifically meaning not growing beyond our ability to deliver on our signature “extraordinary customer experience”.

A final note on “increased wallet share”. Many phone providers operate a similar business model. The strategy is to “monetize” the cloud hosted phone switch by charging for feature packages. Need call waiting? That’s the “Basic” package. Need call recording? That’s the “Enterprise” package. Want a softphone or a mobile app? That’s the “Executive Premium Deluxe” package, each package costing incrementally more. It’s creative revenue generation at best. In layman’s terms, I’d call it systematic nickel-and-diming. Phone companies are notorious for nickel-and-diming their customers to death–another primary reason people despise dealing with phone companies.

At SpectrumVoIP, we are literally the antithesis of nickel-and-diming. We offer a single flat rate that provides full access to our Cloud Hosted VoIP switch–this includes every single feature, all functionality (including call center), all at one flat rate.

 

THERE’S MORE THAN HOPE. THERE’S A SOLUTION.

It’s all about our people.

More than anything, our off-the-charts growth is due to the extraordinarily talented individuals we’ve been able to recruit and hire. We bring them into a company culture that respects and dignifies them. For example, we use our own W2 install technicians (and they’re really good).  We empower these techs with “unlimited authority” to do whatever it takes to get their job done that very day.

That “Unlimited authority” is key. It’s what assures the installation occurs exactly how the customer wants it. Our owner, Dave Leidy, likes to point out our experience with several other SAAS providers. For instance, we signed up with Salesforce.com. They got our signature and then simply handed us the keys to the car. Years later, we had to pay a vendor to set it up exactly the way we needed it. We turned around and did the same thing with HubSpot. We signed up and they just handed us the keys to the car. A year after signing, we had to get a contractor to set it up exactly the way we wanted it.

Compare that with the way we deliver service. Our technicians work on-site with the customer to set things up exactly the way the customer wants and assure that it’s all working properly. Then–and only then–do we hand the customer the keys to the car. They feel confident and secure knowing that everything was done diligently, and that support (if ever needed) is only a phone call away. That is hands down one of our best secrets to providing an extraordinary experience.

The most significant difference I can point to is, we are the only phone provider in the country that requires no commitment and no contract up front. Instead, we install the new system, train everyone, assure everything is set up and working, and only then do we ask the customer for permission to begin billing. “May we please have your permission to begin billing now that it’s set up and working?” Most other providers start billing the day your order is submitted, regardless of whether your new system has even been installed yet, and that causes significant customer frustration.

Our policy and process speaks to our confidence in our ability to deliver a white glove experience. Every phone system we install is, in effect, a “test drive,” where the customer can say at any time they don’t wish to move forward. If we don’t live up to our promises, the customer is under no obligation to stay with us, and the onus is on SpectrumVoIP to recover our equipment and put that customer back to the way they were. This means we are held to an unbelievably high standard. Installation challenges, problems, and issues happen all the time, it can’t be avoided. The difference is we keep going to get it right or the customer will simply say “no, you don’t have my permission,” and walks away.

No other phone provider is held to that standard or can take that risk, primarily because they’re not confident their installs won’t go badly. Contrast that with SpectrumVoIP, where our technicians will stay on site and work through all issues and challenges until we get the customer in a good space, ready and willing to give us that permission to begin billing.

 

HIGH STANDARDS ARE THE FUEL


It sounds crazy, but we actually want the customer to hold us to that high standard. Our core belief is that when we work hard to get it right the first time, the support burden down the line is significantly diminished. It’s an indisputable fact we’ve proven over and over. Our Project Managers and Field Technicians working in harmony is key. Our technicians don’t just install, they also configure auto attendants, call queues on site, and train employees, all at the same time–something that no other phone company focuses on. Many will even ship phones, requiring the customer to set them up themselves. Or they exclusively use 3rd party techs that operate within a very small, very defined scope of work.

The difference with us is, if a customer needs a POE switch, or a cable run, most every other provider would say “get with your sales rep, they’ll create a quote and order, submit it, and service delivery will contact you to arrange a date and time to perform the work.” With SpectrumVoIP, it doesn’t work like that at all. Our technician simply runs the cable or goes out to his truck and gets a POE switch and installs it. No ticket, no order, he just gets the job done without delay. That’s what I mean when I say our technicians have “unlimited authority” to do whatever it takes to ensure an exceptional customer experience.

Lastly, my core belief is that employee quality of life and job satisfaction is one of our highest priorities. We work hard and aspire to do our best to build a culture where employees can enjoy coming to work every day. Don’t get me wrong. it’s still hard, it’s still work, you need a hustle and grind spirit, or perhaps you’re not a good fit. Not everyone is. But when you do work hard, the returns are remarkable.

We put a lot of effort into making things fun and interesting for everyone that works here. Just this last year, we introduced the first ever SpectrumVoIP Presidents Club. We created an Employee Morale Committee (now called the Culture Club). We introduced Core Values and a plan to live by those values, the “Values in Action” program. We have an owner that buys lunch for all 150 corporate office employees every Friday. The Culture Club organizes the Halloween Costume Contest, the North Texas Food Bank Food Drive, the Ping Pong championship, the Ugly Christmas Sweater contest, and so much more. Last year we had the biggest ever company Christmas Party–it was truly EPIC! Close to 300 people here at our corporate office with a live band and ticket drawings for over $25K in super cool prizes all handpicked by our CEO. This year, we plan to make it even bigger!

 

THE UNICORN

There are so many things we try to be very intentional about, especially in finding ways to inject fun and excitement into our everyday lives here. Even though we’re fifteen years old, we still very much have a start-up vibe. We approach each day as a team with energy and enthusiasm. I’d say even the vibe of Apple or Google in their early days. The energy and intensity are palpable.

I can’t stress enough how different SpectrumVoIP truly is. I’m sure I overuse the word “unicorn”, but it’s just so true: we are a “unicorn” in the phone service industry. We’re a phone company that customers actually enjoy doing business with. A phone company that tries super hard not to suck, and a phone company you’re not compelled to hate, but you actually grow to love–because it’s our people that make everything so great, from start to finish.

So, the answer is, “Yes, son, there is a great phone company out there! It’s called SpectrumVoIP.”

 

Written by David Stephenson

SpectrumVoIP™