Providers are Different
In some ways if you shop around for a conference call service you will think that the providers are all basically the same. Let's face it, they all provide a dial in number and a pass code to get into a call. All of the providers have a similar offering and pricing and they all promise to deliver on service. So, are all providers the same? Not even close! But you have to look hard to tell the difference and sometimes it is what you can't see that is the most important.
- Network - Service providers are all built on the same platform. You need to have bridges which is the equipment that runs the actual calls and these bridges need to be connected to the telecommunications network so that you can dial into it. Pretty basic right? Yes and No. The concept is simple but what equipment is used, how it is protected from disaster and how it is connected to the telecommunications network can make all the difference in the world. Do the providers have back up power in place? Redundant equipment? Are they directly attached to the network with digital connections? Is the network on a token ring to prevent outage in case of an issue? Service providers are all providing the same service but if the service is not available because of an outage it doesn't matter about anything else.
- Service - Providers all have to offer some level of service to their customers. Even if the service is flawless you are going to have questions about the service or the billing or something. Are the companies there for their customers when they need them. Companies should give you support 24/7 support because calls are not a 9 to 5 activity. You should be able to get in touch with the company when you need to not just when they think it is convenient.
- Pricing - Service companies have come up with some pretty crazy pricing. But there are a couple of main concepts that govern pricing from all providers. All services measure customer usage on a per participant per minute basis. That is because every participant is occupying a line on the network and depending on the type of connection the measurement of call activity is multiplied by the number of participants who use the service. The other main concept is the type of connection whether it is toll or toll free. Conference call companies have to pay for toll free long distance like anyone else. And the usage on these types of connections is per minute. So if you have 100 people on a toll free connection it is like having 100 long distance calls all going on at the same time. So if you see companies offering free conferencing or unlimited calls for a flat fee you are going to find that they are giving you a toll connection. That means that you and your participants have to dial a long distance phone number to connect to the call. You will end up paying a fee to your long distance phone company for the entire time you are connected.
There are other areas to look at as well, but these three areas can really separate the providers if you look closely you can see the difference as well.