Working with a Unified Communications provider allows you to bring all of your business communications needs under one supplier in order to minimize the complexity of managing multiple vendors. In doing so, you can leave the heavy lifting to the professionals and spend more time focusing on what important to you – your business.

But all providers aren’t created equal. In most cases, you’ll drive yourself mad trying to compare all of the features across various providers. That said, there are some general questions that you should ask yourself (and your UC vendor candidates) before signing on the dotted line.

Does the provider understand your business goals?

Chances are you have some pretty specific goals in mind as you seek a UC provider. Whether your primary focus is lower costs or empowering mobile workers, it’s important that the service provider fully understand the primary drivers behind your decision to move to UC. The breadth of services that fall under the UC umbrella is extensive, and if a provider is more focused on closing the deal than your business requirements, you can bet the courtship isn’t going to yield the long-term relationship you need to make UC work for your business. Make sure that you clearly define your business challenges and goals so the provider can provide features and services that fit into your overall unified communications plan.

What are customized solutions available to complement existing business applications?

The overall goal of UC is to simplify and unify your business communications. But this shouldn’t be limited strictly to voice, video and data. If your communications strategy requires the ability to integrate applications like Salesforce, Google for Work, or other SaaS apps with your telecommunications platform, make sure you discuss this on the front end. Request a demo of what these integrations look and feel like and be sure to ask any specific questions regarding the installation, support and ongoing management of the tools. While each client will require different integrations, it’s important to know whether the provider is prepared to assist in the integration process and what features are available to your business on the front end.

What types of customer support are available for your employees?

Deploying a new system into your business is a challenge even under the best circumstances. Chances are, your employees are going to need assistance in setting up devices, connecting applications and getting comfortable with the new UC platform. Make sure you fully understand the level of support that comes along with your new system. Is one-on-one support available? What about team-focused training to get the IT department well-versed in the idiosyncrasies of the new system? Does the provider have a knowledge base that your employees can leverage for self-help and troubleshooting device or application issues?

How transparent is the provider with uptime and service issues?

In the world of UC, the ultimate uptime goals are “five 9s.” But the reality is, not all providers can truly claim 99.999% uptime. Find out what your prospective provider’s uptime and service issue log look like for the past 24-36 months. Your business is dependant on the ability of your provider to provide solid service to your company, so don’t hesitate to ask for a historical view of the network statistics. While determining the frequency and impact of service issues is critical, you should also seek out information regarding time to resolution and how issues are communicated to the customer. All providers will experience some sort of service issue. The important thing to know is how they handle the issue.