In today’s always-on world, unified cloud communications have become the backbone for global business. However, like any technology that becomes commoditized, the majority of solutions get boiled down to two main categories: feature/function and price. The challenge with this scenario is one does not necessarily have anything to do with the other.

Pertaining to the feature and function debate, the issue is usually self-explanatory—for the most part, the features and functions should compare almost exactly across the board regardless of provider. Now, I know that may sound odd coming from someone who works at a Hosted Business Phone company, but it’s the truth. Our features list is not so different from anyone else’s list, nor is it superior. Features and functionality have become so commonplace—and dare I say, expected—that not being able to provide common features could mean certain death for any company not keeping pace with modern times. As for price, well, be careful what you “save” money on as it most certainly will cost you in the end.

So, back to feature and function. There is also the issue that arises from feature and function versus actual use. A common thread in our industry is to create as many features as possible so they can do everything ever imagined in a communications scenario, making the business case for adaptability and customized business process an actual reality. But at the end of the day, the “list” of features and functions means little if not addressed through the human condition.

For instance, decades ago (this is where I age myself) businesses had little to no choice in phone services. There were the big corporate monsters that supplied business phone services with little-to-no adaptability and everyone was just forced to live with the model. Individual needs meant nothing, exemplifying the phrase, “You can have any color you want as long as it’s black.”

Then, somewhere around the early 2000s, this new concept of VoIP came into play. It gave everyone a choice: stick with the big corporate phone systems, or become one’s own phone company. And, with that started the VoIP revolution where so many businesses began hosting their own phone system. However, like anything that falls into the DIY category, it’s exactly that—do-it-yourself, it means that everything from self-configuration, to updates, to troubleshooting, and beyond, all became the task of the internal IT team (or some poor person voluntold to manage telephony). This created the scenario of “You can have any color you want as long as it’s black … but at least it’s your own shade of black.” A model a little less broken, but still broken.

So what happened? The cloud happened. Now, all the DIY went away and people went back to a hosted model but this time with all the feature and function capability of the modern age. However, today there are still far too many providers who seem to spilt the difference between old-school VoIP and hosted—meaning some companies will just mail you phones and wish you luck in setting them up. Some will require you to configure your system on your own without help from real people (FAQs and forums are not substitutes for real people), and the list goes on. So, I guess this translates to multiple shades of black? Still not ideal.

The real challenge then is to find a provider who doesn’t deal in monotone color schemes; in other words, one who actually helps you and your own personal business model succeed.

Configuring a modern hosted business phone system should be led by professionals—period—not FAQs and forums. More importantly, the features and functions lists that were so enticing in the sales cycle and vetting process should be approached in such a way that they address the individual at every desk (or without a desk for that matter). A modern color palette of choice that addresses humans and not lists. For instance, some may want voice-mail-to-email, some may not. Some may want mobile functionality, and some may not. Some may not even want a desk phone at all—and then maybe for some it’s a must-have. So whether it’s fax-to-mail, voicemail-to-email, twinning, etc., it’s about real people and real functionality—not a list of “stuff” and not a price to save money in the short term to only realize greater losses in the long term due to bad service, bad connections, and just bad business.

In any case, choose a provider who will help you succeed, not one who just sells you a phone system and wishes you luck. Unified cloud communications should unify people—including your company with your hosted business phone provider. Think of it as truly connecting everyone, everywhere.