The situation starts out simply enough: Your VoIP service is working fine except for one small thing—maybe you can’t receive DTMF, or maybe you’re receiving DTMF okay but it looks like you’re getting two tones for every one that’s legitimately sent, or maybe you’re just frustrated and can’t figure out why your calls aren’t completing. With all the troubleshooting and business options available to you, don’t decide to just not troubleshoot it and straight away pronounce that your LAN, servers, and configuration are flawless, and that it must be a problem with your VoIP provider.
This shift of blame is referred to in the industry as throwing your provider under the bus. It’s an act of desperation that’s usually preceded by a half-hearted attempt at troubleshooting by individuals without enough technical expertise to conduct a full examination of the problem. A brief examination identifies that yes, your equipment is plugged in and operational, and yes, the power is on to the router, so obviously you can’t have a problem within the LAN. The president of the company then demands resolution on the issue, and, shortly thereafter, a nasty email is fired off to the VoIP provider claiming it’s ignorant, offers poor service, and uses a sub-standard network. The chain of events progresses rapidly from that point in time and generally follows a typical path:
✓ The provider opens a trouble ticket.
✓ The provider investigates any call examples provided.
✓ The provider engages the customer in head-to-head testing in which a network technician at your provider (and preferably your hardware vendor at your office) captures and analyzes individual calls that exhibit the issue.
✓ The captured calls identify that the customer isn’t sending accurate information in the SIP INVITE, or that the customer isn’t responding properly to a SIP response, or that packets believed to be sent by the customer’s proxy never seem to have arrived at the provider’s Softswitch.
✓ The testing concludes that, just like for the 1000 other customers that use VoIP with that provider through an identical configuration, the VoIP provider is processing everything according to the RFC, and the anomaly lies within the customer’s realm of responsibility.
✓ The customer then breaks off communication with the provider after at least one more email or correspondence in which the customer vents more anxiety and frustration on the provider. This communication generally contains an assertion that even if the problem is within the customer’s LAN, it’s still the provider’s fault or responsibility to fix it (which isn’t true).
✓ The customer hires a VoIP guru to analyze the situation, and, after two days of analysis, a small configuration issue is uncovered and resolved, correcting the problem.
✓ The provider is never given a call, email, or notice to inform them that the issue has been repaired. It’s also never informed that the problem was found to be entirely within the realm of responsibility of the customer.
✓ Finally, the provider sees traffic resume on the VoIP ports and knows that the issue was both (A) resolved and (B) not its problem. But the customer never sends the provider an apology for throwing it under the bus when the issue was first reported.
This cycle of events damages your relationship with your VoIP provider—and you definitely don’t want that because it’s your best, and least expensive, ally in VoIP troubleshooting. It doesn’t charge you an hourly rate to fix your issues, and everyone in the troubleshooting department does nothing aside from troubleshooting VoIP all day, every day. If you have a problem, they’ve probably seen it before at least ten times and worked it through to resolution. They’re constantly receiving new trouble tickets for every possible problem that can go wrong with VoIP, so they’re continually refining their skills at resolving these issues.
Don’t write angry. The more emotion in an email or phone call, the less productive it is. The president of the company may be screaming to get something fixed, but you must act as a buffer between the emotion from your boss and the people working for the VoIP provider, who are there only to help you.
Maintaining a good relationship with your provider’s troubleshooting people can only make your life easier—it will allow you to bounce trouble issues off them, even when you suspect it may be caused by something within your LAN. The issue may very well reside within your VoIP provider’s area of responsibility, but, even if it does, you can always resolve the problem more efficiently by providing data, not emotion.