If changing phone providers required you to tell every person in your existing contact list that you got a new phone number (like the way things used to be), one quick glance at the total number of contacts you have might be enough for you to give up on making a switch altogether.
Thankfully, that’s a quandary of the past, as number porting solves this dilemma once and for all by allowing you to switch phone providers while retaining your original number.
There are many reasons for switching VoIP providers, and businesses do so a lot more often than most people think.
For example, studies show that 79% of consumers care about their data privacy enough to restrict their buying habits to companies that care about data privacy as well. This is why many businesses will switch to encrypted, access-controlled VoIP systems, which allow them to offer the level of security that consumers crave without skipping a beat in operations.
If you find your business in a similar situation, you can use number porting to keep the same number so customers always know where to find you.
If it works like it’s supposed to, your customers won’t even realize your VoIP provider has changed.
How VoIP Number Porting Works
The basic process of switching service providers using VoIP number porting involves three steps:
- Choosing a VoIP provider
- Submitting a request to port the number
- Verifying the switch by following the new provider’s rules and requirements
Although these steps are basic, there are still some not-so-basic do’s and don’ts for businesses to keep in mind. Otherwise, one false step could cost a company valuable communication time with its customers.
Choosing a VoIP Provider
The best VoIP provider for your business will prioritize transparency, security, and usability. In fact, these are some of the main reasons why so many businesses are ditching their landlines for VoIP systems to begin with.
What you’re looking for is a provider that does the following:
- Logs all data types
- Stores time-stamped recordings of all communications
- Encrypts all communications
- Identifies network users with secure access options that prevent data tampering
- Stores these records for a clearly defined retention period
This is not an exhaustive list of everything that VoIP providers can offer new clients, but the features listed are green flags. They indicate that a service cares about data security at least as much as your customers probably do. Keeping these essentials in mind should help you filter out the more basic providers from those that provide a tangible upgrade with robust features.
Submitting a Porting Request
After choosing a new VoIP service, you should submit a number porting request. Again, the reason for porting is to keep your existing number. This avoids costly interruptions in communication between customers and businesses, as well as the hidden costs of changing numbers—such as reprinting and redelivering business cards, updating online business details, and other tedious tasks nobody wants to do.
Keep in mind that your business should wait for the porting request to be approved before switching providers. Otherwise, your customers might run into the dreaded “The number you have dialed is not available” message when calling. According to the CMO Council, nearly half of customers will bail out and switch to a competitor after even just one bad experience.
If you really want to change providers quickly, you can request temporary numbers from the VoIP service so that the calls coming in on the old number can be forwarded during the transition.
VoIP Number Porting Rules and Requirements
To verify the old number on the new service, your business will need to submit documentation, including billing history, to verify your identity as well as your intentions. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) enforces these rules to protect businesses—but they can also potentially create more hassle for you and your team.
The rules are on your side when it comes to making the initial switch, as the FCC legally requires your previous service provider to approve your porting request regardless of your standing with them. But the transition still needs to be officially verified.
To make the transition seamless, you can collect your billing info and related documents for the old and new providers to review and put them into a Letter of Agency. This authorization process can be an obstacle for businesses that want to get the transition over with, so the sooner you have the needed documents, the sooner your new provider can take over your account.
In addition to this authorization process, your current carrier will likely want to confirm that your intention to port your number to a VoIP service is legitimate. Different carriers treat this issue differently, but completing the following tasks is likely to determine full legitimacy:
- Send an email stating an intention to change providers for your business
- Provide a document proving that you own the account the business currently uses
- Use your carrier’s app or customer service desk to provide a document proving that the account is currently active and is in good standing
- If you’re using a fixed VoIP service, you’ll need to show proof that the number being ported will remain in service in the same country. (If you’re using a non-fixed VoIP, the number isn’t connected to an address, so you can skip this step)
- Approve the payments for porting the number and terminating the old service—this can differ between carriers, but it usually totals $50 or less
How Long Does Number Porting Take?
The regulations that serve to protect your valuable information and the integrity of the number porting process can inadvertently drag things out.
The time it takes for number porting to complete depends partly on your preparation, such as whether you can assemble the required bills and documents quickly while making the necessary requests to both providers.
If all goes well, businesses can usually port their numbers within 3-10 business days. Since ten working days is an eternity in business-customer relations time, be sure to follow the steps in order to prevent any unnecessary delays.
That said, even after following the number porting process to the letter, many businesses will still confront some restrictions that can delay or prevent it from happening.
Factors That Can Delay the Number Porting Process
While number porting is usually an easy way for businesses to retain their current customers while switching service providers, many VoIP service providers can give you a temporary number to reroute your customer calls in case there are any issues during the changeover. A PBX system can be very helpful here, given the restrictions that may come up.
Check with your provider to see if it enforces porting restrictions. Depending on the carrier, inbound or outbound ports may be restricted after a certain call limit. These limits may change depending on the direction of the call or the timeframe, such as monthly or yearly limits.
Some providers limit how long your business phone number can be when porting to a VoIP service. If your business has a phone number longer than ten digits, for instance, the number may not be eligible for porting. Check with your new provider about the restrictions it places on phone number lengths.
In addition to number restrictions, some providers contractually restrict businesses from number porting. For example, you may have to run your previous contract out to a certain time before you can switch.
Meanwhile, other providers may charge a fee for number porting or restrict you from keeping your old number altogether. Again, this is why it’s important to request a number port from your current provider before signing with a VoIP service.
If possible—though this would either require a good degree of foresight or a time machine—you should only use providers that allow porting in the first place, so that your potential transition to a VoIP provider will be easier in the future.
A common reason why number porting often gets delayed is the presence of a discrepancy between a form you’re required to file as part of the provider’s requirements and the information that your current provider has on file.
In other words, your Letter of Agency to your new provider needs to match the info stored in your current provider’s customer service record—especially the service address and ZIP code. If they don’t match, your number porting request could be delayed or denied.
Other Potential Delays
Beyond common restrictions that cause delays, some other roadblocks can get in the way of porting your business phone number. These include:
- Inadequate authorization
- Missing or incorrect account number or PIN
- An inactive phone number
- Google Voice restrictions
- An invalid billing number
- A resold account
Many of these restrictions are mistakes that can be fixed or avoided. But even then, you may run into a situation where one or both service providers simply refuse to complete the number porting process. This is why it’s vital to choose a versatile VoIP that will work with you and your current provider to get the number transferred successfully.
The Takeaway for Businesses
VoIP services offer businesses many benefits over conventional phone lines. Assuming you want to keep your existing number, you’ll need to port it out to your new provider.
The process involves many potential hurdles, including a long list of required documents and authorization procedures, as well as potential delays resulting from restrictions from either provider.
Choose a new VoIP service that will work with you and your current service provider to make the transition as smooth as possible.