I guess this actually could apply to almost anyone or company who is providing a specific service for you...But since I am a telecommunications person I will talk about your "phone company" Also I find that there are several quality systems out there and there is NOT one system for ever application.
1. Forget the Big Guys...GTE/Verizon, BELL/Ameritech/Southwest Bell...etc. They provide primarily the dial tone/phone numbers assigned to your business needs. They do however have an interest in furthering business by providing continuing services by the way of phone systems, voice mail, call accounting and such.
2. Ask yourself how long has ABC Telecom been in business?
3. Ask for a reference list of different companies representing the scope of systems that ABC Telecom sells.
4. Is equipment sales and service their primary means of being a "telecom service" provider? Or are they primarily a long distance resale shop who also works on phone systems.
5. I have never liked Telco's who push extended warranties...Phone systems are made to last and if properly protected, will normally wear quite well overall for 3-4 years without incident. The exceptions are of course the main Attendants phone, coil cords, and if someone soaks them in water (watering plants) or drops them. Pretty much anything else is covered by some type of business equipment warranty. The money paid out for the warranty is a gamble that your system will not give any grief and the winner is usually the Telco.
6. This is an important one...Ask around!! I have left several companies due to the unscrupulous practices they adhere to. Taking advantage of a customers ignorance of telecommunications is the one thing I can not tolerate. Here are some......
A. Replacing whole systems or major sections such as voice mail and call processing cards, when only a small part needed repair, replacement or even only reprogramming. A vast majority of the time a reset or powering down will resolve the issues.
B. Selling a system that is NOT needed... IP telephony in a small setting (5 employees-1 building) or a 5 card carrier for a Partner System and you only need two lines, 5 phones and a vs (very small !) voice mail- (size of credit card)
C. NOT passing along some manufactures 3 year warranty...ASK about this if your buying a Meridian Norstar.
D. Charging a customer for updating time or forcing them to use proprietary hand/coil cords. (one end of the hand cord usually needs to be replaced and turned around)
E. NOT selling surge protectors or battery back up units for all lines and for control unit. Most of these units will insure any loss that occurs up to around 50,000 dollars but only if the unit was installed properly and was itself destroyed. Do a goggle search on Tripp Lite, APS, Ditek, Panamax and others...these are what professionals use NOT Wal-Mart products or K-Mart stuff. Oh yeah...there is nothing that will stop lightning except unplugging all power and phone lines and ground wires. In 25 years of Telco work, both inside and outside plant, I have seen lightning go anywhere it wants.
email dawhistler and let me know if I can help point you in the right direction.