How to Get Crystal-Clear VoIP

Maddy Martin

This is a guest post by Graham Nelson-Zutter, Cofounder & CTO of Corvum.io, a VoIP phone provider dedicated to law firms and legal professionals.

The last Smith.ai blog included a great tip: 

“If you have had a VoIP phone system for a while and haven't tested your call routing and call quality, do so now. Seriously, right now... Give yourself peace of mind and check your phone system every few months to ensure it's functioning properly.”

This could not be more true or important. VoIP is a key enabling technology when working remotely. A quality VoIP phone service will help you connect with your clients, if you take some proactive steps to make sure it sounds great. 

Why VoIP Phones? 

Legal professionals need to continue offering their services in a professional manner while also respecting social distancing guidelines by working remotely. At the same time, clients calling their attorney continue to expect to reach their counsel and to receive clear legal advice. 

Just like their attorney, your client is also affected by COVID-19 isolation measures and understands that social distancing means that they can’t meet you in person. Clients are looking to their attorneys to provide the solution to connect. Their telephone is a tried-and-true way to connect that doesn’t force your client to download an app or receive any training. Using a VoIP-enabled service can help your clients reach you while giving you the flexibility of working remotely (you can even wear pajamas!)

Use VoIP from Home

A large number of law firms have already migrated their practice management and secure document storage to the cloud. Many firms were also caught in the middle of this transition when COVID-19 interjected. Some law firms are still using analog-based phone systems and cannot quickly adapt to the changing situation.  Others had started to migrate their phone service to VoIP-enabled providers, but may not have completed the transition before the pandemic. Still others had previously moved to VoIP, but now find their service provider has consistent trouble maintaining high call quality with law firm staff working remotely; the VoIP service they really hoped would support communications for remote work just isn’t performing well enough. 

Poor VoIP call quality is exceptionally frustrating. Both the client and the attorney miss key words and end up not understanding important information. In addition to the confusion caused with missing words, a significant amount of time is lost attempting to sort out what was missed in the conversation. With attorneys and clients both under pressure from the adjustment to life in isolation, the last thing either wants is to have confusing VoIP phone calls.  

Adjusting to remote work has been tough for most of us. Unless your firm already had a remote work plan in place, you and almost all of your colleges are now working through the same pains. The good news is that VoIP is perfectly designed to connect you and your remote staff with your clients. 

Key VoIP Issues & Jargon

As a VoIP network designer with 10+ years of experience (since 2006), and the cofounder of https://corvum.io, I can assure you that VoIP can provide excellent call quality and professional experience for your clients. At Corvum, we deliver millions of minutes of verified, high-quality phone calls to thousands of legal professionals and their clients each and every day.

Your practice can also take a few simple steps to make sure you have clear and excellent sounding communications with your clients

Achieving consistently high VoIP call quality is luckily not an arcane art: there are common causes and patterns to look for.

Network and IT technicians use special jargon to describe these patterns. Below, we explain these categories and what it’s like to experience these problems. 

High Latency: 

  • Experience: You hear long delays on calls like when you call overseas. You and your client end up speaking over each other or pausing too long anticipating the other is about to speak again
  • Explanation: The distance between your internet connection and your VoIP provider is too great and the packets take too much time to reach your VoIP equipment. 

High Jitter: 

  • Experience: You and your client are distracted by missing syllables and delayed parts of words. It feels like a roller coaster going faster and slower and faster again, sometimes voices ‘sound robotic’.    
  • Explanation: The internet connection between you and your VoIP provider is unstable and constantly changing it’s response times. The audio is forced to buffer too fast or too slow. This forces words to be delayed and then jump forward with missing sections.

Packet Loss

  • Experience: You and your clients have sections of dead air and can’t hear all of the words the other is saying. You can’t understand each other at all.   
  • Explanation: The internet connection between you and your VoIP provider is so unstable that it’s actually dropping out parts of your transmission. Causes are overloaded connections and routing over parts of the internet in distress. Wireless connections are more prone to this issue.

Saturation:

  • Experience: All of the above! Saturation is the worst case scenario. Call audio will delay, speed up, slow down and drop out.   
  • Explanation: Your local home internet connection is downloading or uploading too much at once, or your ISP is oversubscribed and can’t simultaneously serve all of its subscribers at once. Saturation will cause all of the above problems at once!

This above VoIP quality analysis graph shows a call with a sudden spike in jitter (30 milliseconds) and packet loss (80%). The participants on this call would have had a sudden experience of not hearing audio for about 15 seconds. This is common when the internet connection used for a VoIP call is temporarily saturated (overloaded) with too much other traffic. 

VoIP Fix "Action Plan" 

VoIP Provider Network Assessment Checklist: 

  1. Distance: Ask your VoIP provider: “Please check the distance (latency) of my internet connection to our network. Please include a traceroute showing  the path between us”. Ideal results are below 40 ms. 
  2. Stability: Ask your VoIP provider: ”Please show me what the network jitter is between my internet connection and your network. Please include the jitter of my last 10 phone calls on your network”. Jitter should be below +/- 20 ms. 
  3. Reliability: Ask your VoIP provider: ”Please review packet loss over my last X calls and confirm the % lost”. It’s a good idea to include any specific calls you had trouble with. No packet loss is best. Less than 0.5% will likely not be a problem. 
     
  4. Overuse: If your VoIP provider replies showing stats with nice low latency (distance), but high jitter (stability) and some packet loss (reliability) you may have too much traffic on your internet connection at the same time or your problem is with your ISP. Ask your VoIP provider for recommendations in your area and whether other clients also have trouble with the same ISP. If the ISP has a good reputation, ask your VoIP provider “Is this X router I have actually good for VoIP?” 

Get Help from your VoIP Provider

After you’ve placed a few test calls and your friends and team members placed a few test calls, request that your provider to take a look. They are there to help, and want to ensure you have a good experience. 

Go ahead and copy & paste this list of questions in a support email to your VoIP provider, or call their support with the same questions:

“Dear (VoIP Provider)
I’ve been experiencing poor call quality with my VoIP service from you. 
Please check the distance of my internet connection to your network and include a traceroute showing the path between us. 
Please also show what the network jitter is between my internet connection and your network. What was the level of jitter of my last 10 phone calls on your network?
I’m concerned that there could be packet loss. It would be helpful if you could check if there was any packet loss my last (X) calls to confirm if any loss.
Can you tell me if my ISP (X) has a good reputation with VoIP. Can you confirm if my router X is suitable for VoIP?”

If all goes well, your VoIP provider will be knowledgeable and will provide you with answers to all of the above questions. If they are proactive, they will also provide you with recommendations that address all of your VoIP call quality issues that can actually solve the problem.

Evaluate your VoIP Provider

If your VoIP provider isn’t able to provide you these details and identify the problem, then they may not be keeping good analytics. It’s also possible that their support staff are too busy or need more training. 

If you aren’t getting the support you need to make VoIP calls that sound great, then it’s probably time to change VoIP providers. When you evaluate a new provider, sign up for a trial account and then ask for a network assessment with the same copy-pasted questions. Make some test calls on the new VoIP provider’s network, then test to see if they are aware, knowledgeable and helpful. 

Great VoIP is Proactive

Using VoIP can be painful and confusing for you, your staff and your clients. Jumping in to working remotely because of COVID-19 has already been stressful and rushed. 

Taking the simple proactive step of copy pasting questions to a potential new VoIP provider will give you the chance to make an informed choice. Selecting a helpful and knowledgeable VoIP provider will protect your VoIP call quality so you can get back to providing your clients with good legal advice, without anything getting in the way.

Time for a New VoIP Provider?

If you’ve taken the time to fix your VoIP service and your provider isn’t able to solve your problems, it may be time to explore other VoIP solutions. 

Your new VoIP provider should be proactive and test your internet connection and review you test calls to ensure that your call quality is excellent.

Corvum.io is the only VoIP phone service dedicated to law firms. We specialise in ensuring that law firms and legal professionals get the great support and high call quality they deserve to run a great law practice. Corvum.io works with you, your team and partners service providers, like Smith.AI, to ensure your clients receive great response time.  For Clio users, Corvum.io includes easy onboarding and call logs and billing integrations.  

Corvum.io is happy to provide you with free network assessments to ensure excellent call quality for VoIP. During your a 30-day trial, we review each our your calls for: 

  • Low latency (great network distance in time) 
  • Low jitter (little variation in network time)
  • No packet loss (no loss of audio) 

Just for Smith.ai clients & community...

We’re happy to offer Smith.ai clients and community a discount on Corvum.io’s services. Please follow our trial signup link (https://signup.corvum.io) and enter code SMITHAIFORTHEWIN to receive a 25% ongoing discount on Corvum’s monthly and annual plans. 

Final Note: COVID-19 Relief for Non-Profits

Corvum’s team operates projects donating free services to:

  • Non-profit organizations providing access to justice (A2J) service to the public.
  • Mental health support services to legal professionals. 

If you know of organizations that could use Corvum’s help, please reach out to Graham at graham@corvum.io or direct-message Graham https://linktr.ee/grahamsnz.


About Graham Nelson-Zutter, Corvum.io

Graham Nelson-Zutter, is the cofounder & CTO of Corvum.io, a VoIP phone provider dedicated to law firms and legal professionals. He helps legal professionals and law firms work remotely using VoIP-enabled phone and SMS texting services. 

Graham was raised by 2 lawyers and grew up helping his folks with their IT and communications needs. Graham cofounded Corvum.io with his long-time friend and collaborator, Jason Baumer. They have operated VoIP networks for hard working professionals since 2006.

Maddy Martin

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