Consulting firm Usability by Design says Australian residential VoIP service providers suffer consistent, core usability issues across the board. These include lack of support on how to initiate landline and cross-product calls, lack of access to cost savings comparison data, and the requirement for a high level of technical skill to download and operate the software.
Despite potential savings of up to 80 per cent compared to equivalent PSTN rates, comparative costing information is often unavailable or listed in offshore currencies, which presents a considerable barrier to take-up.
In addition, lack of information about the designated codes needed to dial landline numbers and lack of cross-product support between VoIP platforms means adoption further limits VoIP to users with a high level of technical knowledge.
'While Internet telephony is still a relatively new concept, there is a tendency among service providers to jump into a purely technical sell without adequate explanation of what VoIP is and how end users can benefit, other than generic 'low rates' or 'cheap calls' statements. From a simple usability perspective, if people don't know what you're selling or why they should use it, they won't buy it,' says Gary Bunker, Asia Pacific director of Usability By Design.
'Even getting people to trial it for free requires a certain level of understanding,' says Bunker. 'People won't try something for free if they're worried what they might be downloading and installing.'
According to Bunker, there are relatively simple steps that service providers can take to maximise sales opportunities for VoIP, particularly into the residential market.
'The biggest thing for service providers is to provide simple explanations of what VoIP is and how customers can use it. A couple of service providers also offer a bill analyser function to demonstrate cost savings to end users, but they are currently the exception rather than the rule,' says Bunker.