To understand the basic concept of “virtual telephone systems,” consider your company’s email. You probably don’t manage your own email server. You are far more likely to take advantage of a “hosted email provider,” like Yahoo!, AOL, Google, or one of the many other, smaller-named companies. These providers manage all of the back-end support to ensure that your email address “just works,” and you pay them a monthly or yearly fee. Continue reading
So the battle’s on, baby, and it’s getting fierce. It’s as if Apple can have the top spot, and now the rest of the warriors are vying for at least some table scraps.
You remember those commercial jingles from long ago, a chorus of peppy singers behind the TV screen? Typically it was for a product that could only be sold by phone, not in stores. They were so infectious that we couldn’t help but pick up that phone and dial that number, because we wanted what was being sold so badly that we were willing to sell our souls to the devil just to get it.
To be honest, all those virtual 3D downloads out there get a bad rep: after all, look at the film “Gamer” with Gerard Butler! Check out some of the wild and crazy in these virtual worlds, right? Some of it’s even crazier than the real world. There’s no denying it, though: 3D gaming is the rage. And in particular, you might’ve heard of this particular revolutionary free piece of software download:
A business litigation and IP firm based in downtown San Francisco, the ARI Law Group firm was using a dedicated in-building receptionist and a punch-key PBX system to communicate with clients. In a recent call with an attorney directory service, the rep from the directory informed one of the principals that they routinely received 3 to 5 calls per week from their sponsored listing, something the law firm was unaware of. This prompted a further investigation into the “client experience” as they phoned into the firm.
It appeared that after hours – before 9:00am and post 5:30pm – the receptionist would be absent and calls would go to voicemail after an average of 8 rings (approximately 32 seconds). As the firm had international clients, it was safe to assume that a number of calls throughout the early morning and night went to voicemail, where many callers simply hung up.
While recognizing the need to move to a more sophisticated business phone system, ARI Law faced a number of challenges often seen in professional services firms that occupy office space in a large commercial building downtown.
1) They required the use of their existing punch-key PBX phone system as it was the standard system within the entire building. It had outdated features and was old, but it was fixed throughout.
2) Desiring to answer each client call with the human touch, they required a tie-in service that would allow an answering service that was intimate with their business to be able to offer live call reception 24/7/365.
3) Because the nature of their business was law and that client calls had to have the utmost security, they wanted a system based on a wired business telephone system and not on VoIP.
With the Halloo system the ARI Law firm set up a unique local number for each of the several area codes within the Bay Area and Silicon Valley that they serviced. They then routed these numbers to their traditional office line, while being able to toggle to a live agent answering service during off hours.
They were also able to offer their clients the convenience of a single local number so that parties could join a conference call (often used in professional services) by pushing a number on their phone while calling into the normal office line.
Ali Aalaei, principal of ARI Law PC said, “Halloo provides our clients in the Bay Area and in Asia an incredibly accessible way to communicate with our team here in San Francisco and Orange County.”
Being small business owners, we go through the joys – and pains – of growth. In 2005 my little start-up (not associated with Halloo) had finally had enough financial resources to make some administrative hires and move into a “real” office. It was a transitional time for technology companies and for many small businesses leasing property at the time, the dot com bust had left a lot of well-furnished offices around the San Francisco bay Area – many of them with legacy furniture, cubicles and even office phone systems.
Like most office phone systems that were inherited as part of a new lease (in our case, sub-lease) we had little to no clue how to operate our Punch-Key PBX system other than to dial out and receive calls. Oft was heard the famous phrase,
“How do I transfer a call on this again?”
Not having a call transfer feature makes your business look untrustworthy.
As a small business owner myself, I’ve gone from the picnic table as a conference room to taking venture capital. In the early days, it’s common to take customer calls and have to tell them,
“Actually, Jimmy does the billing now. Can you call him at 415-555-8008?”
And when the company gets bigger and buys a traditional business phone system PBX, you hear your employees ask, “How do I transfer a call on this thing?”
Our webmaster made a good point once – asking customers to dial a separate number is like asking website visitors to make extra mouse clicks. They both lower the conversion rate.