Chris Kranky

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RingCentral & gotvmail

Chris KoehnckeChris Koehncke

Voice services for the small business owner have emerged
from companies like RingCentral and and these services have been
gaining traction for good reason. Small businesses all want to sound bigger and
more professional than they really are and more importantly want callers (who
are likely to be looking to be a customer) to reach someone quickly. As well,
the small business guy usually isn’t too technical nor does he want to (or
perhaps even now how to) cobble together a solution for their business.

Enter RingCentral and gotvmail who basically sat down with a
white sheet of paper and asked themselves “how does a small business owner want
to manage their telephone calls?”  and
from that sheet of paper created their companies. Sounds good?

The fundamentals of both these companies are to offer you an
in-coming telephone number that you get to manage. Typically the services start
with a professionally recording IVR message and offer the user routing choices.
‘Thank you for calling XYZ, for sales press 1 …”.

A classic & simple example might be your typical
residential air conditioning sales/repair company, the owner does the sales and
management, his wife sits in the office doing accounting and booking service
calls. The IVR would offer choices to reach sales, service or accounting. So
far, easy stuff. Let’s suppose the owner wants calls for sales to try and call
him on both his office & mobile phone and if he should fail to answer,
wants the call to try and go to his wife and failing that finally (and only as
a last resource) to go to voicemail. Both RingCentral and gotvmail easily
handle that. Similarly, for 24 hour service emergencies after hours, callers
could be routed to the owner’s home, his mobile and perhaps even his wife’s mobile.
Again easily handled.

Neither of these services replace having to have actual
telephone lines (though RingCentral is now offering hosted PBX services), they
overlay services on top of your existing phone services by giving you a
telephone number you have full control over.

Ringcentral1 On a lesser note, the website for both these firms is a bit confusing
with a bad case of feature overload. They talk a lot about features and their
benefits, but I (a presumed professional in this space), struggled to
understand exactly what general problem they were trying to solve for me. What
all this will cost you is also a mystery, numerous pricing models, per minute
rates and various activation fees – all left me feeling like I was getting
ready to get screwed. This is a classic marketing mistake, tell me more than I want to know just because you can. Business owners are trying to run their business and not
become telecom experts.

Both these services may be tough to sell over the Internet (though RingCentral is keen to try with 4 sign-up buttons on a single page!) so they either need to dumb it down or create a compelling enough message so that I'm prompted to call in for sales assistance. Right now, they're stuck in the middle.

Nonetheless, I like both of the services as they clearly
fill a need for the small business owner.