A mainstay for communications in any office with at least a few employees is the need to accept incoming calls, determine who is calling, what is their general need and getting the call to the right employee. In the interest of effective and productive customer and supplier relations, calls need an automated way to reach sales personnel, customer care, accounting or technical support or “the boss”. Preferably this call management should be handled without any human intervention; over the past twenty or more years this has resulted in the evolution of increasingly effective Private Branch Exchange (“PBX”) offerings from telecomm equipment suppliers. And it traditionally required a reasonably demanding capital expense, from $15,000 up.
The basic functions of a PBX include:
- Receiving and answering a call from an external caller
- Offering a menu of options to determine to whom the call should be connected
- Transferring the call in response to answers provided either by entering alphanumeric or dialpad information or by using speech recognition.
- Accepting, recording and managing voice mails if nobody is available to take a call
- Ability to make a subsequent call transfer if deemed necessary
However, IP-based communications technology along with web 2.0 tools provide opportunities for enhancing the PBX to build more productive and effective business processes when it comes to managing relationships with both suppliers and customers. For instance:
- An individual agent portal for overall conversation management
- Intelligent call queuing would permit an “occupied” employee to either put a caller into a queue for answering when available or transfer a caller to another employee with the skills to handle the call
- Chat sessions can be offered as either an alternative or complement to voice conversations
- Building a searchable call archive integrated into an email system such as GMail.
- Making call transfer destinations independent of the recipient’s geographical location, whether “in the office”, at a home office or out “on the road”.
- Reducing and minimizing the costs associated with various PBX services.
Building on its Call Center experience OnState has launched its Virtual PBX which provides all this functionality as well as:
- Receives calls via Skype, SkypeIn as well as Local DID numbers and toll free numbers in over 20 countries
- Call transfer to employees, agents and other designated recipients on their Skype-enabled PC, landline phones or mobile independent of geographical location
- An extension-based agent/employee/representative portal for managing incoming calls, including call waiting notification, queuing and redirection
- Integration into GMail, Zimbra and Salesforce.com
A few weeks ago, OnState CEO Pat Kelly was our guest on a SquawkBox conference call where he provided more details about OnState’s Virtual PBX, including a sharable slide show presentation accessible as a Google document.
Bottom line; for as little as $15 per month per seat and no capital investment, small to medium enterprises and organizations as well can establish an enhanced PBX capability to facilitate both more productive business processes as well as more cost effective communications.
Definitely a business model disrupter.
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