How VoIP Technology can Improve Your Business

Posted by Mark Greim on Nov 16, 2015 9:30:00 AM

Like many office technologies, VoIP can deliver improvements in productivity and customer satisfaction.  VoIP is also very affordable and can generate economic returns, so it is no wonder that businesses are making it the telecommunication approach of choice.  Even businesses who stubbornly deployed the "if it isn't broke, don't fix it" philosophy are beginning to show up among the converts!  It may not be broken, but the improvements to the business have resonated so loudly that they could resist no longer.

So, how can VoIP technology advance businesses?  Below are just a few ways:

Provide a Better Call Experience - Your customers and associates will enjoy a better call experience in a variety of ways. There are several methods of getting customers to the right associate expeditiously.  First, the previous phone system may not have allowed for direct dial numbers to associates.  With VoIP, all associates can have a direct dial number, and they can choose to provide it to their clients, prospects, or other key contacts, bypassing the main line of the business and freeing the bottleneck.  Additionally, these direct dial numbers and extensions can be forwarded to a cell phone, duplicated on a soft phone application, or made to simultaneously ring to a cell phone, making that associate easily reachable when key contacts call. 

In addition to the direct dial and forwarding approaches for associates, customers will delight in quick routing of their calls via a well-designed auto attendant.  Companies can choose whether calls are handled by a general reception function and backed up by an auto attendant or have the auto attendant route calls at the beginning of the cycle.  The key here is to have an efficient auto attendant with just a few primary options, ones that represent where the majority of the calls are routed.  Thus, if a caller is looking for "customer service", a simple press of an option will route them to a call group of customer service employees.

Enable Remote and Mobile Associates - How many businesses out there have their associates utilize personal cell phones when representing their company? Not only are they giving out their cell number as a "direct dial", but when they dial out to customers or prospects it is not showing the caller ID of your business.  What if that associate left your organization?  Customers would be trained to call that cell phone number instead of a number owned by your business.  How does Hosted VoIP technology provide an alternative?

Remote or highly mobile associates can be outfitted with a VoIP application that will work as if they are under the same roof as the corporate headquarters.  You can literally have associates all over the country and, to your external caller, it would appear as if they have an office in your building!  If they have a VoIP phone at home or at a remote office or a soft phone appliance programmed accordingly, they can make and receive calls as efficiently as someone in the office.  Calls can be quickly routed to them, they can be included in any common ring group, they can have a direct dial number (either in the area code/exchange of the headquarters or local to them, whichever is appropriate), and they will have an extension on the system.  Thus, they can extension dial all other associates and vise versa. 

Drive Economic Value - The fact is that new technology is an investment. Some of the benefits mentioned above would fall into the intangible benefit category, especially as defined by those hard to convince!  The good news is that there are many opportunities for tangible returns against the investment in the Hosted VoIP technology.  Additionally, the investment is not large when compared to purchasing a traditional phone system.  In this case, businesses are only purchasing the VoIP desk phones, as the actual system is maintained centrally by the hosted provider.  Therefore, if a business has a dying phone system, replacing it with a hosted VoIP solution will be much less expensive than an on-site system.  For those who are not yet in the market for a phone system replacement (falling into the "it isn't broke" category), economic returns can be driven in a couple of ways.  First, many times, the monthly telecom expense is reduced by moving to Hosted VoIP.  Second, there are some decisions that can be made in terms of how calls are handled that may result in some staff expense reductions or redeployments.

Easy and Affordable Expansion - When your business expands, does your phone system expand with it? With Hosted VoIP, you never need to worry about your system's capabilities to grow with you again.  You simply add additional VoIP phones when and where you need them.  No new cards or upgrades are required, just the phones.  So, if you're adding resources at your current location, opening a new location, or setting people up in a work at home environment, you simply add the phones through your hosted VoIP provider.  You can easily add these new resources to existing call groups, expanding upon the accessibility of your employees to your customers, suppliers, and other important contacts.

If you're a business that has not yet evaluated hosted VoIP technology, it is worth the time and exploration to determine how your business can be elevated as well.  Get a leg up on your competitors and make the switch today!


About the author:  Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVine, a provider of a variety of VoIP phone solutions and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and has a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments.

Tags: VoIP business phone services

Why Reward the Telephone Company?

Posted by Mark Greim on Oct 14, 2015 8:48:00 AM

Businesses today are entrenched with the notion that business telephone service should be delivered by the telephone company.  After all, the roots of the telephone companies trace back to the invention of the telephone itself in 1876.  Although much has changed over the years, the technology is old.  Because the physical plant deployed by the telephone companies is so long in the tooth, the margins on this business are quite high.  There is no wonder why telecoms are working so hard to keep their customers on this old technology and avoiding the cannibalization of their business to their own VoIP platforms.Old_Telephone_Technology

There's a lot at play here.  Because the large telephone companies are publically traded, there's significant pressure to deliver quarterly earnings growth.  Such pressure thwarts investment in new technologies and converting existing customers to such technology.  When earnings growth is required while facing double digit percentage losses in customers year after year, the expense side of the equation is hit hard.  Pressure to reduce costs of customer service leads to off-shoring decisions or other cut-backs in service.

All of this could have been avoided if the companies with their roots in the age of invention actually embraced invention and moved their customers to such platforms.  Avoiding such innovation has opened the door for alternative providers.  Similar to what cell phone technology has done to the residential landline business, VoIP providers have become the new standard for business phone service and have taken aim on the traditional providers of telephone service.

Still, it is amazing to hear about businesses with "loyalties" to the traditional telephone companies.  What have they done to deserve such loyalty?  Auto renewals of term contracts?  Non-dedicated customer service teams?  Long wait times and transferring between departments until frustration trumps the desire to make the change you're looking for?  All of the above reasons are among those cited for businesses switching to VoIP, alongside, of course, a desire to move to a technology platform that can actually advance the business.

As a business, examine what your customers and suppliers look like.  Do they look and act like your business?  They should.  There's much to be gained by working with a company that has the same character and values displayed by your own business.  Moreover, you can find hosted VoIP companies in your own community or ones who service your business as if they were next door.

It's time to explore what hosted VoIP can do for your business.  The first step is to look in the mirror and see the type of company you'd like to do business with.  Research hosted VoIP companies, exploring their technology, approach to customer service, and philosophies on term contracts.  You will delight in the application of the technology for your business, advance your communication practices, and stop rewarding the telephone company!

About the author:  Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVine, a provider of a variety of VoIP phone solutions and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and has a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments. 

Tags: Technology in Business, Changing Phone Service Providers

sipVine Celebrates Tenth Year in Business

Posted by Mark Greim on Oct 5, 2015 2:01:12 PM

October 5, 2015

KANSAS CITY, MO – Today marks the anniversary sipVine's tenth year in business.  sipVine's CEO, Robert Conner, states:  "This is a momentous and proud moment for everyone who has contributed to our growth and success over the years.  For a tech start-up, hitting a ten year milestone is an indication that we are doing a lot of things right and that we are in this for the long haul.  We have come a long way since our incorporation and humble beginnings in 2005."

Colin Wells, sipVine's CTO, and Robert Conner are the founders and original employees of sipVine.  Mark Greim was brought on as an investor and responsible for sales and marketing a few years later.  The initial goal of the business was to create a hosted phone service solution for small and medium sized businesses, with a focus on delivering enterprise-level features and a voice quality platform that would be standard setting in the business VoIP marketplace.  Colin Wells expands:  "Call quality was a challenge for the VoIP industry.  Bandwidth was not as plentiful and affordable ten years ago, so our first order of business was to solve this problem.  With every installation, we provide a customer premise device that prioritizes voice packets over data, mitigating many of the issues that impact voice quality."

sipVine has grown steadily and substantially over the years, with customers from coast to coast.  Mark Greim states:  "We're very proud of our results.  We did not take on any debt or substantial outside investments, and still have delivered growth.  This conservative approach has provided our customers with a fiscally stable provider, one that they can count on for the long-term."  What also has developed for sipVine has been a standard-setting philosophy and approach to customer service.  Greim adds:  "With our solution,  we customize the delivery of the phone service to meet the unique needs of every client.  Our processes are such that when customers call us for servicing, we route them to members of our service team with whom they have worked with in the past.  Thus, unique to other major providers of VoIP service, our customers feel like they are talking to a member of their personal phone department!"

sipVine_Family-1"Although we will always have an entrepreneurial spirit, being in business for ten years puts sipVine out of that category", says Robert Conner.  "We do maintain a kinship with that category as we serve many start-ups.  I'm proud of our company in many ways.  We still have our first customer, and, despite not coercing customers to sign term contracts, our customer churn is very low.  Perhaps I'm most proud of the fact that everyone at sipVine is committed to service and making a difference."

sipVine has been celebrating this occasion throughout the year with our associates.  More events are planned, but everyone is looking forward to what the next ten years will bring.


Hosted VoIP. Now That's Customer Service!

Posted by Mark Greim on Sep 14, 2015 10:09:00 AM

Hosted VoIP companies are making their mark at delivering customer service, taking advantage of their unique position with their customers.  Everyone has experienced the low standard setting level of support and service from large, traditional telecommunication carriers and even some of the larger VoIP providers.  There are many Hosted VoIP providers who have taken the opportunity to create a higher standard of customer service and reset the expectations of the business community. 

With more and more businesses moving to a VoIP service from non-traditional telecom providers, the concept of a rising tide lifts all boats doesn't apply here.  With declining business landlines, telecom providers have continued to outsource, offshore, or cut back their customer service resources, which simply has accelerated the trend. 

sipVine deliver awesome business VoIP customer service Certainly, there's more at play than customer service.  The technology itself is a driving factor, as businesses are investing in the new technology to improve their own communication practices.  Additionally, VoIP represents a new "bundle" when compared to the former approach of bundling transport (voice, data, video) or bundling features within each area of transport.  With Hosted VoIP, the new bundle is that of your phone system and phone service under the same provider.  How does this make a difference?  Well, good Hosted VoIP companies provide consultation and custom programming of the system.  In doing so, they get to know their customers very well.  As changes are required and other opportunities for providing service arise, they actually know the customer and can service the business from that context.

Not all Hosted VoIP companies leverage this opportunity.  Some provide self servicing portals and/or deploy a call center approach to their technical support.  Others, like sipVine, customize all of the system builds to meet the customer's unique communication needs and have built their support processes to direct customers to the specific team of support personnel with who are familiar with the customer.  Imagine a phone company who really knows you when you call.  Further, what if that same company provided you an extension that will funnel directly into a support team with whom you have worked with before?  That's what I'm talking about as standard setting customer service!

sipVine's Chief Technology Officer, Colin Wells, explains how sipVine has positioned the technical support organization to place the focus on customer service:  "Where the VoIP technology is fantastic in breadth and flexibility, we believe that the best approach is to take a consultative approach with the customer from the outset.  Our VoIP Solutions Specialists work with the business to understand their unique call flow and communications needs, and provide the design guides to the technical team.  The technical team assigned to the system build for the customer also takes on-going service and administrative changes for that customer.  Therefore, they are familiar with the customer when they call and drive home an experience that they never have had before with other providers."

If that type of relationship is what you are looking for in your phone service provider, fully research potential VoIP providers with an eye for how they approach their system builds and handle customer service.  Getting a quote from a sales rep is only one area of measurement.  Find out their next steps and speak to a person who will be servicing your account in the future.  If that person is one of many in a call center, you may not receive the customer service you are looking for, and certainly not what is possible to be delivered.


About the author:  Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVine, a provider of a variety of VoIP phone solutions and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and has a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments. 

Tags: Hosted VoIP phone service

Join the Movement: Hosted Telephony Market Exploding!

Posted by Mark Greim on Aug 11, 2015 3:12:51 PM

Small to medium-sized businesses are fueling the rapid growth of the Hosted Telephony market.  According to a recent study by Frost & Sullivan, there are 8 million users on a Hosted VoIP platform in 2014 and they expect that number to grow to 42 million by the end of 2021.  Such a rapid rise of users points to the fact that most new phone system installs for the SMB market are with a hosted VoIP provider.Join_the_Movement_to_VoIP

These businesses are attracted to the Hosted VoIP Model for many reasons.  Citing Frost and Sullivan, "small and medium businesses (SMBs) will account for the majority of installed users and a considerable portion of new users for these flexible, economical outsourced communications solutions".  So, how do these solutions provide flexibility and economies for business?

Flexible Phone System with Hosted VoIP

  • Because the actual phone system is hosted by your provider, you never have to worry about over or under building the infrastructure.  The system grows and contracts with your business.  You simply add phones and users as you grow or remove user accounts as you contract.
  • Another advantage to your cloud-based phone system is that you can deploy resources wherever you have high speed internet.  Associates can participate in your phone system communication strategy wherever they are deployed, be it the home office, satellite office, or even at home or on the road.

Economical Phone System with Hosted VoIP

  • Such flexibility provides economies.  Your only capital investment is in the VoIP phones themselves, not the phone system.  Thus, the cost per employee is both low and sized exactly to your organization.
  • Businesses also experience monthly economies regarding the phone service, which can be lower than traditional telecom providers.  The ability to consolidate service across locations lends to a lower price per employee than dealing with multiple providers.
  • Businesses can reassign resources previously committed to maintaining the existing phone system.  Your hosted VoIP provider serves as your administrator and can handle your requirements for adjustments and changes.
  • Expenses are also saved in replacement parts or external service work on the phone system.  Going forward, the business does not have to worry about obsolescence, as the hosted provider bears the responsibility to keep the system and features up-to-date and reliable.  As phones are needing replacement down the road, newer models will be introduced to the platform and work with older phones as well.

“Budget and resource constraints, as well as the appeal of faster access to advanced features, and the ability to supplement limited in-house IT staff, are lending momentum to hosted services among SMBs,” said Frost & Sullivan Unified Communications & Collaboration Program Director Elka Popova.  This is one of the keys to moving to a Hosted VoIP system.  At a very low cost, the SMB market can gain access to enterprise-level communication features that can actually advance their business and improve their own communication practices, both internally and externally.

Many small and medium-sized businesses have been delaying infrastructure investment, especially relating to the phone system replacement.  Difficulty finding replacement parts or continuing to spend money maintaining the old technology is starting to press these companies into replacing the phone system.  These businesses have not been early adopters of new technology and are conservative in their spending.  This is why such a bubble for growth exists, as anticipated by Frost & Sullivan.  Whether their system is on its last leg, or they are now convinced that the new technology is both affordable and beneficial to their business, decisions are being made every day to move to Hosted VoIP.  If your business has been waiting for the right time, find a Hosted VoIP provider who will educate you and take the time to learn about your communication strategies and customize a solution that will serve you for many years to come!

About the author:  Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVine, a provider of a variety of VoIP phone solutions and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and has a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments. 

Tags: Hosted VoIP, Cloud Telephony

Virtual World, Virtual Companies, and Virtual Phones.

Posted by Mark Greim on Jul 22, 2015 2:39:29 PM

The world has gone virtual.  Businesses have adapted by utilizing Hosted VoIP phone service to better connect their customers and employees.  The flexibility inherent in VoIP services provides businesses with many options to differentiate their service to their customers and improve the production and responsiveness of their employees.Virtual_Office_Phones

I'll define virtual for this purpose as the deployment of products and services where and when demand is present.  This is the nature of the world we live in.  Consumers of products and services buy differently today, and seek out support differently as well.  Matching the full communication suite of your business with the needs of the customers is critical for on-going success.  Utilization of the company's web site platform and phone communication platform are key components of the communication strategy necessary to meet the needs of the virtual world.

By its very nature, Hosted VoIP phone service is virtual.  The phone system resides in the cloud with your hosted provider and all phones are connected to it via the internet.  Therefore, the "system" doesn't reside under the roof of a single business location, thus providing the business with extreme flexibility in resource deployment among other advantages.

  • Deploy Resources Anywhere - Imagine setting up your business to your most extreme advantage!  This could mean many things.  Your business may have a particular skill set of employees that are plentiful and less expensive in another part of the country.  You can establish a presence there and recruit the best and most affordable talent.  You may also have a need to deploy resources at key client locations, whether on-site or in the same town.  Hosted VoIP allows you to do this but appear to all callers as if you are under the same roof.  Routing calls, extension dialing, conferencing, and call groups can all occur regardless of the location of the employee.
  • Addressing the Mobile Employee - Many companies have resources that are "out and about" providing sales and service to the customer base.  These employees can be easily reachable to customer calls through the utilization of a combination of Hosted VoIP features.  For example, calls to their extension or direct dial number can be forwarded to or simultaneously ring their cell phone.  For android or iPhone users, a softphone application can be programmed to match or replace their desk phone rather than the simultaneous ring.  This has the added benefit of being able to call customers and deliver the business caller ID rather than the cell phone caller ID.  Finally, any voicemails left for these employees are emailed to them for quick playback and responsiveness.
  • Location Agnostic Functions - With Hosted VoIP, businesses have incredible flexibility in how they deploy resources.  In a multi-location environment, you can choose to centralize certain functions for managerial oversight and other economies.  For example, say every branch had a support function that could provide the service centrally.  These businesses can deploy a centralized model to conserve resources and provide some consistency of service management.  To the caller, they would have no idea where the call was routed, only that it was answered quickly and their need was handled successfully.  Conversely, if this support function was decentralized or included a remote work force (like work at home), calls to this group would be routed as if they were all under the same roof.  Again, businesses could build the workforce to match the call volume and time of day needs rather than one at each location and be subject to the hours of operation of the branch.
  • Call Routing Options - Once again, there are a myriad of ways Hosted VoIP can conform to the needs of the customer.  No matter where resources are deployed, calls can be routed to the best resource to serve the customer needs.  Call groups or queues can be set up for the various functions of the business.  Calls are routed to these groups by a common extension or auto attendant option or both.  Specific routines can be programmed to ensure the best experience for the customer.  Benefits are not just limited to groups of employees, but also to individuals.  Direct dial numbers are provided as a means to provide customers with a direct way to reach key people supporting them.  Calls are also able to be routed to them by extension transferring, extension dialing from an auto attendant, or a directory option on the auto attendant.

These are just a few ways Hosted VoIP phone service addresses the new ways businesses need to address their customers.  Each business and their customers present a unique opportunity.  The key is to find a Hosted VoIP service provider who will listen to these needs and customize the programming of the platform to maximize the benefit.  Cookie cutter or self-service platforms will not pull out all of the benefits and lead to frustration.  Research the alternatives, but definitely plan on joining the mountain of companies who are transitioning to a VoIP service.  Do it before your competition and leave them in the dust!

About the author:  Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVine, a provider of a variety of VoIP phone solutions and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and has a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments. 

Tags: Phone Service for Multiple Locations, VoIP Mobility

Marketing & Advertising Firms: A Target Market for Hosted VoIP

Posted by Mark Greim on Jun 25, 2015 10:36:15 AM

When looking at the customer demographics of Hosted VoIP buyers, professional service firms represent the largest category.  Marketing and Advertising firms are included in this category and are moving their phone services to Hosted VoIP at a rapid rate. 

Market Statistics

Marketing Firm VoIPA recent report published by Software Advice  suggests that 33% of small businesses business buyers are in the Professional Services category.  At sipVine, a Hosted VoIP company based in Kansas City, we examined our customer profile and determined that 20% of our customers fall into this category, as we have a stronger percentage than normal in the finance, insurance, and real estate industry.  Within the professional services category for sipVine, 20% are made up of Marketing and Advertising type businesses. 

Traditional advertising agencies, web design, and marketing consulting firms dominate the customer profile, but we're also seeing many new entrants in this category.  Start-up firms specializing in digital marketing and social media are in need of a low investment, scalable solution for their business phone needs. 

Driving Factors for this Industry's Move to Hosted VoIP

As with most businesses, the advanced features offered by a hosted system are very attractive to firms in this market segment.  Many employees of these firms are very mobile, working with their customers on location or moving from meeting to meeting.  Having features such as voicemail to email, find me follow me, or soft phone applications, allow them to be reachable and very responsive with their client base. 

VoIP for Ad AgenciesFurther, these businesses do not need to invest in an expensive, on-site phone system to receive the benefit of these features.  One of the great benefits of a hosted platform is that the up-front investment is very affordable.  You are not paying for the system, installation, or the on-site resources to administer it.  Businesses only need to pay for the VoIP phones utilized. 

Another common feature valued by marketing & advertising firms is three way conferencing.  A account executive can conference a customer and an internal resource with a few strokes on the VoIP Phone.  Conference bridge services offered by many hosted providers can pull together large meetings of remote employees or customer contacts.

Finally, with a hosted service, employees or contracted resources can be on the company phone system wherever they are deployed!  We have seen where marketing firms hire resources where the expertise exists or deploy them where they can be most effective.  Thus, employees or contractors deployed on a customer premise, out of town, or simply working from home can all be provided VoIP phones or soft phone applications that provide the appearance that they are all working under the same roof!  They can be provided direct dial numbers and internal extensions and calls can flow to them.

Common Features are Great, but Customize Your Service

We've discussed several of the great features or attributes that make Hosted VoIP services right for these agencies and firms.  However, one thing that is apparent to us at sipVine is that most businesses operate differently and have divergent priorities when it comes to their internal and external communications.  The power in Hosted VoIP is that it is essentially a program, one administered by professionals.  Thus, Hosted VoIP providers are in a great position to listen to the needs, priorities, and unique characteristics and build the call flow, auto attendant, and phone set-up to match.

Take time to find a provider who will do just that for your agency or firm.  Hosted VoIP, custom built and deployed for responsiveness, should provide the communications platform that will arm your agency with another point of differentiation in a very competitive market.  Wow, I'm even sounding like a marketer!  


About the author:  Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVine, a provider of a variety of VoIP phone solutions and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and has a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments. 


Tags: Hosted VoIP phone service, phone service for professional service firms

Small Business Bullish on Hosted VoIP | Select the Right Provider!

Posted by Mark Greim on Jun 17, 2015 8:47:13 AM

Small businesses are rapidly moving toward VoIP, and competition in the VoIP category has never been higher.  Thus, it is a great opportunity for businesses to take advantage of the competition for their services.  The challenge is to narrow down the list of VoIP providers and make a selection that will be best for your business over the long-term.

Market Opportunity

At the risk of fueling the marketing machine (as you'll read about later), I'm going to cite a recent report published by Software Advice.  Over 40% of small businesses have already made the move to VoIP, with the balance still using a traditional landline service or cell phones.  Thus, a significant conversion opportunity still exists, fueling the competition for service.  Small businesses are moving to hosted VoIP due to the relatively low investment cost in return for advanced features equivalent to what is afforded to large businesses and their expensive phone systems.

It is also a great opportunity for the providers.  Not often are there opportunities in the business marketplace where alternatives to traditional providers can literally push traditional providers to a small market share.  Traditionally, businesses of all sizes would purchase phone systems separately, and utilize landline services from their local telecom provider.  With hosted VoIP, the system and service are combined and ride separately over whatever internet connection is provided.  Additionally, many hosted VoIP providers have a nationwide footprint, putting them in a position more favorable and less restrictive to the local phone providers.

Certain VoIP Providers Dominate the Marketing Machine

With such a market opportunity, money follows.  At play is the way small business researches their purchases...the web.  Sure, still plenty of money floods direct mail and other forms of traditional advertising.  However, the cost of ranking high on paid search terms and gaining significant placement on organic searches is staggering.  It was shared with me that paid search costs for VoIP related terms are second to only mesothelioma terms, as injury law firms scramble to get in on the payouts!

The large national VoIP providers fuel the unreasonable cost to paid terms, forcing other providers to pay to play or move to more obscure terms.  We've even seen where good value terms are eventually forced up in rate by the nationals and their robotic bidding software a month or two down the road.  They also drive business via other sources.  If you've searched for VoIP terms, you undoubtedly find companies that "rank" VoIP providers or have research that points to the "best" providers.  Make no mistake, these are actually engines that are funded by the providers listed as they pay for leads that are submitted for their call centers to attack.

This is not to say that the products offered by these providers are inferior.  Quite the opposite.  Money is clearly spent on product development and marketing.  But, are these businesses right for your business?

Other Providers Can Present a Risk to the Business, so Research is Important

There are alternatives.  Given the market opportunity, there are more and more entrants into the small business VoIP provider ranks.  The cost of entry is relatively low when compared to what telecom providers had to invest when building out the traditional landline service.  Because all VoIP providers utilize the internet for the physical transport of the voice packets, their investment is server/product/service based only. 

There are a couple of variations of alternative providers out there.  One is a true developer/manager of the VoIP product that they maintain and market.  Another is a reseller of a white label product of a national firm.  You can spot the latter if there are numerous line items for various billing options on their quote, as they are charged accordingly by their national provider.  Once on-line with these providers, you will notice that the service is not handled by people employed by the company.  For those who maintain their own platform, they have much more flexibility in pricing and configuration, but you need to carefully choose the provider.  Finding the VoIP specialists is the key.  If it is an offshoot business of a technical service company, you will need to see how grounded they are in VoIP experience and capabilities.

Finding the Gems

Again, the large players in the market are found easily and have good products.  But, are they right for your business?  Think about one of the reasons why you are considering leaving the large telco or cable provider -- customer service!  With so much money invested in marketing, customers are forced to deal with call center sales and support.  If you want to find a VoIP provider that will provide dedicated account and service teams, you will have to dig a bit deeper.Search_for_Right_VoIP_Provider

Make your search terms a bit longer.  Instead of searching on "hosted VoIP providers", use something like "hosted phone service providers with awesome customer service." Skip past the paid ads and review several pages of searches.  Examine the websites of the providers you find and look for a quality site with VoIP only services.  These will be players that have more depth to them and have the potential to provide your business with the support structure you are looking for in a provider.  Once you have a list of providers, make your calls and conduct your interview.  Look for providers that can adapt their service to how you do business (customizing the configuration).  See if they build your configuration for you and ensure that you are not required to build it yourself via a self-service portal.  Ask for a list of references, specific to other customers your size and in your industry.  Call these references to find out how reliable the service has been and have them describe the customer service provided.


If you are a small business, it is likely that you already have VoIP or are now ready to consider it.  There are gems of VoIP providers in this market.  Chances are they have a similar business philosophy to your small business.  Imagine receiving your phone system and service from the same company, one that looks and acts like your business and not some behemoth marketing machine similar to the one you are considering leaving!   Dig a little deeper in your research, and the results will benefit your business for years to come!


About the author:  Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVine, a provider of a variety of VoIP phone solutions and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and has a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments. 

Tags: Changing Phone Service Providers, small business phone service

Hosted VoIP: Full Service vs. Self Service

Posted by Mark Greim on May 20, 2015 11:21:10 AM

One of the big debates between providers of Hosted VoIP services centers around whether to off source account servicing to the customer or deliver account maintenance activity as a part of the service.  In either case, it can be a point of differentiation.

With Hosted VoIP services being the service platform of choice for most businesses today, a new telecom bundle has emerged.  Traditional phone providers bundle voice and data with various term commitments under the guise of providing discounts.  As alternative providers of internet have emerged, businesses have the opportunity to secure their internet services from such providers and open the door for moving their phone service to a hosted VoIP provider.  These providers have created a "new" bundle.  Because the phone system and service are now intertwined, such a bundle provides a unique opportunity to deliver a fantastic level of service.

The power of Hosted VoIP manifests with the ability to customize the system to match the unique needs of the business.  Business select how calls flow into the office, develop an auto attendant to route calls to maximize customer satisfaction, create find-me/follow-me routines for high contact employees, program time of day routing / messaging differences, and work through many more areas for customization.  After the initial deployment, changes can be made to the programs to address changing demands.  There are also needs for administrative updates, as user names (and email addresses for voicemail to email features) change with turnover.  Businesses may also add phones/users as growth occurs or new locations are required.

It is at this point where the great debate ensues.  Is it better to provide a self servicing web platform or Full_Service_vs_Self_Service_VoIPprovide a full service support contact for customers?  To be fair, there are cases to be made on both sides.  At sipVine, we've made the strategic decision to provide the full service, doing so within our standard rate structure and bypassing any administrative fees or charges.  At the core of this decision is what we believe to be an important opportunity to leverage the bundling of system and phone service.  Due to the fact that there's an intensive level of custom programming up-front in the process, there's a great opportunity to get to know each and every customer within that context.  How powerful is it to receive a call from a customer and you are able to demonstrate that you "know" them?  Isn't that what customer service is all about?  Do you have that kind of relationship with your current phone service provider?

sipVine views this as an opportunity, one that would be lost if we asked our customers to service themselves via a web portal.  Granted, there are certain things that would be easy to do on a portal.  However, we've provided service to a great deal of customers coming over from hosted providers who offered web portal updating access.  In most cases, these customers were frustrated with the portal as they typically had to call for a refresher on how to use it or they created problems with the phones (or call flow) as they attempted higher-level updates.

Recently, a major national provider of hosted services announced that they are now going to provide a "concierge" service, as they realized the level of frustration out there and indicated that many do not have the manpower or expertise to maintain their systems themselves.  The fact that they are putting a premium on full service signals the potential winner in this debate.

Despite being somewhat validated by this announcement, sipVine and other full service VoIP providers need to take full advantage of the opportunity.  Customer controlled web portals have a great advantage in that they are "real time" updates.  Thus, speed to respond such requests are paramount.  At sipVine, we offer several different methods to place a request.  Sending an email to the technical team, logging a ticket via our website or to a specific access email, or simply dialing 7HELP from their sipVine phone are among the access points.  We pride ourselves in prompt closure of such requests, but mainly in delivering the feeling that we are in fact the "phone department" for all of our customers.

As more and more services are being delivered to businesses in a hosted platform, the debate or self service vs. full service will be front and center.  Businesses may have differing preferences.  Perhaps it is best solved by the question on how they would service their own customers.  Offering full service comes at a cost to the business, but the reward can be a loyal and happy following of customers!


About the author:  Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVine, a provider of a variety of VoIP phone solutions and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and has a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments. 

Tags: Changing Phone Service Providers, Phone System Administration

How Insurance Agencies Thrive with Hosted VoIP

Posted by Mark Greim on May 13, 2015 11:00:00 AM

From independent insurance brokers to multi-location agencies, the insurance industry has harnessed the power of hosted VoIP services to enhance their customer service experience.  Additional benefits are found in the economics, as these organizations do not have to purchase an expensive in-house system to achieve the benefits derived from a hosted VoIP platform.  Listed below are several examples of how insurance companies have utilized VoIP to improve their customer service:

  1. Find Me/Follow Me - We've all seen the commercials touting the responsiveness and availability of your insurance agent in times of need.  Insurance agencies can utilize their VoIP platform to facilitate this promise in becoming a reality!  Calls into the agency can be routed to the agent, adjuster, or other customer facing staff via a direct transfer or by implementing a find  me / follow me feature on that associate's extension.  Most utilize their cell phone as the destination for such routing of calls. 
  2. Strategic Use of an Auto Attendant - Whether it be as back up during hours during high call volume or as the primary after hours process, agencies have utilized an auto attendant to help route customer calls to a destination that meets their current need.  The agency may have a claims center or roadside assistance center that supports them, and customers can choose the particular option that meets their need and be transferred there.  Reaching the agent or other staff after hours or in an emergency can be additional options on the attendant.
  3. Time of Day Routing and Holiday Schedule - A great feature of hosted VoIP is that it is essentially a program, one in which insurance agencies and similar businesses can customize to their schedule.  During normal hours, they may choose to ring the office phones in a certain pattern.  After hours, they can streamline the ring pattern and fall to an afterhours auto attendant.  Similarly, holidays can be scheduled to operate in after hours mode and the greetings can be customized to the holiday.
  4. Voicemail to Email - Obviously, there are times where agents or adjusters are simply unable to take a call.  With voicemails being delivered to email, they are able to immediately be notified of a customer's need, listen to the voicemail, and respond according to the level of urgency.

Insurance_Agents_Improve_Service_with_VoIPInsurance companies that deploy hosted VoIP to their headquarters and agent offices can achieve even greater benefit.  First, the economics of using a hosted provider across so many locations is very compelling.  Many hosted VoIP providers offer a declining rate schedule based upon volume.  Especially in the agent office settings, the savings over their current phone service can be significant.  Additionally, companies can drive uniformity to their agent offices, whether they are company owned or franchised.  Certainly, a common phone system drives uniformity in and of itself.  More importantly, standard messaging and processes can drive positive customer recognition and loyalty.  Similar auto attendants and messages, call flows, hours of operation, and such can all be managed centrally in a hosted VoIP deployment.

These benefits are very applicable to the insurance agency, but they apply to many businesses, professional service firms, and other organizations as well.  It has never been a better time than now to check out the advantages offered by hosted VoIP companies and improve service to your customers!


About the author:  Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVine, a provider of a variety of VoIP phone solutions and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and has a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments. 



Tags: Phone Service for Insurance Agents, Technology in Business

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