We made the very scary choice of moving from our traditional phone system and typical business lines to VoIP in July of 2010. I say "scary" because of the many horror stories we have heard in the past surrounding quality and performance. However, we had two key agendas that had to be met;
- Reduce telephony cost
- Improve remote work capabilities (this would include enhanced features)
After a great deal of research we isolated several companies who fit our needs and appeared to reflect cost savings. First some of the key hot features we were looking for were:
- Soft Phone Capability
- Multiple Company IVR System
- Voice Mail to Email
- Unlimited North American Long Distance
- Number Ownership (if it failed we wanted to be able to bail)
- Number Portability
- Smart Phone Application
- Department Structuring
- ACD Call Queue
- Find Me Features
- Call Transfer/Link
- Back-up Redundant System
- Great Support
At this stage of the research it was clear that Ring Central’s product offering met and in fact exceeded our list of required features. Pricing would mean an overall savings in telecom costs of 42%+. Since this is the business we are in, providing cost savings to clients through a cost audit, saving ourselves money should be a natural step. Baring in mind though "the scary part"! Which meant a technology change and one we still weren’t 100% sold on. Therefore referring clients to such a service was out of the question until we ourselves became the ginny pigs.
So onward we marched. We started by subscribing to the Ring Central Mobile. We still had our phone system and this allowed us to test the service. Initial setup was challenging. Although the online user interface is fairly intuitive, if you haven’t setup one before, an IVR can be a daunting task.
During this time we utilized Ring Central support center alot. In fact this is a big plus we found to the service was being able to call anytime of day or night. So if we worked on it in the evening, this wasn’t a problem. We found support (despite some language barrier issues – yes they definitely have a call center somewhere outside of North America) quite helpful. The best part, was their ability to go into our back-end and see exactly what we had done and either change it to fix it, or walk us through the change. This would be at minimum a service call charge to our telephone hardware provider. They never once rushed us on the phone so this made us feel we were at least on the right track.
For this stage of our setup we were using only soft-phones. For those of you not familiar with this, it is using a headset and your computer to make and receive calls. There are definite negatives to this. Mainly your computer limitations, such as memory, processing power, active applications running at any given time, and right down to burps in your operating system. However due to our old phone system reaching its lifespan, we were hoping this would be the solution.
After one month on the system we had liked the results for the most part and were prepared to kill our old phone system. This meant migrating our account to the Ring Central Office (RingCentral Office – $50 Off First Month 10 Users plan) service which included actual lines for us to dial out on and replace our current system. Over the next six months of being on the system it performed fairly well. I say fairly well because I wasn’t prepared to recommend it to our clients yet. We had far too many calls that customers complained on the quality – so we tweaked our network and we scrubbed our computers. This helped a lot, but still not great. No victory dance yet. Some of the other issues were related to the back-end and required fine tuning of the departments, and the IVR to perform better. Again alot of feedback from clients helped in getting this improved. Certainly challenges, knowing what we know now could have been avoided.
At this stage we pushed on mainly because we loved the features and capabilities. In fact the capabilities are incredible. We will do another post soon on how we use the system if that’s helpful, just leave a comment below. But the call quality was still not 100% although we could live with it (sort of). In December we made the decision to go to the next level. We had spoken to their technical support many times, and every time we got the same story, "Soft Phones are meant for convenience, not neccessarily the best choice to run a decent size office on".
So we invested in IP Phones. All we can say now is "Oh My God", what a difference. If we had know earlier the difference this would have made, we would have made the jump so much sooner. In a nutshell this is why we have now quite willingly written this review. We are now in a position that we can confidently recommend the service to clients that it makes sense for.
All in all the service is a win for us. The six months of challenges can definitely be avoided with better planning, and implementing IP phones wherever possible. We still use the soft phones in certatin scenarios, but everyone now has an IP Phone as well.
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