I’ve been working recently with a client on a web project (sales of digital art). As is typical of most of my projects, my expertise in other areas gets tapped – not just web development. After all I am an IT consultant.
This client needed an inexpensive VoiP telephone solution for the online small business. She wants customers to be able to contact a “real person” if needed as well as be able to fax digitally. In my opinion with a combination of free and inexpensive services plus cell phones, it can all happen.
Posted below are excerpts from the email correspondence. Keep that in mind as the “text flow” is not perfect.
You will see that I am recommending Skype as part of the solution. For all the naysayers out there, let me state this upfront: It works and works well. I am running a Linksys WRT54GL with DD-WRT firmware and QoS optimized for VoiP and Skype on a Dell Inspiron 1525 with a built-in webcam – video conferencing works well and barely puts a dent in my dual-core Intel. It offers conference calling features and when combined with Pamela, you can even do call recording and a whole lot more.
Also, I’ve been doing some research on the “phone line” and VOIP. I think using Skype may be a very viable alternative. You can purchase a “SkypeIN” number which gives you a “local” number that is routed to your free Skype account. When someone calls your number from a landline or cell, you answer it via Skype.
You can also purchase a Skype subscription which would allow US/Mexico/Canada/International calling for $9.95/month or less. You also have an option of using the include “SkypeToGo” service so that you could make international calls from your cell phone as part of your Skype subscription.
Here is the main advantage that I see. Suppose you contracted with someone to be the “receptionist” for Legally Hung. All you would have to do is forward the SkypeIn number (which acts as the business number) to that persons cell OR have them install Skype for free and login using the account for that number. You can also purchase up to 10 SkypeIn numbers per account.
Of course – Skype to Skype calls are completely free.
As far as the 800-number status, I tend to be a little more realistic about that. How many people actually pay long distance per minute any longer? I would venture to guess (based on my business and clients) that 80-90+% of everyone has “unlimited” longdistance on their landlines and cell phones. That is why you are starting to see a lot of newer companies use local numbers versus worrying about toll free. However, there are stats that prove a toll free number can increase your traditional sales.
I’m not sure how much “customer service” callback you anticipate, but here are some possible solutions and ideas.
Call Solution Possibilities
*Ring Central Support Solution*
This system does a virtual PBX and Fax system all integrated into one. Combining this with existing cell phone and/or Skype Online numbers could prove to be a very cost effective solution for a virtual office managed by people anywhere. Including extensions, online faxing, call routing based on rules, etc, I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND considering this system.
Comments on RingCentral:
*Purchase multilple SkypeIN numbers*
You could purchase several numbers and have each answered via Skype by support people. These could be also forwarded to the support person’s cell phone. For international callbacks, support people could take advantage of the Skype To Go Service.
The downside is that if the support person did a callback from their cell, then it would showup on the caller ID of the customer’s phone. A possible workaround for this would be to take advantage of the “Skype to Go” service. Suppose a support person needed to callback a customer and was not near a broadband connection to directly callout via Skype. The support person could use the Skype to Go service.