Business success is derived from a combination of know-how, great communication, and business swag. Unfortunate but true, without the swag necessary business contacts and jobs won’t materialize. If they don’t materialize, the business has a hard time growing at the speed of imagination. The swag is heard through your communication and seen in your marketing. What’s a David to do when Goliath's put a big price tag on communication? Should small businesses look to the clouds for the answer?
Yes, look to the clouds. Look to cloud technology for telecommunication solutions. Large corporations have their departments spread across the globe in their quest for consumer, supplier, and labor markets. To keep the departments working and talking with one another, millions of dollars have been spent to install and operate PBX systems. A growing business doesn’t have the kind of capital to invest in PBX. However, the world is the proverbial oyster now that the Internet is in its fourth generation.
College friends or defense servicemen may develop viable business models that miles separating them shouldn’t stop the enterprise from being birthed. Smartphones and online collaboration tools can sustain the business momentum. Baochi Nguyen, Ring Central’s Social Strategy Director explained that “a mobile workforce equipped with smartphones leveraged with RingCentral’s extensive capabilities turns the cellphone into the business telecommunication system.” In fact, the US workforce is increasingly a mobile one, given independent contracting, online consultant marketplaces, and telecommuting. Senior Research Analyst at IDC Research Stacy Crook writes in a December 2011 study, "Despite recent market turmoil, mobility continues to be a critical part of the global workforce…We expect to see healthy growth in the number of mobile workers. Our forecast shows that the worldwide mobile worker population will increase from just over 1 billion in 2010 to more than 1.3 billion by 2015."
RingCentral’s Nguyen drilled the numbers down to “75% of US workforce is mobile and 50% of US smartphone usage is for business.”
So what is RingCentral offering to the business sector? Telecommunication on a cloud platform is the response. All configuration is done online; therefore, “there’s no hardware, no technical skill requirements, or long term contracts”, Andrea Toch at Pitch PR glibly explains. A small to medium size business can have an Auto Receptionist, multiple extensions, call forwarding, call screening, VoIP service, message alerts, faxing, emailing and toll free numbers through a cloud-based contact center. It’s a matter of inputting everyone’s smartphone and landline numbers into the system and assigning departments and titles.
RingCentral, established in 2003, has over 300,000 business customers, Yelp, Living Social, and Answermania are local companies using it. Compatible with laptops, tablets, and cellphones, the company is on a mission to overtake the PBX market.
CNET editors, the online technology news company, rates RingCentral four stars, which is considered excellent. Twelve CNET user reviews had 10 five-star detailed reviews and 2 one-star detailed reviews. Four user reviews mentioned issues with offshore customer service.
According to Analytics magazine, “the Mobile SaaS (software as a service) Market will reach $1.2 billion in 2011 and grow to $3.7 billion by 2016, with a five-year compound growth rate of 25.8 percent. The ability to integrate business applications on smart phones, tablets and other wireless devices is predicted to accelerate SaaS adoption in the corporate business environment.” These estimates together with other technology research and advisory firms may suggest that RingCentral would have competitors. This is the case where Ifbyphone, Anveo, and Grasshopper are counted in that number.
Ifbyphone, launched in 2005, uses telephony to provide a voice service. The company describes itself as “a voice-based marketing automation for sales and service calls.” Customers get call routing, voice mail, a virtual receptionist, voice broadcasting scheduling and “Smart Click to call”. Smart Click to call facilitates customers going from the website to calling the business to order or make inquiries.
Anveo, launched 2006, is “a hosted PBX and hosted unified communication services business phone system” (i.e., “in the cloud”). It offers worldwide outbound call campaigns (i.e., IVR); Anveo Communicator (a telecommunication and collaboration tool); “Click to Call Contact ME for the web and email; online faxing, conference calls, telephone numbers, and web calls. Another feature, Visual IVR Call Flow is a drag and drop set up for Internet-enabled Voice 2.0.
The other major competitor is Grasshopper. ts features are most comparable to RingCentral’s. Grasshopper was established in 2003 under the name GotVMail. The company has over 100,000 entrepreneurs and the co-founders state their niche is the entrepreneur. The co-founders, Siamak Taghaddos and David Hauser have been written up in Inc., Entrepreneur, Businessweek, CNN, Boston Business Journal and American Venture publications. Services include Voice Studio, Call Screening, toll free and local telephone numbers, custom greetings, multiple extensions, call forwarding, and voicemail to email. Where RingCentral offers separate monthly charges for its five key features, Grasshopper bundles the above-listed items and charges monthly fees based on minutes.
Two other significant mentions are PhoneBooth and GoogleVoice. Phonebooth has no contracts, no setup fees and is plug and play phone equipment. It distinguishes itself from the crowd by owning its VoIP network. Phone booth has been featured in Forbes, PC World, Mashable, ReadWriteWeb, lifehacker, and TMCnet publications. Google Voice is how Google keeps itself in every information game. It works with your existing equipment offering online voicemail, free calls and text messages to Canada and the US and one number. All this is free as long as you permit Google to track your searches, YouTube viewing, blogging, reading list and other Google services. Google Voice is available to consumers and businesses.
Choosing one of these ought to begin the conversation in your business’s inimitable style and swag that positively affect your business’s bottom line.