By Sandy Wallace
VoIP is a stupid sounding word. It has no oomph, no thrust, no urgency. It’s the acronym for Voice over Internet Protocol, and as unfortunate sounding as it is, it represents an amazing technology with phenomenal potential. The perceived problem with VoIP, as well, is that it challenges the very backbone of a system that has existed since Alexander Graham Bell created his invention over 125 years ago.
Unfortunately, unlike other industries that merely rely on phones to create business and pleasure, the phone is our business. So how do we overcome these challenges? By listening to experts in the field – both users and providers of VoIP.
Donna West of Focus Communications had an uninteresting, and not uncommon, problem: her rent was going up. Not by a small amount, but by a large number over and above her already high rent. Couple this with staff – some family, some not – who had to travel a great distance to get to work each day and back home again. In speaking with Lori Jenkins of SkyStream Broadband & Voice Integration, a VoIP reseller, Donna realized the potential of VoIP, which would not only solve her cost problem, but also provide the added benefit of less travel time for her staff, as well as increased productivity.
Rather than having one centralized, expensive office, Focus created three remote offices – two set up to be close to Donna’s two sons, Tom and Jim, and the third close to a good source of telephone agents. How did VoIP help here? By utilizing a VoIP system, all the numbers could remain local and not incur long distance charges. Not only that, but the thirty agents who couldn’t make the drive to the new location were given VoIP access in their homes and were able to work remotely. As Donna said, “If employees are given the opportunity to excel in this kind of situation, they will thrive,” increasing productivity and further cutting down on cost. Also, by utilizing software and hardware solutions, such as GoToMeeting and video cameras respectively, staff members could hold meetings “live,” and salespeople would be able to show potential clients the operation without the prospects having to physically go to the actual site.
Marci Hewitt of A Better Connection also wanted to save money. Who doesn’t? But without counting paperclips and rationing toilet paper, how can a company cut down on expenses? VoIP. Simply put, Marci and her crew saved approximately forty percent on long distance charges when they went with SkyStream. When Lori set up A Better Connection on VoIP, there was no point-to-point access, so service was not a hundred percent in the beginning. Now that point-to-point is available, the quality is as good, if not better, than conventional service. With a home office in Arizona, and acquisitions in Idaho and Virginia, one would expect long distance and logistics to be a problem and expense. Not with VoIP. Again, local numbers can be retained, keeping local customers happy and secure in their “local service” and saving on long-distance charges. So, if growth by acquisition is how you do business, there is no better partner than VoIP.
Not all services involve acquisitions. David Randolph of Access 24 wanted to deal with a uniquely Texas problem of foreign exchange service. He was hesitant to try a relatively new technology like VoIP. As he put it, “Telephones are, functionally, our industry.” So switching from a system that was been proven for over 100 years to a new technology was not easy. But now that the switch has been made, David hasn’t looked back. He points out that we run computers that are Windows-based. Does that make them foolproof? No. But if you get the blue screen of death and have to reboot, then you do it – end of story. So, in the long run, going with a new technology is nothing new to the industry, but it’s more than the incremental change that we’re used to.
Ray Shaw of Business and Professional Exchange, Inc. makes a good point when he says, “Work closely with your ISP.” Make sure that you have Quality of Service (QoS) in place, ensuring that voice data gets priority over other data. By working with your ISP and your VoIP provider, you can create a modern solution that is better, and often less expensive, than our “tried and true” existing standard.
In his book Small Is the New Big, Seth Godin states: “If your industry is changing because of a technological breakthrough, it doesn’t matter whether you believe in the breakthrough; it’s still there. We may have all sorts of business and theological reasons to challenge a piece of science, but denying reality never leads to a positive outcome.” He goes on to point out that Kodak’s present woes center on their denial that digital photography was going to catch on. This isn’t to say that we have to continually throw out the old and adopt the new, but look into it we must.
Talk to the experts – those who use VoIP, and those who provide it. It may not be for everyone right now, but it may be the only thing going eventually.
Sandy Wallace is a freelance writer in Ontario, Canada, and is the owner of Image in Design, a marketing and branding firm that specializes in the teleservices industry. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 519-883-0717.
Here’s What They Said:
- “Well-informed people know it is impossible to transmit the voice over wires and that were it possible to do so, the thing would have no practical value.” Editorial in the Boston Post, 1865, on attempts to create the telephone.
- “Only a toy.” Gardiner Greene Hubbard, 1876, future father-in-law of Alexander Graham Bell on the upcoming invention.
- “That’s an amazing invention, but who would ever want to use one of them?” Rutherford B. Hayes, 1876, president of the United States.
- In 1876, Bell successfully patented his invention. A year later, he offered to sell the patent to Western Union Telegraph Company for $100,000. Western Union declined.
[From Connection Magazine – January 2008]