Many of the small business focused telephone services I come across are one of two kinds.
Hosted applications (such as Gotvmail, VirtualPBX and others) or PBX systems (now more and more IP PBX systems) which are comprised of hardware (a server) and handsets. Managed telephone systems, such as M5 Networks fall into a hybrid category
However, I was recently introduced to CallButler, by Telephony 2.
CallButler, is software, which installs on a computer. It uses Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) based VOIP for inbound calls. If you want to use Skype you can also use CallButler and have a “poor man’s” PBX. [The earlier post on this indicated that Skype connectivity was not possible.]
As CallButler walks you through the set-up process, you create extensions for each of your employees. For each extension, users add the numbers where they want to be contacted (e.g., office, mobile, home, Skype, etc.) These numbers don’t need to be VoIP, they can be any type of phone.
You can also define the day of week and hours for each number when it’s OK for the system to contact you there. For example, you might not want to have CallButler try to reach you at your home number after 8 pm. For customer that might have older PBX systems that they aren’t quite ready to pull the plug on, they can front-end these systems with CallButler. This allows them to add advanced interactive voice response systems and call routing features and the ability to manage much of the system themselves, while keeping the “guts” of their phone system in place until they are ready to replace it fully.
In a direct challenge to their virtual phone systems competition, Telephony 2 says that hosted telephone services have great sounding plans starting at $9.95 (plus a $25 Activation Fee). But what happens when you need more extensionsÖor your inbound call volumes increaseÖor you want to add features like a dial-by-name directory or web/email delivery? Telephony 2 claims that some hosted services charge 4.8 – 7.4 cents per minute for inbound calls + 7.4 cents for any overage minutes and charge for additional extensions and for additional features.
Telephony 2’s cost analysis indicates that their service is cheaper than these hosted phone system offerings – saving you almost $2,000 if you have 5 people in your company.
The other limitation of the hosted offerings, according to Telephony 2 is flexibility. What if you want to do something a little bit different? Telephony 2 has customers who want to integrate their phone systems with a database or back-end application, require support for more than one language, etc.
For example, several customers want to allow customers to be able to check the status of an order – the caller enters the order number, validates it with their mailing zip code and can hear (using text-to-speech) a status of that order.
A realator wants callers to be able to hear about his various properties (square footage, features, price, etc.) – for example, when the “Take Me” brochures are gone. It will also allow the caller to schedule an appointment or be transferred to an agent.
On CallButler’s website, there is a demo of a restaurant that offers callers the ability to book a reservation over the phone.
Hosted solutions are great options if you don’t want to add PBX like features to your existing telephone system – especially if that “system” is comprised of you, 7 others and 8 cell phones, for example. If you don’t want a full scale PBX but want some added flexibility, like connecting your phone system to a database, CallButler seems like an ideal solution to consider.