Sunday, December 23, 2007

Remote Phone Service Provider / 800 Number Vendor

In the book,The 4-Hour Workweek, the author gives a list of tools that are very valuable when starting a business and/or trying to work remotely. During the other business we setup, I had to have a remote sales force and customer service department. For our business, we hire people to work out of their home. The goal was to not have people tied to our residence since it was a home based business.

We have used AccessLine for a few years via an OfficeMax partnership. With the exception of a few minor glitches along the way, we have been pretty happy with what their service offers. We can have up to 16 (I believe) extensions plugged into the automated system. When customers call our 800 number, they are presented with an IVR type of situation. Press 1 for this, 2 for that. If you know your parties extension, press XXX. For each of the automated options, you can supply a number for it to go to (cell, landline, etc...). They can be the same, or different. You can also have failover numbers. So let's say someone is trying to reach Sales Associate "Jane Doe." Jane Doe doesn't answer the phone in her office/home/whatever. I can configure this system (very easily) to let it ring her line "n" number of times, if no answer, ring to my backup line or go to voicemail.

With our service level, which I believe is $99 per month roughly, plus per-minute charges for the 800 line, we don't get extra voicemail boxes. Therefore, we have just one company voicemail box. As people leave voicemails, they get sent to an email address for our company.

This company is not listed in the book, but I can vouch for them and am happy with the service. When we have had problems, their tech support is pretty decent. During two years, we had one period of time where our phones were down for an entire day. Hopefully it doesn't happen again. While the silence was nice, it also meant no money coming in.

I hope someone finds this of value.

5 comments:

Rex Reed said...

Interesting idea on AccessLine. It sounds like what you're talking about is a Virtual PBX type arrangement. $99 a month sounds high for that, though.

Have you looked at other "virtual PBX" services? A quick google query shows companies like Voice Shot, Virtual PBX, etc. Thoughts on those and how they differ from AccessLine?

Rex

The Four Hour Trial said...

Hi Rex,

I went to virtualpbx and while access lines $99 might sound high, it really isn't. If you add up the various fees for the Small Business plan at virtualpbx then I'm confident I would be paying more than I do for access line. Their charge of 5.9 cents per minute would kill me. We get a LOT of phone calls!!!

Also, I'm sure they would have even additional fees for the 800 number minutes used. Extension fees are $12 per month - whereas they are included in my $99 plan with access line.

BUT... all of the features they offer (and the features offered by AccessLine) can be done with Asterisk which is the open source system I suggested. If I had better bandwidth coming into my house then I would use asterisk instead. I have a residential plan though and upload speed is limited. Plus, I cannot risk the downtime in event of internet failure. Business Plans are very expensive and the bandwidth is metered - thus I would actually be downgrading my speed at a higher cost! I'll stick with access line for now, but thanks much for the links. I'll review voiceshot later when I have more energy.

The Four Hour Trial said...

Rex (and everyone else),

I called AccessLine this morning because I need to add an additional system (800 number, lines, etc...) for a subsequent business. While talking with them, I got some additional details.

So, for clarification and correction, the following are true of my existing account:

Monthly Fee: $64.95
-This includes 10 extensions.
-This includes 600 free minutes for my 800 number.
-Additional minutes on 800 line are 4.9 cents per minute. This is for both interstate and intrastate calls (flat rate) - which is important because many companies charge different rates for different types of calls.

Hope this helps! All in all, I believe it is a very good setup.

Jay said...

You can get an 800 number for much cheaper at http://www.besttollfree800numbers.com

mlmjedimaster.com said...

I'm looking for a remote phone service which I can direct the 800 number to different people at schedules times of the day. I would also like to have the ability to forward incoming calls to different people on a round robin basis as they come in. Do you all know of any services that do this?