Hosted VoIP isn't perfect. But when everything hinges on having a dial tone, it becomes pretty darn important.
"Americans feel they have certain inalienable rights," said Quentin Krengel, president and CEO of Krengel Technology -- "including the right to a dial tone."
As a beta-tester for MailStreet's recently added hosted VoIP feature, Krengel has enough experience to say with certainty that he wants a dial tone to be a right. As founder and CEO of an online marketing and software development firm, Krengel knows what he wants from his communications services and isn't afraid to ask for it.
Starting his firm more than a decade ago, Krengel was aware of what he needed to create a success -- namely, the ability to present a professional image similar to that of companies with 10 or 20 times as many employees. Initially, telecommunications for the employees was handled using standard POTS lines. Krengel was always looking for the next technology to improve his company, and when Vonage was still an unknown startup, he signed up for a handful of VoIP lines.
As an "ultra-small" business, with fewer than 20 employees, customer service wasn't too much of a problem and was handled principally by email. Essentially, all employees with VoIP lines from Vonage could service outages and difficulties themselves. Employees also handled the connectivity issue by forwarding all of their calls and voicemail to their PDAs during service outages.
Yet with a growing business, the need to rely on continuous connectivity became an issue, and eventually the situation came to a head when Krengel Technology experienced a three-day service outage with Vonage. By the third day, when patience was exhausted and weak assistance from customer service had run its course, Krengel began a search for a new communications provider. Two or three days after the outage fiasco, Krengel Technology began a fruitful partnership with Apptix's MailStreet.
Apptix offers three levels of service, with MailStreet catering primarily to what is termed the "ultra-small" business market -- one to 20 employees -- and offering a cost-conscious solution. Covering all the basics of enterprise-class email, unified communications, hosted Exchange and hosted PBX services, Apptix's various service levels launched their latest feature, Apptix Voice -- a hosted VoIP solution -- on 19 March, in response to a demand among businesses of all sizes. Amir Hudda, CEO, said, "Combined with our hosted email and collaboration solutions, Apptix Voice extends our vision of delivering reliable, enterprise-class business communications solutions to the SMB [small and midsized business] market."
In addition to choosing the more traditional MailStreet offerings of hosted Exchange, email and Outlook integration, Krengel also volunteered his firm of primarily home-office-based employees to beta-test the MailStreet VoIP feature. He said it was important that all the workers in his firm felt comfortable handling call conferencing, call forwarding and call transfers -- both internal and external -- so the user interface would need to be easy to use but graphically dynamic.
After initial testing among the employees, a user in the marketing department came back and confirmed the functionality of MailStreet's offering by stating, "Even a non-geek like me can use the system and understand the display easily." The firm is also testing softphones, handsets and PC integration among the three features, which share the same phone number -- another feature of MailStreet's offerings that appeals to Krengel.
Overall, Krengel said, he had found his time utilising MailStreet to be satisfactory -- in a small office where employees work from home four days a week, the option to use a hosted PBX is an attractive offering. Krengel said that integrating employees' phones, particularly in the situation of his home-based employees, goes beyond integrating office communications to directly influencing the functionality of the work team -- giving employees easy access to intra-office verbal communications.
Krengel acknowledged that he is a demanding user, but he knows what he wants and is also aware that the perfect communication system does not exist. But a high level of customer service -- including rapid turnaround on emails, willingness to assist on implementation of new features, and availability after hours to handle difficult situations as they arise -- has convinced Krengel that he made a wise choice in taking his firm to the next level in communications.