In the Trenches: The Virtual Phone System Scramble
Like a lot of small businesses, I opted to go with a virtual phone system vs. a traditional one for Cranky Concierge. This was a fairly easy decision, considering the fact that everyone in the company works from a different location. It just made sense, and it saved us money.
However, last week I learned the pitfalls of using a virtual system. Our service provider decided to “update” its system, and the new version decided to stop interpreting our custom settings properly. That meant incoming calls weren't being routed to the right people at the right time. Sometimes, they were even going straight to voicemail, even calls to our urgent line. This left me scrambling to decide what to do next.
When it comes to a phone system, our needs are pretty straightforward. I want a service that supports more than a few extensions, so that it can grow with us. I want it to be able to ring multiple phones for each employee, depending upon his or her personal preference. (For example, my extension rings my cell and land lines simultaneously.) I also need the system to have a solid call-routing function, so we can send our clients to different people at different times of the day. Lastly, I want it to be easy to dial out so that our outbound calls will display our toll free number through caller ID.
Our current system satisfied most of those requirements until last week, when our custom settings suddenly stopped working. It used to be that we could set a default routing process that we could alter by creating overlying rules. Apparently, the provider decided to eliminate some of the system’s default capability without notifying us. We couldn’t revert back, and the customer service people were unable to help us. So, I did what I imagine a lot of people would do — I cobbled together something resembling the old settings as best I could, so we didn’t screw our clients.
Since that time, someone from the company did reach out after seeing my rantings on Twitter and said he'd have someone call me. But I never heard from anyone. In the meantime, I started looking for a new provider.
I started my search on Twitter, where I received some great recommendations from my followers. Then I went online and looked at comparisons provided by several of the providers I've heard about. I’ve turned up quite a few options, but I don’t want to deliberate on for long, because having a functioning phone system is extremely important. I can’t imagine sticking with a provider that makes changes without explaining the potential consequences beforehand and fails to provide adequate assistance afterwards. With any luck, I’ll have a new virtual phone system set up by this time next week.
Brett Snyder is President and Chief Airline Dork of Cranky Concierge air travel assistance. Snyder previously worked for several airlines, including America West and United, before leaving to create a travel search site for PriceGrabber.com. Snyder did his undergrad at George Washington and earned his MBA from Stanford.