RingCentral is your own personal communications secretary. Using this service is essentially like telling your personal assistant to set up the phone systems in your new office and having it done the same day with all the customizations you want. Granted, it can’t pick up your dry cleaning or bring you a morning latte, but as more then just a VoIP service, RingCentral has gained stunning accolades across the board, even being hailed as “a virtual phone system for a 21st century workforce” by ZDnet. In the modern workforce, many of us are moving, constantly. Try getting hold of my boss and it will take you about 10 different phone numbers, maybe even a private detective, or two. However, businesses still like to give customers the image of their employees being suited up, hard at work in a buzzing office just waiting to help the customer at this very moment. RingCentral presents and maintains that image through a seamless transition of a virtual phone tree. Think of it as Skype meets Google Voice meets a switchboard operator.
Configuration & Set Up
To start off you can pick a toll free number and add local numbers as well. An 800 number makes you look like a big time business, while a local number makes you seem personally available. Vanity numbers are also available for an extra $5 a month and are pro-rated.
Next comes the automated receptionist. In an easy download and install you can start within minutes. It is PC and Mac friendly so it really is no trouble at all. You can begin to configure the settings through an online menu that looks like this:
After you configure the Interactive Voice Response menu and greetings you will have something that resembles any other 800 number out there… “Press one for…. Two for….” And with 100 extensions available, covering all your bases will be no problem. Studio produced hold messages will retain your waiting customers. The auto-receptionist can be configured to send calls out based on business hours, extensions dialed, and other date and time parameters.
You can even format it to give priority to your top clients by sending them past the call system and straight to you. How much would it impress a client to be told that they are important enough to get connected directly to you! Dial by directory is another feature of this system that is sure to impress.
Most companies know that your receptionist is your front line and a most valuable resource. A dropped call can mean a dropped client. Since all this is automated, there is no room for mistakes of that kind. Your receptionist won’t hit the wrong button and disconnect, or misconnect a client. It is all run by your preset criteria. You can even enable an option that instructs you to “ push 1 to receive this business call” so you can differentiate between business calls and personal calls, and more importantly so your children can also.
FindMe is a feature that can send calls to a series of specified numbers simultaneously or sequentially. That way it is sure to get picked up by someone. This is nice so that clients don’t have to dial 5 numbers (office, cell, home, skype, etc…) to get in touch with an employee. They make one call and all the lines can be activated or just a few, depending on your preferences.
The feature FollowMe overides FindMe to set up for priority routing. The example the company gives of using this, is if you lose cell phone service in an area and need to temporarily reroute your calls to a landline.
The caller ID is exceptionally helpful for the screening process. You can program it to screen your calls by prompting the person to say their name. It is also discreet in sending screened calls to voicemail within an allotted time and not immediately. After all, if a client is asked to say their name and immediately dropped into voicemail thereafter, it is a not too subtle hint that you don’t want to talk to them. So a brief delay in doing that is optimal. It is also possible to arrange for only a specified set of numbers to ring to your phone, and have the rest automatically go to voicemail.
Most of your dialing out activity will be done through this module called the call controller:
Once this is open, it allows you to go into your email or web page and just highlight a number and dial it directly from that point, bypassing the copy and paste part. This is also available for the customers through a RingMe button or text code that can be embedded on web sites, email signatures, and online ads to give clients the ability to connect to you instantly by phone.
Detailed reports can be gathered on your call logs. You can use these for any number of purposes, tracking client numbers, evaluating productivity, and seeing which employee is getting the most calls and thus business. The call controller also enables you to screen and route calls as they come in, even interrupting a voicemail to pick up the call, or create text to voice messages to send back. Faxes can also be sent directly from Microsoft Office applications including Office and Explorer. Voicemails can be sent to your email as attachments. The interface can take some getting used to and may even be a little clunky at first, but the company is working on improving this aspect shortly. A new iPhone application is available for download now. It runs pretty similarly to the desktop version. Another thing on the horizon is conference calling and call recording.
An additional service called Digital Lines are needed to call out. Our trial account did not come with this so we are not really able to comment on this feature beyond what is on the site. Generally speaking it has gotten pretty good reviews as far as voice clarity and the rarity of dropped calls.
For the Office packages, each IP phone costs $90 and comes fully ready to use. These might be handy to have in the office, so you aren’t constantly on your cell.
Here is a more detailed explanation of the pricing structure:
After viewing this you may be wondering how this compares to other services like Google Voice, or PhoneBooth. Put simply, RingCentral is an all encompassing business phone management system. It connects various people in an organized structured manner over a secure line as well as fax capabilities. Google Voice manages an individual person’s phone numbers and retains the property of all information transmitted, thus making it not an ideal choice for business. PhoneBooth offers the most similar features to RingCentral, making it the main competition. The pricing is fairly similar however they do not seem to offer faxing. PhoneBooth and Google Voice offer transcripted voicemails that RingCentral does not. But that feature has widely been regarded as a joke because the very imperfect voice transcription technology results in some pretty hilarious messages.
Overall, RingCentral is a solid company that has been around since 1999. It isn’t a baby fresh start up. They are pros. They are constantly improving the programs and on top of market changes. For small businesses, this is the way to go. The detailed personalized configurations are without parallel and the convenience is sure to save time and money. The complete professional presentation to the public is something companies pay a lot for that now can be done with just a few clicks and maintained easily for years to come.
For those of you interested in trying out the service yourself, for a limited time RingCentral is offering 50% off the first 3 months to our readers