Good Call: This App Let's Virtual Teams Stay Connected
Early last year, Ahmed Khattak launched US Mobile, a provider of no-contract, no-frills cellphone service aimed at college students, seniors and other low-usage customers. And yet, he struggled to find a good phone system for in-house staff at his Connecticut headquarters. “You would think we would have had that covered, since we are a telecom company,” he says with a chuckle. But it was truly hard going: Hardware-based and VOIP options were too inflexible, and he was facing the prospect of wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars to make his current in-house system work for his growing company.
Meanwhile, he had a business with no reliable way to expand customer support or pull analytics.
After months of searching, Khattak discovered Aircall, a Paris, France-based company that offers a unique telecom solution: Its app can be downloaded on any device -- an employee’s cellphone, a company computer or tablet and more -- that instantly links into a central system. Each device even gets its own new phone extension. Khattak set up the system with on-demand features such as call cascading (which moves an incoming call to the next available person), call forwarding and recording, a button on his website that allows customers to call via their computers and more.
“It literally took a half hour to set up everything,” Khattak says, “and the built-in systems and service and support have been phenomenal.” His 20-person support team is now seamlessly linked. Aircall’s dashboard-based analytics -- with metrics on hold times, individual agent productivity and so on -- have also helped US Mobile improve its customer service, Khattak says. Reps now successfully handle 25 percent more calls a day. Aircall charges a monthly per-user fee ranging from $10 to $40 per device, depending on the package, and US Mobile is paying less than $500 a month -- a “massive” savings, Khattak says.
A system like this may be great, but it’s not for everyone, says Ari Santiago, founder of the West Hartford, Conn.-based telecom consulting firm IT Direct. For reliability and compliance -- depending upon your industry -- you may still need to have a dedicated computer and phone line to handle customer service calls. And even if you don’t, he says, “I’d be wary of making staff dependent on a single device, such as their personal computer or their personal smartphone, for handling important business and customer calls.” His recommendation: Conduct a serious analysis of all the service options. Then make the call.