M5 Networks acquires call center technology provider Callfinity.

Acquisition furthers M5's mission of integrating phone with other mainstream business tools.

By Ted Stevenson | Posted Apr 20, 2011
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M5 Networks is not your grandfather's VoIP provider. Founded in 2000 and headquartered in New York City, M5 has evolved from a firm that catered to small and mid-size companies to one that, today, describes itself as a provider of unified communications to mid-size businesses with heavy phone usage requirements.

Even its take on unified communications—the buzzword of the past couple of years—is different. "Unified communications is not as much about unifying an individual's communications as about unifying a business's communications," M5 CEO Dan Hoffman told Enterprise VoIPplanet in a recent interview. "That's our spin on it."

What Hoffman is referring to is M5's philosophy that communications needs to be integrated with other business tools– "driven into the business," in Hoffman's words. To this end, the company has over the years carefully and relentlessly integrated its hosted IP PBX services with other technology—CRM systems, business intelligence tools, and, as of this month, with the acquisition of call center technology developer Callfinity, high-end contact center tools.

"Our clients are people who care about service and use phones to deliver services," Hoffman said, putting the acquisition in context. Once the integration is complete—in July, Hoffman estimates—the customer service benefits of Callfinity's technology will be available throughout the enterprise, not limited to personnel in a physical call center.

"That's the big headline," Hoffman said. "The call center expands and reaches into the rest of the enterprise."

Processes that typically take place in a contact center—measuring call volume, responsiveness, measuring quality and coaching, having technology drive a workflow on the phone—are technologies and processes that just as appropriately apply to sales forces that work remotely, or to a service business such as a travel agency that doesn't think of itself as a contact center.

"All that has been developed in the call center really could be applied to the rest of our client base," Hoffman summarized.

While the idea of applying call center processes and technologies across a broader spectrum of a business's staff and activities makes perfect sense, up to now the cost factor associated with traditional premise-based call center deployments has been a natural barrier—especially for smaller companies.

The cloud changes all that, according to Hoffman. "With a hosted model like we have, that brings the cost down for everyone to run the technology– the hosted model really makes it possible," he said.

Initially, the Callfinity technology will be deployed in M5's three primary data centers. "The architecture allows us to host it—like our core product—across the country in multiple data centers," Hoffman said.

M5 will continue to develop, market, and support Callfinity’s technology once the integration with M5's network is complete. Former Callfinity president and CEO Jeff Valentine and CTO Patrick Conroy will join M5 as vice president of product marketing and vice president of technology, respectively.

Meanwhile, M5 continues to grow at a rate of over 50 percent year over year—as it has for most of the past decade—with heavy concentrations of customers in New York, Chicago, Boston, Atlanta, and the Silicon Valley area.

The typical customer is a service organization with multiple locations. "More and more it's the profile of a PROTRAVEL with 33 offices around the country, an EmployBridge with 100 offices across the Southeast, Federated Media, based in California," Hoffman told VoIPplanet. "It's really a very national footprint."

Next on the agenda? According to Hoffman, the company is pondering its strategy for how to most effectively add video conferencing to the mix. He's making no predictions about when this may come to fruition. From the get-go M5 has been built around the notion that you don't add features and services willy-nilly. When you do something, you take the time to do it right.

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