A (Virtual) PBX Can Make a Big Difference

By Adam Stone | Jul 21, 2008 | Print this Page
http://www.enterprisenetworkingplanet.com/unified_communications/A-Virtual-PBX-Can-Make-a-Big-Difference-3760166.htm

Jason Hartka heads up Sky River Apartments in Washington state. It’s a small operation, just 20 apartments in two buildings, three employees plus CEO Hartka.

Hartka’s telephonic needs are modest, yet the system he has been using for the past 18 months has not been getting the job done. "It was a little hodge-podgy, coming from all these disparate sources, and it was a little expensive, and it didn’t do everything I needed it to do," he said.

This spring Hartka signed on for a hosted solution with San Jose, Calif.-based Virtual PBX, a virtual switching service provider. Not only is he saving money—about 30 percent off his $100-a-month bill—he also is furthering his business needs with a range of new functionalities.

Sky River’s previous setup included a subscription fax line for incoming faxes, along with Vonage subscriptions to handle local and long distance calls. The system was unwieldy: All incoming calls went to Harka, who lives in another part of the state. He would then route calls to the appropriate person on site.

"I was having to play traffic cop," he said. "It was an inefficient use of time for me and it created all these time delays. If I wasn’t at home, for example, and a message would come in for something that needed to happen right away, there is potentially some level of missed business opportunity." Maybe a prospective tenant walks, or a maintenance emergency goes unheeded.

In seeking out an alternative system, Hartka wanted to create a professional impression for his small company, while improving functionality by routing local calls directly to on-site personnel.

"The goals was to have a local presence, a local phone number, and to have it set up so that the caller has routing options in the initial greeting. Press a button if you need to speak to maintenance or another to speak to the on-site manager, or else go through the main line, which still goes to me."

That’s the essence of what the Virtual PBX system delivers. Most importantly, incoming calls now are routed transparently to the appropriate recipients, a change that not only gives the business a higher appearance of professionalism, but also serves tangible business purposes.

Hartka describes a situation that unfolded earlier this summer.

"I was out of town for the weekend and a call came in from a tenant who had a water heater that started leaking fairly substantially inside their apartment. They placed their call, it got routed to our maintenance person and he was able to run down there right away."

Under the old system the caller likely would have left a message for Hartka and waited while the water dripped.

The same holds true when it comes to renting out apartments in a timely way. In the past, a would-be tenant took hit or miss when it came to seeing a property. "Now when we have a vacant apartment and somebody wants to take a look at it at the last minute, that call can get routed directly to the appropriate on-site manager," Hartka said.

The routing system also helps Hartka to hedge against potential employee turnover. It’s true that he could make available separate contact phone numbers for office and maintenance staff—hand out their cell phone numbers -- but those numbers would become obsolete as staff came and went. The more sophisticated routing system allows Hartka to equip everyone with a single number that will always work, even as employees come and go.

The little things help, too. With its integrated fax receiving capability, Virtual PBX converts fax to PDF and can readily forward documents via e-mail to Hartka’s iPhone. Likewise, customized caller ID allows the user to know for sure which business is ringing his phone. As the proprietor of several enterprises, "it’s obviously important that I know what business this inbound call is for."

Thus far the virtual solution has given Hartka new muscle when it comes to telecommunications. "It has simplified things," he said. "The ability to route calls and pick different options has given the company a more professional image. "It's just more efficient all the way around."