American Voice Mail: IP telephony services a la carte.
American Voice Mail, Inc., headquartered in Los Angeles, California, is a company that offers a range of services much broader than its name suggests, providing virtual PBX and hosted voice services, auto attendant, VoIP local and long distance calling, international virtual offices with phone and fax numbers, fax to e-mail, automatic order taking, paging, and other communications services.
The company's history dates back to 1977, growing from a local Los Angeles voicemail service to an international communications provider. American Voice Mail currently claims a private IP network that provides local, toll free, and national services in thousands of cities in 57 countries, and, according to the company, has served over one million end users.
The company serves 83 different market areas in the United States, reaching over 4,000 communities. American Voice Mail and Segway Communications, its international subsidiary, have been providing hosted PBX services since 1982. Its current customer base includes Bank of America, Dupont, eBay, FedEx, GMAC, ITT Industries, Kemper Insurance, McGraw Hill, and Wells Fargoin addition to numerous states and municipalities.
American Voice Mail primarily targets small and medium-size businesses (SMBs) from 1 to 25 users, further segmenting that market into two groups: small offices and home based businesses. Small offices includes those businesses that a person might see when driving down the street, such as apparel retailers, banks and financial services, law offices, medical sales and services, real estate firms, travel agencies and non-profits. These are people who leave their homes and work in an office behind a telephone. Home based business include a large range of organizations, from independent distributors to online stores to traditional business that have closed their offices and now work from homeoften with a remote staff, all of whom are connected through the hosted PBX, which functions as a single point of contact.
American Voice Mails platform is designed to be quite scalable, with services offered on an a la carte basis. Subscribers can start with Local Number service, which answers calls with the subscribers greeting, takes voicemail, receives their faxes and delivers both voicemail and faxes to the appropriate e-mail account, for a flat rate charge of $8.95 per month. The next step adds Follow Me service so calls can be transferred live to any type of phone or phone number, in the United States, Canada and many other countries. This additional service is priced at a flat rate of $6.00 per month; yielding a system total of $14.95 per month.
Firms that are more than one employee might take the next step of implementing the Auto Attendant service, which automatically answers calls and then routes callers to the correct person or department. Other features include day and night greetings and menus, a dial-by-name directory, custom "on-hold" messages, call screening, and message waiting notifications by e-mail, phone or pager. The Auto Attendant service includes two different configuration options: a toll free number plus 20 extensions, or a local telephone number with two extensions; both priced at $19.95 per month. Larger firms can grow to five extensions at a rate of $39.95 per month, or ten extensions for $59.95 per month. Systems with larger numbers of extensions are also available. All packages include free Follow-Me (call forwarding) service, based on the country to which the call is transferred.
American Voice Mails Hosted PBX service includes a long list of features that build on the Auto Attendant service. These include: time-based alternate greetings and menus; call routing to extensions and departments, either inside or outside of the office; a dial-by-name directory by both first and last names; automatic call distribution; unlimited extensions; call transfer, with and without call screening; station-to-station transfer from any type of phone, including landline, mobile, or IP; voicemail with message delivery by phone, e-mail and web account; zero out to operator or to any other extension or phone number in the world; voice to text conversion; broadcast messaging; and fax to e-mail. The Hosted PBX service is priced at $39.95 per month, plus $9.95 per extension. This price includes all inbound calls and 1,000 outbound minutes to the United States and Canada, with excess minutes billed at 2.9 cents per minute. The Hosted PBX system works with almost any type of telephone or telephone system, both analog and SIP.
Other offerings from the company include: Automated Order Taking, where callers are lead through a series of questions, with the answers recorded; Telecom Disaster Recovery, which establishes hotlines to keep employees informed, takes messages from customers and vendors, connects callers live to cell phones and temporary offices; and VoIP Dialtone, which includes a Web-based user interface to easily configure the desired custom calling features.
Further information on the American Voice-mail solutions can be found at www.americanvoicemail.com. Our next tutorial will continue our review of various service providers hosted voice solutions.
Mark A. Miller, P.E. is President of DigiNet Corporation®, a Denver-based consulting engineering firm. He is the author of many books on networking technologies, including Voice over IP Technologies, and Internet Technologies Handbook, both published by John Wiley & Sons.