Grasshopper: Business phone in five minutes.

Part 35 of Phone for Rent: Understanding Hosted PBX Services — Grasshopper's hosted PBX is designed for entrepreneurs with no time—or inclicnation—to manage a phone system.

By Mark A. Miller | Posted Nov 10, 2009
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Grasshopper Group, LLC, headquartered in Needham, Massachusetts, was founded by two entrepreneurs in 2003 as GotVMail Communications—after they identified the market need for a phone system that other entrepreneurs could use without breaking their meager startup budgets.

In 2009, the company changed its name to Grasshopper—after the creature that has a somewhat unique power to propel itself forward—with the idea that a telephone system should have the ability to propel a business to greater levels of success. Since its inception, Grasshopper's virtual phone system has served over 75,000 entrepreneurs, and has been named to INC 500’s List of Fastest Growing Companies. Grasshopper currently has 46 employees, with offices in both Needham and Austin, Texas.

Grasshopper has an interesting twist on the hosted voice services marketplace, as their typical customer is an entrepreneur with 1 to 15 employees—almost certain not to have either the time or resources for running their own voice communication system. Grasshopper’s Virtual Phone System is designed to make these entrepreneurs sound bigger and more professional than they might actually be, and always stay connected with their customers. The Grasshopper system is designed work just like a traditional phone system, but without the hardware to purchase—plus it minimizes configuration headaches, as all of the management tasks are done either by phone or online.

Customer configurations are extremely easy to set up: All of the work is done online, a job the company claims can be completed in five minutes.

First, the customer will select a new number to use for their business, or port an existing number to the system. Selected numbers can be either local or toll free, with an option available to select multiple local numbers yielding a much broader area for customers to reach.

Next, the customer records a main greeting, which will welcome callers and direct them to departments or individual staff members or provide additional information.

Third, the customer adds extensions for departments and employees, with each extension having individual call forwarding, voicemail, and message notification settings. Incoming calls are placed on hold after the caller enters an extension, and the call is then redirected to a cell phone, home office, or other number, so that no calls are missed and no customers inconvenienced.

Incoming voicemails and fax transmission are converted into MP3 or PDF files respectively, and then sent to the user’s e-mail account for subsequent retrieval via e-mail, BlackBerry, or iPhone. These files can be played, tagged, and viewed by logging in to the Grasshopper user account online. The company has even posted two short videos (less than two minutes each) on YouTube that illustrate the simplicity of their user interface and their management interface.

The system includes an extensive list of business communications features, including a name directory; live call transfer; a virtual calling card that makes calls appear as if they are coming from the Grasshopper local or toll-free number; and informational extensions that can provide customers with product descriptions, hours of operations, driving directions, and so on. A new feature adds voice-to-text transcription capabilities, where a voicemail message is transcribed into text, and then sent to an e-mail account.

Grasshopper offers three different pricing plans. Entry level, called Start, provides one toll free and/or local number, unlimited extensions, and 100 minutes per month, for a cost of $9.95 per month. The Grow plan allows two toll free and/or local numbers, two existing number transfers, unlimited extensions, and 2,000 minutes per month for $49.00 per month. The Max plan provides three toll free and/or local numbers, unlimited existing number transfers, unlimited extensions, unlimited use of the Grasshopper Voice Studio Services for recording caller greetings, and 10,000 minutes per month, for a cost of $199.00 per month. Additional usage for all plans runs $0.06 per minute.

The Virtual Phone System is available in the United States and Canada, with the minute rate for calls, both incoming and forwarded, being the same.

Further information on the Grasshopper solutions can be found at www.grasshopper.com<. Our next tutorial will continue our review of various service providers hosted voice solutions.

Copyright Acknowledgement: © 2009 DigiNet Corporation®, All Rights Reserved


Author's Biography
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.

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