ITSP Cbeyond Eases into Hosted IP PBX

Virtual Receptionist, cloud-based service for small businesses adds call routing, other automated assistant features to VoIP service.

By Ted Stevenson | Posted Dec 21, 2009
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Cbeyond, an Atlanta, Georgia-based IP communications provider that serves 13 major U.S. metropolitan areas and specializes in the needs of small, entrepreneurial businesses, recently announced Virtual Receptionist, a new application to supplement its current VoIP and mobile voice service offerings.

In keeping with the company's focus on making communications and other IT services simple and transparent for customers—whom they see as typically focused on their core business operations, not managing IT systems—they are billing the new application as a "cloud-based service," rather than as a "hosted PBX system," which definitely has a more intimidating, IT manager sound to it.

Yet that's precisely what Virtual Receptionist appears to be.

Like the automated attendant in any premise- or cloud-based (hosted) PBX, Virtual Receptionist answers and routes calls, also providing automated call forwarding and voicemail.

The core of the offering seems to be the ability to create navigation menus—for both open and closed hours—that let incoming callers get to the desired call recipient or other information service (such as driving directions or hours of operation) themselves, without having to wait in call queues. A dial-by name-company directory feature expedites reaching individual employees.

Menus are completely customizable, and Virtual Receptionist handles the recording of the outgoing messages through text-to-speech technology—which, while it may lend a less personal tone than a professional recording, certainly eliminates one source of hassle traditionally associated with creating voice message trees. Changes to greetings and menu options are carried out at an online portal.

"Our primary goal is to provide easy-to-use solutions that enhance our small business customers' productivity and that's exactly what we've delivered with Virtual Receptionist," said Cbeyond senior product manager for messaging and collaboration Jon Harmer in a statement. "Small business owners are busy, wearing many hats. Virtual Receptionist enables the owner to focus on their business while knowing all calls coming in are handled appropriately. By hosting the service in the cloud, the implementation and use of the solution is without worry because it's off-premise, more reliable and extremely easy to manage."

In addition to making employees more efficient, Cbeyond is also aware of the ability of a service like Virtual Receptionist to "elevate the brand" of customers, making them look larger and more sophisticated by providing the kinds of features—dial-by-name, for example—that most people associate with bigger companies.

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