San Jose, Calif.-based Virtual PBX.com has been around for 10 years now, making it perhaps the most experienced provider of hosted PBX services anywhere.
According to the company’s VP of marketing, Greg Brashier, with whom we spoke recently, Virtual PBX (VPBX) likes to bring out new “releases” two or three times a year—to highlight the new features and functionality that the company is always adding to its product.
The latest, “December ’07,” release, announced this week brings significant innovations in two quite separate areas: VPBX SmartID is a new treatment of caller ID, and VPBX Recording Manager is a vastly expanded system for auto-attendant message generation and management.
Both are aimed at meeting the needs of the kinds of customers that Virtual PBX thinks of as a core constituency of its customer base: very small, highly distributed businesses, often staffed by people wearing multiple hats—even running multiple businesses—from a variety of phones.
Such customers need to know as much as possible about incoming calls and callers, and they want to come across as big, technically up-to-date organizations.
Standard caller ID—if it functions at all on a business phone system—typically just displays the caller’s phone number and, sometimes, name as text. That’s all well and good, Brashier told VoIPplanet.com, but there are some hitches. For example, “A lot of times in a business environment, you’re working with clients who are on all different kinds of phones—as we are—some of which don’t have caller ID information,” Brashier said.
Moreover there are times when the call recipient is using a phone that can’t display caller ID information, even if it’s available.
“When there is caller ID information, we will pick it up and display it for you,” Brashier explained. “If you happen to be on a phone that doesn’t deliver caller ID information, we’ll tell it to you when you pick up the phone,” using text-to-speech technology.
Another SmartID capability addresses a slightly different case—where a recipient is using a phone in a business context that’s also a personal phone, and the Virtual PBX is set up to send it both kinds of calls. “When the caller information does come, we can display the caller’s information, but also, by using a prefix or a suffix on the number, we can indicate whether it’s a business call or not,” Brashier said.
In the same way—through numerical codes—the Virtual PBX can discern what department or part of the company the call is destined for. “We can set it up so that the caller ID information that is displayed says “sales department” when it comes in—doesn’t say it in words, it says it in numbers—so you’ll know it was your sales department that was called—or your support department, or whatever.”
“So you know before you pick up the phone, what kind of a call is it—business or personal—and what part of the company is it for,” Brashier continued. “And when you pick up the call—if you do—you can still hear the verbal caller ID information, if you’d like it.”
Finally, SmartID can also manage outbound caller ID information. This addresses the situation in which a company member may be working from home or a remote location, using a non-company phone. Often, you’ll want your outgoing caller ID information to reflect the company—or departmental—phone number, not that of the phone in question. As long as you make the call through the Virtual PBX, the system makes that happen.
About VPBX Recording Manager, Brashier had this to say: “We’ve always had the ability to have different greetings on different phone numbers, and customers can change the greeting. But we’ve made it now so that they can keep an entire library of greetings they can switch in and out at will, on any phone number, at any time of day—automated, so it’ll play one recording in the morning and a different one in the evening.”
Customers can store an unlimited number of greetings in the system. And they can make these—or have them made—in a wide variety of ways. “You can record it yourself, directly into the system,” Brashier said. “You can have a recording done in a sound studio and send it to us. You can record it on the computer and upload that. Or you can give us a script, and we’ll put a synthesized voice on it instantly—you can even give us a script and ask us to record it for you. Any way that you want.”
“Recording Manager is the thing that allows you customize the appearance of what people hear when they come into your company on the very first call. It’s a way for you to have it look and work and feel just the way you want,” Brashier concluded.