Atlanta, Ga.-based hosted VoIP provider Vocalocity has been experiencing phenomenal growth, roughly doubling in size year over year for the past several years.
Realizing that once you’ve reached a certain size, it’s hard to sustain that sort of growth rate organically, executives at Vocalocity went to work to create a program that would energize its partners into more active participation—and keep the growth spurt going.
One key element of that campaign was the announcement of a developer toolkit that would let partners quickly and easily create plug-in integrations with business applications that were important to their customers.
This week, the company announced the release of the first bevy of integrations (built in this case by in-house developers) that run in the context of the PC-based Vocalocity Desktop framework. The focus of this first group of applets is surfacing customer information instantaneously when a call is placed or received—otherwise known as CRM (customer relationship management)—the application that most businesses most want to have running with their phone system.
Specifically, there are plug-ins to integrate local contact directories, for LinkedIn, for Google search, for Microsoft Outlook, and an interesting app called Call Locator (which we’ll describe a bit later).
We talked with Vocalocity vice president of engineering, Jonathan Alexander about the new plug-ins.
There are lots of cool things about these integrations, according to Alexander, but “perhaps the most interesting functional thing is that the plug-ins can share data with each other,” he told Enterprise VoIPplanet.
“Where that gets interesting, for example, is if you call me, and you’re in my contacts, then it’ll find you in my contacts [from your phone number], and bring up your name and company name. It will also share your company name and other information about you and essentially broadcast that information to other plug-ins. Then your LinkedIn plug-in can actually find [the caller] and bring up that person’s LinkedIn profile. I’m not going to get that information out of LinkedIn just with his phone number.”
That’s what Vocalocity Desktop and its plug-ins can do today. “It’s a little interactive system that we think can really make people more productive—make the phone system really integrate with multiple applications,” Alexander summarized.
Down the road, Alexander sees the Desktop functionality expanding to embrace presence information—who’s on the phone and who’s not. “We’re also planning on bringing call control into the application, and all the things that our end-users get to configure [such as find-me-follow-me rules] will all end up in that application,” he said. “And then we want to support this functionality across desktop computers, tablets, and mobile devices. That’s the long-term goal.”
But Alexander stressed repeatedly that the long-term goal also embraces going beyond CRM-type applications to integrate other applications that are used in business—especially by smaller businesses.
Call Locator, mentioned above, begins to show this capability. Based on a number you dial—or the number of an incoming caller—Call Locator fetches three pieces of information: the location of the caller (or party you are calling)—which it displays in words and on a Google map—the local time in that location, and the weather—both today’s and tomorrow’s.
Most of our customers are small businesses,” Alexander said, “and when they’re on the phone, they’re talking to their customers—trying to make a sale. So, sometimes keeping aware of ‘Okay, he’s in Chicago; his local time is whatever,’ and knowing a little bit about the weather, can help make that sale.”
Further development efforts are directed at more major CRM integrations and other key business apps—such as small business accounting—that are in constant use, and contain valuable contextual information.
Vocalocity developers are also looking into telephony integrations with marketing and lead-management/tracking systems such as Pardot and Eloqua—and, of course, the vertical software systems used in many industries.
“Those are all things we’re looking at,” Alexander said, “and I think over the course of the next year, we plan to build a pretty strong catalog of available plug-ins that will cut across a variety of small business applications.”
As to what integrations Vocalocity’s partners may come up with, well, the sky’s the limit.