ReachUC Is An Ideal Business Cloud Voice Softphone

BY JASON HARRIS, REVIEWS EDITOR

Many ‘modern’ businesses have begun eliminating the desk phone. You know, the one that sits in your office/cubicle and enables you to dial extensions to reach co-workers, departments and colleagues? As the workforce has become increasingly mobile with co-working and work-from-home arrangements in the last decade or two, business phones on the desk are becoming a thing of the past. 

Instead, 21st-century workers use mobile phones, either their own, or one provided by their company.

The convenience of being mobile sounds fantastic, but there are downsides. Some employees either don’t always feel comfortable divulging a personal mobile phone number to colleagues and co-workers as their work number due to privacy or confidentiality reasons, or they simply don’t like carrying around two mobile phones.

Enter the ‘softphone’ – or, a phone line/number that works as an app on your Android mobile or iPhone that enables you to dial extensions and use your work number presented to caller ID – just as if you’re in the office ‘chained’ to your regular desk phone.

For the last two weeks, I’ve been testing SkySwitch’s recommended ReachUC application on my Samsung Galaxy S9+. 

ReachUC Overview

Installing ReachUC is easy – download the app from the Play Store and log in using your credentials which can be obtained from your IT department. Your login will be something that looks like this: 1234@yourcompany.com

Then, authorize the ReachUC app to use permissions such as call management and more. These are necessary for the app to function properly on the mobile phone.

Once you install the app, you’ll see the straight-forward, easy-to-use user interface.

With ReachUC, you can:

  • Make calls as if you’re in the office at your desk phone. They’ll appear to your callers as coming from your work extension, presenting the same number.
  • Receive calls – they’ll appear on your Android’s screen just like a regular call
  • Message using text-messaging like exchanges directly in the app
  • Make video calls if the person you call is on a video-capable device
  • Conduct in-call actions such as adding a third person, transferring the call, putting the call on hold, etc

One stand-out feature of ReachUC for me is the ‘callback’ or ‘GSM call’ option. If you’re on spotty Wi-Fi or in an area with a bad data connection, you can use these options to place the call through your mobile carrier, (not an IP or VoIP) when you’re trying to reach a colleague’s extension or dial out. For those who have used Google Voice to make calls, you’ll see the similarity.

Call and ReachUC App Performance

I used ReachUC over the past few weeks to call SkySwitch colleagues via their desk phones and also called them while they’ve used the ReachUC app on their mobile phones. I’ve made international calls to landlines and mobile numbers in the UK, Singapore and all over the United States. Every time I used ReachUC, the calls were crystal clear with no dropouts, no muted callers or anything of the sort.

I put the in-call controls to use by muting calls, placing the call on hold and transferring calls – the app performed flawlessly each time.

My favorite aspect of ReachUC, however, is the amazing fact that this app uses minimal battery life. Because it is built to use push notifications and not maintain an always-on data connection to your company’s PBX (the server that handles call management), ReachUC doesn’t drain your battery like most Internet calling applications. This feature alone makes ReachUC stand out in the competitive landscape and adds so much convenience for ReachUC users worldwide.

Tips to Pass On

Using ReachUC is super easy, even for non-tech savvy office phone users. 

However, here are a few tips to make your ReachUC experience top-notch.

  • Approve all the permissions ReachUC requests upon your first app launch. These include mic access and the ability to make calls. Don’t worry – the app isn’t nefarious – it needs mic access to enable you to talk and be heard during a phone call. 😀
  • Have IT as a resource in case you can’t get signed in to ReachUC after you first install it and run it for the first time. You’ll likely just need your username and password and will be all set after this – but, just in case, have IT available via phone call or in-person.
  • Set ReachUC as an application on your phone’s home screen for easy access. There’s nothing more annoying than having to hunt for an application you’re going to be using on a routine basis during your workday.
  • In ReachUC you can take advantage of much needed mobile compatible SMS, and one more great addition in ReachUC. Faxing. While you don’t fax as much today as in the past, and fax machines are becoming a dying breed like the desk phone, the addition of it in ReachUC is a big, added plus.

Now – go install ReachUC for your Android or iPhone and enjoy your desk phone on your mobile!

Webhooks, Actions URLs and Smart Lights

I’ve had ‘Create ActionURL explainer video’ on my personal todo list for years, mostly because I don’t think enough people are really using ActionURLs in our industry. ActionURLs have been around for a long time, and it might be something that you overlook when you’re in the WebUI of your phone, but you really shouldn’t. ActionURLs give you a big leg up against other phone companies by expanding your ability to customize for your customers.

I find myself somewhat obsessed with smart home technology almost as much as VoIP. I spend too much time thinking about what I can do next and how I can bring the different pieces together to make life just a little easier. So it was a natural choice to use IFTTT and Philips Hue Smart Lights as a BLF-like mechanism for the purpose of education.

Outside of changing colors on lightbulbs, the possibilities are almost endless with ActionURLs. Some examples of things I’ve done in the past include: Logging missed calls to a google sheet, generating notifications for registration drops to help troubleshoot a Local Network issue, or to log when certain end customers put their phone in DND (when they swear they weren’t doing it). If you can think of it, you can probably do it, I hope this video makes life a little easier for you!

 

3 Lucky SkySwitch Resellers Won Admission to Vectors 2020 — Was It You?

Today, Eric Hernaez, President and Founder of SkySwitch, announced the three lucky winners of free Vectors 2020 admission. 

 

About a month ago, we sent out a survey to all Vectors 2019 attendees to collect their impressions about this year’s event. Every reseller who completed the survey was automatically entered into a special drawing to be one of three lucky winners of Vectors 2020 registration, courtesy of SkySwitch.

 

Watch the video below to see just who the lucky winners are.

Congratulations to our lucky resellers!

And a big thanks to everyone who completed our Vectors’ survey. We’ve read every single response and will be taking your comments, suggestions and ideas to make Vectors 2020 even bigger and better.

SkySwitch Wrapped 2019 – A Year in Review

2019 was a huge year for SkySwitch — not only for our team but for our entire reseller community and the ever-expanding partner ecosystem. Without you, our favorite moments of the year wouldn’t have been possible. So, let’s ring in 2020 together by taking a moment to celebrate the best of 2019. (Because if 2019 was really good, 2020 is only going to get better from here.)

We Launched New Technologies & Integrations to Support You

2019 was a busy year for SkySwitch’s technology team. For starters, we launched two integrations to help support our reseller community. The first one, debuted in April, was our Business SMS with Rocket.Chat that helps make real-time team collaboration easier. 

As a white label, channel-only platform, creating tools that make branding easier for our resellers is always top of mind. So in March, we made it easier for resellers to pre-qualify client sites before installation with our release of the NPAT, a white label Network Performance & Assesment Tool. With just a few simple clicks in your Dashmanger, this tool can be completely customized with your own branding.  

Another area where we improved branding functionality can be found within the SkySwitch Dashmanager. With new UI configurations and functionalities rolled out this month, now SkySwitch resellers can easily control the look and feel of their own consumer-facing portals. Before this self-service functionality, portal branding was behind-the-scenes and created for resellers by the SkySwitch support team. Now, resellers have greater control over how they decide to present their portal to their customers. This new set of branding features also allows resellers the ability to better manage their brand images and templates, such as welcome emails, and the automation of each file’s purpose. 

 

One more major feature we’ve rolled out this year is a robust set of HIPAA reporting capabilities directly within the SkySwitch Dashmanager. Released in December, HIPAA reporting with detailed records of call logs, voicemail listens and virtual fax views are all easily accessible. In addition to reporting, resellers can easily manage HIPAA compliant features for customers who need to adhere to those stricter regulatory guidelines.

We Met Up at 4 Industry Trade Shows

In February, Eric Hernaez, Founder and President of SkySwitch, spoke in the panel discussion DIY: Building a Next-Gen Carrier at IT Expo in Ft.Lauderdale, FL to help keep the channel updated on what’s new in telecom. 

Later, in March, we took a trip over to the west coast where SkySwitch exhibited at Channel Partners in Las Vegas. 

We have thoroughly enjoyed these face-to-face interactions — both new and old. This means you can expect to see us traveling around and attending many more shows next year. If you’re interested in meeting with us face-to-face at upcoming roadshows, conferences and events, make sure to subscribe below to our newsletter to stay up-to-date.

 

We Connected With the ConnectWise Community

SkySwith hit the road again in June and traveled to Orlando, FL to exhibit at ConnectWise’s IT Nation Explore. Attendees at Explore experienced hands-on product training, innovation sneak peeks, breakout sessions and more — which made it the perfect platform to rollout our ConnectWise Manage integration, certified by ConnectWise’s Invent program. This was our first big splash into the ConnectWise community, and the SkySwitch momentum around ConnectWise just kept rolling from here.

In July, we attended ConnectWise’s quarterly Invent event in Tampa, FL to learn more about what we can be doing to improve our integration for ConnectWise users. Through the valuable feedback from ConnectWise Account Managers, who interact with ConnectWise users on a daily basis, we were able to make integration improvements that directly benefit those many MSPs who rely daily on ConnectWise.

All of this research and relationship-building was preparation for sponsoring ConnectWise’s largest event of the year: IT Nation Connect at the end of October. This is where SkySwitch truly linked arms with the ConnectWise community and showcased how easy and profitable it is for MSPs to resell telecom with SkySwitch. We also introduced our special SIP trunking offer for 3CX resellers.

Growth Machine: SkySwitch Community, The Club 1,000 and an Expanded Executive Team

We’re happy to say that this year,  160 new resellers have joined the SkySwitch community so far — and already 30 resellers have reached the ranks of Club 1,000, a VIP SkySwitch reseller group, that recognizes the hard work, performance and success of the top resellers who have reached 1,000 customer seats or more.

It’s not just our Reseller Network that has seen growth. SkySwitch as an organization has been expanding too. This year we added 27 new employees to the SkySwitch family and have brought in two new additions to the executive team: Harlan Hamlin, VP of Business Development, and Andy Abramson, Chief Marketing Officer.

And We Can’t Forget About the Event of the Year: Vectors 2019

Vectors was undoubtedly one of the largest highlights of the year. Every year, since 2016, we’ve brought the SkySwitch community together at our user-group conference to empower resellers with the knowledge, best practices and valuable business connections needed to succeed in the UCaaS space. But don’t just take our word for it, look at some of the media coverage that seemed to never stop, running a full twelve days after Vectors had concluded:

Since our inaugural event in 2016, we’ve gone from a small group of SkySwitch resellers gathering together to now over 300 in attendance. A bigger audience means bigger expectations, and our team worked hard to step up to the plate with 3 industry-expert keynote speakers, more educational sessions than ever before, and a rocking annual dinner party with Grammy nominee, Julian Marley, who performed a private concert for SkySwitch resellers at the Hard Rock Live on Universal Studios’ CityWalk.

We Moved On Up: New Tampa Headquarters

SkySwitch also outgrew our original Tampa HQ. So we went out and found a new corporate headquarters in the Westshore area of Tampa. With the rapid expansion of service offerings and of our growing team, this new space, fully-equipped with real-time collaboration technologies, was a necessary move to continue sustaining this growth. 

We’ve been on a lot of exciting adventures with you this past year, and we truly owe it all to each and every one of you in the reseller community. Thank you.

Get ready for new and exciting things to come in 2020: more events and trade shows, more webinars, more of just about everything.

Happy Holidays. Happy New Year. Happy Next Year, from….

Your SkySwitch Team

Twilio Studio Integration for IVRs with Speech Recognition

Our Senior Platform Engineer, Jim DeVito, introduced Twilio Studio to a group of resellers at Vectors 2019 in a breakout session. I missed the session but walked in at the end and saw a group of people standing around Jim, asking him questions. I could see the excitement in the room and knew I missed something very interesting. I decided to dig in myself, but I’d like to offer a big thanks to Jim for the introduction and getting the most difficult part out of the way!

Twilio Studio has a very interesting way for you to build IVRs with Speech Recognition, which is wonderful because you’ve been asking about it! As we discussed at Vectors, we already had speech recognition in our roadmap, but this Twilio Integration gives you access to these types of features if you need them today.

The Twilio Studio concept is fairly simple, it allows you to build IVRs with a graphical flow chart without a need to do any programming. While the concept is simple, the program itself is complex, yet well thought out and intuitive. After 30 minutes of playing around and building a clone of SkySwitch’s main Auto-Attendant with speech recognition, I felt that I had a good understanding of the Studio and I found myself overwhelmed by thoughts of the possibilities.

Most people don’t have the time to look at other products, like Twilio Studio, so after playing with one for a while I felt it was necessary to share it with you and make the integration as easy as possible. You can see step-by-step instructions, and a video how-to in our help docs: https://docs.skyswitch.com/en/articles/752.

I hope the video and article makes life easier for you. The next step will be to show you how we can use webhooks to integrate SkySwitch, most of our phones, and Twilio Studio with things like Slack or IFTTT!

 

What Vectors Is All About: Reseller Success, Relationships and Growth

Jayson Jones, VP of Sales for SkySwitch discusses the success and growth of SkySwitch’s telecom reseller network. 

In this Vectors 2019 interview, TMC’s Editorial Director, Erik Linask, speaks with Jayson Jones, Vice President of Sales at SkySwitch. Hear why Jayson Jones considers SkySwitch to be a pioneer of true channel-only, white label telecom, and how that translates into the cutting-edge content offered to MSPs, VARs, agents and resellers at Vectors 2019. Learn why this year’s user-group conference doubled in size, and how it’s projected to do so again in 2020. 

Erik Linask and Jayson Jones talk about the importance of building strong relationships within the reseller community.

Full Video Transcript Below:

Erik Linask  0:07  
We’re here in Orlando at Vectors 2019. And joining me now this afternoon now, Jayson Jones from SkySwitch. Jayson, thanks for joining me.

 

Jayson Jones  0:15  
Thank you very much, Erik. Glad to be here.

 

Erik Linask  0:17  
So, you know, we’re getting close to wrapping up day one of this year’s event. You know, talk to me a little bit about what you’re hearing from some of your partners.

 

Jayson Jones  0:28  
Absolutely. The SkySwitch resellers that are at the event this year, they’re just really appreciative of the extent that we’ve gone to set this event up, bring in the amount of sponsors we’ve had. I mean, it’s just been a tremendous response from sponsors wanting to join the SkySwitch event and get access into our reseller channel because it is a very lucrative opportunity for them.

 

Erik Linask  0:53  
What have you done different? What have you changed about Vectors since last year?

 

Jayson Jones  0:56  
Well, the event has really grown. And we’re really, really proud of that. And we’re happy about that. But you know, a few things that have changed, we’ve had a few resellers that came on very quickly, and they wanted to sign and they wanted to use the Vectors event as an onboarding platform for them. To kind of springboard them into the onboarding platform. So, we got them signed, as a matter of fact, Compudyne out of Minnesota signed on Friday. They made their first payment and we got their Dashmanager built, and now they’re directly onboarding right now with our team.

 

Erik Linask  1:35  
Well, that’s certainly impressive. And congratulations on that. What kind of benefits did they get from not only onboarding that quickly, but onboarding here at Vectors?

 

Jayson Jones  1:45  
The culture really came naturally to us. As a management team, we just have a strong feeling for caring for our partners. So having them exposed to that and being able to see that firsthand and kind of see how we interact with each other. And the commitment between the partnership, reseller to platform provider is just very unique.

 

Erik Linask  2:10  
How much do you think that environment has contributed to not only the growth of your event, but the growth of your partner community in general?

 

Jayson Jones  2:20  
I think it’s contributed tenfold. They rely on us to keep developing technology and innovating at a high rate. And just so they can go out there and really compete in the marketplace. But when they come together here, not only do they get introduced to new technologies and the roadmap of where we’re going in the next year in 2020, but you know, they get exposed to being able to ask support questions and marketing questions and, onboarding questions with team members from every department. They get exposed to our marketing teams too, so the communication and mutual communication, reciprocal communication is very, very good.

 

Erik Linask  3:05  
How much feedback, or how much commentary or wish list type things, go into planning an event like Vectors? As far as you know, what your partners and resellers are looking for?

 

Jayson Jones  3:19  
That’s, that’s kind of ironic because they really don’t give much input as to what we’re going to do because we seem to be really blowing their minds every year. With all the new content and what we’re coming up with. We’re really cutting edge, I think, in the White Label space. We like to think that we’re the pioneers of white label and we’re really innovating at a very tremendous and fast rate. 

So when they come here, I think they don’t have any expectations beyond, “There’s going to be something new, there’s going to be something exciting, we’re going to learn something, and we’re gonna be able to take back nuggets of information that are just going to benefit their business.”

 

Erik Linask  3:58  
So from a business perspective and, in particular, a partner’s businesses, what would you say really is the biggest goal here at Vectors?

 

Jayson Jones  4:08  
The biggest goal here at Vectors is just to build relationship with our customers. We’re a 100% remote workforce. We don’t go out and see our customers at all. Every conversation that we have, it could be by either audio conference or webinar. Sometimes we do a video conference, but generally, it’s just a phone conversation. 

So we don’t really get that face-to-face time with them. When we gather everybody together, and know that only a quarter of our resellers are here, but we get that opportunity just to get that good face-to-face time with them that just allows us to relate. To build relationships, socialize, have some fun, get to know each other.

 

Erik Linask  4:55  
And how do you see Vectors 2019 pushing you forward into 2020?

 

Jayson Jones  5:01  
Very good question. I think with TMCs assistance this year, and management, this event is probably going to really blow up. We see this event probably doubling next year. So we’re looking at about what 350 attendees this year going to 750. I don’t think it’s going to be a problem next year. So with that, we’re glad that you guys are here helping us because there is no possible way we’d be able to manage the whole thing ourselves.

 

Erik Linask  5:29  
Well, thanks, Jayson. Thanks for including us and having us here. And we certainly look forward to helping you enjoy some more growth in the future. 

 

Jayson Jones  5:36  
It’s been my pleasure. Thank you for the time




How Telecom Resellers and MSPs Can Stand Out Against National Brands: It’s All About the Relationships

SkySwitch President and Founder discusses success strategies and the projected growth of white label cloud communications.

In this Vectors 2019 interview, TMC’s Editorial Director, Erik Linask, speaks with Eric Hernaez, President and Founder of SkySwitch, to learn more about the success behind SkySwitch and SkySwitch’s Vectors events. Listen to behind-the-scenes information about how our ecosystem and partner relationships benefit the SkySwitch reseller community — specifically when it comes to local telecom resellers becoming competitive in the UCaaS market.

Eric Hernaez attributes the growth of Vectors to SkySwitch’s strong relationships and to the overall growth of the white label cloud communications industry. 

Full Video Transcript Below:

Erik Linask  0:07  
We’re here in Orlando, Florida at Vectors 2019. That’s SkySwitch’s annual user conference. And joining me this morning is SkySwitch President Eric Hernaez. Welcome, Eric.

 

Eric Hernaez  0:20  
Thanks, Erik.

 

Erik Linask  0:21  
So a lot of exciting things going on. You know, there just seems to be an awful lot of energy. Everybody that I’ve spoken to, some of the SkySwitch team, some of your partners, your resellers – there just seems to be so much excitement and energy. Where does that come from?

 

Eric Hernaez  0:38  
I agree. It’s been a great show so far, very exciting. I think the energy is because people feel like they’re here to learn something and they’ve been successful in their business and they see this as another path to improving their success. 

We started the show off three and a half years ago here in Orlando. We had about 36 people here, and most of those 36 people who were at our first show are here today. And we have well over 300 here today. And so, you know, they see the growth, they see the new partners coming in, they see the excitement of the new partners, and it all just sort of builds on itself.

 

Erik Linask  1:15  
Right. When I spoke with Jayson earlier this week, he’s certainly keen on continuing to grow the event. He mentioned doubling it again for next year. But what’s driving that kind of momentum and growth within your partner community?

 

Eric Hernaez  1:26  
Well, I think really, it’s just the growth of the industry. Our business is helping our channel. We’re a channel-only white label provider of a UCaaS platform, and so our customers are typically MSPs or interconnects who have been selling on premise PBX systems. And we’re really giving them a new business model. 

We’re giving them a way to realize monthly recurring revenue and to sell a great service under their own brand, where they totally own the customer relationship. It’s their name on the website, it’s their name on the bill, you know, and we help them behind the scenes, but it’s their business. And so this is a new opportunity for a lot of them. And I think it’s just exciting to be part of that.

 

Erik Linask  2:14 
What are the kinds of things that you’re looking to provide or offer when it comes to your resellers?

 

Eric Hernaez  2:23  
Well, you know, our business model is to be a channel-only white label platform for telecom service providers. UCaaS, Unified Communication as a Service, is what our partners sell to their end users. And really, SkySwitch is all about just helping them to become successful. So giving the, not only the platform and the technology tools that they need to compete with the big guys out there in the market, but all the other stuff that goes around that. The business processes, the training and just the tips and on how to be successful. 

There’s a lot of stuff that goes into selling telecom services. And many of our customers come from businesses where they might be MSPs who are selling, you know, IT related services or interconnects who are selling traditional PBXs. So they’re somewhat involved in the industry, but not really selling it as a provider. Because our customers, they sell the service under their own name and when the bill goes out, their name is on the bill. So they’re completely responsible for that relationship with their customer. 

So that brings with it some responsibilities that are new. So what we try to do is we try to figure out all of the different things that go into making a successful UCaaS service provider and then you know, wherever there’s gaps or deficiencies or just you know, areas for improvement with our customer base, we help them try to fill it. And going into why this has been successful, I think they appreciate that.

 

Erik Linask  3:56  
What are the kinds of things that SkySwitch offers through, not only your own platform but the community as a whole, that really allows your partners to compete against some of the larger known brands?

 

Eric Hernaez  4:11  
Well for one, it comes down to features. You know, in the UCaaS business, you have the big nationwide players and they have nice platforms, with lots of bells and whistles. So at first, you have to be able to compete at that level. You know, you have to be able to walk into a potential customer’s office and say, “Yeah, you know, we can do all of that.” But then in addition, what makes our partner community especially successful is most of our partners are smaller owner operated MSPs and Interconnects, and it’s usually the business owner that’s out there talking to other business owners. 

Our sweet spot is the SMB market. So that’s 250 seats and under, and usually our partner can walk in there, talk to the business owner and and provide the kind of face-to-face interaction with knowledge of their business that the larger nationwide brands can’t do. For them, they’re built to scale, right. And it’s mostly faceless selling, you know, and they ship equipment. And there’s really no interaction, they don’t know, the receptionist is really used to pressing this button to do this, and that changes. But our partners, are able to get out there and actually speak to the receptionist, and using the tools, we provide them customize a service. So it’s exactly what they want it to be.

 

Erik Linask  5:32  
So, one of the things that we’ve seen this week is a couple of announcements. But just going back over the past several months and 6, 12 months, there are a lot of exciting things that SkySwitch is doing with partners. Like the relationship with one of your big sponsors here Adaptiv Networks around SD-WAN. How does your relationship with companies like that really benefit your resellers?

 

Eric Hernaez  5:59  
So our philosophy is to find the best providers of specific platforms. And then our job is to integrate them and make them work in a way that works for our partners. And so, one of the things we do, is with Adaptiv we found a great SD-WAN solution that kind of speaks to the part of the market that our partners play in. 

We’ve done a lot of integration so that our partners can order and provision the services and manage them, in a way that’s easy to them. And then not actually have to manage invoicing and billing for them at the end of the month. And so that’s what we try and do with every part of our platform. From just the UCaaS seat to our call center application to our video surveillance as a service, or our Business SMS tools. All of it is built in a way that’s very manageable, but also customizable by our partners so that they can really fit the needs of their customers.

 

Erik Linask  7:02  
What do you do as an organization to continue to build your partner base?

 

Eric Hernaez  7:07  
Well, it’s a very dynamic business. I think the trend is that most businesses, they say digital transformation, but the cloud is a big word. And most small medium sized businesses need to compete with the larger versions of themselves, the nationwide brands. So it’s about giving them, our partners and the end customers, the tools that allow them to compete. So as more and more platforms and solutions and services move to the cloud, now they can talk to each other. So our job is to make it easier for them to talk to each other so that you realize the productivity gains that come along with UCaaS service.

 

Erik Linask  7:49  
So there’s still a huge addressable market of SMBs that have not migrated to Voice Over IP or cloud or not. What do you have to say to that community and why should they be looking at the partners and local resellers that you’re working with?

 

Eric Hernaez  8:05  
Absolutely. Well, I think most people, maybe if not explicitly, inherently know that the reason most people are moving to the cloud, is it’s just a better way to do business. You don’t have to worry about buying something and it becoming obsolete. It’s easier in a lot of ways to consume services as a service and pay for what you use. 

I guess why many small businesses fail to take advantage of that is because they don’t have a path. They don’t really know, “how do I get there”, right? And technology is confusing. There’s so many players out there and it’s very difficult to find a way to stitch these systems together.

So what I say to those types of companies is, “there are local partners out there that you can find that will help you do that”. And SkySwitch partners are of course a great resource, but just in general, the MSP business, if you go to your IT provider and say, “Hey, you know, what do I do to move to the cloud?” And maybe your MSP doesn’t yet have a strategy, but maybe they can find one.

 

Erik Linask  9:19  
So I’ve spent a lot of time talking to your team. A lot of your partners here, and everybody’s just had nothing but great things to say about what’s going on here this week, how the SkySwitch team has helped the reseller community. Is there anything about this week and the event that really stands out to you as far as why we’re seeing such a huge level of success with it?

Well I think it just comes back to success in general. Success breeds more success. So the partners who have come here feel successful, they’re willing to invest their time which is quite scarce, as small business owners, it’s hard to get away from the office. But they make the investment to come here and they feel like it’s paid off, because they’ve learned. 

Somebody was crying today. And he’s like, “I can’t believe how great this was”. And I think even just getting one small piece of information that helps make your business 2% better, makes it worthwhile. And I believe people feel like they’ve gotten that here. 

 

Erik Linask  10:26  
And you know, you said we’re going to be back here next year. Any thoughts on what we might see next year at Vectors?

 

Eric Hernaez  10:35  
Just more of the same. Probably a bigger conference. More great speakers, more of the same.

 

Erik Linask  10:43  
Excellent. Hey, Eric, thank you for taking a few minutes to talk. Congratulations on what’s been a fantastic week for SkySwitch here at Vectors.

 

Eric Hernaez  10:51  
Thank you Erik, it’s been a pleasure.

Computer Instruments Releases New Product with SkySwitch: Virtual Concierge

Learn how conversational IVR could be beneficial to your business

In this interview from Vectors 2019, TMC’s Editorial Director, Erik Linask, speaks with Chris Herring, President of Computer Instruments, about their new product Virtual Concierge. They talk about how it works and how businesses should incorporate it into their ecosystem.

 Virtual Concierge is a software package that resides on a conversational IVR that has integration to Google Voice services and Google AI. So essentially, it’s a personal digital device for a company, much like Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home. 

Chris Herring talks Virtual Concierge working with Google integrations with Erik Linask at Vectors 2019.

 

Vectors2019 #SkySwitch #TransformCloudComm #ComputerInstruments  

 

Full Video Transcript Below

Erik Linask  0:07  

We’re here in Orlando, Florida at Vectors 2019. We’re here on the second day of the show. And joining me is Chris Herring from Computer Instruments. Chris, thanks for joining me. 

Chris Herring  0:16  

Thank you very much Erik, appreciate it. 

Erik Linask  0:18  

So second day, what have you seen? You know, what are your thoughts on the first almost two days?

Chris Herring  0:23  

Oh, well, this was a very impressive event. I’ve met a lot of people and certainly, the product that we’re talking about today, Virtual Concierge, is really something that’s going to fit in here. So we’re very excited, we’re going to be on the stage here shortly, and we’ll be anxious to talk about it.

Erik Linask  0:41  

So this is something that you actually just announced yesterday morning, along with SkySwitch. Tell me about that.

Chris Herring  0:49  

Well, that came to us about 60 days ago, we announced our product Virtual Concierge. They came to us said, “Hey, we’d like to take a look at your product.” We gave them a demonstration. We did essentially a proof of concept with them. They said this is something that their team and their channel would be interested in. So we signed an agreement. Actually, we just signed the agreement last week and so here we are.

Erik Linask  1:12  

And when you say Virtual Concierge, what do you mean by that? What does your Virtual Concierge do?

Chris Herring  1:17  

Okay, well, first off, it’s a software package that resides on a conversational IVR that has integration to Google Voice services and Google AI. So essentially, it’s what we call Virtual Concierge. It’s a personal digital device for a company.

Erik Linask  1:34  

So you’re taking a Siri or something like that and throwing it into the business world.

Chris Herring  1:38  

Absolutely. Absolutely.

Erik Linask  1:40  

Is that something that customers or that businesses, I should say, are demanding or where’s the need or the demand coming from?

Chris Herring  1:49  

Well, that’s a great question. But you know, today, most of the people, let me say that not most, but 41% of the population or homes in the United States have a Siri or Alexa or Google Home. So there are acquainted with this technology. Furthermore, there’s even more people that use a smartphone or use “Hey, Google” to do searches, things like that. So it only makes sense that as that technology takes hold, and people obviously are using it and like it. They’re going to ask companies that they do business with if they have the same kind of technology and essentially, that’s what Virtual Concierge does. It provides the bridge between a caller through their communication platform PBX to Google AI, and back.

Erik Linask  2:29  

So how does an AI-based system like this differ from the IVR systems that people have really come to dislike over the years?

Chris Herring  2:40  

Well, you’re right. IVRs in the past have been primarily a presser say, type environment, you know, and it’s also, particularly with speech recognition, been difficult, particularly if you’re in a noisy area and so forth. But when you bring AI into the picture, and you bring a good communication platform, then you have the proper mix really to be able to have a very intelligent conversation interrogated by an artificial system to understand what you say, and provide a better and enhanced environment and enhanced experience for sure. 

Erik Linask  3:16  

Do people trust artificial intelligence?

Chris Herring 3:20  

Well, interesting, too. There’s been a study here recently that people are more truthful with an IVR and with a spoken conventional, conversational IVR than they are speaking to a human and so the answer is more so.

Erik Linask  3:34  

Interesting. And is there a difference in terms of usage, or enjoyment, or value, or however you want to characterize it, using a male voice versus a female voice?

Chris Herring  3:48  

That’s a good question. You know, we find depending on the industry, for instance, banking, people like to speak to females. More involved with like transportation, leisure and so forth, male voices have been really the most popular. I’m not really sure that I’m an expert on which voice works best but in our experience, that seems to be the trend.

Erik Linask  4:13  

How much has conversational AI evolved over the past year or two? And where do you see it headed going forward?

Chris Herring  4:22  

Oh, well, that’s a good question to, the best way I can really probably explain it is the cost of doing it. You know, just 12-14 months ago, for instance, we did a natural, what we call a natural language standard way of doing it, and using the technology that was present and it’s in the 300 to $500,000. Well, now when we look at the same opportunity, if we were going to use Virtual Concierge today, we’d be under $50,000 to get it accomplished. So from a perspective, it’s cost-effective. Also too conversations are everywhere. People again are going to are taking hold of this technology, they’re taking hold of using their personal devices, and we’re just going to see that from conversation that’s going to evolve the business and working with tools that provide the ability to understand conversations and use it further. 

I would say too, conversation is eventually going to be really the currency for business strategies. People want to know what people are saying when they come to your company, they’re going to want more than just what press one or press two says, they want to know why somebody called your company. They’re going to want to know what the emotions are of that caller, and they’re going to look at that, and be able to route and do business logic to understand what’s the best way to enhance the experience of that caller.

Erik Linask  5:40  

So I’ve had similar experiences, but I’ve heard from others as well, you know, we tried to use this natural language understanding and it just, you know, these automated assistance just aren’t understanding what I’m saying. Sounds to me like that technology has evolved to the point where it really is starting to understand very easily and very accurately what people are speaking.

Chris Herring  6:02  

Well, when you’re talking about, for instance, integrating to Google, you’re already working with a technology that already does well with handheld cell phones. Ok, and so as you can expect the quality of this being I guess, as good as if you being on a cell phone and driving in your car with a window down. With the addition of Google AI using that technology that’s filtering out and looking at the conversation. So it’s a measurable improvement over the standard speech recognition that people have used in the past.

Erik Linask  6:37  

Are there particular industries, particular use cases that you’re targeting or that you expect to be earlier adopters?

Chris Herring  6:45  

Well, certainly healthcare, insurance. We’ve had a number, in our client base, of trucking firms that are interested in working with us. So really, it’s people or companies who have issues with conversations that they need more information than just what an IVR or necessarily what they can get from an email or something like that. So this technology is going to make it more workable. It’s going to be able to be more applied to pretty much any place where you need a conversation to understand what you need.

Erik Linask  7:20  

Do you think this technology now can flip the sentiments around IVR back towards positive?

Chris Herring  7:28  

Oh, absolutely. Well, look at it this way. If you were upset, and you called into a company, you would want somebody who had the skill set to work with you. Now you wouldn’t want to necessarily go through an Auto Attendant presser say and then get routed to who knows what. Really what you want is you want the company to understand that you are calling and what you’re calling about and that you’re not necessarily emotionally happy about the whole experience. Well, companies normally would want to take that call and route it to somebody with a better skill set, or somebody who can better handle that kind of a situation, and particularly if you are a good client, so we’d know who you called in, who you are, prioritize your situation, prioritize your emotion, that all can be done with AI.

Erik Linask  8:17  

So if I’m not getting the resolution that I’m looking for, I’m not getting the answers that I need. How easy is it for me as the caller to get out of that IVR system and in touch with a live person?

Chris Herring  8:29  

It’s as easy as saying, “Hey, I want to talk to somebody.”

Erik Linask  8:34  

It’s a whole lot easier than trying to figure out what number or number of combinations to push. 

Chris Herring  8:37  

I agree. 

Erik Linask  8:39  

Excellent. Well, Chris, thank you so much for joining us today.

Chris Herring 8:40 

Appreciate it.

 

 

Growth Predictions for Cloud Hosting In 2020

On-Premise hosting is going strong but telecom reseller, Barry Hunt, says the cloud be even bigger

TMC’s Editorial Director, Erik Linask, interviews Barry Hunt, President of ACC Telecom to discuss the future of cloud technology and their relationship with SkySwitch. Hunt says that while On-Premise is still their largest seller, the future of migration of more cloud seats looks very promising.

When it comes to selling cloud seats, reliability is essential. Hunt remarks that he has never seen downtime in the past three years that he’s been with SkySwitch, and goes into more detail on his experience with SkySwitch as a cloud-based white label communications platform provider.

Erik Linask speaks with Barry Hunt about ACC Telecom’s relationship with SkySwitch and the reliability of the cloud. 

Full Video Transcript Below

Erik Linask  0:07  
Hi, we’re here in Orlando at SkySwitch’s Vectors 2019. And on the program with me from ACC Telecom is Barry Hunt. Barry, thanks for joining me. 

 

Barry Hunt 0:16
Well, you’re welcome Erik.

 

Erik Linask 0:18
So, tell me a little bit about your relationship with SkySwitch. You’re here at their user conference. You know, what brought you here and what’s your relationship with them like?

 

Barry Hunt  0:29  
Well, we started with hosted, probably about 19 years ago, we were doing hosted and cloud before anybody ever heard of it. So we jumped in the business, like when it’s got reliable around 2008. And with CoreDial, they had a couple of big outages and somebody referred us to SkySwitch. So we needed a reliable company that had geo-redundant data centers, that was important, so we wouldn’t have downtime. Plus the cost per minute was about a third of the time. 

 

So we were able to save customers a lot of money and give them a reliable solution. And we’d already had a lot of experience in the cloud. But we’re also a traditional phone company. We’ve been around since ‘79, so we’ve done a lot of PBX, Avaya, Cisco, Toshiba, Comdial, you name it, we’ve probably sold it. We still like to sell on-premise software. And we sell a lot of 3CX to be honest with you. So we sell more SIP trunks than we do cloud seats. But the price is starting to balance out so I can see us selling more SkySwitch seats, which is what they want us to sell. We’re the king of SIP trunks, we’re called.

 

Erik Linask  1:52  
Well, you know, certainly they want to see you sell more seats. But you know, it’s it seems to me that there are a lot of things converging in the market that are going to make that possible. There’s such a huge addressable market still that that is living with their old on-premise stuff. And cloud for a lot of them seems to be a very viable option.

 

Barry Hunt  2:16  
Absolutely, with SMS added to the service, the servicing year, they say 80% of PBXs are still out there, all PBXs and so it’s still a huge market to turn to the cloud.

 

Erik Linask  2:31  
Tell me about your experience working with SkySwitch, you know, how are they to work with and frankly how’s the platform?

 

Barry Hunt  2:38  
It’s a very reliable platform. There’s still some little extra costs we need to talk about that a lot of companies out there are including in their base costs – but very reliable. I don’t believe we’ve experienced any downtime for probably the last three years, that I’ve recognized. I’ve never had a complaint, let’s put it that way. I love working with SkySwitch, they’re a small company, it’s easy to get in touch with people. And it’s a very friendly relationship.

 

Erik Linask  3:12  
So what made you come down to Vectors 2019?

 

Barry Hunt  3:16  
I’ve been doing going to functions like this, probably 30 years. So I enjoy getting away. 

 

Erik Linask  3:24  
And, you know, I was just speaking with Jayson Jones from SkySwitch. And he was saying that, you know, they don’t do a whole lot of face-to-face visits with their partners, that this is one of the really good opportunities for them to actually get some face-to-face time, and then some quality time, and really build those relationships. Do you see it that way?

 

Barry Hunt  3:42  
Absolutely. It’s the only time we get together to see each other. Thank you.

 

Erik Linask  3:46  
Barry, thanks for joining us.



E911: The Technology Responsible for Saving Lives

How tragedy sparked an essential development in technological legislation

TMC’s Editorial Director, Erik Linask, speaks with Joseph Barasoain, Director of Public Safety for Atlanta Georgia, and Captain Scott Brillman, Director of 9-1-1 for the City of Baltimore. 

In their interview, they discuss Kari’s Law and how the implementation of new technology can save lives. Learn all about the simple steps you can take, as a telecom reseller, to make a difference in public safety straight from two real leaders who work on the front lines of emergency services.

Joseph Barasoain and Scott Brillman discuss the importance of Kari’s Law and what it means for telecom resellers, VoIP providers and carriers.

Full Video Transcript Below

Erik Linask  0:07  
Hello, we’re here at day two Vectors 2019 in Orlando, Florida. It’s been a great start to the week so far and joining me today, Scott Brillman and Joe Barasoain. Gentlemen, thank you for joining us and welcome. 

Joseph Barasoain  0:22  
Thank you, Erik.

Scott Brillman  0:22  
Thanks for having us.

Erik Linask  0:24  
So, you guys are really on the front lines of the whole E911 emergency services situation, which continues to be a discussion point for communications providers, VoIP providers specifically and, you know, some interesting, exciting and important developments that have taken place recently, specifically around Kari’s law. You know what, let’s start, tell us a little bit about what Kari’s Law is.

Scott Brillman  0:49  
So Kari’s Law is actually a sad story. A few years ago, a mother, Kari Dunn, was getting attacked in her hotel room and her daughter attempted to call 911 multiple times, to be exact four times and was unable to get through. She called 911 the wrong way, which is unbelievable. So her mother was unable to get help. So now, there’s a law that was passed that when you call 911, from a hotel or a hospital, when you dial 911, it has to go through to a 911 center or PSAP.

Erik Linask  1:33  
And the idea being that regardless of what you do, anytime you dial 911 it’s going to go through?

Joseph Barasoain  1:39  
Yeah, there shouldn’t be a wrong way to dial 911. You should be able to get a phone, dial 911 and get what you need. Ultimately, it’s how quickly that process works and Kari’s Law does address how that process is conducted now.

Erik Linask  1:53  
So we’ve got Kari’s Law. What does that mean for VoIP providers, for carriers, you know, anybody who is tasked with delivering those phone calls and making sure that dialing works?

Joseph Barasoain  2:04  
So it really assures that the provider is doing what they need to do to enable that 911 feature from dial-in directly to the PSAP, the public safety answering point. So again, it shouldn’t be going one place to get somewhere else. It shouldn’t be a transfer from a front desk, or an attendant, it should be going straight through to the 911 Center.

Scott Brillman  2:26  
Right. And today, you know, we were all really first responders in a room. We need this community to help us help the end-user be able to dial us, and there’s some great ideas that happened today in that room to make it safer for people to dial 911.

Erik Linask  2:46  
So what are the kinds of things that providers are doing and what can they do in order to help you accomplish those objectives?

Joseph Barasoain  2:54  
I would say the very first thing is educating the public so as they install or as they resell or they provide the solution for their members or their community, they really need to emphasize how important it is to make sure that they are putting in the right information.And during their setup, making sure that they’re not just grabbing their phone and going home with their phone, and make sure the right switches and buttons are pushed in order for that technology to do what it’s supposed to do.

Scott Brillman  3:25  
Right and there’s other limitations that the end-user needs to be educated with. If there’s a power outage, you won’t be able to dial 911 if there’s a network outage, you won’t be able to dial 911. And in California right now, there’s wildfires. The Electric Company shutting down power, and some people won’t be able to dial 911 because it’s on a VoIP system.

Erik Linask  3:48  
So what happens in these situations?

Scott Brillman  3:52  
So people should have backups, they should have a cell phone that they can dial 911 with, they could have an old pots line it into their house, a landline, that they’ll be able to use but have a backup plan. You know if your VoIP phone or if your power goes out.

Erik Linask  4:11  
Part of what you’re talking about is related to location, right? You know, how much are people and users aware that they need to update that location information to ensure that they’re able to get it so that emergency services are able to be dispatched to the appropriate location.

Joseph Barasoain  4:31  
And I think that’s the reason why we’re here. We see many of our calls coming in our 911 centers with the wrong information. So in other words, you decided to telecommute from home today and your employer allows you to take your phone home or use a softphone application that actually has your desk phone ringing to your cell phone. The issue there is if you forget and you dial 911 now from that cell phone, and it’s set to dial out to your desk phone, we’re going to send somebody to your home or we’re going to send somebody to your business depending on how you’re setup, and that’s where the issue really lies. We’re getting a lot of those now. And as the technology shifts towards this new side, we’re going to see more of it. And if we’re not on the front end of this, and you are on the front end of this, it’s going to become a bigger issue for us.

Scott Brillman  5:19  
Seconds count when you’re having the worst day of your life. And you need to call 911, the 911 operator and the first responders should know exactly where you are, so we can get to you quickly to save your life.

Erik Linask  5:33  
The same thing applies simply to your cell phone if you’ve got the carriers that are enabling Wi-Fi calling. So as soon as you enable that, I did this the other day actually, the first thing that it prompted me for is my location and then a reminder that I need to change or update that location if I’m no longer where I currently was. So there’s a lot of consumer education that has to happen in addition to business.

Joseph Barasoain  6:00  
Absolutely. So if you forget, or it prompts you, and you don’t do it, you just go, “I’m just gonna hit okay and go on”. That extra step is going to, it’ll save somebody’s life. Eventually, I mean, it’s designed to. It’ll say “hey, something’s wrong, fix it.” And what happens is people just hit okay. Or it’s just like when you kind of get your instructions after you do your update on your cell phone, and no one reads the three pages worth of stuff. You’re scrolling through, hitting, accepting, going on. They don’t realize the importance of making sure that that’s accurately done.

Scott Brillman  6:30  
Yeah, in the past, traditionally, in office buildings, when people move offices, they take their phone with them, and a simple sticker on a phone that says, if you move this phone, you’ll be giving 911 a wrong location that can save a life. One little sticker can save a life.

Erik Linask  6:48  
I imagine, you know, on the business side, you’ve got IT administrators and you’ve got work providers who can help ensure that those kinds of things happen on the consumer side. I imagine it’s just going to be difficult because people don’t always pay attention. They’ve got Wi-Fi calling and you know, they go all over the place, go visit friends, go shopping, go to work, go wherever they’re going. That creates some problems for US first responders.

Joseph Barasoain  7:17  
Absolutely. And during our session this morning, one of the things we heard was from one of the, I guess, the largest state probably represented out here, you know, the state requires a three-page reading in order to go along with making sure you’re updating your equipment. And at the end of the day, no one’s going to read those three pages. So maybe one of the things we got from this morning, was maybe creating a one-page document with your hot three topics that people actually read. It would be a huge help right now.

Scott Brillman  7:47  
The great thing is that there was enthusiasm and people were coming up with solutions already in the room and I think there are people that want to get together and have a think tank and figure out this problem together. Which is great.

Erik Linask  8:01  
You each represent one different state in the country. These are obviously nationwide issues, but who has responsibility for handling them? Are they a statewide issue? Are they national? Are they local?

Joseph Barasoain  8:17  
I think we all have a responsibility. And one of the things we talked about was how do we get our national associations on the public safety side, together with the organizations that you belong to, and kind of put us all together and go, how do we come up with a solution. Almost a private-public partnership. Ultimately, you know, the federal government does provide guidelines on some of this stuff. But it’s going to take the private industry to partner up with the public safety side and go, Okay, this is the true solution and this is how we get there.

Scott Brillman  8:45  
Right, we’re all interconnected now and in the future with the next generation, we’re going to be more interconnected through IP networks. And so it’s all of our responsibility. We’re a big family now that needs to figure out these problems.

Erik Linask  9:00  
Are there specific things that you guys are doing locally in your states that you feel are having a positive effect? 

Joseph Barasoain  9:08  
We’re actually trying to provide some community outreach where we provide community education. We’re actually going, “Hey, what kind of phone system do you have?” A lot of people are switching from, even the common providers, like local cable companies now providing their phone. So the technology is changing. So we’re not out there trying to get on the front end of it and going out to as little as you know, the new business that opens up that goes, “Hey, I just bought this new phone system. No one really told me how it works and the effects of it.” That’s what we’re trying to do. Just go out there and touch somebody go, “Hey, can we help you with this?”

Scott Brillman  9:39  
Yeah, in Maryland, Kari’s Law was passed locally. But we’re also discussing how our fire marshal’s office that do regular inspections every day, can educate the businesses and the hospitals, about Kari’s Law to make sure they’re in compliance.

Erik Linask  9:57  
Are there ways that technology can be further enhanced to help with this, knowing the challenges that you’re facing?

Scott Brillman  10:07  
You know, in the future, there’s a whole bunch of stuff that’s going to happen. Number one, and I’m just thinking about it now, if the phone has a camera on it and somebody dials 911, that camera can turn on and the 911 Center can see what’s going on in that room. There are many ideas that can happen.

Joseph Barasoain  10:26  
Yeah, the technology is just moving quick. So anything right now that we can start on the front end doing. I mean, I heard today, “can we add another line to our setup that allows us to put additional information.” Anything right now that we’re catching because it’s going to be here sooner than we think. We thought texting to 911 was going to be something of the future. Well, it’s here and we’re doing videos. It’s here, we’re doing it, so we got to figure out how to stay on the front end of this before it gets behind us.

Erik Linask  10:56  
From a location perspective, is there a way to use automation or location tracking to help us, especially when you’re talking about mobile devices? 

Joseph Barasoain  11:09  
Absolutely. We’re challenged with mobile devices in our center every day. You know, we do have mobile devices that don’t present certain information to us. And that’s a huge hindrance for us. I mean, it really hurts. We’re spending more and more time because the reality is most people don’t know where they are. They put in the location, you listen to a voice tell you to make a left, make a right, but you’re not really listening to what road to make a left on, they just go make a left in the next X amount of feet. And because of that, when you get involved in a car accident, or you have an emergency, people don’t know where they are. So we’re spending that first you know, 60 to 90 seconds going “What’s near you? Where’s the gas station? Where’s the local grocery store by you? And trying to figure out where they are.

Scott Brillman  11:55  
And there’s a company that we’ve partnered with called Rapid SOS. That’s bringing enhanced data into our center now. So companies like Uber, if you call from an Uber app while you’re in a ride and you need help, that Uber app will send us your exact GPS location. If you call from an Apple phone or an Android Google phone right now, your location services will turn on and send us your exact GPS location. So we’re getting better and better every day because of rapid SOS.

Erik Linask  12:28  
Well, you know, that’s all wonderful to hear. It’s great to have people like you representing the industry, helping move some of these important issues along. You know, unfortunate that it has taken some certain circumstances to make this all happen, but I appreciate your time here today. And good luck moving all these initiatives forward.

Joseph Barasoain  12:49  
Thank you very much for having us.

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