Ringio is a fairly new company, and they've taken a very Web 2.0 approach to some of the pain points that SMBs face when dealing with incoming calls from customers. For SMBs that are not using some form of contact center infrastructure or basic call management software, Ringio has some good news. Before continuing, let me state that this brief is not meant to be a shameless plug for Ringio - although I do think they have a strong value proposition. That's really secondary to the bigger picture I'm more interested in, which is the impact the cloud is having now on everyday communications.
The cloud figures heavily in Ringio's offering, but I think Focus readers will want to know more first about what it does rather than how it works. Picture a typical SMB environment - overworked, understaffed, no contact center and constant activity. Think about how often incoming calls are answered, and when it's from a customer, how much time is spent - and wasted - trying to get the right person to take the call and look after the customer on the spot. It's a problem facing most any SMB, and the last thing you want to have happen is to lose a customer or an order over a poorly handled call.
I can't help you if already have some form of contact center in place; if these things are happening to you, then you have a much different - and probably more serious - problem. However, if that's not the case, then Ringio could well be the next best thing. In short, Ringio is a call management application that provides context about the incoming call - before it's answered. Think of this as a cloud-based CRM tool that becomes more valuable the more you use it. Once the caller's phone number is on file, all the associated data about them becomes available to your employees. In one regard, this is intelligent Caller ID in the form of a screen pop that gives you their history. This way you'll know how to properly route the call (transfer, hold, conferencing, etc.), and you'll also have a good idea of how to respond to the call if you choose to answer it.
Once you move to the desktop, there's a more integrated Web interface that now links the call to your everyday working tools - chat, directories, presence, click-to-dial and visual call control. This is orders of magnitude beyond what you could do by simply answering a phone call; you can now respond more definitively in real time, as well as collaborate using more tools and with more people than you could before.
If you're thinking Salesforce.com, you're right, and Ringio will be announcing full integration with this soon. The same for social media tools like Linked In or Twitter. All of these applications provide context and intelligence about incoming calls, and it doesn't take much to imagine how this will help employee productivity. Workflows will have fewer interruptions, employees will be able to prioritize and manage incoming calls, more calls will be routed correctly the first time around, fewer customers will get lost in the vortex of IVR trees, phone tag will be minimized, etc.
The bigger picture for me is that Ringio is cloud-based. While most contact center and CRM tools can do these things, they're just not practical or economical enough for most SMBs. With the cloud, Ringio can offer an affordable service to any broadband-enabled business, regardless of geography or number of locations. Ringio can be configured online in under 10 minutes, so you don't need an IT department or a truck roll to get going. The only catch is that Ringio interfaces with conventional 10 digit phone numbers. Customers using SIP or Skype-based "numbers" will need to default to their PSTN number for Ringio, but this should not be a major obstacle.
Another interesting aspect of Ringio is that they are using Amazon's platform to host their application. While this may seem unusual, Amazon is very much state-of-the-art for cloud computing, and reflects the shifting landscape where voice services have increasingly little to do with the telephone company you've been doing business with forever. Not surprisingly, Ringio integrates primarily with another cloud leader, Google - yet another company without any telecom legacy. Not only does Ringio work on the desktop with Google tools like Contact or Gmail, but on their Android platform as well for mobile calls. As Ringio evolves, support will extend to the other smartphones, namely the iPhone and BlackBerry.
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