Ringio Brings the Enterprise Call Center to the SMB

Monday Apr 19th 2010 by Thor Olavsrud
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Cloud-based 'Rich Calling' service offers SMBs integrated customer relationship management (CRM) and intelligent routing.

In a small- or mid-sized business (SMB), ensuring seamless business communications with its customers can sometimes be a big headache. No one wants to see an important client lost in voicemail, misrouted or mishandled. Ringio, a communications software-as-a-service (SaaS) company, aims to ease that pain.

Ringio, which launched today at the Emerging Communications Conference & Awards (eComm 2010) in San Francisco, wants to bring enterprise-level call center-type technology to the SMBs at a price they can afford.

"We're trying to provide a service to make sure small business owners are better informed when a phone call comes in," said Sam Aparicio, co-founder and chief executive officer of Ringio.

Ringio's Rich Calling service presents calls together with their contextual details, either through the service’s desktop client or through its mobile version for Android-based smart phone, which also debuted today.

Aparicio said the Ringio team developed Rich Calling with an emphasis on affordability, ease of setup and elegance of presentation on users’ screens -- whether desktop or mobile devices -- in order to make the experience as easy and seamless as possible for SMBs. Ringio works with customers’ current phones, including mobile devices, with no additional hardware or software required.

"We define 'rich calling' as bringing a telephone call and relevant information about the caller together at the same time to enrich communication and information sharing, and -- most important -- to accelerate speed-to-satisfaction," said Michael Zirngibl, Ringio co-founder and chairman.

Once a company has deployed the Rich Calling SaaS technology, which Aparicio said takes about 50 seconds to download and about 10 minutes to set up, SMBs can begin to enjoy the same kind of high-end functionality provided by enterprise-level call centers. It creates and maintains a history of all calls made and received by the company, and that information can be sorted a number of ways, including by department.

That historical information can then be used in various ways. One use that businesses may find especially attractive is "welcome back routing," which greets returning callers by name and routes their call to the employee who handled their previous call if that person is available. That way, customers who call back won't have to explain their particular issues each time they call.

The service shows which employees are on the phone and which ones are free. This ensures that when an employee transfers a client to another person within the company, that person will be available and the client won’t simply be dumped into voicemail.

"With this functionality, you have a better chance of saving a customer who's angry or of closing a deal," Aparicio said.

“This kind of real-time visibility, also known as 'presence,' resolves issues quickly, avoids dumping customers into what they call 'voicemail jail,' and produces well-informed, coordinated responses that close the sale or solve the caller's problem,” Zirngibl added.

The service shares contacts across the company -- it syncs with Google's Contacts database, and there are plans to integrate it with Salesforce.com later this summer -- and it lets you take notes on clients so that anyone inside the company who handles a call from that customer will be aware of who's calling and why.

"By tapping into the cloud for customer data, we bring everything that’s important about the caller to the top of your mind in real time," Zirngibl said. "As you take or make a call, you can draw upon the collective notes of everyone in your organization who has dealt with this person. This [capability] helps you to connect with customers much more efficiently, professionally and meaningfully than SMBs typically are able to do."

Businesses can also deploy the service on smartphones and receive the same functionality. The service can seamlessly forward calls from a desk phone to a mobile phone. It can even show your business number, rather than your mobile number, to the customer on the other end of the line.

Ringio customers can also set up the service to distinguish between calls, so they can set their status to busy but still get calls from special clients or the CEO.

Rich Calling uses an integrated call-control and pop-up screen client for PC, Mac desktop or Linux. Customers can download it from Ringio's site. Pricing starts at $99 a month for up to four users. Additional users cost another $25 per seat.

"We're big fans of really simple and straightforward pricing models," Aparicio said, noting that Ringio has no patience for nickel and diming customers with hidden charges.

Ringio was founded by Zirngibl, Aparicio and Ashish Soni, who serves as president and chief technology officer of the company. Previously, the three were CEO, CTO and vice president of technology and operations, respectively, at Angel.com, a speech- and interactive voice response (IVR) provider. They worked together at Angel.com for more than 10 years, building it into prominence as a provider of automated IVR and call-center solutions for medium and large businesses.

Thor Olavsrud is a freelance writer and a former senior editor of InternetNews.com. He has covered operating systems, standards, telecom and security, among other technologies.

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