In early 2000s, several companies started providing internet based phone service to individuals offering tremendous savings over traditional phone companies. However, it was not until a few years later that there were good internet based phone system options for businesses.
Businesses require a range of features that consumers do not, like call transferring, conference calling, and phone directories. We interviewed one of the first people to take on this challenge, Mike Oeth. In 2005, Mike Oeth co-founded OnSIP which has 20,000 customers using its business VOIP solution. Business VoIP is a term which describes a business phone system that uses the internet to transmit phone calls. If you are not familiar with business VoIP you can learn more in our article: Small Business Phone System: VoIP or Traditional Landline?
Our Interview With Mike Oeth of OnSIP
What is the primary service that your company provides to small businesses?
OnSIP provides a Hosted PBX service to small and medium sized businesses. We’re a full phone system replacement in a hosted environment. We offer a full unified communications service with built-in presence and chat.
Prior to using your service, what type of phone services did your small business clients have?
Prior to using OnSIP, most of our customers were using phone lines provided by the local phone company. Some of our larger customers had their own in-house PBX before coming to our hosted service.
What motivates new clients to search for your (type of) service?
Our customers choose OnSIP for our flexibility and our outstanding customer service. We want our phone system to be as flexible as e-mail. You can get your e-mail at work, at home, and on your smartphone. The same is true with OnSIP. Our customer service is unmatched. We’re staffed by a Philadelphia based network of VoIP experts. As a result, OnSIP doesn’t just have customers. We have fans.
How is your company’s business VOIP service different than your competitors?
We don’t charge per user, per phone, or per extension. We only charge for the features you use and the minutes you use. This gives you the flexibility to have phones wherever you need them without having to worry about the cost of each individual phone.
How difficult is it to set-up a business VoIP? What are some of the hurdles a business might encounter during the set-up?
For a while, the OnSIP Hosted PBX was labeled as the home of the 10 minute PBX. The admin interface for OnSIP is one of the award-winning parts of our service. An admin can make any change to the system without any interaction from OnSIP whatsoever. All changes take place immediately.
85% of our customers are up and running quickly and without any issues. For the remaining 15%, the issue is typically with the router. Many routers come with a service called SIP ALG enabled. The router is taking precautions with this ALG, but in the case of hosted VoIP, it can be very disruptive. Simply turning the SIP ALG off resolves most of these issues.
When planning / diagraming out how calls should be directed (directory options, forwarding, group ringing), what are some common mistakes that are made?
One of the bigger problems our customers have with configuring a PBX is that they only consider the case in which everything works flawlessly. But it’s important to make sure there aren’t any dead-ends in your PBX (such as when no one is in your office or your office loses power.) One of the great things about Hosted VoIP is that even if your network is down, OnSIP is still up and running, so make sure that your PBX takes that into account. Also, don’t just assume that the receptionist will answer every call within four rings.
Can you describe the mobile features of your service? Can you describe changes in mobile usage over that the last three years?
The Bria phone by Counterpath is available in iTunes and the Android store. It’s a great mobile softphone, and we highly recommend it. When OnSIP is harnessed by Bria on an iPhone or an Android phone, your mobile phone actually becomes an extension of your PBX. Now you’re not just forwarding calls to your mobile phone. Your mobile phone IS your extension.
Do you think small business should use an 800 number, a local number or both?
Most of our customers only have two phone numbers, a local number and a toll free number. With OnSIP, a toll free number only costs $2 per month plus usage, so many customers opt for a toll free number just to have one.
How big does a company have to become before a dial by name directory becomes useful?
A business of any size can use a dial-by-name directory. For a two person company, it might be better to use an attendant menu and say something like, “For John, dial one. For Mike, dial two.” This setup is certainly more convenient for the caller, but that same two person company may opt for a dial by name directory just to look bigger.
Can you name some features that are extremely popular / heavily used by small business?
1. Small businesses often want to look larger. By having an attendant menu with multiple options (press 1 for sales, 2 for billing, 3 for customer support, 4 for human resources, etc.) small business can give the impression of being larger organizations.
2. Find-me-follow-me allows small business owners to never miss a sales call. Callers are routed to wherever the business owner is located. This allows company owners to take vacations without worrying that their business will fall off the cliff.
3. Busy Lamp Field allows all employees in a small business to see the phone status of all other employees. When combined with my.onsip (which provides instant messaging between users), businesses are able to operate in a very efficient manner by answering important calls while allowing nuisances to go to voicemail.
Typically, moving to a business VOIP system is thought of as a cost saving move. Can you describe some ways in which using a voip system will help generate additional revenues?
Cost savings and revenue increases can come in many forms:
1. A business may grow by allowing a key employee to work remotely, rather than losing the employee’s expertise and customer knowledge.
2. Businesses can also grow by opening up new sales territories. These may be in different states (by having multiple local phone numbers in targeted regions), or different countries (by employing remote workers). With OnSIP, all employees, regardless of location, can be tied into a single, easy to manage phone system.
3) Hosted VoIP can help bring in additional revenues by integrating with cloud based business tools. Management can see real time call reports and deploy resources where needed. OnSIP integrates with CRMs and SaaS applications to provide business owners with the tools they need to make smart investment decisions to help grow their companies.
About Mike Oeth, CEO, OnSIP
Mike Oeth is the CEO of OnSIP Business VoIP and recent winner of Telecommunications Executive of the Year in the 2013 American Business Awards. Mike co-founded OnSIP in 2005 on the premise that the future of business communications would rely heavily on IP technologies. Having helped over 20,000 customers, OnSIP is now a leading provider of business VoIP to small and medium-sized businesses. OnSIP customers enjoy the benefits of a business class phone system, without the traditional high cost, burden, and inflexibility.
Mike graduated from Harvard College in 1991 with a degree in Economics and has since worked for technology companies, including cable companies, fiber optic providers, Internet service providers, and application service providers. Outside of the office, Mike is an active community member and father, successfully balancing his roles as board member of the local YMCA, member of the father-daughter Y-group Adventure Princesses, and basketball coach for his three daughters’ basketball teams. Mike also enjoys indoor and outdoor rock climbing with his teenage son.