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April 21, 2009

Ifbyphone Targets SMB Carriers with Cloud Telephony Services, including IVR

By Michael Dinan, TMCnet Editor

For most companies, efforts to “leverage” the Web to boost productivity and cut costs fall into two categories.
First, there’s e-marketing, or using the Internet to increase the visibility of products and services – for example, tailoring a Web site with search terms on the page that will earn better returns when a consumer or other user sits down and does a Google (News - Alert) search. The general term for that kind of effort is “search engine optimization.” This Thursday, TMCnet is helping to run a free Webinar that touches on the topic.

And there also are tools – typically virtual technologies, such as Software-as-a-Service, or communications tools, such as e-mail, mobile Web advertising or Internet-based telephone services (“IP telephony” or “VoIP”) – that reduce hardware costs, maintenance costs and fees that are associated with things like wireline telephones or snail mail.
Today, a Skokie, Illinois-based company that specializes in ways that the latter category can assist small- to medium-sized businesses, or “SMBs,” is offering carriers a chance to provide so-called “cloud,” or Web-based, telephony applications to carriers at affordable rates.
Officials at Ifbyphone – a hosted voice application and platform company – say the key to their new sales model is the launch of “Session Initiation Protocol (News - Alert),” or “SIP” trunking. Generally speaking, SIP trunking is a service offered by Internet telephony service providers so that businesses can adopt VoIP using their Internet connection. That way, they can communicate with others who rely on the PSTN, since the enterprise IP-PBX (News - Alert) is connected to the service provider’s PSTN gateways over the Internet.
The technology suits Ifbyphone’s (News - Alert) agenda perfectly. In theory, a carrier could establish a trunk to Ifbyphone via PSTN to get access to Ifbyphone services. But the setup and configuration would be prohibitive and costly. SIP helps make the routing logic at the switch (or in this case, softswitch) far simpler.
According to Ifbyphone Chief Executive Officer Irv Shapiro (News - Alert), carriers who want to offer advanced services have faced an investment dilemma: either make a six-figure investment gamble on hardware and software and hope that customers pay for the new features, or don’t, and hope you don’t lose customers to competitors.
“Carriers make a far lower investment commitment, get access to industry-leading features, add capacity with us as they grow, and keep their customers very happy by continuing to serve them directly,” Shapiro said. “For CLECs that want to compete on services and features, this will radically change the competitive dynamics.”
Ifbyphone says that all carriers, CLECs, ILECs, hosted PBX companies, and cable multi-system operators with softswitches in their architecture can now connect to its service and expand their own service offerings to include features such as full-function IVR, Call Queuing, Call Tracking and “Find Me” Call Forwarding, and complete applications such as Voice Broadcasting, Store Locator, and Lead Distributor.
Let’s look at an example of how the service works.
Say a small business customer of a CLEC might want an IVR system for their business. They sign up for that service through their CLEC and configure the IVR using Ifbyphone’s Web-based GUI. Then an inbound call to that small business will get routed to Ifbyphone for IVR call handling. In this example, the caller might say “agent” to reach a customer service representative, with Ifbyphone applying routing logic to the call, then passing it back to the carrier for termination.
Shapiro said that the white label offering enabled through SIP connectivity represents a logical evolution of Ifbyphone’s sales channel strategy.
“We started by selling direct to SMBs, then broadened our sales model to serve SMBs through an active reseller program,” Shapiro said. “Now, by offering our services on a white-label basis to carriers, we have the ability to offer our easy-to-configure tools to millions of SMB customers through the carriers who service them.”

Don’t forget to check out TMCnet’s White Paper Library, which provides a selection of in-depth information on relevant topics affecting the IP Communications industry. The library offers white papers, case studies and other documents which are free to registered users.

Michael Dinan is a contributing editor for TMCnet, covering news in the IP communications, call center and customer relationship management industries. To read more of Michael's articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Michael Dinan

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