INSIGHT

Webinar: Beyond telephony with VoIP

Boost your small business with this expert advice

Voice over IP (VoIP) is an unstoppable trend, with an astonishing 15% year-on-year growth, from small businesses alone. But it can be hard to know exactly what the service involves, and how it can help your business.

In this exclusive interview, Tim Patchett, Senior Product Manager, Virgin Media Business and Jim Rand, CEO, Synervoz Communications, discuss VoIP, small businesses, and the need for digital transformation.

It’s a wide-ranging discussion, packed with the big benefits of VoIP and why people don’t just pick up the phone more often.

Scroll down to read the questions from their interview

JIM: Well I was a former mechanical engineer – working in mining, oil and finance before starting a communications company, and in all of those previous jobs, communicating was always a pain. For instance, sometimes we worked with 2-way radios for indoor and outdoor work, communicating was always an issue and hence the inspiration for what I do now- which is basically a voice over IP software product that establishes a new way to communicate. We use this   with early-adopters from other high tech companies as  a new mode of communication. It’s something we call spontaneous voice chat which is basically a much more flexible way of communicating.

TIM: How does that software utilise voice over IP?

JIM: So the way it works is, you’ve got a contact list- and you’ve got a voice over IP (skype like connection) with every one of those contacts, all the time in the background, you only transmit data whenever somebody speaks. You can very quickly toggle between those people so it’s like a really flexible intercom where I can quickly say “hey James” so it’s instantaneously chat.

TIM: Brilliant, it sounds like you guys have really embraced voice over IP as your day in day out communication method? Do you know of any start-up companies that still use the landline phones?

JIM: Most start-ups right now would use an instant messaging service as the base for their communications – slack for example, something between email and text messaging – channels organised around topics where you can file share etc. This was originally something you’d use between your team but now you can connect to other businesses as well. You’ve got services built into that have voice over IP calling buttons if you want to launch a video call.

TIM: Many small companies don’t invest in good connectivity. What do you believe happens if the internet connection is poor; if the IP component isn’t necessarily up to scratch?

JIM: Yeah, it happens, but rarely where there is a good Wi-Fi connection in the office, or if you have a good cellular connection, then you won’t have problems either.  When you’re on the move you might have intermittent cellular connection or when you’re in a basement you might not have a great connection. So in my experience voice over IP is as reliable as cellular voice calls in many cases now just as good as fixed lines and particularly because it’s far more flexible you can do it from anywhere, you can’t carry your landline phone out with you. I really have had a good experience with it, only a couple of seconds maybe where the line, as you’re switching between Wi-Fi and other cellular network – it might go choppy for a few seconds but in the grand scheme of things it really doesn’t matter because the flexibility far out ways that.

TIM: Can you give us a bit more information about what you guys are doing with cloud communications and voice over IP?

JIM: So imagine you have a hands-free walkie talkie, that turns your laptop or headphones or any speaker / microphone combination into a really flexible intercom, so people don’t actually need to ring you. You have a whitelist of people that can talk straight into your headphone through your speaker and voice commands allow you to respond directly. So I might be working from home and I hear, “hey Jim, you there?” and I’ll say: “respond” so that opens my microphone to the last person that spoke to me, and now we’re in a channel talking to each other. So you get a really spontaneous style of conversation that you’d get when you’re working in the same office – even though you’re working from work, or anywhere.

TIM: What if they reach you at a bad time? Or if you’re doing something private that you don’t want them to communicate to you during?

JIM: So that’s where the voice commands come in. Your mic isn’t open until you say respond. So if I say “respond” it opens my line to them and now they can hear me and likewise if I don’t want to hear them, if I don’t want them to have the ability to speak out loud through my speakers I just say “switch off” I can say “switch on” and my contact list can then see that I’m available now and they can holler. If I switch off I’ll have a red dot by my name and they’ll be able to leave me a voicemail or a message until I’m available again. The instantaneous connection to me is only when I’m switched on.

TIM: How has it worked for you andwhy would people talk in this way? Have you seen the benefits from it?

JIM: Yeah it really enables more spontaneous collaboration. So when you’re in the same room you can tap someone on the shoulder or look across a desk and you get a spontaneous, fluid discussion, which is why I love when people work in the same office. You get that back with this style of communication. So what we’ve seen is we have much more personal connections with one another, we hear each other’s voices more often, we’re texting less and it feels more efficient using your voice – especially when you can do it hands-free when you’re walking through the streets or you’re driving, voice just makes a lot more sense.

TIM: It’s more natural and personal and overcomes that robotic texting component. You mention about taking it hands-free and you talk about it going on the road and jumping around, how do you keep the connections alive? Does it cost a lot of money that way?

JIM: So that’s the beauty of voice over IP and the internet and the audio processing that we do, it’s really flexible, these connections are established but you’re not transmitting data over until somebody is actually speaking . Only at that point are you consuming as much data or battery as say skype would. When you’re not talking the line is silent and you’re not consuming any data.

TIM: So, how wide is your team, how would you describe a typical day for you and your team?

JIM: We have 15 people on the team, 6 of us are in Toronto, 2 in London, 2 in Budapest, 2 in the states and 2 in Ireland. So some people work from home, some from co-working offices but we all really work from everywhere and our app makes it a lot easier to do that. It’s installed on our iPhone or computers and we’ll leave it on for most of the day whether we switch it on or switch it off and I’ll be like I said sitting at my desk and might have a spontaneous thought and I’ll say “hey, you there” and he might be cooking breakfast but he will hear me through the laptop speaker on his desk and he’ll say “respond” and that immediately connects us and he will say, “yeah, hey what’s up” and so we’ll talk about something and it might only take 30 seconds and he will go back to what he was doing, I’ll go back to what I was doing and 5minutes later I might hear someone else’s voice come through. It feels like we’re working out of a similar table with one another even though we’re all in different cities.

TIM: Just so I’m clear, why don’t people just call each other more often then?

JIM: You’ve never got any idea whether that other person is available. You’ve had no digital signals to say “hey Jim is available now” that person might be in a meeting or they might just not answer so digital signals is the perfect way around that. So if I say switch on or off that conveys digitally to everyone in my contacts that I’m free or not so you know when you say “hey Jim” –I’m going to be there. And if you’ve inactive we can automatically switch you off so your contact list will know that now is not a good time to reach out. It’s also very slow to set up a phone call because the connections aren’t already there running in the background, it takes time to hook the call up, then it rings, sometimes they answer, sometimes they don’t. So that’s another problem. It’s also not hands-free – so any time you have to make a call you have to go through your lock screen to whatever app you’re going to use or to the dialer and then you call the persons phone, so it’s not hands free, it’s something you want to be doing while you’re driving, it’s not instantaneous I think everyone can appreciate that it’s  lot harder to make a phone call than it is to look across the desk and talk to somebody and it’s the latter that we’re trying to enable digitally over distant.

TIM: So would you say the primary value add of this product is efficiency and productivity?

JIM: Voice over IP as a whole drives efficiency, productivity and lower costs. They’re all benefits of using it, but for us and the way we’re using it and our product the spontaneous voice chat mechanism is more about the interpersonal relationships / the closeness of our team because we’re so distributed. Before we used this we felt much less connected to one another, not joking around not hearing each other’s voices as often – you feel more mechanical so with this we have got better relationships and interestingly enough it’s resulted in us wanting to overlap with personal travel to hang out as a people – it’s more like we’ve become friends as a result.

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