Small businesses have become increasingly mobile, making it tough for owners to manage their phone systems. To help handle the phone system remotely, AT&T (T) created the Office@Hand app, which allows users to configure their office phone system while on the go.
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Launched the first week of February, Office@ Hand lets businesses configure and take calls from their office phone system from out in the field, so they won’t miss a potential sale. The application also promises to prevent lost calls, which can be detrimental to a small business.
Take a 10-person plumbing company with all its employees out on calls: By employing the application, it will ensue that someone answers the phone even when no one is in the office and that calls are routed to the correct person, said Ebrahim Keshavarz, AT&T’s vice president of small business product management.
Small businesses can set up the application in a way that callers will have a menu to include options like “press one for sales, two for market ing” and so on. A business owner can also set up a chain of command for who answers the phone, says Keshavarz. For instance, if Bob in sales isn’t available the call then heads to Jane in marketing, The service, which is available over the cloud, costs $16 per person per month; the more employees using the service, the cheaper it becomes.
Since the service is available over the Web, a small business owner can make changes remotely from a mobile device and according to Keshavarz, the app is easy to use and takes only a few minutes to configure. Keshavarz noted that a small business can program one number or up to 100 phone numbers, which provides flexibility to a growing business.
“Basically someone is available at all times,” said Keshavarz, noting the application works with a landline phone and mobile phone. “It’s really a way for a small business to present itself as a big business.”
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According to AT&T, it launched the Office@Hand application in response to the increase in the number of small businesses focused on mobility and the “tremendous” uptick in smart phone adoption on the part of small businesses. “Half or more of the work force within a small business is mobile,” said Keshavarz.
While not suited for all businesses, Office@Hand could be a good tool for small businesses with most of its employees in field.
“It gives them a lot of functionality. It makes sure the right person gets the right call at the right time,” said Kneko Burney, president and chief strategist for market research firm Compass Intelligence.
Although there are other virtual office options available in the marketplace, Burney said many are offered from unknown vendors. “The biggest issue is that they are unknown and do you really want to trust your business communications with a Web only company,” said Burney, noting that AT&T is a well-known trusted brand.
AT&T may be the first of the major carriers to launch this type of service, but Burney said others should quickly follow suit. “There’s at least one other major player talking about a similar solution,” said Burney. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw something like this from all the major telecoms as well as one or two cable operators.”