RingCentral pioneered cloud-based business phone service, showing businesses of all sizes how to move beyond business phone systems based on a private branch exchange (PBX) box in a wiring closet. Emphasizing flexibility as much as cost savings, RingCentral has become a clear leader in cloud communications and collaboration.
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We asked RingCentral SVP of Operations Curtis Peterson why small businesses that have not yet embraced the cloud or even Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology why they should make the move now. During our conversation, we also touched on important topics such as the growing popularity of Unified Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS), the importance of agility for both vendors and clients, cloud security, and the mobile voice assistant revolution.
PCMag (PCM): Even today, many small business owners stay away from VoIP simply because they don't understand it. Explain the difference between a barebones VoIP service, cloud PBX, and full UCaaS to our small to midsize business (SMB) readers. What are these technologies and which do you think is best for most SMB operations?
Curtis Peterson (CP): VoIP technology is widely distributed but barebones VoIP service is just transmission of phone calls over the internet. It won't have the features you would expect from a traditional business phone system. Cloud PBX takes what used to be the PBX that you had on-premises and moves those capabilities to the cloud. You get voice, voicemail, call transfer, multi-way calling, page and hold, and other sophisticated features that businesses expect.
Then we add modes of communications that go beyond voice, such as video conferencing, online meetings, SMS, team messaging, and collaboration. That breadth is what turns it into UCaaS. UCaaS is a powerful option for businesses of all sizes, but particularly SMBs, because it's flexible, comprehensive, and cost effective.
The advantage to an SMB of choosing a complete UCaaS solution, like RingCentral , is that they get all the features they'll need to run their business in the future but without paying any more for the simple-to-use and complete phone system they need now.
PCM: RingCentral has made switching to a cloud PBX very easy. But just because something is easy doesn't mean it's necessarily the best move. We know VoIP is supposed to be cheaper but what benefits does it offer? What's a key benefit that you find most often surprises your customers because they didn't think to consider it?
CP: I think flexibility is even more important than price but we understand price is important for SMBs. Our plans start at $19.99 per user per month and you can pay as you go (or, better yet, pay as you grow). You only pay for the capacity you need, but at the same time, you're also getting more for your money.
Besides, any SMB will tell you they never want to miss a customer call. That's really the costliest mistake they can make. With RingCentral, you don't have to be at your desk to answer the phone; cloud service is mobile by nature. That means workers can communicate no matter where they are: in the office, at home, or on the road. With 99.999 percent uptime, our service is more reliable than any on-premises hardware you can buy. In the event of a catastrophe, your offices literally could be under water and your people could still be answering calls from another location. And on a day-to-day basis, you can open a new office or assign a number to a remote worker in a heartbeat.
There are also benefits to using RingCentral as your business grows. Web and video conferencing, team collaboration, and call center solutions are all seamlessly integrated into one solution. We also have global reach so it doesn't matter where your employees are geographically located. We serve nearly 80 countries with virtual numbers today, and we have our complete RingCentral Global Office solution available in 35 countries.
One of the key overlooked benefits is that we do five to six major releases a year, so our solution is constantly improving and customers always benefit from the latest technology.
These are just some of the reasons why over 350,000 businesses trust RingCentral for this critical business need and why we're the market leader with the most industry awards.
PCM: Mobile devices continue to invade the workplace, especially for SMBs. The only trick is that employees won't use their own devices. How does RingCentral help companies leverage their employees' mobile hardware without taking over the device?
CP: Using RingCentral's mobile apps gives employees a full set of capabilities including calling, video conferencing, SMS texting, team messaging, and collaboration. Our apps let employees keep business and personal use of their phone separate.
For the company, one of the overlooked benefits of having a business-assigned phone number on an employee's device is that, if the employee decides to leave, you can turn off their access to that phone number at the same time you switch off their email. All business interactions—including the texting or customer calls—can be redirected to someone else in your organization. In other words, the communication with that customer doesn't go out the door with the employee.
PCM: Cloud security is becoming an increasingly sore subject for every aspect of cloud technology, voice and communications included. How is RingCentral addressing this concern for customers in 2018?
CP: Service guarantees and security were the top two selection criteria cited in the recent "Unified Communication (UC) Strategies and Vendor Leadership" report from IHS Markit. We invest in security as competitive differentiation, knowing customers must have that peace of mind if we want them to stick with us.
RingCentral deploys best-of-breed network protections that are optimized for voice and data. These defenses, together with RingCentral experts continuously monitoring systems for anomalies, help to prevent service disruption, security data breaches, fraud, and service high-jacking.
PCM: There's suddenly a lot of buzz about leveraging voice assistants in business. Given that voice is a big part of your business, how does that factor into your plans?
CP: Consumer technology inevitably makes its way into the workplace. It's a pattern we've seen many times over with technologies like instant messaging (IM), mobile apps, and more. Now it's happening with voice assistants coming to the workplace and we believe the impact will be big.
Many consumers are already familiar with voice assistant technology in their homes. Amazon has been leading the charge with their Alexa-powered Amazon Echo devices, enabling people to ask things like, "Alexa, what's the weather?" or "Alexa, what's today's news?" Now the same innovation is coming to the workplace with Alexa for Business and we're excited to be a part of it.
Using RingCentral and Alexa for Business, you can use voice commands to join meetings, send text messages, listen to voicemails, and make calls.
PCM: Aside from voice assistants, what are the key trends you think small businesses should try to leverage in 2018?
CP: Workplaces being defined by a physical office space is a thing of the past. We will see a proliferation of technologies designed for the new workplace that exponentially increase remote collaboration among workers to optimize productivity, accelerate innovation, and foster community. This means collaborative communication solutions like RingCentral Glip will be essential. You need a platform with a range of tools, so you can start with posting team collaboration messages and move to a voice call, a text exchange, a video conference, or a file shared for joint editing.
Meanwhile, voice assistants are just the beginning of a broader trend. We'll see conversational modalities interoperate and become smarter, powered by natural language processing (NLP), instant transcription, and continuous machine learning (ML). Looking ahead, artificial intelligence (AI) will become more pervasive. Ultimately, this means we'll see the arrival of more contextual information. With the constant deluge of information that knowledge works deal with, context matters, and emerging technologies will learn to surface what matters most.
The globalization of business will intensify. Fortunately, the cloud democratizes the possibilities, creating opportunities for SMBs to go global. Within the UCaaS space, we're seeing global customers increasingly seek a single global cloud communications solution, like RingCentral. We've observed that North American companies have their highest concentration of seats in UK, Germany, France, Netherlands, Ireland, Australia, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Data suggests that global workforces in the EU and APAC are also embracing modern cloud communications and collaboration solutions to increase productivity.
Communication and collaboration are going to be everywhere and we want to help you take advantage of all the possibilities.