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Verizon didn't want me to post this

Verizon didn't want me to post this, but I think it may actually benefit them in the long run.

For years I've been thinking about my employees who get a mobile phone for work related communication.  One of my techs - probably one of the most creative and brightest guys I've ever worked with - was always hot on the idea of the company paying him a stipend to use his phone.  His reason?  He didn't want to juggle and hassle with two phones.  I don't blame him.  It's hard enough managing to charge and keep track of one phone, your wallet and keys.  Adding one more device into the mix makes me go nuts.

He'd be pretty stoked by what I just did last week.  I cancelled our entire business account, and I'm considering doing something almost exactly like what my prior teammate wanted.    It will make my employees really happy.  And it's going to save me several hundred dollars per month.  Which makes me really happy, too.  The Verizon rep on the phone asked me if I was dissatisfied for any reason.  I said they were great, but I found a way to cut several hundred dollars in expense and make everyone happier for it.  She actually asked me to not blog about this.  

So I had to.

Part of the problem and reason I didn't do this before was entirely non-technical.  It's pretty obvious: If my employees are calling customers from their cell phones, guess what number the customer's going to call back?  And if it goes to an employees voicemail because they're busy all day (as they should be) instead of to my Service Advisor who's standing by and wants to take the customer's call right now, that just leads to delays and customers get upset.  And it's not good for employees either- employees didn't sign up to become a slave to their phone- and most employees would prefer not to get calls from customers directly on the nights or weekends.  

So what's the solution here?  There are a couple, but let's talk about Skype.

With Skype for Business, you can deploy phone numbers the company owns to your employees (or any) smartphone.  This works incredibly well on iPhone.  I used it for a month last year from Japan.   My customers in California were calling a local 949 (Irvine) number and I could call them back via any hotspot, or from my 3G phone in Japan.   A phone line will cost you about $15/month, and the business administrator can manage the routing of phone calls.  Want the inbound calls to redirect to your customer service team?  No problem.  Need to enable international capability for one person?  No problem.  Want to put a cap on spending on one or more lines?  No problem.

I'm jazzed by the possibilities.  Imagine what this means to my small business:

  • No more punitive two year contracts and early termination penalties.  If my business grows or shrinks with the economy, I don't have to get hit financially while the big cell phone company gets paid.
  • I could possibly consider cell phones a possible employee perk: How cool would it be to pay my employees a stipend to offset their monthly bill?
  • I could even consider incentivizing employees with rewards for performance, like a new phone purchase stipend when their own contract comes due for renewal.  How cool would that be?

I've tried another service from a company called Line2, but it doesn't have the same business controls and administrative management system that Skype does.  If you're a sole practitioner that wants two phone lines pointing at the same iPhone (or Android), check out Line2.  You can even port over a preexisting number away from a cell phone or land line.  And their service is really great, starting at $10/month with features that would satisfy most users.