Business VoIP Featured Article

The Importance of Virtual Communications for Small Businesses & Resellers

November 26, 2018

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC

Maddy Martin, head of growth and education at Smith.ai Virtual Receptionists, will be a speaker at The Future of Work Expo and MSP Expo early next year in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.




TMC recently interviewed Martin to learn more about Smith.ai, her thoughts on the future of work, and AI. This is Part 1 of our two-part conversation. Part 2 will post later this week.

How and when did Smith.ai get started?

Martin: Smith.ai was started by Aaron Lee and Justin Maxwell in 2015 in Silicon Valley. Aaron had worked with Justin’s wife, Cynthia, at NASA many years prior, and they’d stayed friends since then. It all began with the two of them and one freelance receptionist.

Aaron, an engineer, brought deep expertise in building logistics software after founding RedBeacon (later acquired by Home Depot, where Aaron served as CTO), a service that matched consumers with home services professionals like handymen. Justin, a leading designer with past roles at Sony, Mint (Intuit), Apple, and Google, brought his talent for delivering superior user experiences. The results at Smith.ai under their joint leadership and vision are products that are deceptively simple, highly impactful, and surprisingly affordable.

Tell us about those Smith.ai products and the company today.

Martin: Smith.ai now operates nationwide, staffed by dozens of receptionists who work from home using Smith.ai’s proprietary software. With the receptionist business thriving and in response to a growing demand for communication services better tailored to the needs of small businesses, Smith.ai has expanded, adding in the last year alone Keypad, a small business VoIP phone system, and Live Website Chat, which makes our professional receptionists available online in addition to over the phone.

Receptionists backed by AI technology deliver friendly service that feels ‘in-house’ at a fraction of the cost, yet they’re far superior to any single human you’d hire in house, thanks to automations within the software that prompt them to make optimal decisions during a call or web chat. Simply put: We hire the best receptionists and then empower them with the best software.
Because this works at scale, small businesses get a service that is actually far superior to their big-company competition, all at a price they can afford.

Most of us, myself included, want to support small businesses, but sometimes it’s a pain because they don’t have their communications ironed out. They sometimes lack responsiveness and professionalism, and this undermines the quality of their work. Smith.ai eliminates a major barrier to working with small businesses by improving their responsiveness to new leads, clients, business partners, vendors, and more.

What kind of customers do you serve and how?

Martin: We’re particularly helpful to service-based professionals like IT consultants, MSPs, agencies, financial advisors, and attorneys. These professionals struggle with a dilemma: interruptions kill productivity, but new and existing clients demand (and deserve) quick response times.

We’re able to not only respond quickly on their behalf, but also route calls based on priority, and take over complete workflows. Meaning, you’re not just going to get a message that a new lead called and it’s on you to call them back when you have a moment. With Smith.ai’s receptionists, we can screen your leads according to your criteria, schedule appointments and consultations with leads who ‘pass’, accept deposits and payments, and complete new client intake, all of which syncs immediately with your software, like your CRM, PSA, calendar, billing, marketing automation, and other programs small businesses rely on. We also filter out spam, sales, and wrong-number calls for free. When you’re paying per-call for our service, compared to a lot of the per-minute offerings out there, that’s important.

I should also mention that one of the obvious pain points for small businesses is keeping costs in check, which is why we offer the option to ring you first and then have our receptionists pick up if you don’t answer within one or two rings. This way, you prevent anyone from reaching the dreaded black hole of voicemail, but pay for fewer calls. It’s an affordable backstop. Also, plans are month-to-month, so there’s no contract. I’m often advising business owners – personal lives aside – to avoid commitment. Your business could look vastly different in 6 months.

As for our VoIP phone system, Keypad, we developed that because there wasn’t a great phone service for people who just want a basic business number and a more professional presence. Lots of small business owners use their cell phones (no privacy or boundaries), Google Voice (free but featureless, with no customer support), or something like RingCentral (dizzying features and higher cost, with offshore support). We’re giving an essential set of features for routing, tracking, and answering calls and texts for $25/month, with U.S.-based support. (Actually, that support team is drawn from our receptionists!) Setup is easy, spam-blocking is included for free, and you can even port your existing business number.

Bottom line: We help small businesses communicate more efficiently and professionally. The result is more qualified leads, happier clients, scalable operations, and improved work/life balance.

What is Smith.ai’s go-to-market strategy?

Martin: We primarily sell directly to businesses (by phone, email, and web). Most business owners and operators hear about us through referrals, so we are quickly expanding opportunities for affiliates and resellers.

Anyone interested in working with Smith.ai on an affiliate or reseller basis is encouraged to contact us at referrals@smith.ai. We have opportunities to resell all three of our services.




Edited by Maurice Nagle


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