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Consumer VoIP: the Future is Features

By Sarah Pieri

 

When evaluating VoIP�s competitive landscape, VoIP providers would do well to consider Blockbuster Video.

Today, Blockbuster�s most serious competition comes not from rival video chains, but from challengers using an entirely different model. Wal-Mart, to name one, sells, at a reasonable price and with no return obligation or associated late fees, the same videos that Blockbuster rents. Online video rental clubs, such as NetFlix, likewise eliminate the late fee threat, and also add the convenience of home delivery. And more convenient still than the online video club is pay-per-view, which places the entire video rental experience in your remote control.

So, too, for VoIP does the most serious competition come not from a direct competitor (i.e., the traditional landline) but from an entirely different model for delivering the same service: the mobile phone. The tech-savvy consumers who would be VoIP adopters have, as they say, �cut the cord.� They�ve abandoned phones tied to the home, and instead rely only on their mobile phones.

How can VoIP compete against the mobile phone? How can VoIP providers offer something of value to those who find home phones quaint?

FEATURES

The untouched potential (marketing and otherwise) for VoIP is features. Most providers don�t take advantage of the �IP� in �VoIP.� Marketing VoIP purely as a cost savings against traditional landlines will not sustain the service in perpetuity � especially as VoIP�s most intense competition comes from mobile phones.






VoIP can offer features of convenience, safety, organization, as well as features, like mobile phones, that bring more dazzle than practical value. Consider the features leading VoIP providers bring their customers today.

One Call, Tell All For wrangling large numbers of people, e-mail is ideal. You send one message to all relevant parties for efficient communication.

Imagine your phone working like your e-mail � instead of making 25 phone calls to reach 25 people, you make one call and reach everyone. VoIP can do just that.

A service, such as one called �One Call, Tell All,� offers incredible time savings. Families can use it to pass along the �what� and �when� of dinner or someone�s status in the hospital. Social networks, like book clubs or soccer teams, can keep the crew organized and informed. And at the work place, applications like One Call, Tell All add another tool to keep the account team in sync.

Content Delivery E-mail news alerts. RSS feeds. And VoIP.

Receiving and managing information is a key part of modern life. VoIP can add another avenue for keeping track of the data that matters most to you. Receive stock quotes or a weather update as a wake-up call. Better still, wake up with a call delivering your horoscope � it�s just as reliable as any weather report.

Reminder Calls

You can tie a piece of string around your finger. Or you can set your oven timer. Or you can even set the alarm on your mobile phone. And while these things may remind you on queue that you�re supposed to remember something, none will tell you what you�re supposed to remember.

Not so with a VoIP reminder call.

A VoIP phone can be programmed to deliver a reminder call with a pre-recorded message. So when your call comes in at 4:30 p.m., you won�t ask yourself, �What did I need to remember?� Your VoIP line will tell you.

Next Generation Call Forwarding

Even a traditional landline allows for call forwarding � the ability to send your calls to another number when you�re away from the house.

VoIP takes it to the next level.

A VoIP line can forward calls to multiple numbers. Expecting an important call but you can�t be at the house? Engage your VoIP line, and it will send all incoming calls to a sequence of numbers you program. So even if you�re not at home and not at your office desk and your mobile phone is out of batteries, the call will find its way to your wife�s mobile phone.

Emergency Link

Imagine your child trying to reach you during an emergency. She tries you at home, gets the answering machine, and then hangs up. Next she tries your mobile phone. No luck. She dials you at work. Or maybe not, because she hasn�t yet memorized all of those numbers.

VoIP can streamline this process and bring an extra bit of security to the household.

A VoIP emergency link system, using VoIP�s advanced call forwarding functionality, allows a caller to activate an emergency routing sequence � separate from your standard call forwarding numbers. If an urgent call reaches your voicemail, the caller can enter a command to start forwarding their call to your list of emergency contacts. With VoIP, your child need remember only one number, and the phone system will track you down.

Call Log

VoIP lines can keep records of all your incoming and outgoing calls for months and make those records available to the user online.

This has more practical applications than you might think.

Obviously, if you forget or lose a phone number, the call log provides easy access to all the numbers calling your VoIP line.

But imagine a lawyer or freelance writer trying to keep accurate billing records. If you�re trying to keep excellent billable hours, a log of who�s called can be quite helpful.

Also, less importantly, remember that argument in which your spouse claimed that you never called or that you called after the fact? With a VoIP call log, such critical questions of fact become easily verifiable.

Online Address Book Today�s home computers allow for an electronic address book. Still, even if your numbers are stored in your PC or Mac, usually those numbers aren�t available online. And there are still a great many among us using paper planners.

If a VoIP user programs numbers into the speed dial, the numbers in that database are always available to the user online. As such, so long as you�ve access to the Internet, you�re never far from your contacts.

Advanced Voicemail First there was the answering machine. Then came voicemail to the workplace. Then voicemail became a consumer product. And now VoIP voicemail.

VoIP allows users to access voicemail online. This enables users to see, on one screen, who called and when they called and whether the caller left a message. Users click on a message icon to hear the voicemail.

This works much more efficiently than listening, one at a time, to every message, whether it comes from a salesman or your mother.

Speak to Dial

When people think of the command, �Call home,� it�s generally associated with Bluetooth-enabled automobiles. VoIP brings this feature to the home phone. Pick-up the receiver and say �Call mom� or �Call granddad,� and your VoIP line will do the rest. Paired with a speakerphone, this makes, for example, making a call during dinner prep so much easier.

Remote Long Distance

VoIP rates are among the most competitive in the world for international calling.

But better still, leading VoIP providers allow their customers to access those rates at home and around town. VoIP users can dial into their home using their mobile phones and make international calls at their VoIP rates.

So the next time a loved one is abroad, a low international rate is as close as your mobile phone.

WHAT�S NEXT?

VoIP is not your old phone run through your cable line. It�s like Blackberry. It�s like instant messenger. It�s like a plasma TV. It�s a must-have technology for staying ahead of the curve. And features are the key to attaining and maintaining that status. IT

Sarah Pieri is director of communications for my people. For more information, please visit the company online at www.mypeople.com.

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