Questions? Call Us: +1 (800) 750 6878

Contact Us

Leave Us A Message Below

What are the Different Toll-Free Area Codes, and is there Any Real Difference?

Everyone pretty much knows today that a 1-800 code means toll-free—and that’s easy: it’s been around forever (well, at least since 1967). But even though a 2006 survey reported that 85% of respondents recognized 866 as a toll-free prefix [1], the internet still gets flooded with hundreds of monthly search queries asking ‘are 866 numbers toll free ‘are 888 numbers toll free’... so evidently, some confusion still persists.

What Are Toll-Free Numbers?

First, let’s get this one out of the way. Toll-free numbers are phone numbers that, when called, get the charges routed to the subscriber rather than to the caller. You can learn more about their origin and evolution in our Brief History of Toll-Free Phone Numbers.

How to Recognize a Toll-Free Prefix/Area Code?

There are 5 active toll-free prefixes in use at the time of this writing: 800, 888, 877, 866, and 855.

You’ll notice that all codes start with the number 8, followed by a double digit—00, 88, 77, 66, and 55. It’s likely that future codes will follow the same pattern.

What will happen after the 8-- series is exhausted is a good question and anybody’s best guess. Maybe a new series will be introduced, or the processing might be tweaked to allow for another digit. Perhaps something completely new will come around. One way or another, there’s still plenty of time before that happens.

Is There Any Real Difference?

That’s a good question. From a strictly utilitarian viewpoint, all toll-free prefixes are equal: they all serve a single function, to facilitate auto-collect-calling, and they all do so in the same manner.

Where there is some practical difference is when things come to people and people's awareness, which is where we started this whole discussion.

The 800 code is by far the most popular. It has had some 30 years to percolate into our collective consciousness and to become virtually synonymous with the idea of toll-free calling. But bona-fide 800 numbers are in short supply nowadays and you’d be hard-pressed to get one.

As for the other contenders, you could follow the same reasoning and assume that an older prefix like 888 has had more exposure and therefore more likely to be recognized—or you could follow other metrics like the 2006 survey mentioned above that suggested 866 experienced a gradual boon. But honestly, these differences are marginal at best and will likely get only more so—so it’s probably not even worth the effort.

Just think about it, how long can it reasonably take before people realize all 8-- codes are simply toll-free, especially when the answer is only a Google search away?

Not very long I reckon, and that day is already overdue.

So the main matter is getting a toll-free number. What number it's going to be is of leaser concern and you may just as well go with whatever the virtual number dispenser happens to spit out. Unless you're in the market for a vanity number; then you should definitely be more picky. Check out Does Your Business Need a Vanity Phone Number? for more information.

Related Articles:

  1. Why Your Business Needs a Toll-Free Phone Number
  2. Does Your Business Need a Vanity Phone Number?
  3. A Brief History of Toll-Free Phone Numbers



Labels: , , , , , ,

posted by Maty Grosman @ 10:36 AM

A Brief History of Toll-Free Phone Numbers

What Are Toll-Free Numbers, and Where Did They Come From?

We all know a Toll-Free number when we see one. Hack, some of us who couldn’t even remember their own phone number if their life depended on it can chirrup the Domino’s Pizza 1-800 as if they'd written the darn jingle themselves!

But the toll-free numbers we know and love today actually had their humble origins in a service called ‘Interstate INWARD WATS’, designed by AT&T way back when Disney’s ‘Jungle Book’ was burning the silver screen and Party Costumes were the latest fad in 1967. You see, back then, if someone called collect (read: had the person he was calling foot the bill), the call was routed to an operator, who had to contact the other party for approval.

The thing is, as more and more collect calls were being placed to businesses, the poor operators simply couldn’t keep up to satisfy the demand. What's more, since no business owner in their right minds would have answered ‘No!’ to incoming business, the need for constant authorization has become redundant, and INWARD WATS was introduced to automate the collect calling process and relieve the operators of this burden.

Little did they know at the time that this new feature was destined to revolutionize the business marketing world only a decade later.

From Niche to Mainstream

Initially the service had a limited appeal because, with the way 800 calls were processed, different numbers had to be used in different states. But in 1981 a new processing method and a centralized data-base surmounted this hurdle and enabled the use of a single 1-800 number flat across the nation. That’s when the full potential of auto-collect-calling became apparent and demand started to sky-rocket.

Shaking-off the Shackles

In 1993, an FCC order severed the link between 1-800 numbers and telephone providers, demanding that all toll-free numbers be portable, and thereby enabling business customers to take their numbers with them when making a switch. This obliterated the last disadvantage as companies no longer had to worry about gearing their advertising around a number that might not be around down the road.

Additional 8-- Prefix Introduced and Others Earmarked for the Future

With 800 combinations fast depleting and an end in sight, the 888 was named as the next official toll-free prefix in 1995. The rest of the 8-- series were reserved for the future. 877 followed in 1998, 866 in 2000, and finally 855 in 2010. That’s the latest at the time of this writing.

Toll-Free Numbers Today

Though the scene has changed dramatically over the 30 or so years since toll-free numbers experienced their first boom, and though today many transactions can be completed over the web without ever picking up the phone, Toll-free numbers still have their place in everyday business—both for practical reasons and for the prestige they’ve gained over the years.

What’s more, with modern advances in telephony technology (such as hosted PBX products and VoIP calling) not only are toll-free numbers easier and cheaper to come by—the entire underlying structure of accepting collect calls is, for the first time, affordable enough to come within the reach of small-business pocketbooks. Now that’s exciting!

To read more about toll-free numbers and how you can get your own, check out the posts below.

Related Articles:

  1. Why Your Business Needs a Toll-Free Phone Number
  2. Does Your Business Need a Vanity Phone Number?



Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

posted by Maty Grosman @ 4:27 PM

Synclio Goes International: New Website Launched in China

Exciting news out of the pipeline here at the Synclio HQ.

We have taken our first virtual step across international waters with the launch of a brand new Chinese website. This is part of a continuous effort to extend our awesome virtual PBX services to international communities just as we do to North American markets. We realize it takes different kinds of people to make the world go round (and not only because we happened to hear that song playing on the radio!)

So if you’re a proficient reader of ancient logograms, a curious cosmopolitan, or perhaps simply a Google robot (*wink wink*), we invite you to sail over to or and enjoy our little slice of the orient.

Feel free to start spreading the word around in any language you can master—sing it, swing it, ring it, ding it, clap it, snap it, yap it... whatever it takes to let your overseas friends know that Synclio's virtual PBX is coming soon into the language near them.

First step China—then, THE WORLD! (*evil laugh*)

One satisfied customer at a time!

Related Posts:

  1. Synclio’s Virtual PBX Free Trial: First 14 Days or First 60 Minutes on us!
  2. Synclio’s Youtube Channel Goes Live with a Brand New Video!
  3. New Code_Swarm Video Depicts Synclio's Software Project Evolution To-Date
  4. What’s ‘Your Business, Anywhere’ Anyway?
  5. Anatomy of a Virtual Phone System: What’s in it, and why you need it?

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

posted by Maty Grosman @ 5:32 PM

13 Tips To Help You Design IVR Menus Better than the Pros

IVR technology is a great concept. An automated phone menu can provide useful information, route calls to the most qualified support person, and even completely automate simple tasks without ever reaching a live agent. So why is it we keep hearing people swearing and moaning as they recount their latest encounter with ‘a machine’?

When not properly executed, automation can become a source of frustration—and sadly the worst offenders are often those big and well-established organizations we, as small business owners, have learned to look up to and take example from. So many of us naively follow in their footprints and perpetuate the very mistakes that got callers plunking out hair—all in the name of enhancing customer service.

Fortunately, planning and executing an effective IVR menu design is really not all that complicated, and these simple tips will have you doing it better than the pros:

  1. Make a clear distinction between information lines and customer support numbers. The first provide automated information (such as transit schedules, tourist information, etc), while the second may provide information but also route calls to live agents. That’s a big distinction, so make sure you advertise the number accordingly. This will ensure people call with the right expectations, making life easier on both ends of the line.

  2. Keep the number of options to a minimum. The figures commonly tossed around are 4-5 at the most. You’d do well shooting for 3. Now, you may point out that some big conglomerates use more, and you’ll be right. But how many of us actually had a good experience calling such companies? Usually the experience is anything BUT positive, and the main reason we stick with them is we don’t really have an alternative (or the alternatives are just as bad). Since your small business hasn’t likely gained such indispensability, you’ll have to work twice as hard to keep customers happy. Because happy customers don’t call the competition.

    Of course, if you’ve done your best to minimize options and you still end up with more, go ahead and use them—this is just a guideline. But your motto should be: the fewer the better.

    • Group items under broad categories and branch out from there. A short root menu with several sub-menus can be much easier to navigate than a single loooonngg menu.

    • Leave complicated tasks to a live agent. Avoid over-automating. If a customer calls with a complex task better get him quickly to someone that can help rather than frustrate him with an IVR overload.

  3. Position common queries first so that as many callers can find what they need as quickly as possible.

  4. Keep prompts short. People can only listen to pre-recorded options for so long before frustration kicks in. Keep things clear, direct, and to the point. You may want to check out our Tips to Help You Record IVR Voice Prompts Like a Pro for some pointers

  5. Don’t forget to leave a way back from sub-menus. Nothing is more frustrating than reaching a dead-end, then having to hang up and call back again.

  6. Include an option to have the prompts repeated. Some people are not as quick as others on the uptake, or may simply get distracted. Make it easy for them to replay your message. If possible, include both the option to go back just a little bit, and to restart right from the top.

  7. Don’t force customers to be polite when interacting with a machine. Patience can be a hard enough virtue to maintain with real people, let alone with an automated service. If your customers know where they need to go and make a selection in mid-sentence—don’t force them to sit through. Skip the recoding and move on (A.I. hasn’t reached the point yet where it might take things personally)

  8. Leave a clear path to a live agent. If the number is listed as customer service number, make sure there’s indeed a person at the end of that pipeline. Otherwise, list it as an info line. (You might want to check out these Seven Deadly Sins of IVR)

  9. Ask only for information you’ll actually require, and use it effectively. We’ve all experienced the frustration of calling a credit-card company and going through the hassle of inputting our card number, expiration code, etc—only to be asked for the same information again when connected to an agent. Why? Your guess is as good as mine.

    CRM integration can help ensure all relevant information is recorded and effectively shared between team members, so customers aren’t repeatedly asked the same questions.

  10. Voice Recognition technology keeps getting better all the time, and incorporating it can certainly increase convenience. Just keep in mind that it’s not flawless and accuracy tends to decrease when used with mobile devices. You’d use it to supplement your touch-tone interface, not to replace it.

  11. Let your employees test-drive your system before it goes live and ask them to provide you with honest feedback. They’ll be able to catch things early on before they become a problem. Plus, familiarity with the calling process will help them later when dealing with customers.

  12. Consider implementing surveys to get first-hand responses straight from your customers. This can lead to some great improvements and, at the same time, show your customers that you care about their experience. You can hire a company to do this for you, or use a service like Survey Monkey and do it yourself.

  13. Find out if your system keeps record of call routing and take time to investigate where customers got stuck, where they had to go back, what prompts they had to repeat, how long they spent resolving an issue, where drop-outs occurred, etc. These can indicate troublesome areas with your system and suggest future design improvements.

Keeping these things in mind when you plan your IVR menu will help you design a simple, user-friendly structure that will make calling support a source of solace rather than frustration to your customers—which is as it should be.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

posted by Maty Grosman @ 4:34 PM

Tips to Improve Voice and Video Call Quality on Skype, Google Voice, and Similar Services

Even the most enduring of cynics must recognize by now that Skype is much more than the cute little video gadget it started out as. With a full set of robust features and functionality that rivals major telecoms—perhaps even surpasses them when video conferencing is taken into account—it’s no wonder many professionals and entrepreneurs have already made it their telephony solution of choice.

What follows equally applies to other VoIP and video service providers, such as Google Voice, iChat, etc.

One thing that might keep more businesses from adopting a similar approach is concerns over consistency and reliability of service. If a home user can tolerate moderate interruptions while chatting with family or friends, a business owner certainly cannot—after all, a dropped call might mean the loss of a customer .

Luckily, by understanding the technology and following a few simple tips, you can eliminate interruptions and ensure the best possible experience for yourself and your clients.

Before we start, Yahoo News featured a great video demonstrating some of the concepts we’ll be discussing. If you’re the ‘seeing is believing’ type, you’ll definitely enjoy their presentation.

Voice quality

There are three common issues when it comes to voice quality: echo, background noise, and distortions (robotic sound/delays/drop-outs/etc)


Echo results when a microphone on one end of the conversation picks up unintended sounds from the other (such as the other person speaking) via the speakers. So the key to reducing or eliminating echo is ensuring your speakers aren’t ‘heard’ by your microphone. This can be done by bring down the volume, increasing the distance between the speakers and the microphone (at least 20 cm according to Skype’s website), or simply using a headset.

Background Noise

The cause of background noise if pretty self evident, and so is the first solution: try to find a quiet spot for conducting your call (don’t call from the humdrum of a busy downtown street and then complain about the noise). Next, if you have more than one microphone connected, such as your built-in mic and a dedicated headset mic, make sure Skype is using the best one (the headset mic in this scenario). You can check this by following ToolsOptions Audio settings.


According to Skype, internet connection is the main reason for this class of problems. While there’s little you can do to increase your connection speed or bandwidth (short of taking matter up with your provider and upgrading your plan), you do have control over how your computer manages these resources. Do you have any streaming video/audio or downloads running while you’re making calls? These three are particularly heavy on bandwidth, so you may want to stop such operations before engaging with the other party.

Lastly, moving closer to your wireless router or plugging an Ethernet cable can improve your connection.

Video Quality

Several factors affect your video call quality. Some, like bandwidth, overlap with Voice quality, while others are particular to video.


Not all webcams are created equally. And yet, while Skype recommends using ‘Skype Certified’ and ‘High Quality’ cameras, your setup and environment will have just as much effect on the final outcome, perhaps even greater. A mediocre camera can look good under the right conditions, just as a super-duper camera can perform very poorly under the wrong ones.

Note that you only have control over your own camera. If the person on the other side hasn’t got things figured out you can only instruct them—or better still, point them to this article ;)

Internet Connection

No matter how you slice it, video is a hungry beast and will eat up lots of bandwidth. What we’ve previously mentioned for voice calling applies here just as well—close any data-hungry applications to reduce your computer’s use of bandwidth. If needed, try plugging an Ethernet cable.

Skype recommends the following minimum internet speed for good video quality:

  • Audio calls: 60kb/s

  • Medium quality video calls: 256kb/s

  • Higher quality video calls: 512kb/s

Computer Speed

A slow computer will have a hard time keeping up with video processing. Close any memory-intensive or processor-intensive applications if you’re experiencing problems. Laptops will tone down performance to conserve battery life when on power saving mode. Try switching to AC power or change the settings to maximize performance.

Skype recommends the following minimum system requirements to ensure good quality:

  • Medium quality video calls: 1GHz processor, 512MB RAM, Windows XP or higher

  • High quality video calls: Intel Core duo or faster, plus a Skype Certified High Quality Video webcam.


Video is a visual medium, and there can be no vision without light. Make sure the space is well lit, and mind the direction light is falling from. A small source that’s very close by will throw heavy shadows. On the other hand, a larger source further away will be more diffused by the time it hits your face.

You especially want to avoid backlight, as it results in a silhouetted effect and no one likes talking to a shadow (well, perhaps except for that gal in the film with Alec Baldwin)


Video calling must deal not only with the nature of video, but also with the nature of internet streaming. The key word here is ‘compression’.

Since only so much data can travel down our virtual pipeline at any given time, and since both video and audio pack lots of data (not to mention the two together), data must be compressed. The software must pick and choose selectively what data must be kept to convey a coherent representation of the source, and what data can be discarded without detracting too much.

The way it’s done, in a sentence, is by flagging several frames each second as ‘key frames’ (how many would depend on the level of compression). These frames are kept intact with all their data. The software then analyzes every subsequent frame for changes against the key-frame. Data identified as changed is kept, while data identified as unchanged is discarded.

Fewer changes result in better compression, smaller packets, and ultimately higher video quality. In contrast, more changes are harder to compress and achieve the opposite result.

(For more info, check out this Video Compression Overview)

To put this into context, if you’re sitting at your desk with a stationary bookcase for a backdrop, the bookcase isn’t going anywhere, so the software can render most of the area once and use the same data thereafter. However, if you sat with a TV set behind you… you get the picture.

For best compression:

  • Use stationary background and try to avoid objects moving behind you.

  • Try to avoid intricate patterns (such as checkers, spirals, etc) on clothing or in the background, as these take harder to compression as well.

  • Ensure plenty of light. Overexposure reduces detail in dark areas, making compression easier. Those details would probably be lost either way.


Keeping these things in mind will help you create an optimal environment and reduce interruptions to a minimum, so that you can enjoy the convenience and savings offered by virtual telephony without sacrificing any of your professional service and appeal.

Related Articles:

  1. Use Synclio’s Virtual PBX with a Skype Number

  2. Use Synclio’s Virtual PBX with Google Voice

  3. Why Did Microsoft Buy Skype, and How Might it Affect Current Users?

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

posted by Maty Grosman @ 6:55 PM

Do You Have a Solid Business Model or are You Building Your Castle in the Air?

It can be tempting to think that you’ve got it all figured out; that your business is ticking like a Swiss clock, or that your new idea is the best thing since sliced bread. Falling in love comes naturally to us humans. But as in Shakespeare, so in business, love has a way of distorting proportions. That’s why we must be careful when flirting with muse and hold up a mirror once in a while to make sure that we’re not being misled.

While many factors contribute to the value of your business model, the bottom line is your bottom line: Profit.

This Doesn’t Apply To Me

Before we start, you know what they say: evasion is often the first sign of a problem.

No human being is infallible or omniscient. We all have something we could learn, and any one of us is capable of error.

If you think you’re out of the woods simply because you’ve managed to secure funding or go into operation and it’s only the young and the inexperienced that fall prey to elementary mistakes—think again.

One needs look no further than Pandora's tell of woe for an example. Here’s a company that’s been around for some 10 years, whose earnings and operations run up millions of dollars, who’s got a great service everyone has raved about at one point or another...and yet, who still hasn’t made it out because they cannot become profitable (more on this later).

It’s not an isolated case either. Recent history is full of companies that went up and under, all the way back to the dot com bubble. So it never hurts to re-examine your math. A reality check now can save a lot of heartache later.

One Golden Rule: Profit is Fundamental

People can go into business for various reasons: thirst for challenge, need for a diversion, scratch an itch, or simply to put the kids through college. These are all equally valid from a personal standpoint. But economically, a business can only have one purpose: to turn in a profit. Anything else, by definition, is not a business.

Investors’ money will do you no good if, at the end of the day, all you can do is spend it. The term ‘investment’ presupposes a return, as distinguished from a ‘charitable donation’.

So look carefully at your business model and ask yourself how it’s going to be monetized. Make sure that your strategy is viable. The best idea or innovative service will be worthless if you can’t make it profitable.

Take Groupon and the social buying concept. It sounds like a great idea on the face of it, but the numbers tell a different story. Sure, some such ‘new ideas’ can generate enough hype and sell for millions of dollars even without having the right foundation—fulfilling their originator's dreams of early retirement—but that sort of scheme always depends on a ‘greater fool’ to come around.

If your goal is to build a long-term sustainable business that would bring real value rather than start passing a hot potato around, you can’t do it without profit.

This might sound elementary—but it’s been the breaking of many enterprises, large and small.

There is no ‘New Economy’ where the old rules no longer apply

This comes up time and again in different manifestations. The basic idea is that some new technology comes around, or a new environment is created, and people start thinking that all previous knowledge is irrelevant. But that’s just typical pragmatism.

Fundamentals are Fundamental. They do not change with new fads any more than the laws of physics alter when you adopt a different style of architecture.

What held true in the past will hold true today—otherwise, that knowledge isn't fundamental.

For an example of this today, look at the App Store Gold rush. Here’s what author and independent telecom consultant Tomi T. Ahonen had to say about it in his blog:

"The free apps hysteria is totally a repeat of the previous tech bubble, the dot-com bust of year 2000-2001. Suspending all market realism, believing that magical billion download numbers of free content somehow have created an alternate economy where normal rules do not apply."

It’s easy to fall into this trap, especially with pressures mounting all around to stay relevant and get noticed in our increasingly virtual world. But unfortunately the first thing out the window in this case is profit.

Growth CANNOT Substitute Profit

The notion that ‘Growth’ can substitute Profit was particularly popularized during the dot com bubble, and still persists today.

Back then, as the internet grew popular and online presence peaked—a new objective emerged: to garner new users. Companies came up with dozens of free schemes, products, and services aimed at attracting new customers, with not a thought given to how this mass of users will be converted into a profitable bottom-line. The implicit idea was that, once users have been accumulated, profit would somehow magically appear (not unlike the half-naked Indian in the movie ‘Wayne’s World’ saying ‘If you book them, they will come’—perhaps just as hallucinatory)

Today, with the popularity of social platforms and the heavy investment in online marketing, it’s perhaps more important than ever to keep this in mind. Sure, you want to have presence and get noticed—but not if it's going to cost you your arms and legs!

The goal of marketing isn't to cripple your business but to ultimately promote your well-being.

This is not to say that building a strong base of dedicated users can’t be a powerful auxiliary on your way to realizing wealth, only that you must have a clear idea of how you’ll manage the conversion.

Earnings vs. profit

It’s also easy to get lost in figures. In order to really evaluate the health of your business, it’s not enough only to look at your earnings. It’s important that you factor in all your costs and expenses to ensure your bottom line remains profitable. In fact, not only profitable, but profitable enough to realize your long term personal and business goals.

If you look at Pandora, their business model did account for revenue streams by incorporating ads into free accounts and offering ad-free premium accounts. But, according to SoundExchange spokeswoman Laurie Anderson as quoted on Cnet, they miscalculated the ratio of the revenue generated by this scheme to their operating costs (primarily the per-spin copyright license fees), and failed to make growth count. That is, to translate ‘more users’ into ‘more revenue’. This suggests a flaw with their initial business model.


So whether you’ve just began exploring a new idea or already headlong into running your new venture, it’s never too late or too early to re-evaluate your plan. Just like a navigator keeps consulting his charts with an eye on the horizon, so you'd be wise to do keep rechecking your course if you're to arrive at your desired destination.

Did you account for viable revenue streams? Are they enough to get you profitable? Did you get caught up in the rush to subscribe new users and forgot to cover your own bases?

These are just a few of the questions that can help you stay on course.

If there’s one thing history has taught us is that it tends to repeat itself, and perhaps the fact that it does means some of us can’t learn even that. But you can avoid this vicious cycle by simply learning from the past.

Good luck!

Related Posts:

  1. Mobile App vs. Mobile Web: Which is Right for Your Business?

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

posted by Maty Grosman @ 11:48 AM

There’s Always a First Time...

Hi everybody,

We’ve just experienced a brief outage of about an hour here at Synclio. The good news is that our systems have recovered and our services are coming back up.

We really apologize for the inconvenience. Minor outages are unfortunately somewhat like flat tires on the road: annoying, inconvenient, preventable to some extent--but ultimately unavoidable to anyone spending a significant amount of time along the highways.

Our goal is to be good little mechanics and fix things as quickly and efficiently as possible so that you can get on with your trip.

If you’re still experiencing any problems, please call our main number at 800.750.6878 anytime, 24/7, and we’ll dispatch our virtual AAA truck right away!

Again, we extend a huge ‘Thank You’ to our awesome customers for being so patient and understanding going past this hurdle. You're the best!

Team Synclio

Labels: ,

posted by Maty Grosman @ 7:07 PM

Mobile App vs. Mobile Web: Which is Right for Your Business?

Many business owners must’ve scratched their heads to a premature bald spot considering this question—and with good reason: there are an estimated 5.3 BILLION mobile subscribers worldwide (77% of the world’s population), with smartphone sales exploding. That’s a big audience, and who wouldn’t want in on such action?

The promise increases when we hear stories of basement developers who have struck gold overnight in the app store gold-mine, and the pressure escalates still when, looking around, it seems that everyone is coming out with a cool new app.

But the question remains—do YOU need one?

First, a few basic questions

There are different ways to reach the new mobile frontier, so it’s important to ask a few preliminary questions before you set out.

In an interview with, principal analyst at Forrester, Ian Fogg, suggested starting by taking a hard look at your clients and asking yourself:

  1. How many of them are using smartphones?

  2. How likely are they to use them for your service?

For instance, say you own a local bakery. It might seem like a cool idea to get a nifty little app that would let people run a finger through your menu and place orders—but these things can just as easily be done over the phone or through your website (more on that later).

Even if most of your clients use smartphones, it’s not very likely they’ll go out of their way to use your app, or that it would greatly enhance their experience if they did. Contrast this with an interactive service that can benefit from the enhanced integration with phone features, and you start seeing the difference.

Don’t go about it backwards

Next, you need to identify your objective, needs, and the available options. It’s been said time and again that an app represents a mobile tactic, not a mobile strategy. Tactic is a specific course of action aimed at achieving a given end. It comes at the culmination of a strategic process. But to formulate a solution, one must first articulate the problem. That’s where the following questions come in handy:

  1. What do you hope to achieve by going mobile?

  2. Who are your customers? What are their habits, social/financial standing, computer literacy, etc?

  3. What will the app offer clients? How will it enhance their experience?

  4. What available solutions can help you achieve that?

Your Options

Once you’ve answered the first three questions you'll be ready to assess your options. The three commonly available means of reaching a mobile audience are:

  1. SMS/MMS

  2. Mobile Website

  3. Mobile Apps

SMS and MMS are geared at people who communicate predominantly (if not solely) via text messaging, either because they do not own a smartphone and/or data-plan, or because they prefer it that way. If that’s your audience, you might very well have to look no further.

But since we’re writing primarily for the data-hungry North American audience, we’ll assume you have your sights on a more feature-rich experience and focus on the last two.

The Financial Post featured a one-page brochure designed by Buy Sell Ads Inc. that did a great job of pinning them against one another in a visually simple and concise manner.

Mobile Apps

Mobile apps are all the rage now. Popularized by Apple’s iPhone and App Store, who’ve since become the poster-child for Mobile Apps in general (even though many other players—from manufacturers like Samsung, Nokia, and HTC; to alternate platforms like Google’s Android and Windows 7—hold a significantly larger market share)

As outlined by Aaron Maxwell at Mashable, Apps fall into two categories:

  1. Apps built for revenue generation (i.e. the App is your business)

  2. Apps created as a marketing tactic, to improve branding, or to provide a service. (i.e. the App promotes or enhances your business)

In the first case the app is sold and the revenue makes up your pay check.

In the second, apps are usually offered for free download, as the goal is to maximize market penetration.

Since this article assumes you are a business owner thinking of branching into mobile rather than a developer venturing to join the App Store gold-rush, we'll limit the discussion to the latter.

For the first, we’ll just say that—unless you have a truly fresh concept that’s relevant and needed, or unless you require the specific technology (GPS, motion sensors, etc) to realize your vision—you may find hitting gold much harder than it sounds. At the very least, read Tomi T. Ahonen’s excellent analysis of the subject before you take up your pickaxe—or worse, start committing capital. It may be a year old, but it’s still very relevant.


  • Use more robust and engaging graphics

  • Incorporate unique phone features (such as GPS, motions sensors, etc)

  • Native phone environment enables faster response time and overall an enhanced feature-rich experience.


  • Expensive: $15,000 - $35,000 (for iPhone) + updates & maintenance

  • Different platforms require separate apps

  • Exclusive: Picking one audience means shunning another, unless you develop an app for every platform.

The strength of mobile apps is that they reside on the phone and can therefore offer a level of performance and interactivity a mobile website simply cannot match. However, this comes at a price—a steep one. So make sure you really need the advantage of those benefits before marching ahead.

As mentioned in the Buy Sell Ads brochure, an app can only serve three purposes: utility, content, or entertainment. Of the three, utility and entertainment are worthy candidates that can indeed benefit from the added features, but content can almost always be enjoyed just as well from a mobile website. (As a case in point, most big newspapers offer both mobile apps and mobile websites, and while I’ve downloaded the respective mobile apps on my iPhone 4, I find that I'm still more likely to use the mobile site than launch the app)

Further, with an app you target a niche audience that represent a mere fraction of all mobile users. In 2010, the 80 Million or so iPhones in use represented a mere 13% of all installed smartphones. This means that, if you designed an app for the iPhone, you automatically excluded 87% of the worldwide market (97% when considering featurephones and SMS/MMS capable devices in addition to smartphones) [Source]

Now, it may be that the audience for your particular product or service happens to favor the iPhone. With that knowledge, making an exclusive iPhone app can be perfectly sensible. But that’s why knowing your audience and formulating a strategy is so crucial.

You could, of course, create a dedicated app for every platform—but that can run into prohibitive costs (as much as $100,000 and upwards), so again, just be sure you’re prepared and know ahead of time what you’re getting yourself into. The last thing you want is to start a development project that will never see it to completion (that's more in the vein of City hall)

That said, here are a few more reasons you might decide to opt for an App:

  • You or your team members have the skills to develop a professional app. This can certainly cut your costs and make it a worthwhile effort.

  • Your customers have expressed the desire to have one (this at least warrants some consideration).

  • You’re big enough so that it will be noticed if you don’t have one.

  • You want to be perceived in a certain way (just make sure you can afford the impression)

Mobile Websites

A mobile website is a streamlined version of your regular sites, specifically designed with mobile use in mind.


  • Cheaper to develop: ~$3,000

  • Usable across platforms

  • More than adequate for most content based use


  • Limited features and graphics

  • Can run a bit slower than an app

  • Depends on web connectivity

A mobile website is an excellent alternative to apps in many cases. By all accounts, while individual figures vary, mobile websites are significantly cheaper to develop—but even assuming the cost of initial development would equal that of a mobile app, just the fact that it's accessible by all platforms makes it a far more affordable choice down the road.

In some cases, if your service requires special features or interactivity, a mobile site might not do—but be sure that you really do need those features.

In the quoted blog, Tomi T. Ahonen suggested you start from the broad market, and proceed to zero in as needed. That is, start with a mobile web app to reach the widest audience for a relatively low investment, and then develop dedicated apps to target specific platforms if deemed necessary.

This certainly sounds like a sensible approach.

Build your own using do-it-yourself tools

Lastly, if you’re the owner of that local bakery we mentioned at the beginning and find it makes no economical sense for you to have a dedicated app professionally developed, you might still feel an itch to test the water. That’s where tools like AppMakr ($199 according to Cnet, though the website says Free so the terms may have changed since the 2010 review), My App Builder ($29/month), or iBuildApp (Free!) can come in handy.

These products basically let’s you choose from several templates and incorporate different features. The good part is that they require no programming skills and no (or very little) capital investment. The not-so-good part is that reviewers are not always raving, and you should obviously manage your expectations (don't set yourself to failure by thinking you'll end up with a state-of-the-art ultra-sophisticated virtual gadget—this is more for the 'simple and functional' approach)

But still, if you wanted to try building an app by yourself without risking your pants—this definitely can’t hurt. At the very least it would help test the demand—and if things pick up, you'll always be able to into professional development.

Check out this post from for a great rundown of app building tools with summaries and videos.


So while the decision would ultimately depend on your individual circumstances, you definitely shouldn't jump on the mobile app bandwagon simply because everyone seems to do it, or because it’s cool, or because you feel like you have to...

Do your research, ask questions, come up with answer, and formulate your strategy.

If you still find at the end that app is the way to go—by all means, go ahead and develop one. If you find that your goals can be achieved with a mobile site or that you needn’t really go mobile at all, you might just save yourself a hunk of change.

It's understandable that you want to keep your business on the cutting edge—just keep in mind that those plastering the poster boys are in business too so you don't fall easy prey to marketers.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

posted by Maty Grosman @ 11:31 AM

What’s ‘Your Business, Anywhere’ Anyway?

So you’ve seen our motto. Nice eh?

Now you want to know what the heck we mean, so let’s roll up our sleeves and delve in to uncover poetic intentions:

What is Your Business?

What makes your business YOUR business? What defines it and gives it an identity?

If you think of it, a business is really a system of managing resources to deliver a certain service or product.

This gives us three classes of constituents—Resources, Method, and Product.

Resources are the elements you use or manipulate to deliver/produce your service or product. These include Staff, Funds, Equipment, Raw Materials, Real-estate, etc.

Method is the way you go about delivering or producing said service or product. Here you have the back-end stuff (which includes everything from the manufacturing or creative processes to boring old accounting) and the front-end stuff—the last mile that comes in contact with your customers. Your front-end includes sales, support, customer-service, etc, which are inspired by your corporate values and philosophy.

Product/Service is the end value you have to offer.

While all three make up your business, it is the method that shapes out who you are as a corporate entity. And if the back-end is responsible for shaping the tangible aspect of who you are—the ‘what’ you’ll have to offer—the front-end is responsible for the ‘personal’ aspect of who you are—or for ‘how’ you will offer it.

Together, they make up your identity.

So where’s ‘Anywhere’, how do I get there, and how can I bring my business along?

Now that we’ve established what defines your business, let’s examine the second part.

Anywhere is short for any place, any time, any way... let's just call it 'Freedom'.

If your business is defined by your method, taking your business anywhere means maintaining your method no matter where you are and providing the same level of experience to your customers and to your employees regardless of your geographical location.

Traditionally, service-oriented businesses were tied to a physical office primarily because employees had to access the necessary equipment, stay interconnected, and maintain a uniformed front—all to provide a consistent level of productivity and service.

Today, however, much of this has changed. Personal computers have grown robust enough to process the most demanding tasks and affordable enough to become a staple in every purse (this includes male-purses).

So, perhaps with the exception of manufacturing , equipment today no longer poses a problem to mobility. This leaves us with maintaining uniformity and inter-connectivity: letting employees that work from different geographical locations plug into a single hub and collaborate as if they were in the same room.

Cloud technology enables just that.

Many different software programs have emerged to take your back-end up to the cloud—anything from documents (Google Docs, Dropbox) to CRM applications.

A virtual PBX does the same for your front-end, becoming the digital hub your employees can plug into for all their communication needs.

A single toll-free number becomes your uniformed professional front, and all calls are subsequently routed in accordance with your custom call rules to reach the designated person(s).

In an office environment, you sometimes have to transfer a customer to another department, or to put them on hold while you dial a different extension. A cloud-based system lets you do exactly the same thing, no matter if the other person happens to be across the hall, across the road, or across the ocean. Your customers and employees will enjoy exactly the same experience as if he was sitting in the next room using a traditional system.

And because all tools and data are up there in the cloud, you don’t even have to carry around any fancy equipment—just a single device that can get you online.

This not only frees your regular employees to work from home or to stay connected while on the road, it also means you can think bigger and in certain cases outsource tasks overseas, creating your very own transatlantic team that will beat with your core values and philosophy.


Technology is finally ready to unshackle us from old constructs and break the bonds of physical locality. The globe has become a tiny little ball really; snap your fingers, and you'll almost as easily land anywhere you like. Now, your business can follow.

We’ll give you the tools. Just add your personal touch and take Your Business, Anywhere.

Related Articles:

  1. Beat the Traffic—Forever: A Virtual PBX Phone System Can Help You Migrate Your Office to the Cloud

  2. Anatomy of a Virtual Phone System: What’s in it, and why you need it?

  3. Why Your Business Needs a Toll-Free Phone Number

  4. The Benefits of Visual Voicemail: Seeing is the New Hearing

  5. 5 Reasons Virtual Systems are taking over the Physical World

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

posted by Maty Grosman @ 11:49 AM

Does Your Business Need a Vanity Phone Number?

If you’ve read Why Your Business Needs a Toll-Free Phone Number (or if you just happen to be exceptionally intelligent, handsome, and available) you already know why you definitely need a regular toll-free number.

But now, the next question is do you need a Vanity number?

In a perfect world where everything is free this question would have been redundant. The simple answer would have been a resounding ‘of course!’ But since down here on earth things are not quite as peachy, Vanity numbers (like most other things) come at a price, and we must find out what advantages, if any, a Vanity number has over plain vanilla toll-free numbers to determine if any of them apply in your case.

What’s the difference?

Vanity numbers are technically exactly the same as regular toll-free numbers: a three digit prefix, followed by seven additional digits. The difference only becomes apparent when you consider the letters assigned to each number on your alpha-numeric keypad. Unlike the plain vanilla variety, where the seven digits have been randomly snapped together, your moca-frappoccino-mango-latte-with-a-twirl vanity number has been carefully selected to spell out a message— like ‘WHY COOK’, ‘FLOWERS’, or ‘WE PAINT’.

This message serves two purposes:

Establish Your Brand

In a fun and whimsical way, the words create an associative thought that reflects both the nature of your business AND your corporate identity. For instance, 'WHY COOK’ suggests ‘Hey, why bother cooking when you can hire us to cook for you!’ This evidently indicates a catering business, but it also suggests a fun and friendly personality behind the counter. Talk about hitting two birds with one tone!

Reduce Units of Information, Ease Perception

Everything has limits. This includes human perception. We can only process so many distinct units of information at a time before they’re simply registered as ‘many’—that’s just our brain’s method of compression (just like a computer)

To bring this lofty philosophical discussion down to our earthly problem, by switching the perceived objects from numbers to letters (or words) we’ve essentially reduced the amount of data your prospects have to process from seven units (the digits in a phone number) to a single word or a phrase.

See the benefits yet?

1+1=2, or Making Memorization a Snap

While vanity numbers share in all the benefits of toll-free numbers, the switch from random figures to coherent words adds the further advantages of eased perception and associative thinking. The combined effect makes memorization a snap.

Who needs them?

So now that we know why and where vanity numbers have a leg over the plain vanilla variety—the question remains: do YOU need to go out on a limb and get one?

We can work our way backwards by asking where memorization might play a crucial part.

Advertising on the Run

If your advertising efforts mostly target people when they’re on the run (radio ads, billboards, car bumpers, etc), time is of the essence. Your prospective clients might only hear or glimpse your ad for a few seconds, so you want to make memorization as quick and as easy as can be.

This is different from a newspaper or a website, where the number is right there in front of their eyes and isn’t going anywhere.

Primarily Relying on the Phone for Sales

Perhaps more generally, if you’re offering a service that relies heavily on the phone more than on any other source of traffic (website, etc), a vanity number might be a worthwhile investment. This is usually the case with trades and other local services (as opposed to internet based firms, for instance, who may be found online through search engines or ads).

Who might do without them?

Reversing the above, if you mainly advertise via traditional channels such as newspaper ads, classifieds, yellow pages, etc, chances are any interested prospects will be able to make a note of your phone number or simply tear out the relevant page (not that we encourage this, unless you own the paper kids), so memorization is not as crucial.

Likewise, if you own a web-based business with an online shopping cart you could probably do without one, as your customers likely use your website more than your phone.

That said, just because it’s not crucial doesn’t mean it can’t be helpful, so you may still want to get one just the same.

Where do I get one?

Vanity numbers can usually be ordered directly from your virtual PBX provider, or from a third party like and ported over. If you own one already, it can be ported over as well. Most providers will even set you up with a temporary toll-free just to get you going until you actually get the vanity number you have ordered.

A word of caution: read the merchant’s policy before ordering a vanity number to make sure that it’ll actually be yours to own, not only to rent for as long as you’re subscribed to their service. Things can change down the road, and you don't want to be 'married' to a provider simply because all of your advertisements and contacts are tied to their number.


While vanity numbers can be a great asset in some cases, their edge might be a bit duller in others. Ultimately, a onetime fee of $50 (give or take) is not so prohibitive for a number that's yours for life, so you may choose to get one just to be on the safe side.

Labels: , , , , , ,

posted by Maty Grosman @ 8:29 AM

Use Synclio’s Virtual PBX with Google Voice

Not too long ago we blogged that you can Use Synclio’s Virtual PBX with a Skype Number. What we forgot to mention (or perhaps held back intentionally to squeeze out another blog post *evil smile*) is that the same applies to Google Voice.

Simply use your Google Number when setting up the service, and Synclio will automatically treat it as it does any other landline or cell-phone number. This lets you enjoy all the awesome features of Synclio’s virtual PBX while taking full advantage of Google’s cheap VoIP service. Wait—did I just say ‘cheap’? Scratch that—I meant to say ‘Free'

Google Voice offers free calling in the US and Canada (at least until the end of 2011) and ultra-low rates to all other destinations across the globe, rivaling even those offered by Skype.

At the very least, this should pique your interest. We’re not only talking about empowering you to give major telecoms the boot, we’re talking about challenging the most renowned VoIP telephony provider to date!

This may be fast turning into a phone-eat-phone world full of cut-cord competition—but hey, as consumers, we only stand to gain from seeing a good dog-fight!

So seat back, enjoy the show, and reap the benefits—starting with a brand new virtual PBX phone system from Synclio with free VoIP calling courtesy of Google Voice.

Now that's sweet!

To learn more about the common features of a virtual phone system, check out our 'Anatomy of a Virtual Phone System: What’s in it, and why you need it?'

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

posted by Maty Grosman @ 11:49 AM

Organize Business Receipts: How to Create a Simple Filing System to Keep All Your Business Receipts Organized

There are many reasons to keep your business receipts organized and ready at hand, from tax audits to insurance claims and product warranty issues. The problem is coming up with a simple and effective system that’s easy to maintain, so that you don’t just end up cramming them all into your pocket to be dealt with on some ‘deferred’ date.

There can be different ways to arrive at the same end. The method I’ll be sharing with you today is an old secret that has passed down in my family from generation to generation (well, to be more precise, I’ve learned it from my girlfriend, who took it from her ex... so 'stolen secret' and 'extended family' might be more appropriate). What's awesome is it's cheap, simple, and effective.

At the end of this tutorial, you’ll have all those loose receipts housed in a single binder that spans a full tax-year. So let's get down to it!

What you’ll need:

  • A sturdy 4" D-ring binder ($12 - $21 at Office Depot)
  • A set of tabbed dividers with an index page ($3 - $8.50 from Avery or Office Depot)
  • A few 8.5” x 11” transparency films (Optional. Preferably compatible with your printer. Inkjet $17.50/20 sheets at B&H)
  • Plain 8.5" x 11" paper sheets (preferably recycled)
  • A stapler with staples
  • A three hole puncher

What you’ll do:

  1. Separate bills from other receipts.

    Your bills are expenses that occur on a regular basis and usually carry a statement. These include Electricity, Internet Service, Phone/Cellular, Rent, Property Tax, etc.

    Other expenses consist of purchases made on an as-needed basis: food, equipment, supplies, etc.

    It’s a good idea to separate the two for easy reference down the road (see below)

  2. Organize your receipts.

    It hurts, it burns, it’s terrifying—but you’ll have to face this task sooner or later, so might as well get it out of the way right now.

    Don’t skim on it either, least you’ll have to redo the work all over again. Dedicate ample time. Crank up your favorite music. Order some take out. Perhaps invite a friend or a colleague to join you—whatever it takes to put yourself in a good space and make the experience less painful.

    Once you’re ready, start going over the receipts and separating them by categories and dates. Your categories can be general at this point, like ‘Vehicle’ or ‘Computer’, and you’ll probably start getting a better sense of the categories you’ll end up having as you move along.

    Once that’s finished, look over the groups of receipts you’re left with and ask yourself if some categories can be merged, and others re-categorized more accurately (for instance, ‘Vehicle’ and ‘Gas’ might go under the broader ‘Transportation’, and Computer and Printer might go under ‘Electronics’ or ‘Equipment’).

    How broad or narrow each of your categories should be will depend on the nature of your business. For instance, if you own an IT company that relies heavily on electronics, you might want to break ‘Electronics’ further down and be more specific, as opposed to someone who runs a trade, for instance, and only uses one computer for database. He, on the other hand, might find Transportation a bit too broad (etc).

    Ultimately, you’ll have to exercise personal judgment. The goal is to be able to think of something and know exactly where you’d look to find it.

  3. Prep your index page and tabbed dividers.

    Now that you’ve honed in on your categories, it’s time to put together your index page and tabbed dividers. The index page gives you an overview of your entire binder, so you could quickly run a finger down and find whatever you need. Think of it as the table of contents in a book. The dividers separate the different sections. Think of them as the chapters.

    Avery sells different-sized sets, from as little as 5 tabs to as many as 32. I find 12-15 a good number. More, and the index page starts feeling a bit cluttered and heavy on the eyes. (I’d just as soon use two shorter sets than a long one, but this might be a personal preference)

    If you’ve come up with a lot of categories, consider putting your regular bills on one set, and all other expenses on another. This will keep the presentation cleaner and enable easy reference. Again, play around until you find a setup you feel comfortable with.

  4. Label the index page.

    Some index pages come with pre-printed categories, but I find this can be limiting and suggest you buy blank ones and enter your own titles. This will ensure they're best tailored to your needs.

    Next, instead of writing directly on the index page, consider using a transparency film. This will give you the flexibility to make changes in the future or to repurpose the entire tab set and index page down the road. On the other hand, should you mark the index page and later on wish to make some changes, your only remedy would be whiteout or buying a new set.

    The actual labeling can be done by hand or printed out. I find printing gives a cleaner look. If you decide to use a transparency sheet, look for a brand that’s compatible with your printer.

  5. Do the same for your bills statements.

    Here the matter is even simpler as you need not fuss with categories. Simply enter a description of the bills on the index page. When you proceed to file the appropriate statements under each section, you’ll have one or two statement per month at the most (depending if it’s monthly, bi-weekly, quarterly, etc

  6. Putting it all together.

    Now comes the fun part (well, fun considering what we’re doing). With your receipts organized according to categories and dates, and with your binder labeled, we can finally start filing the receipts.

    Starting with the first category, take a sheet of blank or recycled A1 paper, three-hole punch it, write the corresponding month at the top (i.e. January), and staple the receipts to one side of the paper (the blank side, if using recycled sheets). Keep it neat and don’t overcrowd the page. Four per sheet is a good number; two if the receipts are long. If there are more receipts for a given month, start another page.

    Now, depending on your patience and the volume of your receipts, you can elect to organize them in an ascending order within each month, or simply group them with no internal order.

    Going this extra step will obviously make future reference easier, but it would also require more of your time right now. I’d say it’s only really necessary when you have a lot of receipts for a given month under a category (say, more than two pages). But again, you need to find your own comfort level.

    Once you have finished attaching all the receipts and filing them under the appropriate category, make sure you add enough blank sheets of paper for the coming months (one for each month), and insert a few more at the back of the binder for quick access should you need them.

  7. What to do if you’ve got multiple categories on a single receipt?

    To the best of your ability, try to keep your filing system in mind while shopping and to separate purchases on different bills. It becomes intuitive as you grow more accustomed to your system.

    However, at times you’ll still run into this situation, and you can choose one of two options.

    •The simplest and most organized way is to make a photocopy of the relevant receipt and file a copy under both section, highlighting the relevant item.

    • The other (somewhat more involved) option is to file the receipt under one of the sections, and make a note under the other with reference to the item and section the receipt was filed under.


So now you have an organized binder housing all your business receipts and expenses that’s easy to maintain and refer to. The hard part was putting it all together. Going forward, if you just keep updating it on a regular basis—every day, or at least once a week—with just a little bit of discipline, you’ll never have to suffer rampant receipts ever again.

Next tax season—or if your printer suddenly breaks down—instead of running around like a headless chicken shouting “Where is it?! Where is it?!” you’ll simply walk over to your desk cool as a cucumber, pick up your neat new binder, and hand it over to your accountant (or pull out the receipt for your printer and head over to the local Office Depot).

Now that’s classy!

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

posted by Maty Grosman @ 5:08 PM

Tips to Help You Record IVR Voice Prompts Like a Pro

So you’ve just treated yourself to a brand new virtual PBX phone system. Dandy! Grab a piece of newspaper and rustle it in your ear to get that sweet sensation of unwrapping a present. Now, with all that shopping adrenaline out of your system, you may find an old friend has dropped in for a visit—that same old stage fright that got you all mumbling as Romeo back in junior high and everyone else asking ‘is he doing Macbeth?’

But not to worry, before you start questioning ‘to be or not to be’, here are a few tips that will quickly help you get the performance of a pro.


To Record or not To Record...Yourself

The first decision to make is whether you'll record your own voice or that of a colleague, or delegate the task to a professional altogether.

Recording Yourself (I'll be my own talent!)

This is a good choice if you feel you've got the voice for it, or perhaps a co-worker who sings like a canary.

The Benefits

  • Low cost

  • Flexibility to change prompts in the future

  • Control over quality

You’ll Need

  • A computer

  • A microphone, or your Phone

  • A quiet room

  • A script

  • A voice


  • While Synclio’s virtual PBX gives you the freedom to record right from your phone, it’s best to use a computer with a microphone whenever possible to avoid distortions that may occur during the call.

  • Use a quiet room with no background noise (turn off the AC, get away from the fridge or any humming lights—you’ll be surprised at the amount of white noise we filter out on a regular basis.)

  • Speak louder than you normally would, this will force you to articulate. But DON’T speak slower—people will grow tired, especially if it’s the type of menu they’ve heard a hundred times before.

  • If your IVR menu features unique choices in an otherwise standard menu, or if you have made recent changes to the call options, make sure you state this at the beginning of your recording so that callers will know not to skim through the message.

  • Likewise, try to position such choices as early on as possible so as not to force callers to sit through the entire menu they already know by heart to arrive at the relevant part.

  • Spend time on your script. Make sure it’s as clear and concise as possible while covering all options and extensions. At the same time, maintain a friendly tone, and don’t be afraid to inject something personal to stand out. A touch of personality can identify you and your business.

  • Train your voice. You might feel a bit tense or strained at the beginning. Take your time and give it a few trials until you feel it starts flowing more naturally. Listen to the recordings and keep trying until you are happy—that’s the advantage of being your own talent. You can take all the takes it takes (now try saying that three times fast!)

  • Find out what file-types are supported by your provider, and whether there is a size limit. Use the highest quality audio possible (.wav or equivalent if supported)

Hiring Voice Talent (ok...I may need some help after all)

Hiring professional help is a good choice if no one you know is much of an orator (don’t worry, that’s right here with the rest of us 90% of the population—they don’t call it talent for no reason).

The Benefits

  • Professional quality

  • Guaranteed results (offered by certain companies)

  • Fast turnaround

  • No need for equipment

  • Available in multiple languages

You’ll Need

  • A script

  • A Wallet


  • Look around until you find a company that offers the right balance between features and cost. Get a few different quotes. A company charging significantly less or more than the average for no apparent reason may better be avoided.

  • Check freelancing sites like elance or oDesk for freelance voice-actors that may fit the job and the bill. These can often be more affordable, as you’re dealing directly with the individual instead of an agency, but always be sure you ask for samples (and don't be too cheap. As with everything, you'll get what you pay for)

  • Make sure the agency or contractor understands your needs, and that you understand what they are willing to commit to.

  • Find out in advance if their service is guaranteed, and if so, under what terms.

  • If you require multi-lingual recordings, make sure that’s been discussed and accounted for in the quote.

  • Be specific about any special intonations or pronunciations in your script (for technical words, proper names, etc)

  • Discuss the desired tone and effect with your talent. Especially if using independent voice-actors, as they may be predisposed to conveying emotional characteristics (such as overt enthusiasm, if they come from radio) that may not be right for what you're doing. Try to aim for a friendly but neutral tone, unless you have specific reason to do otherwise (be careful though. It's only a phone menu. Make it functional.)

  • Inquire about their policy for recording future changes. Try to secure the rate in advance. Some companies will try to take advantage of the fact you’re now ‘tied’ to their voice talent and charge a higher rate when you come back.

Use Text to Speech Software (What about A.I.?)

TTS (Text-to-speech) computer products are a great idea, but have limited realism. This makes them suitable for situation where quality is not paramount, such as IVR menus for internal use by employees, or for tasks that call for short phrases like naming numbers or letters—but likely not for delivery of full-length passages to the public (unless you don't mind sounding like robocop).

The Benefits

  • Highly adjustable. Can easily be changed or updated.

  • No need for, or reliance on, voice talent

  • No recording equipment required

You’ll Need

  • A computer

  • A Script

  • A Wallet (ok, this joke’s getting old)


  • Carefully assess whether or not a TTS product will suite your needs.

  • Compare products to arrive at a balance between cost and features that you feel comfortable with.

  • In some cases you can consider supplementing voice talent with TTS. For instance, if certain parts of your menu will be fixed while others may be frequently updated, or to avoid recording short individual phrases like numbers or letters. In such cases, try to make sure ahead of time that the voice of your voice-talent closely resembles that of your TTS product.

So you see, recording IVR prompts is really not all that complicated. You likely have all the equipment you'll need right before you this very minute. All that remains is finding your voice, jotting down some notes, and perhaps adding a smidgen of creativity.

Good luck!

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

posted by Maty Grosman @ 7:51 PM

Beat the Traffic—Forever: A Virtual PBX Phone System Can Help You Migrate Your Office to the Cloud

The alarm clock wakes you up in mid-dream, and you feel more tired than you did when you first went to bed. Breakfast is a mess: you burn your toast, dry your eggs, and spill your coffee—but there's no time to bother. 06:30, you’re out the door.

“It’s looking good” you keep chanting to yourself—until you hit the highway; an accident a few exists down has caused two lane closures, and you might as well be driving down a parking lot.

By the time you inch towards the nearest off-ramp, it’s already 07:00. You figure you’ll just cut through the side-streets, but no joy—orange signs indicate you’ve just entered construction hell.

A last minute turn—there’s a broken down city bus blocking your way.

A U-turn—the rear of a garbage truck has you stopping every quarter block.

It’s 09:15 when you finally reach the office, and all you can think is: “how can I possibly reproach my employees when even I can’t make it here on time?!”

Sounds like the sob-story of a typical morning commute?

It doesn’t have to be.

A virtual PBX phone system can be your first step in migrating your office to the cloud. You may have heard the saying ‘Home is wherever YOU are’? Well, as of now, your office can be, too!

Professional Image

Employees were traditionally required to work from an office because there was simply no other way for them to function as, and maintain the image of, a single company. You didn’t want your staff taking calls on their personal phones, for instance, because a mosaic of numbers on an ad could give customers the impression of a disjointed operation.

But a virtual PBX phone system lets you choose a single toll-free number as your store-front, meanwhile routing all incoming calls to the appropriate person as set out in your phone tree. This person can be in the next room, or half-way across the ocean—your customers will experience the same service they would calling a physical office.

Save time

According to the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey 2005-2009 (the latest data available), the average American spent 25.2 minutes traveling to work. That’s 50.4 minutes daily assuming the same duration for his return trip—or almost an hour in practical terms. A quick calculation spits out 218.4 hours yearly (assuming a work-year of 260 days), or just over 9 days.

Of those surveyed, 13.3% traveled at least 30 minutes, and 8% suffered through a whopping 60 minutes or more.

Now imagine that instead of wasting all this time and energy on the road, you and your employees could invest them in work or in your personal lives. Those precious hours evaporated along the highway serve no one but oil sheiks, cut-men, and the IRS. But an extra hour each day to spend with loved-ones, go to the gym, or catch up on sleep can significantly improve your quality of life.

That’s without getting into the possible ill effects of long commutes on health and marital life...

Better quality of life = better state of mind = improved performance = better business.

That’s just simple math.

Save Money

Time is money. But there are other aspects to commuting that are more readily tangible. Transportation takes vehicles—company-owned, individually-owned, or city-owned. That’s more than just a capital investment: vehicles require insurance, annual inspections, maintenance, and, of course, gas—an increasingly expensive commodity.

Public Transportation calls for a fare, which also factors in the aforementioned costs, and even if you’re lucky enough to live nearby and ride your bike to work, that trusty old steed of yours still runs up a lump of expanses.

So whether transportation is covered by the company or by individual employees, it will still invariably find it's way to bite you in the bottom-line.

On the other hand, you might find many of your staff members willing to accept a modest pay-cut in exchange for the convenience and benefits of working from home.


That was just transportation. Factor in the costs of rent, infrastructure, insurance, and other overhead, and you’ll soon realize that any way you slice it—unless your business calls for frequent face-time with your clients (the in-person kind, not the iPhone kind)—downsizing or even completely eliminating your physical office would be a far more sustainable solution. For you, for your business, for your employees, and for the environment.

Whoever thought that helping the world could be as simple as helping yourself!

Let Synclio help you mobilize your office. Our motto is ‘Your Business, Anywhere’, and not without good reason.

Related articles:

1. 5 Reasons Virtual Systems are taking over the Physical World

2. 4 Ways a Virtual Phone System Can Improve Customer Experience in Your Business

3. Anatomy of a Virtual Phone System: What’s in it, and why you need it?

4. Weatherproof Your Business: Take Shelter from the Storm in the Cloud

Labels: , , , , , ,

posted by Maty Grosman @ 5:13 PM