Ooma OfficeFor some time, we used Ooma Office to manage the phone system at one of our offices. While Ooma is reliable enough to be used in a small business setting, it was not without issues. Ooma requires no less than three to four pieces of physical hardware in your office (not counting the traditional land line phones that hook into the Ooma equipment). Ooma's router likes to be connected directly to the modem feeding your office its internet service, with Ooma recommending that you connect your wireless router into the Ooma router.
The obvious issue here is that you create one additional hurdle between the not-always-so-reliable service of Time Warner and your wireless router which is feeding your laptops, mobile devices, etc. to get work done. Ooma router needs to update? That means a temporary outage for your entire office. On more weekdays than we would like to remember, our staff had to manually reset the Ooma router to get fresh Internet back to our devices.
We also found the online portal to Ooma Office a little dated, and the technical support to be lacking.
We made the SwitchEarlier this year, Switch.co came out of beta. This service is from the same people who brought you UberConference. (Check it out if you haven't already.)
One of Switch's selling points for us (besides it not needing any physical equipment clogging up our office) was its tight integration with Google Apps. No need to set up brand new online accounts with another provider. Simple sign up with automatic recognition of all of our team members based on their business email addresses.
We were also in need of a new toll-free number for those clients (and leads from our websites) calling in from around the world who have the need for legal services in Kentuckiana due to having family members located here. Switch.co allowed us to quickly obtain a (888) number after it assigned us a main company line, in addition to providing private lines to each firm member.
Now, if you have an existing number that all of your clients, opposing counsel, etc. know and use, then you need to learn the term "porting." We initially encountered some difficulty in finding a way to get our main company line transferred ("ported") from Ooma to Switch, but personalized customer service from a human who seemed to be more local and more interested in obtaining our business walked us through the steps, and within a few days one of our main office lines was now ringing Switch.
So how do you use Switch?Again, you need a Google Apps account. You also need to be prepared to ditch your more traditional phone hardware. We were able to scrap about a dozen physical devices from our previous setup with Ooma once Switch was up and running.
Switch.co prompts you to download its desktop and mobile apps once you are in its online interface. Apps are available for Android and iPhone, and since we have employees running both, we can say with confidence that this is one piece of software that runs as well on Android (and in some instances better) than it does on Apple's mobile OS.
Easy access is provided to all of your Google contacts which are automatically recognized by Switch, and can be sorted to display Recent, Frequent, or just contacts within your Company. The learning curve is low given that the desktop Chrome app and the mobile app mirror each other. Icons, tabs, and buttons are intuitive and attractive.
In-call options are much more robust than Ooma Office, allowing the standard options of muting and pausing a call, in addition to simple transfer and conference call options. The ability to record the call is also provided (be careful here depending on the law in your state), plus you can view an overview of recent correspondence with that caller or launch a Google Hangouts session. Continuous improvements to the service now allow you to integrate your Google Calendar, Gmail, or Google Drive to provide even more in-depth analysis of how you have been communicating with a particular contact recently. (You also have the option of connecting your LinkedIn account).
One of the best features for attorneys still billing by the hour are quick snippets of information, such as duration of call, that may not be easily accessible with more traditional or expensive phone systems.
You can also text a client directly in the same window from where you initiate a call. Texting is critical to many clients in our areas of practice, and if our day-to-day experience is any indication, communication by this method will only continue to be more prevalent as a new generation of clients needs legal services. Switch allows you to communicate by text without divulging your personal cell phone number, but on a convenient interface on your mobile phone or computer.
|^^^^ Send a text here ^^^^|
What does it look like when someone calls, you ask?
You can choose where you receive notifications of new calls or texts, turning off your cell phone if you don't want to be disturbed there. Quick options are also provided for respectfully declining the call if you are tied up.
The traditional phone can still be on your desk (if your heart so desires)So what if all of this cloud-based tech on the back end simply requires that you (or one of your long-time staff members) keep an old phone around so that you feel like you are not making too much change at once? Here is the solution provided by Switch to incorporate this new technology with a physical device sitting on your desk:
We use a combination of wired and Bluetooth headsets in our office setting so that we are not talking in our cell phones all day or avoid the appearance that we are screaming at our computers' built-in microphones.
Can't I just use Google Voice as a free alternative?Our office owns several Google Voice numbers that have been in operation for years. I believe there are certain lawyers and business owners who could probably get by with a Google Voice number that provides some of the same features as described above.
Switch.co is worth the monthly payment for our firm as we have found it to be much more reliable for voice calls with clients than what we experienced with Google Voice in calling on the go. Furthermore, if you have more than one person on your team, the in-call options to transfer to your assistant or the extensive online interface to establish business hours and call handling are simply more robust than what Google Voice currently offers.
|Switch.co Online Interfaces for Call Routing & Business Hours settings|
Sold on Switch?We don't get any kickbacks on this write up. After trying multiple phone systems, both traditional and VOIP (voice over IP), Switch.co was the first that I was actually excited about enough to write about.
Switch.co posts its privacy and other legal policies at https://www.switch.co/legal so you can confirm its compliance with ethical rules in your jurisdiction if you are using the service in a law office setting.
Switch's flexibility and fresh take on one of the more boring aspects of a functioning law firm may allow you to take this service ($15 per line, unlimited texting & calling in US/Canada) for a spin even if you just want to experiment with a non-land line phone for you to communicate with clients or others (without using your personal cell phone number) away from the office.