Small Businesses Switching to TalkSwitch

By Patricia Fusco | Posted December 03, 2003

Based in Ottawa, Canada, Centrepoint Technologies makes desktop phone systems for small and growing businesses. Founded in 1990, it's all Centrepoint has ever focused on — developing desktop phone systems for small businesses. It took five years of research and development to produce its flagship product Concero Switchboard, which "wowed" the home-based business market. Since then, the TalkSwitch 24 and the TalkSwitch 48 have superseded the Concero Switchboard.

Centrepoint's networkable public exchange (PBX) products are designed exclusively for smaller businesses. Each TalkSwitch device comes loaded with all the essential big-business phone features necessary for a small business to project a professional image — auto attendants, voicemail, seamless remote extensions, call ring groups, call routing, and music-on-hold — for one to 32 users.

Key Points of Centrepoint
Eric Ramsden, Centrepoint product manager, said the technology leverages the company's understanding of its small business customers in order to transform the way they communicate.

"Centrepoint consists of about 27 people, so we're a small business, too," Ramsden said. "And because we're small, we can adapt a lot quicker to small-business needs — more so than a large corporation."

Ramsden said there are more than 5 million small businesses with fewer than 20 employees in North America. Add in remote branch offices with similar staffing levels and there are another 3.6 million potential customers for Centrepoint Technologies to tap into.

"Thousands of firms still lack a complete telephone solution." Ramsden said. "The small-business market is underserved. About five percent of these small businesses use aging PBX systems, another 13 percent use key systems. We found the sweet spot for our unique, all-in-one phone systems."

TalkSwitch has landed in a niche market — at least the small business call system does not have any competitors to date. The phone system, which consists of a 7.5-inch by 7.5-inch box, is easily networked through a local area network (LAN). And because the technology is software-based, free upgrades are available online, its readily expandable, and Centrepoint's latest phone system can even evolve to operate in a voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) environment.

How easy is it to install a TalkSwitch system into a LAN? Ramsden said little or no IT experience is required.

"About half of our current customers have installed the systems themselves," Ramsden said. "Most do it in under 60-minutes. It's just a hookup and start calling setup. That's a big part of what makes us unique."

Voicemail is usually one of the most expensive features in a conventional PBX system. However, voicemail comes as a standard feature in Centrepoint's TalkSwitch products — it's wholly integrated into the phone system. Starting at $695 for a two-line, four-extension system with eight remote access connections, let's just say that the price is right for cash-strapped small businesses.

"TalkSwitch provides very small businesses with the first powerful, yet affordable telephone system," Ramsden said.

Usually low-cost equates with limited features — not so with Centrepoint's TalkSwitch systems. In addition to voicemail and auto attendants, the phone system features advanced call handling capabilities that can integrate office workers, with teleworkers and a mobile sales staff — all in geographically dispersed work zones.

"Twenty-five percent of our customers bought a TalkSwitch system because of the ability to create virtual extensions," Ramsden said. "A call comes in, then the system automatically locates where to send the call."

With TalkSwitch, remote access users can forward the call to voicemail, set up a do-not-disturb function, or seamlessly transfer the call to a cell phone or even a home office. Calls can be routed and redirected just about anywhere. Each setting can be easily managed from a user's voicemail box, and all a caller hears is music, a recorded message, or both while on-hold.

And it doesn't matter what type of phones are used in the office, small businesses don't have to shell out another $200 to $400 per desk phone like some PBX systems require. TalkSwitch works with standard analog, cordless, cell, and TalkSwitch TS100 phone sets.

Instant Gratification
Feyzi Celik, president and chief executive officer of OnePIN, a small business that provides a synchronized contact information service, said that he and his partner installed their first TalkSwitch system about 16 months ago. The feature that has impressed Celik the most is Centrepoint's ability to grow with the burgeoning business.

"We have been using the system since Aug. 2002. Initially we set up a single unit and then extended it to multiple units," Celik said. "It's an excellent system for small businesses with big growth potential. We have grown from a two-employee company to 10 full-time and six part-time employees in 15-months. We did not pay large amounts — we set up the system ourselves and upgraded it as the business grew."

Celik said that OnePIN has continued to implement new features as the company's needs changed.

"We do not pay any money for the system maintenance or upgrades, everything is self-service," Celik said. "We do not wait for a service representative to show up and add an extension. We are a 24-by-7 business and we control our destiny."

In addition to immediate gratification, Celik said Centrepoint's phone system offers a truly inexpensive alternative to PBX setups.

"The system allows any phone to be connected. We are using cordless Panasonic phones we purchased from Staples for just $60 each. This was a considerable cost savings for us. If we were to go to some other manufacturer, each cordless phone was over $250," Celik said. "The remote features provide ongoing cost saving, too. We have an office in Ankara, Turkey for our European customers. When I travel there, I call our phone system, it calls back and I make all my calls from our system with U.S. toll charges, rather than paying large sums of money to a local phone carrier."

Celik said that the phone system is also very flexible — for both office employees and sales representatives on the road.

"We have outside sales reps that use the voicemail system to call and collect their messages, or they can simply forward the calls to their mobile phones," Celik said. "The voicemail system is very flexible for both office and on-the-road team members. It provides pretty much all the features of very expensive phone systems, but it's easier to upgrade. If we need more voicemail capacity, we just plug in a new memory card, and it's ready to go."

What's the one thing Celik would like to change about the TalkSwitch system?

"I am hoping that the company comes up with a new solution for larger companies," Celik said. "When we outgrow the system, we will miss ease of use TalkSwitch provides."

The Bottom Line
Hopefully, Centrepoint will comply with Celik's request. The company is not resting on its laurels. Centrepoint recently released a new branch office solution whereby the TalkSwitch telephone system can be combined with an Internet gateway. This offers additional savings on long distance toll charges and reduces the number of telephone lines a small business has to lease from a central office. Companies equipped with the new solution can also access emerging network-based services.

The new branch-to-branch configuration with two TalkSwitch phone systems, including public switched telephone network (PSTN) and VoIP capabilities, starts at $2,050. A branch-to-teleworker solution starts at $1,355. The small business-tested TalkSwitch 48 sells for $1,395. It can handle four incoming lines and 16 extensions — eight local extensions and eight remote extensions, combined. The TalkSwitch 24 sells for $695 and provides two incoming lines, four local extensions, and eight remote extensions. Centrepoint's TalkSwitch products are available direct online or through authorized resellers — just in case you want someone to install the system for you.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

Comment and Contribute


     

    Get free tips, news and advice on how to make technology work harder for your business.

    Submit
    Learn more
     
    You have successfuly registered to
    Enterprise Apps Daily Newsletter
    Thanks for your registration, follow us on our social networks to keep up-to-date