“Skunk Works” Operation (or: Features Update…)

By: Alon Cohen, EVP/CTO

As a customer-oriented Business and Home Phone service provider, constantly listens, records, sifts through, filters, prioritizes and implements customer suggestions and makes them part of our offering.

We also give our developers significant leeway in expressing themselves by letting them improve and creatively respond to what they think customers may need before the issues even come up.

We are happy to announce a set of such feature improvements that we know many of you will be glad to take advantage of.

Our focus this time was around queues, the ability to create a small call center for your business. Here are some of the new features:

1. You can now record calls that are part of a queue.

2. We have added support for “in-call features” after a queue: A queue-received call can now be forwarded to outside phone 10 or 11 digits numbers  using *2 (extension and 7 digits transfers will soon follow).

3. Queue-received calls can be placed on hold using *8, and recorded on a case-by-case basis using *7, like any other incoming call.

Other improvements that were made:

4. We have improved the distinctive ring feature on Polycom IP Phones for our Business users, so you can now activate that feature from the call handling rules.

5. We have increased your LAN stability. We discovered that some home routers had issues with multiple phones connected to the same LAN, a problem that caused the phones to display intermittent inability to receive calls. We have modified the phone software and pushed an update that effectively uses the phones to help the router overcome that problem.

6. We now support flexible extension numbering. You are no longer limited to having all extension numbers start with the same digit. How about that? This feature is especially important for shared offices that use one Virtual office account for multiple tenets. It also let you use fewer digits for more extensions, which increases usability.

7. A few customers complained that some faxes were not received or delivered correctly. Well, we found out that the problem was a perception problem and not a technical problem. The issue was that we only delivered FULL faxes. As you know, in the old world of analog faxing, people were used to calling the sender and say, “I only received the first two pages; can you please re-send the rest,” We decided to emulate that and will now deliver partial faxes as well, enabling you to call the sender and ask for the rest.

8. We have made some invoice improvements; you will now see the phone number associated with the account on the invoice, not just the account name. I know — we should have done this ages ago, but better late than never!!

9. We have reduced the volume level of the hold-music for the second time now. We had some users comment that the music on hold was too loud. Let us know if you ever get feedback about the hold-music volume, from your callers.

10. Some users were asking if we can have the phone ring for 25 seconds (after forwarding) rather than the 20 or 30 seconds that we had before; well that was easy and we implemented it. Therefore, if you need it, you now have it. If you do not know what I am talking about, you probably do not need it.

See, what I like about how we implemented those changes and the hosted model in general is that we did not have to ask the users to re-boot the computer or the PBX, we did not have to ask the user to download or install anything, and we did not have to send a costly technician or declare down time. We just did it in a 100% transparent manner. This is a goal we will try to follow as we add new capabilities and more value to all services.

The other nice thing about all this, from my point of view as a user of Virtual Office, is that it is all included! No extra new costs or fees. We know you have other options out there and we hope you will appreciate our constant improvements and stay with us for a long time!

P.S – If you are not familiar with the term Skunk Works, it is an alias for Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Development Programs (ADP). Skunk Works is responsible for famous aircraft designs, including the U-2, the SR-71, the F-117, and the F-22 and the F-35 Lightning II, which will be used in the air forces of several countries around the world.

“Skunk works” or “skunkworks” is widely used in business, engineering, and technical fields to describe a group within an organization given a high degree of autonomy and unhampered by bureaucracy, tasked with working on advanced or secret projects.