The eVoice virtual phone system is built on the model of an incoming call answering service much like Grasshopper. Indeed in Europe and the UK it has been rebranded by J2 as eReceptionist. This is possibly a more accurate product description as the eVoice system replaces the need for a human receptionist. This is because it uses the cloud based eVoice system to auto-answer incoming calls and play custom greetings and offer the caller a customizable menu of extensions, such as dial 1 for Sales, 2 for Billing, 3 for support and so on. There are also additional receptionist style features for transparent call transfer of incoming calls and find-me/follow-me functions to provide a virtual telephone service for SOHO (single owner home office) or SMB (small medium business). The eVoice system is limited as it is an incoming call handling service so don’t expect all the features of a professional PBX phone system.
eVoice Services – Plans and Pricing
The eVoice service comes in two categories and 4 plans; eVoice Lite, which is the single user edition and single user price plan and then there is the Standard eVoice category, which consists of three basic plans, a combination of three pricing options.
eReceptionist Pricing (UK)
Interestingly even though eReceptionist is built upon eVoice it is marketed and priced differently outside the US & Canada. For example, even though eReceptionist is just a rebranding of essentially the same product it is marketed and priced differently in markets such as the UK. Therefore in contrast to eVoices service plans, eReceptionist has its own service plan scheme, such as:
eVoice – Lite
This is eVoice’s SOHO version that provides a professional call answering service for freelancers, consultants, entrepreneurs and businesses that are mobile and often on the go. The managed Lite telephone system answers incoming callers on up to 6 real business numbers – which can be a combination of an existing, or an eVoice provided local or toll free numbers. The starter service also comes with the option of a single professionally recorded greeting and a customizable menu of inbound caller options.
How it works
The eVoice answering service will auto answer any inbound call, play a customized greeting and offer the inbound caller a menu of options, such as dial 1 for sales, 2 for support, 3 for FAQ. When the caller makes their choice the eVoice service will transfer (transparently) the call to one of an unlimited number of extensions, which are other real phones. The caller is unaware that eVoice has transferred the call to the freelancer’s personal smartphone or home landline phone, as they hear only music during the transfer. An unanswered call to an extension is diverted to voicemail, which then can be transcribed into text or sent as an MP3, which will be sent to them via email. This not only projects an image of a larger professional company it also provides freedom and mobility as the freelancer is not tied to a fixed office phone and also no calls will go unanswered or be missed.
The price plan supports only two users, which isn’t enough as it allows for only two phones, perhaps a mobile and a home number, and 300 Monthly minutes at 12.99 per month.
Standard eVoice Plans
The eVoice Standard plans target the Small Medium Business (SMBs) rather than the SOHO clients as it scales to support business that have several employees (2- 25) working remotely possibly from BYOD phones (Bring Your Own Device) such as smartphones, or home/client landlines. The eVoice Standard Plan is based upon ‘per user pricing’ and it has five or 10 extensions (3 phones per extension). The five and ten extensions per plan are a big improvement over the two extensions that come with the eVoice LIte plan as it allows greater flexibility and choice of options.
A very good feature of eVoice Standard plans is that the extension plan can be set up to have one main auto attendant which will provide a list of extensions to the caller. However, subsequent extensions (users or departments) can also have their own sub-attendants offering another choice of extensions. This provides and makes possible the ability to configure a very effective hierarchal IVR system, which really does portray a large company image.
One of the benefits of being in the Standard plans is that you benefit from free inbound fax, VIP support and more minutes per extension.
eVoice’s standard features include:
- Auto Attendant
- Customised incoming call greeting
- Professional recorded Greetings
- Incoming Call Blocking
- Transparent Call Forwarding
- Inbound Call Queuing
- Incoming Call Routing
- Seamless Call Transfer
- International Call Forwarding
- Voice to Mobile or Email
- Unlimited Extensions
- Sequential and Simultaneous Call-Hunt ringing
- Advanced Reporting
- Call Logs
- Website integration with Click to Call features
- Conference Calling
- Outbound Calling using business number on mobile app
Add-on / Premium features include:
- Voicemail to Text
- Call Recording
- Web Conferencing
- Business Texting
- Outbound Fax
- International numbers
Most of the features that are available are common across the eVoice and Standard Plans. This is a better way to distribute features as most if not all are basic VoIP PBX features that cost no more or less. Where the VoIP services do start to charge however is when they venture out with the IP domain, for example with FAX. To have incoming fax is not problem and all but the basic eVoice Lite plans come with free incoming FAX. Outgoing Fax and calls however is a completely different matter.
The big problem with all the virtual phone systems is how do they handle outgoing calls?
Handling outgoing calls with the same business number (caller ID) from a personal smartphone or home telephone obviously has some challenges. Grasshopper and the like use a cumbersome method of relaying calls through their call center whereby the caller ID is swapped for the business number. This may be very effective but is not convenient if you are doing many outbound calls per day. The eVoice solution is far more sophisticated and uses their outbound phone connection tool, which enables easy and direct relay without having to call through another call center.
Another area where eVoice excels is with conference calling, or rather its capacity. Most virtual telephone systems have conference calling, Grasshopper and Nextiva as well as Ring Central, so it is an expected feature. The difference with eVoice is the capability, where Grasshopper provides a conference bridge for ten simultaneous calls – which is plenty in most cases – eVoice provides a facility to support up to ninety-five concurrent participants – and that’s outrageous. Astonishingly for a further payment, eVoice can provide a platform that can support 2000 simultaneous participants on an audio conference call – that’s hardly going to be very useful on a daily basis.
eVoice Mobile App
Mobile apps are an almost essential feature now and so unsurprisingly, eVoice has developed their own mobile app that runs on both IOS and Android. The benefit of the mobile application is that it allows you to do outbound calling whilst using the business number rather than the mobile phone number. Similarly, eVoice has an outbound service (telephone user interface) that allows landlines to do the same thing but without the hassle of having to relay calls through a call center, which is the case with Grasshopper.
How it works
The mobile app used in eVoice and eReceptionist actually uses like Grasshopper the PSTN to route calls and not VoIP. This ensures optimal call quality and reliability as you are essentially getting a second phone line on your smartphone. The mobile app is supported on Android or Apple iOS, but regardless any outgoing calls from the mobile app are automatically routed through the secure eReceptionist platform. This makes sure that the mobile app ensures that only your outgoing business calls will use your business number. This makes billing easier to track as your work and personal calls to be billed separately.
Another handy feature with the mobile app is that you don’t need to access your voicemail after every missed call notification only to find out that the caller left no message as the app will transcribe your voicemail messages automatically so you can read them went you have time.
However should you need to access your voicemail in a hurry you can activate an instant call back. This means you are just one click away from hearing your voicemail message.
Another feature that is not always present with basic virtual incoming telephone services is the web site ‘click to call’ buttons. For web integration eVoice supply the code that can be added to any website that allows a customer to ‘click to call’ the main business number via VoIP so it is a welcome and very useful tool that is also free for the customer.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
The eVoice service and its European counterpart eReceptionist share some very interesting features that make it stand out from the competition. The one I liked best was the ease to make outbound calls on both the mobile app and on a configured landline. There was no messing about having to call a data center then having to relay a call from there in order to show the business number as the caller ID.
Another strong point is that eVoice’s over-use minutes are cheaper than most of the competitors rates at roughly 3.9 c additional minutes compared to Grasshoppers 6c per minute.
eVoice also has for some reason, decided to design their call hunting feature to support ordered sequence – this is where all phones assigned to a shared extensions can be rang in sequence, in a configured order of priority, till one answers – or all phones can be rung simultaneously. However they have not yet included a round-robin call allocation that would distribute calls evenly between extensions. This is usually a minor point, but in a sales office, it can be seen as a prerequisite in any PBX.