Grasshopper is a virtual telephone system whose marketing has come up with this bold phrase in order to support their belief that their virtual telephone system does indeed match the requirements of the consumer and the small medium business (SMB). However, does the service match the hyperbole? In this article, we will take an in-depth look at Grasshopper’s virtual telephony service and examine exactly what it can do for the consumer and the small medium business (SMB).
Who is Grasshopper’s Target Market
Grasshopper targets entrepreneurs and small business owners who require a professional telephone PBX solution at an affordable price. Indeed Grasshopper’s catch phrase is; The Entrepreneurs Choice.
To meet the expectations of that market Grasshopper provides a cloud based PBX system that is always on and provides 24/7 technical support. Grasshopper is a good fit for the small business start up or for businesses with a few employees, with little capital to spend on technology, especially those with remote or home based employees.
Grasshopper as a Virtual Telephone Service – More Than Just a VoIP Service!
The first thing we must consider is what is the Grasshopper virtual telephone service? Furthermore, what are the benefits and facilities that it provides? In order to understand Grasshopper’s service we have to understand that it is not just another VoIP service that focuses on free or cheap outbound calls, such as Skype or Google Voice. Instead, Grasshopper bases its business model not on VoIP but on an overlay of the traditional plain old telephone system (POTS). Therefore Grasshopper can redirect or forward calls to any real telephone number, whether landline or mobile (Cell). However, because Grasshopper’s service is tightly integrated with those physical PSTN networks, it means it can also receive calls from any POTS or Mobile (Cell). So what are the benefits for the consumer or SMB?
Benefits of Grasshopper – Including a Real local Phone Number
Grasshopper is a telephony service focused on incoming calls. Grasshopper has designed its business and technology model around answering incoming telephone calls, providing a professional answering service and redirecting calls to a subscriber’s mobile or landline. This of course is beneficial to the very small business or the SMB as it permits mobility without the fear of missing important calls.
Grasshopper is cost efficient, as the SMB no longer requires a receptionist/operator to handle incoming calls. A Grasshopper subscriber when away from his office or home can have their incoming calls redirected to their mobile (Cell) phones. What is more the subscriber can configure the answering service to provide the caller with a menu; 1 for sales, 2 for customer care, 3 for accounts, etc. Each of these departments or groups, are then configured to forward the call to a specific mobile, landline or VoIP number, redirecting calls from the answering service to the correct employee to handle the call, wherever they may be. Additionally, voicemail to email is a popular function as it allows missed calls to be captured in text format, which can then be read whilst in meetings without disturbing the proceedings.
However, Grasshopper is much more than just an answering service. It is also a means of obtaining a real local telephone number and a toll free number, which relates to a presence and credibility within the community.
Local Number or Toll Free (how it works)
A great benefit of the Grasshopper service is that it can supply a local, national or toll free number. When initially subscribing to Grasshopper the customer goes through four simple steps:
- Pick a number for the business (local, vanity or Toll free).
- Record the custom answering service greeting.
- Add Departments or employees to the answering menu & forward to real telephone No’s.
- Receive Calls, Voice mail and Faxes anywhere.
This facility enhances the credibility of the business as well as providing a convenient and cheap method for customers to contact their business. In addition to local numbers, there are also vanity numbers available. Providing customers with local, vanity or toll free numbers for their convenience gives the initial impression of a larger company.
Additional Grasshopper Features and Functionality
- Grasshopper also has a mobile application whereby outgoing calls can be made which display the caller ID as being the Grasshopper virtual number rather than the users mobile number.
- No additional hardware is required to install. Grasshopper works on all mobiles, landlines and office PBX phones.
- Receive Voice mail by email or Fax (MP3 or PDF).
- Conference Calling.
- Unlimited Call Handling.
- Music on Hold.
- Fax on Demand.
- Store and Forward.
- Transparent Call forwarding.
- Call Screening.
Pricing & Plans
Now for the Cons
Grasshopper is primarily an incoming answering service. It does not supply a dial tone so outgoing calls or faxes must be made through another telephone service supplier. Grasshopper themselves admit to this via their frequently asked questions:
This is of course a problem unless Grasshopper is being used solely as a solution for the smallest of companies – where small means a few employees, rather than in financial turnover. The reason for this is that employees will be required to use their own phones, which is not ideal. This is because at the end of each month employees will expect reimbursed for outgoing calls, which will create work for the accountancy function – how do you determine what are personal and business calls, without causing unnecessary friction?
Another major issue is that of SMS as you are required to pay an additional $100 per extension. If not only the administrator can view incoming SMS texts. This might not be a problem in a sole person or very small company where everyone is multi-tasking. But for larger businesses do you really want people to be able to access and read other peoples/departments text messages?
Grasshopper Mobile & Desktop App
One potential solution to the lack of outgoing dial features can be mitigated by using the mobile and desktop app. The app is downloadable from the Grasshopper site and comes in Windows, Mac, IoS and Android versions. The app is simple to install and configure and has several very nice features which make working from your PC or SmartPhone a viable option. The most notable features are that you can access and read your voicemail transcriptions, send text from your business number, and make outbound business calls from anywhere you have an internet connection. Unfortunately you still cannot send faxes but you can create and store them using the on-demand feature. Another notable issue with the mobile and desktop app is that it lacks the business contacts feature as it is currently available only with Grasshopper Connect.
A new product recently released by Grasshopper is called Connect and it is aimed at the single user or entrepreneur. The value of Grasshopper Connect is that it provides a similar base plan such as Solo, with one free business number. However, where Grasshopper Connect differs is that it has its own mini-CRM (Customer Relations Management) style business contacts solution. What this means is that a solo entrepreneur can upload their contacts and all the relative customer information into Grasshopper connect. Because Grasshopper Connect also provides a means for unified communication by storing all your texts, emails and call records in one place on your mobile or desktop app you will have all the contacts details and communication records at you fingertips. The real benefit is that by unifying all your communication into one inbox you will only have one place to check rather than flipping between different applications to retrieve and piece together a communication timetrack. One caveat is that it only integrates at present with Google Gmail.
Grasshopper Connect is a seperate application from Grasshopper and is priced at $39.99 compared to Solo which is priced at $29.99. To obtain Grasshopper Connect you simply subscribe to the service and download the appropriate app for your device. You choose a business number or to port an existing number and then configure the app to integrate with your Gmail email account and upload your contacts manually or let the app access your device’s contacts.
Grasshopper Connect can be used as a standalone virtual telephone service as it has all the inbuilt features of Grasshopper virtual telephone service. However it can also be used in conjunction with any of the Grasshopper service plans if you desire the business contacts crm-like features.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Before we summarise the Grasshopper virtual telephone service it is an opportune moment to clarify some of the most common questions regarding the Grasshopper service. This is because Grasshopper doesn’t work like other virtual telephone systems in that ir is a incoming call answering and forwarding system with some neat features but not always easily understood. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions on Grasshopper and Grasshopper Connect:
No Grasshopper is an automated incoming call forwarding service with many unique features.
The apps are different though they have similar functions such as they provide you with a second business phone number as a virtual telephone service.However, the standard Grasshopper service plans are designed to be fully virtual phone systems. This means they can support amongst other features, voice calls, SMS texts, customised recorded greetings, unlimited extensions, as well as inbound fax). However, on the other hand the Grasshopper Connect product is designed to be a unified messaging platform. What this means is it is a single application for recording and collecting call records, SMS texts, and integrated emails from each contact into a single inbox. Having only one source to search enables you to stay organized.
No it is not Grasshopper is an incoming answering service you will still need a phone service supplier whether that is a landline or mobile phone to forward incoming calls to. For example Grasshopper has no emergency call ability.
Not really you can use the mobile and desktop app to make outbound calls using your business number as the source but it is not the same as having a direct dial out facility.
You can receive faxes to a mobile or desktop app but you cannot send them. You can however use the Fax-on-demand feature to create and store a fax for later communication via traditional channels.
Yes if you are subscribed to the partner account you can assign each business number to a seperate business or entity. By having several business numbers you can build your own company structure.
Grasshopper plans forward calls to any type of phone domestically or internationally. All local numbers will by default accept incoming international calls. However to be able to use the International Forwarding feature you are required to deposit $500 to activate this feature but calls will be deducted from that initial fee.
Grasshopper Review – Summary
Grasshopper’s is a cloud based incoming call answering and forwarding service with many of the features that mimic a full-featured business PBX. It has many of the features of other virtual telephone system aimed at SMB or enterprise customers. However, Grasshopper is targeting entrepreneurs and SMB’s that require a robust, feature rich telephone service that can enable the use of personal mobile phones or landlines to be used to answer incoming business calls without any hardware outlay. To that end, Grasshopper delivers an excellent service with all the features that an SMB requires especially if their employees are out and about or working from home. This is because the Grasshopper service will auto-answer all incoming business calls on a local or toll free number using a configurable greeting script. This enables you to set up a different greeting per business number so that Grasshopper can then redirect the call transparently to the customer to an assigned telephone number. This provides tremendous flexibility as you can configure each business number to be transferred to a choice of mobile or landline phones. Furthermore, the mobile phones rang be rang simultaneous or in a predefined orders to ensure no call ever gets missed.
The Grasshopper service offers three price plans that will match the requirements of most customers. Its downside is it lacks a service level agreement. Another issue is that it lacks outgoing telephone support as Grasshopper does not provide a dial-tone. There is however a mobile app that can provide outgoing calls from the business number and even outgoing faxes.