By, Carleen Petrosian & Abbi Minessale
Whether you are a one-person developer selling your new tech or an established corporation, every business big or small needs a reliable phone system. Customers trust businesses they can easily communicate with and employees are happier and more efficient when they have a reliable way to connect with each other. We can all agree that setting up the perfect communications system is important but deciding on the how can be a daunting task, especially if you don’t have a serious telecom expert on staff; don’t worry, most people don’t.
Luckily, here at SignalWire, telecom is our passion and we have made it our mission to use our years of industry knowledge to make building communications systems as simple and straightforward as possible. In this three-part series, we will discuss the benefits of setting up your own cloud communications system and take you through a demo system we built on SignalWire to show you exactly how to build it yourself.
Why build your own system?
The tricky part about choosing a phone system comes down to the fact that every business is unique and has different needs. There is no such thing as a “one size fits all” communications system, but that is exactly what makes a cloud solution such a good option; it’s versatile. VoIP systems offer more customization for a lower price and with SignalWire you can easily move your current system.
When you set up your own system, it’s easier for your employees to communicate with customers and each other, especially if they work remotely or if your business operates in multiple locations. Because VoIP operates over the internet rather than legacy landlines, calls can be answered on modern desk phones as well as smartphones, tablets, and computers. Any employee not on-site will be able to take business voice and video calls from any location which gives them flexibility while still staying connected in a professional way.
With an advanced communication platform like SignalWire, you can even customize where incoming calls are directed. For example, business calls can first be sent to an office phone and then directed to your personal cell phone or computer if nobody answers. This way, important calls never get missed and your customers feel valued. Or, if you’re more of a texter like most people these days, you can use your business numbers to send and receive SMS.
Another great benefit to a cloud system is that you don’t have to worry about setting up and maintaining expensive hardware. We worry about hosting for you. In fact, cloud-based phone systems are less expensive overall, drastically reducing capital expenditures. SignalWire pushes this bar even farther by offering phone numbers at only $0.08 a month (other providers charge up to a dollar). We feel that communication is a necessity and we don’t believe in overcharging for the simple technologies that we’ve been using for decades. We prefer to focus on innovation and want to empower our customers to do the same.
What you need to know before building your own system
A cloud-hosted phone system can do everything older systems can and more. In our next blog, we’re going to show you how to build a cloud communication system using NodeJS, highlighting a few fun features you can add to make your phone system more tailored to your needs.
Before we show you the how, let’s look at a few of the key components of a well-built system: Interactive voice response, voicemail, and interactive text response. We will be using a demo system that we built on SignalWire and will use this number for all of our examples: +1.310.356.0879
Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
Most business phone systems feature an Interactive Voice Response menu that helps direct callers to the right place. You can collect voicemails and automatically transfer callers to the proper department. IVR’s increase your company’s efficiency by allowing your employees to focus on what’s important instead of taking the time to manually transfer customer’s calls.
The IVR you build with SignalWire can support multiple elements, such as:
Text to Speech (TTS): When someone calls an IVR element where there is a TTS instruction, the text is spoken by the computer system itself. Usually, you can choose what type of character you would like to speak the text (i.e. man, woman).
Play Media Files: You can pre-record files that will be played back to the user when prompted. This is commonly used for voicemail greetings.
Record Media: You can also record media, which is often used to record a voicemail.
ASR / STT (Automatic Speech Recognition / Speech to Text): You can also convert a recorded file to text where the user receives an SMS of the voicemail contents, another element used for voicemail.
You can call +1.310.356.0879 to hear our example of an IVR built on SignalWire. When you call this number you will hear the following:
“Hello and welcome to SignalWire. If you’re a customer in need of some assistance, press 1, or say help. If you have been invited to a conference, press 2, or say conference. If you know your party’s extension, you may dial it at anytime.”
Selecting any one of these options will connect you to the respective party. After 10 seconds, if none of those choices are picked, you will hear the following:
“Are you still there? Please make a selection or press star to hear the options again.”
If there is still no input, the user will hear:
“We did not receive an option. Goodbye.”
Then, the connection will drop.
Voicemail is a feature so common that we often overlook it but it doesn’t always have to be boring. With SignalWire you can integrate your voicemail box with SMS. Your system can be programmed to record a message and then use Speech to Text (STT) to convert it into text and send it to you as an SMS. You’ll never have to listen to another voicemail ever again, unless that’s your thing.
In our example application from above, if the party does not pick up when the caller dials +1.310.356.0879, the caller will be redirected to the party’s voicemail where they can leave a message.
Once the message has been processed, a transcription of that voice message (as well as the number of the caller) will be sent from the SignalWire phone number as an SMS message with the following format:
“Missed called from: +18189571717."
Here is the message: “Hello. This is a test message. Please call me back. Thank you.”
Interactive Text Response (ITR)
We live in an era where it’s no longer enough to just use our phones for making calls. Modern customers communicate in modern ways and every number should have the ability to receive and respond to text messages, even our business numbers.
Interactive Text Responses (ITRs) are a great tool because they can be used to answer frequently asked questions, run surveys, collect mass feedback, and more. Building an ITR saves you time, boosts productivity, and increases customer satisfaction by providing them with immediate feedback.
When customers send an SMS message to the associated number, they will be directed according to the instructions placed in the ITR. In our example, we demonstrate how an application can be developed to respond to key words and phrases.
For example, a message sent to our example number (+1.310.356.0879) will be responded to like this:
“Hello, and welcome to SignalWire! For SignalWire blog posts, reply with blog. For SignalWire developer documentation, reply with docs. For our company story, reply with story.”
Responding with either or all of these choices will send you a link for each respective option. For example, if you respond with blog, you will receive:
“Check out our blogs here: https://signalwire.com/blogs!”
Replying with docs, will result in:
“Here is our developer documentation: https://docs.signalwire.com/.”
Answering with story, will lead to:
“What SignalWire is all about: https://signalwire.com/about.”
What to expect in Part 2
In our next two blogs, we will dive into how we build the features described above and demonstrate how to install, test, and run the code locally.
Come and build something great on SignalWire!
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