Accent Communication Services, an Ohio-based national provider of telecommunications services and solutions, recently launched VoiceONE Connect, a new cloud-based telephony and unified communications (UC) service that represents an evolution of the company’s VoiceONE Business Edition introduced in 2017 for small and mid-size businesses (SMBs) in North America.
VoiceONE Connect builds on Business Edition’s essential telephony feature set to add more advanced capabilities like a mobile application with integrated audio and video calling, chat, file sharing and business text messaging. Chris Cameron, President of Accent, explains that these types of collaborative features are no longer seen as options for larger enterprises, but are required – and even expected – by today’s businesses of all sizes. For this reason, the R&D team at Accent began developing the next generation of the Business Edition product, building in a more advanced feature set, but maintaining the same competitive price point.
The new VoiceONE Connect and earlier VoiceONE Business Edition solutions are both based on Asterisk technology, and use the same Grandstream phones, which makes for a smooth transition for Business Edition customers to Connect, if desired. Accent tells us, however, that Business Edition will remain available (though not advertised) for on-site deployments should that be a customer requirement. Business Edition supports both cloud and on-site deployments, while VoiceONE Connect is a fully cloud-based offering. Accent also offers the internally-developed, Zultys-based VoiceONE Enterprise (also with cloud or on-premises deployment) for even more sophisticated telephony, UC and contact center capabilities.
With VoiceONE Connect, Accent hits on a key trend by offering a simple 3-step online ordering process that eliminates the need for a partner or any in-house IT resources to assist with set-up and management. There is no seat limit at this time. To set-up, customers can select “Do It Yourself” or opt for an Accent support specialist to assist (“Agent Guided”). Either way, the remote set-up and configuration is complimentary, and Accent promises processing and provisioning within 60 minutes of order placement for orders placed during regular business hours, Monday through Friday (otherwise, processing occurs on the next business day). Accent also provisions and ships the Grandstream IP desk phones if selected, and will help set up any customer-provided SIP phones.
VoiceONE Connect customers can choose from three user plans, priced month-to-month or in a less costly 36-month contract; each plan provides one cloud telephony extension.
- Virtual User ($14.99 per user per month for a 36-month contract) is an all software option for business users that don’t want any hardware on-site. With this plan, there are no physical desk phones. Rather, users communicate through Accent’s desktop softphone (Connect Desktop App) with headset or a mobile device (iOS or Android) running Accent’s Connect Mobile App. These Connect Apps also enable group voice/video calling, presence, chat, desktop and file sharing. A range of popular business telephony features, plus voicemail-to-email delivery, multi-party and meet-me conferencing, call recording, unlimited business text messaging (SMS) and voicemail transcription, round out the standard capabilities. The plan comes with unlimited local/long distance calling in the U.S. and Canada.
- Standard User ($18.99 per user per month for a 36-month contract) has the same Virtual plan capabilities, but adds IP desk phone support. Accent offers three Grandstream models: the GXP2170 for higher call volumes, the mid-range GXP2135 and the more basic GXP1635. Or customers can bring their own third party SIP phones (from Cisco, Grandstream, Panasonic, Yealink or Zultys). Analog devices require an analog telephone adaptor or ATA.
- Premier User ($23.99 per user per month for a 36-month contract) is Accent’s most popular bundle. It includes all Virtual and Standard features, but also includes a Grandstream GXP2135 IP desk phone as part of the monthly price.
Several other capabilities are available as add-on options for any of the plans. These include an operator console, web-based click-to-call, web services API integration and basic call center capabilities like ACD agent groups (call queuing and distribution), queue announcements and queue reports.
Layering Contact Center
Aside from the ACD add-ons noted above, VoiceONE Connect customers also have the option to “layer on” the more sophisticated suite of cloud contact center capabilities available with Accent’s VoiceONE Enterprise Edition offering. Accent’s Chris Cameron describes a recent customer that purchased 100 seats of Connect, but also has a 15-agent call center that requires more functionality than Connect’s ACD option. These 15 users will utilize the Enterprise Edition feature set and Enterprise Edition’s Cloud Contact Center, creating a unified UC and contact center system for these specific users.
VoiceONE’s Cloud Contact Center is based on technology from Zultys (Integrated Contact Center or Zultys ICC) and enables intelligent call queuing and routing, real-time agent, queue and performance monitoring, automated call back, web chat, customizable screen pops, call scripts and reporting. With the custom reporting tool (MXreport), contact center managers can create a variety of reports that provide insights and intelligence around call handling and agent performance.
Optional web-based API integration with external customer relationship management (CRM), workforce management applications and other third-party tools can help streamline processes and get information to users more efficiently. Further, used in conjunction with Connect’s WebRTC features, businesses can capitalize on customer engagement by setting up web-based click-to-call buttons that make it easy for potential customers to contact sales and support teams directly from the company’s website.
Big Enough to Deliver, Small Enough to Care
This is an apt description of Accent (in its own words), a company that strives to meet their customers where they are, whether they need a simple, traditional business phone installation or are looking for a solution with more advanced, collaborative capabilities and secure, managed service delivery options.
Accent is in-sync with current trends around cloud-based business communications, delivering on today’s business desires for integrated team collaboration, online self-service, contact center-as-a-service and WebRTC. Businesses can also take advantage of Accent’s real-time performance tools, VoIP Test and Cloud Status, that assess a customer’s network connection and give subscribers confidence in the performance of Accent’s VoiceONE services and uptime. Additionally, Accent’s Cloud SDN (Software-defined Wide Area Networking or SD-WAN) solution brings benefits in terms of network simplification, performance improvements, failover and cost savings versus traditional VPN or MPLS techniques (which are also available).
Though a smaller firm, Accent is high-touch when it comes to customer support and is intent on never leaving any customer behind. Accent prides itself on customer service which it describes as the driving force of its success since the company’s founding in 1991. Technical support and moves/adds/changes are a standard part of every VoiceONE cloud plan. And while Accent is developing and delivering on trending cloud communications, Accent continues to support traditional premises-based deployments, if desired/required, based on its hybrid Business Edition and Enterprise offerings (even earlier ShoreTel (now Mitel) on-site installations which the company has long supported).
In 2019, customers will remain front and center with some new initiatives on the way, including the launch of live weekly user training webinars and further automation of the online ordering process. Accent will also be enhancing Connect’s WebRTC capabilities with support for threaded SMS conversations and an intelligent automated SMS response engine that will utilize bots and pre-built actions/responses based on customer input. Stay tuned.