What My Customers Want

March 3, 2008 by Ben Sayers

As a CEO, I always strive to know who my customers are and what it is that they need.

Let’s start with who my customers are. For me, I get the pleasure of having internal and external customers– employees and buyers. The ultimate goal of the company is to attract and satisfy the buyers; under-promise and over-deliver and most importantly, to over-communicate. With more than 50,000 customers, I need some help, and my internal customers (employees) are where I focus a lot of attention.

When I look back and reflect on anything that has happened negatively between the company and a buyer or between the company and an employee, more often than not it relates back to a failure to communicate. Even when the issue is unrelated to communications–for example the return of a defective product where the product is the problem–the real issue generally boils down to a breakdown in dialogue.

Two real life examples to highlight this are:

1. A customer has ordered a product on voipsupply.com and received an email confirming the order. The product ships the next day and a tracking email is sent to the customer. Unfortunately, the spam filter got in the way and the customer never received the email. Since the customer ordered through a live sales associate, their tracking information is not available through the web store. The customer, expecting the product overnight, does not receive the product and begins to get frustrated. The customer then has to take time out of their day, find our phone number, call customer service and ask for tracking. This is a very common occurrence with all ecommerce companies.

VoIP Supply, hearing the concern from customers, has instituted a process within the customer service department where all customers receive not only an email with their invoice and tracking number, but also a live telephone call with verbal delivery of their tracking information, and a notice to check their inbox and spam filter to ensure that they receive the information they need. Email is great, live conversation is better.

2. An employee is hired based on their experience and is expected to complete the tasks detailed within their job description. Relying on their past knowledge and experiences, the new hire goes about their business, completing the task and moving on. The manager of this new person was expecting the task to be completed just as the last person did it (or better) and not how the new hire completed the task previously. After a day, week or even a month, friction builds as the manager is expecting something other than what is being given and the new hire is not feeling appreciated for “picking it up” and getting the tasks done on time.

In a rapidly expanding company such as a fast paced start-up, this can happen quite frequently. Taking the time to document the expected processes, provide training before throwing the new employee into the fire, working side-by-side until the expected results are delivered and due praise is handed out, creates an ideal workplace where everyone wins and results are abundant. Failure to do so creates friction, communication breakdowns, and an overall poorly performing employee, department and possibly the company as a whole.

We (VoIP Supply) and I personally have been guilty of both, recognize both and are aggressively acting to correct and prevent such issues. Growing a business is difficult and there is often a feeling of “not enough time in the day.” When your day is spent putting out internal and external fires because you did not prepare and communicate, the feeling is valid and exhausting. Taking the time now to document, train and inspect will create much happier customers and a much more rewarding business experience. Talking to your customers, listening to their concerns and needs and acting immediately shows an understanding of the situation and the intent to correct it while preventing it.

Actions are important and are a critical part of the initial reaction to the needs expressed by the customer. More importantly than the action is to understand that communication is not just an action if it is to be successful. Adopting communication as a mindset, part of you and part of your business will provide long term results.

While to some it is mere semantics, there is a vast difference between “I communicated that…” and “I communicate…” VoIP Supply’s mindset is to communicate, always and excessively, both internally and externally.

Introducing New Staff At VoIP Insider

February 26, 2008 by Garrett Smith

It’s been a long time since we have poured any blood, sweat or tears into VoIP Insiders. Part of it has been a result of our explosive growth in both revenues and headcount, but another part has been our desire to create a plan and a vision for the site.

For the last year and a half, the VoIP Insider has been a random collection of news, reviews and insights deliver whenever someone has felt compelled to write.

Well all that is going to change.

Starting this week, we will be featuring daily posts on topics ranging from how to configure an ATA to information on start-ups and running technology businesses. We have collected a large team of our in-house experts to share their knowledge with you each and every day.

Here is a sneak peek at what to expect…

Benjamin P. Sayers – CEO – A long time entrepreneur and leader of multiple high-tech start-up’s Ben will be discussing numerous topics, from internal VoIP Supply initiatives, to sharing his stories on building companies.

Cory Andrews – Director, New Market Initiatives – One of the smartest people you’ll ever meet, Cory will be talking about new products and industry trends…not mention the occasion post on breaking industry news.

Art Miller, Justin Wekenmann, Phil Laurenzi – Sales Associates – On the front lines day in and day out, this trio will be bring to light what our customers and partners are doing with IP communications and also offering advice on how to sell VoIP hardware, for those resellers, integrators and service providers looking for an edge.

Chris Heinrich, Kyle Brocious – Sales Engineers – Chris and Kyle will bring their technical acumen to life with in-depth posts on how to configure products, trouble shoot issues, new firmware and feature set releases in addition to product reviews.

Nicole Hynes, Dax Brady-Sheehan – Marketing – Nicole and Dax come ready to educate our readers on a variety of marketing related topics, from ecommerce to branding.

Nicole Schuman – Public Relations – Nicole is tasked with delivering up to the minute news and notes about what is going on at VoIP Supply. Look for than just press releases, Nicole will be showing the world what it is like to work and play at VoIP Supply.

Me – Director, Marketing and Business Development – I played it safe and committed to writing about whatever comes to mind. Call me the glue that will hold all of this together. I enjoy doing interviews and writing commentary on the direction of the industry as a whole, but don’t rule me out of doing an occasional product review.

Polycom releases new firmware 3.0 for SoundPoint IP Phones, LDAP Support!

January 28, 2008 by Garrett Smith

Polycom today released a new firmware revision for their popular SoundPoint series IP Telephones. There are quite a few changes noted in the release notes. BEFORE GOING INTO DETAIL ON THE NEW FEATURES, LET ME JUST MENTION THAT POLYCOM MENTIONS THE NECESSITY OF OBTAINING A “FEATURE LICENSE’ TO ENABLE MOST OF THESE BELLS AND WHISTLES….NO WORD ON THE COST TO OBTAIN THE FEATURE LICENSE, BUT WE ARE LOOKING INTO IT. FEATURE LICENSING IS A NEW THING FOR POLYCOM (OLD HAT FOR CISCO) Amongst these enhancements are:

VQMonCall Quality Monitoring Support – Specifically designed for integration into VoIP endpoints such as VoIP gateways, IP phones, ONU’s, residential gateways, mobile handsets, traditional TDM gateways and hybrid IP/TDM systems, VQmon/EP monitors voice calls and produces call quality estimates that can be reported as MOS scores and R factors through the media path using RTCP XR (RFC 3611), end of call signaling or SNMP. VQmon/EP is small (6-30kbytes) and highly efficient.

LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) Support – LDAP is a feature that many businesses buy into, and support for LDAP within the Asterisk marketplace has been pretty weak to date. This could certainly help win deals for VARs selling Asterisk into larger customers.

Local Call Recording on the IP650 – This is pretty sweet…the IP650 has an onboard USB port, and apparently with this new firmware release, you can now plug in a USB Flash Media device and perform local call recording on the phone at the touch of a button.

4-Way Local Conference Calling and Conference Management Feature Enhancements

Jabra JX10 Hookswitch support

uaCSTA Support for Click to Dial Feature – (User Agent Computer Supported Telecommunications Applications) – CSTA is a ECMA, ETSI and ISO/IEC Standard with an exhaustive feature set and a comprehensive call model. CSTA supports, with the same call model, Voice and Non-Voice interactions (Email, Chat, IM and many more) and complements SIP protocol, enabling application developers to provide advanced features. This suite is a complete toolbox for developing a wide range of enterprise grade CSTA applications taking advantage of Internet technologies such as XML, SIP and Speech Recognition and Processing. CSTA supports a wide range of application scenarios, from basic 1st Party Call Control to advanced 3rd Party Call Control with the same standardised model. CSTA lets application developers to create advanced communication platform features without burdening them with underlying protocol specifications.

Pretty cool stuff….this seems to be one of the more significant firmware feature released from Polycom in some time.

VoIPSupply New VoIP Product Roundup Q1 2008

January 10, 2008 by Garrett Smith

Things have been pretty quite the past few months in terms of vendor announcements of new VoIP hardware products. With the Miami Internet Telephony Expo approaching later this month, look for these new products to be announced shortly, and general channel availability to follow.

Digium is releasing their new AEX800 Series, PCI-Express Analog TDM Boards – The AEX800 is a half-length PCI-Express 1.0-compliant, 8 port analog interface card. It supports combination’s of station (FXS) and/or trunk/line (FXO) modules for a total of eight (8) interfaces.

Polycom has added the Soundpoint IP560 to their line of SIP compliant IP phones. The IP560 is a 4-Line phone, with onboard Gigabit ethernet port and also supports Polycom’s HDVoice wideband audio codec.

Snom has added mobility to their SIP phone product line with the their new M3. The M3 offers a SIP base station which supports up to 8 SIP registrations, and a DECT based wireless handset with an indoor range of 50 meters, and outdoor range of up to 300 meters.

Rounding out the latest new product announcements is Cyberdata, who has announced availability of an innovative, SIP compliant VoIP intercom.

Brad Pitt Visits VoIP Supply Offices

October 26, 2007 by Garrett Smith

Mr. Pitt to Work With Sales and Technical Staff On Increasing Sales Revenues

BUFFALO, NY (October 26, 2007) VoIP Supply, the leading Internet Retailer of Voice over IP equipment, including IP Phones, Telephone Adaptors, and Wi-Fi VoIP solutions announced today that Brad Pitt will be stopping in to the VoIP Supply offices to work with the sales and technical support staff on how to more effectively increase sales revenues and customer satisfaction. Mr. Pitt is expected to spend the better part of the day on site with the VoIP Supply team. This is Mr. Pitt’s first trip to the Buffalo area and to the VoIP Supply offices.

“It is an honor to have Brad Pitt in our offices today,” said Benjamin P. Sayers, President and CEO of VoIP Supply. “The fact that someone of his stature would take the time out of his busy schedule to work with our team here is truly flattering.”

(more…)

Thoughts and Opinions concerning Microsoft OCS 2007

I recently posed a question to a wide range of colleagues, most of whom work work within the telephony industry. I asked…”What are your thoughts regarding the industry impact of Microsoft OCS 2007 and their overall offerings in the UC and VoIP space.” Well, I received many opinions, and I have summarized them below.


MS will push hard into this space and spend lots of marketing dollars. Whether they succeed, they’ll increase the visibility of VoIP which will help the industry overall.


Voice has become nothing more than an application on a network at this point. Hardware vendors drive the adoption of Internet-enabled voice to drive the sales of switch ports and router processors. For software vendors such as Microsoft, this is a space which is extremely foreign to them. They view the integration of voice into the operating system and messaging platforms (Exchange) as crucial to keeping up the viability of their current install base. However, there is a lack of understanding by Microsoft of how you get their software to become a centerpiece in a communications environment. This is the only place that they feel comfortable. Microsoft keeps doing the “me too” “me too” routine when it comes to innovation. Always a day late and a dollar short. Companies like Avaya and Cisco will always be at the center of this technology for large corporations. Microsoft will play well to small installations. If they truly want to hit the big time, they will have to play well with others. History has shown that this normally isn’t the case.


The marketing impact Microsft OCS 2007 can be felt across the telecom industry including the peripheral products.
An example is the headset industry. More and more manufactures will become Mircosoft certified partners and prodvide Microsoft OCS targeted or enhanced products. See www.jabra.com/microsoft for the latest VOIP headset offerings.

Microsoft entering the UC/VoIP industries validates the fact that consumers and businesses alike demand more effective and cheaper communication technologies.
Microsoft enters markets that it can attempt to dominate, but UC and VoIP is such a big market, I am not worried about loosing much to Microsoft – given their track record with writing software…

In theory Microsoft’s entry into this space makes lots of sense. However I think they will struggle with the execution. It’s not clear to me that they understand the buyer or the pain points, primarily for the SME audience that surely must be their target. In the right hands what they’re doing could certainly be highly disruptive, but I guess what I’m saying is that I’m not sure it’s in the right hands…

With unquestioned indifference the Microsoft OCS 2007 eases the minds of many who are on the fence about a move to VoIP from their traditional analog. The OCS gives the benefit to achieve the crossover with far less difficulty. The product’s true progress will be dependent on how quickly manufacturers can implement this as an inclusion of purchase with their VoIP hardware offerings.

Microsoft is likely going to be pitching a fairly limited segment with OCS 2007. I’m guessing the best (only?) candidate is the SMB with an IT staff, already running Exchange and Active Directory. I’m sure a fair amount of companies fit this profile. I’m also sure there are a lot of companies unwilling to pay the Microsoft tax, and several open source alternatives exist (though probably not so neatly packaged).

Microsoft will probably be good for business customers that need a VoIP solution, but I would like to see Linux or other open source VoIP programs such as Asterisk fill the needs of business as well.

Microsoft smells an opportunity. They want to leverage their Exchange Server installs. Outside of that market segment, I don’t think they’ll have much success at all. They will, however, dump millions into advertising, campaigning, and education of the layperson into to the basics of VOIP, which we will all be able to leverage, no matter whether we use their product or not. Overall I think this is an excellent opportunity, as not everyone has their clout nor assets, but we can all make use of the “output” of their efforts, so to speak.

I’m with everyone else that this is good for VoIP in general, as it will catapult awareness to the general public. A rising tide lifts all boats. Like many of Microsoft’s recent “innovations,” the proprietary nature of the application will hinder its adaptation with one segment of the population, and help its adaptation with businesses that have already swallowed the Microsoft kool-aid. No click-to-call unless you have the entire Office suite might come back to bite them. And no XMPP is disappointing, but most people probably don’t care about that. They are on track with the idea that everything’s moving to the server eventually – we’ve come full circle from mainframe to desktop and back again.

My experience leads me to state that OCS is a great opportunity for system integrators. OCS is a great software platform for IP communications but it’s a bad solution when it comes to its integration with legacy systems. There are many “traditional” telecom aspects/services that MS doesn’t cover (for their own choice, an example is the “concept” of attendants). Some telecom operators in Europe are already dealing with this problem that becomes a big opportunity for system integrators that can come out with gateway solutions in order to make inter-working possible. Many SI are already working hard on this.

I view it as an extension of our market research efforts: analysts will tell us market sizes and adoption rates of features. I view it as an extension of educational services: they will spend marketing money on educating users. I view it as entertainment and I view it as a sport – watching it’s Vista-like success! Thanks Microsoft for helping open source Asterisk and Digium – which are customizable, personalizable, and extensible!

It will take them some time but it will definetly get market momentum raisng awareness and opportunity for UC solutions. Microsoft is doing a me too on their own platform. Nothing related to Microsoft becomes mainstream until Microsoft confirms it. It will be intersting on how the traditional voice and data channels adapt their business models to support this market.

Unified Communications is the “thing to do” in business now. This trend is highlighted in expos, conferences, blogs, and press releases everywhere. So many companies are offering some form of a Unified Communications service that it almost becomes confusing. (http://www.pulver.com/unifiedCommunications/2007/boston/web/)
An issue arises because there are so many different offerings with different premises. It is fine for different companies to have internal systems that do not match the other companies with whom they do business, but when the companies attempt to share information, there are extra steps that need to be taken for the lack of the common denominator. For this reason, I am very excited that Microsoft is taking such an active role in the Unified Communications phenomenon. They offer a free trial, and the ability to use the same tools most businesses already employ, but more effectively. I think that Microsoft might one day take over the world – it already has most of our hearts. I can imagine the grand jury fidgeting in their seats already.

The part that is both amusing and somewhat annoying is that Microsoft will undoubtedly market this as if they thought of it and will push it with typical MS methodology… i.e., they’ll never be a real threat to the other providers of unified systems or platforms. Considering the fact that the Asterisk VoIP open source community is among the most active and well-supported projects in the world, how does MS and its typically closed-source-pay-us-to-market-to-you business model plan to compete? While I certainly respect the accomplishments of Microsoft from a purely capitalistic view, I also readily admit that they have rightfully earned their nickname of “Mediocresoft.” In short, they’re just another vendor throwing their hat in the ring– LATE. They’ll win market share, but they’ll never dominate the VoIP space.

(XXXX) have been using LCS internally for over a year, and OCS upgrade is planned next. Everyone in the company has a headset, and we use Communicator for internal and external calls, Instant Messaging, plus of course Video Conferencing and Sharing Applications/Whiteboarding.
We are also using OCS to provide Federation, e.g. our own customers and partners that use OCS can be federated into our network and phone/chat/VC/etc directly with us, and with other customers and partners with whom we federate. This started off slowly, but is now gaining speed, and we see this as a key benefit of OCS. Viral communications within Interoute is a done deal – we are already there – so adding customers and partners is the next key step.
Note that OCS supports different ways to connect to the outside world. You can buy a hardware box and manage itself or you can buy a managed service from a company that offers softswitch voice services (yes, like us). The advantage of softswitch based service is that it provides connectivity to legacy services. Internally we have Alcatel and Avaya, and using softswitch our communication crosses from voice platform to voice platform without worrying about TDM or VoIP interfaces or incompatible encoding or signalling protocols. Most importantly, it makes the OCS -vs- TDM -vs- other VoIP systems migration problem irrelevant. Users or departments move as and when it makes business sense, and not if it doesn’t. We have users with both conventional handsets and OCS/Communicator/Headsets and the ability to track “hard to reach” people plus the other benefits means that OCS is now the prime “telephone system”. My own headset is bluetooth enabled, so I can answer calls in the canteen or in a meeting room – the fact that OCS is PC based is irrelevant.


Note that a soft service based OCS also makes it much easier to control federation – a web front end provides the capability rather than manual federation entries and hope the different hardware gateways work together (and getting two IT departments talking to each other is not going to result in any quick fixes).
The productivity enhancements within Interoute have paid for licenses, deployment and ongoing support costs within the first 3 months. Any distributed organization which wants the Exchange integration, federation with customers/partners, and “instant” migration to VoIP should consider OCS. Also OCS is more evolutionary than revolutionary (if you use a softswitch based service) as you get internal and external connectivity on day 1, but everyone doesn’t have to make the move as service bridges the different platforms whether or not existing handsets are unplugged). But of course, those who chose alternative VoIP systems or stick with TDM can also benefit from softswitch based voice services. It will be multiple vendor choice (and ease of integration) that will drive true competition.

VoIP Supply Named to the 2007 Inc 500 List

August 23, 2007 by Garrett Smith

Leading Internet Retailer of VoIP Hardware Ranks No. 359 Based on Three Year Sales Growth.

BUFFALO, NY August 23, 2007 — VoIP Supply, LLC (www.voipsupply.com) a leading Internet retailer of Voice over IP (VoIP) hardware, software and services, today announced their selection to Inc. Magazine’s 26th annual list of America’s fastest growing private companies. Based on their tremendous sales growth over the past three years, VoIP Supply ranked No. 359 on the Inc. 500 list with a growth rate of 783%. In 2006 VoIP Supply was named the No. 45 fastest growing company in America by Entrepreneur Magazine and the No. 1 fastest growing company in Western New York by Business First.

““It is an incredible honor to be recognized as one of the fastest growing companies in America,” stated Benjamin P. Sayers President and CEO of VoIP Supply, LLC. “This award is a testament to the hard work, dedication and team effort put forth each day by the entire VoIP Supply staff. I could not be more proud of everyone who has played a part in the company’s success.”

The 2007 Inc. 500 list measures revenue growth from 2003 through 2006. To qualify, companies had to be U.S.-based, privately held independent – not subsidiaries or divisions of other companies – as of December 31, 2006, and have, and have at least $600,000 in net sales in the base year.

For more information about VoIP Supply, visit https://www.voipsupply.com.

About VoIP Supply

VoIP Supply, LLC (www.voipsupply.com), is a leading Internet Retailer of Voice over IP Hardware. In addition to a comprehensive catalog of IP Phones, Telephone Adaptors, VoIP Gateways, and Small Business IP PBX solutions, the company offers technical support, extended warranties, and logistical services for end-to-end customer solutions. VoIP Supply was recognized as number 45 on the 2006 Entrepreneur/ Pricewaterhouse Coopers HOT 100 fastest growing companies in the US. VoIP Supply has also been recognized as the fastest growing company in Western New York by Buffalo’s Business First newspaper. For additional information on VoIP Supply, LLC please contact Garrett Smith at 716.250.3408.

Egorcast mashes Jott / Twitter

August 15, 2007 by Garrett Smith

This post is slightly off the beaten path considering our traditional tight focus on VoIP, but it does have a telephony component via Jott so here we go.

For those of you not familiar with Jott, their service allows you to call a toll-free number that they assign, and record any type of message. Jott then uses a combination of manual transcription and machine translation (Speech Recognition) to transcribe your message to text. This text can then be sent to you as an email, or posted to a blog or webpage.

What the folks at EgorCast have done is hook Jott into Twitter, which is a popular application that allows you to send realtime text updates, typically via SMS. Users can also subscribe to your Twitter “feed” and receive your personal updates.

Egorcast was developed by Big in Japan.

Thoughts on Linksys -> Cisco Rebranding

August 14, 2007 by Garrett Smith

Cisco CEO John Chambers recently alluded to a planned rebranding of their consumer division Linksys, with Linksys products assuming the Cisco name.

Cisco is eager to transcend its roots from an industrial backbone routing and switching behemoth, to reach into the home, which is an increasingly sophisticated environment with residential consumers taking advantage of the myriad digital services available for delivery over common household broadband connections, including VoIP (Voice Over IP), Wireless Applications, IP Television, IP Home Automation & Security and other rapidly evolving technologies.

Back in 2005, Cisco acquired KiSS Technology, and more recently, Scientific Atlanta.

Cisco sees the “set top box” as a strategic gateway for products and services that will create the kind of growth to satisfy shareholders. The combined technological assets of these three (Linksys, KiSS Technologies and Scientific Atlanta) could produce some compelling product offerings.

Anyone who has viewed Cisco’s
Human Network
branding and marketing initiative can feel the new vibe Cisco is trying to propagate as it attempts to transcend the data center and the telco closet.

Ooma public launch imminent…

August 9, 2007 by Garrett Smith

Michael Arrington over at TechCrunch reports that much hyped silicon valley VoIP startup Ooma is currently taking customer orders for their $399 “hub”, which enables free VoIP calling via their proprietary peer-to-peer mechanism.

For complete details on Ooma’s service and features, peep their website here. Their strategy seems to be to create a peer network of Ooma hubs, deployed with residential users across north america. Ooma beta users and first adopters are encouraged to maintain an analog POTS line from their traditional provider (AT&T, Verizon, etc), and go ahead and plug said analog line right into their Ooma device.

Ooma is banking on leveraging these PSTN connections to terminate user phone calls from their peer-to-peer IP network onto the PSTN. In the meantime, until their network is “seeded” with PSTN connected peer devices, they’ll have to terminate those users calls the old (new-old) fashioned way, by using a commercial VoIP termination provider.

I came across Walt Mossberg’s article on Ooma back in mid-July, and the title of his piece “Ooma Puts Out a Call to Ditch Landlines for Web-Based Service”, seems a bit ironic…. as Ooma will, in reality, rely upon those very same landlines for free call termination in order to sustain their business model and bring their CPE devices down to a realistic price for mass consumption.

However, their product packaging and mini-PR machine have taken some queues from Apple by creating a bit of mystique around the product. The $399 cost (reportedly jumping to $599 at the end of 2007) of the Ooma device will go a ways toward offsetting their termination costs until their network is fully built out with sufficient PSTN connected users that the majority of user calls can be terminated within their peer group.

That’s the gameplan at least. Finding consumers willing to pony up $399 up front in the wake of recent high profile industry flame-outs like SunRocket, may prove challenging.

TalkCrunch has a podcast interview with founders Andrew Frame and Ashton Kutcher (yes that Ashton Kutcher)