When Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1875, it must have seemed magical. For the first time since humans started walking the earth 200,000 years before, you could talk with someone without needing to be anywhere near the person.
Yet, by our lifetimes, most of us were taking the phone for granted.
That all started to change over the past decade. With the popularity of mobile phones and voice-over-IP technology (VoIP), a telephony revolution grew. Suddenly, phones could be carried with us and used as small personal computers.
And think about the standard office phone sitting on desks in businesses everywhere. On one level, you could view the office phone merely as a tool to answer calls and collect voicemails.
But if you ask Tomas Gorny, a business phone system is so much more than a dial tone. In Gorny’s vision, a great business phone system is a mission-critical platform that actually helps your company grow and be more successful.
According to Gorny, the CEO of Nextiva, a business phone system is a secret weapon for customer satisfaction. It’s a sales and marketing tool that helps your company convey a brand impression and acquire customers. It’s a team collaboration tool that makes your employees more efficient, and helps them work together better. And it’s a business intelligence tool to unlock data and enable your business to grow and be more profitable.
If you think this sounds like the overly-optimistic pitch of a charismatic startup entrepreneur, it’s not. In Gorny’s case, his vision is already a reality, backed by a strong track record.
A Track Record of Innovation
Gorny (pictured right) is the CEO of Nextiva, a business communication company based in Scottsdale, Arizona.
A native of Poland, he emigrated to the United States in 1996. Initially, he found success in the Web hosting business. One of his hosting companies eventually merged to form Endurance International Group which went public in 2013 in one of the season’s top tech IPOs.
Gorny saw an unmet need for better and cheaper business phone systems. In 2006, he founded Nextiva and six years ago brought on the first customers.
Fast forward to today. Celebrating its birthday this month, Nextiva now has 90,000 customers, most of them small and medium sized businesses.
Gorny knows first hand the pain small businesses go through with their phone systems. “In my prior company, when we needed a phone system we had to pay $250,000 for expensive equipment. Then we were looking at spending another $150,000 annually on administration and maintenance costs. That’s crazy!”
After evaluating the business phone market he says the opportunity was, in his words, “huge” and small businesses were very much underserved. “There was some activity in the market but mostly for consumer-based systems, with the focus mainly on saving money on calls.”
While cost is an important consideration, Gorny says affordability is just one of the benefits of an advanced business phone system. “Yes, you may be able to save money, but that’s just the start.”
Helping Small Businesses Look Like Fortune 500 Companies
“Our goal is to put the most advanced communication technologies in the hands of every business — and for every business to look like a Fortune 500 company,” says Gorny.
This includes having an automated attendant greet callers. “An auto attendant is your first impression with a caller. An auto attendant can help direct calls to proper departments, saving everyone time and improving the customer experience.”
A professional appearance also includes features such as an app available on the Mac, PC, Android and iPhone. “Our app enables you to make calls from anywhere, chat with colleagues, video chat, and see who’s on or off the phone,” he says.
What he is describing is truly a business system, not just a piece of hardware such as a phoneset. And it’s based in the cloud. Translation? It’s a software platform that connects to phone devices and computer hardware over the Internet, and the whole package is a phone system.
The difference between this cloud phone system and Ma Bell phones, is that today’s business phone systems do so much more than a traditional landline or wireless phone alone.
Gorny envisions advanced business phone systems as having limitless possibilities. Yet, he says, most small and medium sized business owners and managers still have difficulty imagining all the things an advanced business phone system can do.
Small features often cause business owners’ eyes to light up — features such as sending voicemail as a sound file to email.
“I think I speak for many people when I say that the traditional way of checking voicemail is frustrating and inefficient. Dialing your phone number, entering a PIN, waiting for the slow speaking lady, and listening to each voicemail — there’s a better way to do this. At Nextiva, whenever a user receives a voicemail, that message gets emailed to them immediately as a sound file. This allows the user to listen to his or her message at any time from any device,” he points out.
Gorny says he used to be surprised by how excited customers became over a single feature like voicemail-to-email, but he listened and learned. “It tells me the industry needs to do a better job of educating businesses as to what’s possible.”
Showing customers the power of technology and what is available is built into the company’s approach. “We are comfortable with the fact that our customers may come to us for price, but if they leave for price we have not done our job educating them.”
High Standards to Serve Customers
Nextiva as a company wants to make employees happy, but also has high expectations in order to give its signature “amazing service” to customers. Of Nextiva’s 300 employees, about half of them deal with customers because of the company’s focus on service.
“We put a lot of emphasis on developing a culture that makes employees happy so that they are motivated. We want them to work not only for salary and livelihood, but for a purpose.”
He adds, “People point to Google and the many perks such as the free food it provides, but forget that those perks were implemented to meet certain business needs. We provide perks also, but we balance them with high performance expectations because our customers are entitled to amazing service.”
Nextiva experiences very low employee turnover. “Employees who are not meeting expectations tend to leave by their own choice because they sense it’s not a good fit and the job is too demanding for them.”
One thing is clear: Tomas Gorny is a man on a mission. He says he is inspired by what Microsoft did in its transition from DOS to Windows, by making complex technologies simple and easy to use with a graphical interface. The future he sees is in unified communications that are easy to use. “We don’t want you to learn to use our product. We want you to look at our product and be able to use it. It’s about simplicity.”
“At Nextiva, we see ourselves as leading the way in transforming business communication,” he says.
Images: Nextiva, Wikipedia