Startup toymaker dials up Internet phone system to build credibility

Startup toymaker dials up Internet phone system to build credibility

Summary: Each Ooma Office base station, managed in the cloud, can support up to five extensions and 15 virtual extensions.

SHARE:
TOPICS: SMBs
7

Like most startups, GiGGo Toys aspires to look bigger than its actual size: it's a perception thing that inspires customer confidence. 

So when "Chief Toy Officer" Diana Brobmann started the company on New York's Long Island about a year ago, she was faced with a choice: pay a professional telephone receptionist $45,000 to $50,000 to manage incoming phone calls or invest in a business phone system that uses a "virtual receptionist" to ensure that they aren't missed. 

Brobmann opted for the latter, in the form of Ooma Office, a solution for small businesses that combines a compact piece of hardware (pictured below) that plugs into an Internet router with a high-speed bandwidth connection and controls a series of wireless phone jacks that act as the phone lines.

The starter version of the kit is priced around $249, including one base station and two Linx jacks that support up to three phone lines; you can expand each base system up to five extensions by buying additional Linx devices. Each system also supports up to 15 virtual extensions (for forwarding to external numbers).

OOMA_Office2Linx-v2

The Ooma hardware works in combination with a cloud service (starting at $19.98 per month for one user and line) that allows your company to turn features on and off. (The charge beyond that is $9.99 per user and $9.99 per phone line.) Here are some of the features:

  • Unlimited long distance and phone calls in the United States or Canada
  • Voicemail and voicemail to email options
  • Call transferring
  • The ability to create ring groups (to make sure a call is picked up or rolls to someone)
  • Conference bridges
  • Personalized hold music
  • Call forwarding
  • Support for attaching a fax machine (or for using an electronic fax service)

GiGGo opted for many of these functions. "We wanted to come across as an established company," Brobmann said. "We put in place a lot of functionality that helped us play with the big boys."

GiGGo sells ride-on toys including Motortycle and L'il Skootah, and it saw investing in a system like Ooma as critical for convincing retailers like Toys "R" Us and Target that the toy maker means business. Aside from creating the impression of a united company (no matter where someone is located), the Ooma Office set-up eliminated GiGGo's need to invest in a third-party conference call service, Brobmann said, and it was also able to program the automated voice that answers incoming calls to play into its branding. The company supports about four people in its central office, the rest of its roughly 15-person team are remote.

Brobmann also stressed Ooma Office's ease of use: her team was able to set it up quickly with minimal support. 

Ooma has been around since 2004, and it started out providing cloud-based telephone service for home users and consumers. Its small-business options are more recent, but the company has already carved out online retail partnerships with Amazon, Best Buy, Costco and Staples. 

Topic: SMBs

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

7 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Ooma should sign Uma Thurman as a spoksperson.

    nt
    greywolf7
  • And like all VOIP systems

    they gloss over the fact that YOU pay $50 a month (or more) to provide THEM with the infrastructure to do THEIR business.

    Sorry, but no.
    timspublic1@...
    • Cheaper than $4000 a month for a receptionist

      That just answers phones, and does pretty much the same thing.
      jessepollard
      • Who hires "just a receptionist" anymore?

        Seeing that answering phones is a small part of anyone's day. A great many time these people are receptionist/office manager/ect.
        William.Farrel
  • 40-50k?

    40-50k for a phone receptionist? I WANT THAT JOB
    mike@...
  • This is common

    There are many similar companies, I use one through Costco and now what used to cost me $150 a month for landline, 800 number, long distance and virtual assistant, is only about $50 a month.

    Actually it seems to me they are somewhat late to the game.
    stano360
  • Ooma and remote offices

    Be aware that a call which comes in, then is routed back out to a remote office uses 2 lines, not one. This means that if you want to have 2 conversations going on at the same time, where the 2 customers are talking to 2 employees who are not at the physical location of the base station, you need 4 lines! Also, as I understand it, if you only have 3 lines, and that 2nd call comes in, the reroute to the remote office will fail... it does NOT go to a VM or back to the virtual assistant.

    I discovered all this after I bought our unit... :-(
    ClearCreek