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Stay US-Based or Lose

Many articles and posts for freelancers, solopreneurs and small business owners recommend outsourcing tasks to free you up to operate and develop your business and brand. Maybe you have considered using an answering service to improve your image, free up more of your time, or make sure you don’t lose any potential new customers. Maybe you have an even used one before and know firsthand that these services can be very unpredictable. Phone answering services, in general, have a bad reputation. This is not surprising as they require a human interaction combined with, up until now, complex telecommunications systems. More than 80% of the answering service companies in the US are more than ten years old, and have built their systems on top of the legacy public telephone circuit switch network.  Last month, it was announced that a US government agency has now targeted 2018 to have this network completely switched over to internet protocol otherwise known as voice over internet protocol or VOIP. Already a third of the US phone network has been converted. The business opportunities being created by the transition of the 134 year old public telephone system, are mind boggling. Call centers using new cloud based systems built on top of the new VOIP telephone network, have emerged with capabilities such as automatically retrieving social media profiles, location maps and other related web pages when someone calls. Some of the new answering service companies that are emerging allow you to update your availability to receive a transferred call, via the web or your mobile phone and integrate your online calendar so they can see your schedule and know whether you are available.  It is easy to imagine a GPS functionality where the person answering your phone could tell both where the caller and you are located. This is really just the tip of the iceberg and this telephone network transition has the potential to impact numerous industries serving small businesses. Thinking about the new telephone network as a platform raises the idea that someone could emerge with an operating system and capture a huge amount of value like Apple did with the iPod and iPhone.