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PBX service aimed at small businesses

Small businesses trying to sound big can try a new service from GotVMail, a network-based PBX service provider that is teaming up with Pitney Bowes to reach small businesses.

Using its proprietary software and hardware, the company provides customers with many of the features of a PBX for $10 per month plus 7.4 cents a minute if they also buy an 800 number to go along with it.

Pitney Bowes’ small business unit, PB Direct, has entered an agreement with GotVMail to promote the service on its Web site and via e-mail and direct mail, and to offer discounts.

GotVMail presents callers with a recorded greeting and given dialing options to reach the party they want. The service can forward calls to designated numbers according to policies set by customers. So, for example, a customer could have all calls directed to an office phone from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., to a cell phone from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and to voice mail from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m.

Voice mail can be picked up by dialing in, or voice messages can be retrieved as e-mail sound attachments.

The service gives an aura of solidity to The Hosting Spot, a Web hosting company in Delavan, Wis., says its owner, Jonathan Meersman. He runs the company out of his house, but most of the time he is on the road, and most of his employees are consultants that live and work at various locations around the country, he says.

If he is unavailable, he can reconfigure the service via a phone touchpad or Web access to put calls through to one of his employees rather than to himself, he says.

Meersman says he thinks the service helps confirm for potential customers that The Hosting Spot is for real. He says call logs show calls placed to the firm’s 800 number from phone numbers that are later listed by those who sign up online for hosting services. He believes customers find his Web site, are interested in the service, call the 800 number, hear the recorded greeting, use that as confirmation that it is a legitimate company, then place an order online.

The service gives Meersman flexibility in how he reaches customers. For example, recently a customer wanted a signature on a service-level agreement and faxed a copy of it to him via his GotVMail service. The service converted the fax to a PDF file that he picked up via his e-mail on a tablet PC. He signed the document and returned it to GotVMail for faxing back to the customer.

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