Thursday, February 09, 2017

RingCentral Review - Is it worth it?

For the last ten years our phone system in the office has been a typical small office PBX system from Nortel with service from Bell. The problem was the service was never that good. We tried everything to try and boost the volume on calls but nothing worked. It was also awkward and annoying to change any settings.

So after doing research several times over the last few years we decided to go with RingCentral. They advertise on TWiT and other podcasts and seem to stand out from that crowded marketplace as the largest and most reliable with a major presence in Canada.

After using the product for more than a year most of the office is now using the regular features quite fluidly.

Here are some of the growing pains we experienced while switching:

  1. Porting our number over from Bell worked easily enough but did take a week or so.
  2. Plugging the phone in and registering every user was quite simple but we did have major issues getting the phones to display the correct date/time. This turned out to be an issue with Bell.
  3. Bell did not make it easy to connect through their modem/router. We had to disable the router part of the box (put it in bridge mode) and use our additional exterior router (which is what we were using anyway).
  4. The users in our office struggle with any interface changes on machines they use everyday (I understand this is a normal IT problem).
    1. Putting people on hold now is called "Park" and that requires you to memorize a number to dial into any phone to get the call back.
    2. Transfering calls to someone else is a better system however it is different than before so had to be learned through use. It annoys me that when you transfer a call to someone else the CallerID looks like you are calling that person (which you technically are) and so the person just thinks it's an internal office call.
    3. The PolyCom phones we bought are quite basic and only have two lines, In order to set up conference calls you must use the cloud based system and email codes to everyone. On the plus side you can have huge numbers of people in your conference call. This is not to be confused with 'RingCentral Meetings' which is a Zoom or Google Hangouts competitor.
    4. Checking voicemail on the hard phones now requires inputting several menu commands and a password. It just takes too long compared to the preprogrammed buttons we had on the old phones. You will really want to use the desktop or Android app for this but then you need headphones/speakers for your computer.
  5. Most of the really useful features are too hard for some people to learn as they rarely have the chance to practice. You really need one person in to be in charge and set things up and answer questions as required. It really is not plug and play in that everyone will instantly know how to use every feature.
  6. Outgoing CallerID took several tries and many calls to tech support before they finally flicked the right switch to activate it.
  7. Tech support from RingCentral was initially quite good when setting up the system. I had several very helpful people directly in contact with me and helping me with every step. However, once the setup stage was complete I had to start an issue by submitting my problem on the RingCentral help site. This would be fine but they would initially try to help by email which was too slow, then eventually over the phone but only at the lowest level of support. Eventually I would be in contact with Level 2 support which would usually solve my issue.
  8. Incoming Caller ID: This seems to be resolved now but initially they told me we had to upgrade the service to get CallerID. We tried getting around it by syncing all our contacts and the desktop app with our generic office email Outlook. You could do the same with Gmail.
That leads to the biggest issue we have:

Sharing Contacts Company Wide:
We were told that contacts could be shared across the company but it turns out that it can't be done. The RingCentral forums are full of people asking for this feature over the last several years. It seems clear that they have lost business by not adding this feature. If there could be a central location for all contacts to be stored it would save a lot of time because one person could edit a contact and it would be fixed on everyone's account. This should be possible as everything is stored on the RingCentral servers anyway.

We ended up getting around it by linking our generic office email account with all it's contacts to everyone's desktop phone app. Not perfect but it does work.

So, would I recommend RingCentral? Yes but be aware that it isn't as simple as it looks on the website. It also has more features than we will ever use. For instance, they added this app called Glip that seems interesting but will never catch on. I wish they would just focus on fixing the features they already have.

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