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December 19, 2012

Ifbyphone Spotlighted by Illinois Technology Association

Irv Shapiro, CEO and CTO, interviewed about the company’s success.

Illinois Technology Association

ITA Spotlight: Ifbyphone

With Irv Shapiro, CEO and CTO
Company name:
Company url:
What is your company’s Twitter handle?
Who are the founders of your company? What are your company roots?
Ifbyphone was founded in 2005. In 2005 and 2006, I worked with firms in Chicago, Jerusalem and Seattle to develop the technology that Ifbyphone is now known for: a voice-based marketing and sales platform that helps companies drive sales, reduce collection cycles, measure marketing effectiveness, and improve customer experience. However, Ifbyphone is not actually the first company I’ve built. I successfully sold Metamor Technologies (twice named to the Inc. 500 list) to CORESTAFF in 1997 and Edventions to Edison Schools in 2001. Several key employees who work at Ifbyphone have followed my leadership from those previous companies.
In 25 words or less, what are you all about?
“Take a chance! All life is a chance. The [one] who goes furthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare…” -Dale Carnegie
What problem do you solve?
Ifbyphone makes it easier for businesses to manage customer interactions, providing real-time intelligence about calls coming into and originating out of a business and appropriately routing and managing those calls for better, more efficient interactions. Since the applications are hosted, no additional hardware is required. Overall, Ifbyphone helps companies drive sales, reduce costs, improve customer interactions, and create efficiency. This is evidenced in numerous documented client case studies, and we continue to receive quantitative results of how we’re helping clients on a daily basis.
How did you get started?
I became frustrated by the Web as I found that it was difficult and inconvenient to contact companies directly when I wanted to make a purchase. I kept thinking, “If only I could speak with someone on the phone, it would make this purchasing decision that much easier.” Hence, the idea for “Ifbyphone” was born.
What makes your company special? How is your product differentiated in the eyes of the consumer?
When I started the company in 2005, I realized Ifbyphone couldn’t be all things to all people. While some businesses may be in need of individual voice applications, I understood the power of the “platform” as well. This is a clear distinction from our competitors, as we can provide everything from call tracking to voice notifications to virtual call center capabilities. If a business needs assistance in voice interactions, we’re here to help. Today, Ifbyphone has the best interactive voice response (IVR) solutions for small business. It’s evidenced in our wealth of client testimonials and documented ROI. We don’t charge a setup fee and don’t require long-term contracts with clients. The power of the technology alone drives our ongoing client relationships, as well as new business. As continued evidence of the successful “platform” approach, over 90% of Ifbyphone customers use more than one Ifbyphone service for their business needs.
How do you make money? Who are your primary customers and why do they choose you?
We make money the old-fashioned way. We provide a service that helps businesses increase revenues; we help them get to their leads faster and thereby close more business; we help them discover whether their online and offline advertising is working. This way they not only save money by eliminating waste, but they can put their money to work in finding more sales.
Our primary customers are sales, marketing and customer service leaders. We help these professionals harness the power of voice-based customer conversations. They choose us because we have a full suite of voice applications that help them drive sales and improve their interactions with their customers, and they choose use because we live our core values everyday. We strive to be the easiest provider they have ever done business with and we base our decisions on ensuring we are doing the right thing for our employees, our customers, and our investors.
Work Hard/Play Hard or The Early Bird Gets The Worm or something else?
The early bird gets the worm. That being said, my experience has been that successful people work hard and I am always extremely committed to the businesses I start. I will admit that I am a bit of a “uni-tasker” in this regard. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, but often struggle to find the work-life balance.
What’s the #1 thing on your To-Do list?
To help business owners and especially marketing executives and demand generation managers understand the value of voice. We all buy many things over the web today but it’s unlikely that you will find people putting a house in a shopping cart. My job is to get the word out that conversations are not passé. 77% of online adults say they would be interested in getting help from a real person before making certain online purchases. That kind of statistic shouldn’t be ignored.
What are your dreams for your company?
I want every sales and marketing leader across the world to understand the power of voice-based marketing automation and have the tools to engage their customers in the right conversations at the right time in order to drive sales to their highest level. Secondly, I want Ifbyphone to be the absolute best place to work for my employees. That is important to me.
It’s our kind of town to… but what are the advantages of being a Chicago-based technology company?
Chicago has so much to offer its entrepreneurs, with access to top universities and a large talent pool. It’s relatively easy to do business here, and the people have solid Midwestern values. So many good success stories like Groupon and GrubHub have originated right here in Chicago. To overcome this funding obstacle, I connected with the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center, which provided access to top local VC firms. To date, Ifbyphone has secured $22 million in funding.
What are the biggest challenges you are facing in scaling your business up?
Our largest challenge has been in filling key positions with SWANs. Additionally we have worked hard to put process discipline into every function at Ifbyphone while maintaining our commitment to being the easiest company our employees and customers have ever done business with. To be the easiest, you can’t implement unbendable rules; yet you have to have process to scale. We’ve spent much of 2012 getting this mix just right so 2013 is going to be a very exciting year.
What trends do you see heading into 2013 that are relevant to your industry and company?
The trend today is multimodal communications. Voice is a key component of that trend. 15 years ago people thought ecommerce would replace voice but it hasn’t happened. If anything, consumers have grown to demand voice and voice-based interactions. Consumers are choosing their method of communication and businesses have to follow suit or their customers will go somewhere else. Additionally we will continually see businesses increase their focus on metrics. Web analytics, CRMs, helpdesk software, and marketing automation all share the common trait of being able to measure, manage and automate a process. With voice-based marketing automation tools you are able to manage, measure and automate all aspects of a call into your business, from your business to a customer, or initiated by a web transaction. There is no reason now or in the future to just assume results when, by using the right technology, they will be provided for you.
What’s your #1 need going forward� other than funding and customers, anyway?
We have built a very strong culture at Ifbyphone based on hiring SWANs. SWANs are individuals who are (S)marter than average, (W)ork hard, are (A)mbitious, and (N)ice. To work at Ifbyphone you have to possess all four attributes. We all work too hard to spend time with folks who aren’t nice or who don’t share our passion for our customers. We only hire folks who have the talent, the drive, and the desire to join us in our ambitious endeavor to help customers across the world harness the power of voice-based customer conversations.
This one is all you…Anything else you want to tell us?
As I’ve said before, my continued goal for Ifbyphone is for it to be the easiest company that clients and my employees have ever worked with or for. Should client issues arise, they are quickly identified by Ifbyphone employees and then relentlessly addressed until the challenge has been eliminated. We�ve already received various accolades for our service and products: 2010 NGN Leadership Award for Call Tracking; the Internet Telephony Magazine 2010 Product of the Year Award; named to the list of 101 Best and Bright Companies to Work For three years in a row; named a 2011 Stevies finalist for our SourceTrak product suite; ranked #249 in the Inc. 500; a finalist in the Chicago Innovation Awards. We’re proud of what we do here, a sentiment that is reflected by those who know of and do business with us.