Welcome to our last podcast of 2015! We love all the feedback we’ve received since we launched our podcast, and we can’t wait to hear what you guys have to say next year. That’s why on today’s episode we’re answering a listener’s questions!

On our forum, David recently asked how we managed the logistics of owning and maintaining multiple brands under one business. Many of you out there may have quite a few small businesses under your belt, and managing the paperwork, the inventory, and the accounting of each of these different gigs can be really frustrating, especially when it comes down to multiple platforms, different social media accounts, and advertising for each and every one of your new products.

Grant has even done very thorough research trying to find the best software to help us manage all of our different brands. He discusses this research on today’s podcast, and we cover a few points we’ve had hands-on experience with, including:

  • Balancing the multiple brands within your business
  • How to merge and manage inventories for multiple brands
  • Common inventory errors and how you can avoid them
  • Using tech and software to help you handle the logistics of your business
  • Grant’s personal research on different management software
  • The pros and cons of using various software and how we use them for shipping, accounting, and inventory management
  • How we – two guys who really hate accounting – find the best ways to manage our accounts and taxes
  • Telecommunication tips to keep you visible and accessible for your customers

Resources Mentioned:

StitchLabs

ShipStation

Sellbrite

TradeGecko

Orderhive

HubLogix

Skubana

Xero

Quicken

Phone.com

eVoice.com

Mike’s 2015 Year in Review Blog Post

If you have any questions or anything you’d like us to discuss on the podcast please go to ecomcrew.com and fill out the contact form. Also we would really appreciate if you would leave us a review on iTunes.

Full Audio Transcript

Mike:   Hi, everyone.  This is Mike Jackness.

Grant:  And this is Grant Yuan.

Mike:   And welcome to this week’s episode of the Ecom Crew podcast.  This’ll be our last podcast for 2015.  Kind of crazy that the year has gone by so quickly.  I want to actually do a listener shout out podcast this week.  We had a great question come in and Grant and I were just chatting and felt like this might be a great way to end the year.  You know, we just started doing this podcast only a few weeks ago and already got several questions coming in and great comments and we’re trying to continue to improve upon this show.  So we thought it’d be a cool way to end the year, doing a listener question, and then start out next year with a couple cool topics, like we talked about logistics, a couple other things we’re going to be talking about.  And this question actually has some logistics stuff built into it.

So with that, let me just read the question real quick.  It’s a shout out from David from Baltimore here and he says, “I’ve been a huge fan of the Ecom Crew since you guys launched.  Wanted to send over a suggestion for a topic.  Super excited about the fulfillment one, by the way,” which mentioned just a second ago, we’ll be doing that sometime in January.  “Would love to understand how you guys best handle logistics for multiple brands, accounting, multiple shops, inventory management, purchase orders, invoices, receipts, marketing materials, answering phones, et cetera.  We have a few different brands with different names all on a fairly small scale, but we’re growing into more.  I would love to hear some feedback about how you guys manage everything.”

So I think Grant and I are doing fairly similar things in this regard, but probably a couple of things little bit differently.  You know, we both have multiple stores we’re running.  We can probably really dig into this question you got here, David.  So we’ll just peel back the onion and get to the first part and go over each one one at a time and I’ll throw it over to Grant.  Do you want to maybe talk a little bit about how you handle logistics for multiple brands?

Grant:  Yeah, sure thing.  So I think this is a great question and for a lot of, you know, new stores out there, when you’re starting off a little bit small, you might have a few irons in the fire and me and Mike are certainly people that really go by that model.  I’m not saying that it’s necessarily good to split your focus but we both suffer from terrible ADD and we just always do things like this.  So in regards to working with logistics, I’m pretty lucky on the Cutting Board side because I run ChoppingBlocks.com and CuttingBoard.com so I actually am able to merge my inventory.  And it’s not always by accident.  I really got into chopping blocks because I knew that I could have a lot of crossover.  That one focuses a little bit more on furniture and larger tables, whereas Cutting Board features really more kind of residential and home-use cutting boards.

So when I do my fulfillment, I pretty much just put all my products together and I pick and pack from the same inventory.  And the way that I manage that inventory: currently I’m using Stitch, which is our – I guess you could call it our CRM.  I know Mike uses it as well.  And Stitch supports multiple warehouses.  I’ve got an East Coast warehouse, I’ve got Amazon, I’ve got my West Coast warehouse, and I put different products depending on, you know, how much it moves into each warehouse.  Now, I can’t separate my product by brand technically, but I’m sure if you have multiple brands and you need – and most people aren’t going to have a situation where they actually are sharing inventory.  Sometimes people do, but I’m sure even if you’re using the same fulfillment warehouse, you can probably either just – you know, if there’s no crossover, you can just keep your inventory as is there and just put all your SKUs into the same warehouse.  And for whatever reason, if you do want to separate them and build that wall between it, you can probably just create two warehouses in Stitch even though it’s actually the same physical warehouse and then keep them pulling separately that way.

That all said, I’m actually looking forward to switching over to another provider pretty soon because I’m hitting the limitations of Stitch in regards to what they’re capable of.  While they can do drop shipping and they can do multi-warehousing, it’s not the easiest, and most of the time I’ve got to manually go in and decide what to ship from which warehouse.  And the biggest issue, the main growing pain that I have right now is I’ve got many, many situations where I’m shipping from multi-warehouses and Stitch does not handle that at all.  I’ve got to break apart my shipments over in ShipStation and then I can create, you know, one order from – I can create two shipments from an existing order in ShipStation, but if anybody even contacts me and has a shipping issue, I’ve got to go to ShipStation instead of Stitch to try to look up where everything went out and so you’ve got a little bit of blurred visibility unless you look into ShipStation so it creates a little bit of issues.  So that’s kind of the answer from the logistics side of things.

Mike:   Cool.  So yeah, I mean I’m doing very – just to be clear on what Grant’s talking about, Stitch is actually a products called Stitch Labs.  I believe it’s StitchLabs.com.

Grant:  Right.

Mike:   They have, you know, what?  Four different tiers or something like that, so if you’re just getting started, I think it’s probably in like the $50 a month range.  We’re on a plan that’s costing us more between $200 and $300 a month right now.  It depends on any given month because we’re hitting order thresholds and a couple other things that we’ve done.  We’ve added a couple additional channels.  So for Stitch Labs, it handles several of the questions you had here, David.  It’s, you know, logistics, it does some accounting stuff, it does inventory management, purchase orders, things of that nature.  So we’re using Stitch Labs as kind of our hub.  It’s the heart of our business or the brain of our business, however you want to look at it.  And we have several different channels in there.  We have a big commerce store, we have a Shopify store, we’re pulling in from Etsy, pulling in from eBay, pulling in from Amazon, and all of our orders end up in one central place.

And then from there, we have different settings set on Stitch.  You can set high-level settings on a particular channel.  So, for instance, with all of our Etsy orders, we have those going to do auto-fulfillment just to make it really simple because all the products that are there – we’re selling books for our coloring brand and we have all those products into Amazon, and just to make things simple and not have to touch all those orders, we have that set to automatically fulfill.  So it just automatically goes over to Amazon as an order and gets fulfilled and we pay the extra $1 to have it go out in a plain box versus and Amazon-branded box.  So that just flows through automatically.  And then the other channels we have go into ShipStation, which Grant was mentioned, which is a great piece of software that just aggregates all of our orders and then we do all of our shipping that’s going to be done in-house here through ShipStation.

But going back to Stitch, I mean it’s also an inventory management software.  So it’s really important for our business because we have the same – let’s use the coloring book example again.  Yeah, we’ll have that same book listed literally in four different places.  We have one or ColorIt.com, we have one on eBay, we have one on Amazon, and we also have one on Etsy.  And we need to have visibility into, you know, how many are left in stock with that product.  We don’t want to get into an oversell situation.  So if one of our books sells on eBay, it deducts it from inventory on Stitch and then propagates that data back out.  We’re also using the multi-warehousing function because we store those book not only in our warehouse here in California and also at Amazon, but we also have the manufacturer who makes our books hold onto our books for us and we pay them a fee to store the books, which saves us a ton on shipping because we’re shipping those books into Amazon Advantage program and we’re also shipping them into Amazon FBA.

Now the book manufacturer doesn’t do any individual shipping, one customer at a time, so, you know, we have to have those sent here for that, but we save up our shipments and do lots of palletized shipments and things of that nature to save a lot on shipping.  So, you know, Stitch handles of all that and, as Grant said, I mean we’re also hitting some limitations, but if you’re just getting started, I think that Stitch Labs is a great piece of software.  I mean my two biggest hang-ups that I have with it: number one is just performance.  You know, I find it to be – you know, I always thought it was our internet at our old office.  We have blazing fast internet now and, you know, it’s really shown how Stitch needs to work on their performance.  It takes sometimes, you know, 30 seconds or something for a page load, which is really annoying.  The other big hang-up I have: we’re shipping anywhere between two and four pallets a week now to Amazon FBA and I mentioned before in a previous podcast, you know, those are all our own branded products now.  And one thing that Stitch really has a hard time with is transfer orders.  Now they did recently make a functionality for transfer orders, so when you’re transferring inventory from your warehouse to Amazon, they can do transfer orders but only on what’s called small pack shipments, which would be UPS basically.  It does not handle LTL transfer orders.

So just to give you an example of where this becomes a huge heartache in our business, let’s say we have 1,000 of a widget here in our warehouse and we want to send 500 of that widget to Amazon.  Well, you know, we have to account for the inventory somehow so what ends up happening is we deduct 500 from our inventory.  We do a manual adjustment or a transfer the best way that we can with Stitch, and now it shows that we have 500 in stock, which is good from one perspective, but it’s bad from an accounting perspective because if we run an inventory value report, which we use to establish our cost of goods every month, we’re missing 500 widgets.  They’re in the ether.  And if you do anything with Amazon, if you’re familiar with Amazon FBA, your inventory does not show up at Amazon for a couple of weeks.  I mean we ship it on a LTL, it takes, you know, three, four days before it ends up at the warehouse in Ontario, California, then they’ve got to check it in, then it goes into that warehouse, then it gets redistributed through the Amazon network and it can legitimately be two plus weeks before all that inventory is then checked in and, you know, accounted for within our world at least.

So those are the hang ups that I have with Stitch.  I mean we’re not quite doing some of the more advances stuff that Grant is with the different warehouses because we’re not doing cutting boards.  We’re doing lighter items that are about the price to ship from here anywhere else.  So, you know, if we were doing stuff like Grant was, it would be a lot more useful I guess would probably be the best word to be able to do multiple warehouse fulfillment.  And maybe this would be a good time, Grant – I know you did a huge research project looking at probably like five or six different inventory management software packages.  I know you looked at Skubana and a couple others.  Do you want to maybe comment real quickly on that and kind of talk about some of the ups and downs of some of those?

Grant:  Yeah, sure.  I don’t want us to get a little bit too sidetracked off of it so I’ll just give a quick lowdown of it.  It’s funny because I just recently had what you are talking about with the inventory issues because I was looking at my Stitch inventory report and I’m like, “Wait a minute.  I don’t have $150,000 worth of inventory.  I just moved it all out.”  And then I realized, “Oh, right.  I’ve probably got like, you know, $50,000 to $70,000 that went to Amazon that kind of, you know, never really got taken out of inventory, just got added into Amazon because I didn’t do a reconciliation.”

So yeah, Stitch is kind of a medium, the minor league kind of game, like minor ball.  And in terms of the top five systems out there – and I know I’m going to get grief from each one of these guys so I’m just gonna say it anyways, knowing that – I think your most basic, entry level ERP is going to be Sellbrite and I don’t say that in a bad way.  They’re great if you have exactly one store or maybe you’ve got two stores and you just need to link them up.  They’re perfect if you just need to get your stuff onto eBay.  They’ve got a decent Amazon functionality so if you need to get your stuff onto Amazon, use them as your fulfillment provider, get your things listed on eBay.  They’ve got an automatic eBay lister.  They’re really great.  they can’t do anything like multiple warehouses kind of things.  They’ve got a somewhat limitation on the SKUs.  It’s not huge.  I like their performance in terms of responsive website over Stitch.  Like Mike said, I’ve been complaining about Stitch’s performance forever.  Mike seems to have thought I’ve been smoking something, but he finally realizes that like when I scream at Stitch, it’s for a reason.  I think Stitch is utilized just atrocious.  You know, I’m not going to mince my words.  I think it’s
——- terrible but I live with it because it’s the best thing that we’ve got at the moment.

So there is Sellbrite and Stitch, and on that same level is probably TradeGecko.  They cost a bit more.  They’ve got a little bit more advanced features.  They’ve got forecasting, they’ve got multi-warehouse support.  They even have drop shipping.  It’s an add-on plugin.  It doesn’t work great.  You need to put everything into a CSV file using kind of template rules and then it can kind of go from there.  So it’s a little bit clunky.  It’s not automated but, you know, it kind of works.  They’ve got pretty much everything that Stitch does.  They’ve got purchase orders; they’ve got decent order inventory management.  At the end of the day, all of these guys will pretty much always do multi-channel linking and inventory management.  I mean that’s really what they’re about so I’m not gonna, you know, hit on that too much.

OrderHive, they’ve kind of one of the more cheaper options.  I think they start off at about $40 a month.  I was looking at them for multi-warehousing as well.  They don’t really do a good job on that side.  Their UI is pretty decent.  I think these guys are an India operation and I think that’s why their pricing is a little bit more competitive.  And they seem to be working on more features, but the UI is a little bit non-intuitive.  I think Sellbrite still has the best UI out there.

And then going up to the next step, I think it was really the enterprise class comes down to maybe three players: one of them is HubLogix, which used to be known as – you might help me out here, Mike.  They had another name, right?  eCommHub?

Mike:   eCommHub, yeah.

Grant:  Right.  So HubLogix, I talked to them.  I actually really wanted to try them out because they were supposed to have a lot of rules and automation.  They’re quite expensive.  They charge $50 a month for every warehouse or other drop shipper that you use, and for me, that would’ve come out to – I mean we’re looking at about $800 to $1,000 a month for me to really get set up on them, and to me that was just an absurd level pricing, plus a per order fee on top of that and I just refuse to pay that.  And so I have not been able to test out their system.  I know a lot of people do like them and they do come very well-featured.

So the other new kid on the block is Skubana and they’re the guys that I’m going to be playing around with.  They do a per order fee so they grow as your business grows.  They have a minimum fee of what I believe is $99 a month.  They have a lot of rules-based shipping, they support multi-warehousing, they support automated fulfillment, kitting, purchase orders.  The creator of Skubana, Chad, he is an Amazon power seller and he kind of grew up doing – I believe it was HVAC type air filters, in that kind of industry.  And anyhow, they do a huge Amazon business and they’re built out Skubana essentially as an internal tool that they’ve released out to the public.  So for Amazon power sellers, it’s really kind of a bit of a Godsend.  Their UI, admittedly, I was not a huge fan of it.  I know they’ve been making improvements.

So that’s just kind of as quick as I can make a rundown out of everything.  I know it’s a huge, huge time thing to try to figure out which one works best for you and it really depends on what level your business is at.  But essentially, you should always be looking at matching the volume of your business with what you really, really need in terms of your ERP.  If you’re starting out, you don’t need, you know, eCommHub, you don’t need Skubana necessarily.  I mean these are enterprise grade pieces of software.  Most people I think are going to be just happy with Stitch or Sellbrite, Ordoro, or TradeGecko.  So those are all decent platforms.

Mike:   Cool, yeah, and just real quick, Grant, I was looking on Skubana and a couple of these others as you were talking.  So Skubana’s now got a $250 minimum threshold per month, and I’ve actually recently been looking at them as well just because of some other frustrations I’ve had with Stitch and for me, it would probably be in like the $800 to $900 a month range and we’re continuing to grow, so like it would be a pretty expensive jump for us to go to Skubana.  And then the other one we were just talking about was HubLogix and they’re also $250 minimum.  So some of these are fairly expensive compared to – probably what you’re going to be looking at it more of an entry level, you know, package so…

Grant:  Yeah.  And I would add a little bit of a caveat to what Mike says.  With Mike, it’s generally more of a volume business, and I think really for Amazon, anybody’s going to be more geared toward a volume business, but when they charge per pricing – for example, I believe it’s what?  Like 3- cents and order for Skubana right now?  I haven’t took a look at the price.

Mike:   39 cents.

Grant:  Okay.  I guess everything’s gone up a little bit.

Mike:   Sorry, 30 cents for your first 4,000 orders of standard, and then if you do FBA, it’s 15 cents.

Grant:  Oh, okay.

Mike:   Per order.

Grant:  So yeah.  15 cents can be, you know, a pretty big dink to your margins depending on what you’re selling.  For me, because I’ve got an average order value that’s pretty darn high, doesn’t really affect me that much.  So yeah.  Sometimes you’ve got to pick things really depending on your margins involved too.  So that’s kind of a good point.

Mike:   Yup.  All right, so moving onto the next part of the question that David had here was on accounting so I’ll just kind of quickly get into what we do.  So we recently switched from QuickBooks over to Xero based on the suggestion of our accountants.  We’re using a company called Cloudsourced Accounting and made that switch over to Xero, which was actually, you know, a happy day for me because I’ve always been kind of anti-Intuit.  I think that they’re a horrible company personally.  I’ve just never really been a fan of some of their business practices.  They’ve continued to bill us a couple different times on QuickBooks accounts that we’ve cancelled and then gone back months later, realized they were still billing us, and still had a problem with them billing us and it just frustrates me when companies do stuff like that and they wouldn’t refund us and, you know, just a bad personal experience.  Switching over to Xero was a great day for us and quite frankly, I think it’s better software.  There’s a reason why those guys have – they’ve really come on the scene fast and furious.  It’s really good software.  It’s good particularly for ecommerce.  Stitch has a plugin for linking up with Xero.

So, you know, accounting, even with all that, is still a huge frustration for us.  It’s actually my number one goal of things to fix and get better in in 2016.  I think, you know, this is probably something that is a frustration for a lot of small business owners, ecommerce owners in general but, you know, our accountants, because of the number of transactions that we go have put us onto a method of just putting all of our inventory into a bucket.  And basically, you know, each month you’re going to have inventory going out of that bucket, which is sales to customers, and inventory going into that bucket, which is inventory coming in that you’ve purchased and, you know, the net result is going to be your cost of goods, which, in theory, on paper, works great but when you have the number of items coming through our shop as we do, you know, we end up with huge disparities in what our cost of goods should be each month and it’s been very difficult to nail down 100% accurate P&L each month because of it, which is really frustrating.

And one of the biggest issues is really this issue I mentioned earlier where we have $20,000, $30,000 of inventory leaving our shop every week on pallets and being just kind of like lost in the ether in the meantime.  So we’re having a difficult time with that.  You know, I don’t really have a perfect answer on the accounting front.  I wish I did.  If anybody out there has any suggestions on that angle, I’d love to hear them.  But, you know, we do keep really good track of our expenses and all that type of stuff and, you know, from that perspective we’re good.  It’s just, you know, our cogs are typically off by a non-insignificant amount of money, you know, some low- to mid-five figure number every month and it’s really frustrating and it really throws off our cogs.  We can do some estimations and things like that to back out and kind of get a more accurate number but it’s difficult.  You know, with the number of touch points that we do have with multiple stores and multiple platforms and, you know, inventory transferring from all these different places, it is definitely a frustration and something I’m working on, you know, big time in 2016.

So, Grant, you want to maybe kind of talk real quick about how you’re handling accounting right now?

Grant:  I played around with Xero and I did Quicken, and I’m going to say this first off that I am not an accounting expert by any means and that’s probably my weakest point.  Mike and I suffer from the entrepreneur allergy to paperwork and the minute that I pretty much encounter like things like, you know, taxes and form documents to fill out, I mean everything just goes sideways for me.  But I’m using Stitch.  That really pulls into it for Quicken online.  It’s going to sound terrible, but I pretty much just wing it in terms of using a lot of my just kind of rough costing and I kind of do the bucket mentality as well.  You know, there’s just no way that anybody doing ecommerce can do single transactions at a time.  There’s no software right now that can make that worthwhile.  And, you know, there might be something in the future but a lot of platforms will say that they support accounting and whatever, but really all that really means is that they hook up into Quicken and so it’s really how well do they really hook up into it?

At the time that we first started with BigCommerce, they had a third party integration that was rough at best and I know other sites like Shopify and Etsy and, you know, eBay, they’ve all got their integration things as well.  And I’ve found personally that I mean that’s another reason that you really want to us an ERP because the ecommerce platforms, they’ll say that they have the integration, but really, I mean they’re just bare-boning it just to say that they have it and, you know, who knows what kind of data you’re getting pumped into Quicken?  And at least with these other, you know, actual inventory platforms.  Like their business is making sure that you know what your visibility is and they can push up all the correct information to QuickBooks or Xero or whatnot.  And even then, platforms like Stitch still have a bit of an issue.  That’s actually one of the biggest kind of issues that they have, which is that they’re a little bit clunky.  They do like a once-per-month upload.  But again, I don’t want to pick on Stitch.  It’s only because I’m using them.  It’s really hard to tell how good the inventory management is on the different platforms until you’re finally playing around with it.

Mike:   Yup.  For sure, for sure.  And, you know, Stitch is one of these things where I like love to hate it and, you know, as you were kind of mentioning, Grant, we do pick on them but at the end of the day I would be absolutely lost without them.  So, you know, I would love for them to get better at what they do, but they’re also, for what we do, at least on our end, the best solution for us.  And they are the only ones that I’ve been able to find that integrate with all the channels I mentioned.  You know, usually they’ve missing something.  You know, they’re either missing Amazon, they’re missing eBay, they’re missing Etsy or whatever it might be.  So even just finding a platform that has all the integrations is a challenge, and then from there, you know, does it do a good job of all the other stuff that we need?

And actually, that’s a great segue into the next question you had here, the next part of your question, which is purchase orders and invoices, receipts.  So, you know, Stitch actually does all that too.  I actually, just before hopping on this podcast with Grant, just ordered two orders from different manufacturers – existing manufacturers that we sell for on IceWraps.com – and Stitch makes it incredibly easy.  I mean every item is linked to a particular manufacturer or to a particular vendor and we set a lot threshold for every item and I can just go in and create a purchase order for Vendor or Manufacturer A and I click down on the autofill button, whatever you want to call it, and it’ll automatically fill all low-stock variance of that item from that vendor, from that manufacturer.  So, you know, I was able to order $6,000 from one manufacturer and $4,000 from another manufacturer in product in about four minutes.

I mean it was incredibly easy and I’ve come to rely on that and have faith and trust in those numbers being correct because we go in and periodically update our minimum order quantity and I usually go through and do a little bit of manual adjustment as I’m doing the purchase orders and this is actually something that I delegated to our shipping manager now, but he’s out for the week so I did it myself today.  But it’s really simple and Stitch makes it easy to do purchase orders.  So obviously with our own branded products, the process is a little bit different.  We still create purchase orders but it’s not quite as automated like that because we’re having to order larger quantities, you know, container loads or much larger quantities or product because we’re getting it in from China so it’s a little bit different in that method.  But if you’re just ordering from existing manufacturers, Stitch makes it incredibly easy.  And I’m not sure if you’re using that functionality or not, Grant.

Grant:  You know, I don’t do it because, again, I’ve got a problem with multi-warehousing, so if I run low in one warehouse, then I need to be able to reorder just for that warehouse.  Now, Stitch can set that up so that you’ve got, you know, low stock at different warehouses, but the biggest issue that I have is – just as a perfect example for Christmas, I mean there’s probably been at least I’d say 800 orders to 1,000 orders that came through, thereabouts.  And when it goes into Stitch, it automatically gets assigned to a warehouse.  So there’s no rule, there’s no like logic behind it; it just goes straight to your default warehouse.  And so you’ve got to go and edit every single order to put it at a different warehouse and let’s say you’re out of inventory at one warehouse and you’ve got to pull it from two different places.  Stitch can’t figure it out, how to pull from two places, so you’ve got to, you know, duplicate the order, put another item into another warehouse.  So again, the entrepreneur answer is to say —- it and, you know, you just have a universal inventory count, which, again, that ruins the whole point of having multiple warehouses in some ways because, again, you lose visibility of what you have where.

So I’ve just got my warehouses giving me an inventory report directly on what I need.  So I’m trading a little bit of automation for finesse.  And that’s really why I’ve been looking at getting to more enterprise level that can actually route my orders and recreate POs as I need them so that I don’t have to spend my time playing Tetris with inventory.

Mike:   Yeah.  All right, moving on to the last part of the question here.  You mentioned, David, answering phones.  So for me, we’re using Phone.com.  we had previously used RingCentral, which I kind of grew to hate.  I don’t know why they’re so popular.  It’s actually kind of weird because it’s one of the most popular online phone systems that there are and we used them for quite a while, but their pricing and their functionality of their back end – I think they’re number one because they were the best at one time and they stayed relevant because they have a large customer base, but I found, you know, Phone.com to be just so much better.  We’re paying $10 a month is our base plan with an 800 phone number and we have that for ColorIt.com.  We don’t get anywhere near the threshold for having to pay for more minutes on ColorIt.com.

On IceWraps.com, we get quite a bit of phone calls as you can imagine with a product that, you know, has different sizes and it’s a health kind of product where people are going to ask questions about which product is better and stuff.  We get significantly more phone calls on that number, but even still, our phone bill is like $30 a month and with lots of minutes, and that includes a real 800 phone number.  So that’s what we’re using for our phones.  It’s got incredible functionality for routing and for scheduling and for, you know, all the different stuff.  We just have the phones route right to our cell phones, so they go – we have like an order.  They go to our shipping manager, support manager guy, first and then they come to me and then they go back to him and then it comes to the new lady we just hired and it comes back to me before it finally will hit a voicemail and we don’t let people stay on hold forever.  So eventually it will hit a voicemail.  We call them back.  That happens rarely, but yeah, just using our cell phones.

That way, you know, anywhere that we’re at, the phone rings whether we’re back in the warehouse or at lunch or on vacation or whatever it might be.  The phone’s always with us versus having hard line phones in our office and being more tied down.  So yeah, I’m using Phone.com.  What about you, Grant?

Grant:  I use eVoice.com and I agree.  Form our time with RingCentral, we just had a lot of dropped calls and we found out and I think I was the one though, if I remember correctly, that was doing the testing of like why we were having so many calls being dropped and we did like a time.  We timed it how long it took for me to call our number and then have a person pick up and we found out that the round robin on RingCentral was taking like upward of I think it was 13 seconds before like a real person like fast as you could pick upon your cell phone would pick it up, and so we were just like, “Well, you know, we’ve got an average order of $1,000.  Like this is like incredibly unacceptable.”  So that was just, you know, mind-boggling and we switched to something that was going to be a lot more fast.

So there is definitely some performance issues and, you know, prices and everything but RingCentral isn’t the cheapest, either, so before we, you know, transition to a RingCentral stomping fest, everyone’s got a few other issues.  I believe I tried – other than eVoice, another one of the pretty popular ones out there and I found out that they were okay, but eVoice, I’ve never had any issue.  I just have it connect to my cell phone as well.  It’s a 1-800 number so it rings directly to me.  It’s got voice transcription, which most of them do.  eVoice also links up into my CRM, which means that I can just, you know, have it go directly into Help Scout and I can see when I’ve got phone calls that I missed in there.  it can also link into, I believe, like Agile CRM or, you know, SalesForce or whatever if you really want to follow up on those kind of calls too.

And then for CuttingBoard, I actually go the cheap route unbelievably and I actually just use Google Voice.  And it sounds like kind of a strange answer but Google Voice can actually hook up into Help Scout as well.  I get any kind of missed calls or anything that goes from there and into my CRM.  And Google Voice is free.  If you’re lucky, you can get a phone area code extension that matches what area code you’re in and these days, depending on the kind of site you’re running, I think a 1-800 number adds some credibility for sure, but other times I think it doesn’t really matter.  Everyone’s got a cell phone these days.  Nobody pays long-distance phone calls to, you know, call a New York number versus a L.A. number.

The other reason I think I’ve used Google Voice is I think when the site started off, I just tossed it on there and after the number just got kind of put around, I just never decided to change it just because it’s worked fine.  At some point in the future, if I ever get to the point where I need to have it round robin because I’ve got so many orders or so many people calling, you know, that’s a bridge that I’ll cross when I get there and I’ll change the number and just upgrade to a different provider, but I think for most people, it’s going to be a long time before you get to that point where you need two people answering phones, you know, continuously and whatnot.  During the holidays, it certainly can become an issue of course, but yeah, I just have my Google phone routed directly to my office line and it works out for me.

Mike:   Cool.  So I think that kind of wraps things up for today.  One last note here: I just want to mention this was out 10th episode, which is cool.  We got the first 10 episodes in the bag, which is kind of cool.  Not a lot of podcasts even make it to episode 10 so we’re excited to get through our 10th episode and have it also fall on the end of the year here.  So Happy New Year to everybody.  Thank you for listening and for supporting Ecom Crew.  I also made a post over on the blog about what I’ve done in 2015 and my goals for 2016, so you might find that interesting if you want to head over for that, and also, please don’t forget to leave us a review on iTunes.  We appreciate all your comments and feedback there.  And if you have any other questions that you want answered on the podcast in the future, please feel free to head over to Ecom Crew.  Hit us up on the contact form.  We’d love to answer your question maybe on a future podcast.  So until next week, everybody, until 2016, Happy New Year and we’ll talk to you then.

Grant:  Happy New Year, everybody.