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The Four Most Essential Integrations Your Business Phone System Should Have

Hosted business phone systems are popular for a plethora of reasons, but one of the best things about them is their ability to integrate with other software/solutions your company may use. If you adopt a VoIP system that permits you to manage numerous business functions through a single, unified system, you can have better customer service and reduced operating costs. I have listed the four most essential integrations your business phone system should have.

Cloud Backup Features

Cloud business phone systems are great, but some businesses worry about what will happen if their VoIP provider doesn’t take the proper steps to ensure that customer contact information and calls records are kept safe. Cloud backup features can minimize the risk of losing important data and automatically copy your VoIP information. Regardless of what happens to the provider, your information will remain intact.

CRM Software

Customer Relationship Management, or CRM, software compiles customer data, organizes it, and uses it to manage sales and find new opportunities for growth. When you combine your business phone system and your CRM software into one integrated interface, customer service reps can have relevant data at their fingertips during calls. By keeping records and details about all customer service calls, you can serve your clients more efficiently. This will strengthen your relationship with them and increase the likelihood of them becoming repeat customers.

Accounting/Bookkeeping Software

Reliable accounting software is a must for any business. When you integrate your account software with VoIP, your accountants can monitor transactions from their phone or laptop. This allows them to quickly identify errors or irregularities . Marrying your accounting software with your VoIP also allows you to send reminder calls to clients who are late in their bills.

Microsoft Outlook & Email Clients

The best thing about integrating Microsoft Outlook with your VoIP is that that you can make calls and manage emails in tandem. Companies that opt to use Outlook usually store the bulk of their contacts there—including phone information. When you integrate the two, rather than look up phone numbers in Outlook before you want to make a call, your Outlook information is automatically available in your phone network. The other nice feature is that you can receive messages as audio files in Outlook, which means that you can check your phone messages without having to leave your computer.

How to Boost Concentration During Business Phone Calls and Conferences

There have been many transformations to the business phone system in the past ten years, and we’ve greatly altered the way we communicate with clients and customers. With that said, one of the most effective communication tools is still the phone call or conference call. Unfortunately, some of today’s technology prevents these calls from being as effective as they could be and reduces concentration during business phone calls and conferences. 

For example, employees frequently bypass their desk phone in favor of their mobile phone. Despite employees comfortable relationship with mobile phones, they aren’t exactly the best way to handle large call volumes. For one thing, mobiles have limited battery life and it is not atypical for an employee to miss a call due to a dead battery.

However, the biggest problem with an over reliance on mobile phones is erratic signal strength. This particular problem multiplies in a busy office setting when numerous devices are attempting to connect to a limited capacity cell.

This is where the desk phone comes in; after all, there’s nothing worse than dropping off  due to poor coverage or a dying battery during an important call. With a desk phone, this problem is nonexistent. Desk phones also tend to have much better call quality.

Which brings me to my point: is there a variation in concentration levels when comparing desk phones to mobile phones? If employees are using a mobile phone that has poor call quality, inconsistent cell coverage, and poor battery life, are they going to become disengaged and frustrated?

The best way to solve the aforementioned issues is to invest in an advanced business telephone system. With a great business telephone system, you can marry the ease of relying on a mobile phone with the sophistication of a business telephone system. Here are the things to look for when getting a business telephone system:

  1. Latest Bluetooth technologies – By opting for a business telephone system with an upgraded version of Bluetooth integrated, employees not only get crystal clear calls when using a Bluetooth handset or headset, but they get a similar freedom that they might achieve from their mobile device.
  2. Mobile integration – Allows mobile calls to be received on an employ’s desk phone, in effect increasing the audio quality.
  3. HD audio – HD audio is among the best quality audio available. A sealed acoustic chamber is recommended for the speaker phone, which is really important to avoid feedback loops and stopping tiny vibrations from interfering with the audio.
  4. Avatars integrated into the desk phone – Actually viewing an image of the person calling makes the call more personal and can help improve the back and forth on calls.

By choosing a business telephone system with these features, employees will be a lot more attracted to their desk phones, and odds are, they will accomplish more throughout the day.

The Pros and Cons of Desk Phones and Softphones

The primary types of VoIP business phones are desk phones and softphones. As you’re probably aware, desk phones are the physical phones that sit next to your computer at work. Sometimes they appear akin to and analog phone, but instead of being a landline, they are actually connected to the IP network.

Softphones, while also a type of VoIP business phone, are entirely different. They are apps that are installed on your PC or laptop. They have dialing pads not unlike a cell phone. Softphones can also have applications for your mobile devices.

Trying to find which one is the best fit for your company can be tricky. Below, is a quick guide to the pros and cons of desk phones and softphones, so that your company doesn’t spend money on a phone that doesn’t work for your business.

Desk Phones

Desk phones have been entirely redeveloped since the creation of VoIP. What you might imagine when you think of a ‘traditional desk phone’ is not relevant to a VoIP desk phone.

Advantages and Disadvantages

This may go without saying, but people are used to desk phones. Even if the VoIP desk phone is entirely different than that of a landline, people are still comfortable with them. The other great thing about desk phones is that they tend to have superior call quality. Unfortunately, desk phones are more costly than softphones. Furthermore, the cost of a desk phone can increase with the more features you add to them.

Softphones

A softphone isn’t truly tangible; it is a software program on your PC or smartphone. It, via the Internet, allows users to make or receive calls over that Internet connection. Softphones generally offer a very friendly user experience.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Because tangible equipment isn’t involved, softphones are installed quickly and boast a budget friendly option to businesses. As long as a user has Internet connection, they can get or receive calls from anywhere. However, if your lose your Internet connection, or your equipment computer or smartphone crashes, you will be unable to use it. Also, if you aren’t a fan of headsets, you may not prefer using a smartphone on your computer, as you will need it to respond and listen to calls.

At the end of the day, you will have to decide which pros appeal most to you and which cons are deal breakers. As with all business phone systems, you have to determine what your company needs to fulfill its’ communication requirements.

 

The Top Four Business Phone System Aggravations and How to Fix Them

Your business phone system is, perhaps, your most vital communication tool. However, sometimes your business phone system can create so much aggravation that it seems more trouble than it’s worth. Fortunately, for each of the following aggravations, there is a solution.

#1. When The Phone Lines Go Down, I Have to Fix the Problem

Hosted voice solutions are delivered via the Internet, which begs a valid question: “When the Internet crashes, what happens?” Unfortunately, when the Internet is down, your phone will go dark until Internet service is restored. In this scenario, your provider will work on finding the problem and fixing it as soon as possible.

However, that doesn’t exactly answer the question of what happens with the phone lines go down? If your company has a traditional business phone system, then you are accountable for power, uptime, connectivity, vendor management, and carrier services. If the lines go down, you will be completely without service until you can take care of the problem.

The upside to hosted voice is that if your Internet crashes, while your phone will not ring at your desk, other features will remain operational due to built-in redundancy:

  • Call Routing
  • Voicemail
  • Auto-Attendant
  • Soft Phone
  • Direct Inward Dial (DID)
  • Find Me Follow Me – also known as Mobile Twinning

#2. It is Very Difficult for Employees to Make Changes, and Yet it is Our Responsibility to Make the Updates

One of the biggest problems with a traditional business phone system is that they are not easy to alter after they have been installed. The biggest reason for this is because they are proprietary—meaning they require a qualified engineer to make the necessary changes and updates. For this customer, that means that they have to pay (typically be the hour) each time the technician visits.

The great thing about hosted voice solutions is that you can make most of the basic changes or upgrades without help. Your provider will be tasked with making the large changes and upgrades.

#3. Scaling your Business Phone System is Difficult

Premise-based business phone systems aren’t easy to scale. Usually modular components and software licenses are needed if you want to expand your premise-based system. This puts a business in the challenging spot of attempting to predict what kind of phone system they will need 5-10 years down the line. Not only is that risky, but you can end up purchasing equipment you don’t need.

Hosted voice solutions remove this aggravation. Adding or eliminating users and services can be done without breaking a sweat by simply telling your provider when you need the change made. They can virtually make the change and adjust your monthly cost accordingly.

#4. The Only Thing my Phone Can Do is Make Calls and Receive Voicemails

Unfortunately, most business phone systems friendly to your budget are typically lacking in features. Budget-friendly business phone systems often are only capable of receiving/making calls and getting voicemails.

With hosted voice, however, you can get a vast assortment of advanced features. Here are the most popular:

  • Voicemail to email/text
  • Caller ID business name and phone number
  • Personal Attendant and Virtual Auto Attendant
  • Find Me Follow Me: allows your desk phone to ring on 5 different devices at the same time (so wherever you are, you can receive calls made to your office)
  • Receptionist Dashboard: give your receptionist an all-encompassing view of your phone system
  • Soft Phones: no handset needed because you can make calls right from your computer or web browser
  • Move Your Phone: from desk to desk, to conference room, to home (work from anywhere)
  • Reporting: how many calls in and out; full call detail records; available at any time

Many of the aggravations of your present premise-based business phone system can be erased with a hosted voice solution, assuming it’s a good fit for your business.

How to Chose the Right Business Telephone System Based on Your Company Size (Part 2)

As we discussed in Wednesday’s blog, trying to decide on a business phone system can be challenging considering the vast array of options on the market. One of the biggest factors a company should take into consideration is how large it is. The size of your company will largely determine the right business phone system for your company. In our last blog, we discussed the best business phone options for personal, small, and medium sized businesses. Today, we will examine the most popular choices for large businesses and enterprises. 

 

Large Business and Enterprise

Popular Options:

  • Business VoIP / Unified Communications
  • SIP trunking
  • On-premise PBX

Large businesses have entirely different needs than that of smaller or medium sized businesses. Large businesses have numerous office locations, unique sales and support operations, and executives with personal assistants. Usually large businesses will need unlimited calling packages, CRM and business software, and multiple local and toll free phone numbers. Most large businesses will also need call center capabilities.

The best option for large businesses are unified communications services. Most frequently these will come from business VoIP providers. Business VoIP has an online interface that permits account administrators to add users and configure features in real-time. They also offer web-based products that incorporate voice, video, and messaging, as well as other collaboration tools like multi-device compatibility and screensharing, to give a complete business communications solution.

Some large businesses prefer even more control over their business phone system. With SIP trunking and on-premise PBXs, companies have more customization options. The drawback is that SIP trunking and on-premise PBXs necessitate on-site servers and hardware. If you elect to go this route, you will need an in-house IT team to maintain and update the system.  

Customization isn’t the only advantage; on-premise solutions are often selected for security purposes. National companies, government agencies, and banks all have strict requirements to ensure secure communications. Doctor’s offices also need special HIPAA-compliant business phone systems to encrypt patient data.

Business Telephone Service: Finding the Right Fit

There are a plethora of business phone system options on the market, but recognizing the size of your business can eliminate a lot of options that simply won’t work. With that said, landline phone systems, in general, aren’t a great option for any sized business in the modern world. Besides being outdate and expensive, they have poorer call quality, less features, and are problematic in terms of scaling. Landlines will also typically require a business to sign a lengthy, non-negotiable contract.

Company size is one of the biggest factors when determining the best business phone system for your company, but it isn’t the only factor. A business will also need to consider their budget, as well as a business phone system’s reliability, user experience, and capabilities. Choosing the best business phone system will mean considering all of the above.

Tips for Selecting the Best Business Phone System

Some businesses can get away with using only a smartphone, but those tend to be one man operations. Most companies need a business phone system in order to operate in an efficient and professional manner. The trick to selecting the best business phone system for your company comes down to recognizing your needs while factoring in your future growth and budget. Below are the best steps to take in finding the perfect business phone system for your business.

Evaluate Your Needs

The first step in selecting the best business phone system is recognizing your needs. Phone service providers will offer a variety of services, such as call forwarding, speed dialing, caller ID, 3-way calling, voice mail, call waiting, and priority ringing. It is important to understand what features would help your business increase productivity and create a more efficient, day-to-day operation.

Decide if You Need a Landline or Cloud-Based System

The two main types of business phone systems are a PBX (private branch exchange) landline phone system or a cloud-based system. Again, consider your needs when deciding which route to go; if you require multiple phone model options and multiple features, a cloud-based system is probably your best bet. Cloud-based systems also have the ability to make and receive calls from anywhere you have an Internet connection.

Consider the Size & Structure Of Your Business

It goes without saying that a large business with numerous office locations will require a different business phone system than a smaller company. If you are a larger business, you may want to go with a premises-based business phone system. There are very attractive leasing options, many with 0% interest, that will make a prem-based system a very affordable option.

Check Compatibility with Other Office Equipment

The last thing a business on a budget wants to do is purchase brand new office technology when selecting a business phone system. For this reason, be sure that the business phone system you select is compatible with your conferencing tools and other various office technology that you have.

 

5 Ways to Ensure Your Next Conference Call is Productive

The modern business world operates differently than it did in the past. Many businesses today have remote employees or clients spread across the world. Subsequently, successful conference calls are a must. Below, we’ve listed five tips to ensure that your next conference call is productive.

Most Important…Punctuality!

Being punctual is a good strategy in all facets of life. Just like it is rude to show up in person late, being tardy to a conference call sets the stage for an unproductive call. Not only do you run the risk of the other callers being annoyed, but it also takes time away from the agenda.

Don’t Skip the Introductions

Usually all of the callers are familiar with one another, but it can be a mistake to skip the introduction. When you enter the conference call, stating your full name ensures that everyone knows you are on the call and will prevent any potential confusion.

Don’t Be Afraid to Mute

When you aren’t speaking, hit the mute button. Oftentimes, loud offices are more irritating that you realize. Not using the mute button can bog down the call with unnecessary distractions.

Clear Call

Don’t make the call from a noisy or busy area. It is also a poor idea to call in an area with dicey cell reception or from your car.  If the call is with a new client and/or very important take the time to have a clear line and show the customer that they come first at that given moment.

Keep the Call on Topic

If you are leading the call, make sure it stays on topic. I’ve found that having a printed agenda is quite useful. If you stick to your agenda throughout the call, you will find it much more productive.

Methods to Overcome Challenges Within Contact Centers

The biggest challenge all businesses must overcome is how to deliver fantastic customer service at the lowest possible cost. Contact centers are not alone in this regard. In today’s blog, we will examine a few specific methods they can employ to conquer this challenge.

First, your agents must have real time access to the data they require. Dashboard delivered insights, KPI reports, and alerts can permit managers to tweak forecasts and schedules when unexpected events transpire. Managers can use the aforementioned tools to run scenarios and prepare for innumerable contingencies. These also allow for call recording and scoring, meaning that agents will receive the training and coaching they require to deliver exceptional customer service. 

The data gathered with these tools will allow the contact center manager to act on varied insights in a proactive manner. Every call center shift will be ready to deliver the great customer service that keeps customers loyal and happy. When your contact center is operating at peak efficiency, costs will be reduced as well.

Even greater cost savings can be accomplished when contact center technology is provided via the cloud as a subscription service. This will eliminate the requirement to invest in additional hardware and software. Under this model, contact centers only have to pay for the time and capacity that they need. For a smaller contact center, this means you can greatly lessen your upfront costs, while maintaining the option of scaling up as needed.

Call Center Workforce Management Solutions

Adding workforce management (WFM) to a call center solves several workplace issues simultaneously. Here are five of the most prevalent call center challenges and how WFM can be of assistance.

  1. Scheduling Adherence

Creating schedules should be easy enough with a WFM; however, ensuring that all agents stick to those schedules is a different matter. Typically you can determine what happened once a shift has concluded, but that isn’t helpful in real-time. Once you have implemented workforce management a call center can monitor and record the schedule adherence status of all agents in real-time. This includes log in time, log out time, lunches and breaks. This alleviates many issues, because any potential problems can be identified quickly and handled right away.

  1. Looking Ahead

Forecasting deals with predicting the correct amount of agents with the right of skill sets in place every shift, every day. When this happens, call centers remove high costs that stem from overstaffing, and the customer service issues that result from understaffing. Workforce management automatically collects, analyzes and processes the data, resulting in an accurate short term and long-term forecast.

  1. Exceptions

Workforce management also manages and processes exceptions in a manner that exchanges all prudent information to all appropriate parties. It accepts or rejects each exception instance based on personalized company criteria, and ensures that there isn’t any confusion on the part of the agent or management.

  1. Intraday Forecast/Schedule Management

Intraday management is always a challenge due to intricate resource considerations. An integrated WFM solution can scrutinize intraday workload information that will result in pre-emptive actions for managers instead of reactive actions.

What Peripheral Equipment does Your Business Telephone System Require?

In some instances, peripheral equipment can make or break your business telephone system. This holds true whether you are installing a new system or merely upgrading your current business phone system; either way, you will have to consider what additional equipment your business will require to get the most use out of your system.

You are probably aware of the term ‘peripheral hardware’ in conjunction with your computer (i.e., items such as your mouse, printer, scanner, etc.). In terms of a business phone system, the most common items are things like headsets and speakers.

Just as you did when selecting your business phone system, you will have to consider what your business needs in order to best serve your clients and what type of business you are running. If your business takes a high number of calls throughout the day or employees frequently need to input data on their computers during calls, telephone headsets aren’t just a luxury, they are a necessity. Many businesses find speaker phones just as vital; speaker phones can be useful in the aforementioned scenarios, but they are also valuable during impromptu conference calls.

While headsets and speaker phones tend to be the most popular peripheral items, many businesses select cordless phones or remote IP phones, as well. Choosing the right peripherals depends entirely on your daily business needs.