Category Archives: Small Business Communication Technology

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

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. We’ve listed some of the most popular choices below, organized by company size.

Personal or Small Business (1-5 users)

Popular Options:

  • Consumer VoIP
  • Residential VoIP
  • Dedicated mobile work phone

Most small businesses (or personal home offices) don’t require a complicated business phone system; they can usually suffice with a limited feature set. In some instances, you might be able to get consumer or residential VoIP solutions (something like Google Voice) that are simple to maintain and setup.

There is always the option of getting a dedicated smartphone separate from your personal cell phone. If you only have one or two users, this is an attractive option.

Small and Medium Sized Businesses (SMBs)

Popular Options:

These types of businesses can’t get away with skimping on a business phone system. SMBs usually have moderate call volume and depend on good call quality, reliable service, voicemail management, and scalability for new employees. Many SMBs have remote employees and multiple office locations.

SMBs on a budget might want to consider bundling VoIP and Internet services offered by their respective cable companies. These types of business phone systems will frequently have additional features like caller ID, voicemail, and conferencing.

Virtual business phone systems, on the other hand, have higher service reliability and more advanced features when compared to consumer VoIP solutions. These types of services operate directly from your computer, smartphone, or tablet to create a virtual phone network. In addition to inbound/outbound calling, these services have basic call routing and call handling features.

Cloud phone systems are hosted business phone systems that offer web-based user portals and can be used with compatible deskphones and/or softphone apps. Cloud phone systems are a step up in terms of features; they have video calling, extension dialing, queues, and conference calling.

On Friday’s blog, we will take a look at the best options for large businesses and enterprises, and then we will offer a few concluding thoughts.

4 Reasons How a Telecom Consultant Can Help Your Business

 

Owning a business requires a lot of decision making. Have you ever considered hiring a telecom consultant?  If not, please read how this fast growing business can ease the burden and help your company prosper. 

Time Savers

Various providers offer different services and come with varying price tags. Typically, the decision maker in your office already has a full schedule and doesn’t have the time to shop around for business phone system providers. This usually means that you end up with only a few options because the person doesn’t have the time to do their due diligence.  A telecom consultant will find a provider that meets your business’s needs within your budget.

Money Savers

There are numerous ways a telecom consultant can save your business money. A telecom consultant will help you either shop for new services or find a better price for your existing services. Furthermore, consultants can review your current Internet and landline costs to ensure that you aren’t overpaying.  Even if you are still tied to a service contract, telecom consultants can typically discover unused services and remove them without breaking the contract.

Avoiding Problematic Service

It’s no secret that providers occasionally push services that aren’t actually worth it. Unfortunately, these services are tied to hefty incentives to lure in more subscribers. This can result in service outages that lead to your business suffering. A good telecom consultant can help your business avoid these types of deals, as they work for you, not the provider.

More Options

A lot of business owners end up choosing a provider based on name recognition, but there are many options out there. Some providers don’t advertise very much, but a telecom consultant should have enough knowledge to help you make an informed decision based on all of the providers out there, not just the big ones.

Is your organization ready for the Mobile Consumer?

Marketing, sales, and customer service professionals all understand that a successful company is able to predict their customers’ buying behavior. Companies that correctly utilize this tool will be able to close opportunities, recognize new prospects, and provide uninterrupted support. In today’s world, it is more important than ever to shift towards a customer engagement approach intended to react to the modern consumer – the Mobile Consumer.

The habits of customers past:

The modern consumer is immensely dissimilar than customers of the past. Just ten years ago, most customer exchanges with businesses were limited to phone calls or physical visits to business sites; customers would only relay their customer experiences with a relatively small number of friends and acquaintances.

A new brand of mobile consumer:

Current consumers are rewriting the rules of customer engagement.  Present business strategies aren’t capable of covering as wide a net as they need to—inhibiting a business’s capacity to achieve its goals and adequately serve customers. This new brand of customer is best described as the “mobile consumer.”

Did you know that roughly fifty percent of the world’s population is comprised of unique mobile users?

These mobile consumers now have access to the products, information, and services businesses offer at unprecedented levels. Over one-third of all Internet sites are now being served to mobile devices. This means that your business must be ready to interact with customers on their terms—whether they’re sitting in a doctor’s office, riding a train, or in line at the grocery story, mobile consumers demand to do business whenever and wherever.

Expanding mobile commerce:

It’s imperative to mention that this new mobile consumer has more than just access to the information they want and the capability to complete a transaction at their convenience; they also have the capacity to share that experience with their friends – your customers and prospects – in real time.

Nearly two in four people now has an active mobile social account.  In other words, these customers can share their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with countless people in the blink of eye. This makes it more important than ever for organizations to understand mobile consumer behaviors, ensure they are positioned for success and guarantee that customers get the service they expect.

How to support the mobile consumer:

To support the modern consumer, and thus operate a modern business, it’s important not to forget that the impact of the mobile consumer. Look across your organization and determine all the possible points of engagement. Predict how customers expect to engage via text, email, social media, Web chat, voice, video, self-service or other touch points. The best strategies will place an employee in the proper place at the proper time to support customer requests in real time. To do otherwise, in this modern age, will almost certainly result in the consumer taking their business elsewhere.

VoIP Phone Systems – Let’s Modernize!

Whether you have a large company or are just starting a new business, your telephone system will be crucial in achieving success. You can bet that you will be communicating with most of your potential customers via telephone, so creating a great early impression is crucial.

A modern VoIP phone system could very well give you the edge over your competition. By utilizing your system effectively, you should be able to attract new customers — and grow your business quickly.

On Hold..Use it to Your Advantage!

Let’s face it, we all have been put on hold and forced to listen to music that could lull us to sleep! Typically, you should avoid having a customer on hold.  But when it’s unavoidable, you can use the situation to your company’s advantage.

Instead of playing music, have your customers listen to something relevant and informative about your company. The latest VoIP systems also allow you to play customized messages to specific customer groups. For instance, relay your latest offers, products or services.

Customize Your Auto-Attendant

Auto-attendant features allow for a broad level of customization, which you can then use to turn prospective clients into actual ones. You can use your auto-attendant to direct calls to specific departments within your company.  There is also a great opportunity to highlight your company’s brand with an advanced auto-attendant system. 

Your best bet is to create a simple and short menu system. Use unique greetings and memorable slogans that set your business apart from the competition.

Click-to-Call Services

What is click-to-call functionality?  Simply, it allows customers to dial directly from your website. You may also want to include a click-to-call telephone number on your online marketing communications, your social media accounts and email signatures. The ease of click to call could be the deciding factor to winning a customer.

Advantages/Disadvantages of a Wired/Wireless Internet Connection

Infrastructure1Our world has been transforming to a wireless one for a while now. Wireless connections have made our workplaces a lot more convenient, not to mention less cluttered.  While a lot of offices incorporate Wi-Fi, many still use wired Internet.

So What Are the Advantages of a Wired Internet Connection?

To put it simply, the main reasons to stick with wired are reliability, speed, security and control. With wired, you won’t have to worry about who accesses your network; strangers won’t be able to hop onto your network with their tablets or laptops. As a byproduct of strict control of your network access, it won’t take as much time to secure it. Lastly, if your business consumes vast amounts of data, wired networks are a good option for their speed and reliability.

What Are the Disadvantages of a Wireless Internet Connection?

The main drawback of an entirely wireless Internet connection is security. Even if you utilize passwords, it is much easier to install malware on wireless networkers. This problem is even more likely if employees are allowed to access the network with their personal devices.

Are There Advantages of a Wireless Internet Connection?

Wireless Internet is usually more cost-effective than wired. Employees who use the company’s wireless LAN can roam around the office or to different floors without losing their connection. Imagine everyone in a team meeting or in small conferences having access to up-to-the minute communications, and all documents and applications on your network. Similarly, using Voice over Wireless LAN technology, they can have roaming capabilities in their voice communications.

Why Unified Communications is Important for your Business Phone System

18340810_sMany businesses are already knowledgeable regarding IP-telephony, including apps like Skype. Unified Communications takes this idea and advances it, making your business phone system more cost-effective and convenient.

The biggest goal of Unified Communications is to combine telephony and business data onto the same network. With UC, firms can use voice, data and video in their typical business applications, which saves and forwards entire chucks of data.

On its own, a business phone system, or Skype, isn’t that secure. Sensitive information can easily wind up in the wrong hands. To solve that, UC software encrypts data. This ensures that the only person who can read the data is the one it was meant for, regardless of the transmission method. Another benefit of UC is that employees only need one phone number and a unified inbox to keep track of all of their communications.

When addressing your organization’s collaboration technology, consider a few scenarios. For example, do your employees have to navigate through long strings of email to find an answer to a question about a project? Or do they have unified communications features like IM and presence  to find and contact a co-worker with the touch of a finger, from any device, to get answers in real time? Do they have automatic calendar reminders and mobile notifications alerting them when to follow up on projects?

The technology you choose to implement to support your employees is what will enhance their existing skill sets and strengthen their areas of weakness (i.e. forgetfulness, tardiness), helping keep them accountable.