Tag Archives: Business Phone System

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.

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.

The Best Configurations for your Business Phone System

Think finding and installing a business phone system is easy? In some ways it is; however, there are many things you have to consider before getting the process started. There isn’t ‘one’ particular way to install a business phone system. You have to consider your budget, how much you will use the system, and staff size before you can decide the best configuration. Taking these attributes into consideration, and thus finding the best configuration for your business, will save your company a lot of time and money in the long run.

Different business phone system configurations (such as VoIP, hybrid solutions, and hosted PBX phones) will ultimately save certain businesses more money than others. What determines the best business phone system for your business will come down to your company’s needs and expectations.

Whether you’re setting up a brand new business phone system or upgrading your present system to include lines in different offices, there are a few things that are true regardless of the business. Consider these tips to ensure that you set up the best business phone system for your company:

  • We can’t stress the role bandwidth plays in VoIP phone system setup When you employ cloud-based systems, you are swapping telephone line traffic for Internet traffic. It will save you a lot of headaches to keep in mind your bandwidth capacity when configuring cloud-based business phone systems.
  • QoS routers can be invaluable if you are sharing VoIP, video, and a computer/laptop on one network. QoS routers will prioritize mission critical data, such as video and audio packets.
  • Paying a monthly fee for unlimited nationwide calling plans or excessive international calling is a waste of money if you have a dependable Internet connection. Remember that VoIP is best described as an information transfer service rather than a phone service. VoIP business phone systems compress call audio into data packets, which will reduce overall data transport costs for these calls. The only time that VoIP calls cost extra is when they are placed to a separate network instead of a number or phone within that VoIP network.

There isn’t a “best” business phone system configuration for every business. Business phone systems aren’t a one size fits all product. We recognize that your monthly budget, size of your organization, and number of lines/users will greatly determine which configuration will best work for your business.

If your business is opening a new location, requires a fair amount of work out-of-office, or is rapidly expanding, cloud-based VoIP will probably be the best option for your company. If you simply want to replace your conventional phone system with a more cost effective option, hosted or hybrid PBX business phone systems will serve you well. The greatest single question involved in configuration is what business phone system will best serve your company.

The best business phone system for YOUR business (part 1 of 2)

8871759_sAll companies require a business phone system. But what type of business phone system fits best with your particular company? Over the course of our next two blogs, we will take a look at the various options.

Voice Over IP (VoIP) Phone System

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is something you’ve probably used before (ie, Skype). Per the name, this type of business phone system transmits voice calls over the internet. The most common type of VoIP is through desk handsets. Here are the main benefits of VoIP

Inexpensive

After you account for the installation fees and monthly charges you get with a landline, VoIP is much kinder to your budget. For example, if you only have five employees, the costs would likely be around $150-$300. A landline would run you around $400-$500.

Ease of Use

As long as you have Internet access and a VoIP handset, you are good to go. You can purchase handsets as cheap as  $30 and be operational within minutes.

Flexibility

One of the most alluring aspects of VoIP is its flexibility. With VoIP you have the freedom to leave the office and have any incoming calls forwarded to your smartphone.

What type of business should use VoIP?

The affordability of VoIP makes it a fantastic option for any small business. Additionally, companies with teams that do not have a central office. If you manage a remote team (but still need access to a central phone system), VoIP is a smart choice.

However, if you want to take advantage of all VoIP has to offer, you need a reliable high-speed Internet connection to maintain clear phone calls on a consistent basis. For this reason, we recommend businesses take a VoIP speed test before committing to a VoIP provider.

What Does Your Business Phone System Say About You?

Man with Phone Busy

When customers call your business, what do they receive from your business phone system? Does it give them a recorded message followed by scratchy sounding hold music?  Are the callers left on hold for extended periods wishing to actually speak to a live human being? How much revenue are you losing because people get fed up with your ancient phone system and they decide to contact a competitor?   

Today’s customers have extremely high expectations. They want to be able to get the assistance they need immediately or they are going to look elsewhere. Furthermore, people from all generations, especially the younger set, are turning to social media to voice their frustrations and displeasure with businesses that do not provide them with exceptional customer service.  So what can you do to make a caller’s experience a favorable one?

Organize 

One of the first things you can do with your phone system is organizing your phone extensions. Make it easy for people calling in to reach the people they need to contact. They do not want to have to push different buttons nonstop in a game of phone transfer. 

Extension Numbers and Names

When people handout business cards they have their name and contact information on the card. When calling your business, set your phone system up so that people can reach your employee using an extension number as well as a name. This makes it even easier for your customers to reach the person they need.

Up to Date Greetings

Make sure that your auto attendant greetings are professional, easy to understand, and identify your business. You want your clients to know whom they are calling and have no problems understanding or reaching the necessary person.

Take the time to analyze your current business phone system.  If you are stuck in the past, your customers will look for someone who is not. Change is not easy, but in this case, it can enhance your business.

 

Is Your Nortel Business Phone System Costing You Money?

“The cheapest business phone system is the one that’s already paid for…”

33291790_sDoes this statement sound familiar?

Unfortunately, many businesses don’t understand the fallacy of this statement! The costs of maintaining the status quo with their Nortel/Legacy phone system are actually higher than the costs of investing in a new technology that could help their business grow by leaps and bounds. Nortel/Legacy phone systems are, in today’s fast paced environment, often inefficient. Many customers contact businesses through their website, CRM systems, online chats, and email. Without integrating these services in your overall business phone system, your business could be missing out on expanding your client base.

How do you determine if upgrading your business phone system is right for your business? Here’s a checklist to assist in making a complete evaluation of your present phone system’s cost:

  1. Analyze your current equipment costs: Your hardware itself might be costing your company more than realized. Review your annual spending for the following:
    • Annual Maintenance Costs
    • Internal Technical Labor Costs
    • External Technical Labor Costs (vendor costs)
  2. What are my network costs? These include carrier-associated costs for data and voice communications.
  3. How do my customers interact with my company? If many customers contact you via your website, email, social media, or Smartphone, an outdated phone system that lacks integration could be limiting your efficiency.
  4. How easy is it for customers to do business with you? This is another telltale sign as to whether or not your business lacks efficiency. It never hurts to do a customer survey to ascertain how easy—or difficult—it is for your customers to do business with your company.
  5. Where does new revenue come from? If you’re measuring your sales initiatives, you should know how and where your new customers are coming from. Understanding this can help you place the proper priority on the communication methods that your clients prefer.

In most cases, a Nortel/Legacy phone system has become outdated by new communication technologies and consumer demands that are reshaping the telecom market for both individual and business needs. If you feel that your company is suffering from an outdated system, a VoIP setup can be precisely what you need to reduce your phone bill. VoIP business phone systems are future-proofed, with automatic updates and upgrades that save you from costly changes in hardware and wiring when you hire or expand. Furthermore, the upfront costs to a VoIP system are lower.  Contact ACS for more information on upgrading your business phone system to meet today’s changing technology.

How to Set Up Your Business Telephone System Automated Attendant

9600_category_474x270Automated attendants are great tools to help businesses achieve a greater efficiency when helping customers. Most business phone systems come with this handy feature, but it is always important to utilize it correctly.  The difference between a professional automated attendant and a cumbersome one can lead to an annoyed customer base. Here are three things to consider when it comes to setting up an automated attendant:

Do Your Homework

That may seem obvious, but how many times have you called a business only to find the auto attendant so long and confusing that you simply hang up? It is highly advisable for business owners to call into your own office and hear what it sounds like from the customer’s point of view.  Does the script sound professional? Are the options presented clear and concise? These are things that all business owners should be aware of.

Map Out Your Script

Do your research! Ask your sales staff or technical team what common questions they get. This information will help you better formulate not only your script, but who your auto attendant should direct inquiries to.  For example, if the majority of your calls are for technical support, place them first in the auto attendant script (NOTE: many auto attendants are set up backwards, i.e., “Press 1 for IT” when it should be, “For IT, press 1”, otherwise when the caller recognizes what department they seek, the number will have already been said).

For efficiency’s sake, also be sure that everyone has a name recorded in their mailbox. Too often a caller will spell a person’s name in the directory and hear, “for extension 215, press *”. Using the person’s name as well helps a caller confirm that they have reached the right person.

Plan for Growth

When looking at business telephone options, always consider your company’s long term goals. When speaking to a business phone system provider, be sure to discuss growth and set yourself up for a plan to expand your call volume. If you plan too small, you can limit your options from the start. For example, some auto attendants are part of the voicemail system. In this case, the voicemail is liable to be port based and only a certain number of calls can be answered at one time, which may limit your business down the road.

How to Compare Business Telephone Systems

Businessman standing looking at detailed business flowchart
Regardless of the nature of your business, communication is key to your success, and despite the increasing use of email, social media, and other online networking tools, organizations still depend on the telephone for a large portion of their communications. Technology has brought a plethora of options for business owners to select from, including traditional land line service, voice over IP service and cell phone service. In order to get the most for your money, you need to evaluate your needs, seek out quality service providers and consider each plan carefully.

Step 1

Determine your company’s needs, including how many phone lines you require and how many employees your business expects to have. Quantifying the scope of your organization will ensure accurate quotes on the new business phone system your company requires. You can discover which companies serve business customers in your area online, as well as in your local telephone directory, local business journals, newspapers, and periodicals.

Step 2

Compare both traditional land line service and voice over IP services. In many cases VoIP can provide lower rates than traditional services, but it is still best to compare both kinds of phone service. Many VoIP or virtual PBX solutions don’t require a physical office phone.  You can utilize an app on your computer (sometimes known as a “softphone”) or a smartphone to serve in place of a telephone, which can make teleworking easier.  Let’s face it, many companies from busy cities such as DC Metro, Northern Virginia and Richmond area are saving with VoIP/Teleworking.

A hosted VoIP phone system allows you to receive messages from your phone, on your PC, on another PC using the web portal, or even as a simple .wav file in your email inbox. You can also manage your phone system via a web portal, which allows you to turn features on and off, manage messages and configure your phone from any web browser.

Step 3

Compare the total costs of each plan, including the basic cost of service and any add-ons you might be required to pay. Choosing a business service plan with a monthly fee allows for consistent budgeting and business planning.

A hosted VoIP phone system is very scalable, so almost any business can afford and benefit from features that you used to only see in big, expensive systems. As a business owner, you pay only for the phones you need and can add them easily when your staff grows. Your hosted VoIP phone system provider can easily deploy hundreds of phones, so it’s unlikely you’ll ever outgrow it. Only a small business containing one or two people is too small to profit from hosted VoIP features.

Step 4

Get a list of the standard services that come with each plan. Plans that include popular services like voice mail, call forwarding and caller ID can make your business telephone service more useful and versatile.

A standard hosted VoIP phone can be connected to any Internet connection and handle incoming and outgoing calls, transfers and messages just like it would at your office. A hosted VoIP phone system features Find-Me, Follow-Me, which is particularly useful for workers who are typically away from the office. Employees can set their phone to ring to other numbers (home, cell, etc.) with no interruption to customers/clients.

Step 5

Compare the warranty plans for each business telephone system. A lengthy warranty plan can be very valuable, since it can save the company money down the line.

What You Need To Know About Voice and Conferencing

When it comes to addressing your company’s voice and data needs, combining the two systems makes it much easier to share information and keep in touch. Additionally when it comes to your customers, their needs can be addressed quicker with this type of system. As your business grows, an IP based communication system will benefit you by easily allowing you to add new employees’ whether they are on site or working from a remote location.

Benefits to a combined system:

  • Meetings can now be held from remote locations using audio, video or web technology
  • Team members can easily contact each other
  • Easily connect customers to the right person
  • Easily add new employees
  • More security enhancements
  • Allow employees to work from anywhere

A unified communication system will be able to drastically increase your office productivity when it comes to your telephone related needs. When all the parts of a system are working together the customers experience much more efficiency.

When it comes to choosing a phone system, make sure to consider your basic needs. Does each employee need an extension and voicemail? How many employees will you have in the near future? Do you want calls to be rerouted? Answering these questions and more will be beneficial to helping you pick the best phone system for your company.

Small businesses and big corporations can both benefit from a good phone system. Please contact Advanced Communication Systems (ACS) to help you select the right phone system for your business. From traditional PRI to VoIP, ACS gives you more options for voice and communication technology solutions than any other provider.

If you have any questions about Telephone Communication Systems, please contact Advanced Communication Solutions by calling 1-800-750-3624 or visit BuyTelephoneSystem.com today! You can also follow Advanced Communication Systems on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, and Google+.

Source:

http://www.cisco.com/cisco/web/solutions/small_business/resource_center/articles/be_more_productive/combining_voice_and_data/index.html