3
Jul 15

Debunking VoIP myths for SMBs

The unknown is a scary idea. As humans, we like patterns and predictability. That's why we stick to our routines, develop habits and take safety precautions. For some small and medium-sized businesses, single source communications might be a foreign idea that strikes up a bit of fear. Just remember: you can't knock it until you try it. To help lift the veil of unfamiliarity off of VoIP phone systems, here are the real truths to some common myths.

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Myth 1: VoIP phone systems are costly
The misconception of digital phone solutions being expensive is understandable. The initial switch to single source communications isn't free, but it will save SMBs money in the long run and can certainly fit into a small business budget.

The cost of using VoIP business phone systems is relatively inexpensive. The low, monthly payments are affordable, and buying hardware is usually not necessary for most VoIP systems. Long-distance calling costs are also minimized with single source communication because of the way your voice gets transmitted to the other line. The caller's voice gets broken down into small bits of data that travel through the Internet instead of cables. Since VoIP providers don't have to spend money on maintaining telephone cables, services cost less and save you money. Additionally, your VoIP provider will be able to handle questions about maintenance and installation. This enables you to have a fully-functional phone system without the cost of an IT team.

Myth 2: We don't need VoIP because our regular phone system is good enough
Analog phone were the go-to phone system for small businesses before digital phone technology. Sure, it has the basic functions of redial, hold and mute, but the features typically don't extend much beyond that. Analog phones haven't really changed but customer demand has. It's important to keep up with the changing market in order for your business to reach its full potential. Here are some examples of how a VoIP system can boost the success of your small business:

  • Increase customer satisfaction
    The growing digital age has raised the expectation of instant gratification in society, and it's not changing. Therefore, it's up to businesses, big and small, to cater to the changing customer needs and keep up with e-commerce competition. The find me/follow me features will allow you to do just that. If customers can't reach you at the office on the first few rings, the phone will automatically forward the call to another predetermined line where you might be available. This boost in customer satisfaction can increase sales, bolstering the success of your business.
  • Maximize collaboration
    The features of VoIP phone system will increase productivity and efficiency in SMBs. For example, certain coaching tools allow small businesses to optimize employee phone training. Employers can communicate to trainees while they are making the call without customers hearing or knowing. This real-time communication enables employers to convey direction and make corrections in the moment rather than after the call has ended. Other collaboration features include instant messaging, presence information, video calling and conference calling. All of these are useful for keeping business members connected to strategize and problem solve efficiently.

Myth 3: Transferring to a unified communication system will be too difficult to manage
Without the proper IT experience or personnel on hand, installing phone systems can be intimidating, maybe even enough to cause SMB leaders to avoid the transition altogether. Fortunately, there are many resources to help with the change, your VoIP provider being one of them. Additionally, VoIP phone system installation usually does not require a lot of new hardware, relieving yet another potential anxiety.

 

3
Jul 15

How to eliminate workplace distractions with VoIP

One premise behind unified communications technology is to link people together who can't be physically present. Now, people might be physically present, but they aren't necessarily using that closeness  to facilitate collaboration. Workplace distractions like loud conversations and water cooler gossiping force employees to tune out. Whether it's by coming into the office early, working from home or simply playing music through headphones, employees will go to great lengths to stay focused. Fortunately, UC's collaboration capabilities can help employees maintain focus by eliminating distractions

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Distractions can be a serious damper on business success. For every bit of time someone is distracted from their work, the company is doling out money for nothing. A few hours a week and 52 weeks a year mean big cost wastes for companies. Open offices have a lot of benefits when people are available to share ideas, so the solutions need to allow both for open office's benefits and interruption-free environments.

Headphones
With VoIP digital phone solutions, phone calls are made over the Internet, which means employees can talk through their computers. Headphones are the go-to equipment for this element of UC, and they can help eliminate distractions. Many headphones are equipped with noise-cancelling technology. Using these in an office not only enables employees to communicate important information, but the headphones themselves will minimize noise and reduce distraction. Plus, phone calls will ring in the employees' ears through the headphones instead of creating a distracting sound for the whole office to hear.

Coaching tools
Many digital phone solutions also have an application where a manager can speak to an agent who is live on the phone without the client hearing anything. Everyone turns their heads when the boss walks by, so this feature of VoIP helps elimination the distraction of an extra person present. Additionally, the side conversations and the antics of nonverbal communication necessary without this coaching tool would be a major distraction for those sitting around the agent.

Presence Information
One place that definitely should go without distractions is the meeting room. What happens if an employees is holding a video conference with a client when a co-worker comes up to say hello? The distraction wastes the employee's time, the client's time and company money. Not to mention, an organization's reputation with the client certainly wouldn't improve with unprofessional workplace distractions. Digital phone solutions have presence information capabilities that let co-workers know when someone is unavailable. This way, unnecessary interruptions are minimized and embarrassing situations are avoided.

 

 

3
Jul 15

BYOD: Solutions Must Solve Problems and Foster Adoption

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Given the challenges created when employees use personal devices for workplace communication, companies must take the time to explore all of their BYOD options. After all, whatever solution is chosen will have to do more than just address company concerns. It must be something that the employees will actually use.

So what does an effective Bring Your Own Device solution look like? It has to be more than a neat-looking app. It needs to actually be functional. We came up with four requirements of any top-line mobile app.

  1. It must closely mimic the phone experiences employees are used to. Recognizing that employees — whether they’re working remotely or in an office — are unlikely to abandon their personal phones, the challenge is how to extend all of the functionality of a company’s phone system to an individual’s mobile device. In other words, it’s a question of integrating the habits people have developed using their personal phones into daily business operations in a way that gives the company a visual representation of all of the calls made and received and allows the company to maintain ownership of the contact information. It is also important to provide these business functions in a way that is not cumbersome for employees and requires little or no training. It has to be seamless and familiar.
  2. Its features must simplify functionality. Adoption of new applications, especially for business purposes is often low due to usability. Employees are comfortable with familiarity and often are  set in their ways. That’s the reason businesses are exploring BYOD options in the first place. One way to encourage and drive adoption of the BYOD app is to make sure that it actually makes tasks easier and offers a familiar user experience
  3. It needs to address real business needs. A BYOD solution needs to be more than something that appeases demanding employees.   A business phone application must add value to the employees’ ability to be more productive or collaborate better.  If employees are in the field with customers, they want to make sure that other important calls can reach them no matter their location.  They want to make sure they never miss another important customer call.  In addition, the application needs to be able to help them view the availability and accessibility of those that are in the office.  There is nothing worse than being on the road and having to call that one important person back at the office, only to find out you don’t have their phone number handy.  A simple mobile online directory that offers presence and availability can improve productivity and define a great customer experience.
  4. It needs to be reliable. There’s nothing more frustrating for employees than to be told that they have to use a certain piece of technology and then have that technology perform unreliably. That’s especially true when it comes to something as important as a phone system. Employees know that their desk phone is going to work. They need to have the same confidence that their mobile app will also perform to their expectations. It’s this reliability combined with the improved employee experience that will lead to increased adoption and increased productivity.

No longer bound by geography, companies are increasingly turning to technology in order to ensure their employees are both happy and productive. Meeting the expectations of workers who want increased flexibility while also achieving the sort of business results companies expect requires sophisticated and always-evolving technology solutions. But with the right apps, employees can download the freedom they want while employers maintain the control they need.

3
Jul 15

BYOD: With Flexibility Comes Challenges

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The days of employees commuting to an office are already a distant memory for millions of American workers. But this restructuring and reimagining of where employees work poses some serious challenges for even the most accommodating employer. One of the biggest involves technology, particularly the use of mobile devices. When employees who work remotely make calls, what device are they most likely to use? It’s going to be the one that is most comfortable and easy to use: their personal cell phone.

The use of personal devices in a business context presents three key challenges to employers, who need to create Bring Your Own Device solutions that foster adoption and protect important company information. Those challenges are:

1. Protection of company data remains secure. Customers are currency, and businesses need to protect those customer relationships. But when employees are speaking to customers on their personal cell phones, the business loses control of the customer relationships being built. What happens if an employee leaves the company? Customers could easily leave with them. The right app can allow employees to have single-number reach, meaning employees are available no matter where they are via a single business phone number. This allows the business to make sure all calls are being routed through the company phone system and thus offering the ability to monitor and track customer interactions. The employee gets the flexibility to use a personal device, and the company gets to keep control of customer data.

2. Employers need access to employees on the go. The best companies thrive on good communication between employees. But when some workers alternate between their desks and being in the field, it can be problematic to connect. Having just one phone number to call that will always reach a co-worker is essential. Plus, it’s convenient for the employee to have just one number to give customers.  The key is accessibility to employees as they leverage a work from anywhere approach.

3. Employers must be able to track and measure customer interactions. If employees use their personal phones to make business calls, the employer has no way to track those calls or even make a record that the calls took place. And for businesses that rely on billable hours, not being able to track the time employees are on the phone is lost revenue. In many cases supervisors must be able to monitor or record calls to assess performance and general customer satisfaction.  Extending the business application to the mobile phone offers businesses the opportunity to monitor the customer experience and offers a single face to the customer.

A survey by the market research company Gartner found that about 40 percent of American employees at large enterprises reported using their personal phones for work. This number is not likely to decline, given that so many people store business contacts and schedules on their personal phones. That’s why it’s so important to address employees’ desire for flexibility while protecting the business’ need for integrity.