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Hosted VoIP

What Your Call History Can Tell You About Your Business

 

In business, your call history can really tell you a great deal. Having insight into your entire company’s communications can be beneficial to improving various areas of your operations.

As managers, reviewing call activity gives visibility into employee performance, customer needs and issues, as well as your sales and marketing efforts.

But, who has time to review call activity the old-fashioned way?

Thankfully, with modern UC technology and state-of-the-art online portals, the ability to view and analyze critical call data is simple.

Viewing call history as a whole doesn’t provide much insight. However, when inbound and outbound call data can be broken down and evaluated by departments, individual employees, phone numbers and even extensions, a great can deal can be learned.

Our Call History component is a good example of how built-in business intelligence tools can make the reporting of this critical data work for your business’ needs.

For instance, running reports for the longest and most frequent calls your customer service department makes and receives can provide perspective as to which customers require the most assistance and whether or not you may need to monitor or intervene in order to keep an important account. It also gives you a better idea of your personnel needs throughout the day and individual employee workloads, which can help to improve staffing efficiency.

For sales departments, outbound calling is critical to sales results. So, having the ability to view all the outbound calls by day, week, month, employee or region provides you with a valuable performance evaluation tool and a concrete way to improve productivity.

Inbound call reporting for specific phone numbers is a great way to track marketing campaign activity. When designating a specific phone number for a new campaign, you can instantly see the results based on the amount of call activity.

Customizable call reporting is also a crucial component; every organization has different needs, so having the ability to create customized reports will enable you to get to a more granular level in your analysis.

As you can see, diving deeper into your call analytics can really help to improve employee performance, sales, marketing and customer service throughout your organization. So, be sure to take advantage of the important call data that is already available to you. And, if you are not using a system that provides you with the advanced technology and reporting you need, check into our  award-winning unified communications solutions.

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Hosted VoIP

Common Obstacles of Communication Technology in Business

 

A business’ success and its employees’ ability to communicate are directly correlated. Communication amongst one another as well as with other businesses and clients is crucial. That’s why newer and more powerful technologies for communicating are popping up every day.

Of course, with new technology comes the potential for speed bumps, and smoothing them out is essential for maximizing the efficiency of using communication technology. Technology issues that entrepreneurs will face in business run the gamut, and mastering them is something to consider spending time on.

Researching Communication Technology
Often, it’s not the technology itself but rather finding the right communication product to use that is problematic. Before investing in a new email platform or phones for the office, it’s important to read reviews, compare prices, and have a consultation with representatives from the company. You want to know what their support availability is like, whether the product will be useful for a business the size of yours, and whether it can help you to accomplish your goals.

Maintaining a Website
Making a website for your company seems simple, right? Many people don’t realize that a website isn’t just a basic source of information. It also acts as a sort of business card and a way to engage potential customers. Therefore, you need to streamline the communication aspect of it and make sure you stay with the times. Having a knowledgeable development and design staff can help with that aspect of it, but sometimes it’s a good idea to consider implementing an instant chat client to immediately answer customer questions.

Deciding on Communications Media
Technology has changed the way businesses reach out to their clients and work internally. While phones used to be the only necessary technology, you now have to decide if you want cell phones, a cloud phone system, conference call capabilities, video chat services, et cetera. On top of that, you need to select data plans, put together a customer service team, choose a reliable e-mail platform, and more. Gather a list of practical options and consider whether or not they will be useful within your industry and for your company in particular. Don’t underestimate the need for a customer service team that can respond to emails – as your company grows, you’ll find you can’t do this yourself in a timely manner. You don’t want inefficient communication, or an unnecessary overuse of budget, to become an issue down the road.

Social Media
Many companies don’t even consider social media to be a communications technology, but that’s a very dated way of thinking. Though it’s a recent phenomenon, it’s an important one. Do you have someone manning your social media profile, ensuring that the tone is consistent, customers are being responded to, and branding opportunities are being maximized upon? It’s worth considering having a consultation with Social Media Marketing experts if you’re not seasoned in this area yourself.

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Small Business, Big Image

Small businesses have the advantage of portraying a much larger image than ever before thanks to advances in technology. In the past, the number of employees, your budget and the number of locations were indicators of how large your business’s presence and reach throughout the community could be. Fortunately, now, no matter how small you are or where you are located, you can easily compete with the big leagues in terms of your image, and without the cost.

Here are some simple ways your small business can portray a big image.

Website: Your online presence is by far the most important asset for your company, as more people search for companies online than any other method. Websites can be as complex and simple as you’d like and can be created and hosted for practically nothing. The most important thing is to have consistent branding and keep an up-to-date and informative website. The goal should be to create a modern and clean-looking site that showcases your products and services in the best light possible. If photos are appropriate to your industry, such as a restaurant or retail store, be sure to visually display your product as well. Most importantly, include critical details like your contact information, location and hours of operation.

Social Media: Social media is a must for every business these days and a free way to communicate with your customers and advertise your company and product. Start small. Facebook is one of the most user-friendly and common outlets for businesses of all sizes. Start your business page and ask customers to follow you, introduce specials and post relevant content and photos daily or at least a few times a week to increase your presence and following.

Online Reviews: Word-of-mouth and recommendations are still gold, but these days, online reviews on popular sites like Yelp, Google+ Local and Angie’s List speak volumes. Create business accounts on these commonly viewed sites and ask your happy customers to write reviews. Be sure to respond to reviews that are negative and learn from what your customers are saying. It can be a great source of exposure, but also insight into what is working and what is not.

Digital Receptionists/Auto Attendants: A huge advantage with cloud-based phone systemsare Auto Attendants or Digital Receptionists which ensure your incoming calls are all answered and directed to the appropriate place, not matter who is physically available. An advantage of this is to project a professional image with every single call and save yourself on having a designated employee to answer every incoming call. The most common reasons for calls are hours of operation and directions. Using an Auto Attendant will reduce the number of routine calls that have to be answered by 25%, plus will ensure that callers are directed to right person every time.

On-Hold Greetings: The best cloud-based phone systems include on-hold greetings and music options which can make a big difference in how your company is portrayed. While customers are on-hold, you can promote and advertise specials, your website and upcoming events to boost your sales or attendance to events for free. Plus, your company sounds larger and more legitimate with professionally recorded messages or music while callers are waiting on hold.

800 Numbers: Another great feature that helps to project a larger company image are 1-800 numbers. They can be used in a variety of ways, such as designating a phone number for advertising campaigns to track results, to direct calls to a specific employee, or to just project a larger company image in a specific location. They are a great way to centralize calls for little to no cost.

 

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Hosted VoIP

Time to Value for Small Business Cloud Phone Services

  • Time to Value

When considering a purchase of small business cloud phone services, metrics like Return on Investment (ROI) andTotal Cost of Ownership (TCO) are often considered. This makes sense for larger businesses, but often the key metric for small business or a startup is more time sensitive. For businesses that are highly time sensitive Time to Value (TtV) is a better metric.

What is Time to Value (TtV)?

Time to value describes the amount of time between making a business decision or incurring initial cost to receiving the value from the decision or investment.  Value in this case is the desired business goal or benefit.

This is a different metric than the often used Time Value of Money (TVM). TVM is a calculation of what today’s money is worth in the future due to its earning potential. TVM is generally used when money is being loaned or will be received at some future time.

Both the Time to Value and TVM attempt to address the consideration of time, but in different ways.

Startup & Small Business Time

For startups and small businesses time is often their most precious commodity. The industry likes to focus on ROI, which factors time but not always in a way that matters to a startup or small business. Small businesses and startups are often on the clock trying to make their business successful before running out of time.

ROI helps you understand how long it will take to pay back an initial investment. This is useful when there is a large capital expenditure, but for cloud services this often misses the point. Time to Value is very aligned with how small businesses and startups tend to think. It is focused on the speed of which money spent returns value.

What is the TtV for cloud business phone services?

To answer this question we must first look at the benefits that drive most small businesses tocloud business phone services. I wrote a post awhile back on the top reasons small businesses go to the cloud, so I won’t rewrite it here. Let’s review these reasons and the Time to Value for each:

  • Cost – Most startups and small businesses go to the cloud to avoid a large capital expenditure on a phone system With cloud business phone services this value is delivered day one.
  • Scalability – Startups and small businesses don’t want to be penalized for adding or removing a line. Again, the time to value is pretty much immediate with most cloudbusiness phone services offering adds and removes at no cost.
  • Security – Managing cyber security can be a real burden for small businesses. Cloudbusiness phone services shift this burden to the service provider and the value is received immediately by customers of all sizes.
  • Integrations – Many small business cloud phone services offer integrations to CRM and Support platforms. These integrations typically require a little configuration, but value is often received the first day. Cloud business phone services also offer APIs enabling startups and small businesses to create their own custom integrations. The value of these integrations is not received until the development work is completed.
  • Flexibility – This benefit is partially described under scalability above, but there is added value from picking and choosing features. Most cloud business services provide plans where the customer can have a limited feature set for a lower cost and add features as they grow. Again, this value is received pretty much immediately by the customer.
  • Disaster Recovery – Most startups and small businesses don’t have the time or money for a full blown disaster recovery plan, however flying without a net is rarely a good policy and customers often require this. Going to the cloud solves this problem in a critical business area, communications, immediately upon activating the service.

So the short answer is unless you need to develop a new integration Time to Value is immediate. Some might dismiss TtV for its simplicity, but it is often the most important metric for startups and small businesses. We would encourage you to consider it with your next major purchase.

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Hosted VoIP

Fraud Protection: Keeping Your Business Phone System Secure

 

Common headlines these days are exposing the countless threats of Internet hackers. Businesses that utilize cloud-based phone systems operated via the web are often concerned with security and fraud protection.

Fortunately, major carriers like Broadview, have sophisticated fraud detection systems and protocols in place. A commonly reported scam or hack within business phone systems results from hackers calling into a phone system’s voicemail, trying different passwords until one works and making outbound calls via one of the voicemail menu options.

Broadview proudly addressed this concern many years ago with our award-winning OfficeSuite® Phone system by eliminating the rarely used call-out feature from our voicemail options all together.

Another commonly reported concern is overnight cleaning crews racking up costly international calls on company’s bills. With more advanced cloud-based phone systems, you have the ability to restrict outgoing calls, with the exception of emergency calls during after hours. Closed or after hours can be also defined however needed and vary by employee or group through the Business Hour function, regardless of how many different shifts you have. We also always recommend that our customers update their “permission profiles” by turning off any calling permissions that employees do not need or should not have, especially when their business is closed.

Although, our customers can rest easy knowing that their systems are secure, we recommend that everyone incorporate the following three practices to ensure optimal security for your business.

Change your passwords– Although it can be a pain to remember new passwords, it is a great measure to keep your system secure. We recommend changing your password at least once a year and choosing something that is difficult for others to guess. We offer our customers the option to have passwords that contain up to 10 digits, which are significantly harder for hackers to crack than four digit passwords.

Require Password Protected Logins– It may be quicker and easier for your employees to click the “keep me logged in” or “remember my password” buttons, but that’s also a great way to weaken your security. If you want to ensure optimal security for your network, require every username to have a password, and require the username and password to be entered every time the program is launched. This adds another layer of security – even if a hacker is able to breach the network, they’d still need to hack a specific password to gain full access.

Use Common Sense when Working Outside the Office– One of the greatest advantages of cloud-based systems is that you can work from anywhere. Just be sure to always use common sense. Don’t ever share your password with anyone, write it down and or store it on your personal computer or other devices. Theft of computers and devices is common, so ensuring that your passwords are protected is critically important.

No network is perfect, but when you utilize a cloud-based phone system that has the proper security and fraud protection in place and instill your own routine preventative security policies, your business will remain secure and be less susceptible to fraudulent threats.

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Hosted VoIP

The Important role of IT in a Modern Business

In the modern world, a highly capable IT team is the lifeblood of your company. In all businesses, big or small, across all industries, having an IT team that is well-trained is crucial to keeping business afloat. Their many responsibilities are integral, even if your company only uses one computer. Today, we’re going to take a closer look at what their common roles are in any business, and hopefully drive home the true gravity of their importance.

Communications
How do people communicate, internally and externally, at your job? Do they use VoIP phone systems? Do they e-mail? What would business be like if these channels suddenly went offline? Not only would collaborating with your coworkers become a pain, your clients would most certainly not be pleased. IT teams are there to troubleshoot – they know the ins and outs of your communication channels, how to keep them up and running, and how to keep your conversations secure. Without them, it would be impossible to operate your business.

Inventory
Every business owner knows the importance of keeping a close eye on inventory. You need to be organized, to know when stock is low, and to be able to tell if things are going missing. A good IT team has the skills to make sure that additional stock can automatically be ordered when necessary, to connect your inventory management system with your POS system, and to keep this closed-loop running smoothly.

Data Storage
Your office probably doesn’t have rows and rows of filing cabinets – at least not anymore. Now, data is stored in the cloud or in some other digital server, and the IT team is there to make sure that data is well-maintained and secure. We all know how debilitating a data breach can be, and for that reason alone, you put a lot of trust in your IT team to take preventative measures.

Information Management
For many companies, data is kept so that it can be used to track sales, manage expenses, monitor activity, and maintain customer relationships. Your IT team can help to keep your data organized while also condensing it into reports that can be used to boost productivity, capitalize on new opportunities, perform client outreach, make special offers, and react to any abnormal activity on the account.

Most importantly, your IT team knows the best and latest applications for performing all these operations, which turn directly into success and profitability for your company. Investing in proper training and recruiting is absolutely crucial for a business in today’s world.

 

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Hosted VoIP

The Right Tools Make Switching to VoIP Easy!

You’re the IT Manager. It’s a big job. Servers, routers, and firewalls, budget cuts and smaller staff.  And then the CEO tells you they have just purchased a new IP phone system and you find yourself switching to VoIP. The sales manager is excited about the unified communications YOU will provide her team. Or maybe the CIO heard about Microsoft Lync and is thinking about using it for IM and presence.

Where do you begin? Can your network handle the additional traffic? Is that traffic any different from the email, web and other application traffic that exists now?

When it comes to switching to VoIP, there are some questions you’ll need to answer. Questions like:

  • How many calls does your organization make a day? A Week? A month?
  • Do you have a busy time of year?
  • What is the highest call volume you have in a 30-day period? When is that usually?

Don’t have the answers to these questions? Then it’s going to be a slow and bumpy ride.

Is it Really Any Different?

The answer to the question asked earlier is, Yes. The VoIP call traffic is different from the email, web and application traffic you already deal with. It’s persnickety and more sensitive to network interruptions.

Luckily, there are tools out there that can make the life of an IT Manager a LOT easier when switching to VoIP. Looks for tools to assess your current phone utilization, test your networks ability to provide quality VoIP calls, and allow you to monitor changes to network performance as the new system is deployed.switching to VoIP

Answering that first question of what does your network look like now can be tough. Where do you start? Do you have a call accounting system that can pull numbers for you, like number of inbound, outbound and internal calls per day? Could you ask your VAR or carrier for a traffic study? They’ll usually do it over a week and let you see things like total calls, trunk utilization and so on. Then, based on the codec you’ll be using with the new system, you’ll be able to calculate how much bandwidth you’ll need based on your current traffic patterns.

Once you are ready to choose a system, you’ll want to decide who runs it? Do you and your team answer alerts? Does your VAR? Or is it a combination based on severity, type of alarm, etc?

Find a vendor with a support system you are comfortable with. Ask questions like how much training is available? What type of training is it? Is there a charge?

System optimization is made possible with performance monitoring reports that help ensure that you continue to deliver quality of service and system performance.

The more work you do upfront to get things under control the easier life will be. You’ll look good. The CEO looks good. Win win.