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Hosted VoIP Unified Communications

3 Things You Can’t Overlook When Scaling Your Business

Let’s face it, the companies that have successfully mastered rapid growth over the last several years have adopted a scalable business model.  Efficiency has proven to be essential to modern growth success, with the recipe for scalable growth featuring the perfect combination of simultaneous revenue growth with minimal cost increases.

So, how do businesses today manage to scale successfully?  What we can learn from the most successful and highly scalable businesses, is that initial investments in technologies which help to increase efficiency and fuel automation are also key in supporting sales growth in the future.

Often overlooked in the plan for scalability, but perhaps the most crucial is an organization’s communications infrastructure and here’s why.

Communications is the lifeline of every business, whether it’s communicating with customers or collaborating internally, no business can grow effectively without including communications technology in their plans for growth.

Here are 3 things you can’t overlook when planning to scale your business.

1. Supported Collaboration for Mobile and Distributed Workers

Businesses today are comprised of multiple locations, with employees traveling and working remotely. Therefore, seamless collaboration and unified communications organization-wide is a necessity for every modern business, but especially one with hopes for effective growth.  According to a recent report by Mitel, businesses lose an average of $11,000 per employee every year due to ineffective communications and collaboration solutions. Fortunately, cloud-based Unified Communications (UC) solutions bring together essential communication functions like company-wide chat, presence and video conferencing, in addition to traditional telephony features and services to allow for more seamless collaboration. UC solutions which are 100 percent cloud-based, provide even more capabilities as features, settings and services are stored exclusively in the cloud, making them accessible and manageable from any device, anywhere. This is not just important for efficiency, but is where the real cost-savings comes in. Not only can businesses save on rent, enabling more remote workers to operate securely in locations where limited employees are needed, these solutions drastically reduce downtime during disastrous circumstances. Having the ability to reroute calls, listen to and respond to voicemail messages, update greetings and collaborate via video conference or chat remotely, ensures business takes place regardless of physical location. With the average business losing an astonishing $5,000 per hour when they are down, this is quite the savings.

2.  The Flexibility to Scale

Whether your growth is rapid, planned or unexpected, having communication technology in place that offers the ability to fluctuate based on your business demand is critical to cost control. Functions, such as adding and removing services, employees, equipment, and even locations at anytime with ease allows you to scale efficiently. Not to mention, it ensures costs remain low. By having the flexibility to scale and pay only for what you need and use, you eliminate wasted fees for services and users that may no longer be needed.

3. Efficient Communications

Efficiency has been a key theme throughout this post because it is fundamental to scaling a business. With the right communication technology in place, the automation of key functions are enabled. Whether its utilizing auto attendants to help answer and field incoming calls to save employee time and resources, or it’s having a communications solution that enables administrators to make company-wide changes across any location or many other benefits for enterprise organizations where significant savings and increased efficiency can be achieved. An immense opportunity for efficiency lies in the integration of existing customer relationship management systems (CRMs), such as Salesforce, Google, Skype and others with your business communications. This provides the ability for an even greater return on both investments and the opportunity for optimal efficiency and time-savings.

Regardless of business size, achieving successful growth not only requires an increase in revenue, but having the right technology in place to support the most critical areas of your business’ growth. Communications technology and collaboration tools are not only essential to your daily operations, but vital to your long-term success. Ensuring you have the appropriate communications technology in place is a key step and one that should never be overlooked in your strategic plan.

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Hosted VoIP

Use HD Meeting to save money interviewing

Hiring top talent is critical to the growth and success of every organization. Each company has its own process. Even after your human resources department, or recruiting agency narrows down hundreds of applicants for each job posting, the interview process with the most qualified candidate pool can still be a daunting and expensive task. Here’s where video conferencing technology can simplify the hiring process.

After candidate applications and resumes are carefully reviewed, your next step is most likely to set up an initial interview in-person or over the phone with several of the most qualified candidates. However, in-person interviews can be costly to bring all the candidates in, not to mention time-consuming. Sure, there are phone calls, but they are not as effective at showing you the whole picture, literally. Meeting face-to-face through video conferencing software, especially when it pertains to hiring employees can really tell you a lot and save you a ton of time in the process.

Narrow down candidates more efficiently
For one, you have the opportunity to screen candidates more thoroughly to see if their resume and application match up before moving them further along in the interview process. Speaking with candidates via a brief video conference gives you the opportunity to evaluate their verbal and non-verbal communication skills, without having to do lengthy in-person interviews. You can better evaluate if they would be a good fit for the role than you can with just a phone call. How professional do they come across in terms of their appearance, attire and posture? Do they communicate effectively and display confidence? Are they energetic and excited about the potential role? Visual cues are critically important. And, if your company will be using video conferencing in your daily business, it’s a great opportunity to see each candidate’s comfort level with this important business technology.

Include colleagues easily
Another great benefit is the ability to include other key decision makers in the interviews who may be working from another location or traveling. This is a common hiring issue, and instead of delaying the interview process and potentially losing qualified candidates, multiple parties can participate in the interview process from any device, anywhere. This is incredibly useful and not to mention, practical.

Simplify geographic challenges
For out-of-state and international candidates, you may even opt to just do a series of video interviews and skip the costly and complicated in-person interviews all together. This is becoming an increasingly more popular method for hiring top talent located elsewhere. This powerful tool can save both you and your candidates time and money.

In sum, video conferencing provides your business with a cost-effective, time-saving and efficient way to interview and hire new employees. There is a great deal that can be learned from video interviews and many ways it can help to expedite and simplify the hiring process altogether. This will most definitely become a more common hiring practice and one that can really benefit your business both now and in the future.

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Hosted VoIP

Moving To A Cloud Phone System Will Save Your Business Money

More businesses than ever are using the cloud for their business processes and the same goes for phone systems. One of the key benefits businesses are finding with cloud phone systems are cost savings. The following are just a few reasons why cloud phones can save your business money.

Greater Efficiency. Cloud phones offer the ability to integrate business process applications such as CRM, ERP and ATS. This enables employees to streamline communication both with their colleagues and with customers. For example, as the phone starts ringing, a complete customer record can appear on the phone screen. Not only does this save time, it also enables a richer conversation between the employee and the customer.

Increased Productivity. Cloud phones can shave minutes from everything an employee does. For example, knowing which co-workers are available at any given moment can save up to 20 minutes a day, according to a survey by market research firm Chadwick Martin and Bailey. That frees up to 86 hours a year for each employee – time that can be spent on initiatives to help the business grow.

Reduced Toll Calls. For businesses with offices in international markets, the savings on toll charges can be significant. When companies internationally implement cloud phones across all their global offices, for instance, they can reduce toll call charges by two-thirds.

Lower IT Costs. Cloud phones also enable businesses to shift responsibilities from their IT department to the vendor. By having others manage their IP telephony in the cloud, a company reduces its costs. Businesses no longer have to purchase, install and maintain applications or hardware, lessening the need for dedicated IT resources.

More Opportunities for Innovation. Because the vendor is focused on managing the cloud phone system’s software and hardware, businesses don’t need to incur the time, resources or costs associated with upgrades. What’s more, they can be confident they’re working with the most current package, which provides them with a competitive edge.

Faster Disaster Recovery. When trouble occurs, the vendor deploys its own IT experts to resolve the issue. Businesses don’t incur additional costs resulting from having their resources troubleshoot problems or risk losing business because phones are down.

Faster Collaboration. With cloud phones, employees can take advantage of functionality that enhances collaboration. Services such as instant messaging and video conferencing are built into the phones, allowing employees to connect, converse, and make decisions more quickly.

When evaluating the savings associated with cloud phones, it’s essential to look at the financial outcome at least five years out. This is the best way to determine the true cost of ownership, as employees become better trained and the kinks are worked out of the system.

If saving money is a driving factor behind moving to cloud phones, businesses have plenty of good reasons to make the switch

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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

Auto-Attendant: What’s the Point?

 

One of the most highly-praised features of OfficeSuite® Phone – the easy-to-use cloud UC system – is the virtual auto attendant, and as someone who has never used it, you may fail to see the hype. That’s understandable – after all, you could just as easily hire, even outsource, an operator, right?

That may be true, but there are some things that auto attendants offer that operators don’t, so let’s go into detail about that.

Not Just Professionalism – Consistent Professionalism
Everyone has off-days, whether they’re in a bad mood or simply not performing at their maximum potential. Computers, however, do not. Auto attendants follow rules flawlessly, route calls logically, and make sure that all callers get the same experience. Plus, since auto attendants operate on logical routing trees, you can make sure that certain types of calls are prioritized over others if you choose. No one gets the grumpy operator, and no operators get grumpy callers. It streamlines your business, makes sure every call goes where it needs to go, and keeps mistakes out of the mix, delivering you better customer service.

Branding Opportunities
While your callers wait to be re-directed, there’s going to be a radio silence. If you use an auto attendant, though, you can fill that silence with some company branding to promote a new product, inform the caller about useful features, or simply play some good music. All you have to do is have a voiceover recorded if you’d like, or choose the type of music you think your customers might like to hear, and launch it, which can be done right from your computer, smartphone or tablet via the MyOfficeSuite® customer portal. All of these things contribute to the caller’s experience, and ultimately affect their opinion of your brand. You can change them out as often as you like!

Make Use of the Cloud
When you use an auto attendant through your VoIP provider, you’ll make ample use of all the benefits of the cloud. You can integrate your incoming calls with third-party apps such as Salesforce® and other CRMs. Access and monitoring is, in turn, easy to control.

If your power spontaneously goes out, your caller won’t be disconnected since the call is being taken through the cloud. The call can be redirected to a mobile phone to ensure business continuity.

The cloud also allows an auto attendant to direct calls to employees who may be off-site, assuming their phones have been re-routed to wherever they are.

Plus, if you need to make a change to your call routing or hold music, you can do it from anywhere – it’s in the cloud!

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Keep your Head Above Water: Ways VoIP is the Busy Worker’s Life Preserver

There are many ways in which VoIP – Voice over Internet Protocol – is revolutionary. What many people don’t realize is that, especially for those of us who wear many hats or have hectic schedules, this type of business phone system can actually help keep us afloat in a sea of attempted communications. When you’ve got messages coming at you from the fax machine, e-mail, IM, and voicemail, it’s easy for things to get lost in the mix, causing disaster. Here are a few ways VoIP can save your skin.

No Longer Fall Victim to Being Distracted
So you’re on the phone with a client when another caller beeps through and you think, “I’ll let it go to voicemail and handle that later.” Then you get off the call and forget all about that person trying to get through. Or, you receive a call after business hours, and decide to take care of it in the morning, but by that point, the only thing on your mind is that stressful commute. In these situations, your VoIP phone system has your back. You can have your voicemail messages sent to your e-mail account so you’re notified of it not once, but twice. Sync it to your smartphone, and that voicemail is now in three places to get your attention. You look at your smartphone constantly, don’t you? Never miss an opportunity again.

Bandwidth Limitations: No Match for You
You love all your new business applications, but sometimes, your bandwidth just can’t handle it. Broadening your bandwidth might not be something you’ve considered before – though it totally should be, if you’re upgrading your technology – and therefore, your meager allowance could be affecting your business productivity. If you don’t have the bandwidth to use your phones or power up your other applications, you’ll be stopped short in the middle of a busy day. Luckily, when you go to switch to VoIP phone service, your provider will be required to assess your bandwidth situation and decide whether it can support your new solutions. They’ll be able to give you advice that not only corresponds with your new phone systems, but with all of your internet-based applications. Never have to slow your roll again!

Cold, Flu, Stomach Bug, Throat Thing? No Problem.
With VoIP, you can essentially access your phone from wherever you are. No one wants you to come to work if you’re going to be spreading that weird bug you have, but that doesn’t have to mean that you can’t be productive. Have your office phone forwarded to your mobile or even your computer, and you can work from anywhere. Your clients will be none the wiser if you take a call from your bed, surrounded by tissues and cold compresses.