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Hosted VoIP

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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Hosted VoIP

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.

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Hosted VoIP Unified Communications

6 Reasons Business Communications are Evolving from Legacy Voice to Hosted VoIP and Cloud UC

Businesses are turning to cloud-based Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and unified communications (UC) solutions for myriad reasons: to control and reduce costs, manage complexity, increase productivity, and enable easier collaboration. But for many organizations, VoIP and UC implementations can be challenging to manage. Luckily, communications service providers (CSPs) can remove the complexity and alleviate the need for internal IT staff to manage and maintain the solution. According to recent IDC survey data, hosted and cloud solutions will continue to gain significant traction and significantly outpace on-site solutions.

Organizations surveyed in 2014 that had deployed VoIP:

  • 33% said they had a hosted VoIP solution.
  • An additional 29.6% indicated they planned to implement hosted VoIP in the future.

Organizations surveyed in 2014 that planned to implement UC:

  • 41.7% of current UC users said their organization had deployed a premises-based UC solution.
  • 61% planned to implement a hosted/cloud UC or UCaaS compared with 30% who planned to implement an on-site UC solution.

Here are 6 reasons why business communications are evolving naturally from legacy on-site voice systems to hosted VoIP and cloud-based UC solutions. To read the full IDC report, click here.

 

1. Shift in How Businesses Communicate

When it comes to how professionals communicate, it will always come down to voice. Voice communications will always be an essential aspect of conducting business in today’s fast-paced environment. But the way in which organizations communicate is shifting from siloed, legacy voice platforms to integrated cloud solutions.

2. BYOD Explosion

Business professionals are redefining how and where they work. The proliferation of mobile devices, fueled by BYOD and the consumerization of IT, combined with the increasingly distributed and virtual nature of workforces are key drivers of this shift.

3. Growing Comfort Level with the Cloud

The accelerating adoption of managed, hosted, and cloud-based communications solutions is being driven by organizations’ growing comfort level with cloud delivery models. Although businesses will continue to invest in on-site solutions, their growing comfort level coupled with increasing numbers of hosted and cloud-based services in the market has led to faster-than-expected adoption. As a result, the available UC delivery and deployment options now include managed, hosted, cloud-based and hybrid offerings, far beyond the traditional, premises-based offerings that dominated the market a few years ago.

4. Businesses want Cloud Benefits, Now and in the Future

Business communications are naturally evolving from legacy voice systems to cloud VoIP and UC solutions as organizations reevaluate their existing solutions and consider the benefits of moving to a cloud-based model:

  • Control and reduce costs
  • Simplify the delivery and management of communications
  • Boost productivity and efficiency
  • Facilitate migration to a converged network
  • Encourage collaboration internally and externally with customers, suppliers and partners.

In fact, some organizations are deploying cloud-based UC or unified communications as a service (UCaaS) not only because they believe their users will leverage the advanced features immediately, but also because the additional functionality will be there whenever it’s needed.

5. Demand for Mobile, Video & Social

The popularity of mobility, video and social business applications is also contributing to rising demand for cloud solutions that seamlessly integrate UC capabilities with advanced voice capabilities, mobility and collaborative apps. Businesses are considering how UC can enable new applications, help solve business process challenges, and enable users to communicate and collaborate whenever and wherever they want using any device. However, these applications and services must be easy to deploy and manage as well as intuitive and simple to use. That’s where online customer portals that centralize management of all UC services comes into play.

6. Centralized Management

Over the past few years, CSPs have paved the way for providing UCaaS by integrating unified messaging (email, voice, and fax messaging), IM, conferencing (Web, audio, and video), presence, and mobility with the underlying telephony and call management capabilities already resident on hosted VoIP platforms. An example of one such centralized portal is Broadview Networks’ innovative MyOfficeSuite®. The  MyOfficeSuite® portal enables customers to control everything within the OfficeSuite Phone® UC solution – phone, voicemail, email, HD Video and web conferencing, Android® and iPhone® apps for mobile access, online fax service, Instant Messaging and more.

Categories
Hosted VoIP

Why Switch from PBX to Hosted VoIP and Cloud Phone Systems

2015 Business Phone System Buyers’ Report: Why Switch from PBX to Hosted VoIP and Cloud Phone Systems

If you’re thinking about buying a new business phone system , here’s your guide! Sometimes knowing what factors prompt other businesses to switch can help in your decision. This report from Software Advice is a wealth of information on Most Wanted Features and Applications, Top Pain Points, Buyers by Industry and so much more. With all the different options available for business communications (i.e. on-premises Private Branch Exchange (PBX), on-premises IP PBX and Hosted VoIP and Cloud UC systems), it can get overwhelming. Let this navigate you through all the reasons to upgrade to a hosted VoIP or Cloud phone system.

If you get nothing else from this report, know this: the PHONE still reigns supreme over all other communications. Yes, people are increasingly using web-based channels like email, social media and online chat to connect with your customer support team, but at the end of the day their phone interactions with your business dominate their perceptions.

 In other words, if you don’t do a good job with your auto attendant – the automated menu that lets callers self-select where their call is routed – then you’re likely to lose their business.

Daniel Harris, Market Research Associate at Software Advice, a VoIP software reviews website, gives more insight:

Our survey asked a population of U.S. consumers about how they would respond to a bad experience with a local business’s auto attendant. These findings suggest that auto attendants are a vitally important customer-facing element of business phone systems, particularly for local businesses.

  • Strikingly, 42% of our sample says that they would take their business elsewhere.
  • Only 7% says that they would email the business.
  • Moreover, only 20% says that they’ll look for info on the company’s website if they can’t use the auto attendant, which is less than half of the percentage of respondents who would simply take their business elsewhere.

We asked consumers about their top pain points with using auto attendants in order to identify the key elements of good auto attendant design. The top pain points among the consumers in our sample are long introductions (cited by 29%) and too many menu options (cited by 28%). In order to arrive at guidelines concerning how to avoid these pain points, we analyzed a sample of 45 small business auto attendants to track metrics on average introduction length, menu length and number of menu options.

  • More than half (58%) of the introductions in our sample are under three seconds long.
  • Only 9% provide branding statements regarding their businesses in auto attendant introductions.
  • Additionally, overall menu length rarely exceeds 40 seconds (only 24% of the businesses in our sample had longer introductions).
  • We also found that very few small business auto attendants include more than 8 options – only 6% of the auto attendants in our sample extended beyond this number.
  • The lion’s share of auto attendants clustered between 4 and 5 options (42% of our sample).

I hope this guide helps you make a more informed decision about what type of communication system is right for your business. Remember, you typically only have one chance to make a good impression on your customers and prospects, so make sure that the phone system you choose gives your business a professional, polished image.