Tag - Cloud Telephony

Foster a Positive Culture with Collaboration Technology

A positive company culture is essential for reaching high levels of productivity and achieving successful business outcomes, experts say. And yet, as the workplace changes, it’s ever more challenging to build an engaging work environment. As a manager and business owner, you know jobs aren’t just 9 to 5 anymore, for you or your employees. Nor are roles limited by location. More and more of your workers do their jobs remotely today, whether by choice or necessity.

So how can today’s small and medium-sized business owner create a positive company culture — especially in a highly competitive marketplace – with fewer resources than big organizations?

Part of the answer lies in cloud-based technologies. Hosted phone systems, like MiCloud Connect, foster collaboration, productivity and a positive work environment. Collaborative workspaces and mobile communications bring your team together, no matter where everyone’s working.

Hosted Phone Systems Provide Flexibility

Gallup identified the growing trend of remote work in its most recent State of the American Workplace Report. The researcher found that between 2012 and 2016, the number of remote workers rose to 43 percent, from 39 percent – almost half the workforce! Add to this contract and gig workers, and you’ve got a very fluid dynamic.

In fact, Gallup reported that 29 percent of all U.S. workers have some kind of alternative work arrangement (such as remote working or flexible work hours) in their primary job and over a third (36 percent) participate in the gig economy. No wonder pulling together your team can feel a little like herding cats.

Flexibility Increases Retention And Reduces Costs

Today’s workers see flexibility as an essential ingredient of a positive organizational culture, so giving them flexibility in how and when they work can increase retention, Gallup discovered. When asked what would motivate them to switch jobs, over half of employees (51 percent) said they’d move for a position that provided flextime. Over a third (37 percent) would switch jobs for the ability to work remotely.

Flexible work arrangements aren’t just about pleasing employees. They can offer companies significant cost savings, too. When you don’t need a desk for every employee, for instance, you don’t need to lease as much physical space. With a cloud-based communications system, you also save money on hardware and software upgrades. Your remote workers can connect to the team via any device, like their own mobile or laptop. And software is kept current by the vendor, so you don’t have to worry about updates.

But because of these changing work arrangements, team members today communicate more through email, instant messaging and conference calls, all of which have weaknesses. Important information gets lost in a thread of emails. Files aren’t easily accessible to all team members. Redundant or confusing technologies make conference calling a major headache. A hosted phone system is one way to help employees working virtually communicate easily with colleagues in the office, as well as with clients.

A Culture Of Collaboration

In order to get the most productivity and employee engagement from today’s workforce, leaders need to foster a collaborative culture. Here are some tips.

    1. Provide effective collaboration technology. A hosted phone system enables team members to easily communicate and share essential information. For example, they can share documents in a central location that everyone can access – when they’re off-site. They can schedule and initiate audio and video conference calls at a click of a button, using mobile-first technology so remote team members can easily join in. And, they can share their screen during calls so everyone is literally on the same page.
    2. Model the behavior you want to see. To create a collaborative environment that brings out the best in all your workers, you need to model the open, supportive behavior you want to see in your team. Be receptive to different ideas and make sure everyone has a chance to contribute. Perhaps it shouldn’t need to be said, but be sure to use the collaboration technology yourself. Show them how it can support productive communications.
    3. Make time for face time. Even though many employees like working virtually, good managers know that face-to-face interaction is always important. Daily or weekly video calls, one-on-ones and off-site team meetings keep the communication channels open. Gallup found that optimal engagement occurs when workers spend three to four days working off-site and one to two days in the office with colleagues.
    4. Cut down on meeting time. Workers today often complain of too many meetings, which leaves them without enough time to get their work done. A team leader who really wants to create a positive, collaborative culture knows meetings aren’t always the best way to achieve results. With a hosted phone system, you can actually cut down on meeting time. Using a central shared platform on the cloud, team members can track progress, assign tasks, communicate asynchronously through messaging and email, initiate calls and share documents, all within a single application. No matter where they are geographically or in which time zone, no matter the device they’re using, colleagues can communicate more effectively with the right communications technology.

How To Choose A Hosted Phone System

Technology can be fun. It can also be maddening. Too often companies get lured in by the latest free app, then by the next one and the next one. Before you know it, your layers of technology are making work harder, not easier.

When choosing communications technology to foster a collaborative culture, choose a system that is:

  • Simple. Choose a one-step, cloud-based communications solution like MiCloud Connect that provides intuitive, easy-to-use tools.
  • Mobile-first. Workers need to connect no matter the device or location. That means many employees will communicate via mobile – even if they’re in the office. Choose a solution that works seamlessly on any device.
  • Robust. Your employees might share a common corporate culture, but everyone has their own way of getting things done. Some teams work best with a shared workspace, while others are more productive during scheduled video conferences. With a hosted phone system, you can accommodate every style and need.
  • Flexible. Be sure your communications vendor offers a variety of pricing options that fit your company’s budget.

A hosted phone system like MiCloud Connect can provide the tools your growing company needs to create a positive and healthy culture while still making the best use of your limited resources.

This article was first published by Mitel.

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Tech Tips for Schools: Evaluating Mass Notification Providers

Originally published on syn-apps.com

To ensure you’re prepared for an emergency of any kind, consider these tips for evaluating a mass notification system.

Mass notification systems serve as the “communication engine” that unites disparate technology into a single platform used to rapidly relay information, a critical component of school safety initiatives.

Finding a trusted mass notification system provider with technology that adapts to your evolving needs is crucial. Schools should choose a provider that offers a simple and reliable notification experience ― one that’s compatible with multiple systems and services, and can provide multi-channel communications to the right people at the right time.

Here are some key tips for schools to consider when evaluating mass notification systems:

Understand Your Technology & Mass Notification Needs

Reviewing and testing existing systems and processes helps clarify mass notification needs and identify potential communications gaps. For example, activating a district-wide notification may be challenging if buildings are equipped with different systems. Notification software can help schools overcome this by connecting disparate systems.

Unite IP and analog systems – Advanced notification systems should be scalable to unite existing analog technology, like speakers and intercoms, into the IP network. This streamlines notification management and extends the life of legacy systems.

Broadcast quality audio to ensure alerts are heard – Intelligible audio is critical when communicating information to speakers in noisy areas, like classrooms, gymnasiums and packed hallways.

Know Your Audience

Whether broadcasting daily announcements, paging faculty or initiating a district lockdown, schools need a system that supports dynamic notifications for various situations. It’s also important to understand which communication mediums are most effective to reach your intended audience.

Activating a panic button to alert safety officers during a classroom emergency may require a more discrete communication process than broadcasting daily announcements across classroom speakers. Robust notification systems should be scalable to simultaneously alert devices, such as:

On-premise communication – IP phones and speakers, intercoms, analog devices, bells/beacons/strobes, desktop computers, panic buttons and digital signage

Off-premise communication – Mobile phones, SMS messages, IM clients, email, text-to-speech services and social networks

Automated Alerts Save Time And Resources

Automation increases safety and situational awareness by eliminating the need for a person to manually activate alerts. Automated alerts are especially beneficial during emergencies when every second can make a difference. Examples of automated mass notifications include:

Scheduled notifications – For routine communication, like daily announcements or school bells

Automated weather alerts – Connect with government agencies that send weather alerts to receive automatic notifications for severe watches and warnings in your area

One-touch activation – Connect panic buttons to automatically initiate emergency procedures for situations like lockdowns and building evacuations

Email monitoring – Alert personnel when incoming emails match specific filters, like email addresses or keywords

Select a robust mass notification system that embraces the mobile-first world to keep everyone informed and connected, no matter their location. Leverage two-way messaging, multimedia push notifications, geofencing support and more to go beyond on-site only and provide information in both emergency and non-emergency situations.

This article was first published by Mitel.

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What is Call Center Performance Management

What is Performance Management?

Call Center Performance Management is a program, generally led by a contact center operations manager, dedicated to calculating and improving the performance of contact center agents. Performance Management generally requires a number of tools like call recording, quality monitoring, coaching and gamification.

How Call Center Performance Management Improves Customer Experience

When a customer reaches out to your contact center for help with an issue, what do they expect? Do they want personal, friendly customer interactions, or do they want an effective call center agent who can provide fast resolution of their issue? The answer is both. In a recent customer experience survey by Customer Contact Week, consumers reported the following priorities:

  1. Easy handling of their problem
  2. Fast issue resolution
  3. Friendly, personalized service

While contact center managers can rely on key performance indicators (KPIs) to track metrics like average handle time, after-call work time, customer satisfaction scores and service level, using a quantitative number to evaluate overall agent performance between customer interactions and meeting business goals is key for maintaining high levels of customer experience. That’s where leveraging contact center performance management software can help.

Challenges of Performance Management

Traditionally, call center managers have used a combination of quality monitoring, team trainings, and one-on-one coaching to address employee engagement and improve agent performance. However, gathering enough data to decide where to direct resources to improve performance requires a huge amount of time and managerial energy. What’s more, scaling up your team requires more workforce management resources directed toward even more performance and quality management personnel.

Contact center agents may also take issue with the performance metrics being used to assess them. Quality assurance reviewers may give feedback based on only one or two recorded calls, which the agent may not see as representative of their overall performance. Inherent bias can become an issue, as one call may be seen in different ways by different reviewers.

Performance Management and Customer Experience

Call center agents, like retail workers, are on the front line of customer interactions, and often face frustrated or angry consumers who are upset about a situation and place the blame firmly on the person in front of them. Team leaders report high levels of call center attrition and agent burnout after certain periods of time. Ensuring a quality customer experience in the face of this can be a huge challenge for managers and agents themselves.

Also, the caller simply does not care about whatever internal call center metrics you are using for performance management. All they care about is results, and different callers will have different opinions about their interactions. Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) and Net Promoter Scores (NPS) can help inform you about customer opinion trends in your particular customer base.

How to Measure Contact Center Performance

The best way to assess agent performance in your call center is through a mix of quantitative and qualitative KPIs. Determining whether or not you are meeting your business goals is simple enough, and modern contact center technology is well equipped to give you all the data you need about conversions, average handle time, customer wait time, schedule adherence and more. These kinds of call center metrics can help you to make informed decisions about workforce management and service level.

However, measuring customer satisfaction and overall quality of the customer experience is more difficult, as CSAT and NPS scores can only tell you so much. A high CSAT score might come from someone who felt that their customer interaction was hurried and would have preferred more friendly service. A low NPS score could come from a caller who experienced wonderful agent engagement but didn’t get their issue resolved.

Fortunately, call center AI technologies such as real-time speech and desktop analytics are available for today’s omnichannel contact center. Along with personal observations by the agent, these tools make it far easier to collect data on subjective factors such as a caller’s emotional state.

Next Steps

Knowing where to direct performance management resources is one of the biggest challenges for the modern call center. Agent performance must be assessed between objective measurements like call handling time and more subjective ones such as the quality of customer interactions and customer satisfaction with the results of their call. Call center management must rely on a more holistic assessment for shaping their performance management solutions beyond just numerical KPIs, CSAT and NPS scores.

This article was first published by Mitel.

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Artificial Intelligence: The Next Frontier for Contact Center Customer Experience

The past few years have ushered in the “modernize movement” within the contact center industry. Companies are recognizing the need to upgrade their systems, but often create a new problem while fixing an old one. How do companies modernize without over-complicating their contact centers? The answer is artificial intelligence (AI), which is an answer dripping with irony: fixing a new problem – created by trying to bring a contact center into the 21st century – with a futuristic solution! But, as we marked the 50th anniversary of the moon landing this summer, we embrace the Apollo spirit of solving problems that didn’t exist before we embarked on a seemingly impossible task.

The Digital Era is Here

Just as the 60s was the “race to the moon” era, the 20-teens is the digital era for the customer service industry. Digital transformation is impacting the business landscape faster than ever with notable heavyweights dropping rapidly. According to ZK Research, half of the current S&P will be replaced in the next 10 years. And, more than half of the Fortune 500 since 2000 are already gone.

As has always been the case companies that move fast, innovate and stay ahead of the proverbial curve are the companies that survive or replace the ones that do not. Driving change is the overarching theme and key concept behind digital transformation. It underscores the importance of being agile and adaptable. In fact, digital transformation may be the single biggest issue that permeates all corners of the business world since the Y2K mania.

Are you curious about what AI can do for you?

Customer Experience Reigns Supreme

Consumers have evolved beyond simply comparing products on price. Price wars can be won through a few extra clicks, but customer experience (CX) is the intangible that sets companies apart. According to studies in 2013 and 2015 from Walker and Gartner respectively, CX will overtake all decision-making factors – including price – as the top brand differentiator by 2020. When these reports came out a few years ago, many companies scoffed at the idea that price would not always be the most important component in the buyer’s choice equation. How many companies on this list of retailers affected by the Retail Apocalypse, including retail titans like Abercrombie & Fitch, Dress Barn, Gap, J.C. Penney, Macy’s, RadioShack, Sears, Shopko and Toys “R” Us, held onto to their dependency on price?

Consider the hotel industry. Location is key and so is price, and in some situations that can still make a difference; but CX and reviews on sites like Yelp are often the difference-maker. When booking a one-night stay in San Francisco for meetings at our headquarters, I chose to stay at a national brand hotel near the airport rather than one of several “boutique” hotels within walking distance of our office. While the prices were comparable, the boutique hotels had the clear advantage on location. However, user reviews were abysmal and were ultimately the deciding factor for me.

If you are waiting to overhaul your CX, or are a slow-moving enterprise, you will be left behind (if not already) and competitors are pulling away while you play catch up.

This article was first published by Mitel.

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Work Versus Life: It Doesn’t Have To Be a Trade-Off

The conflict of work and life events is an age-old conundrum that faces us all. It’s the choice between a project meeting and a daughter’s soccer game; a work conference or our best friend’s birthday party.

As much as you want to say that, you’ll prioritize your daughter’s soccer game or your best friend’s party, that can’t always be the case. You may realize that if you miss this project meeting, you won’t be able to present to your boss, and then you may not be able to go to that conference in Florida. Or that if you bypass a conference you might miss out on networking opportunities or new skills for your job. That’s when the choice can feel impossible. Advance your career or celebrate your daughter/best friend?

Well, you’re not alone in this struggle. 80 percent of today’s workforce is deskless. Every working person has tried to balance their professional and personal demands. In this fast-paced society where we’re running all the time, most of us don’t even know what down time is anymore. We need a way to communicate and collaborate easily, no matter where we are, so we can keep up.

Go Mobile, First

Instead of letting the conflict of life versus work take its toll, take this opportunity to put mobility first and find a communications system that enables you to work from anywhere. With the right system, you can stay productive, even while being there for those important to you.

MiCloud Connect focuses on ease of use and was built for the mobile workstyle, empowering users to work more efficiently and productively, no matter their location. Collaborate with others seamlessly by leveraging the power of unified communications, so you can work from your smartphone on a project while on the sidelines of your daughter’s game or while setting up your best friend’s birthday party.

Make Balancing Life And Work Easy

An easy to deploy system with plug-and-play functionality, like MiCloud Connect, is a critical part of your team by managing your move to the cloud. Look for a solution with streamlined features and intuitive interfaces so users can easily interact with each other and not have to focus on making the software work.

Have It All

Get more done faster and with less hassle by looking for a fully-hosted, end-to-end communications solution that blends traditional phone system features like call transferring and extension dialing with instant messaging, conferencing, video and even screen sharing, allowing you to save time, reduce travel and efficiently collaborate. You can stay connected wherever you go with a system designed to increase productivity and bring teams together, like MiCloud Connect.

Beyond standard communications tools, make sure your solution includes a mobile app. With the MiCloud Connect Mobile App, you can view your dashboard for upcoming events, recent activities and join meetings with a single tap. Plus, with cross-launch capabilities to Mitel Teamwork, you are always available for instant messaging and conferencing.

Work isn’t a destination anymore. It happens wherever you happen to be. Today’s modern professional is working from home or while on the go. You have to be able to respond to your colleagues quickly and your business communications should be able to support real-time collaboration, securely. How you work is more important than where you work.

You have the ability to work from anywhere and be even more productive with a collaboration and communication system like MiCloud Connect.

This article was first published by Mitel.

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How to Build an Effective Emergency Communications Plan

Originally published on syn-apps.com

A strategic and well-tested emergency communications plan is pivotal to helping your staff respond well in a crisis. However, day-to-day responsibilities and distractions often get in the way of this critical business planning, making disasters even more dangerous and expensive and putting staff at undue risk. Build an effective plan now – no matter what else crops up – to ensure you and your team have the right elements in place to respond to the masses.

Critical Elements Of An Emergency Plan

Start with the people involved. In an emergency situation, it’s important to ensure you are communicating to all stakeholders effectively. This includes staff, customers, visitors, members, contractors, the media (depending on the situation) and the general public. What information will you need to communicate to them during a crisis? How will you need to keep them safe or reassured?

Then, look at your facilities and infrastructure. What might happen to your physical environment during specific types of crises? Will your technology infrastructure – both on-site and off-site backups and redundancies – continue to serve you and your stakeholders? What physical and technology tools should you have on hand to communicate effectively?

Finally, consider any compliance or regulatory issues that may come up during a crisis. These will vary based on your location and industry.

Emergency Planning Steps

1. Recruit the appropriate people and form a designated team.
Emergency planning teams should include all major areas of your business, including front-line staff, IT, HR, facilities, risk management and communications. To keep things moving smoothly, limit the meetings to a specific time period that respects everyone’s schedules, while ensuring the emergency plan will benefit from the broadest perspective available.

2. Brainstorm the types of emergencies that could happen.
Run this like a typical brainstorming session. Everyone contributes their ideas and all get captured. From there, prioritize the potential emergencies by their likelihood to happen, the time of year and the potential severity. For example, if you live in an area where floods are more common than earthquakes, go through a flood-related scenario first.

You may already have some processes in place. In this case, assess whether they need to be refreshed before moving on to new, brainstormed ideas. Look at what is working, what you can improve on and which automation or tools would help your team respond better, faster and more appropriately. For example, your communications system may allow you to broadcast alerts from weather-related government organizations to your stakeholders. Integrating those alerts with your emergency notification system enables your organization to automatically share weather alerts with little-to-no intervention from staff.

3. Look at each of the constituent groups and what they need during an emergency.
You may have to send multiple messages about the same event, depending on the crisis and the needs of your stakeholder groups. Ensure your communications plan addresses this and your system makes it easy to manage. For example, if you need to remotely activate notifications during an after-hours emergency, you’ll want to make sure authorized personnel can securely access your notification system both on- and off-site.

Also, check that you’re in compliance with industry regulations and best practices for gathering, storing and broadcasting stakeholders’ email addresses, mobile numbers and other contact information. If your team remotely accesses the emergency notification system, confirm that security for off-site systems matches security for on-site systems. Additionally, make sure your emergency communications systems provide accessible options for users with visual and hearing impairments, keeping you in compliance with standards set by regulatory agencies.

4. Inventory the physical systems to provide service and communication during a crisis.
Examine your existing communications technologies, such as IP and analog systems, beacons, digital signage, messaging services, notification software (hosted or on-site) and any other resources used to communicate in a crisis. Assess whether they are reliable, scalable and effective.

What to consider:

• Can your existing communications technologies provide the right information to your stakeholders in a timely manner?
• Are they scalable to support the number of alerts you need to send without crashing?
• Do they help your organization efficiently save time and effort during emergencies?
• Do your current technologies and procedures provide an effective way to manage simultaneous notifications across single and multiple sites (if necessary)?
• Are you able to alert people located on- and off-site (if necessary)?
• Can you simultaneously activate notifications containing information targeted to different groups?

If you answered “no” to any of these questions, read the following section for how to address your communications deficits.

5. Invest in additional systems, as necessary.
Investing in a unified notification solution can help fill the gaps in your emergency communications procedures, whether they stem from system incompatibility, network limitations, lack of scalability and more. For example, Mitel’s next-generation mass notification solution (Mitel Revolution) was built for today’s modern organization to improve network-wide communications, security and emergency responsiveness. With it, organizations can facilitate enterprise-wide communication for virtually any communications need, including real-time and automated notifications for emergency alerts and mass notification.

6. Assess the training level of your staff.
Your team may need training to effectively use your notification systems, especially if you’ve added new equipment and processes or have experienced staff turnover. Your vendor partners should be able to provide helpful resources and organize these training sessions. Also, consider providing periodic refresher training sessions after the initial sessions.

Your team should become familiar with the benefits automated and pre-recorded notifications can provide during stressful situations. As one example, they can take the burden off an already-stressed person by rapidly communicating information that is clear and easy to understand—no shaky, unintelligible audio or confusion about what to say during a live emergency broadcast.

7. Run through a sample of the crisis scenarios as a group to test your planned response.
Make sure you’re covering internal and external communication, physical needs, technology needs, the potential for injury to people and damage to structures―and what needs to happen in each scenario.

Use a spreadsheet to ensure you’re covering all potential needs for every possible crisis. Many columns may simply be marked “not applicable” during the discussion, but it is better to be thorough than miss a critical tool or resource your stakeholders need.

8. Do a physical test of one or more critical emergencies.
A physical test or drill allows for team members to act as if the crisis is actually happening. Include all team communications methods and physical systems in this test to make sure everyone knows how to use vital tools when needed. Inform staff about the test and what their role will be.

When testing during normal work hours, keep it confined to a small group or location to protect vital services. If you need to coordinate across multiple locations, consider running a larger test after hours to ensure systems and processes work across remote locations.

Follow Up After Your Test

Here are some questions to ask after your physical tests and drills:

1. Did we follow the plan?
2. If not, why did we deviate? Was it a failure in following procedure, or do we need to alter procedure?
3. Were enough team members trained to provide physical and emotional support (e.g., enough CPR-certified staff in each location, enough IT support, etc.)?
4. Did our physical resources meet our needs (e.g., emergency and first aid kits, IT backups, pre-formatted closure signs, communications infrastructure)?
5. Do we need further training from any of our system vendors, management or local emergency responders to align emergency procedures with our tools and resources?
6. How often should we conduct tests, and how many staff members should we include?

Conduct Periodic Reviews

After you’ve completed your full emergency communications plan, continue to keep the document alive. As you add new tools and systems, you will need to revise your plan. New locations, stakeholder groups and regulatory requirements will also necessitate revision.

Set a time period during which you’ll review your emergency plan, re-test if needed and disseminate revisions. This time may be covered by an industry regulation or best practice. If not, consider doing a full review annually.

The goal of an emergency communications plan is to provide solid guidelines and ongoing practice to ensure staff can confidently respond during a crisis. The steps outlined here will help you make sure your team is ready—no matter what life throws your way.

This article was first published by Mitel.

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8 Top VoIP Trends You Need to Know In 2020

If you’ve been thinking about replacing your business phone system, it’s worth brushing up on the latest VoIP trends. Even if you’re not, things are changing rapidly enough that your competitors may be getting an edge by taking advantage of the latest advancements in VoIP and VoIP-related technology.

Business communications and collaboration has been undergoing a huge transformation recently. According to Harvard Business Review, Telecom is the #2 industry undergoing digital transformation.

What does this mean for you? That depends on your business. We’ve assembled the latest VoIP trends below so you can assess which ones give you the most opportunity to make an impact with your technology choices.

1. Increased VoIP Security & Compliance Demands

As hosted and cloud VoIP gain wider acceptance, companies are demanding more security out of their VoIP solutions. Hosted VoIP is not just a curiosity anymore. It’s no longer the exclusive domain of startups and businesses willing to take risks. Serious businesses are relying on hosted VoIP to carry vital communications and sensitive information.

Leading hosted VoIP providers are responding by ensuring higher levels of security to keep customers’ data and communications safe, away from the prying eyes of hackers. At Mitel, we’ve done this in part by hosting our flagship cloud VoIP communications system on Google Cloud Platform. It means our customers get the resources of one of the world’s largest tech companies to help keep their hosted communications safe.

In fact, it’s not just general security that’s getting attention in the hosted VoIP sector lately. Companies in highly regulated industries like healthcare are interested in the advantages hosted VoIP can provide—demanding greater security and compliance from providers who want to serve them. This is especially true in smaller healthcare organizations like doctor’s offices, dentists, clinics and specialists.

We’re glad that some hosted VoIP phone systems like MiCloud Connect have been updated in a way that’s brought their security standards up to the requirements of the likes of HIPAA and SOC2 compliance—ultimately giving customer a choice they didn’t have before.

2. Accelerated Adoption Of Hosted VoIP

Analysts have been predicting a steady rise in hosted VoIP for years, but recently adoption is increasing at a faster rate than analysts previously expected.

What does this mean? Essentially, better choices for you. Since leading hosted VoIP providers have lots or resources due to customer growth, they can invest in more robust, reliable, inventive hosted VoIP phone systems and the applications that go along with them. Or they can invest in an improved user experience. Or better support. The list goes on.

3. VoIP System Value Vs Lowest Price

It’s easy for any technology provider to claim it offers a price advantage. But as hosted VoIP becomes more ubiquitous and product/service offerings become more mature, fewer companies are focused on simply procuring the cheapest option. More companies are looking to get good value for the money as the shortcomings of budget systems rear their heads.

Cheap VoIP phone systems are typically just that—cheap. They’re designed to minimize costs, so cheap providers can’t spend time developing and delivering quality products and services. They typically have minimal features, clunky interfaces, poor customer support and little-to-nothing in the way of integrations with business-critical third-party applications, like Salesforce or Google Office apps.

You may get a pat on the back for saving the company money when you first sign a contract with a cheap VoIP supplier, but you’ll be dodging angry looks a few months in, when nobody can get work done because they’re using a glitchy, sub-par system.

That’s why more and more companies are looking for a good value in their VoIP system—that is to say that they feel like they’re getting a lot for the price they pay.

That can include things like reliability, features, security, service, ease of use and more. Even though you won’t see it on a lot of feature lists, something as simple as time saved and hassle avoided can be major factors in customer satisfaction and how a company intuitively calculates the value they get from their phone system. Smart companies don’t let price be the only decision factor.

4. Proliferation & Consolidation Of VoIP Providers

As the barrier to entry drops, small VoIP providers are popping up everywhere. However, this element of choice doesn’t necessarily help customers, as most of those offerings are ubiquitous and undifferentiated.

On the mid-large side of providers, vendors are consolidating, putting market power behind their innovations. This is typically where you’ll see more unique features, packages and complete offerings. At Mitel, for example, we’re able to put more effort and resources into making our flagship hosted VoIP system easy to use, simple to manage and smooth to implement compared to a new startup VoIP company that may be struggling just to build basic functionality.

What can you do about all this choice? The main thing you can do is research your options. VoIP providers that customers love typically earn a number of awards from respected analysts who have tested and judged their services against their main competitors.

Finally, going with a smaller VoIP provider during this time of industry consolidation means that there’s a good chance they’ll be acquired by a larger provider. That’s not necessarily the end of the world, but it does mean that things you liked about that smaller provider may change once they’re acquired, and you may still be under contract. Mitel is the #1 cloud provider worldwide and the #2 UCaaS (aka, hosted cloud VoIP) provider worldwide, so it’s a pretty safe bet the parts of our hosted VoIP you love the most will remain for a long time (while we continue to make enhancements, of course).

5. VoIP Playing A Bigger Role In Customer Contact & Customer Experience

Hosted VoIP started out primarily as a tool for companies to communicate internally, but as offerings become more sophisticated and niched-out, and as focus on delivering great customer experience rises, hosted VoIP is pushing into this space.

Here are a few examples from iPerceptions:

  • 67 percent of customers say they’ll pay more for a great experience
  • 57 percent of customers have stopped buying from a company because one of their competitors provided a better experience
  • 71 percent of people recommend a product or service because they received a “great experience”

Call center and customer experience platforms started out separate from companies’ hosted VoIP systems. But to take advantage of full customer/prospect lifecycle data and create experiences that are as frictionless as possible, the two have become much more integrated.

Hosted VoIP today, in fact, is often being packaged up into a single omni-channel solution that also handles the diverse channels customers use to communicate with companies and organizations like yours.

Regardless of the customer experience platform you ultimately choose, it’s useful to think about how it integrates (or doesn’t) into your hosted VoIP system—because lots of companies are squeezing competitive advantages out of the right combination of technology.

6. Adoption Is Growing Among Mid-To-Larger Companies

Hosted VoIP really got its foothold with small business, and for good reason—they typically don’t have a ton of expensive legacy systems to rip and replace and they typically have fewer business-critical systems that have to integrate seamlessly with their phone systems. This allowed for relatively simple systems without a lot of bells and whistles, or options, to proliferate.

However, as the core functionality becomes more commoditized and undifferentiated, and as even these same small businesses become more sophisticated, some hosted VoIP companies are offering more in order to attract additional kinds of customers.

Offering more features and integrations to align with more advanced needs. Offering multiple tiers of service. Mitel even offers mixing and matching of service tiers, which most competitors don’t – so you don’t have to pay for features you don’t need for every user. Providers are also bringing different kinds of functions into the hosted VoIP ecosystem, like collaboration and call center / contact center functionality.

Which leads us to our next trend.

7. More Levels Of Service & Customization

One-size-fits-all simply doesn’t work for hosted VoIP anymore. Larger companies are moving to hosted VoIP. Companies with more complex needs are moving to hosted VoIP. Even small companies can have users ranging from expert power users who rely on advanced VoIP functionality every day to rare users who need things as simple as possible.

That’s why some VoIP providers like Mitel are offering multiple services or plan levels so that companies can get what they need at a price that makes sense. At Mitel, we have a basic plan that keeps costs and features simple. We have a standard plan that keeps things affordable while giving users more capabilities. We have a premium plan with plenty of bells and whistles.

In fact, unlike most hosted VoIP vendors, we even let you mix and match plans on a per user basis so that you’re not paying for premium functionality for a user who only has basic VoIP needs.

Check out our hosted VoIP plans and pricing here >

For enterprises and companies who need next-level sophistication in their cloud communications systems, we even have a whole other level of offering. That way, everyone can find what they need without compromising.

8. Companies Are Coming At VoIP From All Different Directions

Acquisitions, mergers and partnerships are popping up everywhere as companies try to combine VoIP and related collaboration and customer experience technologies to give their customers a single unified experience across channels.

Videoconferencing companies are trying to buy hosted VoIP providers, collaboration-only companies are integrating with phone system vendors, and hosted VoIP providers are partnering with contact center companies.

What does this mean for you?

In the long term, it means that all the different facets of communications and collaboration technology should become less fragmented and better integrated over time, making this kind of technology purchase simpler down the road.

In the short term, it will probably pay off to choose a company who has already integrated many of these technologies under one roof and has deep integrations with any third-party partners to avoid disconnects. Of course, we’re a little biased, but Mitel fits the bill.

Want to see how our all-in-one hosted VoIP phone, collaboration and contact center solution works? See the demo >

Which of These VoIP Trends Can Mitel Help With?

Essentially, all of the above. There are plenty of companies out there publishing posts about shiny VoIP trends they have no way of helping you with. But we know you need to make an impact now—not in five or ten years. So decided to focus this post on trends you can action now, or in the very near future.

How? We have a great range of VoIP phone systems available for different needs, including our flagship hosted VoIP system, MiCloud Connect and our sophisticated private cloud VoIP system, MiCloud Flex. You can also extend and expand capabilities with our hosted VoIP collaboration tools and hosted VoIP customer experience solutions.

This article was first published by Mitel.

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5 Questions to Ask Your Vendor About Secure Communications

Are your communications secure?

Secure communications can protect your business from the damage and destruction of a data breach. And it’s not just for healthcare providers – even daily office emails and phone calls can contain confidential information that matters to your customers.

A business that fails to secure its communications is in danger of losing consumer confidence, meaning customers, and future customers, won’t be likely to trust that business.

To ensure secure communications, look for a communications system that can protect the data shared within your business and beyond. Here are a few questions you can ask your vendor to ensure you’re getting the best security:

1. What Infrastructure Is Your System Hosted On?

A strong cloud communications provider will be leveraging a best-in class infrastructure to ensure the highest level of security. This saves you time and resources that can be focused on performance and innovation rather than management and maintenance. Look for a secure communications software system, like MiCloud Connect Built on Google Cloud, to integrate with the programs you already use.

2. Can Your Communications Software Handle Mobile Securely?

Working on the go is a growing norm, meaning mobility is even more important for a communications system. However, a mobile system doesn’t always mean it’s secure. Ensure you can take your system on the go to keep working while away from the office, without sacrificing your in-office functionality and security.

3. Is Your Communications Software Certified HIPAA-Compliant?

Certified HIPAA and SOC 2 compliant software guarantees that your data is encrypted in transit and at rest, with anti-virus protection and security protocols that adhere to the most stringent data compliance standards. In creating MiCloud Connect, we worked with third-party auditors to meet regulatory compliance requirements and passed strict safeguard and confidentiality tests to ensure the privacy and safety of your information.

4. How Do You Monitor Your System?

Your cloud communications provider should have a Network Operations Center, a location that continually monitors a telecommunications network, all day, everyday. Do they support it in-house or out-source? What tools and analytics are they leveraging to stay ahead? Top providers are predictive and proactive, not reactive.

5. How Do I Get Informed Of Any Issues?

No system is perfect, issues can pop up, but if they do occur with your communications system, you need to know about it quickly. Transparency is everything. Is your provider proactive in their own communications? How do they alert you when problems arise? Is there a public site where you can stay up to date about any issues and their solutions?

In all, you want to look for a communications system that’s built for security, like MiCloud Connect Built on Google Cloud. Because it’s built on Google Cloud, MiCloud Connect features the security, reliability and scalability of Google Cloud, with the intuitive user experience and flexible service of a top-notch Business VoIP system.

Take advantage of Google Cloud’s industry-leading system to deliver the uptime and compliance on which you can depend. Your communications system will be secure and easy to use with MiCloud Connect, a trusted remedy to meet the needs of any highly regulated industry with specific privacy or security requirements.

Whether you’re in health care, finance, education or just interested in an additional level of security, look for a communications system that keeps your customer and sensitive data secure. And make sure you can connect to sensitive client information from anywhere, while ensuring your client’s privacy needs are met.

This article was first published by Mitel.

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What is Call Center Average Wait Time and 3 Ways to Reduce It

“Your Call Is Important To Us”

When your customers hear that, do they really believe it?  The longer you make them wait, the less important they feel. Knowing how long it takes to answer customer calls can help you answer that question, and Average Wait Time has become a contact center key performance indicator for just that reason. But just what is Average Wait Time, and what are some of the ways you can reduce it to help ensure that customer calls are being answered quickly and effectively?

What Is Call Center Average Wait Time?

Definition: Average Wait Time (AWT), also known as Average Speed of Answer (ASA), is the average time an inbound call spends waiting in queue or waiting for a callback if that feature is active in your IVR system. This differs from Average Handle Time, or AHT, which is the average time an agent takes to complete a call or customer interaction. AWT can be measured globally across the contact center, by queue, skillset, agent group, agent or phone number. The traditional call center industry standard service level is 80/20, or 80% of calls answered within 20 seconds, but there are a few reasons why this might not always be an optimal number.

“Acceptable Waiting Time And Customer Satisfaction”

In 2014, a study by American Express found that the maximum amount of time callers were willing to wait was a whopping 13 minutes. A similar study just three years later by Arise found that while around two-thirds of consumers would accept hold times of less than two minutes, 13% said that no hold times at all were acceptable. What’s more, about 34% or one-third of callers hang up and never call back if their call is not answered quickly. This is also known as Abandonment Rate, another important call center metric.

This data shows a rapidly increasing trend toward customer expectations of service that is very fast if not instantaneous. In the age of e-commerce and social media, where consumers are used to having real-time service at their fingertips, it’s important that the call center keeps up with that demand.

3 Ways to Reduce Average Wait Time

AWT is a key indicator of the health of your contact center, giving you a big-picture number that speaks to IVR optimization, agent performance and more. Addressing any of those factors can help reduce AWT and abandoned calls, but sometimes the answer isn’t as simple as just getting your numbers down. Here are a few general tips that can help any company reduce long hold times:

1. Optimize Your Contact Center Call Queue

People often report having a frustrating customer experience with ineffective IVR which might give them confusing option trees, route their call to the wrong places, or misread their inputs. Test your IVR to make sure your callers can get through quickly to the right department, minimizing the amount of time they spend waiting for call center agents who may end up having to transfer the call anyway.

2. Change Up Your Workforce Management Strategy

Agents who can handle their calls faster and more efficiently can better resolve their callers’ needs, leading to higher rates of first call resolution and customer satisfaction. Additionally, if call center representatives are empowered to monitor their own number of calls in queue, they can be incentivized to reduce call times when queues are above a certain threshold. Of course, if you feel that your contact center’s quality management is already as good as it can be, it might be time to hire more staff.

3. Relax Your Call Center Service Level

Sometimes the key to improving customer experience is not actually reducing average wait time, but providing a superior experience to fully answer questions and not hurry the call. If your contact center metrics show that you can relax service level from 80/20 to, say, 80/30, 80/60 or more with negligible impact on abandonment rate, then there might be other factors your customers are interested in than less waiting time. Studies show that 75% of consumers are willing to spend more money with a company that provides positive customer service, and callers expect their customer service representative to be friendly, knowledgeable and effective, as well as fast.

Improving AWT In Your Contact Center

Reducing average wait time for your callers is just as important to customer satisfaction as the amount of time it takes for agents to resolve their needs. Whether that means optimizing your IVR system and ACD, hiring more representatives or giving them additional training to work through queues faster, there are as many techniques available as there are metrics to assess their success.

This article was first published by Mitel.

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Emergency Planning for Severe Weather: How to Prepare for the Inevitable

Originally published on syn-apps.com

If the extreme weather conditions of recent years―historic droughts, devastating hurricanes and catastrophic wildfires, among others―have taught us anything, it’s that severe weather can strike at any moment, and every second counts. That’s why all organizations should have a strategic, well-tested emergency communication plan in place.

This article provides tips on how you can improve your emergency weather strategy by leveraging technology to optimize your communications processes to protect your people and assets.

Know the Terminology

To begin, make sure your team understands the different types of alerts issued by weather-related government agencies in your country. Typically, they include:

  • A watch: Sent when weather conditions are favorable for a specific type of event, such as a tornado or flooding. For example, a tornado watch would mean that a severe thunderstorm and tornadoes are possible. It does not mean a tornado will occur.
  • An advisory: Generally means a weather event is imminent, but not severe. For example, a winter weather advisory would be issued for several inches of snow in most areas. This is a notable occurrence, but not likely to cause long-term issues for most businesses and organizations.
  • A warning: Issued when a severe weather event is imminent. For example, a blizzard warning means a severe snowstorm is expected within the next 12 to 18 hours.

We recommend familiarizing your teams with the terminology, as well as relevant sirens or tones so they’re not alarmed should the forecast take a turn.

Determine Who Should Receive Severe Weather Notifications

If you haven’t already, determine who has decision-making authority within your organization, who needs to be informed of each weather condition and how they should proceed.

For example, you may decide that watches should go to executive team members and the facilities crew so they’re prepared to make contingency plans. You may choose to send advisories to all supervisors on premises because the weather event may require people to leave earlier than usual. You may choose to send warnings to all personnel because they may require people to seek shelter. Some situations, such as hurricanes and severe winter weather, often require management to determine if and when to close the facility or make arrangements for people to stay home.

Leverage Technology to Optimize Your Communications Plan

Next, determine how your organization will monitor and distribute information to the appropriate stakeholders. Most distributed recipient mass notification systems can send secondary notifications like e-mails or texts, but only advanced emergency mass notification systems are equipped to provide immediate and intrusive audio/visual alerts.

Advanced systems typically allow users to customize alerts so stakeholders receive a cohesive message from your organization. This helps establish trust and credibility with your recipients because they know the information they’re receiving is truly coming from your organization.

Providing ample notice can save lives, and automating weather alerts can provide the timely, effective information people need, without requiring one-off communications. Look for an emergency notification system that complies with all relevant regulations and integrates with trusted sources. As weather events develop, of course, you may want to add more personal and specific information based on your communications plan.

Test Your Systems & Conduct Drills

Conducting routine drills familiarizes personnel with existing procedures and acquaints them with new ones to ensure everyone understands what to do in a real weather emergency. They’re also helpful to identify process and system inefficiencies, arming leadership with valuable insight to fix issues right away.

Leverage a robust mass notification system with a scheduling solution like Mitel Revolution to plan drills in advance, so you can spend more time practicing and perfecting your emergency processes.

This article was first published by Mitel.

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