Blog

June 17th, 2016

2016June17_VoIP_BMost of us have heard of the wonders that VoIP can provide to businesses, cheaper telephony, more diverse functionalities and increased mobility -- but have you heard about the better access to customer data? As technology continues to connect us in new and exciting ways there is an endless supply of data to interpret. VoIP is no different, which is why we’re going to outline 5 innovative ways to make your VoIP data work for you.

Time/Date Data

One source of information that nearly any VoIP system should be able to easily access is time, date and duration of calls. As a small or medium-sized business, you probably work on a tight budget. Properly analyzing this data can be invaluable when deciding how many staff you need on the phones and on what schedule.

For example, you may notice that on Mondays you get a rush of calls in the morning, but by Tuesday afternoon the lines are dead. Just asking your employees when the phones are dead may work, but consider looking for more specific trends to better assign call responsibilities to your staff. You may find that there is a particular combination of time and day that simply doesn’t generate a need for anyone to work the phones.

The more agreeable the person on the other end of the line is, the more likely they are to vote for your company with their dollars. If you’re making outbound calls, pay close attention to when you see the most success. Everyone knows that no one likes to get a call during dinner time, VoIP allows you to take this one step further and find other stress points in your call schedule.

Location Data

Location data is also easy to track and a simple way to make your call strategy more agile. Understanding how purchasing or support habits differ between different locations can improve your marketing, customer service and client retention.

Ask your VoIP service provider about call-routing options so that whoever answers your phones is an expert on the area the caller is from. With the right amount of preparation you can help a client on the other side of the country as if your company was right around the corner, and there are few things as valuable as being helped by a local.

Customer Intelligence

Combining your VoIP services with your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software opens up entirely new data points. How many times have you called a support line with an issue and have had to explain all of your history with the company? Even if you somehow did win the customer service lottery and got the same representative every time, the chances of them remembering you and your story are slim to none. With proper CRM integration, your VoIP system can route callers to the same service representative every time they call and provide your staff with a detailed support history.

Customer Habits/Personalities

Analyze client call habits and predict how to contact them and offer assistance before they even realize they need it. Does your data show that one of your clients generally calls once a week, but missed last week’s? Give them a call and check up on them.

If you want to really get in the weeds with your data, you can begin to match clients with your service and sales representatives based on ‘personality’ data. Data points like staff’s age, gender and average call time can potentially be used to route customers to the best possible representative.

Product/Service Trends

Whenever possible, tie data to specific products and services in each call and look for the most consistent patterns that result in a successful contact. If you notice that most of the customers that buy your flagship product come back and buy an accessory to it within three months, stop dumping money into marketing the accessory products during the original sale and trust what your data tells you. Follow up in a month and ask if they’re interested in that ancillary product.

You may be thinking that some of these data points were accessible with your legacy systems by simply logging the information separately. Tracking data that way is prone to user error and requires a pre-meditated plan. VoIP services track all of your data, all the time. Your SMB can easily view and analyze up-to-date data in no time. This agility and efficiency can revolutionize how you design your customer interaction strategies.

Do you feel like you could be getting a better ROI from your VoIP services by taking another look at your calling data? It could be as simple as better organizing your usage statistics, or as intricate as installing specialized analytics software. Regardless of how you want to go about it, we’re the ones to do it -- contact us today!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
May 23rd, 2016

2016May23_VoIP_BNot that long ago, VoIP services were a new and revolutionary concept. Nowadays, internet-based voice communication is commonplace among SMBs, which means it’s time to turn our attention toward improving their security. Without a thorough understanding of what is needed to protect your VoIP systems, you could be vulnerable to cyberattacks. Let’s take a closer look at 5 important tips for protecting your web-based communication devices and services.

Types of threats

The majority of VoIP services involve live communications, which often seem far more innocuous than stored data. Unfortunately, your business has just as much valuable information moving across VoIP networks as it does hosted on company servers. Internet-based calls are far more vulnerable to fraud compared to more traditional telephony services and face threats from identity theft, eavesdropping, intentional disruption of service and even financial loss.

24/7 monitoring

A recent study by Nettitude reported that 88 percent of VoIP security breaches take place outside of normal operating hours. This could be attackers trying to make phone calls using your account or gain access to call records that contain confidential information. This can be avoided by contracting outsourced IT vendors to monitor network traffic for any abnormalities or spikes in suspicious activity.

VoIP firewalls

Every VoIP vendor should provide a firewall specially designed for IP-based telephony. These protocols will curb the types of traffic that are allowed, ensure the connection is properly terminated at the end of a session and identify suspicious calling patterns. Consult with your VoIP or IT services provider about which of these features are available and currently in use at your organization.

Encryption tools

One of the reasons that eavesdropping is so common is because a lack of encryption. Inexperienced attackers can easily download and deploy tools to intercept and listen to your calls. Although some services claim built-in encryption, be sure to investigate how effective they really are. Many of these protocols require the same VoIP client on the receiving end of the call -- something that’s much harder to control. Encryption should be compatible with as many other software clients as possible to effectively prevent anyone from undermining the privacy of your calls.

Virtual private network

Virtual private networks (VPNs) create a secure connection between two points as if they were both occupying the same, closed network. It’s like building a tunnel between you and the call receiver. In addition to adding another layer of encryption, establishing a VPN can also overcome complications involving Session Initiation Protocol trunking, a recommended VoIP feature.

Password protection

Usually password protection refers to requiring password authentication to access sensitive information. However, in this case it actually means protecting the passwords themselves. Eavesdropping is one of the easiest, and most common, cyber attacks against VoIP networks and even with all of the protocols above, employees should be instructed to never give out any compromising information during a VoIP call.

VoIP is as important as any of your other network security considerations. It requires a unique combination of protection measures, and we’d love to give you advice on implementing any of these protections or managing your VoIP services. Give us a call today to get started.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
May 9th, 2016

2016May9_VoIP_BSo you’ve noticed that the work rate in the office has been slowing down lately. Perhaps it’s because the job is too stressful. Or maybe most of your employees live far away from the new office. Whatever the reason, it’s probably best to try something new. But what can you do to get your employees to be more productive? As VoIP systems gear companies towards a more mobile workforce, work at home strategies can be just the solution you need. Here, we explain how small businesses and their employees can benefit from work at home strategies paired with VoIP.

It’s good for business

Many businesses have misconceptions about their employees choosing to work from home. They assume that their employees will be less productive if they are not within the office environment. However, this is far from the truth. As a matter of fact, according to a Harvard Business Review study, work at home policies for your small business tends to be more beneficial for your company. This is thanks to the combination of cloud computing and VoIP technologies, which can easily migrate the office environment virtually anywhere with an Internet connection. Along with this, VoIP services can empower your small business and work at home employees in a number of ways:
  • VoIP technologies allow you to keep your employees on track with an array of management tools like barge, monitor and whisper which allows you to coach and micro manage your employees.
  • The cost of business resources, furniture, space and sick days are reduced when there is an effective way for your employees to work at any location.
  • VoIP services promote continued collaboration between employees even if some of them are not in the office, allowing workflow to be more efficient.
  • As a business owner, VoIP gives your company more opportunity for growth. You can communicate and hire people from different countries with minimal cost.

Perks for employees

Work from home policies with VoIP systems isn’t just good for business either. It’s also good for your employees. As more of their workload is digitized, working from home or anywhere else has never been easier. In fact, studies have shown that employees who took days to work from home were actually more productive. Part of this is because it gives them a break from the stressful office environment and, with a VoIP service readily available to them, they feel as if they haven’t missed a day’s worth of work. With the right VoIP systems installed, employees can easily collaborate with co-workers.

Using VoIP at home also saves your employees from long and costly commutes in the morning. They can simply pick up their VoIP device and join the conference meeting without physically being in the boardroom. Furthermore, employees who want to recall important events during conferences or seminars can use the VoIP call recording feature. This way, employees can make sure they are correctly approaching their work in their own time.

VoIP requirements for remote workers

If you’re convinced that working from home is a good solution for your company, it is essential that the VoIP service provider that you choose offers the features listed below:
  • Voicemail: a must for any VoIP device. This feature will record a missed call and send you an email of the audio file.
  • Call forwarding: allows your employees to simply take and transfer calls between VoIP devices and their smartphones.
  • Whisper, monitor and barge: allows you to check on your employees. If they’re in a business call you can still contact them without disrupting the call. This is also a good tool for call coaching.
  • VoIP integrated to shared documents: products like Office 365 let your employees access Skype while collaborating on a Word document. This means your employees can give instant feedback and correct each other without the need to send emails.
Many companies are now benefiting from a mobile and remote work environment. Although work at home strategies may seem like a risky venture, making the most out of your VoIP technologies will keep your employees happy and productive. If you want to learn more about the VoIP services that we offer and where it will fit in your company, give us a call.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
April 19th, 2016

2016Apr19_VoIP_BWhen considering a VoIP solution, many small business owners have a lot of reservations. What if the call quality is unsuitable? What if your staff struggles with the technology? What if you have to deal with the headache of installing an additional network? All these assumptions can prevent business owners from giving VoIP a try, but are they legitimate? Absolutely not. Here’s how you can avoid them while optimizing your VoIP solution.

Use the same network for voice and data

A popular reason many businesses choose VoIP is to cut costs, which is exactly why you should run voice and data on the same network. Running them separately will significantly increase set up and running costs. And doing so will add an extra layer of complexity to your business that is completely unneeded. Regardless, choosing to combine your voice and data does take a bit of thought to ensure you don’t bump into unnecessary issues. So ask your provider the following questions before getting started:
  1. Will you be able to scale the service as needed?
  2. How much bandwidth will you need to cover both data and voice? Does your business have enough?
  3. Can you make modifications to the network?

Prioritize voice communication

VoIP saves you money. But you don’t want to do so at the cost of the integrity of your business. If you have unreliable voice communications with clients and colleagues, this can tarnish your reputation. This is why voice needs to take priority on your network over applications and other Internet activity if a bottleneck occurs. You can do this by setting the QoS (Quality of Service) on your router to prioritize voice and VoIP traffic. This can help provide clear voice communications without lag or interruption.

Provide comprehensive staff training

As with most technologies, VoIP has a learning curve. While many business owners are happy to give a few quick tips to their employees along with a brief manual, the training often stops there. However, what if your employees encounter problems with the technology while they’re on the phone with a customer? With proper training you can avoid such scenarios. What’s more, your training also gives you an opportunity to share some of the more advanced features VoIP has to offer such as in-call coaching, hot desking, and call screening.

To ensure your staff can maximize their VoIP experience, your training should include the basics of how the software, hardware and data flow operates. You should also include the procedures to take when encountering a problem with the technology and how your voice and data staff can work together for optimum VoIP performance. Once you’ve done that, don’t forget to test your employees on what they’ve learned and answer any and all questions they may have.

VoIP presents a unique opportunity for your business to gain a more advanced telephony solution while cutting costs. Call quality does not have to take a hit. If you’d like to learn more about how VoIP can improve your business, call us now.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
March 30th, 2016

2016Mar30_VoIPGeneral_BVoicemail, Do Not Disturb, and call recording are among the few reasons why companies choose VoIP services to solve their communication needs. However, there are features that can be overlooked by small businesses such as customizable hold music or in-call coaching, to name a few. So if you want to get the most out of your VoIP service and ensure a more efficient work flow, it’s worth checking out these underutilized features.

Busy lamp field

Nothing too fancy about this one. The busy light simply notifies you when people can’t take your call and frees up some time to wait for them or call someone else. With this feature, you avoid disrupting someone from an important phone call. It also saves you time from walking across the office just to see that the person is already occupied with another call.

In-call coaching

If you would like to give your employees some training on how to speak with clients over the phone, you can now do it virtually. Using add-on services like barge and whisper, you can help point your employees in the right direction when they’re dealing with a client. Barge enables you to silently monitor your employee’s phone conversation with a customer. While whisper allows you to provide comments on how your employees are doing while they are on call and without the customer knowing that you’re there coaching your staff.

Hot desking

With hot desking, you can potentially take calls from any IP phone without having to be at your desk. Imagine, for example, you’ve been transferred to a new office for a few days and can’t be bothered to set up a new IP phone. Hot desking solves that by transferring your phone preferences over to another IP device -- meaning, your voicemail, speed dials, number extension, and other customized settings can be accessed wherever you happen to be working from.

Hold Music

Sometimes what determines whether or not a client is willing to be put on hold is if the music is entertaining enough to keep their ear on the phone. Certain VoIP services allow you to customize your hold music so your customers will no longer have to listen to cheesy background music.

Hidden conferencing features

Many companies go to VoIP providers because it’s a cheap service that reduces the need to travel to meetings. However, a lot of people don’t use the other features that can help make a video meeting operate more efficiently. In the same call, you can mute other people, organize internal voting systems, and more.

Hands-free dialing

Hands-free dialing saves you from having to look someone up in your phonebook. This feature adds a button above someone’s email address that will let you call that person. From here you can redirect the call to your phone or better yet, connect with your clients over a video conference.

Call screening

Often a forgotten feature that is provided by many VoIP services, call screening displays the caller ID on your device and allows you to take whatever action you’d like before picking up the call. If you are getting a personal call you can simply choose to transfer the call over to your cell phone. Alternatively, you can also choose to hang up if it’s someone you don’t want to talk to.

Click-to-call

Click-to-call is a website widget that allows your website visitors to call you by simply clicking on a button on your page. This helps make call to actions effortless for the visitor since they don’t have to physically dial your number on their phone. You risk losing potential customers who don’t want to look at your contact us page to access your services. With click-to-call, they only have to tap on their smartphone to get a hold of you.

Analytics

Nowadays, cloud-based VoIP services excel in providing you with methods to analyze your data usage. It can show you a database of who is calling you the most, who you’re calling the most, a geographical distribution of your customers, and cost. With this data you can choose to focus more of your company’s efforts into a particular client or customer.

The next time you wonder if there is an easier way to do something when you’re in a phone call, take comfort in the fact that there are several features that can really make organizing your communications systems a lot easier. Consider using some or all of these features to get the most out of the VoIP service you paid for. To know more about the latest in VoIP trends and services, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
March 9th, 2016

2016Mar9_VoIPGeneral_BWhether we’re using a laptop, a mobile phone or a tablet, communication has never been easier. Thanks to increasingly stable and fast internet connections, Voice over IP (VoIP) services have replaced phone calls as a cheap and accessible alternative. This has caught the attention of many business owners and some have even adopted these VoIP solutions for their business. So when it comes to your company, you may be flirting with the idea of VoIP as well. If so, here are some things to consider before purchasing a particular service.

Flexibility or ease-of-use?

Choosing between a hosted or managed VoIP setup depends on the type of service your company is willing to pay for. Would you prefer flexibility or accessibility?

Managed VoIP means that your company is in charge of managing and maintaining the on-site system. While initial costs are generally greater due to hardware and maintenance fees, when it comes to managing your own telecommunications network, a managed VoIP system provides your business with more versatility and control.

On the other hand, with hosted VoIP systems, you leave the cost of new hardware and the maintenance of the telecommunications network entirely to a third party. This also frees your company from the burden of having to monitor and update your own telecommunication technologies. For many small businesses a hosted VoIP option is the more attractive choice as you only pay for the services you use from your hosted service provider, and these initial fees tend to be lower than the alternative.

Do you want to be more technically involved?

Deciding between a managed VoIP system and a hosted one depends on how much you are willing to be involved in the management and maintenance of your VoIP setup. Generally, many companies with limited IT knowledge tend to take the hosted VoIP option while those who have more resources to customize their own telecommunications network are more willing to go with an on-site VoIP setup.

Have you considered mobile VoIP systems?

With VoIP systems, telephony is no longer bound to a specific phone network. Modern employees now have a multitude of communication tools to choose from all while accessing them anytime and anywhere. Choosing VoIP systems that offer mobile integration can provide your workers with the ability to access video conference calls and answer direct calls even when they are not in the office.

Does your business intend to expand?

When choosing the right VoIP system, you have to make sure that the service provider can complement your company’s plans for growth. With so many mobile devices being made, selecting a VoIP service that is compatible with the latest technologies can keep you ahead of the game.

Cloud-based solutions can help ease your expansion plans because these services will constantly update your telecommunications network for you. This means you never have to worry about your technology falling behind in functionality.

Check your internet connection

Regardless of which VoIP provider you choose, it is important to note that a strong and stable internet connection is necessary in order to support your communications network.

Before purchasing from a specific VoIP provider, you should find out if your company requires a dedicated broadband or leased lines. While leased lines provide voice quality, opting for dedicated broadband services offer higher internet speeds.

How much does it cost?

An important point to consider for your business is how much you are willing to pay for a specific VoIP system. Firstly, check how much the hardware and installation of the service costs. Then look at how much a provider will charge for managing, updating and maintaining your telecommunications system.

Finally, make sure that a VoIP provider’s services meet your company’s communication needs. If the VoIP provider is offering a bundle of services that your company might not even require, then it might be in your best interest to choose a different provider that charges more affordable rates.

While picking and deploying VoIP systems can seem like a daunting task, they have become vital tools for any good business to function. If you are planning to install a new VoIP system, consider some or all these factors to ensure you’ve made the right decision. And of course, if you’re looking for a provider, our experts are happy to help in any way possible.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
February 19th, 2016

2016Feb19_VoIPGeneral_BVoIP - the mere mention of the word can send shudders down a business owner’s spine. With such an odd name, it may make little sense to utilize something so unfamiliar in your business. You may want to know more about it before committing to a full blown system for you and your employees. Like, how does it work? And, how can it help your business? That’s why we’ve created this list of four apps that enable you to take VoIP out for a test drive.

WhatsApp

The increasingly popular WhatsApp provides more than just text chats between users. There is also an call option, the equivalent of VoIP calls with the option of using video. So if you’re texting with a business colleague, friend or spouse, and need to communicate more clearly or face-to-face, you can easily switch your text chat to a more personal voice or video one. WhatsApp texting and VoIP service is free to download and use, and is available for all major smartphones.

Skype

Even seldom Internet users and the non-tech savvy are likely to be familiar with Skype. This VoIP trailblazer was allowing users to place calls over the Internet long before many even knew what VoIP was. But for those who are unfamiliar with this service, Skype users can place voice or video calls to other Skype users for free. You can also call a landline or mobile that doesn’t use the app for a very small fee. As for new changes, you can now conduct conference calls with the group video calling function that Skype has recently added.

Viber

Like Skype, you can use this service to place free VoIP calls to other Viber users. You can also call non-Viber users for a low fee, which is usually less than most cellular service plans. And because Viber is primarily a mobile app, it also has some nice benefits if you’re using it on your cell. Unlike other free VoIP services, Viber doesn’t require a username. Instead, you simply use your cell number as an identifier, which makes it easy for you to call contacts on your phone. What’s more, it also doesn’t eat up a large amount of data per call, only using 250KB per minute.

Viber is available for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone devices, and requires no registration to use the app.

Google Hangouts Dialer

If you’re a Google Apps user, you’re likely familiar with Hangouts. What you may not know, however, is that you can install an app, Hangouts Dialer, that enables VoIP calls. Once Dialer is installed to the Hangouts app, you can use it to call any phone number in the world, including landlines. Best of all, most calls to Canada and the US are free.

For business owners who are a bit tentative of VoIP, these four apps will give you an easy opportunity to test the waters. If you have any VoIP questions, or are ready to start saving money and install a VoIP system in your business, call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
July 19th, 2012

Voice over Internet Protocol, VOIP, is not a new technology, businesses have been dabbling with it for almost a decade. It’s safe to say that VoIP has become so commonplace that we hardly think about it. While it’s common, small businesses with a PBX - Private Branch Exchange - have had little choice when it comes to digitizing their systems. There is one option at their disposal however, SIP trunking.

SIP trunks blend together voice, telephone and data - Internet - connections, which allows your voice to travel over data lines. In other words: You pick up your phone, dial a number outside the office. Your call goes through the PBX - Private Branch Exchange - which tells the call where to go. The SIP picks this up, digitizes it, mashes it together with your data connection and sends your voice over the Internet to the recipient where it drops down to the original telephone lines.

There are three main components of SIP trunks

  1. PBX. A PBX which can switch VoIP calls to traditional lines and vice versa.
  2. Internet Telephone Service Provider - ITSP. An ITSP is similar to your Internet Service Provider, only they focus on digital telephone transmission. Often times, the ITSP is a subsidiary of, or a branch of your Internet Service Provider.
  3. SIP trunk. The SIP trunk is a device that facilitates the two above networks, and allows them to work together to send out and receive voice and video calls.
There are some great benefits to SIP trunking including:
  • Decreased phone bills. When you make calls, they are transmitted over data lines which cost a lot less than traditional phone lines, especially if you’re making long distance calls. You could even ditch your current phone provider, as all voice will be transmitted over data lines, freeing up funds which can be spent elsewhere.
  • Don’t lose numbers. If you move offices you’ll be able to take your numbers with you, without having to pay to have them connected to the traditional phone networks.
  • Calls can be easily rerouted. If your business is caught in a disaster, you can easily establish an SIP trunk in another location and have calls to your numbers routed through there.
  • Don’t need to discard old phone system. Unlike VoIP, SIP trunking works with your old phone system, which means set up costs are considerably lower.
If you’re interested in SIP trunking for your business, or would like to learn more, please contact us.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
May 22nd, 2012

Technical terminology with what seems like millions of acronyms is among the most difficult to understand. If you listen to IT people speak, it can often sound like nothing but a string of abbreviations with the odd technical sounding word thrown in for good measure. The same goes for VoIP, Voice over Internet Protocol.

Here are seven of the most commonly used VoIP terms and what they mean.

Internet Service Provider - ISP. The company that provides your company with Internet access.  Private Branch eXchange - PBX. A system within a company that allows internal phones to connect to an outside line. This is also referred to as a switchboard in larger businesses. An IP PBX, Internet Protocol Private Branch Exchange, is the same thing, but it handles VoIP calls as well. Analog. The old system that transmits voice over telephone lines. Your normal landline telephone connection is most likely analog. In many countries, this is also called the Plain Old Telephone System - POTS for short. Analog Telephone Adapter - ATA. A piece of hardware that allows you to use a traditional telephone for VoIP calls. Digital. Any information, including sound, that’s on a computer. VoIP is a form of digital communication, because it uses a digital system, the Internet, to transfer your voice. Integrated Services Digital Network - ISDN. A telephone network that allows digital signal e.g., VoIP, to be transmitted over traditional phone lines. Softphone. A VoIP application that is run strictly on your computer.

There’s a lot of technical terminology out there, the majority of it in acronyms. Don’t be afraid to ask us for more information. If you’d like to learn about ways you can use VoIP in your company, please contact us.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
May 4th, 2012

Skype is the most well-known Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) program and is used by businesses all over the world. It offers many benefits including cheaper calls, a solid instant messaging platform that allows employees to communicate as a group, and the ability to conduct video calls with any user.

Skype has some excellent features but many businesses stick to the basics. Here are four ways you can better utilize Skype.

  • Call forwarding. If you’re expecting an important call but have to step away from the computer for a bit you can forward any calls to your phone. To set up call forwarding: open preferences and select Calls. You will see the option to set up call forwarding at the top of the page. Press the Forward calls radio followed by Set up Forwarding. Be aware that regular call rates will be charged.
  • Screen sharing. Skype is a terrific collaboration tool and many businesses take advantage of it by holding virtual meetings. You can take this one step further by sharing your screen with other parties you are chatting with. This is a fantastic way to give virtual presentations. To share your screen while in a chat press the plus symbol at the bottom of your screen, or right click, and select Share Screen.
  • Customer service tool. Using Skype is a convenient way to get in contact with your customers. Ask your website developer to put a Skype button on your website. Be sure to add when you or your employees are available to be contacted.
  • Add-ons. Skype has solid features but there are a multitude of add-on apps that can make it even better. Some apps allow for closer collaboration, let you broadcast pre-recorded messages, or record video and audio calls. The apps can be downloaded from the Skype Shop.
Skype has many useful features that when utilized allow businesses’ clients and employees to communicate with ease. If you would like to know more about using Skype or other VoIP services in your company please give us a call.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP