Category Archives: Hosted VoIP Chicago

Presence management

7 Ways Small Businesses Benefit from UC Solutions

Happy Small Business Week! National Small Business Week has been celebrated every year since 1963 and recognizes the key contributions of America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners. More than half of Americans either own or work for a small business, and they generate about two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. each year. Since many of our customers are small businesses, we see first-hand how hard they work and the impact they have on America’s economy.

Regardless of the size of your business, communications is the most essential component. In the past, having the latest communication technology in place was a costly challenge for small businesses to maintain. Fortunately, this has all changed with cloud technology and the developments of cloud-based Unified Communications (UC) solutions. With many of the most advanced features built-into UC systems and the top providers including maintenance and free upgrades, remaining professional and connected to customers and colleagues has never been easier or more affordable for even the smallest of businesses.

Here are 7 ways that small businesses can benefit from UC solutions in a big way.

Auto Attendants
Auto Attendants are one of the greatest built-in benefits of cloud-based phone systems. They ensure that all incoming calls are answered and directed to the appropriate place, no matter who is physically available. For small businesses, this is a huge advantage. You get the ability to pre-record the greeting you’d like customers to hear, ensuring you project a professional image with every single call. Plus, you save significantly by not having to designate employees to answer calls or worse, answer them all yourself. Since the most common reasons for calls are for hours of operation and directions, using an Auto Attendant for this purpose alone will reduce the number of routine calls that need to be answered by 25%, allowing you to focus on your business and better serve your in-person customers.

On-hold Greetings
The best cloud-based phone systems include on-hold greetings and music options. This feature can really make a difference in how your company is portrayed. While customers are on-hold, you can take advantage of this time with pre-recorded messages to promote and advertise specials, your website and upcoming events to boost sales or attendance, all for free. Free direct advertising opportunities like this are few and far between and definitely a great benefit for businesses with limited advertising budgets. Additionally, small businesses instantly sounds larger and more legitimate having professionally recorded messages or music entertaining callers while they 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 and a huge advantage to provide customers who would otherwise be calling long distance.

Online Fax
Faxing may seem obsolete, but it’s still very much alive in business. With online fax, you can fax digitally and eliminate the need for a traditional fax machine and the high costs associated with it, like phone lines, paper, maintenance and ink. Faxing with UC systems is basically free and so are you. Free to fax to and from any device, from anywhere. Transactions become instantaneous, secure and hassle-free from wherever you need them to be.

Video Conferencing
Face-to-face meetings are critically important, but can be costly if your business serves clients located in other parts of the country or the world. Delivering personalized service and collaborating on deliverables can be both affordable and simple with the right video, audio and web conferencing software. These solutions allow you to share documents, give presentations and meet and connect with clients or team members from any device, anywhere, for a fraction of the cost of travel.

No IT Required
A big draw for UC systems are their ease of use. These systems are designed with the user in mind and provide access to every service, feature and setting, so you can easily and independently manage your own communications without the need of costly outside support. Systems that are even more advanced, go beyond just admin privileges and enable you to grant access to your employees so they can manage the features you need them to, which saves you even more time and money.

Online Management
With cloud-based systems, everything is well, in the cloud. This is incredibly helpful for a business of any size, but especially a small business because everything can be managed and accessed remotely at anytime through a secure online portal. Many small businesses have limited staff available so for basic changes like recording a greeting or checking the company voicemail, owners would previously have to physically go to their place of business. Everything with cloud UC systems becomes mobilized and flexible, giving you the ability to forward calls, fax, listen to voicemail, change greetings about hours and much more, from any device, anywhere.

Small businesses work with limited resources. All-inclusive, cloud UC solutions offer an affordable path to the latest technology for a low monthly fee and often no capital expense. This gives businesses of any size, the opportunity to compete with even the largest of competitors, while improving their sales, operations and customer service. We expect to see an increase in UC adoption in all markets over the next few years, but small businesses can most certainly reap the benefits of having these solutions in place for their business’ communications.


Use HD meeting for interviews

How Using our HD Video Conferencing Can Simplify Your Hiring Process

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

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

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

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

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

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


Office suite UC portal

6 Must-haves for every UC Portal

 

Since unified communications (UC) solutions are cloud-based, the actual brains behind the systems are in the backend online management platforms or, as most refer to them as, online portals. When it comes to your ability to remain agile, mobile and productive, the interface you use holds all the power.

Here are 6 must-have features and abilities every UC portal should offer.

1. Centralized Technology: One of the greatest benefits of UC solutions is their ability to centralize all of your communication services into a single platform. You no longer need multiple systems and logins to access services beyond your phone system, like faxing, video conferencing, email and toll-free. The most advanced unified communications systems will unify your access right through their online portal. This not only applies to customers, but agents who manage multiple customer accounts through other providers. A single point of access to everything streamlines the administration of your system significantly.

2. Intuitive Design– Time is everything, especially in business. So having a portal that offers an intuitive design is crucial. The last thing you want is a complex menu tree or hierarchical system that is difficult to navigate. With one portal for everyone, managers and employees alike, the portal design should be straightforward and offer the latest technology like drag and drop and click-to-dial capabilities. The most common functionalities: listening to voicemail, setting individual preferences, uploading contacts, forwarding calls, recording greetings, paying bills and adding new services, should be both easy and possible without any IT assistance.

3. Mobility– Today’s workforce is mobilized, so the platform you use needs to match your organization’s work style, Your online portal should offer unlimited mobility, where users can access any feature and make changes as needed, from any device, anywhere. With the increased need for mobility and the popular BYOD trends, support for mobility is a critical component to every UC offering and the online portals that support them.

4. Permission-based Controls– In every organization, different employees and departments have various functions and levels of authority. User profiles are a new way that businesses can achieve optimal productivity, yet remain in complete control. With portals that allow you to create custom user profiles based upon individual user personas and needs, administrators can grant employees access to self-manage the features that are applicable to their role, saving time and resources.

5. Collaboration– Many companies today have multiple locations and employees that travel or work remotely, so having an online portal that unifies your entire organization is a definite must. Features that encourage internal collaboration like real-time presence that showcases the availability of each employee, company-wide chat, and the ability to video conference online, will enable your organization to stay connected and collaborate seamlessly, no matter where they are.

6. Built-in Intelligence– Beyond just being used to manage communication services, online portals provide us with a great opportunity to tap into the intelligence of the system. Advanced tools are now built into portals, such as call history reporting, so you can extract and evaluate important call data that will help improve the sales, customer service, marketing and operations of your business. Agents can also benefit from built-in intelligence tools from provider’s portals and gain greater visibility into their customer accounts, product revenues, contract renewals and customer satisfaction levels.

Online portals are really the heart of any UC system, so when purchasing or recommending your next unified communications solution to your customers, be sure that the online portal used to access and manage the important features of the system offers the functionality you will need both now and in the future.


Call History

What Your Call History Can Tell You About Your Business

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Presence management

Presence Management: The Greatest Form of Communication

Want to increase communications and productivity between employees and customers?  Then, presence management is the way to go.  This wonderful technology gives all individuals within a company the ability to know what everyone is else is doing in real-time.  Is someone in the building or even at their desk? Are they in a meeting? Are they on the phone? By having this information one can determine if and in what manner to connect with another person.  That’s essentially the purpose of presence management and it’s enhancing the way we communicate. Having this information presents one with an array of communication options that’s dramatically driving up productivity for those companies – both large and small deploying presence management.

Unified presence management is driven off of a company’s voice and data system and empowers people to control every facet of their communications.  It includes and functions off of all devices such as computers, cell phones, Voice over IP (VoIP), and personal communications services.  As soon as someone logs onto their computer a pop up window appears containing the names of fellow employees and their current activity as well as their location.  Essentially, the technology lets you see the presence status of others, send emails and voicemails, receive faxes, control all your phone calls via desktop phones or a softphone, send secure Instant Messages and voice messages, launch a collaborative web conference session – all with a single mouse click.  Users may also put notes into presence for everyone to see.  For example, a note may have the time when an employee will be back in the office from lunch or say an off-site meeting.  Another user may make everyone aware that they may be working from home that day.  Knowing everyone’s availability offers greater options to rapidly assist with everyday business issues.

The power of presence is absolutely incredible.  For instance, a customer may contact your facility with a question and the individual that answered the phone may not have the necessary information to respond appropriately.  Immediately, the employee can view presence and see who is available to assist the customer.  They may send a question via an instant message or put the caller on hold, contact their colleague to gather the information or directly transfer the call while giving the colleague a heads up.  The flexibility of presence is tremendous and one can assume that it is easily driving customer satisfaction levels through the roof.  A basic phone system cannot operate in this fashion and unfortunately those that utilize traditional telephony are missing the boat.

Included in presence are such features as find me follow me.  This unique technology gives people the ability to reach a specific individual anytime, anywhere based on the implementation of a few easy to set rules in the system.  A can call come in and the caller has the option of finding the person on their cell phone or at another predetermined location.  The user may also have all calls set to directly transfer to the cell as well.  Another relatively new feature is twinning – a setting that rings both the desk and mobile phone simultaneously.  Reaching the person you want to, has never been this easy.

Time is more important than ever in today’s business environment.  Presence management saves an incredible amount of time because of the technology’s innate ability to drive efficiency and productivity.  Every business owner realizes the positive impact that even a minimal amount of improvement in this area can have on an organization’s bottom line, not to mention the empowerment an employee has to make better-informed communication decisions that in the end drives satisfaction in the workplace.  Presence management is a true win for everybody!


Labor Under Correct Knowledge

Are You Relying on Luck? Key Technology for Business Continuity

Luck is in the air, or is it? St. Patrick’s Day may be today, but relying on luck in business can be catastrophic, especially when it pertains to your business’ communications. Luck is really L.U.C.K – and that means ” Labor Under Correct Knowledge.  You have to run your business on knowing what is the right way to deal with the changes in the business environment.

The reality is, things go wrong. And, just like we have insurance for our homes, car and life, the same precautions and investments are needed for the continuity of our business.

Many small and medium-sized businesses have neglected or postponed the adoption of business continuity due to the perception that the cost was too high. Years ago, this may have been the case. Developing a disaster recovery plan previously required your IT staff to completely re-engineer your entire business phone system so it could be recovered successfully in the event of a disaster. However, with the emergence of cloud-based systems, safeguarding your business has become both affordable and worthy of any investment.

With pay-as-you-go cloud-based unified communications (UC) solutions, businesses are now provided with the ability to move to the cloud, without requiring a hefty capital expense. These models also enable companies to scale up and down as they see fit, eliminating any risk of over investment.

So, how does cloud-based UC technology provide business continuity?

Cloud-based systems eliminate the threat of down-time and provide continuity for your communications in the event of outages. Since communications are centralized, hosted virtually and routed through the internet, disastrous events or disruptions from landlines are no longer an issue. The technology itself is no longer stored on-site and can be managed online from anywhere, so you are not bound by the internet connection at your physical business. Should the internet go down, calls can easily be routed to cell phones, home phones or other locations without the disruption of call quality, enabling your employees to communicate with customers from anywhere needed.

Advancements of the cloud continue to eliminate the hurdle of price, providing cost-effective and scalable methods for infrastructure, applications and data. Companies relying on luck because of the once burdened financial commitment can now have a feasible and efficient path to business continuity thanks to cloud-based unified communications solutions.

So, don’t test your luck, check into cloud-based options that can protect and enhance your business.


Unified Communications Chicago

5 Reasons Every Business Needs a Unified Communications (UC) Solution

No matter what type of business or size business you have, the one aspect that you cannot afford to neglect is the communications you have with your customers. Businesses today are reaping the benefits of adopting one reliable solution for all of their communication needs thanks to the evolution of cloud-based unified communications (UC) solutions.

Here are 5 reasons why every business today needs a quality unified communications solution in place.

1. Cost
If you think about all of the individual services, equipment and staffing your business requires to communicate with your customers, you will be shocked at your monthly expenses. Communications, no doubt should be an investment, but one that is affordable. Quality and affordability are often both difficult to achieve, but thanks to modern cloud-based unified communications solutions, both are now obtainable. Every business should be looking to adopt a full service, subscription-based UC solution, one where everything is included. When we say everything, we mean it. The best UC solutions will include your phones, advanced calling features like auto attendants, unlimited calling, online faxing, video conferencing, toll-free and the latest mobile apps and tools, all for no capital expense. When you think about the value of this and what you can eliminate, for example, your fax machine costs and maintenance, modernizing and unifying your communications into one cost-effective solution is a no-brainer.

2. Disaster avoidance
When you think of disasters in business, you immediately think of revenue lost and unanticipated costs. Disasters can range from man-made interruptions to natural disasters like hurricanes and blizzards that can affect your business for days on end. With a cloud-based unified communications solution, disasters are no longer a concern. Communications can remain intact because all of your features and services are managed and accessed through a secure, online portal from any device. This means, that you can forward your calls to any number and voicemails can be retrieved from anywhere you are. Features like auto attendants, can also be used to inform customers of office closures. So, while your physical place of business may need to close, your communications with your customers will never be down.

3. Mobility
One of the greatest benefits of a cloud-based unified communications solution is the mobility and flexibility they provide. The world has become forever mobilized and so should your business. You no longer need to be chained to your place of business waiting for calls, or be worried about giving out your personal cell phone number. Cloud-based UC solutions offer the mobility to get calls on any device, through features like mobile twinning, where your business phone and mobile phone will ring simultaneously, so you never miss a call or mobile softphones, where you can make and receive calls on your mobile device using your business number. The ability to make business happen wherever you are and on whatever device you choose, is a benefit that no business should overlook.

4. Scalability
No matter what type of business you have, your hope and plans are for growth and profitability. Since the speed of growth is unknown, it is often difficult to plan ahead when making important investments, such as your business technology. Fortunately, cloud-based UC solutions allow you to scale up and down as needed. Having the reassurance that you can add and remove new employees, services and equipment instantly, gives you peace of mind and more control over your bottom line.

5. Productivity
With a cloud-based UC solution, your employees productivity level gains an instant boost. Not only can employees from any of your locations communicate on one system through 3 or 4 digit extension dialing, but they can also chat live through a secure, online customer portal. New tools like video, audio and web conferencing allows your employees to meet, collaborate and share documents from any device, anytime.

Cloud UC solutions offer countless advantages to businesses and help to ensure it is business as usual, no matter what takes place or where you or your employees physically are.

Interested in learning more about the benefits of UC solutions? Broadview offers an award-winning, 100 percent cloud-based unified communications solution, OfficeSuite Phone and has more than a decade of cloud experience. Click here for more information or a free quote for your business.


Shoe string budget

Marketing and Sales on a Shoestring Budget: How to Do It with your Phones

Who doesn’t want better results from marketing campaigns? If you don’t have the budget to hire an expensive advertising agency, you can still implement effective marketing strategies that will help you increase sales. If you have the right business phone system, you can increase the effectiveness of every advertising dollar spent.

Here are 5 ways the right business phone system can help improve your marketing and sales efforts.

1)      See Callers’ CRM Accounts the Moment They Call

Some office phone systems can integrate with your CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system (like Salesforce, ACT!, Tigerpaw, Time Matters, etc) so you have callers’ information at your fingertips the instant your phone rings. Integrated technology is very powerful. Just think about this scenario: if you get a pop-up window that shows you a caller’s CRM account, you can provide better, more personalized service. Some phone systems even give you tools so you can search in seconds for all interactions with a caller (emails, phone calls, meetings, and more) and pick up conversations where they left off without forgetting important details. Providing knowledgeable service sends a clear message to prospects and clients that your business understands their needs and is there to help them.

2)      Increase Advertising ROI

Take the guesswork out of advertising campaigns by knowing what messages are working and through what method (email campaign, TV ad, radio ad, print ad, etc.) By using different phone numbers per campaign, you can track the success of advertising dollars spent.  This gives you the ability to make adjustments to your advertising strategy based on real data. Put more money towards the campaigns and the delivery methods that are the most effective for your audience.

3)      Use Messages on Hold to Promote Offers

In this scenario, your phone system does the work for you! While callers are on hold, they can hear all about your current specials or promotions. Messages on hold are fast and easy to set up so you can change them however often you need to. This way you can sell to prospects and upsell to existing clients while they are waiting to speak with you or a member of your team. The messages can be tailored however you want, so you can have the message encourage callers to wait on the line until someone can pick up. Less people will hang up and call your competitors!

4)      Never Miss an Opportunity to Close a Sale

Virtual phone systems give you the ability to conduct business anytime, anywhere so you never miss an opportunity to connect with a prospect or client. Make and take business calls from your mobile phone using your office phone number so that you constantly project a professional image no matter where life takes you. Even get voicemail messages delivered to you in email or be notified via text message when you receive a voicemail on your office phone so you’re never out of touch.

5)      Predictable Costs Help You Budget for Advertising

If you can predict next month’s phone charges, then you know how much money to set aside and how much free cash flow you have for advertising or sales initiatives. Some business phone systems even give you detailed invoices that show you usage patterns so you can staff appropriately and cut your costs.

There are countless ways the right phone system can help your business improve marketing and sales efforts on a tight budget. What marketing tactics have worked best for your business?


Chicago VoIP

The Best-Kept Secrets about VoIP

A lot of business owners – especially those who manage businesses that have been around for quite some time – are creatures of habit. They figure that their current operations have garnered them the success they’ve had thus far, and so, why fix what isn’t broken? But like an old oven that takes 30 minutes to pre-heat, sometimes you don’t realize that your office technology is “broken” until you go to replace it.

The reason why non-VoIP users don’t see what’s so great about VoIP is for exactly that reason: they haven’t used it. There are a lot of things you can’t know about VoIP, or any type of new technology, for that matter, until you try it.

It’s easy to use. Not all new technology has to be intimidatingly advanced. So many users love VoIP because it’s more user-friendly than they could have ever imagined. Because everything is set up, operated, and managed in one online portal, making changes and trying new things on your new business phone system is incredibly intuitive. Adding a contact list, checking your voicemail, creating new lines, and sending faxes will become second-nature to you in no time.

It cuts out the hassle. When you open up a new office and are buying all your supplies, you can cross phones and physical phone lines off your list. VoIP is designed to remove the hassle from adding or removing lines, so when you do decide to expand your business, you can have virtual phone lines and you can even rent the phones to avoid capital expense. Then, you can continue to manage the phones at the new office just as you always have been – simply with a few more numbers under your belt.

It’s incredibly secure. A lot of people worry about their phone calls being hosted over the internet, and about the possible security breaches in particular. In truth, VoIP is even safer than a landline phone – otherwise, hackers could be accessing all the data that pertains to your business, not just your phone lines. Your VoIP provider takes multitudes of measures to protect their servers, there’s no need to worry about losing confidential information.

It can do what your old phone can’t. Can your phone currently integrate with your business apps, e-mails, calendars, et cetera? VoIP has the ability to sync with anything in the cloud so you can easily schedule calls, access your voicemails, send faxes, and more. You can even sync it with a smartphone app which can be accessed from anywhere. It’s essentially like a virtual office that you can take with you.


Communications solutions Chicago