What is Contact Center and Why Do Businesses Need One?

Many businesses have recognised the need for improved customer relations recently.   Many customers have moved to an online basis, often as e-commerce rather than a physical business.   As a result, their customer management arrangements (“CRM”) need to be upgraded.

Often CRM is a part of a wider unified communications system, where all internal and external communications, voice, video and data are linked on a common set of standards, platforms, and information sources.  A VoIP implementation is a key part of that.

Simply put, a contact centre is a portmanteau term for a central point from which all customer interactions are managed.  It is usually a combination of call centres, offline support centres, and other channels of customer interaction.   They may operate using a common Customer Response Management system (“CRM”).Continue reading

5 Easy Ways on How to Get a Business Phone Number

Most people nowadays use website contact details to  get in touch with a Business.  They usually have email addresses and Business Phone Numbers plus other information like address details and contact names.

Why Do you Need the Number?

One reason might be that a company you deal with has changed its contact details since you last dealt with them.  They could have been taken over, moved, or simply gone out of business.  The details you have are out of date and you are having difficulty in contacting them.

If the number you have is a cell number, it could be different for a number of reasons.  One reason is that If a prepaid number is not used or recharged for a period of time, say six months, it is reclaimed by the cell company (“Churned”) and reissued to another client.

There are however, from time to time, darker reasons.

Throughout history, people have been scammed by organisations giving false contact details.  This has increased dramatically with the Internet and e-commerce.  Unscrupulous merchants create glossy websites, you buy their products, and receive poor service or often nothing at all.  The contact details on the website are false, and you have lost your money.  You have the business name and want to know if there is another phone number for it.

How do you find the Business Phone number of a Business? Here are five ways to help you.

Online Data Sources

  1. Online Registries

    Online Registries

    Most businesses want to be found and register or are registered in online business directories.  Yellow Pages, White Pages or the local equivalent are a good place to start.   There are usually other online business registries that can be used.

    If the company needs formal accreditation or registration, such as a pharmaceutical company, it is often possible to find the company and its contact details from the body providing the accreditation.

    Trade Associations often maintain membership lists with contact details, so it the company is a member of one, their contact details may be available from there.  Hopefully they are up to date.

    Another place to start is with company registration details.  All businesses need to be registered for tax and compliance purposes, and nowadays most registration details can be found online on a Government database.   Registration details will give you a registered address and contact details at the very least.

    Sometimes the registered address is not the head office or branch you want to find, but they can usually provide you with the  contact details you need.

    Carrying out an online search on the company name may turn up other potential sources. There may be blogs and customer response sites on Social Media applications like Facebook and LinkedIn that mention the company.  At the very least you may find a contact who can provide you with the necessary information.   

    If you suspect you have been scammed, a search highlighting other customer complaints can often confirm it.

  2. Websites and Social Media

    Websites and Social Media

    Most businesses have an online web presence.  Their web site usually has a contacts page.  The contact details will usually include the opportunity to send an email or contact a help desk, perhaps by online chat.  

    Their material, especially on Social Media often includes contact details, so you may be lucky and find a phone number.  If not, you will have a point of contact in the organisation who can help you.   

  3. Commercial Applications

    Commercial Applications

    There are several online services, PC and Smart device, that given a business name will find the business number for you.  They will be different applications in different countries, and some may be localised to a particular country or area only.  Some are free, and some need a “voluntary” donation or payment before revealing the number.

    They also can provide the reverse service, given a phone number, they will tell you who it belongs to. Be aware that their information might be incorrect or out-of-date.

Offline Sources

  1. Directory Enquiries

    Phone Directory

    Before the Internet, the ability to source a business phone number could be found from offline sources.

    All landline and most cellular service Telcos offer a Directory Enquiry service.  Given a company name and perhaps address, they will provide the business phone number.  This may be a free or charged service, and some numbers are ex-directory, though this is unlikely for a business.

  2. The Library


    The Library can be a Treasure Trove of information. It will have the hardcopy business directories, in some cases, back copies of newspapers and magazines, and often the staff themselves will be able to help you find the information.

If nothing else, most libraries now provide online access that you can use to carry out online searches.

Finding a business phone number is not difficult.  It is in the interests of most reputable businesses to make themselves contactable.  However, It can be a tedious and ultimately unsuccessful process for some, probably less reputable concerns.

How to Choose a VoIP Phone for System for Small to Medium Businesses

Cloud VoIP has become an essential part of most business communications strategies. It gives real operational cost benefits, and improves business operations and public image.

Part of the process is selecting the correct VoIP phone type for each user for a range of mobile and desktop units.

One of the first steps in any Cloud VoIP implementation is to determine where VoIP handsets will be needed, the type of handset, and if the supporting infrastructure is available at the installation point.  The two main types of handset are software applications on smart devices, and physical handsets connected to a cabled or WiFi network.

Infrastructure Requirements

Networking and Power

Networking and Power

VoIP handsets need to be connected to the business network and from it to the Internet to allow internal and external VoIP calls. Obviously, there must be a digital network in place.

The network connection can be using a standard Ethernet cabled connection, at a cabling level of Cat5e or above. Recently WiFi adapters and handsets with a WiFi capability have become available for use in a WiFi environment.

For a cabled network the usual connection is from the network point to the handset, and from the handset to the desktop computer. It depends on the implementation, but a WiFi enabled handset may not need to be connected to the computer.

The server infrastructure supporting VoIP can be inhouse, or as a Cloud VoIP implementation, outsourced to a managed service supplier.  For a very small business VoIP can be a network connected PC running PBX simulation software.

Be aware that some devices cannot be attached to a digital network, including older alarm systems, fax machines and modems. They need an analogue connection which can be programmed in the VoIP system or one that bypasses  the VoIP network to connect to an existing analogue PSTN connection.

Physical handsets also need power. It can be provided using Power over Ethernet (“PoE”), where the power is delivered over the network cabling, or by a power brick plugged into a po[]=wer point at the wall. For a WiFi implementation where there is no physical connection, a power brick will be needed.

PoE needs PoE capable switches, so some older switches might not have that capability. They can be replaced, or a more economical way might be to use power injectors that add PoE to a network.

Clearly, a power brick needs a power point, so some electrical installation work might be needed, but this is unlikely if there is already a cabled network connection and a desktop computer at the installation point.

The preinstallation planning needs to look at all the places where a physical handset is needed and make sure that it has power and network connectivity. PoE capability also needs to be checked.

Handset Selection

VoIP Handset Selection

Handsets come in a variety of different types and styles. They can be physical handsets sitting on a desk or attached to the wall. Using SIP technology allows smart devices running an app to simulate a physical device.

Physical handsets range from a very simple device with only a keyboard, to highly sophisticated programmable handsets with built-in video-conferencing screens and hands-free audio.

There are also ruggedised handsets specifically designed for adverse environments, for example handsets on a factory floor with very large buttons on the keypad for use by gloved fingers.

The type chosen will depend on the user and their business requirements and is defined during pre-installation planning.

Mobile Users

Mobile User

Some people, for example, managers or executives need to be always in contact. In a large environment, for example an educational  campus or large factory, this could be problematic. However, if the VoIP implementation includes support for the SIP protocol on the VoIP server, this can be achieved.

Most smart devices support an app that simulates the desktop handset environment, communicating with the VoIP system using the SIP protocols. In effect the smart device acts like the desktop handset. Whenever the user is connected to the business network, usually over WiFi, they have access to the VoIP phone system.

Physical Handsets

Physical Handsets

The type of physical handset installed will depend on the business needs of the user. All will need to be able to make and receive calls within their permission levels, and to access personal and corporate phone books.

For simplicity, most organisations have three classes of user, mobile, executive and basic. Mobile users obviously use smart devices.

Executive users need access to advanced features on the handset. These usually include programmable buttons that carry out common tasks such as call divert to voicemail, call transfer and call-pickup. One often used by executive secretaries is call screening, where they automatically pick up calls to the principal.

Basic users need only to make and receive calls.

Choosing the best handset means implies a knowledge of where a handset is to be sited, who is likely to us it, and their business requirements.

Choosing the Best Cloud Provider: A Guide on How to Find ‘The One’ that Matches Your Business Appetite

Moving to the cloud has become an attractive option for many businesses, either as an internal private cloud or more often to an external hybrid cloud operated by a Cloud Provider. As with the selection of any other external services supplier, selecting the Cloud Provider that best meets your business needs is not a trivial task.    Selecting the wrong Cloud Provider could be harmful to the business.

It must be clearly understood that you are choosing a business partner with whom you will have a long-term business relationship.  The selection process is therefore not just assessing technical competence and capability but looking at the cultural fit between your two organisations. Continue reading

How can VoIP Help Organisations in this Era of Work from Home

The last two years have seen a major shift in IT towards Working from Home and remote access to systems. Because of lockdowns, and the closure of physical outlets, the pandemic has closed some businesses and forced others to move to e-commerce.

Two major disadvantages of Working from Home include the increased communications costs with the staff member, and a feeling of remoteness and isolation when they don’t interact with team members and other members of staff regularly in person.

Many businesses have already installed VoIP to take advantage of the cost and operational benefits of a Unified Communications platform. If the company has a high-speed and stable Internet connection, and most with e-commerce will, it is easy to use the corporate VoIP system to extend communications to staff Working from Home to overcome these problems.Continue reading

5 Signs It’s Time to Upgrade to a Cloud Phone Technology

As a consequence of the pandemic, many businesses have moved to a Work from Home and remote access basis.  The way they do business, the way they interact with customers and customers interact with them has radically changed.

This has meant a sea-change in internal corporate structures.  New Internal and external corporate communications have placed intense pressure on IT as they implement VoIP or Cloud Phone systems on a restricted budget.

Companies that have implemented VoIP Phone Systems have seen the financial and operational benefits of VoIP Phones, but have also seen the downside reducing the cost savings.  High maintenance costs, unstable internet connections, and poor quality connections are common issues.  

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How Cloud Computing Make Your Business More Secure

Cloud Computing has rapidly moved to the forefront of IT Developments over the last few years. The trend has accelerated with the seismic changes in business strategies following the pandemic and the move to home and remote working.

Many organisations, faced with the need to move to an e-commerce platform, have chosen to implement it on a Cloud Computing platform, usually supplied and managed by a Managed Service Provider (“MSP”). The rationale is that they can continue with business as usual as normal while implementing the new e-commerce platform quickly during the migration to the Cloud.

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What Small Businesses Want from Their Cloud Communications System

One effect of the pandemic has been a quantum increase in remote working and working from home. IT strategies have morphed from strategic to survival as they change to cope with the new business imperatives.

In remote working the need to communicate increases, and it is even more important in helping to maintain team morale and manage projects with a geographically dispersed workforce.   

Collaborative applications like SharePoint, Zoom, NetMeeting, and Skype have become the norm in business. Cloud storage as a means of document sharing and project communications is now essential. A Cloud Phone, a phone that uses Voice over IP (“VoIP”) over the Internet is becoming indispensable for productivity, privacy and general communications.

More than ever, business communications are vital to a business’s success. Customers and suppliers need to get in touch. The company needs to maintain an Internet presence to market its goods and services and support an e-commerce facility. Geographically dispersed businesses need business communications to link home office, manufacturing sites and depots at home and abroad

New company business, communications and IT strategies need to reflect the new realities.   Many companies are looking to implement an Integrated Communications Strategy that defines a common look-and-feel throughout the business.

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5 Best Practices for Call Monitoring

Love them or loath them, call centres are a fact of life nowadays.   Looking at them from a business standpoint, they are an essential component of a cost-effective and efficient customer service environment.  VoIP for Business makes implementation a practical proposition, even for the smallest business.

However, the quality of service delivered to the customer can make or break a relationship. A high-level customer experience is the goal.  When, for example,  they hear “You are number 47 in the queue”, they will hang up and not call back.   The tone and style of the interaction with the agent are vital.

That is where planning the interaction and why inbound and outbound call monitoring is essential.   It usually takes the form of a call centre quality monitoring programme.  Knowing service levels and their quality is not just metrics.

Effective CRM using VoIP for Business is the balancing of agent efficiency and service quality. 

First of all, what is call monitoring? It’s the listening in on agent and customer interactions and the recording of them for later analysis.  “Your call may be recorded for quality purposes”.

The upsides of call monitoring are both qualitative and quantitative.  Measurement of response rates and customer attitudes tells you if waiting times are acceptable.  This assists with resource planning.  Customer attitudes also tell you if assistance is effective and if an agents performance is acceptable.

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How Does Voip Work for Business?

In recent times, multimedia, voice and video conferencing have come together to create an entirely new form of communications.  A key element of this new wave is Voice over IP, (“VoIP”), a protocol for digital transmission of voice and video. 

Home and business VoIP telephony has grown to be a major segment in the VoIP market. It provides advantages in cost, mobility and increased functionality with a range of compatible devices.

Why should a business user consider moving to a VOIP for Business telephone system?   There are justifiable concerns, mostly over call quality, but also that that they will lose their phone service if they lose power, and that it is a difficult and costly technology to implement.

However, improvements in technology and the use of standby power go a long way to alleviating these concerns. Simply put, the advantages to businesses from adopting a VoIP for Business solution far outweigh any potential drawbacks.

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