Most businesses have installed a VoIp for Business system. The digital revolution has enabled most to replace their existing PSTN based systems with VoIP because of the benefits in cost management and customer service.
They might have justifiable concerns over call quality, and that they will need disaster planning measures so they don’t lose their phone service if they lose power. Recent advances in technology and the use of standby power can dispel these concerns. Bottom line, the advantages of VoIP for Business to the business far outweigh any potential drawbacks.
Integrating VoIP for Business in an integrated communications environment including video conferencing, instant messaging and Social Media integration brings the business firmly into the 21st century and at the leading edge of communications.
Here are some advantages and disadvantages:
Reduced Call Costs
This is often the first benefit that brings VoIP into consideration
Calls are routed over the Internet rather than over the local PTT. That means that the call charges levied by the PTT fall away, and the call becomes essentially free, any infrastructure costs absorbed in the overall cost of providing the Internet connection. The cost saving can be significant if there are frequent long-distance and international calls.
Some organisations manage call costs by using a budgetary cost recovery model. Being able to use call logs to see who made a call, to whom, when, for how long and the actual cost allows users and departments to manage phone call budgets easily.
In the past security was based on the physical handset. If someone wanted to make an unauthorised long-distance call, they would need to sneak into the manager’s office and use their handset. In the VoIP world, security is based on the user. A user has a log-on id and pin code that defines their authorisation level. With their credentials, they can use any handset and have the same security profile.
Implementation of SIP interfaces in the VoIP for Business configuration allows a user to replace their desktop VoIP phone extension with a smart device. The user has full access to the corporate VoIP phone system from anywhere in range of the corporate network, usually over WiFi, both centrally and at remote offices. A facility via a secure network for users to connect to the corporate phone system over the Internet allows them to use the corporate phone system from anywhere.
A business VoIP system provides new features and communications applications. As examples:
- Employees become productive immediately they arrive at a remote office and connect to the corporate network. No waiting to be allocated a phone, they use their main office credentials and any handset to continue with their main office phone extension number.
- Hunting and call-forward groups. Employees can see if a colleague is present and if not, pick up their calls. Call-forward groups forward a call automatically after a preset number of rings.
- Help Desk consultants can operate the phone system using a softphone application on the desktop giving a point and click interface.
As we are too well aware, nothing is for free. VoIP systems do have disadvantages:
Setting up a VoIP environment can be a time-consuming and labour-intensive affair:
- A network audit is needed to make sure that all the network equipment supports VoIP and that everywhere a handset is located has network and power connections;
- All network switches are correctly configured;
- The data centre is capable of hosting the VoIP servers and other equipment
Not all devices are capable of operating in a VoIP environment. These are usually fax machines, modems and alarm systems. Sometimes a driver or firmware update will make them digitally capable.
Overall, replacing a PSTN system with VoIP for Business is a no-brainer. The cost, operational and reputational advantages far outweigh any downsides.
One effect of the pandemic has been a quantum increase in remote working. In some cases, lockdown and travel restrictions have forced a move to work from home. Adopting e-commerce as a business platform has meant interacting digitally with customers and suppliers.
In remote working the need to communicate remains, and is even more important to maintain team morale. Virtual meetings using applications like Zoom, NetMeeting, and Skype have become the norm.
For many, remote working and remote meetings are very new and they are wary of the technology and unsure of how they should interact with other meeting attendees. Sometimes the first few meetings are less productive than the face-to-face equivalent as people find their feet and create a new working culture.
Here are five tips to help you make your Virtual Meetings more productive.
Have a clear understanding of how the meeting is to proceed
Meeting basics do not change with remote meetings. Invitations need to have a clear statement of the subject and objectives of the meeting. Supporting material can be sent with the invitations and attendees asked to familiarize themselves with it.
Have an agenda, and defined comfort and refreshment breaks. Because they are not in a communal meeting and perhaps at home, attendees may tend to just wander off when they feel like it if no breaks are scheduled.
One point that is a subject of much discussion in business media is that long presentations are not practical in a virtual meeting. If they are required, then they must be short and designed to promote discussion. Use screen sharing to keep everyone at the same point.
Don’t let a few individuals dominate the meeting
It sometimes happens, in both virtual and face-to-face meetings that one or two individuals try to dominate a meeting. If that happens, other attendees will tune out, sit back and go off to check their e-mail.
In the first few meetings, a facilitator will help to manage proceedings and make sure that the meeting stays on track and that all voices are heard.
No Multitasking during a meeting
Attendees can use their smart devices to do other things while at a meeting. They check email, read and write on social media and even play games. They are, to all intents and purposes, not there.
It is a lot easier to do that at a virtual meeting. Attendees can appear to be present but are really doing something else, and no-one will notice.
The facilitator must explain that multi-tasking during a meeting is not allowed. If the meeting software allows it, perhaps the facilitator can be notified when someone changes focus from the meeting to another software application.
One problem in working from home is that of the unexpected visitor distracting an attendee. Pets, children and spouses have been known to gate-crash meetings. That must be discouraged.
Insist on Video
A lot of communication is non-verbal, and the effectiveness and productivity of a meeting are significantly reduced if attendees are available in voice only. If attendees can see each other’s facial expressions and body language, it goes a long way to making a better meeting.
Have an audio dial-in backup though. Some places might not have a sufficiently strong Internet connection capable of supporting video.
Finally, sit close to the webcam. This helps to avoid distractions in the background.
Make sure the Technology works
There is nothing more frustrating than a delay to the start of a meeting because of technical problems. It’s a real momentum killer.
Problems can arise because some doesn’t have the correct technology, or because their video isn’t working, or simply because they are not familiar with the meeting software.
For all attendees, particularly first-timers, it is essential to have a one-on-one with the facilitator to make sure all problems are resolved.
An organization should set a standard for the software to be used for virtual meetings. Remember though, that customers and suppliers may be using different software, so some pre-testing will be needed if it is a multi-application environment.
The usual mantra is that an ounce of preparation saves a pound of trouble. Be flexible and realise that procedures will need to change. Virtual meetings can be productive.
Working from home is rapidly becoming the new normal worldwide. Businesses are quickly modifying their strategies and operations to accommodate it. Ome area of particular interest is that of integrating VoIP for Business into the remote working scenario.
There has, admittedly, been a slow move towards remote working as the digital infrastructure spreads and improves in recent years. Internet access through WiFi has become common in public spaces like hotels and malls and through fiber connections to homes.
The pandemic has accelerated this process, mainly through companies forced to have locked-down workers working from home. A second driver has been the effect on bricks and mortar retail outlets. Foot traffic has plummeted, retail shops are closing, and the malls they operate in are closing, some never to reopen. Retailers are forced into an e-commerce environment. It’s no longer developmental but survival strategies.Continue reading
One of the major benefits of the digital revolution for business has been the emergence of computer-based PBX systems offering advanced features. in the past, these were limited to larger companies but the emergence of cloud-based technologies has seen the emergence of the Cloud PBX which allows small companies the benefits of voice over IP but at a vastly reduced cost.
Here are 7 benefits which will come to a business if they implement a Cloud PBX solution:Continue reading
The impact of digital convergence and improvements in technology have generated widespread adoption of VoIP phone systems by businesses and individuals. Businesses use them to substantially improve their business profile and improve communications efficiencies. All users use VoIP to substantially reduce their communications costs, particularly for long-distance and international calls.
There is one major difference between the traditional PSTN phone systems and digitally hosted VoIP phone systems. That relates to performance during a power outage. Power to PSTN systems is provided by the PSTN supplier and PSTN phone systems, therefore, they continue to work during a power outage.Continue reading
The increasing effect of digital convergence and the undoubted cost and other benefits of VoIP networks has led to their widespread adoption in all sizes and types of business. However, as with all things, there are two sides to the coin, and maintenance of an acceptable level of service for your VoIP system is of paramount importance.
Before looking at monitoring techniques it is important to see what we are looking for.
Typical complaints and their cause include:Continue reading
One of the more significant developments in computing in recent years has been the wholesale adoption of VoIP systems by businesses and increasingly by home and mobile users. Simply put, VoIP systems remove the costs and restrictions imposed by the traditional PSTN service providers.
Because of digital convergence among other things, the initial objective, to replace PSTN connections with digital connections has grown by leaps and bounds into fully-fledged integrated communications environments supporting media connections, not just voice.
Businesses are now presented with options among others to improve their presence and reduce their costs. Here are five such.
Cost reductions through Call Security
In the past, PBX systems were location based. Extension numbers were tied to a physical location such as a desktop. The ability to restrict calls was linked to the physical device. Anyone using the handset could only make the calls that were allowed for that extension number, for example, local calls only, no national or international calls.
VoIP systems are by contrast person based in that an individual uses a PIN number to log-on to the VoIP system wherever they might be. They can log-on from the traditional desktop handset or by using SIP technologies from a smart device. Call security, therefore, becomes person based rather than location based. The ability to make calls resides in the individual profile. Applying call security according to individual needs becomes that much easier.
Using VoIP can make a business seem much larger than it actually is. Two examples are automated call forwarding and departmental assignment.
With automated call forwarding, calls made to a local number are automatically forwarded to a central number. In this way, a company can seem to have a local presence, but in actuality operate a central support organisation. Many companies have done this with their call-centre operation. For example, British Airways operated a centralised call centre in India. All calls to a local or national call centre were automatically forwarded there.
With a departmental assignment, different extension numbers can be published for sales, finance, procurement, and so-on. However, they can be automatically forwarded to a single extension number. The company looks like it has different operational departments when in reality it does not.
Customer Relationship Management (“CRM”)
An organisation that operates a call-centre to provide customer support can tailor its VoIP system to support a CRM environment. The VoIP system can be linked to a database application. In this environment, the call-centre operative will have customer information displayed on a local computer screen when that customer calls in. The data is retrieved using the incoming telephone number. The operator can then answer the call with “Good day <customer name> “ giving a much more personal and warm aspect to the interaction.
Often details of previous and current interactions with that customer are shown giving the ability to deal more effectively with the customer. VoIP provides that capability.
Automated Documentation Support
A large part of customer support is providing documentation, usually product related. This obviously can be accomplished via a website application, but most VoIP systems can also provide this facility.
The requestor dials a number, taken for example from a media advertisement and is presented with the option to email a document to a specified address. In this way, the requestor receives the information they want, and the company has an email address for future marketing activity. All without any manual intervention thanks to VoIP.
Automated Call Handling
There is nothing more frustrating than calling an organisation and being forwarded from extension to extension as your call is not answered. The use of calling, hunting and auto-forwarding groups maintained by the VoIP system can significantly ease that pain.
While they are similar there are differences between calling and hunting groups. Calling groups allow anyone in that group to pick up a call for anyone else in the group. For example, a call to an extension where the normal answerer is unavailable can be picked up by someone else nearby. This is especially useful after hours where desks are unattended.
Hunting groups automate this process. If a call is not answered after a certain time interval it is automatically forwarded to another extension number. Calling and Hunting groups often work together to improve customer service.
Auto-forwarding is particularly useful for support and alarm calls. The VoIP system can be programmed to auto-forward calls to a particular number to another number, for example, the duty engineer. The forwarding can be done manually by manually programming the number into the extension profile itself, or in some cases can be accomplished via a calendar. In this way, incoming calls should be answered, not just ring out.
The increasing sophistication of VoIP systems now enables small businesses to punch above their weight and bring improved customer service levels at little or no cost.
The advent of Voice over IP telephony (“VoIP”) has radically changed the face of communications for both personal and business users. It has opened up opportunities for enhanced, and substantially cheaper communications, especially for long-distance and international calls. VoIP for Business has provided communications options that are not possible with a fixed line environment.
However, the prudent personal and business user needs to be vigilant to make the best return on their investment and achieve the lowest possible international call rates.
Here are three simple tips for personal and business users to make sure that they accrue the full benefit of cheaper international communications.Continue reading
The case for moving to Voice over IP (“VoIP”) telephony is undeniable. Cost savings, flexibility, and additional functionality are all major benefits of making the move. However, for some organisations the cost of acquiring and installing a full-blown VoIP PBX System makes the move uneconomic. There are alternative ways of having a VoIP PBX System that are easier on the budget, and not just by using some fancy financial footwork.
One way is to turn capital expenditure into operational expenditure by moving to a hosted PBX environment.
In this scenario, you move your telephony to a third party who manages and maintains your PBX System on their equipment, on or off your premises. The only potential one-time costs of the move are any infrastructure upgrades and the supply of appropriate handsets. In most cases, the handset costs can be included in the hosting charges.Continue reading
A major advantage of a hosted VoIP service is that of low-cost flexibility and function. Compared with copper-based PSTN telephony, the use of IP as a communications base allows the savvy user to capitalise on new technologies at very little additional cost, if indeed there is any additional cost at all.
Often implementation of a VoIP system in an organisation focuses on replacing the existing PSTN systems, and other useful features and functions can be overlooked or deferred till later. As we all know, sometimes later never comes.
One easily implemented function that can be overlooked is that of Virtual Numbers.