Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

How the Modern Call Center Enhances Small and Medium-Sized Businesses

Smiling young executives sitting with headsets and using computer There are many misconceptions about the modern call center. Most people perceive call centers as large call floors with expensive infrastructure and rows upon rows of cubicles. In reality, the present-day call center refers to a group of features that are geared toward managing call flow, increasing efficiency, and software integration. Cloud communications has eliminated the need for expensive hardware. Now businesses of all sizes can use the same feature set that has long been reserved for large enterprises for a fraction of the cost.

A Call Center in the Cloud will save you Money

In the past, call centers were huge capital investments that required a large floor space. Making updates to a call center was a frequent expenditure. By leveraging the power of cloud communications, companies can now turn over the maintenance and system upgrades to their service providers, such as Nextiva. Soft phones, such as the Nextiva App, are a great tool to increase mobility and lower hardware costs. These applications can be downloaded to a variety of devices and used in lieu of desk phones to make and receive calls. This feature is becoming increasingly popular with SMB’s as no additional equipment is necessary.

Technical support can run diagnostics virtually. They can access your call center system remotely and take care of any unforeseen problems.  There is no longer a need to hire a third-party contractor to come out to your call center location and fix phone issues.

SMB’s Call Center Features

While all call center features have their benefits, the three below will significantly improve your call center efficiency and productivity.

  1. Call Center Reporting– Call center reporting allows for real-time monitoring of call volume, agent performance, and key metrics such as abandoned calls and service levels. It generates in-depth reports that can be analyzed to improve agent and overall call center performance. SMBs are able to generate a variety of reports that accurately predict call flow for more efficient staffing. This simultaneously improves customer service levels while saving the company money.
  2. Call Queues– Call Queues allow businesses to route calls to the appropriate department, team, or individual. This reduces the amount of time wasted from transferring calls and will help your customers get the help they need from agents with the appropriate skill set.
  3. Business Integration- Cloud-based call centers allow SMBs to integrate their various business tools together to create one powerful platform. These third-party applications, such as CRM software, can transfer data seamlessly between the different tools and enable click-to-call functionality.

How to Leverage Mobile Web Advertising

Young Pretty Businesswoman Looking at Sales Stats on Mobile PhoneAccessing the Internet via mobile phone usage has finally surpassed that of laptop and desktop computers. If you aren’t leveraging mobile web advertising for your small business, you are missing out. Ad revenue for mobile applications and devices has seen a gigantic uptick in recent years, but don’t let the idea scare you. You do have the option of paying for your marketing on mobile devices, but you can also find some pretty affordable ways as well. Here are some ways you can leverage mobile web advertising for your small business.

1. SMS Marketing

As mobile phone users are texting more now than ever, this method has become extremely popular in recent years. SMS marketing will normally involve a shopper to voluntarily send a text message to a business in exchange for regular sales and promotional updates. Often times the main reason for a shopper to volunteer his or her phone number is an immediate reward. For example, the fast fashion store H&M often has signs in their retail stores to text the word “subscribe” to a phone number in order to receive a percentage off a purchase, instantly. Once completed, you’ve added a new phone number to your marketing contact list.

2. Video

With so many people watching YouTube videos and accessing the web via their phones, video advertisements can also be useful. As you’ve probably noticed by now, YouTube requires most users to watch a video ad prior to the intended video and many websites now require web surfers to watch a video before accessing their content. Viewers normally have to watch the videos for at least 15 seconds before they have the option to skip them which means that they’re difficult to ignore but, if executed properly, can be successful at drawing curiosity.

3. Location-Based Keywords

By far one of the most budget-friendly and effective means of mobile advertising lies within your SEO keywords. Studies show that mobile searches for restaurants lead to a 90 percent conversion rate while another 74 percent of mobile users access “real-time location-based information” like directions. This means that mobile users are constantly looking up businesses on the go. Depending on your website’s keywords, you can see an increase in conversions almost immediately.

4. QR Codes

Quick Response codes (or QR codes) are those funny looking, square-shaped, scan-able bar codes you’ve been seeing around lately. QR codes are a speedy and fun way to get prospects curious about what you have to offer and they are simple to implement. Once scanned by a mobile device, these mysterious little blips re-route the mobile user to a product’s website or special “hidden” web page. Here, you can market your product via written, audio or video content or even promote a contest.

5. Develop an App

With mobile users forgoing their laptop and desktop computers to browse the internet on their phones, it might just be that developing your own smartphone application is the most powerful way to leverage mobile advertising. If you sell goods, a mobile app can be used as an instantly accessible eCommerce storefront. If you are selling services, an app can direct users straight to your blog or biography. Apps are powerful because they are a convenient way for mobile users to access information quickly and remain on a user’s cell phone until actively deleted.

A huge part of being able to remain a successful business is adaptability. The same way that many brick-and-mortar stores have needed to add eCommerce aspects to their businesses, it’s time to shift attention to mobile web advertising. 

NextOS Beta Portal – Admin Features

NextOS 3.0 GIF no play buttonNextOS 3.0 Beta is a brand new, easy way to manage your users, locations, and calling features for Nextiva Office. With a user-friendly interface and helpful tips and tutorial videos throughout, the new portal lets you set up quickly and manage your system painlessly. We even added some amazing new features to drastically improve efficiency – like our import tool that lets you upload up to 100 users into the system at once.

Here are all the features that are currently available for Administrator use. For functionality not listed below, please continue to use NextOS 2.0 (the previous version) for those services. We will be adding more features regularly to the NextOS 3.0 Beta Portal, including call center and a user interface, in the coming months.

On the Dashboard, you can:

  • View live system status
  • View current billing status
  • View recent call history

For Users (Employees), you can: 

  • Add and manage users
  • Import users (up to 100 at once)
  • Upload personal voicemail greetings
  • Add and assign devices
  • Add and manage administrators (for one, multiple, or all locations)
  • Set up the following features for a user:

    • Assign multiple numbers or extensions to a user's primary number with Alternate Numbers. You can also specify a distinctive ring pattern for each one.
    • Reject calls that don’t have a caller ID attached (from callers who intentionally block the display of their phone number) with Anonymous Rejection.
    • Busy Lamp Field lets the user see/monitor the phone use of another user right from their phone.
    • Use Call Forwarding (Selective, Always, Busy, Unanswered, Unreachable) to automatically forward calls to another number based on different circumstances or criteria.
    • Click a web-based link or icon to initiate a Nextiva call with Call Me Now.
    • Use Call Notify to send the user an email notification when they receive a call that meets pre-defined criteria (for example, from a specified phone number).
    • Use Calling Line ID Blocking Override to allow the user to see the Caller ID information from callers, even if they have attempted to block the user from seeing it.
    • Allow the user to look up the name of a caller in an external database when the name did not arrive with the original call using Calling Name Retrieval.
    • Record a user’s incoming and outgoing calls with Call recording.
    • Use Connected Line Identification Restriction to block the user's number from being shown to the person calling them.
    • Custom Ringback User lets you customize what the user's callers hear when waiting for them to pick up.
    • Use Do Not Disturb to automatically forward all the user's incoming calls to voicemail, without ringing their phone.
    • Redirect the user's incoming calls to a specified number outside of the location's business hours using Location Forwarding.
    • Use Nextiva Anywhere to make and receive calls from any device, at any location, with only one phone number, one dial plan, one voice mailbox, and a unified set of features.
    • Play an announcement to an incoming caller, before their call is put through to the user, with a Pre-Alerting Announcement.
    • Control the user’s Privacy Settings by selecting how information for this user will be shared with other users.
    • Use Push to Talk to set up intercom-like functionality between the user and others they speak with regularly on their phone system.
    • Allow the user to substitute a different phone, such as a mobile, home, or hotel phone, as their office phone to make and receive calls with Remote Office.
    • Use Selective Call Acceptance to pre-define criteria to accept calls from specific numbers.
    • Use Selective Call Rejection to pre-define criteria to reject calls from specific numbers.
    • Use Sequential Ring to ring multiple phones or extensions in a sequence when someone calls the user's number, or after they don't answer within the pre-defined number of rings.
    • Display this user’s extension on one or more phones with Shared Call Appearance.
    • Ring multiple phones or extensions simultaneously when someone calls the user's number with Simultaneous Ring.
    • Allow the user to place a call by pressing a reduced number of keys, instead of the entire phone number, with Speed Dial.
    • Use Voicemail to Email to send the user’s voicemail messages to their email address.

For Locations (Sites), you can:

  • Add and manage locations
  • Upload announcements to use for location- or user-specific features
  • Set up the following feature for locations: ​

    • Use Group Paging to enable a user to page a group of users by dialing a paging group number or extension, like a group intercom.
    • Allow a user to answer a ringing phone within a predefined zone with Group Pickup.
    • Make and receive calls from your Nextiva main location number using another phone (like your home or cell phone) with Nextiva Anywhere.
    • Use Music on Hold by uploading an audio file to play for your customers while they are on hold, in queue, or being transferred.
    • Redirect incoming calls for all users at a location to a specified number outside of the location's business hours using Location Forwarding.


  • Add and assign devices
  • Import devices (up to 100 at once)

Advanced Routing

  • Create and manage call groups (hunt groups)
  • Create and manage auto attendants
  • Set up the following features for advanced routing: 

    • Assign multiple numbers or extensions to an auto attendant’s or call group’s primary number with Alternate Numbers. You can also specify a distinctive ring pattern for each one.


  • Create and manage regular schedules for your company or specific locations
  • Create and manage holiday schedules for your company or specific locations

My Account

  • Reset your admin password and PIN
  • View call history for your company, a specific location or user
  • Add and edit credit cards
  • Make payments
  • View past and current invoices
  • Assign and manage licenses
  • Check the status of your ported phones numbers

Mondays with Mike: Make Reverse Psychology Work For You!

11-9 reverse psychology smallLet’s face it:  we’re all barraged by marketing, brand impressions, and attempts to separate us from our money – pretty much constantly.  We’re practically immune to high-pressure sales tactics, and we no longer believe the QVC hosts when they tell us to “Hurry.  Time is running out.” 

But we’re business owners.  We have goods and services to market.  How can we appeal to prospective customers without looking like we’re trying too hard?  The answer is reverse psychology.  When customers expect to be pressured or misled, the antidote is honesty.  Be honest, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how well you’re received, especially if you follow these tips:

  1. Use the Inoculation Effect.  William McGuire developed the theory of the Inoculation Effect based on the way our bodies develop resistance to disease after exposure.  It turns out the same thing is true of repeated efforts to sell us something.  We become immune to sales tactics.  How do you use this effect to your advantage?  Point out your competition’s sales tactics.  You’ll make comparison shoppers hyper aware of the sales pitches to come, and you’ll appear the sound choice by comparison.
  2. Explain your point of difference.  If you begin by talking about the way everyone else in the business does it, then you’re positioning yourself to stand out.  For example, if you run a cleaning company and the standard practice is to include a fee for cleaning supplies in any quote, explain that you only charge clients for the products you actually use.  Again, if your prospect gets quotes from other companies and hears “it’s all included,” then they’re primed to think “I’m overpaying for products I don’t use.”
  3. Don’t offer more; offer less!  It seems like everyone’s gone the a la carte route, which means there’s a staggering array of choices.  Rather than inducing analysis paralysis in your clients, offer them three (no more, no less) excellent choices.  They’ll still feel like they’re in control, but they won’t feel overwhelmed.
  4. Give ‘em an easy out.  We get used to a “sell at all costs” mentality, so if we hear a sales person who’s ready to walk away – leaving the decision in our hands – we’re taken by surprise.  As it turns out, relieving your client of the obligation to buy doesn’t negatively affect your close rate, and the clients who do buy feel better about the sale.  They’re less likely to suffer from buyer’s remorse since they weren’t pressured into their decision.
  5. Use the 1-10 rating system, but with a new spin!  After I make my pitch, I ask prospects to rate how they feel about my service.  They typically throw out a number in the high middle – a 6 or 7.  Rather than telling them why I’m a 10 (which is what they expect,) I tell them I’m surprised, that I figured they’d be a 2 or 3.  What happens is magic.  They start explaining why I’m so much better than a 3.  They list my attributes, and before you know it, they’ve talked themselves into being a 9, and they’re ready to sign on the dotted line.  I just sit back and let it happen.

The key to using reverse psychology effectively is honesty.  You’re not going to sell jaded consumers by pulling the same old marketing tricks.  You have to go with something novel, refreshing, and unusual:  the truth.

11.9.15 NextOS 3.0 Beta Release Notes


For Users, you can now:

  • Use Do Not Disturb to automatically forward all the user's incoming calls to voicemail, without ringing their phone.
  • Play an announcement to an incoming caller, before their call is put through to the user, with a Pre-Alerting Announcement.
  • Allow the user to place a call by pressing a reduced number of keys, instead of the entire phone number, with Speed Dial.

For Locations, you can now:

  • Use Group Paging to enable a user to page a group of users by dialing a paging group number or extension, like a group intercom.
  • Allow a user to answer a ringing phone within a predefined zone with Group Pickup.


  • You can now access your call center directly from the portal!
  • You can now click the System Status bar at the top of your dashboard to go directly to, and find more details about the status of any Nextiva service.
  • The tutorial videos found throughout the portal now pop out to their own window and are draggable, making it easier to follow the instructions in the videos as you perform the actions described.

Does Your Brand Match Your Company Culture?

11-5 Company values & branding smallIn 2008, BP shelled out $211 million for the design of its Helios logo, which, the company asserts, represents many things, including heat, light and nature. Who would have guessed that BP would face costs amounting to billions of dollars (and counting) after the Gulf oil spill two years later? Today, the company continues to pay for that spill, even as it runs ads to present the company as caring — and green.

Massive companies may have the resources to survive a disastrous split between their message and their actions. As a small business owner, however, you need to impart consistent messaging between your brand and your company values. It's a two-way street; just as your company culture must drive everything from products to customer service, your brand needs to drive the same things.

Culture Comes First

Company culture is not just about the work environment or even customer service. It's about everything that your company believes and does to get products and services to your customers — and keep them happy thereafter. Of course, you need a well-defined product or service before you start a business. But, if your company has not developed its culture before you move forward to develop your products or services, you run a real risk of having unhappy employees, dissatisfied customers, or both.

Citrix, which develops software for remote employees, is an extreme example of a company that fully integrates its company culture into its products. The company touts a culture to "work better, live better", which includes flexibility in the mix. The company promotes flexibility through a product that empowers remote workers with mobile workspaces. The same product that promotes remote work capabilities to customers provides flexibility within its own employee community, as well. As an added benefit, their software product is probably very well tested before it goes to market!

Granted, most companies do not sell products or services that are likely to directly improve the quality of their employees' lives. But there are many ways to integrate the company culture into the brand.

So, if your surgical center culture promotes caring and individual attention, make sure that your operating environment does not look like an assembly line. Or, if your company is dedicated to delivering top-quality widgets, customers should immediately recognize your genuine shock and willingness to go to extremes when an occasional widget is delivered in less-than-perfect quality

The bottom line is that customers are often drawn to products and services based on the underlying company culture. Deliver that culture, and they will promote your products with positive reviews.

Your Brand is More Than a Logo

Your marketing campaign is an important means for getting your name out to the public, but a cool logo and good advertising cannot ensure a company's success. When your company culture drives every aspect of your business, you naturally take a holistic approach that can more easily drive your brand forward.

Zappos may be one of the best-known companies in this regard because it is dedicated to this practice. They see all employees— whether or not they normally interact with customers — as reflections of their brand, even when they're off the clock. Zappos takes a broad view of its brand. It's not just about shoes, clothing or even customer service. It's about the full customer experience. And its culture extends beyond their specific brand to the entire industry. They want to make sure that their customers deliver a message through word-of-mouth and social media that the best advertising cannot accomplish.

A Well-Defined Culture Organically Drives Your Brand Marketing

Companies that follow their cultures in everything they do have a natural advantage when it comes to marketing their products. Their marketing campaigns are often less expensive to develop and more on-point. This just makes sense when you consider what can happen when you sit down to formulate your advertising message. When you focus on the product alone, you can struggle to find ways to differentiate that product from the competition.

When you have a clearly-defined company culture that incorporates the big picture, however, you broaden your messaging options. If a pickle company, for example, started as a family business focused on its home-made quality, their advertising message might focus on a unique mix of old-family recipes (spicy, garlicky, super-sour or even a variety of pickled veggies), hand-packed jars or all home-grown ingredients. They might even face the dilemma of having to choose from too many great campaign ideas, but this is a nice problem to have. As long as your brand is connected to your company culture, you can use those ideas for future campaigns.

6 Tips to Run a Successful Home-Based Business

Many entrepreneurs make their homes into their businesses. With no mandatory meetings, set schedule or co-workers, this might sound like the perfect work situation, but if you are not personally disciplined your might not get very much done.  While using your home as your business office gives you a great commute, you’ll also face challenges that you might not have considered. You might even need to change some bad habits in order to make working from home, work for you.

Here are six tips to run a successful home-based business.

1. Dress the Part

Working at home in your pajamas all day sounds appealing, but what effect does it have on your productivity? Even if you’re working at home you need to shower and get dressed. It will help you start your day, No one is saying you should throw on your best suit, but getting ready in the morning will help you get your mind on the business.

2. Set a Schedule

One of the perks of working for home is that you aren’t running on anyone else’s schedule. This can be a great thing because you can truly make your own hours. Flexibility is great, but to get the most out of your business, you still need to have a set schdule. Since you work from home, you may decide you don’t want to be nine-to-five; maybe you want to work noon to 8 p.m. It’s completely up to you – but stick to it, and be productive in those eight hours.

3. Discipline

When running home-based business discipline will be an important factor. If you want take a two-hour lunch break, no one is there to stop you! Still, you must remain focused and dedicated to your daily tasks. The last thing you want to do is make a habit out of slacking off. Your lack of productivity and sales will be obvious at the end of the month.

4. Leverage Technology

If you’re going to run a business from your home, you need all of the same amenities you would have at an office. You will need a computer,, high speed internet, a landline phone, and a reliable all-in-one copier,printer fax machine. You also want to get a smart phone, so that you can catch calls and emails on the fly. You need to be prepared to communicate however a client or customer wants to.

5. Create a work area

Working from your couch all day sounds good in theory, but trying to be super productive in an area where you’d normally kick back and relax is counterintuitive. Set up a space dedicated to getting work done and get in the “work” mindset while you’re there. It’s best if it’s a work space with a door.

6. Protect your personal time

When you are working at home, it can be easy to forget how many hours you’ve actually work each week. You don’t want to slip into being an unhealthy workaholic. At the end of your day, shut down your computer, plug up your cellphone in your office and don’t check email anymore. Even though you are working out of your home, your need to keep your work life and personal life separate.

There’s no set way to run a successful business. If you’ve decided run a home-based business, follow these steps so that you can stay on track.

Why You Need to Think of Your Communications as an Asset Not an Expense

11-3 Communications as an Asset smallIn today’s business environment, most companies view their communications systems as an operational expense with no added value. They perceive communications systems as a cost that has little to no effect on the bottom line. Often times, their mindset is correct. If a company has not utilized the full power of an up-to-date communications system, then it really is just another expense.

Cloud communications is changing this. As cloud communications technology becomes more advanced, companies are able to use a multitude of features to gain a competitive advantage over their competition. Leveraging cloud communications provides businesses with a competitive asset that empowers its users to grow. Below, we’ll explore three key benefits cloud communications provides businesses and how it will become a strategic asset for your growth:


Cloud-based phone systems can be tailored to meet the needs of each individual user. Whether you need to record a call for training purposes, answer your desk phone from your cell phone, or gain insight as to how you should staff your phones at your call center throughout the day, a cloud phone system will help you become more efficient and operationally cost effective.


The speed to implement change is a major competitive advantage for any business. Cloud communications systems provide instant analytical information so companies can make data-driven decisions.

Service providers, such as Nextiva, can grant its customers instant access to new features. As all updates are deployed through the cloud, you do not have to rely on having a technician come to your business location to update your system.


Little upfront cost is needed when switching to a cloud communications system. There is no expensive hardware to install, and you only pay for the number of lines that you need. Additionally, a plug and play approach is used so systems can be set up quickly. This provides a scalable solution for all businesses.

Cloud communications is an ever-evolving technology. Its efficiency, along with its increasing functionality, is giving companies a competitive advantage over those who are slow to adapt to change. The more that cloud communications integrates itself into your network, the more of an asset it will become.   

Mondays with Mike: 5 Ways to Get Paid Faster

11-2 Paid Invoices smallThe default payment period for most of us who bill clients after services are rendered is 30 days.  When you examine your receivables, though, you see those 30 days often turn into 45 days or even longer.  Think about the difference it could make to your cash flow if you could significantly reduce the time you wait for folks to pay your bill.  As it turns out, you can.  And it’s not even that difficult.

  1. Change your terms.  So simple, most of us don’t even think about it.  Why exactly do we offer 30-day terms?  Because that’s the way we’ve always done it.  Now your established customers might not be thrilled if you suddenly changed your terms to COD or Net 10, but there’s no reason on earth you can’t bring new customers on with terms that bring your cash in quicker.  Just do it.
  2. Offer bank financing.  Now this option works best for high-dollar purchasing, but if you set up a program through a local bank to offer free or low cost financing, you can remove all objections to purchasing.  You’ll pay a fee to the bank for the service, but the best part is you get your cash up front, and any collections in the future are the bank’s responsibility.
  3. Accept credit cards.  I’m astonished how many businesses still go the paper invoice, antiquated check route.  You can literally turn any smartphone, iPad, or tablet into a credit card reader, so there’s no reason not to swipe your customer’s card on the spot.  You’ll pay a small percentage for processing, but you have access to funds right away.  No need to remember to pick up stamps and wait for months for a check to arrive.
  4. Build a reverse cash flow model.  The old-fashioned model is to build a product or deliver a service and wait for the customer to pay.  But think about the way Dell revolutionized the way we buy computers.  Rather than building machines and waiting for people to show up at a store, Dell took orders (and payment,) built their machines to customers’ specifications, and then shipped the computers out.  Even if you’re delivering a service, find a way – like an annual service fee – to get your payment up front, and you’re radically altering your cash flow.
  5. Change your billing frequency.  If you provide a service on the 1st of the month, but don’t bill until the end of the month on 30-day terms, you’re looking at roughly two months before you see your money.  If you start billing weekly, or even daily, you’ll see payments arriving throughout the month, ultimately far quicker than you would if you held your billing until the last day of the month. 

So often we blindly follow established practices – like 30-day terms – with no good reason other than that’s the way it’s always been done.  In today’s market, though – given that you can send money anywhere in the world instantly – there’s no reason we can’t change the way we do business in a way that benefits cash flow.

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