Archive for the ‘VoIP’ Category


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: How to Use Incentives for Your Customer Service Employees

Salespeople typically get incentivized to motivate better performance, but do you offer incentives to your customer service employees, too? After all, they have the arguably harder job of keeping customers happy after the sale. Creating a customer service employee incentive program can not only improve your customer service, but also boost profits and help retain valued customer service workers.

Here are some tips for setting up a successful incentive program:

  • Set specific goals. What behaviors do you want to reinforce with your incentives? Take time to think about what customer service activities have the biggest effect on customer retention, profits and word-of-mouth. For example, rewarding the customer service rep who handles the most calls in the shortest time won’t be effective if those customers aren’t truly satisfied. In this case, rewarding employees who get the best customer reviews might be a better criterion.
  • Share the standards for obtaining incentives. Make it very clear to customer service employees what behaviors or actions you are rewarding and how you will measure their activities. This way, employees will know for themselves if they’re working up to par.
  •  Mix it up. Use different types of rewards depending on the behavior you’re trying to encourage, what your customer service reps want most, and what you can afford. You might want to use cash bonuses for some behaviors, gift cards or certificates for others, and recognition (such as “Employee of the Week”) for others. Also consider letting employees choose their own rewards from among a “menu” of options.
  • Make it fun. Customer service is a tiring job, so re-energize employees with game-oriented rewards that encourage friendly competition. For instance, you could wrap up a mystery prize and award it to the employee or team who most exemplifies going “above and beyond” at the end of a day.
  • Set a budget. Put money aside for customer service employee incentives—it’s important. If you’re on a tight budget, barter with other local businesses to get gift cards or free products and services you can use as rewards.
  • Make it a group activity. In addition to individual and team-based incentives, consider adding a departmental incentive such as an annual outing to a local theme park, sporting event or spa if the customer service department meets specific goals. Make sure the event is something all your customer service employees will enjoy and aspire to.

 

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at rieva@smallbizdaily.com, follow her on Google+  and Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.


Tips to Effectively Manage Remote Workers

I may not be Captain Kirk, but my extensive travel schedule makes it imperative that I meet my business responsibilities while remaining connected to my base.  Some of your employees may have the same needs.  Sales territories keep your reps far from your home office, but even local workers may need to work from home during inclement weather — or even just because they prefer wearing fuzzy slippers from 9 to 5.

Remote work can make sense, as long as your employees have the resources that they need to excel at their jobs wherever they are.  But it also takes disciplined workers and supportive managers.  Here are some tips on how to decide which employees will be effective remote workers and how to ensure that they provide professional representation for your company.

Identifying Good Remote Workers

If an employee that reminds you of Ferris Bueller or Dude Lebowski asks for the opportunity to work from home, just say no.  Self-motivated employees, on the other hand, are likely to be even more productive when they don’t spend time commuting to an office where distractions and interruptions typically exceed those that workers might find at home.

Still, employees who want to work from home need to show that they have an appropriate, interruption-free work area.  For example, they probably need to send the kids to daycare or hire a nanny.  But just as important, look for employees who already display dedication, as evidenced by the following traits:

  • They consistently meet or exceed deadlines, even if it means coming in early or staying late;
  • They take work home while still putting in a full workday, particularly when that work requires unfettered concentration;
  • They keep you informed of progress without the need to prompt them;
  • They are good problem-solvers on their own, but they know when to seek your help.

Remote Employees Must Maintain a Professional Image to the Outside World

No customer, vendor or other outside party should ever see the laundry basket in an employee’s living room and seeing the inside of a coffee shop is no better.  In other words, business contact must occur outside of the home in professional surroundings.

You work hard to develop a professional image for your business and your employees need to maintain it, no matter where they are.  I count on Regus (who, for disclosure is a client of mine, and whose services and locations I have used as a client of theirs for years), one of the largest providers of flexible workspaces in the world, for the professional image that I need. 

Using professional remote workspaces allows you to rent anything from office space to meeting rooms on an as-needed basis, but if you regularly provide remote workers with access to flexible facilities, a resource like Regus’s Businessworld card can help keep costs under control while providing a professional working environment.

Technology Creates a Bridge between Workers and Home Base

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Most remote workers use a computer in some capacity to do their jobs.  It doesn’t matter if 

they carry a company laptop back and forth between home and office or if they use their own computer — as long as they have access to the right functions.  But once you take employees out of the office, you often need additional technology such as the following to keep them connected:

  • A reliable Internet connection;
  • High-quality and secure access to your office computer network, including email, using collaboration suites like Office 365;
  • A quality phone system, like those provided by Nextiva;
  • The ability to attend interactive meetings and video conferences online.

Having appropriate technology makes it seamless for you to collaborate with your team or even your vendors from almost anywhere in the world.

Avoiding the Isolation of Remote Work Environments

I know someone who was forced to work from home during her first months with a new employer simply because her office computer did not work.  She would come in to the office for meetings, but she lamented that the delay in getting to know her co-workers made her feel alienated from the team.  Years later, after she formed a bond with the team, she started working from home several days a week.  She enjoyed her time at home, but she always felt a sense of renewal when she returned to the office.

All employees must feel a close connection to the company and their co-workers, and it is your job to make sure that happens.  By conducting regular one-on-one and department phone meetings, you provide them with vital information relevant to their daily activities, but face-to-face contact is incredibly valuable as well.  You should make it clear that you expect local employees to come to the office on a regular basis, and even workers on the other side of the country might be able to travel in for the quarterly company meeting or other major events.

Everyone would enjoy the chance to wear fuzzy slippers and PJs during their work day, but this is just one of many reasons why studies have shown remote workers to be generally happier and more productive.  Still, it is important to make sure that a remote workplace does not equate to a remote connection with the company team.  With your guidance, employees who receive this benefit will earn your trust every day — especially if those fuzzy slippers have your company logo embroidered on them.


Nextiva Customer Success Story: Five Star Tours

The leading tour bus company in San Diego, Five Star Tours and Charter Bus Company is a family-operated business that specializes in international group transportation and tour services along the Californian and Mexican coasts.

We recently met with Alfonso Hernandez, General Manager of Five Star Tours, to chat with him about how his company uses their phone system to conduct their business operations.

Located in a bustling train station, the Five Star Tours team used to have a phone system that was connected to the station’s PA. This proved to be a headache throughout their day-to-day activities, as the system consistently dropped calls, didn’t support caller ID, and wouldn’t accurately transfer calls. On top of that, they would receive conductor messages over their phone calls. It was time for a change.

We were happy to hear Alfonso report that Nextiva’s phone service gave them a 100% turnaround. They can now hear their clients clearly, and they have programmed their call forwarding functions and hunt groups to give the team more freedom of mobility.

Best of all, Nextiva gave Five Star Tours a competitive advantage. That’s the goal of Nextiva’s products and services – to make your day easier and give you a leg up on your competition. We’re glad that we were able to make that happen for Alfonso and his team.

Hear his full story here:


3 Ways to Prepare for a Trade Show

DS2_8820-maWhen we plan events as part of our marketing strategy, there typically 2 primary goals: lead generation and brand awareness, with leads being the most important. There are, of course other reasons to exhibit and sponsor events, such as partner relationship development, meeting with multiple current customers in one location, and even hiring new employees. However, these are generally secondary objectives.

It's no secret that events are quite costly. In fact, they can quickly command 20-30% of your marketing budget with just a few events each year. So, it pays to do it right.

Here are a few tips that can make sure you get the biggest bang for your buck.

1. Start early. With planning, promoting and logistics – it is never too soon to start the process. From ordering onsite services to designing your theme, message as well as promotional and educational materials – event dates are hard deadlines. The show must go on, as they say, so it’s better to be prepared and have all of your information ready with a consistent look and feel, and of course, content.

​Here’s why:

  • Discounts are often available if you order onsite services early.
  • Shipping costs less if you can send ground and use the event transportation company.
  • Avoid rush charges on graphic production and material printing.

2. Prospect pre-event. Tell your customers, prospects, previous event leads and potential partners which events you will be participating in and what you’ll be doing at each one. Share your role in the event; let them know if you are exhibiting, speaking, sponsoring or hosting a custom event. Spread the message across multiple channels and sources so you can attract as many targeted attendees as possible.

Here’s why:

  • The audience is already spending the time and money to get there.
  • Meeting with so many people in the same place reduces your travel budget.
  • Filter through the primary prospects from the “just kicking the tires” so you can focus your follow-up activities on your best opportunities.

3. Create a fun, engaging experience at the event. Background banners and a literature stand with hand sanitizer as your give-away (granted, a much needed item at events, but not the reason people attend) in a 10×10 booth are common place. Be different. Do something fun! Make people want to seek out your booth, event, activity, etc. You are spending a lot of money to produce an event (even with a 10×10 booth) so create a memorable experience that people talk about well after the event ends.

Here’s why:

  • An extra dollar or two (yes, that’s all it takes) on your give-away can stand out as something people remember – and use.
  • Your fun theme will stick with people and help them remember your brand as one they associate with smart and creative people.
  • The last thing you want is to throw money away. And that’s what happens when your give-away is cheap or not memorable.

Nextiva Customer Success Story: Fanology Social

The vibrant team at Fanology Social spends their days helping their clients form one-to-one relationships with fans across social media platforms. The award-winning digital content agency works with celebrities and big brands across the country including Toyota, Mini Cooper, Ashley Tisdale, Waka Flocka Flame, and Shay Mitchell.

We met with Richard Janes, CEO of Fanology Social in Los Angeles, to learn about how his company uses their phone system on a day-to-day basis.

“We’re in social media, so the biggest thing for us is talking to people and having those conversations,” explained Richard. “So if your phones don’t work and they’re crackly…we’re in trouble.”

Once a small team of only 3 employees, their only work phones were their mobile devices. Now at 16 employees and growing, they knew they had to transition to a more reliable communications solution.

When searching for new VoIP service, Richard’s first priority was to find a provider who could provide great customer service. After reading reviews and narrowing down his choices with a few phone calls, he chose Nextiva.

When asking Richard why he picked Nextiva out of all the VoIP providers available, he explained: “They took an interest in our business and about how we could best utilize their toolset. And obviously there were some things that we’re applicable to us, but there were some things that I hadn’t thought about that immediately made total sense when it was explained, because they had the expertise.”

Find out why telephones are not something that Richard has to worry about anymore:


Nextiva Customer Success Story: NDN

The team at News Distribution Network brings content to life for over 146 million viewers worldwide by providing publishers with over 100,000 real-time stories each month. Their mission is to revolutionize the digital marketplace for their publishing partners and brands through profitable, next-generation media solutions.

Every day, NDN employees across the country work 24/7 to provide short-form video content to online publishers and content creators. Founded in 2007, the NDN team now has over 100 employees with locations along both the east and west coasts.

A reliable phone system has proven critical to NDN, as they use it on a daily basis to:

  • Receive information on breaking news stories to get them on their partners’ websites as quickly as possible
  • Have immediate access to contacting their media distributing partners 24/7 in case there is a problem
  • Let employees easily travel between nationwide offices without having to reconfigure a phone each time

We met with Joe Bunker, Senior Director of Network Operations at NDN’s headquarters in Atlanta, to learn about his company’s transition to Nextiva’s phone service in 2009. We’d love to share his story with you:


How May I Direct Your Call?

Cara Plowman has been a member of the Nextiva team since December 2010. She has previously served as Nextiva's OLS Supervisor and Technical Support Manager, and is currently the team's Channel Operations Manager.

When I started my career at Nextiva, I wanted to make a name for myself, have my voice be heard. An eager 20-something, I knew little about the emerging technology known as VoIP, or to what extent my voice really would be heard.  Curious about all facets of cloud communications, I certainly started poking my nose around the office – hungry to learn what everyone knew about VoIP.  I quickly realized how deep the waters run, and how pliable the service has to be in order to meet the needs of so many different styles of business in multiple industries. 

Almost immediately I gravitated towards a high-demand feature, the auto attendant.  A fan favorite as more companies utilize automated systems, the auto attendant replaces the old fashioned switchboard operators of yesteryear.  Think, “How may I direct your call?”   Or, remember the movie Office Space, “Corporate accounts payable, Nina speaking, just a moment.” 

Previously, auto attendants did not leave a great impression on the caller, as they were often shuffled off to hold music by an over-worked, cold secretary. Beginning in the early 1980s, many companies started realizing there’s a better way to route callers, and do so without utilizing man-hours.

At first glance, the auto attendant may seem to be yet another hindrance to “talking to a real person.” But peel back the layers and there’s so much more.  I spent the past 3 years working as one of the “voices” of Nextiva’s auto attendant and "greeting recording team," recording thousands of custom greetings for industry leaders, start-up entrepreneurs, and even a few residential customers.  I learned a few tricks of the trade along the way I’m happy to share.

The big and small of it all

big-dog-little-dogIf you are new to VoIP, you may not know where to start when it comes to drafting an auto attendant. A great first question is, “Do I want my business to look small? Or big?” 

To properly approach this, you’ll need to know where you stand in the realm of the business world.  With only a handful of employees under your wing, it’s easy to designate your company as a small business. But what if you have 20 employees?  What about 50 or 100?  Essentially you should decide if you want your business to look bigger than it is or smaller than reality?

Remember Mom and Pop shops where you call and talk directly to the business owner no matter the time of day? Well, that charm and level of attentiveness isn’t easily obtainable in the modern world. However, if you’re setting up your attendant and want to go for that small-town tenor, make your greeting short and sweet. Delivering callers quickly to a live person should help you convey this impression.

On the contrary, let’s say your business is a one or two person operation. You may not want all clients to know you’re a startup company still. Or, perhaps you are so busy you’d like to have callers navigate through an automated menu to buy time.

Fortune 500 or startup, an auto attendant can dynamically change the way you operate your business.

Take it on the run

If your business expands multiple locations, an auto attendant can unify your business in countless ways. First, with an automated system you are able to have one primary contact number but still route callers to any location under the system. For example, let’s say when your main number is called the greeting states, “Press 1 for the California location. Press 2 for Arizona.”  Now your main number expands over any physical location imaginable. In the past, each location would have a designated phone number.

Or, let’s say you have a representative who works from home or travels. Auto attendants, and VoIP in general, make it easy to route callers to remote employees, while the caller is none the wiser. This also works great if your business utilizes outsourced teams, for example.

Another option is to use the attendant if your business secretary is out for the day or on vacation. Setting up an emergency greeting you can use in cases like this will likely turn a hectic day into one more manageable.

Although you may choose not to use an attendant for day time hours, many entrepreneurs choose to deploy an automatic greeting for times when the shop is closed.  This is a great alternative to being open 24 hours a day/ 7 days a week.  And don’t forget, you can still route calls to remote locations, such as a cell phone, so you never miss a call.

Design on a Dime

Nextiva offers all account holders a free greeting recording, which is a great way to experiment with your new phone system. First you’ll want to draft a game plan. Start with a simple layout and then add to it later. Analyze how callers use your current phone system, and what features would improve their experience.  Let’s say callers are currently routed quickly to a phone, but are placed on hold often for long periods of time. Expanding your greeting would help your reps stay organized and better prepare for the next call.

Figure out how many access points callers require to reach your staff – say, Billing, Sales and Management, and then create dialing options for your attendant.  For example, let’s say you have two primary departments callers can be routed to.  Create an easy-to-follow attendant that welcomes callers, states the company name and 2 dialing options. Then, add in personal touches, such as a company slogan or a nicety, such as “Make it a great day!”

Welcome to PaperTime, the best in the biz when it comes to paper accessories. If you’d like to talk to a sales representative, please press 1. Otherwise, press 2 to speak to the next available support technician. Or, if you’d like to leave a voicemail, please hold or press 3. We appreciate your business, and be sure to make it a great day!

Life Hacks: Auto Attendant Edition

  • Don’t talk too fast or too slow!
  • Long auto attendants can frustrate callers; Be sure your attendant isn’t working against you. Use a timer to see how long it takes to navigate your attendant – most average 1-2 mins.
  • Make sure the script is well-written and easy to understand.
  • Test to be sure night-time schedules work properly.
  • Set up a generic “Closed for the day” greeting for holidays or unexpected office closures.
  • Update your attendant whenever your business needs change.
  • Don’t stray too far from the norm – make sure callers can navigate the system with ease.

Business VoIP ‘s Time Has Come

Posted on by Leo Welder

In the early to mid 1990’s, the Internet was a cool thing. Unfortunately, extremely slow and unreliable Internet Service Providers made it little more than a gimmick for most people. Not too long ago, smartphones with web browsers gave us a glimpse at portable computing, but it took the iPhone and high-speed wireless data plans to integrate them into the mainstream. VoIP is another technology that has taken many years to mature, but its time has finally come. Smartphones and VoIP are rapidly pushing traditional phone lines out of our homes, and all the signs point to the same happening in the business world.

I’ve been reviewing business technology products for the past seven years, and I started paying attention to VoIP services targeting business in 2009. At the time, my office was using a traditional Nortel phone system with AT&T phone lines, and I absolutely hated all of it. The phones were stupidly expensive and the functions were counter-intuitive. We also had to pay an IT guy to setup a new phone every time we made a new hire. When I read that business VoIP phones were less expensive, more flexible, easier to use and required no special IT skills to configure, I was excited to try them out. Unfortunately, when we started testing the products, the reliability and call quality was so poor that we couldn’t justify making the switch in our own office, let alone recommend other business owners purchase the products.

Over the next two years, the business VoIP companies invested heavily in their data infrastructures as well as the VoIP technology itself. The data compression technology that the companies developed dramatically decreased the amount of bandwidth that the phones needed to provide clear reception. Some companies also started creating redundancies with their servers and data, so if systems failed in one location, a backup would automatically take its place. These and other technological and process improvements dramatically improved VoIP’s call quality and reliability.

Stocksy_txp0e3537cfRr5000_Small_177711Our company finally made the switch to business VoIP in 2011. Everything worked as advertised and the features and cost savings were substantial. However, as we grew, we found that the lower equipment costs and monthly per line costs were eventually offset by the fact that every phone had to have it’s own dedicated line. Rather than paying for 4 rollover lines with AT&T, we were paying for 20 lines with our business VoIP carrier (one line for each employee and 2 conference rooms), but most of our employees only needed the phone a few times per week.

Over the last six to nine months, VoIP companies like Nextiva have started to offer customized plans based on each individual company’s needs. You can get dedicated lines, shared minute plans (VoIP’s equivalent to rollover lines), virtual extensions for mobile employees, and any combination of these in order to pay only for what you need.

Like high-speed wireless and smartphones, VoIP technology isn’t perfect. VoIP phone service still isn’t as reliable as a traditional landline, but its dramatically improved reliability combined with flexible pricing plans, incredible features and flexibility have leveled the playing field. The telecom industry recognizes that VoIP is where businesses are heading and the quality is only going to get better. For many businesses, it’s already a much better option than old school landlines.

 

Leo Welder is the Founder of Zilker Ventures, which owns and operates a family of websites focused on business technology. The company’s latest website is FindAFax.com, which is dedicated to online fax and Internet based communications.





 
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