Posts Tagged ‘Business VoIP’


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.


What Can VoIP Do For Your Business?

How can switching to a cloud-based telephone system transform your business? Our latest infographic breaks it down for you. In addition to huge cost savings and innovative features, the cloud will keep your employees more mobile and productive than ever before!

Infographic-2013-06-20

Interested in discovering a customized cloud-based communications solution for your business? We would love to chat! Contact a Nextiva account executive at 800.799.0600.

 

 


Best Practices: Buying a Business Phone System

Your company is looking to buy a new phone system and you aren’t sure where to start. I recently wrote about how to choose an online vendor for The Huffington Post, and will incorporate those tips (and add more) in this piece to help business executives looking to switch to a modern business phone service.

First, embrace the cloudguy-on-desk-phone

Gone are the days of traditional landline phone systems. Cloud-based solutions allow companies the flexibility to seamlessly forward calls to cell phones, integrate offices (without having to cross physical phone lines) and apply fixes instantaneously (no more waiting until a storm passes to get your phone service back up and running).

Establish your goals

What do you love and hate about your current phone system? What do you wish it included? Phone systems are critically important to business operations and, although it may seem like an internal problem to solve, your phone service is something that impacts all of your customers so it pays to dedicate time to choosing the right vendor for your business.

Sit down with your management team and draw up a wish list for your next phone service provider.

Research providers

There are many cloud-based phone service providers out there, so it is important to talk with your network and research the best service for your company. Try narrowing your search to two or three providers and then calling them individually. Discuss offerings with customer service agents and ask every question that comes into your head. Good customer service employees will not rush you through the call, even if you don’t intend on making a purchase.

Check references

When talking with a customer service agent, ask for the names and phone numbers of three or four clients with comparable businesses to your own. Prepare questions and ring each one. Ask technical and non-technical questions such as:

  • How long was your set up process with this vendor?
  • How is the customer service?
  • How reliable is the phone service? Could you give examples?
  • When you run into problems, how are they handled?
  • What service/package did your company purchase?

Go with your gut

After speaking with several vendors and hearing testimonials of like-minded small business owners, you will likely know which service to choose. Strongly weigh a company’s customer service practices, then go with your gut and move forward. 


Master the Art of Balance as a Road Warrior

Traveling and working isn’t easy, but still many companies expect it from employees, especially with new communication tools that allow for always-on connectivity.

Yet workers can actually stay productive and work while traveling if they follow certain steps.

  • Find a Dedicated Workspace - The first issue is finding a workspace that nurtures your work mentality and put you into productivity mode. Finding this while traveling may not be easy though. You can use the hotel kitchen table, but a local coffee shop is often better. Better yet, go to the local library for minimal distractions.
  • Identify When You’re Most Productive - Once you identify when you’re most productive, you should plan your most difficult or pressing work during those times and leave the easier work for the time of day you’re usually not as productive.
  • Create a Work List - Zen Habits suggests creating a list that prioritizes work. The first list has three things to be done today. The second is three things you’d like to get done, but aren’t essential. The third is three things that need to be done at some point.
  • Set Concrete Work Hours - Try setting a time limit to get your work done, say 90 minutes, and you’ll be surprised at just how productive you’ll be in that short time, says FreelanceSwitch.com. With a limited time frame, people are often more efficient, since Parkinson’s Law suggests that a task will inflate in difficulty and importance relative to the time allocated to it, the site says.
  • Block out Distractions - Cut out the countless distractions that can sabotage your work, including email that can interrupt your productivity. Close your web browser and resist the urge to engage in social media and read articles and any other Internet activities not related to work. Save those for your downtime. If you’re working in a busy coffee shop, wear earphones and listen to classical music.

We hope these tips are helpful for your days out of the office as a road warrior. To learn more ways that you can experience more mobility and flexibility with your incoming and outgoing business calls, give us a ring at 800-983-4289! We would be happy to tell you about Nextiva Connect – a virtual phone system that allows you to route your calls to anywhere you are at any time through an online control panel.


Why Go Mobile?

VoIP is a powerful communication tool that is helping businesses of all sizes take advantage of numerous features. While significant cost savings is often the primary advantage of VoIP, mobility is quickly becoming a deciding factor for businesses to transition to VoIP communications.

The United States has the highest percentage of mobile workers, with 72.2% of the workforce mobile in 2008, according to IDC. By 2013, an estimated 75.5% of the U.S. workforce, or 119.7 million workers, will be mobile.

Mobility helps company employees stay connected anytime, anywhere by having access to important company information wherever they may be. There are three key areas where businesses can expect ROI from a mobile workforce, according to the Yankee Group:

  • Improved services
  • Decreased costs
  • Increased revenue

A mobile workforce that has constant access to real-time information and software can make smarter decisions and process requests faster, which leads to improved services. This also improves overall productivity since employees can work faster and more efficiently. IP phone technology like Cisco SPA phones feature productivity features like video conferencing, call forwarding, visual voicemail and other features to help a mobile workforce.

Plus, a successful mobile workforce helps decrease costs by reducing workflow volumes and streamlining business processes. New mobility solutions like IP-based phone systems reduce costs through Internet-based phone calls. Also, businesses ultimately reduce costs by streamlining both Internet and phone into one communications system. Internet-based calls and conferencing help to reduce costs by up to 85 percent, compared with legacy phone systems.

How Mobility is Helping SMBs Compete with Enterprises

Today’s small to medium-sized business customers expect SMBs to deliver service, support and products that are on par with big businesses. However, SMBs are often burdened with the need to provide these services with limited resources.

VoIP has emerged as a powerful new communication tool that is helping SMBs compete with larger businesses by providing enterprise-level support, service, mobility and more.

“SMBs know that having reliable, always-on communications helps them maintain the kind of quality of service that has traditionally been provided by much larger competitors with an established 9 to 5 culture,” according to the Wall Street Journal article, Technology is Helping SMBs to Become a Global Force.

There are numerous ways SMBs benefit from VoIP technology. The following are some of the more important ones SMBs use to help them better compete with larger companies:

  • Cost Savings - One of the biggest benefits of VoIP to SMBs is cost savings. With VoIP technology, phone calls are made over the Internet and can reduce a phone bill by as much as 85 percent, when compared with legacy phone lines.
  • Anywhere, Anytime Access - Today’s workforce is more mobile than ever and SMBs need to provide access to employees working out of hotel rooms, airport lounges, remote branches, and home offices. Without it, mobile and remote workers lose valuable time. VoIP connects remote and mobile workers to an SMB’s critical applications such as customer-relationship management and sales force automation tools, e-mail, instant messaging, and more. 
  • Employee Collaboration - Frequent collaboration among employees is often essential for SMBs. Yet does an SMB develop a richly collaborative environment when many employees collaborate remotely or on the go? A cloud-based network with integrated voice, video, data, and wireless communications delivers interactive calendaring, Web-based videoconferencing, IP telephony, and other tools that foster collaboration.
  • Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Connectivity - An estimated 88% of executives worldwide report employees are using their own personal computing technologies for business purposes today, according to a report by Avanade. 58% of respondents said the greatest outcome of BYOD was the ability for their employees to work from anywhere, followed by their employees being more willing to work after hours (42 percent).

These are just some of the key ways SMBs are leveraging VoIP to enhance their business productivity and efficiency, and help them compete against larger corporations. To see how much money your business can save with Nextiva business VoIP, call us today at 800-983-4289.




 
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