Posts Tagged ‘Communication’


Shared Call Appearance: Make & Receive Calls From Multiple Devices

Cloud-based phone systems are feature-rich and provide endless opportunities to improve your business’s internal and customer communication. While some features may seem basic, they can revolutionize your productivity and efficiency. One of these features that is often underrated, but deserves more attention is Shared Call Appearance.

Shared Call Appearance is a useful feature available with all Nextiva Office® plans that allows your phone number to be assigned to multiple phones/devices. This means you can have a phone at your office, your house, the Nextiva App on your smartphone and a phone at another location that all have your number assigned to it, and you can make and receive calls as yourself from any of these devices. You can also apply someone else’s line in your company to your phone to make and receive calls as them.  This feature is useful if you work out of multiple offices, or need others to have the ability to make and receive calls on your behalf. Below are additional business benefits of the Shared Call Appearance feature.

  • You work out of multiple offices: If you’re constantly jumping between one of your business locations and another, and occasionally work from home, this feature ensures you can make and receive calls from your phone number on multiple devices.
  • You want others to be able to make calls on your behalf: This is very practical for Executive Assistants, receptionists and other team members who you’d like to have the ability to make and receive calls using your specific phone number.
  • You want a specific team to use the same phone number: If you’d like a team that doesn’t make and receive a high volume of calls to have one phone number that they can all use and can see when someone else is currently using the line.

Do you use Shared Call Appearance? Is there another feature you can’t live without? Share in the comments below.

If you’d like to learn more about Nextiva’s cloud-based business phone service, please visit www.nextiva.com.


The Power of Crowd-augmented, Transparent Customer Support

Rather than solely rely on its employees to answer customer support inquiries, Applegate, the successful purveyor of humanely raised and slaughtered meats, openly crowdsources commentary and advice from other customers to answer these questions honestly, making use of a community software platform called “Get Satisfaction.” By using the feedback from customers who have already explored these kinds of questions, Applegate is making transparency work in its favor, elevating the customer and its products at the same time. This is particularly useful to the company and to its customers, because Applegate regularly fields specific, detailed and emotionally charged questions about both the meat and the packaging in which it is conveyed.

Letting your customers be the experts–in support of other customers

JD Peterson, chief revenue officer at Scripted.com and well known as a force behind the popular Zendesk customer support platform, points out that the millennial need for recognition and feedback drives the push toward crowdsourcing: “Let your power users be the voice [of your brand]. Customers these days are more willing to do this kind of work for your brand, but they want recognition for doing it—they would like to be given that badge or stamp that says, ‘You’re the power expert in Applegate bacon.’ Giving power users that recognition, a badge, points [or] some sort of title, giving them something they can stamp on their resume or their LinkedIn profile that says they’re an expert or a power user, I think, is really important to customers today. It’s certainly a win for [the] business as well: You’re not having to take on all the burden of support costs because your users are able to do some of that for you—and your customers get closer to the brand at the same time by assisting you.”

The power of ratings and review transparency

Ratings and review transparency is likewise an important commercial trend: from voluntary transparency on sites like amazon.com that openly show customer ratings for all products (including sometimes mixed reviews for Amazon’s own Kindle tablets and Fire phone), to enforced transparency via TripAdvisor, Yelp and the like that post reviews of your services and products whether you want to be rated this way or not. Embrace this trend even though it can be uncomfortable, because it’s not going away. Reviews are now decentralized and user driven, and you can’t control product ratings, product discussions or much else in the way of reviews, except by providing the best customer experience possible and by being proactive in responding to negative trends that come to the surface in your reviews and ratings.

Emulate a company like Engine Yard, a San Francisco-based cloud application management platform that has taken the brave step of putting a real-time (not to mention cute and cuddly) indicator of its current customer satisfaction stats right on its support site. You’ll find 100 panda icons featured prominently on Engine Yard’s website with just a few “sad pandas” crossed out in red. Looking at the company’s site right now I see 97 happy pandas and three that are crossed out, indicating a current 97% customer satisfaction rating. How does Engine Yard arrive at the proportion of happy and sad pandas? Each time there’s a support interaction, Engine Yard asks the customer, “Are you satisfied with the response you got? Yes or no?” They then total that percentage on their website for anyone to see. This transparent approach goes a long way toward reassuring customers (and, perhaps as much to the point in the competitive arena in which Engine Yard plays), prospective customers that this company is, and will remain, on the ball throughout the life of the customer relationship. 


Five Tips for Social Media Success with Your Customers

Here are five secrets to succeeding on social media even in the face of the most irate customer postings (though read all the way to #5 for how to avoid most such postings in the first place).

1. Reach out directly to online complainers.
Suppose that you’ve spotted the following outrageous tweet about your firm:

Company X double-bills customers—Must Think We R Suckrs—#FAIL

This is insulting, and hard to handle. Not only will your staff need to suppress the urge to respond angrily, they also will need to prepare a response that is thoughtful and positive. A thoughtful and positive response in a situation like this is rare precisely because it’s so hard for somebody who has just been insulted to muster thoughtful positivity.

But that rarity makes it powerful: A thoughtful and positive response can come as such a surprise to an online critic that it can help to convert the critic into your advocate. At the least, it will stanch your losses.

First, however, in order to respond, you’ll first need to reach your critic. How can you do that online? That depends on your professional relationship with the critic. If the person behind this message follows you (or agrees temporarily to follow you) on Twitter, or if she’s in your database, send her a direct, “backchannel” message. Include a real, monitored email address and phone number. Otherwise, reply publicly in the same forum she chose. List offline ways to reach you (including a real, monitored email address and/or phone), and express your regret and concern.

Contacting a social media critic to request an offline conversation is the digital equivalent of ushering a loud and angry customer into your office for a discreet discussion. You move the discussion out of a public venue and into a one-on-one situation, where you can work directly with your antagonist without thousands of eyes dissecting your every move while failing to understand the whole story. After a successful resolution, politely ask the complainer to amend or even withdraw the original ugly comment.

2. A delayed response can create a social media fiasco. Can you spell F-I-A-S-C-O? The formula in social media is simple: Small Error +Slow Response Time = Colossal PR Disaster. Put differently, the magnitude of a company’s social media embarrassment is proportional to how delayed its online response was. An event in the online world gathers social steam with such speed that your delay can become more of a problem than the initial incident. Even an afternoon’s lag in responding can be catastrophic.

3. Whoever handles your social media responses needs as much customer service skill and training as your traditional customer service reps. Social media responses are customer service, plain and simple. Sure, it’s customer service at breakneck speed, with lots of hazards and quirks, but it’s still customer service. So if some of your customers expect that you will serve them via social media, meet their online expectations superbly. Engage and assist those customers online as energetically and effectively as you do through traditional service channels.

Get this effort off on the right foot by staffing your online presence with your company’s people. This is crucial. Companies often make the mistake of leaving social media teams instead in the hands of technical experts. Technical wizardry is a crucial resource, but don’t let that technical tail wag the customer service dog. Let your people experts lead the way — because your social media team needs to be every bit as customer-centric as your other support/response channels. If not, it’s bound to hurt your brand rather than help it.

4. Beware the Streisand effect. When someone uses social media to attack your business, your first urge, naturally, may be to sic lawyers on the critic, or otherwise try to intimidate the attacker into removing the complaint. Think carefully before taking that course of action. The rule online is that a defensive reaction tends to bring additional publicity—very negative publicity. This rule even has a name: the Streisand Effect, named after Barbra Streisand, who sued a photographer in a failed attempt to remove a photo of the singer’s precariously sited mansion from the California Coastal Records Project. Streisand’s aggressive reaction to free expression offended some netizens and titillated others. The result was far wider distribution of the photograph she wanted to suppress – on T-shirts, websites, coffee mugs – and a permanent blemish on her public image.

Over and over, brands and businesses discover the inviolability of the Streisand Effect the hard way. Threatening your online customers almost never solves the harm they are causing you, and it often backfires dramatically.

Any public, digital argument with a customer is an exponentially greater risk for your company than the old-fashioned kind of argument that didn’t involve social media. Without a doubt, arguing with customers has always been a losing proposition for time immemorial. But today, online, those same arguments are far costlier online, because of all the additional customers and prospects you risk losing who are watching from the sidelines. So make sure everybody who represents your company online has taken the time to learn how to slow down, breathe, and bite their tongue — consistently. Train them to think of the big picture. The future of your company likely depends on it.

5. Prevent most online complaints in the first place. Unhappy customers are unlikely to complain by public methods like Tripadvisor or on their blogs if they know they can use email, the phone, or a feedback form to reach you directly — and if they feel sure that their problem will be addressed immediately. You can do a lot to ensure that the first impulse of such customers is to reach out to you directly, day or night: Offer “chime-in” forms everywhere. Provide direct chat links for when your FAQ’s fail to assist. Provide an easy way to respond directly at the bottom of every corporate email you send out, instead of ending with that obnoxious “please do not reply to this email” footer.

Overall, become widely known for your rapid and satisfying responsiveness, and such customers will come to you, offer to help you improve — and will keep their complaints and misgivings “in the family.”


5 Ways to Improve Your Internal Communication With Cloud Phone Service

Effective and efficient internal communication is key to business success and an enjoyable work environment, but the execution is not always as easy as it seems. Keeping appropriate team members informed and ensuring communication is seamless between employees, departments, and different locations takes a significant amount of dedication, effort and communication tools.  Luckily, technology, and specifically cloud-based unified communications services, have streamlined processes and made it easier than ever to stay connected and communicate within your organization.

Nextiva Office® is a robust cloud-based suite of products that will improve your internal communication. Below are five key features within Nextiva Office that will change the way your team communicates.

The Nextiva App

With features such as chat and Presence, it is easy to communicate with team members when you’re in the office or working remotely. Additionally, you’ll have your business phone at your fingertips so colleagues can reach you anytime without having to call multiple numbers to track you down.

Group Paging

Sometimes an email just won’t do. The Group Paging feature allows you to initiate a one-way call to multiple users. You can easily broadcast information to a group of people from the convenience of your office phone.

Call Forwarding

Reduce your colleagues’ frustration and wait time by automatically redirecting, or forwarding, calls to a third party destination, such as a phone number or extension based on circumstances you specify, when you are away from your office phone.

Voicemail-to-Text

With the more advanced version of Voicemail-to-Email, Voicemail-to-Text transcribes your voicemails and sends them to you via email or SMS depending on your personal preferences. You’ll be able to quickly reference information mentioned in the voicemail when working with coworkers on a project. Also, easily share the message with colleagues to reduce issues that arise from miscommunication.

Quick Call Transfers

Quickly transfer calls and call team members in different locations or home offices via an extension. You no longer have to dial a full 10-digit number or ask the customer to hang up and call the other location’s direct number.

What tools do you use in your business for effective internal communication? 


Is a Cloud-Based Phone System Right for You?

Many businesses are beginning to realize that in addition to the economic advantages, cloud-based phone systems are more powerful than traditional phone lines. Cloud-based phone systems, often called VoIP, leverage broadband Internet connections instead of the standard phone line. The technology transforms voice singals in to a digital form that can travel over the Internet, which enables a low-cost but powerful way to make and receive phone calls from a variety of devices. Is a cloud-based phone system right for your business? Read through the infographic below to learn more about the business advantages of cloud-based communications solutions. 

Cloud-Based Phone System Infographic


Nextiva Customer Success Story: Carroll Organization

Businesses are always looking for ways to cut costs when it comes to their operating expenses without sacrificing the features and systems they rely on to run and grow their businesses. With a cloud-based phone system, businesses get more functionality than a traditional provider, but at a flat monthly fee per user. This significantly reduces a main operating expense—the phone system. Over the past few years more and more businesses have made the switch to a cloud-based phone system for these reasons.

We love meeting Nextiva customers, learning more about their business, and why they made the switch to Nextiva. Recently, our team had the opportunity to meet with Pavan Nanduri, Director of Information Systems at Carroll Organization in Atlanta, Georgia who is one of the larger businesses Nextiva serves. Pavan began looking for a new phone system because the company wanted to cut costs and find a solution that was easy to implement at the high-quality multi-family homes across the country the company invests in and manages. The old on-premises PBX system they were using was costly to maintain, changes to the system could take days, and it was not a scalable solution to grow with the company as they acquire and build more properties. Pavan knew a cloud-based solution would meet Carroll Organization’s communication needs. This led him to Nextiva.

Nextiva provided the value, reliability and features Pavan wanted, at an affordable price that pleased Carroll Organization’s investors and partners. Additionally, by moving to Nextiva’s NextOS platform, the company now benefits from:

  • Quick implementation of Nextiva’s cloud phone service at properties they acquire and invest in. They can plug in the phones and be operational in a matter of minutes.
  • No service or maintenance fees, and all system upgrades are handled by Nextiva so the company always has the latest technology available.
  • Crystal clear call quality that reflects the professionalism of the organization.
  • Reliable service that ensures investors, partners and residence can always reach the company.
  • Easily transfer calls between the main office in Atlanta and the properties Carroll Organization manages throughout the country.

Meet Pavan and hear Carroll Organization’s Nextiva story in the video below. 


Finally, The Top 10 Email and Text Acronyms Explained

8-13 Business Acronyms smallBusiness conversation is becoming more informal these days with the use of email and texting. The need to respond quickly has given birth to an entirely new vocabulary and acronyms. Many small business owners need to look them up to understand what people are talking about.

Here is your short guide to the most common acronyms and what they really mean:

1. EOM- End of Message. This is especially useful on mobile phones that only download the header for the message. By putting EOM in the title, the receiver knows that is the entire message and does not need to read further.

2. NRN- No Reply Necessary. A perennial favorite for the cluttered email box, this message means that it is FYI or “For Your Information” and does not need to be replied to (so don’t).

3. TLTR- Too Long to Read. Some people send long volumes of emails or very detailed text messages. This acronym is used to tell the sender to shorten it up and just send a summary. Sometimes it is written TL:DR or “ Too Long, Did Not Read”

4. Y/N- Yes or No. This asks for a simple answer from the receiver. Any further explanation is not required. They may respond IDK or “I Don’t Know”.

5. EOD- End of Day. This typically refers to when a task will be completed by or sets a deadline. It is interchangeable with COB or by “Close of Business”. Another acronym used instead is PRB or “Please Reply By”. A longer time frame is signified as EOW or “End of Week”. This is the opposite of TYT or “Take Your Time”

6. WFH- Working from Home. It is an increasingly popular option to not work in an office. This acronym is used to let the receiver know they are working, but will not be able to meet at the office. However, they are not OOO or “Out of the Office”.

7. LET- Leaving Early Today. Fewer jobs are 9 to 5 these days and this acronym is used to alert the receiver on a work schedule change.

8. SFW- Safe for Work. Many people are afraid to open attachments especially at work for fear of a virus. This signifies that it is okay to open whatever has been sent.

9. IMO or IMHO- In My “Humble” Opinion. No one wants to sound like they know everything at work. This adds humility to a response instead of stating it as fact. FWIW or “For What It’s Worth” can also be used.

10. ITT- In This Thread. Many times a receiver needs to follow the email thread to make sense of the entire conversation. This reminds them to read more.

BTW or “By The Way”, there are more acronyms that are important to know so you can LMAO. Look it up!


Call Forwarding: Route Your Calls However You’d Like

Mature business woman talking with mobile phone on urban outdoors.You’ve probably experienced this scenario before: you’re calling a business and their phone rings, and rings, and rings. This causes you frustration and valuable time is wasted. This business did not have an essential tool in their business communication arsenal—call forwarding.

While the concept of call forwarding is pretty straightforward and basic, it can revolutionize your business. Reduce your customers and colleagues frustration and wait times by automatically redirecting, or forwarding, calls to a third party destination, such as a phone number or extension based on circumstances you specify.

Do you want a call to forward to your cell phone if you don’t answer your desk phone after three rings? Do you want to forward all calls to a specific number after your business is closed for the day? If you answered yes, then your business needs call forwarding.

Benefits of Call Forwarding:

  • Reduce customer frustration and unnecessary waiting
  • Ensure important customer calls are being answered
  • Redirect calls based on circumstances you specify
  • Receive calls on a different device if you’re away from your desk
  • And more!

The call forwarding feature is included in all of our Nextiva Office plans and is easy to manage in our customer portal. You can set specific schedules, circumstances and forwarding rules based on your business needs. If you don’t already use Nextiva for your business communication needs, give us a call at (800) 799-0600 or visit nextiva.com to learn more. 


To Fix Your Service, Fix Your Systems

Man working with electrial componentsLet’s imagine you own a body shop.  Some of your customers start reporting (in person if you’re lucky; on Yelp if you’re not) an unsatisfactory customer interaction with one of your cashiers.  Your first impulse is to bite the young lady’s head off, but I hope you’ll hold that impulse in check and look at the situation dispassionately.  You may see something like the following:  your cashier’s disorganized, doesn’t have proper change, doesn’t have her computer turned on at the beginning of her shift–in time to serve you, the first customer who walks up to her–and can’t find a pen for you to sign the credit card slip.

What you’ll discover, in other words, is a failure of systems.  Including some or all of the following:

• Onboarding: why wasn’t she prepped on what the necessary supplies are for starting a shift?

• Training: has she been instructed in one of the workplace organization systems, perhaps 5S, which is a component of Lean Manufacturing methodology?

• Scheduling:  Was she told to show up at the minute the body shop opens rather than a more realistic 30 minutes earlier so she could both mentally and physically prepare, get her terminal switched on, get her bank ready to make change, and so forth?

• Hiring. Saying that there was a failure in hiring is sort of like saying it’s the employee’s (cashier’s) fault, but not really.  If she is wrong for this position–too shy, not detail-oriented enough, etc.–it’s not her fault, it’s the fault of the system (or hunch, in far too many companies) that is responsible for selecting her, in error, for this position.

So, when the customer service at your business goes bad, it’s almost certainly because one or more of your customer service systems are broken. (As the founder of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company has often said, if something goes wrong once, it might be the fault of the employee.  If it happens twice, it’s definitely the system.) And that’s what’s most important to understand about customer service systems: Gaps in organizational performance are almost always the result of a breakdown or lack of an appropriate Service System.

In my cashier example, it’s clear that a system needs to be developed to ensure that all supplies are stocked before each shift. This could be in the form of a small checklist or a job description that clearly defines the role of each employee. However the organization chooses to deal with the situation is fine – as long as it solves the problem for good. The absolute wrong thing to do is to yell at the cashier for not stocking the items. Not only is this demoralizing for a good employee who is trying her best, but it also doesn’t solve the problem systematically–in other words, in a sustainable manner.

So, how do you discover the systems that are missing or mis-designed? There are systems for that, but it is first and foremost dependent on building a culture where mistakes are embraced as learning opportunities, and guest complaints as opportunities for improvement. Turning every issue that comes up into a witch hunt will make your service team timid to the extent that they’re more focused on covering their, uh, assets than on providing service. You need your employees to tell you when they’ve made a mistake – so that it can be fixed in the future–systematically.




 
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