Posts Tagged ‘VoIP’


3 Tech Tools That Make Your Small Business Seem Much Larger

11-13 shadowBusinesses no longer are forced to lease office space and hire multiple employees to start and grow. Thanks to the many technology tools that are available today, even a one-person startup operating out of a home office can interact with clients and customers. Best of all, these tools are often affordable, utilizing the devices an entrepreneur already has.

By choosing the right selection of tools, a professional can grow slowly, giving customers the impression the business is located in a large multi-story business suite. Here are three great technologies that can turn your small enterprise into a complex business, complete with customer service representatives and administrative assistants.

VoIP Call Forwarding

As a small business owner, your cell phone is your lifeline. Today’s cloud-enabled VoIP phone systems offer a wide variety of features to facilitate communication as you grow. Using an online interface or a desk phone, a business can forward calls as needed throughout the day.

As a business adds employees, additional users can be added, with calls being routed to employees whether they’re at home, in the office, or traveling from one meeting to the next. These systems can also be set to ring multiple phones at once, so a professional can have a desk phone, cell phone, and home phone ring simultaneously to ensure no call is ever missed.

Cloud Services

Cloud service providers have served as the great equalizer in the business world, giving SMBs access to technologies traditionally only available to larger businesses. Companies pay a monthly fee for access to software, file and application hosting, and web hosting from any device. Cloud services providers employ some of the best IT professionals to provide the highest level of security and reliability.

In addition to providing storage and software functionality, the cloud has also made it possible for businesses to rethink the traditional approach to getting work completed. Instead of committing to a full-time employee with salary and benefits, a business owner can contract with an online virtual assistant to help manage tasks, as well as graphic designers, application developers, marketing professionals, and other workers. This work can be done on a paid-per-job basis, with workers potentially living on the other side of the world.

Billing and Payment Solutions

Invoicing is an essential part of any growing business. During the process of building and growing a startup, an entrepreneur doesn’t have the time to dedicate to sending invoices, collecting payments, and tracking funds. Automated solutions give business owners the opportunity to automate the process, saving time and preventing costly errors.

Newer solutions also offer the opportunity of setting up a portal through which clients and vendors can view and pay invoices, as well as view the status of pending payments. These tools cut down on the number of phone calls for information and give a business an even more professional, big business appearance.

Technology has opened up many possibilities for businesses, including giving small businesses the ability to appear much larger. By setting up the right infrastructure from the beginning, an SMB can give itself a competitive edge in its field.


Changes Coming to Nextiva Invoices

As a service provider in the regulated VoIP industry, Nextiva is required to collect federal, state and local government taxes, surcharges and fees. These taxes and fees are location and usage based and will now be itemized on Nextiva invoices.

Monthly invoices, beginning this month, will include the following sections:

  • Subscription Plan Fee – Product price per user and usage charges, where applicable
  • Package Add Ons – Phones, devices and plan upgrades
  • Shipping – Initial order shipping of phones and devices
  • Taxes and Fees – Itemization of federal, state, city and other local taxes, regulatory surcharges and service delivery fees
  • Phone Numbers on Account – A list of all phone and fax numbers on the account
  • Billing Information – Account billing address and payment information

Standard Definitions:

RRF = Regulatory Recovery Fee: The RRF is assessed as a percentage of interstate and international charges. The RRF is intended to recover increased VoIP provider operating cost due to local, state, and federal regulatory compliance. RRF is separate from government taxes and fees. 

E911 = Enhanced 911 is a service that associates a caller’s physical address with their phone number. In case of emergency calls, the caller’s phone line generates an automatic number identification (ANI) signal to the network. The E911 system then routes the number to the appropriate emergency center. This service is supported by a dedicated network that has been built to address E911 call needs from a reliability, capacity and technology standpoint. All VoIP providers, as well as local and state emergency facilities, are responsible for collecting and funding different aspects of the infrastructure that supports this critical service.

USF = Universal Service Fund: Universal service is the principle that all Americans should have access to communications services. The USF assessment is a charge collected by telecommunications carriers for federal and state funds that support the provision of affordable communications services to rural, isolated, and high-cost regions of the country; low-income residential consumers; schools, libraries, and rural health care.

Invoice Modifications


NextOS Enhancements – What to Expect in Your Business Communications

NextOS EnhancementsNextiva is excited to announce the upcoming enhancements to the NextOS system. In the coming months, we will introduce several new features for Nextiva Office products as well as Call Center. We know these enhancements will help make your business even more efficient and productive. Here are the highlights

Nextiva Office

We are improving the experience for your customers from the minute they call into your business.

  • The Auto Attendant now has the option for Holiday Hours on the menu.
  • Upon completion of announcements played on the Auto Attendant, it will automatically take callers back to the main menu.
  • You can store media files in a repository for all of your announcements and easily access different messages when you need to make changes.
  • If you use our Meet-Me Conferencing, you will notice that you can now see who is talking during the conference taking all the guess work out of collaboration.
  • Receptionist Consoles will now display calendar information for all users in real-time.
  • Everyone using the dashboard will see their colleagues’ presence/availability status and IM them on the spot.
  • New options will be available for Executive/Admin roles, allowing for multiple configurations, where all key features are supported in a single view, including Call Screening, Simultaneous Ring, Monitoring, Bridging and Call Push/Pull.

Call Center

We are also enhancing Nextiva Call Center to improve agent efficiency and customer experience.

  • Agent skill-based routing will send calls to only agents/groups of agents assigned to a certain business skill, i.e. advanced technical service, claims processing or administrator skillss.
  • Agents and Supervisors will see visual cues when agents are not operating within desired limits, SLAs or KPIs, so adjustments can quickly be made or training issues addressed.
  • Queue status will now be visible to support better staffing, call routing and training decisions.

Stay tuned for more information in the near future! 


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: 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:


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.



The Nextiva App Has Arrived!

The Nextiva App is here! Available for Nextiva Office ProPlus and Enterprise users on NextOS, it's a free application that simultaneously syncs your business communications between multiple devices. Find out more here:

Download the Nextiva App to your desktop and smartphone today!




 
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