Archive for the ‘Business’ Category


NextOS 3.0 Beta – User Features

NextOS 3.0 Beta User Portal_v2NextOS 3.0 Beta is now available for Users, complete with a brand new dashboard designed to make it easy for you to handle the most common tasks. For your convenience, you can also now log in to NextOS 3.0 directly from nextiva.com.

Here are all the features that are currently available for Users. For functionality not listed below (including some advanced features and call center services), please continue to use NextOS 2.0 (cp1.nextiva.com).

On the Dashboard, you can:

  • Change voicemail PIN with one click
  • See, play, and delete voicemail messages
  • View company directory
  • See all active call features in one place
  • Look at recent call history

Available calling features:

  • Assign multiple numbers or extensions to your primary number with Alternate Numbers. You can also specify a distinctive ring pattern for each one.
  • Busy Lamp Field lets you see/monitor the phone use of another user right from your 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 receive an email notification when you receive a call that meets pre-defined criteria (for example, from a specified phone number).
  • Use Calling Line ID Blocking Override to see the Caller ID information from callers, even if they have attempted to block you from seeing it.
  • Look up the name of a caller in an external database when the name does not arrive with the original call using Calling Name Retrieval.
  • Record your incoming and outgoing calls with Call recording.
  • Use Connected Line Identification Restriction to block your number from being shown to the person calling you.
  • Custom Ringback User lets you customize what your callers hear when waiting for you to pick up.
  • Use Do Not Disturb to automatically forward all incoming calls to voicemail, without ringing your phone.
  • Redirect your incoming calls to a specified number outside of your location's business hours using Location Forwarding.
  • Use Hoteling to associate your service profiles with devices other than your own. With Hoteling Host you can act as a host to allow another user with the hoteling guest service to use your device as their own. Use Hoteling Guest to associate your service profile with a host and use the host’s device like it’s your own phone.
  • 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.
  • Use Personal Conference Bridges to allow multiple parties to join a conference call.
  • Play an announcement to an incoming caller, before their call is put through, with a Pre-Alerting Announcement.
  • Control your Privacy Settings by selecting how your information will be shared with other users.
  • Use Push to Talk to set up intercom-like functionality with others you speak with regularly on your phone system.
  • 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 your number, or after you don't answer within the pre-defined number of rings.
  • Display your extension on one or more phones with Shared Call Appearance.
  • Ring multiple phones or extensions simultaneously when someone calls your number with Simultaneous Ring.
  • 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 your voicemail messages to your email address.

How to Encourage Your Employees to Adopt New Technology Solutions

Most people are averse to change. If employees are accustomed to using a certain technology or process, it can be difficult for them to accept a new solution.  Whenever a new technology is implemented, business owners should expect pushback and have a plan ready to overcome it.  Here are some simple steps you can take to prepare your employees for a new technology implementation: 

  1. Communicate the Benefits

Perhaps the most important part of introducing a new workplace solution is explaining why you are doing so.  Focus on the positives; share with employees the new perks, efficiency, convenience, etc. that they will benefit from after the implementation is complete.  For example, if adopting your business is switching to a VoIP system, such as Nextiva’s, you can focus on the increased reliability, time-saving features, and lower cost to the company.  If you have done your research and chosen a solution that is an improvement over the previous one, it shouldn’t be too hard to deflect objections and help your employees understand why this is a change for the better.

  1. Provide Realistic Expectations

It is unfair to expect your entire company to switch to a new system and learn all the features in one day.  There should be a transitional period for everyone to grow accustomed to the new system and become comfortable with everything.  Following the Nextiva VoIP example, it should be fairly simple to train everyone on how to make and receive phone calls in one day, but it may be a bit more difficult for everyone to learn the star codes and embrace new features, such as call parking.  Offer a timeline for learning so that nobody feels rushed.

  1. Designate Practice Time

If employees have to use the system for the first time during their normal work activities, they may feel flustered.  They also may not want to spend time learning a new solution when they can be working on ongoing projects.  To avoid this common source of tension and stress, provide a designated time for employees to test out the new system.  An hour or two set aside on one day can be enough depending on the complexity of the technology.  Allow your staff to openly explore the features and learn what they can through experimentation under low-stress conditions.  They can help each other, ask for assistance, and get a handle on using the program before being in a higher-stakes environment.

  1. Offer Support

Instructions and help should be easily accessible to everyone who will be using the new system.  In most cases, the company providing the new service should have some of these resources available.  For example, Nextiva offers a Customer Support Center with written explanations and videos for common questions, along with a dedicated Support line you can call to speak to a technical specialist.  Your company may want to provide more resources, however, so it could be beneficial to have a few experts on your team.  These experts will then be available to train individuals seeking more assistance and answer questions on site.   

  1. Allow Feedback

Employees want to know that their opinions are valid and sought after by their company.  Encourage feedback on the new system so your employees know their thoughts and feelings are valued and taken into consideration.  Gaining feedback is also beneficial for identifying areas that may be problematic in a new system, where training needs to be conducted, and just the general feeling from employees.  It is important to keep your staff happy, so take their feedback and suggestions to heart, and make the new solution a positive change for everyone!

Adopting new workplace solutions can be a hurdle, but with proper training and explanation, it should be simple to keep your workforce happy.


Mondays with Mike: Empower Your Employees With These 3 Questions

We’re entrepreneurs at least partly because we want to be in charge.  We have the vision, the plan, and the drive to achieve success.  That’s why it’s hard to loosen our grip on the reins sometimes.  Hard, but absolutely critical.

If you insist on making every decision in your company, you’ll never, ever grow much beyond where you are right now.  Why?  Because no one person can do it all.  I don’t care how smart you are or how many hours you’re willing to put in.  Growth requires that you relinquish some control and trust the good people you’ve hired.

But you can’t just send new hires off and let them start making critical decisions.  There’s a process – three steps that you can use to help your staff (and yourself) make the very best decisions possible.  Use this list of questions to guide your employees’ decision making process.  Until they can answer “yes” to question one, there’s no moving on.  When all three questions get affirmative answers, then they can proceed.

  1. Does this decision further our company’s uniqueness?  Seriously, this question matters more than you realize.  Your points of difference are all that distinguish you from the hordes of competitors dying to steal your clients.  If a decision doesn’t contribute to the unique offerings you provide to the marketplace, then you run the risk of becoming invisible – and that’s fatal.  Push your employees to understand the ways in which your uniqueness is critically important, and if they can’t answer “yes” to this question, they have to stop.  They can’t move on until they’ve reworked an opportunity to reflect what sets you apart.
  2. Does this decision further serve our best clients?  One of the great challenges of running a business over the course of time is being able to reinvent yourself while still preserving what brought customers to you in the first place.  You must train your staff to keep in mind that without customers, there is no revenue.  Unless an opportunity can improve your service, then you shouldn’t proceed further.
  3. Does this decision maintain or enhance profitability?  Once your employees have an idea that preserves your company’s uniqueness and better serves your clients, then the last hurdle is the bottom line.  Companies can’t run on ideas alone.  If a decision doesn’t pass the fiscal test, it’s dead in the water.

Now, it’s important to note that each of these questions can be a dead end, but perhaps only temporarily.  Just because you answer “no” doesn’t mean you can’t rework an idea or an opportunity so that it turns into a “yes.”  Teaching your staff not to be easily frustrated is another big part of empowerment.  Working through options to refine and polish your decisions will inevitably teach your staff valuable skills that will serve them throughout their entire career.

Good decisions are often what separate success from failure.  Training yourself and your staff to make better decisions not only helps you become more efficient (by empowering your staff.)  It also sets your company up for growth and success. 


The Need is Now: Nextiva and Phoenix Children’s Hospital Partnership

2-2 PCH Feb 2016 PartnershipNextiva is committed to helping organizations in our community and nationwide that we are passionate about supporting, which is why we started Nextiva Cares.  During the month of February, we are partnering with Phoenix Children’s Hospital for their “The Need is Now” campaign to support the building of their new Pediatric Trauma Center.

Nextiva is running a social media campaign to determine the amount that will be donated to PCH at the end of February. For every share we receive on our Facebook and LinkedIn posts, every retweet on Twitter, and every like on Instagram, Nextiva will donate $1 to The Need is Now Campaign.

There is a critical need for a new Trauma Center at PCH. Their current treatment facility is designed to treat just 22,000 patients annually, but more than 83,000 patients are treated there each year. The new facility will be relocated closer to the helipad, imaging equipment, and operating rooms in order to provide better and more timely care. It will double the capacity of the current facility, allowing for treatment of up to 140,000 patients per year.

Phoenix Children’s Hospital is Arizona’s only Level 1 Pediatric Trauma Center, the highest designation given to a hospital. This means that PCH is specially qualified to care for the sickest patients.

So how can you help us donate even more? Click the links below to do your part by sharing, retweeting, and liking these posts:

Facebook | LinkedIn | Twitter | Instagram


Six improvements to make in your customer service experience (that you can begin today)

Here are six areas of your customer service experience that may be ripe for a review and overhaul: areas where you may be able to make a significant improvement due to their importance and how often these areas are overlooked in many businesses.

1.      Become scientific–and traits-based– in your hiring. The reality is that not everyone is cut out to work face to face (or phone to phone, or terminal to terminal) with employees. For success with customers, hiring needs to be a scientific process.  Hiring on a hunch is deadly, and — quite often — discriminatory.  So: Hire to a profile, study your results, revise your profile, and keep at it.  (For a shortcut to get you started, use my acronym WETCO as your rule of thumb for the five traits most crucial in employees with frequent customer contact:  Warmth, Empathy, Teamwork, Conscientiousness, and Optimism. )  

2.     Reinforce your customer excellence standards daily. The very best organizations talk about the importance of customer service every single day, every single shift.  The Ritz-Carlton has been doing this since the 1980’s and they don’t miss a single shift.

3.     Pay special attention to the two parts of the service experience that are most memorable to a customer: the beginning and the end of the customer’s interaction with you. Also: be sure to recognize that the beginning starts before the beginning”—that customers are picking up info and implications about you before they ever arrive at your official website or the front door of your establishment.

4.     It’s crucial that you have a customer service recovery process in place for when things go south. It doesn’t work to wing it every time a customer is irritated, frustrated, or flat-out furious. No matter how superb your product or service is, every company needs a service recovery process with the goal of restoring (or even enhancing) customer satisfaction, as well as reducing the possibility of a recurrence.

5.     Be as timely as your customers expect you to be: A perfect product, or perfect customer service, delivered late, is a defect. Being late or misleading about timetables, being insensitive to the timing issues and pacing preferences and expectations of your customers, is problematic.  Great institutions are doing everything possible these days to adjust themselves to the customer’s perception of time: this includes self-service options for project tracking (for example, USAA Insurance allows you to see the progress of your insurance claim online, 24/7), flexibility on delivery times, guaranteed times for menu items in fast casual restaurants, and more.

6.     Strive to see, taste, feel and even smell your company the way your customers do? You can learn a lot by parking where your customers park, entering via the same entrance your customers use, calling in on the same phone lines and using the same retail website and perhaps-laborious login routine you make your customers go through. You learn a lot this way. If you use reserved parking and the employee entrance and your intranet, or–worse–spend the day holed up in your office, you won’t.  You’ll, tragically, find out about your company’s problems on Yelp rather than from your own eyes.


How to Close the Gap from Prospect to Happy Customer

Sales is a scary thing for many small business owners, but if you can figure out how to turn your sales fear into sales courage, you will change the game in your business. The key lesson I have learned about sales, in my almost 17 years in business, is that the gap between getting a prospect and turning that prospect into a customer can become shorter and shorter with only a few steps. Here are ways you can shorten that gap:

  • Speed up your sales cycle
  • Weed out unqualified prospects
  • Convert with confidence
  • Remove the fear from sales for good

Step 1: Know who your target audience is with 100% certainty. Nothing else in removing the gap between prospecting and completed sales will work without this foundational step. You want to know:

  • Who they listen to
  • Where they hang out both online and offline
  • What their sense of humor is (this is very important believe it or not!), and
  • What the one problem or challenge is that keeps them up at night.

Step 2: Tighten up your business brand. Design your signature content and your business around your ideal customer. Use the lingo of your ideal customer. Mimic the style of the experts they pay attention to. Create Facebook posts based on what they like to see from businesses similar to yours. Create a brand image with attractive logos, tag lines, and clear messaging about who you are as a business, where you are going, and who you’d like to come with you. Note: A blog is a great place to make this step a reality; you can create, nurture, and control well into the future.

Step 3: Review your previous sales cycle. Ask yourself how long it took to go from prospect to sale with all of your products – even if it was one sale of one product or service. You need this as research for how to cut down on time – and extra steps – in the sales process.

Step 4: Beef up your brand awareness: Use what you’ve learned about the length of time and the steps necessary to close a sale. Did your ideal customers in those past sales convert faster than customers who were not in your ideal target audience? Most likely the answer is yes. Solution: Beef up your brand awareness. Consider using one social media platform more to draw your target customer to your website.

Step 5: Make them testify to your greatness. When you have strong brand awareness around your business, sales that normally take one year shrink to six months or less. Sometimes you can close up in ten minutes with one phone call. The key is to get your ideal clients to say amazing things about you – and record them! Video testimonials are the Holy Grail, and they’re just as tough to get, too. Start out with written testimonials on trusted platforms such as LinkedIn or Yelp. The more of these you have, the shorter the steps in your sales conversion cycle and the more your sales funnel is filled with highly qualified prospects.

Put these steps to work and let me know how you are succeeding with this. I am confident this will shorten the gap between meeting a prospect and closing the sale and ending up with a happy customer.


NextOS 3.0 Beta Update: 1.26.16

NextOS 3.0 GIF no play buttonBrand New ONLY in NextOS 3.0

  • Check the real-time progress of ported numbers in My Account>Ported numbers

Other Features Added

  • 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.
  • 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.

Upgrades

  • The Manage user table now allows you to change the columns that display – and is loading 8x faster (!)
  • Access your call center directly from the portal

Have questions about NextOS 3.0 Beta and want to learn more? Check out the answers to these Frequently Asked Questions and watch this overview video


Tuesday Tip: Lessons From the Number-One Customer Service Retailer

What can your small business learn from the best of the best? StellaService’s list of the online retailers with the best customer service is out, and for the second quarter in a row, L.L. Bean is the top-rated company. L.L. Bean ranked in the top 10 for four out of five customer service areas that StellaService ranks: phone, email, chat and returns.

Apparently, speed is of the essence when it comes to customer service. When calling by phone, StellaService analysts were able to connect to a live L.L. Bean customer service representative in less than 30 seconds. When emailing, analysts received responses from Bean reps in slightly over an hour on average.

That's a huge advantage, considering that just 10 percent of companies in L.L. Bean’s industry connect callers to reps in the same timeframe; at three out of 10 companies, it takes more than two minutes to reach a live person by phone. And when it comes to email, four out of 10 companies took more than 12 hours to respond.

How to ensure your company responds quickly to customer service contacts:

  • Staff adequately. Reviewing historical sales trends will help you identify periods when you're likely to need more customer service reps due to higher than average sales.
  • Watch weather. If delivery of your company’s product or service is likely to be affected by severe weather, keep an eye on forecasts 10 days out so you can staff and prepare accordingly. It is also smart to have a backup plan for what you'll do if your own location is affected. Can your customer service reps work remotely? That way, you won't face the double whammy of angry customers and a short-staffed customer service department. Using cloud-based communications makes it easy to handle customer service calls, no matter where your reps are.
  • Take advantage of technology. Features like auto-attendants, greetings, and announcements guide callers to the correct department. Routing and queue delivery systems can also be used to ensure that callers don't wait too long on hold. With the right technology, you can even prioritize calls on hold to make sure they get answered quickly.
  • Set goals and track results. If your call hold times are currently unacceptable, set realistic goals for improvement. Reward customer service reps for attaining these benchmarks, then continue to challenge them with higher standards while still enabling them to deliver great service.
  • Consider implementing live chat. StellaService reports that in 2015, 16 major retailers added live chat to their websites, while four major retailers stopped offering customer service support via email. Live chat offers faster response times than email, which keeps customers happy. In addition, chat enables you to provide proactive customer service by answering customer questions before the sale is ever made.

Take these steps, and you just might find your customer service topping your customers’ personal “best” lists.

 


Mondays with Mike: Preparing To Pitch: Getting To The Decision Maker

There is almost nothing more frustrating than delivering a passionate, compelling sales pitch, only to discover at the end that you’ve wasted your time and spent all your energy making your case to a person who isn’t empowered to pull the trigger.  It doesn’t matter how good a salesperson you are if you’re not sitting down with the decision maker.

But it ain’t always easy to get to the decision maker. 

Let’s face it.  Folks in charge have a million things and people competing for their attention, and if they didn’t figure out a way to make themselves unavailable, they’d spend all day with reps trying to sell alarm systems, better phone service, or advertising.  Decision makers have to say “no,” and they have to get pretty good at it if they want to get anything productive accomplished.  And that makes it hard for you – the one person with something of value to sell – to work your way into an opportunity to pitch the decision maker. 

Until now.

I’ve developed a strategy to get around the defenses and make it into the inner circle.  First, I realized that nearly every decision maker has a sizeable ego.  The ego comes from the hordes of salespeople clamoring for approval, time, and attention, and while ego can be an obstacle to doing business, it can also be a point of entry.

Back when I owned a computer forensics firm, I had my sights set on one particular company – the category leader – who I’d wanted to land as a customer practically forever.  I knew they needed my services, but the challenge was getting to the head honcho and convincing him.  He was impossible to reach.  I called, emailed, tried to leverage mutual friends … no joy.  I swear at one point, I figured he was enjoying my pursuit, and that’s when it occurred to me.

I wrote a letter (yes, a real paper-and-pen letter) and asked him to be my mentor.  I promised not to make a sales pitch, but I asked for fifteen minutes of his valuable time so I could get some advice.  I was shocked when he agreed, and I kept my end of the bargain.  I told him I wanted his perspective on what I could do to make my company better.  He told me.  I took notes, asked a few questions, thanked him for his time, and I left.

When I got back to the office, I went to work.  I looked at his recommendations, and I make a plan to improve on every area he’d mentioned.  My staff and I worked hard to deliver better service and really improve the company from the ground up.  When I’d accomplished the goals I’d set, I called my new mentor and asked for a second meeting, again making the promise not to make it a sales call.  We met, I showed him the progress I’d made, and I asked for another set of suggestions.  Rinse and repeat.

When I showed up for my third meeting, it was clear that the decision maker – my ideal client – took great pride in the changes he’d helped me make, and then the magic happened.  He looked at me and said, “I want to be your customer.”

I’d kept my word.  I hadn’t tried to sell him a thing, but simply having access to the decision maker gave me the opening I needed to convey the dedication I had to being the single best computer forensics guy on the planet.  If I hadn’t asked for his advice, he never would have had the opportunity to get to know me, and he never would have understood how much he needed me.

Now, you’re not going to get to every decision maker simply by asking for some advice.  Some are too busy; some aren’t interested.  But what I’ve found is that when I can get that first meeting, I know somewhere down the road, I’ll convert my new mentor to become my client.  Build your relationship with decision makers, and you’re opening up those choice opportunities.




 
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