Open Source Voip
There is a long ongoing debate over the advantages of using deskphones with VoIP phone systems. As with most technology debates, there are pros and cons on both sides. Companies choose VoIP to reduce their overall phone bills, upgrade their communication features, and enhance client communication. While the practical functionality of both deskphones and softphones are similar and maybe even identical in some cases, there are a few differences (beyond the obvious!) that differentiate them from one another.The question is: which of the two is better?
It’s really more a question of which is better for your use case, because it depends on the needs and expectations of the user.
For instance, a business user is used to a phone on the desk. It’s there and easy to use. There is no training required since it behaves like the “old” phone. It’s incredibly easy to use, especially for those already familiar with traditional phone systems. Tech-savvy users will find softphones easy, but there is usually some onboarding or training involved.
Additionally, with a good deskphone, especially with executive models, you get a whole array of features that enable you to personalise your phone, create shortcuts, and increase your efficiency. Generally, softphones have far fewer additional features. Group meetings over the phone are everyday occurrences in the majority of small offices, and you always want these to run as smoothly as possible. Most desk-phones are built to support these types of engagements, where multiple people are gathered around the same desk. Softphones, on the other hand, can sometimes make this task quite difficult for inexperienced users.
Another good reason for investing in deskphones is its dependability. It’s always there and ready to go. As long as your internet is working, you won’t run into many issues. Softphones, in contrast, rely on your device for operation. If your PC won’t turn on, has a virus, or is just performing badly, then receiving and making calls becomes impossible. Keeping your phone separate from your PC by using a deskphone represents a safer option. For any call you need to make, it’s there, and it’s ready.
Plus, call quality is often much better on a deskphone. With HD audio available on both IP deskphones and IP headsets, overall sound quality often depends on price. But if you are comparing just a basic headset versus a basic deskphone, the sound quality offered by the deskphone is the clear winner.The most important thing to remember: deskphones aren’t going anywhere – at least not yet.
With Sangoma, you can take advantage of Unified Communications (UC) with deskphone and softphone options designed for our UC platforms. Enjoy easy communications anywhere, anytime with Sangoma UC systems.
Happy Calling with Sangoma IP phones!
The post Why Businesses Still Use Desk Phones Over Softphones appeared first on Sangoma.
At the end of last month, I published an article on Toolbox that highlighted the four essentials of a UC Systems. Outside, of course, of just making a phone call, I believe they are:
- Mobility. And the mobility features should be free.
- Presence Ability.
- Video Collaboration.
- Contact Center Feature Integration.
Why do I pick these features? It’s because the “office” has now became not just a place you go (or used to go), it’s more of just where you decide to do your work that day, be it a home office, an AirBnB in some nice location, your parents house, the couch, the deck, the …. It’s just where you decided to work that day. And to do that, these four features are required.
Globally, the most trending business communication technology today is still the IP phone system. With VoIP services, your phone calls travel over the internet as data, just like emails. This type of service can dramatically lower your telecommunications costs while increasing your productivity.
The following are some of the benefits of opting for an IP telephony system:Flexible & Scalable
Adding more phone lines or extensions often requires expensive hardware modules. In some cases, you need an entirely new phone system. Not so with an IP PBX. A standard computer can easily handle a large number of phone lines and extensions – just add more phones to your network to expand! Also, IP phone systems are very flexible, allowing easy remote collaboration from any device and from anywhere.Better Customer Service & Productivity
With an IP PBX, you can deliver better customer service and better productivity. Since the system is now computer-based, you can integrate phone functions with business applications. For example, outbound calls can be placed directly from Outlook or a business’s customer database, removing the need for the user to type in the phone number. Plus, the system can bring up the customer record of a caller automatically when you receive their call.Cost Effective
Making international phone calls through digital or analog phones is expensive. With IP phones, however, you do not have to worry about the per-minute price of calls because your phone service is accessed via your broadband connection, enabling you to make international calls as often as you’d like. Also, with this system, calling between branches becomes more convenient— and free! Most VoIP phone systems come with a rich feature set, including IVR, auto attendant, voice mail, ring groups, and advanced reporting. Unified Communications features are included, to support presence, video and audio conferences, and free calls via the data network. These options are often very expensive in proprietary systems.Remote Working
Hot-desking, the process of being able to easily move offices/desks based on the task at hand, has become very popular. Unfortunately, traditional PBXs require extensions to be re-patched to the new location. With an IP PBX, the user simply takes his phone to his new desk – no patching required! Users can roam too – if an employee has to work from home, they can simply fire up their softphone from either their computer or mobile device. This enables them to make and answer calls from their extension, just as they would in the office. Calls can also be forwarded anywhere in the world!Worldwide Access
More employers are discovering the benefits of having their staff work from home. This has come with the benefits of smaller office spaces, decreased utilities costs, etc., for businesses. VoIP allows employees to securely utilize the voice, fax, and data services of your office from anywhere. VoIP technology has become extremely portable, allowing users to connect from home offices and abroad.Ease of Installation, Configuration, Maintenance
One of our favorite benefits of VoIP is that IP phones are incredibly easy to install—even for those who are less technically savvy. There is no need to have expert technicians running phone wiring throughout your office. Instead, IP phones are virtually plug-and-play. Hosted VoIP software also makes it incredibly simple to add new users, and a web portal makes moving, adding, or changing your systems configuration much easier.Easy Integration with Other Business Systems
Your business likely utilizes various other systems and technologies to enhance your operational efficiencies. VoIP easily integrates with a wide variety of existing business systems. That means you’ll realize all of the benefits of VoIP without requiring modification of your existing applications or IT infrastructure. For example, outbound calls can be placed via Outlook or other business systems, and customer records can even be viewed during inbound calls from customers.Built-in Backup Plan
Without virtual phone systems in place, your company runs the risk of losing telephone service due to outages and other unexpected incidents. The costs associated with losing phone service could be immense depending on the hours business is down and the cost of potential repairs. On the other hand, VoIP allows you to reduce the impact of disasters on your business by quickly redirecting calls in response to an outage according to preset routing plans.Increased Security
Phone system security is a big deal, especially for businesses. VoIP can mitigate security threats by leveraging features like encryption and improved identity management. Hosted VoIP providers work around the clock to protect their networks. Plus, IP phone systems integrate easily with session border controllers, which more intelligently protects your voice network.Supports Multitasking
Along with traditional phone calls, VoIP allows you to send documents, images, and video— all while simultaneously engaging in a conversation. So, you can seamlessly hold more integrated meetings with clients or staff from other corners of the globe.
Buying a Unified Communication business phone system can be confusing. There are many options, many pricing models and many features. And in many cases, what’s right for an SMB is not right for a large enterprise, and vice versa. What is right for me? One of the first decisions you’ll need to make is should I install a system on-premise, or be serviced via a cloud.
If you talk to different people, you’ll get many different answers. And that’s because whether you go to cloud or prem will be dependent on your unique requirements. What is good for the business next door may not work for you. And if you talk to different vendors, you’ll get different answers as well, most likely extremely skewed to whatever they offer (because most don’t offer the same product in premise or cloud form), or which part of the company the particular sales person is getting paid from. So you might even get different answers from different sales people from the same company! Super confusing.
So what are you to do? One of best things to do is to start with a vendor that offers both on-premise and cloud. And one that offers the same product for both. Many companies offer premise and cloud, but because of various M&A they have done, the cloud product is very different from the prem product. What are the top 5 reasons you should choose a vendor like this?
One – The vendor (or reseller of the vendor) can act as a true trusted advisor.
If the vendor (or reseller) offers the same product both premise and cloud, all the vendor (or reseller) cares about is making the sale. Not a cloud sale. Or not a premise sale. Just a sale to you, that fits what is best for you. A true trusted advisor can help you understand and navigate through your unique needs.Two – A product with the same look and feel will have future benefits.
If the company is growing and you want to put remote offices on the cloud, then all employees will have the same tools and look and feel for their UC system. It also gives you as the end user flexibility should you want to change to/from cloud or prem for some reason.Three – As you go through the process, you’ll be dealing with the same sales people.
In many cases, companies have different sales teams because they represent different products or different divisions. You’ll want to maintain talking to the same sales team so you get consistent answers you can understand.Four – You won’t have to worry about channel conflict causing you confusion.
Many vendors with large on-premise installed bases are essentially instructing their sales people or channel to sell cloud. They can’t possibly act as trusted advisors in that case. And in some cases, the channels are entirely different. You may get calls from two different resellers – one selling a vendor’s cloud product and another selling a vendor’s on-prem product.Five – Maybe you haven’t decided which is best for you.
This could be about cloud vs. on prem, but also could be about remote work capability, CRM integration, video calls, contact center features, etc. You need to talk it through. Which brings us back to the Trusted Advisor role as described in number 1.
Sangoma offers both on-premise and cloud solutions for both PBXact and Switchvox UC products.
The post Cloud and On-Premise: Why Businesses and End Users Need their UC Vendor to Offer Both appeared first on Sangoma.
Sangoma is a “one-stop shop” vendor, meaning that Sangoma offers everything you need for your UC solution. From the phone system with contact center features to faxing solutions that are still (surprisingly) very much in demand, Sangoma has a product for you. Certain combinations of those UC solutions really stand out, and perhaps one of the most popular combinations is Switchvox, our all features included UC phone system, and SIPStation, our award-winning SIP trunking services.
Let’s make one thing clear: Switchvox by itself is already a stand-out winner. All features included (seriously, everything), an easy-to-use interface, and flexible deployment options –
all at a price that can’t be beat. Switchvox is built on Asterisk, the world’s most widely-used open source communication software, by the company who supports and maintains the Asterisk project. So, when a customer decides to deploy Switchvox in an on-premise environment and they’re looking for the phone service to pair with it, SIPStation SIP trunking joins the spotlight.
A SIP trunk is essentially phone service that “rides” over your internet connection. The revolutionary aspect about that delivery method is that, dollar for dollar, SIP trunking is cheaper than traditional analog or PRI service because you pay only for the channels you need. SIP trunking allows you to consolidate your technical infrastructure while taking advantage of your ISP (internet service provider) that is already there, making it a future-proof decision for your company’s communications.
Business continuity is never an issue with Remote Call Forwarding which automatically directs calls to mobile phones or other locations in the event of a phone service outage.
SIPStation is Sangoma’s award-winning SIP trunking service that is supported by the same team that will support your Switchvox system. Instead of calling three different companies, you have one point of contact for support and service. And, as an added perk, SIPStation can be set up and configured directly from the Switchvox interface.
The combination of both Switchvox (either on-premise or virtual) with SIPStation is a winning combination for several reasons.
- SIPStation can be set up right in the Switchvox admin portal.
- Using SIPStation means you also get SMS, expanding the way you communicate with your staff.
- Switchvox has all features included with a path to migrate from on-premise or virtual to the Cloud. If your phone service is also with SIPStation, that only increases your flexibility.
- Fax over the internet (FoIP) is also an option with FAXStation. You can keep your fax machine or consolidate to the Cloud – whatever is best for your company.
Most importantly, everything is being delivered through one vendor. While you are saving on your telephony bill with lower rates for local and long distance and simplifying your communications into a single data connection, Sangoma is here to provide end-to-end connectivity.
Contact us now to see how you can reduce your telephony costs while maximizing your UC phone system with SIPStation + Switchvox.
We are all using SIP Trunking today, either to receive service or deliver it to customers, but are you actually taking full advantage of this technology?
For a while now we have been treating SIP Trunking service similar to traditional phone line services, where it’s only available in a bundled set of features, at a flat rate cost. In this way, SIP Trunking has been doing well, saving customers up to 50% of their traditional phone service; offering additional revenue opportunities; delivering efficiency and productivity through dozens of features and more. But did you know we are only tapping into a small percentage of the benefits of SIP trunking?You – The Large Enterprise
Let’s say you are a large distributed enterprise business receiving service from local SIP trunking providers for each of your locations. This means that You:
- Have to maintain multiple regional locations that could have differing service features and settings
- Are paying a flat monthly service fee regardless if your business has low call volume a given month, so you’re paying for what you are not using.
- Are spending a lot of time dealing with billing and calculations of local tariffs
- Managing services with multiple points of contacts from each local vendor
- Have to contact local providers for adds, moves and changes to services
Did you know that all of the above challenges are solved by switching to a wholesale SIP trunking provider? A Wholesale provider touches many carrier networks and is able to aggregate features from other SIP trunking providers and deliver them to you a la carte. So you can pick and choose the specific features your business needs, without paying for anything more, and package them together to deliver a unified solution across your locations. For example, only pay for E911 and SMS services on the numbers that you need those services on. Also, wholesale providers charge you by the minute! With most retail SIP providers, you’re paying for phone lines while your business is closed; Wholesale SIP trunking has you paying for what you use.You – The ITSP, MSP or VAR
Access to a wholesale SIP trunking provider lets you support your existing retail SIP trunking customers and sell phone numbers and other VoIP services not available within your network reach, adding new revenue streams. Or if you are just getting started, offer new retail SIP trunking service and choose and bundle which features you want to offer your new customers. For example, add SMS to your customers’ main lines or offer ancillary services like conference bridges, call forwarding, fax to email, and more.
If you are still trying to understand retail vs wholesale SIP trunking click here for a quick comparison table.
If you are interested in wholesale SIP trunking, check out SIPDepot. It is a turnkey service, which means minimal fuss and hassle, whether you are using the service for your own business, or selling it to your customers. With SIPDepot take advantage of :
- Single Point of Contact
- SIPDepot is responsible for delivering you the diverse set of services from across regions and eliminates the labyrinth of contacts and procedures required to perform moves, adds and changes with individual localized providers.
- Cloud-Based Management Portal
- Manage services and place orders on your own terms, such as phone number provisioning, rather than having to contact the provider’s technical support staff for changes.
- Simple Billing
- Receive just a single invoice for all the diverse set of services being delivered from across regions, making it really easy to accurately bill your business or customers. Also leverage SIPDepot’s hosted billing platform to handle number porting, billing, tax calculations, reporting and compliance, so that you can focus more time on growing your business.
Learn more about SIPDepot and its features such as SMS and E911 Monitoring.
If you want a more indepth look into wholesale SIP trunking, read our Frost and Sullivan white paper .
The post Break the Boundaries of Typical SIP Trunking Service Providers appeared first on Sangoma.
By now, most of the readers of this blog have been on countless (yes, I bet you can’t really keep track anymore!) video calls. I certainly have been almost living on Sangoma Meet. By the way, I just did a podcast with Mo Nezarati, EVP of Products and Strategy, about Sangoma Meet, if you want to listen to it.
I definitely see the benefits of the video calls, especially in today’s environment. But someday, hopefully relatively soon, we’ll be back to normal. Are these video calls we’re having today bound to continue, or are they some ‘fad’ that in 10 years we’ll laugh about?
My perspective is that they are going to become a part of our business environment, just like email or voice phone calls are. There are benefits that are just too hard to ignore.From my almost 5 months of experience, these are the top 3 benefits of video conferencing:
First: seeing somebody establishes much more of a ‘connection’ than by having a voice call.
I (used to) travel a lot, especially to see customers and to visit employee locations. Right now, seeing people on a video call is definitely better than just a voice call or voice conference call. And even when business travel resumes, you can’t be everywhere all the time. So, even if I visited a location last week, and this week I want to do a conference call with my colleagues there, I would definitely do it via a video call.
Second: most video call systems now include video sharing, where you can share documents on the screen and everyone can see them.
This collaboration element of a video call is huge! For example, recently I went over the marketing plan with my team. Doing this via sharing the document on Sangoma Meet was much more interactive and collaborative than if I was saying “go to page 27 now” and then saying “in the upper right we have “xyz”. I simply circled what I wanted to highlight and discuss. I also think this keeps people engaged better on a call like this. Maybe my team faked me out really good, but I felt like they were better engaged than if we just had this on a large conference call.
And third: from an economic perspective, this certainly will help keep travel costs down.
While there is no substitute for a face to face meeting, sometimes there will be reasons where meeting on a video call would be better. I mean sometimes there are meetings where you fly in, have a 2 hour meeting, and then leave. If you haven’t seen the person in a long time and/or if this is a deal closing, sure there are reasons to do this. But if it’s a check-in meeting, maybe you check in half the time in person, and half the time via a video call. Or what about the sending 4 people to a meeting. Maybe you send 2, and the other 2 people that are there for specific support just attend via a video call. This enhances productivity because the 2 people don’t have to travel.
Anyway, my point on all this is that businesses now are seeing the T&A expense line drastically down, and business continuing “OK”, so it likely won’t come back to what it was for a long time, simply because the CFO can now make a case that that level of spending is not necessary.
If you haven’t been using video collaboration, or just want to try a new one, please visit https://meet.sangoma.com.
The post Top 3 Lasting Benefits of a Video Call and Collaboration System appeared first on Sangoma.
Consider how your video conferencing experience has been so far. Do you like the solution that your company uses, or do you wish it had features tailored to how you do business? You may even be adapting to using video conferencing so well that you are starting to consider updating your hiring practices to include more remote employees.
By this point, most companies are using some kind of face-to-face video service and, frankly, they all do similar things at their basic function.So, what’s the best video conferencing solution out there?
This depends on a few factors, such as the type of business you are and what you use video conferencing for.
Does it Have the Features You Need?
For example, if you are a small business and simply want to discuss how the team is doing, you’re not going to need any fancy features beyond sharing video and audio. But if your team gets together to collaborate, then you will want features like screen-sharing and maybe chat too.
If you are a larger business you may be looking for:
- Large participant capacity
- Strict security to protect sensitive information shared on the calls
- Email integration for quick meeting invitations
- Ability to video conference with your external customers who require support for your product or services
- Dial-in for participants who are unable to open the video conference service
After Features, It Comes Down to Ease of Use
You may find that many video conferencing solutions available today offer quite a few of these features, but then it comes down to their ease of use.
Are you required to install a dedicated app? Do you have to log in each time to use it? Is it easy to screen-share or enable a different audio/video device?
The more time spent working around the particulars of a solution, the less efficient your team is – not to mention the growing feeling of frustration to get on another video call. These tools need to work for your team, intuitively, because we’ve all learned, all too fast, that business video conferencing solutions have become mission critical.
Have You Tried Sangoma Meet?
If you are looking for a video conferencing platform better suited for your business needs, take a look at Sangoma Meet! It’s easy-to-use and simple and lets you start a call right from the website, meet.sangoma.com, with the click of a button. And if you want to invite someone to your call, simply share a meeting link, which automatically launches the conference from the browser on whatever computer they are using or from the optional desktop/mobile apps.
Its features are intuitively designed so that you have an optimal video conferencing experience with your team. Sangoma Meet is:
- Secure: Offers end-to-end encryption on 1-to-1 calls and high encryption for multiparty calls, without storing any of your information on any servers when routing your calls.
- Reliable: Based on WebRTC technology, Sangoma Meet works over WiFi and cellular network and adapts to your network connection
- Multi-Party: Have up to 50 participants on a single video call
- Multi-Platform: Launch from browser, dedicated MacOS or Windows apps or iOS and Android apps!
Other features include Google and Outlook integration make meeting invites a breeze, as well as screen-share and chat to optimize productivity and collaboration on calls.
The post Creating the Best Video Conferencing Experience for your Team appeared first on Sangoma.
AstriCon typically takes place in October. And this year we had a great one planned. However, as announced two weeks ago, we have decided not to do an in-person event this year. I think we all understand it’s just not feasible in this environment.
Instead, we will do a virtual event on October 21 and 22. We’re calling it AstriCon Plan(9) to differentiate it from regular FTF AstriCon. We’ve received a bunch of inquiries about the weird name. But when we again have a regular FTF AstriCon, you can ask me how we got to that name, but let’s keep that for a FTF meeting in a real OpenSource Lounge we set up at the regular AstriCon ☺.
After much debate, we decided to structure the online event as if it were happening in real-time at a location. Day one will be workshops, and day two will be conference talks at specific times. And there will be structured Q&A with the talks, and we’ll have lounges to meet and talk to people. Like you’re at an event, but you’re not. So if you want to join, for example, three talks, you’ll know when they are, and you can join the webinar at the appropriate time.
We’re looking forward to seeing you at AstriCon in October. You can register here.
By now, we have all been impacted by the pandemic situation, whether directly or indirectly. You or someone you know has probably contracted COVID-19, lost a job, or cancelled this year’s vacation. There have been many difficult situations to work through this year.
This article is available in Spanish. ¡Lea este artículo en Español!
Ecuador, a small country in South America, was among the first countries to suffer from the effects of the virus, with dramatic spikes in the number of infections and casualties. Today, I would like to share with you the story about how the UC system from one of our customers in Ecuador was employed in a meaningful yet completely unexpected way to connect people to the help they need.Fig.1 The university’s initial implementation
Back in late January—after finally getting the green light to move away from their legacy system—our customer Universidad de Especialidades Espíritu Santo, a private university, had just completed the implementation of their brand-new phone system. Shortly after, COVID-19 hit.
Luckily, the business phone system and its capabilities nowadays has greatly evolved since the days when the operator billed you for internal calls between branches or even different buildings.
Thanks to this, the university’s response to the virus was swift, rapidly enabling faculty and staff to work remotely when the mandated quarantine began and travel became legally restricted. This was possible for the university because our solutions allow you to take your business phone number wherever you go, so that you can answer regular work calls, conference, chat, and collaborate with coworkers by using the UC client app on your laptop or mobile phone.
Want to know the best part? The university did not incur any additional licensing costs to enable these features and start working remotely. The faculty and administrative staff, even the chancellor who was abroad at the time, were all able to connect and communicate as though nothing had changed.
As a next step, they migrated the call center operation, so that no calls from current students or potential applicants would be missed. This soon sparked an idea: If our staff can be set up to connect remotely so easily, what if we expanded the advantages of the system to do our share for our fellow citizens?
Think about it for a second. It was the first few weeks of the lockdown. Local health systems and regular emergency lines had collapsed due to unexpected high volumes. Uncertainty and fear was the order of the day, since even the experts struggled to understand the virus. This was the environment in which the university decided to host a COVID-19 hotline, providing anxious callers with access to medical professionals qualified to screen for coronavirus symptoms.Fig. 2 The university’s emergency setup for the COVID-19 hotline.
Over 80 doctors from around the country decided to join the initiative, connecting to the university’s phone system via the Zulu UC app installed on their mobile phones. By the end of the teleservice’s first day, the system reported that over 12 thousand inbound calls had entered the queue.
Over the last two decades, new and exciting technologies have emerged in the telecom field, and our communication needs have developed correspondingly. We now need more and better ways to interact in our business world. It certainly hasn’t been easy for anyone to deal with the crisis, and the path to recovery and regaining some sense of ‘normalcy’ is long. Duly prepared or not, companies have had to manage to offer their personnel with the appropriate resources to push on. We can only hope that the versatility and increased flexibility prompted by the situation will prove to be lasting, positive change in the work ecosystem.
As for the university, they have moved on to support those affected by the crisis by broadening their activities in health relief, such as opening new biolab testing and clinic facilities. Surely, little did they suspect when they first implemented their UC phone system, that it would turn out to be such a relevant and crucial organizational decision, enabling them to more rapidly and completely lend a helping hand to their community.
As a UC vendor, we at Sangoma have always been strong advocates for mobility and remote work enablement. Still, I can personally say that it has brought us great satisfaction to see our tools used in such a purposeful way.
Business owners today are now understanding that having a basic contact center as part of their UC system enables much better customer service, and are asking to add multimodal contact center features to the UC system. Why have another specific expensive contact center unit (either on-prem or another monthly cloud expense) if the UC system can handle the basic contact center features that would help a small business? Because why not – the UC system already includes multimodal communication potential.
Some basic phone features include music on hold, callback when available, call queues, having inbound callers hang-up while in queue and still retain their position in line, built-in queue priority so specific customers can be prioritized above others in the queue, automated appointment reminders allowing your team to schedule calls and allowing recipients to confirm, cancel or reschedule, and routing rules (such as time of day routing or department routing). These all-important call center or contact center features enable better customer service and even make the small business look bigger to the outside world. All of what is described above can be routed to a business phone number, which as described above can be your desk phone and/or your smartphone and/or your laptop. So you can handle customer service calls remotely as well.
And some businesses also want their phone system to integrate with other commonly used business tools, such as CRM, help desk, property management or practice management software. This is an aspect of expensive dedicated contact center software that is also being brought into the UC realm, as UC starts to merge with CC. For example, customer information can easily be accessible to whoever answers the phone, even if it’s not a dedicated agent, in a small business, saving valuable time for the customer. The customer phone number can help pull up prior customer information so when the small business gets on the phone, they may already know what the customer is calling about. Also, if a customer service rep needs to find an expert in the company, then a UC tool with presence can help the rep get an answer fast.
We are seeing more and more contact center features start to become part of the UC phone system. There are many businesses that need some contact center functionality, but not like those required for large gigantic contact centers like large airlines or financial institutions might need. So we’ll see offers for smaller businesses emerge, where the features they need are just part of the overall system.
If you are looking for an affordable business phone system that includes all the features you typically need, even contact center features and a desktop and smartphone mobile client, Sangoma’s UC platforms are for you.
To read the first part of this two-part Machi Minute series, click here!
The post The Merging of Contact Center and Unified Communications, Part 2 appeared first on Sangoma.
In case you missed it, the business world is going through some growing pains as organizations grapple with the unique challenges of staying in contact with employees and customers, without any close contact. The recommendations of the US Center for Disease Control and other public health organizations have forced businesses to rapidly roll out policies and technology to continue to operate “business as usual,” while our lives feel anything but usual.
The question for these businesses is how to accommodate both the increased contact volume from customers quarantined at home and the need for employees to address these customers while working from the safety of their own homes. And that’s where a trend that was already gaining popularity perfectly addresses at least some of the challenges of the “new normal”: virtual contact centers.
What is a Virtual Contact Center?
As Jim Machi mentioned in a recent Machi Minute, the concept of a contact center arose out of the old-school call center when customers began to contact businesses in ways other than a telephone call (especially after the advent of email and other web-based communications). While adding a variety of new contact methods, contact centers still looked like call centers with dozens (or hundreds) of employees commuting to offices to do their work of addressing customer needs.
While this might still have been necessary even a decade ago to ensure network security and quality of service, the reality of modern life and network technology is such that most people have the high-speed Internet necessary to take care of their work, from home. This has enabled a radical reenvisioning of the workplace and the rise of virtual contact centers, which can save businesses money while boosting employee morale. Rather than commuting to an office, agents in a virtual contact center simply login from home to complete their work, with no change in service for customers contacting the business.Essential Features for Virtual Contact Centers
So, let’s say you’re a business who may not have realized before that they operate a contact center in some capacity (and that can be any business that receives enough contact to require a dedicated employee or team to handle the calls, emails, and more), what should you look for in a virtual contact center solution? Here are some of the essential features for virtual contact centers:
Reliable Web Client – the Central Hub of the Virtual Contact Center
What separates virtual contact centers from “regular” contact centers is the flexibility for agents to work from anywhere. Naturally, that means that the web client for virtual contact center solutions is the central hub of operations for agents and managers and must be reliable and intuitive, to allow streamlined, remote onboarding and ensure the trustworthiness of the solution.
The best virtual contact center solutions feature easy-to-use, browser-based user interfaces that enable agents to simply login to access the full suite of communication tools available to them.
To see examples of this type of intuitive web-based user interface, check out the Switchboard and Switchvox Softphone for Switchvox Unified Communications contact center solutions or Zulu UC and Zulu Mobile for PBXact contact center solutions.
Call Queues – the Heart of the Virtual Contact Center
Contact centers exist for the sole purpose of boosting revenue and providing better customer service by more efficiently handling customer communications. The crucial element in achieving this is a well thought-out system for contact distribution. In modern contact centers, this is accomplished through call queue functionality, which provides virtual lines for customers to wait as short a time as possible to receive attention.
The best virtual contact center solutions feature advanced call queue features like queue priority and global arrive time that allow any number of important parameters to determine the right order to address incoming customer contact. Other useful call queue features include the ability to assign overflow agents who can seamlessly handle customer contacts when queues become too full for those responsible for it.
Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Technology – Intelligent Automatic Call Distribution
On a side note, you may be wondering how incoming calls and other forms of communication are assigned to the right queue. Long ago, this task would have been handled by an army of receptionists, but now that would be an unheard of expense. That’s because current technology enables automatic call distribution, a cornerstone of the modern contact center.
And what’s more, not only can customers indicate the call queue they believe addresses their needs, advanced Interactive Voice Response technology (commonly known as an IVR) allows callers to be qualified conversationally, using their voices instead of listening to endless directories of numbers to press. Sometimes, these IVRs are so well-designed that it can be difficult to tell, as a caller, whether or not you are speaking to a human being or an artificially intelligent contact center solution.
Statistics, Reports, and Analytics – the Brain of the Virtual Contact Center
Just as the web-based user interface is the central hub and call queues are the heart of the virtual contact center, the communication platform’s ability to provide detailed reports, real-time statistics, and actionable analytics serves as the brains of the contact center.
The best contact center solutions provide robust reports instantly, while giving the option to schedule reports to be generated and sent automatically for review. The reason for this is simple, especially for virtual contact centers. Agent performance can easily be monitored, and contact center workloads can be more flexibly managed. If there is a consistent spike in activity, more agents can be assigned to a queue. And for random flare-ups or declines, agents from other queues or job responsibilities can be reassigned as temporary overflow agents, and vice versa.Real-Time Wall Board
One very useful feature of Sangoma Contact Center solutions is the ability to display valuable switchboard statistics on a dedicated “wallboard”. This is useful for agents trying to stay on top of workflow and for managers looking to most efficiently staff their call queues. And this is just as true for virtual contact centers, with agents and managers having access to the Wallboard functionality from their home offices.Sangoma Virtual Contact Centers and CCaaS
Looking for an affordable contact center solution for your business?
Many organizations, even small businesses, are finding that contact center functionality is a vital component of their next business phone system. Luckily, Sangoma is proud to offer the best value in Unified Communications (UC).
Sangoma’s award-winning UC platforms, in addition to merging many different methods of communication into a single platform and interface, include advanced contact center functionality built-in and available to users for no additional cost. Plus, these UC contact center solutions offer businesses the advantage of using the software hosted in the Cloud (contact center as a service or CCaaS), making it that much easier to enable virtual contact center operation.
Click here to schedule a personalized demo of Sangoma’s premier contact center and CCaaS solutions! A friendly Sangoma product specialist will be happy to help you determine your business needs and offer pressure-free solution advice.
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Once upon a time there was something called a “call center.” That’s because you would make a telephone call to it. It was a central place where agents were located that you would communicate with via a telephone call. That was the only real way to communicate with them. Over time, fax was added so it wasn’t just phone calls, and then emails were added next. Fast forward to today, and there aren’t really call centers anymore. There are contact centers, and you can communicate with them in different ways – websites, various social media platforms, apps designed to specifically interact with the company (that even proactively ‘push’ information to you), text, video, and, yes, still even phone calls and emails and fax.
This evolution towards a contact center was driven by many things – technological advances in networks, for example, that made this possible. But even beyond that, it was driven by people wanting to communicate in different ways – ways that were easier and more efficient for them. And it was also driven by companies wanting to reduce costs because if communication could become more structured towards self-help and less towards people and real time communications, costs would be reduced and customer satisfaction could also potentially go up. Put together, these combined to enable enhanced multi-modal communication to become reality in today’s world.
There are still changes occurring in the world of contact centers, especially as it relates to small and medium businesses. Many small businesses have done so already or are looking to update their existing phone system to a modern phone system that includes Unified Communications capabilities. These capabilities include instant messaging to colleagues, even on their mobile phones, having your smartphone also be an extension of your office business phone number (i.e. your smartphone would ring on a call to your office number), and email and fax integration.
During this Work From Home, or Remote Work period we are now in, companies with UC systems have been able to fare better. One important aspect of UC is the mobility angle – since the communication is on IP, it can be via LTE or WiFi, which means you can be connected remotely relatively easily. So you can work remote, or work from home, or even on a boat. Anyplace with an LTE or WiFi connection. And with an expected 628 million public WiFi hotspots by 2023 (up from 169 Million in 2018), this trend will continue for sure. Video conference calls with teammates and customers, phone numbers ringing to your laptop or smartphone, a single place to look for customer messages or emails, etc. enabled companies to have employees work remotely and seamlessly continue to drive the business forward.
But getting back to the UC capabilities that are in the business phone system. This sounds familiar, right? Yes, this is multimodal communication as describe above, but in the business phone system.
The post The Merging of Contact Center and Unified Communications, Part 1 appeared first on Sangoma.
As I’ve written about quite a few times, the drivers for buying a UC phone system that you might typically hear are:
- Efficiency improvement
- Productivity gains
These are typical since, with UC, there can be other forms of communication beyond phone calls all tied into a single system. Therefore, there does not have to be context-switching to communicate. This saves time. For instance, instant messaging can happen during a conference call. Or you are connected to your smartphone outside of the actual business environment so you can “expand” your office hours. Or as I’ve written about recently you can work remote or WFH. Or because all the calls are on IP, the business can save mobile phone and PSTN trunk charges. Add this all up and the business obtains efficiency and productivity gains.
Due to the inability of many businesses right now to actually see their customers face to face, phone calls are becoming more important than they have been in recent years. Some business can only be transacted on the phone or on the internet, and for a phone call, the physical office may not actually be even open.
Those businesses with Unified Communication features such having a business phone number ring right to a laptop or smartphone (so you don’t even have to be in the office and can be remote or at home to get an office phone call) and instant messaging so you can collaborate better with your colleagues (even when you are on the phone) have fared much better than those with a basic phone system.
But that’s probably even not enough. Some small businesses are now understanding that having a basic contact center would enable so much better customer service. These small business owners know that features such as music on hold, callback when available, call queues, call recording and routing rules (such as time of day routing or department routing) are also important. You can look bigger, you can get the call to the right person at the right time, and you can keep your customers happy.
And that’s all part of the growing trend in Unified Communication systems – add basic call center functionality to the UC system.
And Sangoma has all that, that’s why we are an excellent choice if you are in the market for a new UC phone system. We offer one easy to understand price, all the products you need to complete your system (Phones, Headsets, Desktop and Mobile collaboration client, Video collaboration, Gateways, SBC) are from us, and we include basic call center features. In one word, we offer VALUE.
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For most small to medium- sized businesses (SMBs), the continuous search for new customers is essential to meet or exceed growth targets. As a reseller, the extent of available prospecting options for your business is often influenced by the size of the organization, and whether there are dedicated resources for new customer acquisition. Larger organizations typically have the human capital and the budget to invest in multiple avenues for finding new customers. Regardless of company size, one factor is particularly applicable to all organizations.
It’s extremely important for any business owner to understand and properly manage customer acquisition costs. For example, it is less expensive to keep existing customers as a means to maintain current or incremental levels of revenue, but acquiring new customers is imperative if you want to achieve significant growth. When it comes to finding prospects (and customers) that are ready and willing to purchase, there are many options available, with varying impact on your customer acquisition cost.
It’s often a no-brainer to start by focusing on retention. As a source of revenue, returning customers should be the least costly (and easiest) form of maintaining and possibly growing revenue. In SaaS models, retention is key, of course. But for any type of business, such as resellers who focus on managed services, the sales process for adding on additional products and services is often met with less resistance. The customer has already purchased at least once, and research proves their experience with a business will determine if they return.
Great products and excellent customer service, during and after the sale, are paramount to the customer experience. But you still need new customer growth. Let’s take a look at some new customer acquisition strategies:
The Power of Reputation: Word of Mouth & Referrals
If you are doing a good job with retention efforts, then referrals from existing customers could be the least expensive option for new customer recruitment. Referrals require little effort if you have a strong history of quality product/service offerings, a solid reputation for solution implementation, and excellent customer service. Attracting customers, targeting business opportunities, and finding work or new business is one of the top challenges among U.S. small business owners, and for many, word of mouth referrals are often one of the best sources of revenue after returning customers.
There are standalone solutions that help you develop, promote, and manage a more complex referral system- but small businesses looking for a simple route can promote referral opportunities on their website, in email campaigns, or by just picking the phone and making the ask. It’s worth noting that referral programs are usually more successful if your existing customer is rewarded with some incentive, such as a future discount or cash.
Staying Visible: Social Media
A more recent prospecting tool available to savvy resellers is the use of social media, sometimes referred to as social selling. If done correctly, it can have a huge effect on spreading the word about your business and in actual lead generation. With the rapid rise of business-specific social media activities and the increasing audience acceptance of the approach, use of social media is only expected to continue rising. Plus, there are pay-to-play options available, such as sponsoring a post to make it display in target audience feeds, placing low-cost ads, and more. Every platform is unique!
In addition to (and sometimes within) the traditional social media sites, there are online communities and topic-specific groups (such as LinkedIn Groups) that provide incredible access to your target audiences. Participating in these social communities can be another valuable asset for reaching buyers. These also sometimes have pay-to-play options, but even if you choose not to put lead gen dollars to these paid options, it is still a good (no cost) avenue for finding and conversing with potential prospects and demonstrating your knowledge as an expert in your field.
Getting Active in the Local Chamber of Commerce
Another time-tested avenue for promoting your business is participating in or sponsoring local events. The first step is to join and become active in your local Chamber of Commerce. Many prospects will use the Chamber to network with other members for peer referrals in an effort to validate a business’ integrity. Many local chambers hold networking events, host committees you can volunteer on and have other events that provide great opportunities to meet and greet your future prospects. Chamber-related events will require a bit more time and effort, but the more involved a business is, the more fruitful the outcome can be with finding prospects.
Taking Advantage of List Purchase Services
If you have trouble building your own list of prospects, a proven method for finding potential prospects is to buy targeted lists that match your ideal customer profile. There are many agencies that provide such services, and the lists can usually be filtered and regionalized with great effect. There are several methods of marketing activities that can be implemented with these lists from email campaigns, cold calling, and traditional card or brochure mailers. Obviously, these prospects are very cold and may or may not be currently seeking the solution you offer. While the effectiveness of the activities vary, pre-purchased lists (price typically based on the number of contacts you buy) can provide a significant return on investment. Keep in mind: the quality of the vendor and their lists should be researched and validated.
Networking at Trade Shows and Conferences
Whether regional or national, trade shows can still be an effective method for evangelizing your products and services to a large audience. Participation can range from only having a booth for displaying products and services to participating in the additional sponsored events or speaking opportunities offered. Participating in trade shows can end up being one of the most expensive and time consuming activities, but it does allow you face-to-face interaction with potential prospects. Ensuring you have seasoned employees available for the event, especially with some shows being multi-day events, is imperative but may be a trade-off that isn’t worth the effort depending on your staffing level.
Prospecting new customers can be done in several different ways, each of which involves a varied amount of time and money. If you have the available budget, you may also choose to hire third-party marketing firms to assist with prospecting activities, from campaign development to managing online pay-per-click programs (such as Google AdWords). The comfort level lies solely on business stakeholders and their willingness to be involved in prospecting.
Curious about how Sangoma supports its partner network with marketing, leads, and deal registration? Learn more about the Sangoma Partner Program!
Around this time of the year, I usually read the Cisco Annual Internet Report to see if there is anything interesting relating to the business communications market. And there are usually a few good nuggets. This year, one of the things that stood out the most is something that also stood out last year – that Public WiFi Hotpots are going to be almost everywhere. And that the average WiFi connection speed will triple to 91.6 Mpbs in 2023 as compared to 2018.
All this will have a profound impact on your business, because it means you’ll have more people coming to our business, either via phone call, website, social media, or video via WiFi. So you better be ready.
And if the last few months taught us anything, it means you’ll have to adapt to mobility. But this not just adapt to it for a while, but to embrace it. So even when this pandemic is over, it means employees working anywhere, anytime, and customers and prospecting coming to you via all kinds of means from all kinds of places. And it likely means even more video.
Been on too many video collaboration (Sangoma Meet) calls lately? Get ready for more. Been on video calls in a nice shirt and shorts? Get ready for more. Been on Sangoma Meet calls with 40 people? Get ready for more.
Ultimately, it means you cannot ignore using a UC system. It means your business phone system better have a mobile / smartphone / tablet capable UC client that can handle voice, presence, collaboration and video.
As I wrote last year around this time… “make sure your business phone system supports mobility”. Little did I know what that really meant.
Sangoma, in case you didn’t know, supports mobility.
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