Using Lines of Business to Craft an Effective Video Conferencing Strategy

Video ConferencingThe days when IT drove all technology purchasing decisions are long gone, at least for organizations that wish to move into the future. Now, employees and lines of business have far more influence over these critical choices. An area that is beginning to recognize this trend is video conferencing. A newer and quickly growing tool still in its infancy, it is ready to be molded and designed to properly fit company initiatives.

Advantages of a Centralized Approach

Centralizing the organization’s video strategy has distinct advantages. More buying power means better pricing, more features, improved service level agreements, and attractive contract terms. A centralized approach allows IT to provide more prompt and consistent attention to video conferencing services across the company.

This method of administration is beginning to lose traction, as each department has a specific set of requirements for the technology’s use. So many new, easy-to-use video tools are available now that employees don’t often need IT to help them in that area. Today’s solutions don’t require expensive devices or real estate to produce video results that are acceptable for many purposes.

A Dual-Pronged Approach

Specific lines of business (LOB) may require higher quality video conferencing products, especially those that are customer-oriented. An example of this would be sales and marketing material that must be slick and well-produced. If IT wishes to maintain any input or control of video use in such areas, they need to minister to those requirements. If IT does not furnish the appropriate tools and resources, shadow IT may result, where the department might create a rogue solution of their choosing.

The influence of different lines of business on the video strategy can easily cause the organization’s overall video conferencing approach to be segmented and compartmentalized if not handled properly. The involvement of IT is important so that security and performance are considered. For an optimal video program, a dual-pronged approach is helpful. Creating a plan with a central core that also encompasses peripheral departments with more specific needs helps to maintain consistency.

Video conferencing is an extremely powerful tool when used effectively. Integrating lines of business into the company’s communication strategy is a win for all segments. For more information on creating a comprehensive video program, contact ROI Networks today.

Comparing Progressive and Predictive Dialer Technologies

Call CenterAll outbound call centers share a common goal: to reach as many prospects in as short a time as possible. Auto-dialers have been a fixture in call centers for decades, and manufacturers have responded to niche needs by developing products with specialized capabilities.

The progressive dialer and the predictive dialer are two of the most widely used types of auto-dialers, but what differentiates them from one another? How do they compare, and how can companies choose the option that’s right for them?
The Progressive Dialer: How It Works

Progressive dialers use call lists, from which they automatically dial numbers in sequence, one at a time. A progressive dialer will only place a call if there is a call center agent ready and waiting to speak to the person on the other end.
The Predictive Dialer: How It Works

A predictive dialer, by contrast, calls multiple numbers at once, regardless of whether or not a call center agent is ready at the exact moment the call is placed. Predictive dialers work by using data analysis to “predict” how long it will take before an agent is free to speak to the next customer, and places calls accordingly.

In addition, a predictive dialer is capable of anticipating the likelihood of a call going unanswered, based on trends generated by the call list in use. If the situation warrants it, predictive dialers will increase call volumes to make up for downtime caused by unanswered calls.
Progressive Dialer vs. Predictive Dialer: How to Choose

Progressive and predictive dialers both have their strengths and drawbacks. While progressive dialers are not able to match the sheer call volume that predictive dialers are capable of generating, they do add a more personal touch by ensuring that an agent is always on hand to speak to a customer who answers the call, without exception.

Conversely, predictive dialers are the better option when it comes to maximizing efficiency. Progressive dialers offer major efficiency improvements over manual calling, but come up short in comparison to predictive dialers. On the down side, they can result in customer-end frustration, since a customer may answer a call before an agent is ready to speak to them. In such cases, the customer may abandon the call, even though a prompt can be used to let them know an agent will be with them shortly.

The business communication experts at ROI Networks have extensive experience helping clients choose the right technologies for their unique needs. To learn more about the dynamic, next-generation solutions available to today’s enterprises, please contact us to consult with an ROI Networks professional.

The Contact Center Can Make Or Break The Customer Experience

We’ve all had at least one bad customer service experience via call center, and poor experiences can mean customer losses. But retaining customers doesn’t have to be a struggle. Check out the infographic below to find out more about how the right contact center software can turn disgruntled customers into happy ones, and help you manage your client relationships to increase revenue.

Contact Center

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4 Must-Have Features for a Call or Contact Center

Contact CenterThe contact center is an essential part of any service-oriented business’s infrastructure. To function optimally, call and contact centers require certain technical capabilities, especially in the connected age. Even businesses that don’t need or maintain a strictly defined call center can benefit from having their customer service staff adopt leading technologies.

In particular, there are four key features that are indispensable to the modern call center: Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), social media, real-time reporting, and a suite of tools that facilitate specialized functions referred to as “monitoring,” “whispering,” and “barging.”

Here’s a look at how each of these tools supports core call center functions:

VoIP

Legacy landlines may still have a place in some call centers, but they are in massive decline largely thanks to the rise of VoIP telephony. These Internet-connected voice communication platforms facilitate streamlined and interconnected functionality with other customer support systems, all while dramatically lowering operational costs.

VoIP systems also require far less infrastructure and hardware and enable customer service agents to work remotely, which can generate even more cost savings.

Social Media

Increasingly, social media platforms are being used for complaint resolution applications, and to collect and address feedback from customers. From a business standpoint, it’s important not only to leverage the power of social media as a way to connect with customers, but also to correctly monitor it.

Employees should be carefully trained in the proper usage of social media platforms. As many industry observers have noted, the correct response can defuse even the most tense and critical situations. When used constructively and positively, social media can be an extremely powerful supplementary contact center tool. However, management should carefully monitor social media channels to ensure they’re being used in accordance with company objectives.

Real-Time Reporting and Statistics

Technologies that support real-time tracking, reporting, and statistical management help improve customer service. They also help management identify and correct systemic inefficiencies while providing key insights into employee performance.

Call queue reports, call volume statistical tracking, and inbound/outbound call history tracking are a few of the most commonly used applications of these tools. They can be configured to present data from a range of viewpoints, which maximizes their relevance when seeking answers to specific questions.

Monitoring, Whispering and Barging

These contact center tools allow supervisors and management-level staff to:

  • Listen in on calls (“monitoring”)
  • Communicate with the service agent without the customer’s knowledge (“whispering”)
  • Join or take over the call if necessary (“barging”)

In addition to improving service and operational efficiency, barging, whispering, and monitoring are extremely useful training and employee evaluation tools that every contact center can benefit from.

The communication professionals at ROI Networks are experts at helping businesses improve their contact center capabilities. To learn more about these and other technological solutions for call and contact centers, please contact ROI Networks today.

UCaaS: Making Small Businesses Big

UCaaSSmall and medium businesses (SMBs) are the backbone of a successful economy. Big starts from small: Apple that took off in a garage; eBay was founded in a living room; FaceBook was conceived in a dorm room.

In the present business environment, small can also be big. SMB owners are wearing more hats more than ever in order to keep pace with bigger enterprises. They are realizing that concerns related to sales, marketing, finance, human resources, and more can be addressed by streamlining processes through effective communications. Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) can help meet these challenges at less cost than an in-house solution.

The Benefits

With the emerging mobility trends, SMBs are increasingly shifting to UCaaS to meet the changing demands of remote working through enhanced communication and collaboration tools. Reduced costs and business continuity are the main drivers to a move to a UCaaS model, along with a host of other benefits.

Reduced Costs UCaaS enables SMBs to minimize the cost of ownership and offload significant capital expenditures to the provider with no major infrastructure to build. Work hours are saved by not having to maintain, troubleshoot, and replace old equipment. Hosted UC provides a predictable monthly operating expense with monthly billing that can include collaboration tools like audio and video conferencing and long distance services.

Business ContinuityBusiness disruptions happen not only during earthquakes, tornadoes, blizzards, or wild fires, but also when isolated electrical fires occur, when major pipelines leak, or when IT glitches crop up. Most hosted UC services include a disaster recovery and business continuity plan that enables employees with Internet access to use the network’s UC tools to continue working and keep the business up and running.

Simplicity and Speed of Deployment Premise-based UC is often complex, with several servers and UC applications needed to be set up by specialized IT professionals. A hosted UC solution can be set up quickly, with adds, changes, and moves accomplished in minutes. Typical IT management and maintenance tasks, including automatic updates of the latest versions, are handled by the UC provider.

Increased Efficiency and Productivity Presence is an effective tool for SMBs that lends visibility into how employees are working and if processes are aligned with established business objectives. This translates to improved efficiency, increased productivity, and more robust ROI.

The Challenges

UCaaS is not without challenges, but businesses can have a successful UC experience if these challenges are addressed.

LAN RequirementsThe local area network (LAN) is host to routers, switches, and firewalls. These critical components need to be upgraded, adjusted, and configured to ensure quality of service and streamline deployment and management.

Network Bandwidth and Redundancy Concerns While voice calls, messaging, and emails are the more frequently used components of a UC network, video conferencing eats up significantly more bandwidth. UC planners need to assess their bandwidth requirements as well as plan for a backup bandwidth provider in case the primary system goes down or becomes congested.

Wiring and Cabling – Wiring and cabling may seem like minor needs, but they help ensure the desired quality of service. Cat5+ cabling works best in a VoIP environment, while Wi-Fi has limited uses. UC planners may also consider a dual drop switching system where the data network has its own port, with the phones having their own port.

Integration of Special Features – Many companies want to retain special digital and analog phone services that have been part of their corporate culture. These include paging systems, music on a call on hold, automated door systems activated via phone, advertising, messaging, and many others. Integrating and testing the services are important tasks during the planning phase.

The benefits of UCaaS are clear, but SMBs moving toward a hosted solution need to address the challenges for a successful deployment. If you’re an SMB looking to UCaaS to make your business big, contact us at ROI Networks for a no obligation UC planning session.

Enterprise E911 Adoption: Challenges and Solutions

September Blog # 4 (1)Enhanced 911 (E911) capability is a critical component of an enterprise voice system. However, design capabilities of current telephony systems can pose potential trouble for its adoption.

From 911 to E911

The 911 system was traditionally designed for a public switched telephone network (PSTN) environment and then gradually adapted to evolving telecommunications technologies. The system performs three basic functions:

  • Receive and recognize an emergency call from any phone
  • Transmit the call to the nearest Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) based on the caller’s originating location
  • Immediately dispatch the needed responders based on the location information

However, there are situations where a 911 call may provide insufficient or confusing information on the identity and location of the caller that may lead emergency responders to the wrong location. Most enterprises today deploy some form of multi-line telephone system (MLTS) or private branch exchange (PBX) with centralized trunks.

A 911 call passes through the Automatic Number Identification (ANI) associated with the trunk used. This process allows the PSAP to know the location of the caller through the Automatic Location Information (ALI) that is often identified with the address of the trunk. The centralized trunking system can give rise to location issues when calls are made from:

  • A large building or one with multiple floors
  • Multi-building premises
  • Metropolitan or wide area networks (MAN/WAN) with several buildings having access only to centralized trunks

This is where the enhanced version comes in. The E911 capability allows the telephone system administrator to customize ANI and ALI data. This involves the assignment of a unique DID number to each user in the organization that will reside in the telephone carrier’s regional ALI database. In order to get access to the carrier’s database, companies need to purchase a Private Switch ALI (PS-ALI) from the carrier. This results in additional costs because PS-ALI service is priced per unique ANI/ALI record applied for.

Challenges to E911 Adoption

Most MLTS and PBX systems do not provide the exact location within a building or campus where the E911 call originated. When a 911 call is made from an individual user’s desk, the caller ID that reaches the PSAP often reads as the company’s MLTS or PBX ID, making it difficult for responders to pinpoint the specific location where emergency assistance is needed. In a highly critical situation, this could mean a lost opportunity to save life or property.

The Solution: PS/ALI could be integrated into the telephony system to provide additional location information, such as the individual user’s extension number, unique DID number, or exact floor or wing within the building.

VoIP systems, due to their portability, have no permanent location. This makes it difficult for the 911 routing system to locate the exact address of where response is needed.

The Solution: For fixed line users, a default physical location can be set up for every VoIP account with a dedicated extension or help desk and emergency operator to monitor 911 calls. For mobile users, some service providers offer location update functionality that enables users to update their expected location at certain times.

Beyond addressing regulation concerns, E911 aims to protect employees and members of all kinds of organizations by making emergency services available literally right at the tip of their fingers. To learn more about E911, visit us at ROI Networks.

The Ongoing Security Crisis in Healthcare

SecurityThe list of healthcare companies that have experienced a breach is growing at an alarming rate, with more continuing to be discovered. Despite the spotlight finally beginning to shine on healthcare security, news stories every week seem to report yet another incident. Here’s a look into why these breaches continue to occur, and what might be done to stop them.

Common Problems

A frequent cause of a breach or data theft is simple error. A patient file is accidentally left out in a public area, a worker steps away from an unsecured computer with patient data left on the screen, or a company laptop in plain sight is stolen from a worker’s vehicle. Applications may not be password protected, or the passwords used by doctors or admin assistants may fail complexity rules and be easily guessed for unbridled access to sensitive data.

Other points of vulnerability are vendor connections to the systems that house healthcare data. In both big box retail and healthcare, breaches have occurred when vendors are linked in but fail to properly protect their own systems or that connectivity.

Other causes are more complex or political. For example, healthcare workers are charged with filling out extensive amounts of paperwork for each patient interaction and test. While the intention is to provide better patient care through communication of all possible details, the result is overburdened nurses who are outnumbered by patients and forms.

Lastly, archaic software systems or components are not up to today’s security standards. Many hospitals do not use modern software due to the expense and effort of implementing changes to systems. This can leave doors open to cybercriminals seeking payment and identity data easily found in patient records.

Solutions

Unfortunately, many workers in the healthcare industry place the entire burden of security on their IT departments. While IT is responsible for ensuring that best practices for application and data protection are implemented, overall security is not a task that can be performed without support from all levels of the company. There must be a partnership between IT and the rest of the organization.

Here are a few easy ways to improve security in healthcare:

  • Security training – Basic principles for physical and technological protection should be covered in annual and new-hire training sessions. Topics should include password strength, ways to easily secure a system or device, and avoiding common hacking or phishing methods.
  • Streamlining processes – So much paperwork is required in patient care. Providing easy, intuitive methods of completing these responsibilities can cut down the time required. Analytics can then be produced from the data collected to further identify how processes for both administration and care may be improved.
  • Control risk – Fully assess vendors who will be connecting to systems, prohibit or limit non-company devices from storing or accessing patient data, and educate the workers who access the systems.

Medical data is incredibly valuable. From the records held by providers, a thief can potentially gain access to credit card information and extensive personal records that facilitate identity theft. Healthcare organizations must do more to protect patients from this growing area of crime. To continue the discussion on healthcare security, contact ROI Networks.

The Black and White of SDN

September Blog # 4 (1)Over just a year, Software Defined Networking (SDN) went from barely known to celebrity status in the technical realm. Even though it has been around for quite some time, the concept of SDN is still somewhat nebulous to many. With so much misinformation and sketchy vendor marketing surrounding this tool, it may be difficult to know its true value. Here’s the truth about this powerful technology.

The Basics

SDN is a centralized manner of controlling all of the switches, devices, and components of a network. The purpose is to make deployment and configuration much more efficient, while also allowing the path of network traffic to be optimized.

For a solution to be qualified as SDN, a few criteria must be met.

  • It is designed to replace an MPLS arrangement, so must be able to do that.
  • Some type of UI or management portal must be included for network administrators to efficiently manage all of the connected components via one mechanism.
  • The system should be able to automatically reroute traffic and connections to a secondary path. Having this failover keeps traffic running optimally and avoids outages.

Any vendor solution that cannot meet these three requirements should be omitted from consideration.

Critical Features

A software defined network is all about optimizing performance, including connectivity. Often, multiple types of Internet connections are used by companies so that they can switch over to a secondary in the event of an outage. Not only is the SDN capable of doing this, but it can also switch between connections when lag or inadequate performance are detected. This facilitates stability and ensures that communications remain high quality.

Alerts are another great part of an SDN arrangement. Should an outage be detected, an alert is sent so that it’s addressed immediately and network stability is preserved. Using the SDN portal, trouble is accurately pinpointed and can be resolved efficiently.

The Benefits

SDN is applicable to a wide variety of industries. Implementing SDN improves a number of factors on a company network:

  • Reduce trouble tickets – Since this technology automates outage-handling and traffic optimization, users no longer experience lag or downtime.
  • Cost effective – This is a less expensive solution than MPLS, for example. In addition, systems are more stable so Internet connections may often be altered to save money.
  • Flexible – An SDN-qualified solution can be network agnostic, permit user customizations, and easily accommodate new hardware devices.
  • On the rise – More providers coming on to the scene means competitive pricing and feature-rich packages.
  • Improved productivity – Network administrators are able to focus on more important tasks since the network now automatically handles performance improvements.

Software defined networking is becoming increasingly popular. For more information about implementing SDN, contact ROI Networks today.

How the Ransomware Crisis Is Impacting Healthcare Data Security

August Blog # 4 (1)A recent string of high-profile cyberattacks is renewing fears of the increasingly coordinated and sophisticated attacks that can be used against healthcare organizations. According to a recent report from IBM’s worldwide security services operations, the healthcare industry broke back into the top five of the most frequently targeted industries in 2015.

A growing number of these attacks have come in the form of ransomware, where malware programs are unknowingly introduced through e-mails and e-mail attachments are used to hold critical data systems hostage.

Businesses Under Siege

Clinical information systems at hospitals, clinics, and treatment centers handle a wealth of personal and confidential data found in electronic health records (EHR), including Social Security numbers, credit card data, and medical history — making them prime targets for a variety of cyberattacks, including ransomware attacks.

One hospital had its clinical information systems shut down for over a week due to a ransomware attack. The cybercriminals behind it held these systems hostage for $3.6 million before settling on $17,000 paid in Bitcoins and restoring access to the hospital’s data. Another health system had its clinical information system shut down due to a virus-based hacking attack, complete with a digital ransom note. It took weeks for officials to restore access to its data.

New Threats, But Little Preparation

The drastic surge in cyber security threats has left healthcare IT leaders throughout the U.S. struggling to keep pace. Unfortunately, the healthcare industry has seemed ill-prepared to combat ransomware and other cyber security threats. Current challenges facing patient care organizations and the healthcare industry in general include:

  • Little to no awareness of the magnitude and intensity of the ransomware problem in U.S. healthcare
  • Minimal investment in data security when compared to other industries
  • Little to no data security strategic planning and an inability to execute strategic plans
  • Insufficient training, expertise, and preparedness among those tasked with data security
  • Insufficient staffing within information security departments
  • Reluctance among C-level executives and boards of directors to directly address ransomware and other cyber security threats

What Can Be Done

In an effort to protect themselves against cyberattacks, a growing number of patient care organizations in the U.S. are hiring chief information security officers (CISOs) to lead anti-cyberattack efforts. However, the effectiveness of the CISO relies on sufficient funding, support personnel, and support at the C-suite and board levels. A lack of buy-in and support from C-level executives and board members can stymie efforts to develop an effective force against ransomware and other cyberattacks.

In addition to guaranteeing funding, staffing, and top-level support, healthcare IT leaders should focus on developing a comprehensive strategic cyber security plan. Such plans should include common-sense security measures, including:

  • Daily backup of core information systems
  • Use of security operations centers (SOCs) and other external services
  • Implementation of role-based access systems
  • Enterprise-wide training of all IS end-users on a regular basis

These efforts to implement a successful data security/cyber security apparatus can help the healthcare sector overcome its vulnerability to ransomware and other malicious attacks.

If your company is dealing with its own cybersecurity issues, ROI Networks can help it move in the right direction. Contact us today for a no-obligation security session.