5 Unified Communications Features Every Business Should Have

Unified CommunicationsUnified communications (UC) has revolutionized telephony systems for enterprises. Outdated phone systems that use legacy technologies are officially obsolete, and continuing to use them can actually inhibit a business’s ability to grow and respond to the dynamic needs of its customers and clients.

Companies that are ready to make the switch to UC solutions should be sure to look for these five key features:

On-the-Go Accessibility

Today’s world is a dynamic and mobile place, and the most efficient and effective UC systems offer access to users wherever and whenever there’s an Internet connection available. Mobility features allow employees and customer service representatives to be productive and available beyond their desks, and that’s an increasingly valuable feature as traditional ways of doing business continue to change.
Enhanced Efficiency and Productivity

UC solutions allow employees to customize their outbound and inbound call protocols in ways that are far more flexible than the possibilities offered by legacy systems and operator-assisted networks. Some of these possibilities include:

  • Applications that offer real-time inbound and outbound call control
  • Teleconferencing capabilities
  • Customized hold and priority sequencing features

These tools can all be configured to prioritize customer service objectives while giving employees creative solutions with pinpoint control.

Easy Compatibility

Compatibility was a major issue in the early days of UC, with devices from different manufacturers sometimes posing problems when connected to a single network. However, compatibility has come a long way in the past few years, and systems that support devices from various manufacturers can often save businesses a significant amount of money.

Even better, enhanced compatibility enables organizations to pick and choose the devices that best meet their specific needs without needing to worry about which manufacturer produces it. This gives the system superior flexibility and a wider range of performance capabilities.
Remote Support

The nature of the office is changing. People are telecommuting in growing numbers, and it’s common for even smaller enterprises to maintain staff at multiple locations. UC systems ensure that all employees, no matter where they’re working, have access to the same suite of performance and productivity features.
Value for Investment

A lot of businesses are tempted by UC systems with low up-front costs, but it’s important to carefully calculate how much value the system will deliver in the long term relative to its price. Businesses should be particularly aware of add-on features and hidden costs. In most cases, it’s better to invest a little more up front in exchange for cost certainty and predictability going forward.

ROI Networks offers a complete range of advanced UC solutions, loaded with the essential features businesses need to stay competitive in a dynamic and constantly changing environment. Please contact us today to learn more about our wide range of available UC products and service packages.

Video and the Contact Center: The New Face of Customer Service

Contact CenterEvery generation has a preference for communication methods, technologies, problem solving, and how they get information or assistance. Some wish for the personal connection of a phone call, while others prefer a written route like web search, email, or text. For the incoming generation, the use of video is a growing preference. In response to this new movement, the contact center environment is adapting to integrate video support, added to an already robust arsenal of assistance methods.

Driving Forces Behind Video’s Growth

  • Rising Technology. Video communication tools have become widely prevalent through applications such as Skype, Hangouts, and FaceTime. Social media integrates video chat tools as well. Video has become quite commonplace, so it’s natural that a contact center would fold it into a customer care strategy.
  • Enhances the Conversation. Video is a powerful way of rounding out a discussion. Not only are words conveyed, but representatives can also detect the mood of the customer by their tone, gestures, and facial expressions. The support person is able to make adjustments to clarify confusing information or to better satisfy the customer before too much time is lost.
  • Improved Tech Support. Seeing a problem firsthand greatly reduces the time needed to fix it. Using video to show a product or application that is not working as desired gives the rep a visual of the issue, and the problem can be solved very quickly as a result.
  • Human Touch. Customers are much happier when they feel that the person assisting them is interested in helping them. Sharing video helps the two parties connect on a personal level, build trust, and solve problems in a partnership.

Considerations for Implementation

Before video can be successfully deployed in a contact center, a few factors must be reviewed.

  • Surroundings. If video support will be provided, it should be in front of a proper background. Remote workers may not be the optimal video representatives since their workstation may be their kitchen or another casual space. The video area should be well lit, clean, tidy, and professional-looking. Test for echoes or extraneous noise. Ensure that video workers are properly outfitted and appropriate for the job.
  • Network. Running video on a weak or small infrastructure may result in lag, poor video quality, dropped sessions, and difficulty communicating.
  • Selection and Training. Not all contact center reps would feel comfortable working the video chat support line. For those deemed to be a good fit for the job, it’s important to comprehensively train them on the situations that may arise. Role playing is a powerful training technique, and lots of practice helps smooth out any rough edges. The more experience and information the reps have, the greater the customer satisfaction that will result.
  • Legal Considerations. Recording audio or video for performance and satisfaction monitoring is not legal in all areas. Ensure all regulations are followed before implementing a video solution.

Deploying video in the contact center is an effective way to satisfy customers and give support reps more useful tools to resolve problems. Agents are happier and productivity blossoms. For more information about video as a customer service tool, 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.

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.

Why Every Call Center Needs Workforce Optimization

ROI June blog 4Workforce optimization (WFO) is a phrase used to describe a powerful set of tools designed for call center support. For some companies, the call center provides the majority of their sales and support efforts so managing this segment effectively is a critical task. WFO suites assist managers with everything from collecting call recordings to data analytics that report on agent performance. Here’s why companies are increasingly turning to WFO packages to improve results.

Serve Customers Better

When it comes to customer service, bad news travels far more quickly than good. It’s nearly a guarantee that a less-than-optimal interaction will result in the company gaining negative publicity via social media. Many people have hundreds to thousands of readers on a single social media platform and usually participate in multiple platforms, so a single status update about a customer service problem could attain viral status very quickly. News of a poor service experience reaching that many people may have a serious impact on customer loyalty or acquisition.

Companies using WFO in the call center have greater visibility into service problems and are able to use that information to coach representatives, streamline processes, and otherwise manage issues. Through improved customer handling, the chance of bad publicity is minimized and customers will be more likely to share stories of efficient and effective customer service that the company has delivered.

Get to Know Customers

WFO packages allow companies to gain understanding about customers. It helps answer questions like:

  • What is the most common reason for calls?
  • What factors are most important to the customer base?
  • Are certain marketing campaigns more effective than others?

Knowing the answers to these questions and acting on the insights provided by WFO analytics will improve customer retention and satisfaction.

Improving Agent Satisfaction

An important part of operating a call center is keeping agents engaged and happy at their jobs. WFO solutions must embed training opportunities for reps and ensure that the right reps are assigned to the right areas of the company. When agents feel valued, motivated, and knowledgeable, the trickle-down effect is better customer service. Using the WFO package to gain and share insights and address agent satisfaction numbers with relevant leaders goes a long way toward employee and customer retention.

WFO packages for the call center provide a number of crucial advantages. Implementing this type of system results in rewards from improved customer service to enhanced productivity and decreased employee churn.

WFO is the key to discovering important trends and performing better as an organization. For more information about WFO solutions, contact ROI Networks today.

How Mobility Technologies Improve Workplace Productivity and Customer Service

ROI June blog 1Mobility has become a key feature of enterprise technology, and it’s changed the face of the business world. Mobile technologies have made it possible for employees to respond to key queries outside of regular working hours, participate in conference calls from virtually anywhere, and provide vastly improved customer service. However, mobility has far more to offer than just convenience; it also supports improved productivity and workplace efficiency.

Mobility Technologies Help Employees Work Faster

Listening to employee needs helps those at the management level choose applications and technologies that can improve efficiency. One way to generate key insights into the types of tools employees require is to ask them to finish the following statement: “I would be able to manage critical tasks more effectively if we had…” Is there a mobility tool on the market that can fill that need? If so, it should be considered.
Mobility Enables More Effective Collaboration

Delivering collaboration features to employees in real time is one of the most convenient and effective strategies for improving collaboration initiatives, and mobile technologies deliver these capabilities in exciting new ways. Imagine how much easier it would be to attract new clients and close deals if marketing, sales, and business operations teams were able to access the same resources and work together to complete proposals. They would be able to respond to client needs much more quickly and with greater precision — and that, in turn, would be a big boost to the bottom line.
Mobility Leads to Better Customer Service

Customer service models are changing. Today, customers want to be able to access company and product information on the go, through multiple channels. Providing customers with that access prevents them from moving on to a competitor. Understanding customer needs and preferences and then offering effective solutions is the key to maintaining an edge in today’s hyper-connected business landscape.

Enterprises should begin by taking stock of their current IT infrastructure and capabilities to see where key upgrades could be made in support of a more mobile and productive workforce. Boosting wireless network capabilities, providing the right apps and tools to employees, and adding the right mobile devices to the company’s inventory are all sound strategies for harnessing the immense power of mobility technologies.

To learn more about how mobility can inspire major efficiency and productivity improvements in the workplace, visit ROI Networks.

Why Unified Communications and Business Analytics Need One Another

shutterstock_202503661Unified Communications (UC) is a strategy that helps a company save money and bring a widespread audience together in an efficient and powerful way. Resources are optimized, communication channels are streamlined, and technology is utilized to its fullest potential. The immense benefits of UC are enhanced even further when combined with other services, especially in the case of business analytics–the best possible partner to a solid UC strategy.

Defining the Metrics

Data is an essential part of discovering the measurable impacts of change or process. Through business analytics, the most relevant set of metrics can be identified so that exceptions may be defined. Identifying such boundaries and outlying areas, a business is able to better determine potential trouble spots and help correct them even as they occur.

The type of metrics will vary by industry and business case. For example, a call center may find average handling time and number of completed calls to be useful statistics to discover training opportunities. On the other hand, a manufacturing facility could use minutes of downtime, items produced, and number of failed products as measurables.

Communicating the Issue

Exceptions that fall below the threshold should trigger some sort of alarm or awareness so problems can be efficiently corrected. While presenting an alert is an essential function of the business analysis process, improvement cannot be realized without a seamless UC program. Who should be notified to exceptions? Who is responsible for identifying corrective action? How is correction to be made? Is public communication necessary? In what form? Does a best practice or company standard need to be defined or altered? Such questions scratch the surface of what a strong UC strategy will cover. If the appropriate measures are taken, the entire company will benefit from the relationship between business analytics and UC.

Practical Application

An example of how business analytics and UC can work together is an assembly line failure. Mr. Smith has received Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that indicate a potential problem on Machine 5. The number of acceptable quality products has plummeted from 75 per second to 33 per second. As this falls below the acceptable limits for this machine, Mr. Smith is able to acknowledge an issue. He also knows from today’s KPIs that Machines 8 and 20 are slightly below normal. Mr. Smith is able to consult with operations and finds that there was a faulty widget previously used to repair Machine 5. Coincidentally, Machines 8 and 20 also received this same repair about a week after that of Machine 5.

By using business analytics in conjunction with the company’s UC strategy, Mr. Smith can convey to the organization in real time that the faulty widget may be a widespread issue. The company can also identify any other machines that were repaired using the faulty part, remediate these repairs, and prevent the additional machine failure. Productivity is saved. Operations has saved time and money. Revenue projections have been preserved.

The combination of business analytics and UC is a formula for success and growth. From optimized production to increased shareholder value, this technique can help reap rewards across an organization.