Posts Tagged ‘metrics’

QoS – Voice Quality is Job Number One – Part 2

May 9, 2009

In the previous article we defined how a phone call is composed of four distinct components, all of which must be operating at peak efficiency to provide premium Quality of Service (QoS) for your business. The components were:

 Connectivity – the dialtone or broadband connection to the outside world. It could range from a plain old analog copper wire pair (POTS) to a digital T-1 optical fiber or better.

  1. Hardware – this is the phone system that you buy. Part of it is the PBX in the back room, part is the handset on your desk that you use to answer a call. Hardware is the fastest component to become obsolete and is also typically the most expensive. A VOIP system has an IP-PBX which is a reprogrammable computer and is not as likely to be obsoleted.
  2. Software – this component drives the phone system hardware to do what it needs to do at your command. Old PBX systems are heavily dependent upon the hardware for features that you can use. Modern VOIP phone systems are mainly driven by the software which can be reprogrammed as needed, updated and kept from obsolescence quite easily. This extends the useful lifetime of your phone system investment.
  3. Network – Your phone system requires a network of cables, routers and switches to connect the brain (PBX or IP-PBX) to the handsets unless you are wireless. A radio can broadcast phone signals to built-in corresponding wireless receivers – see hardware. Digital VOIP phone systems piggyback on the data network and avoid the cost of a duplicate network as in analog wiring pre-2000.

Never make the mistake of using consumer quality equipment that is designed for low traffic volume on a high traffic office network. You may save some money at the store but you will pay for it many times over in equipment reboots, system failures, data loss and lower productivity for your business. Get a recommendation from your IT/phone system vendors and buy the best router and switches that you can afford. Have a qualified technician install real CAT5e or better cabling, not patch cables running through your ceilings

A VOIP phone system goes further than other phone systems in bringing clarity to your business phone. Since the phone system shares a network with the data network, the packet traffic must be prioritized such that the voice packets go first at all times. This is implemented in VOIP QoS. The network is instructed to differentiate voice traffic from data traffic and prioritize the voice traffic. There are metrics that VOIP technicians use to measure how well this works and see where it can be improved. QOS does not particularly slow down data packet transfer. There is no noticeable lag in Internet usage or file transfer across your local network.

 The key to all four components in QoS is planning. Talk to your vendors and see what your options are, particularly from the telco for connectivity and the phone vendor for the other three components of hardware, software and network. An IT company may understand the network component but may not be familiar enough with phone systems to know the pitfalls that are out there. Would you bet the quality of your phone system for the next ten years on an IT staff that has little experience in business phone systems? Acquire the right vendor for this vital part of your business communications and your business will be far better off in the long run.

 Ask for your free phone system audit from Select Phone Solutions by calling 281-501-6464.

“Productivity Through Technology”

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QoS – Voice Quality is Job Number One – Part 1

May 5, 2009

It is a given fact that phone systems are a key component of how a business communicates with customers, vendors, friends and family. The quality of how those conversations sound is crucial to being effective. Anything other than crystal clear talk is just not acceptable. How can we measure that clarity and decide if our phone system meets our expectations?

Let’s separate the phone call into specific components which all together create the overall experience. First we have connectivity. The “dialtone” may be standard copper lines with the same technology that was used 100 years ago. These work very well and typically provide great service at a low cost (not counting taxes and extra fees). More modern types of connectivity include broadband (DSL, cable, T-1 for example) and allow much more capacity through single cables. Frequently broadband service piggybacks voice and data together so one bill pays your telephone and Internet service together.

The next component is the phone system hardware. If you use copper lines then you may simply have a Princess Phone (dating myself!) or other handset on the desk. Very simple, works well but features are totally dependent on the PBX. Your PBX may be hosted and controlled by the telco or it might be in your own office. In a hosted situation you likely have few features and they are the same as what was available 20 years ago. If you have a modern VOIP phone system in your own office then your phone hardware has many features. Some are visible on the handset, many more are software driven and are detailed in your manuals.

The last component is the software that drives the phone system. The most desirable features such as AutoAttendant (the menu system), FindMe-FollowMe, Voicemail to Email, and many others are added as necessary and modified for your business by your phone vendor. You do have someone you can talk to about your VOIP phone system features? Someone who will make the changes you need when you need them as your company grows?

The combination of these three factors presents what is called QoS or Quality of Service. The bar must be set very high in QoS in order for your calls to be crystal clear and effective. Phone companies measure QoS with technical metrics such as Latency (delay in packet delivery), Packet Loss (missing voice data), Network Jitter (voice data packets arriving out of order), etc. They monitor the many metrics available to see if you are receiving top quality or if improvements are required. Voice data can also be given priority over data traffic in a VOIP scenario to improve QoS.

At your own office, the local network also plays a huge role in what QoS you encounter. Whether you are using an old phone system with skinny cables or a VOIP phone system piggybacking along your data network fat cabling, it must be installed properly and maintained. There should be no kinks in the cables or tears in the insulation. The network equipment in the phone room must be “business quality”, not something designed for low traffic residential use. All too often a small business owner tries to save money on routers, switches and other network equipment not realizing that the QoS goes down because the equipment is not good enough for the task. Network bottlenecks can be eliminated via a thorough audit by a quality vendor.

Ask for your free phone system audit from Select Phone Solutions by calling 281-501-6464.

“Productivity Through Technology”

Which Advertising Method Produces the Best Results?

April 29, 2009

All businesses advertise their phone numbers to the public so that the public will call for a product or service. Theoretically, the more calls received, the more money is made by the business. What if the business used multiple advertising methods to get that phone number out to the public? Which one produced the best results? Which one was a waste of advertising money?

 

One way to accomplish a study of which advertising method was most effective would be to advertise different numbers to the public for each specific advertisement. Radio commercials during the day use phone number A, radio commercials at 2 AM use phone number B, TV ads during the day use Phone number C and TV ads at 2 AM use phone number D. The print mailer this week uses phone number E. The resulting responses to your company using these phone numbers will tell you the quantity of response for each method. Now judge the quality of response by the amount of cost, revenue and profit and the best method will be very apparent. This will substantially change your future advertising and raise your company profits.

 

But wait, this concept can be put in place only if you have enough phone numbers to use for unique events. Most businesses do not have so many extra phone numbers and have no way to do an analysis. This is where having a digital VOIP phone system with T-1 service shows some of the best benefits for you. The variability and recordkeeping of VOIP shines for metrics.

 

Most T-1 providers give you a bundle of services in your T-1 package including your 6 dial tone lines, long distance minutes, fax to email, remote backup, etc. They also usually give you 50 DIDs which are Direct Inward Dialing numbers. This block of 50 phone numbers can be assigned to your incoming service for any purpose you need. The 6 dial tone lines only mean that you can have 6 concurrent calls. They do not limit the number of DIDs that can be used or how you use specific DID numbers. If you needed more than 50 DIDs you could also order that at an extra cost from the T-1 provider. More on a real-life example of that in the next article.

 

All of the DIDs are funneled into your VOIP phone system. The system logs every call coming in and going out in the log files which are easily available to the owner/manager in the customer portal on their own local web browser at any time. Using simple filters for time, date, numbers, etc., any specific information can be presented as a report or exported to another program such as a database or spreadsheet. Want to know the number of calls received for DID A for radio commercials promoted from 7 am to 9 am from March 3rd through March 10th? Easy. Want to know the number of calls received for DID C for TV commercials promoted from 7 am to 9 am from March 3rd through March 10th? Simple. Now compare the numbers to see which had more calls generated, which produced more revenue and profit, and compare those numbers to the cost of the ads. You have created the ability to decide which is the most cost effective for you.

 

Advertise your business but do it with a method to qualify and quantify the results. Every business owner needs metrics to analyze their business and change processes to become more successful. A VOIP phone system provides that opportunity with easy to use tool sets.

 

Ask for your free phone system audit from Select Phone Solutions by calling 281-501-6464.

“Productivity Through Technology”

Do You Manage Your Phone System?

April 17, 2009

When a business owner or manager talks about specific parts of their office technology that help to keep productivity as high as possible, they rarely discuss their phone system. Sometimes that is because their very old phone system has no means to add features without significant costs to upgrade the system. At other times it is because they assume that nothing is available to provide any better way for how the phone system is used by their employees. After all, “it’s just a phone system!”

Obviously the phone system is a vital method for corresponding with customers, prospects, vendors, employees and others. For most companies it is the primary method with email a distant second choice. Certainly email has its valuable uses but it can’t tell you the emotions behind the words. Anything that can help your phone system to be more effective should be a huge plus for your business.

When a caller reaches your business, they may talk to the desired target person immediately or they may talk to a receptionist and then have to be transferred. If the receptionist simply transfers the call but has no idea if the other employee is there or busy on another call, the caller may get into voicemail when they would rather talk to a live person. If the receptionist knew that the other employee was already on a call, then a different scenario would result.

This is where a software program called “HUD” or “Heads Up Display” can really aid a company. When HUD is installed on a computer associated with a VOIP system, the HUD display shows all of the office phones in a small corner window. At a glance you can monitor who is on the phone and what number they are connected to at the moment. Transferring a call is as simple as dragging the “phone call” from one phone extension to another on your HUD portal. HUD can be integrated with Microsoft Outlook such that it will read your contact list and dial the numbers for you.

This use of technology is called Communications Integration and is a part of a Unified Communications overall strategic plan. Enterprise size companies are implementing new phone strategies everywhere because it helps keep up productivity. A VOIP phone system can easily be paired with programs like HUD to place these very desirable features into small companies so they can achieve the same benefits. Older key and analog systems just do not offer these choices at all.

Imagine how your phone system works today and write down all of the steps a caller goes through to reach their target employee. Then also write down all of the steps your employees go through for basic tasks such as transferring calls. Is there wasted time and effort in the processes? Could changing to a VOIP digital phone system make it easier for employees to do their jobs the way you want them to perform? Do you ever get complaints from callers or employees about difficulties using the current phone system? Do you have bottom line metrics available to you as an owner or manager to know what you need to know?

Ask for your free phone system audit from Select Phone Solutions by calling 281-501-6464.

“Productivity Through Technology”

Telephone Metrics – Do You Know Where Your Phone System Has Been?

April 12, 2009

All company owners and managers institute controls on their business so that they have a way of measuring what is happening within the company. They have to have a way of collecting data that is meaningful, can be analyzed, and point out what they must know as management. Unfortunately, most owners and managers don’t think of analyzing their phone data to see how it could help them become more efficient and profitable.

Of course they first must have a system that allows data collection via computer logs or else they can only rely upon telephone company bills that list long distance calls, if that is available to them. Not all phone companies still provide that data. Even if they do, long distance may be a minor part of a business’ calls if they mainly do local calling. They get no information about the local side of how the phone system is used.

Having computer logs of your phone system, on the other hand, should allow easy filtering to provide a view from any angle of what the employees, clients and vendors do with the phone system. If you don’t know how many calls were made to and from your most important clients, wouldn’t you like to know that every month? Wouldn’t you like to identify how much time each employee spends on the phone to see how that matches up with your expectation of how they should perform their job?

Your phone system should be able to produce a Call Data Report (CDR) that has monitored every call in and out of the system 24 x 7 x 365. Here are some great uses for CDR filtering to quantify your phone usage:

  • Do you know how and when your sales people are communicating with known clients?
  • Are the sales people cold calling for new appointments?
  • Would you like to record those calls for training classes or for review?
  • Do you know how many calls come in to specially setup numbers to track targeted marketing campaigns?
  • Would you like to follow up on complaint calls to your customer service department to make sure the callers were satisfied with the results of their calls?
  • Would it be useful to have a record in your CRM software of every time a specific customer or prospect was contacted?

There are many ways to filter the CDR database in your phone system web-based portal. It is very simple to use the software to create reports for the parties you are interested in as well as for the time period that concerns you. Ask your phone system vendor to show you how to run these metrics if you don’t do them now. It is an incredibly important part of the core of your business data and you should take advantage of the information.

Ask for your free phone system audit from Select Phone Solutions by calling 281-501-6464.

“Productivity Through Technology”