Posts Tagged ‘phone vendor’

Planning Company Growth and Telecommunications

May 17, 2009

Successful businesses start out with a business plan. It keeps them on track, on budget, and on a road towards growing the business. Of course the key to a great business plan is the thought and planning that goes into it. Do you talk with your lawyer, CPA and other trusted advisors when creating that business plan? Does that group include your technical vendors? 

To build a worthwhile business plan you need accurate information from all of your trusted advisors. Not including your technical help is a recipe for wasted money, questionable growth and lost time. Technical vendors should include IT, phone systems, telecom, cabling infrastructure and security. You may have vendors who perform more than one of these but make sure that they are all covered. 

You must find out what your requirements will be for the present time and then project what your needs will be six months, a year, perhaps even three to five years in the future. You will want your technical capabilities to be proper for today and then capable of scaling up into what is necessary as you grow. Saving a few dollars each month at the start may cost you much larger dollars in the future if you are forced to totally scrap some technology and start over to grow. 

For example, spending $1000 for a few four-line phones from the local experts at the office supplies store may work for you right now. Your basic functions work but you have no metrics on how your phone system is used. You must mold your business to the features of the four-line system. You will miss benefits that your competitors may be using to get, keep and impress clients and prospects. You have no remote capability to connect into your phone system from the field for sales or technical staff. You are spending telecom (dial tone and long distance) money each month to support your phones and you are adding Internet service on top of that. You are likely in the $250 to $350 per month range when you total up everything. 

Push forward to needing 6 phone lines for more people and more handsets. You will have more computers to feed with increased bandwidth. Now you have to throw away your four-line phone system and buy a larger system. Your telecom costs are over $500 per month. It is time for a T-1 line that includes both the phone lines and the Internet bandwidth for $500 per month. It is time for a review of what you have and where you will be. 

But wait, didn’t you plan for this growth in your business plan? This growth should not be a surprise. Weren’t you aware that you would reach this point and plan for it from the start? Your technical advisors should have told you to get the T-1 and the larger phone system from day one if you are properly capitalized and you have faith in your business plan. You should have purchased a VOIP phone system that is scalable to 50 phones at little additional cost. The VOIP features for remote access, report metrics, and larger company benefits would have made your growth more likely without wasting the $1000 spent on the four-line phone system that hindered your growth. You might have spent $2000 to $4000 for the initial VOIP phone system but the benefits would already have made themselves worthwhile and linked you to future growth. 

What if you don’t have a business plan? Start one now!. Gather your technical advisors and ask them what they recommend for your company. You can only improve your company’s future.

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

“Productivity Through Technology”

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”

New Years Resolutions for Your Phone System

April 8, 2009

Most of us make New Year’s resolutions with the best of intentions to make them come true. Unfortunately we become complacent or lazy and never seem to follow them through. Here are seven resolutions for the phone system in your office that are easily performed and will really help your business become more successful.

1) I will be friendly to all callers. You never know who someone knows and how a good experience will help you in the long run. Consider your phone skills as important as face to face networking.

2) I will test my own phone system to experience it as if I was a client or prospect. Have you ever called your own system to see how long it takes to reach someone? How difficult the menus are to navigate? How much time there is to leave a voicemail message? How loud or soft the volume is for speaking and for on hold music?

3) I will review my AutoAttendant menus to verify that they are accurate. We all periodically change our personnel and menus. Does your menu system reflect exactly what you want it to do? Is the flow control right for today or for a year ago?

4) I will make sure that the employees are trained in the phone features that they should know how to use. Frequently employees do not get proper training to use the phone system. Have your phone vendor come in for a periodic update and extra training so that everyone knows the fundamentals that you paid for plus any new features that they should learn.

5) I will make sure that every employee who needs a phone has one on their desk. Do any of your employees have to share phones? That lowers productivity by causing people to wait for a time when they can make calls instead of getting them done right away.

6) I will keep a log of all phone system problems to see how often they occur so that they can be fixed by the phone vendor. If you have any issues and cannot tell the phone vendor what they exactly entail or how often they occur, it will be more costly and difficult to fix the problem. Treat the phone system like a computer network and create a detailed written log of what must be fixed.

7) I will review my phone system yearly to have an idea of when the system is due for replacement or upgrade. As the business grows, your phone system needs change. Determine when your system is inadequate by getting the assistance of your phone vendor so that you can budget for the replacement or upgrade as well as plan the best timing for it away from your busy season if you have one.

Select Phone Solutions can help you plan to do all of these resolutions. Your phone system can be mapped and documented so that you have a visual understanding of what you own. Be proactive and manage your phone system instead of letting it manage you. Your company productivity is at stake.

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

“Productivity Through Technology”

Do You Backup Your Phone System?

April 4, 2009

Disaster Recovery Plan. Business Continuity Plan. CYA Plan. They all mean the same thing – do you plan ahead for problems in your business such that you can both avoid having those problems and at the same time quickly recover from the ones that do happen? Smart business people have these in place, some more formal and some less. The key question is “Do you know if you have a plan in place for protecting your phone system?

Here are some points to consider in creating, revising or reviewing your plan:

1. Does it accurately represent your current phone system as is or was it written a while ago for an earlier version of what you have or even a previous system all together?

2. Does it list your phone system vendor and how to get technical support when you need it?

3. Does it list your telecom vendor (the dialtone provider) and how to get technical support when you need it?

4. Does it list your phone system hardware and software so you know what you have?

5. Is there a plan for how to prepare for an emergency situation such as an impending hurricane?

6. Is your phone system customization and configuration backed up locally and at a remote location in case of an office disaster?

7. Who performs this backup and how often is it done?

8. Who in your office is aware of this plan and knows how to implement it when necessary?

9. Who is accountable for phone system decisions?

Just as you backup your computer data, your phone system also must be protected. From these nine points it is obvious that some thought must go into the process and preparation of your plan. Think back to the last time you changed your phone system. It may have taken days to finally get everything just right. That would include your AutoAttendant (IVR) menu, phone extensions, call flow of your entire system, voicemail, and custom recordings for every office worker just to name a few items. How much productivity could you lose by having to recreate all of that from scratch?

Some company plans will include having the redundancy of a backup phone server and handsets. Most will just know where to find the vendor to supply replacement parts when necessary. The critical point is to plan for contingencies and know how you should respond to various problems that may occur. Involve your phone and telecom vendors so that you get their advice on what should be in your plan. Establish who has responsibility for each part of your plan so that you can implement it immediately when necessary instead of first deciding what to do. Every wasted hour or day where your phone system doesn’t work is time where your clients can’t reach you for your business. Can you afford not to have a qualified phone system backup plan in place?

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

“Productivity Through Technology”

Why Was Select Phone Solutions Created?

March 22, 2009

Select Phone Solutions was created due to the overwhelming Voice Over IP (VOIP) phone system success by the parent company, Tech Services Group, which is an IT company. Splitting out the phone system work from the IT work performed by Tech Services Group made sense for the company and for its clients.

Tech Services Group was originally formed with the vision of managing all of the technology used by the typical modern office. That included computers, networks, phone systems, copiers, and anything else that makes your office productive.

While computers and such have become very important to running a business, the phone system is the critical human part. We all use it not only to give and get information, we interpret the other person’s voice and inflections as emotional indicators. We may not be able to see them but we can picture their responses in our minds and we change our own messages and actions accordingly.

The world is now not only going to digital telephony, it’s going to converged communications, a combination of synergistic technologies. VOIP phone systems are the backbone of that convergence. We saw the need for an IT company that understood the technology fundamentals to get the best out of those systems. Enter Select Phone Solutions as the experts in designing VOIP phone systems for SMBs, small and medium sized businesses.

Some new phone companies without IT experience can’t help a business coordinate their data networks with their phone system. A hardware salesperson can install a cookie cutter VOIP by reading manuals but they don’t know the underlying concepts of how to merge the capabilities of all the technologies an office needs and uses to provide a customized solution. They also don’t provide extensive technical support after the sale, except to refer you to an 800 number in Bangalore.

Select Phone Solutions inspects your:

  • cabling and can design and/or modify your infrastructure the right way the first time. Out with the CAT3 and in with CAT5e or CAT6 which are the current standards.
  • network capability to ensure that the VOIP phone system will work efficiently and effectively for crystal clear two-way conversations.
  • broadband service to see if you have sufficient bandwidth for your needs, if you should change to a T-1 line or add more of them.
  • office workflow to understand how your phone system should be setup to increase office productivity. We talk with the staff to learn what they do and how they do it.
  • service needs and fully customizes your VOIP phone system to fit your business, not the one down the street. After installation, we train the staff with a Lunch & Learn session.
  • technical support needs and arranges the level of service after the sale that fits your budget, your office time and your business, fully provided by Select Phone Solutions personnel in Houston.

Ask for your free phone system audit from Select Phone Solutions by calling 713-777-2400.

“Productivity Through Technology”

“Bad Phone Attitude is Bad for Business”

March 19, 2009

You are really busy at your desk. You have two or three deadlines to meet that day. Piles of papers are all over the place. You know that people are looking for you and you are avoiding them. The phone rings and you mean to say “Hi, this is Bob Jones with Basket Weavers R Us, can I help you?”, but it comes out “WHAT????” That’s attitude. We all try to stay away from attitude but it creeps into our lives. What we should strive to do is minimize attitude and present our normal cheery and professional business presence, especially on the telephone.

How easy is it to judge someone’s attitude on the phone? We all do it. Probably every day. It affects our conversations with coworkers, prospects, clients and family. What can we do to get away from attitude so that we can maximize our effectiveness on the phone? The first thing is to take away the stress that can be caused by being overwhelmed by your situation of the moment. The next is to make sure that using your phone is as easy as it can be, having features that are easy to understand when you need them.

Were you trained in how to use the phone features? A console full of buttons may not be easy to learn by yourself. Did your phone vendor take the time to show you how to use only the basics or did they make an effort to show the really cool stuff that can make you more productive? Did your vendor throw the phone on the desk at installation, see if you had dialtone, grab a check and was out the door? Are the controls and buttons confusing, which in turn makes you frustrated enough to develop a bad attitude?

If you are a business owner or an office manager, you need your staff to use the phone properly as the business tool that it really is. You know that it is a vital part of your business communications. You must have the staff able to use all the latest features and gadgets that enticed you to choose that phone system or you wasted your money. In the end, if the phone is used incorrectly through ignorance or attitude, it will cost you clients, productivity and money.

Select Phone Solutions believes that training the staff on how to use the new phone system is a critical part of the installation. A Lunch and Learn is always provided by Select Phone Solutions around installation time so that the entire staff can be trained the right way. Full user manuals are given to the point person in case they want to look up extra information on the system but everyone has the opportunity to learn the system. An online Phoneapedia is being developed as an extra aid to quickly resolve questions about a VOIP system.

Do you put up with poor performance from your phone system vendor? It may be time for the excellent care that is standard from Select Phone Solutions. Without it, our motto couldn’t work.

Technology Advances in the Last Five Years That We All Use

March 19, 2009

The old expression that “Technology Marches On” is still not only true today, but instead of marching we are actually running! Doesn’t it seem that everything we use is changing year to year or becoming more involved with the Internet? If you consider some of the most commonly used commodities in your personal and business life, you will see that the last five years have brought amazing advances for our benefit.

Here are some of the items that we use practically every day:

  • Computers – we all know how rapidly the industry changes and newer chips and memory and storage space gets bigger, faster , and better. The lifetime of a computer for most people is three to five years.
  • Television – Competition and technology advances have brought prices down to where HDTV is available to everyone. The quality over older TV’s is substantial. The government has even terminated analog broadcasting next year in favor of digital reception. Home theaters are found in many homes.
  • Fax – Many people now have changed to a Fax-To-Email service and receive their fax images as pdf attachments to email.
  • Cars – Today’s cars come with satellite navigation aids (GPS) and have CD and DVD players as well as music storage on flash drives or internal hard drives.
  • Cell Phones – They are more compact than ever and do email and browser functions just like a computer. Texting has become an industry of its own.
  • Cameras – Whatever happened to 35mm film and processing? Those days are gone as digital cameras have totally taken over this industry even on the low end.

But what remains the most used business technology today? The telephone system is your vital link to all your customers, prospects and vendors. Nobody can conduct a business without a telephone connection, even if you only have a self-contained website marketplace. For most people, talking on the phone is an art that they have mastered and learned to use for gauging the emotions and intent of the parties with whom they are speaking. If you consider email to be one-dimensional, a phone conversation is two-dimensional. The only technology that would be better would be a video connection so that we could not only hear each other but see as well.

All six of the technologies mentioned above have seen radical changes in the last five years. Have you reviewed your phone system in that time? In the last ten or more years? Are you still making calls and using the phone system the same way your parents did last century? Is it time for bringing that vital connection not only up to speed but into the future?

Think of a modern digital phone system as a PBX (the brain) sitting in your office connected by cables (your existing computer network) to the desktop phones at everyone’s desk. The phone signals use the same channels to talk with each other as your Internet signal but the voice traffic is given priority so the result will be crystal clear reception. This is known as Voice Over IP or VOIP. When we connect our local phone system to the public system via a T-1 line, DSL, cable or even converted to analog signals, we can connect with anyone in the world just like we used to. The major differences are now the extra features of the new phone system and the benefits they provide to us.

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

“Productivity Through Technology”