Posts Tagged ‘voice mail jail’

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”

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Case History – Prequalifying Your Callers

April 29, 2009

All businesses are very happy to receive phone calls from prospects and clients. That is typically the lifeblood of the business sales cycle. Are some of those calls more desirable than others? Do some calls lead to higher profit or a greater chance of landing that deal? Shouldn’t they take priority over calls that lead to tougher sales and lower profits?

The trick is to prequalify the callers before the staff even picks up the phone. If the staff, whether it is one person or fifty, can see at a glance on the VOIP phone LCD screen that the purpose of the call is type A or type B, that presents an opportunity to skew the time spent towards the better calls. How can a VOIP phone system help create that winning approach towards higher profitability?

Let’s take the example of a bail bonds company. They get calls for service from basically two types of callers. The first group are people in jail or family members who want to get them out ASAP. These are high profit jobs with a high rate of turning the caller into a client but only if you can speak to the caller quickly. If you place that caller on hold, they are gone looking for the next bail bonds company in the phone book. Time is of the essence and they can’t wait for you to get around to take care of their need.

The second type of caller is someone who has a warrant out for their arrest for not responding to a court order. They also need help but it is not on an emergency basis. This type of call is not as profitable and is much less likely to turn into real business for the bail bonds company. The number of calls for warrant help though is much higher than the emergency calls and can drown them out. It would be bad business to allow working on the warrant calls to cause the company to lose their emergency clients because the lines or staff were busy.

The answer is to market an emergency phone number and a warrant-only phone number. The VOIP system will recognize which call-in number has been used and forward the call to the right person along with the notice on the IP phone LCD screen that the caller is emergency or warrant. The employee can tell at a glance whether or not to take the next call or stay on the line with the current caller. By the way, all menus heard by the caller are available in multilingual choices of English, Spanish, Mandarin and Vietnamese.

But wait, could you do the same thing with a ten year old phone system? The answer is that you could know which caller was incoming but you still can’t get their information if you are overloaded with concurrent calls. VOIP phone systems have the ability to ask questions of callers and get recorded responses as Voicemail to Email .wav file attachments. Every warrant call that is not answered live by an employee will be sent to a menu system to answer five pertinent questions about their warrant. From the recorded responses the staff can decide in which order and when to return those calls.

Prequalifying your callers via VOIP features will boost your company profits. You will service many more clients with VOIP rather than continuing to use a ten year old phone system because it is already in place. Don’t look at the cost of a system, look at the resulting ROI.

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

“Productivity Through Technology”

Music On Hold – Entertaining Your Captive Audience

April 16, 2009

What experience do your callers have when they contact your business as a client, prospect, vendor, or even friends and family? Assuming that your AutoAttendant phone menu system is optimized to handle all of the choices they would naturally want to make, what do they hear while waiting for a particular person to answer? Is it customized for how you want your company to be represented to the caller?

Nobody likes to wait on hold for more than a very short time. We can all tolerate a reasonable hold time but then can be faced with a system that is unresponsive to the callers need to stop holding the phone and move on to something more important to them. Does your phone system have them spend that waiting time in silence? Do you play Music-On-Hold so they hear something or do you use that waiting time to tell the caller about your company?

Silence while waiting on hold is a bad idea for two reasons. The first is that from the callers’ perspective, they do not know if they are still connected to you or have been cut off without realizing that situation. The second is that silence is extremely boring and makes the time seem even longer than it takes. Neither one is good for your business or for the caller.

Music-On-Hold is a better idea. This feature should be setup for every business phone system. It allows the caller to know they are still connected and to enjoy something to pass the time which may give them the perception of spending less time waiting. A VOIP phone system can play any music feed that is brought into a computer including commonly used MP3 files. The choice of the music should be carefully made so that it best matches what your callers would want to hear. The wrong choice of music, such as loud heavy metal rock music at a relatively conservative financial advisors office can send the wrong message to the caller and actually make them hang up in frustration. Also, repeating the same music on a short cycle is annoying to anyone listening.

The best way to use Music-On-Hold is to play an MP3 file for the caller but to create an infomercial for your business. Depending upon your particular business and how you promote it, you can mix in verbiage about special sales, events coming up, warranty and service information, and other news that you want the callers to hear. Keep the tone of the message appropriate for your business and varied enough so that someone on hold for several minutes does not hear the same message over and over. You want to be informative, not annoying.

These MP3 files can be in place and setup on a timed schedule for during or after business hours. If you have special incoming numbers setup for specific advertising on radio, TV or print media, you can play your MP3 message to the caller before they ever have to talk to an employee. That message could be anything from a code word for a discount to the daily specials for today. Be creative in how you can use Music-On-Hold and your business will benefit from happier callers who are also more informed about your business.

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

“Productivity Through Technology”

What Type of Experience Do Your Callers Have When They Call Your Business?

April 12, 2009

Every business has a choice of how they present themselves to their clients, prospects and vendors who make a phone call to them. Some businesses will construct elaborate menus and give callers many choices of what can be done. Others will have a simple recording for you if nobody can answer at the moment. How does your choice of presentation affect what the callers think of your business? What is their perception they take away to remember you by? Is it the right perception that you want them to keep in their memories?

Everyone has had good and bad experiences in calling business numbers. Most people can think of a few that they dread to call because the system is badly constructed and difficult to use from a caller standpoint. If anything lessens the chances of a caller preferring to use a different company rather than do business with you, that must be changed to accomplish the opposite and make your business a welcoming place to do business.

A VOIP phone system menu is very easy to configure. The menu is sometimes called an AutoAttendant or Interactive Voice Response (IVR). The entire system can change according to the time and day and even account for holidays when you might be closed during the week. Do you need a day / night setup where after 5 PM the calls don’t forward within your system but rather go straight to voicemail? Do you have specific hours and days where you are a different location and the call should be routed to another number or extension? Don’t waste the valuable time that your caller spends with you on empty choices that simply time out to go to another option.

Some employees don’t stay in one place and must leave the office for appointments and meetings. Do they have the ability to forward their phones or do the phones simply ring until someone else picks it up? How annoying is that for your staff and for the caller? A VOIP system can be setup with a “follow me” feature so that if the phone is not answered then it rotates to a cell phone number or other location such as a home office.

Always ask yourself if you would be happy calling your own business. Test out your system by reviewing the IVR menus. Do all the options work? Are they clear to understand and not ambiguous? Do they cover everything that should be a choice for the caller? Can a caller backtrack to a previous menu if they made the wrong choice? Are they constructed to serve the purposes of the caller who may not be familiar with your business?

Create a phone system menu that is pleasant and easy to use and you will draw in more business, especially from the ex-clients of your competitors who do not pay any attention to this basic yet simple concept. The time, effort and money spent by your company will always show a return on investment for you.

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

“Productivity Through Technology”

Case History – Multiple Companies in One Location

April 8, 2009

Our company frequently is asked why a VOIP phone system is better than a traditional phone system. The answer simply is that a VOIP phone system is ultimately more configurable and thus can be made to fit your company better rather than having your company fit the phone system. Why should you change the way your company uses the phones? Configure the tool to suit you.

In this case history, a client owned 17 companies that operated out of a single physical location. This office was quite busy as you would imagine, having 27 phone handsets. The owner wanted the single phone system to run all of the companies and be available to different employees depending upon which company was being called by a customer.

To accomplish that, there were 17 separate inbound routes that were created and implemented. Each of the inbound routes began a sequence that started with an AutoAttendant menu (also known as Interactive Voice response or IVR) written specifically for that company. In this way the caller could easily reach a department or person that they needed to speak to.

When the department choice was made by the caller, a select group of phones in the office that were needed started to ring simultaneously. This is known as a Ring Group. Each company had a potentially unique Ring Group that corresponded with their unique IVR. As soon as one phone in a Ring Group was picked up, the rest of them stopped ringing and were ready for the next caller.

To build the 17 IVRs and 17 Ring Groups, a complex flow pattern was created by discussing with the staff exactly how it should work. Management knew the infrastructure of the entire phone system but the staff knew how to make the phone system operate as efficiently as possible for them. Think of a ‘forest and trees’ view. It took the experience of all levels of people to configure the phone system tool to work the best for them.

The VOIP phone system that was created involved all 27 handsets and 17 companies without a problem. It has been operational for a long time and only needs a tweak now and then as employees change or company needs evolve for new situations. The owner did not have to purchase extra licenses due to the multiple companies and associated IVRs and Ring Groups.

The most important reason that the system worked so well for the owner was the communication and analysis by Select Phone Solutions to understand what the client wanted and needed as well as the ability of the phone system software to meet expectations.

Does your phone system meet your expectations? Do callers easily get through to the right people or do they wander around voice mail jail in your system until they hang up out of frustration? Do you need multiple companies or locations covered by a single phone system? Select Phone Solutions can create a custom system for your business that will improve your customer relationships and employee productivity.

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

“Productivity Through Technology”