Posts in Category: business

Be The Best At Conference Calls

THE ART OF CALLING

The art of conference calling … Wait. You didn’t know it was an art? It’s definitely a skill worth building if you’re running a modern business, and as much an art as any other form of presenting. Whether you want to blame it on technology and the Internet, or the costs associated to flying, or even the huge slowdown in flying America took after 9/11 that forced us into doing more calls, the conference call has become a huge part of doing business and you can’t escape it.Here are the top five ways to be the best at conference calls.

1. Smile

Did you think it was about technology or the content you’re presenting? Perhaps a little, but the way you deliver information is the key to capturing your audience’s attention. How you talk on the phone is no different than how you present yourself on stage when presenting to an audience. In reality, your conference call is very similar to being on stage where the lights are so bright you can’t see anyone’s faces. Smile while you speak and your positive energy will come through – the people on the other end of the phone will be able to sense and feel your smile. Try it.

2. Energy

You’re going to start seeing a theme here in how conference calls relate to public speaking. The energy you put into the call is directly proportionate to the energy you’ll get back. What is a great result in a conference call? Everyone enjoying the call. By bringing energy to the call you’ll lift everyone up, maybe even create laughter and ultimately better rapport. Inflect your voice. Get excited about the items you care about. Tell stories that bring out your passion. At a minimum, speak clearly and with sufficient volume so everyone can understand and hear your words.

3. Be Yourself

Conference calls are like emails – it’s too easy to lack emotion, interpret things wrong, and to dismiss the opportunity to build relationships. Since you saved so much time by not travelling, why not use some of the conference call time to build rapport and get to know people? It can be as simple as asking everyone for an introduction and as meaningful as talking about family and life at the beginning and end of the calls. Do what you’d normally do if you were in person for the first few minutes – say hello, check in with each other, and ask questions not related to the call topic. Be a person, not a robot at the end of the phone.

4. Focus

The benefit of a conference call is speed. No flights. No hotels. No time wasted to get the meeting started. Don’t waste all that saved time by being at the meeting, but not taking part in the meeting. Focus your time and energy on the topic, the people, and the overall meeting. Eliminate distractions by hiding your phone, turning off email, and taking notes the old-fashioned way: pen and paper. If you’re easily distracted when you’re not talking, taking notes will help you stay engaged. It’s also a great way to capture questions you want to ask when appropriate.

5. Technology

Know your tech. There’s nothing worse than a presenter who has never used the conference call technology and wastes the first ten to fifteen minutes getting setup. Dial in early. Setup and test the service well before you meet. Download the software ahead of time. Most conference calls are very short, and nobody wants to sit around wasting that valuable time on bad technology or users who aren’t prepared.

What do you do when you feel like nobody is listening to you?

There’s no worse situation than being the presenter on a conference call with people in a conference room on the other line who put you on mute. They give you no feedback. No laughter. Nothing. You may as well be an audio-book or a pre-recorded webinar! But don’t fret. These five skills will save you. Your smile and energy will lift up the room. Be yourself to gain rapport with your audience and people will unmute themselves to ask you questions. Stay focused and even ask questions to verify you’re on the right track (this is a great way to engage everyone and to force them to unmute themselves). You might even find ways to make technology engage people more. For example, you might use the chat feature to gather questions and feedback while you present. Or perhaps your conference call service can track participant engagement.

On your next call, dial in 5 minutes early, greet everyone as they join, be sociable and inquisitive, and SMILE. If you do nothing else but smile, you’re going to have a better call.

Advice – Communications for Enterprise

Lets address some points that should be taken under consideration for IT managers looking at packetized communications for their Enterprise.  Below are the highlights and my thoughts:

Highlights

Look For SIP Support

I couldn’t agree more!  SIP is a protocol used to establish, teardown, modify, etc communication sessions.  It’s very diverse and relatively simple when compared to past mechanisms.  Most importantly, it has become the defacto standard within the world of telephony.  There’s native SIP support in nearly all the major vendors that supply VoIP gear. (Cisco, Avaya, Siemens, Microsoft)

Consider The Benefits Of Hosted PBX

This topic has be discussed numerous times in the past, and even before that within a TDM context (PBX vs. Centrex).  The thing that’s different within an IP context is the feature and functionality available.  When comparing a PBX to a Centrex offering, one key difference was additional feature and functionality in a PBX.  Centrex offerings didn’t have the same “whiz-bang” features.  In today’s Hosted Telephony offerings, there’s near feature parity, so the key determining factor becomes cost of ownership.

Think Unified Communications

VoIP (or Telephony) MUST be seen as a stepping stone to the ultimate goal of Unified Communications.  IT managers should consider the roadmap to UC when choosing a Telephony solution.  Real-time communications need to become multi-modal, meaning there should be options to transition communications from IM to voice to video to online collaboration on a document, and then back again – all within the same context and within a common look/feel.

Traversing NAT

Though the issue of Network Address Translation (NAT) is well known to negatively impact SIP sessions, the real point for consideration here for the IT Manager should be around considering the deployment of a Session Border Controller (SBC) within their Enterprise as part of an overall design.

Know & Apply Codecs

There are more ways to packetize voice and video communications than one can shake a stick at.  The author points out the predominant technologies of G.711 and G.729.  Issues of bandwidth consumption and quality of user’s experience must be balanced.  Generally speaking, the more bandwidth consumed, the better the experience.  But the more bandwidth used, the greater the cost to upgrade the LAN/WAN infrastructure to accommodate.  If you skimp on cost, the result would be poor quality, and then adoption and experiences would suffer.  It’s a delicate balancing game.

Some further comments :

• Make sure to have 100k in bandwidth free and available for every conversation when determining whether the enterprise really has enough bandwidth for VoIP.  With multiple calls made from one location a simple DSL  won’t cut it.

• Get VoIP phones that are both wired for Ethernet and wireless for Wi-Fi connectivity. That way, people can wander, and all internal calls within the building are free of charge because they stay on the network. Check the mobile voip solutions, few of them even work without need of data plan.

• Make sure the vendor is going to be around to support the purchase.  An older vendor with roots, commitments, and financial means is an obvious choice. A new vendor with strong management, skills, and reputation who proves out through considered research can also be a sharp choice.

VoIP Considerations for IT Decision-makers

VoIP Decisions

Lets address some points that should be taken under consideration for IT managers looking at packetized communications for their Enterprise.  Below are the highlights and my thoughts:

Look For SIP Support

I couldn’t agree more!  SIP is a protocol used to establish, teardown, modify, etc communication sessions.  It’s very diverse and relatively simple when compared to past mechanisms.  Most importantly, it has become the defacto standard within the world of telephony.  There’s native SIP support in nearly all the major vendors that supply VoIP gear. (Cisco, Avaya, Siemens, Microsoft)

Consider The Benefits Of Hosted PBX

This topic has be discussed numerous times in the past, and even before that within a TDM context (PBX vs. Centrex).  The thing that’s different within an IP context is the feature and functionality available.  When comparing a PBX to a Centrex offering, one key difference was additional feature and functionality in a PBX.  Centrex offerings didn’t have the same “whiz-bang” features.  In today’s Hosted Telephony offerings, there’s near feature parity, so the key determining factor becomes cost of ownership.

Think Unified Communications

VoIP (or Telephony) MUST be seen as a stepping stone to the ultimate goal of Unified Communications.  IT managers should consider the roadmap to UC when choosing a Telephony solution.  Real-time communications need to become multi-modal, meaning there should be options to transition communications from IM to voice to video to online collaboration on a document, and then back again – all within the same context and within a common look/feel.

Traversing NAT

Though the issue of Network Address Translation (NAT) is well known to negatively impact SIP sessions, the real point for consideration here for the IT Manager should be around considering the deployment of a Session Border Controller (SBC) within their Enterprise as part of an overall design.

Know & Apply Codecs

There are more ways to packetize voice and video communications than one can shake a stick at.  The author points out the predominant technologies of G.711 and G.729.  Issues of bandwidth consumption and quality of user’s experience must be balanced.  Generally speaking, the more bandwidth consumed, the better the experience.  But the more bandwidth used, the greater the cost to upgrade the LAN/WAN infrastructure to accommodate.  If you skimp on cost, the result would be poor quality, and then adoption and experiences would suffer.  It’s a delicate balancing game.

Some further comments captured in the article.

• Make sure to have 100k in bandwidth free and available for every conversation when determining whether the enterprise really has enough bandwidth for VoIP, according to Andy Abramson, blogger at VoIP Watch and founder and CEO of Comunicano (www.comunicano.com). With this understanding, it’s easy to see that DSL or a cable modem line won’t cut it.

• Get VoIP phones that are both wired for Ethernet and wireless for Wi-Fi connectivity, notes Abramson. “That way, people can wander, and all internal calls within the building are free of charge because they stay on the network.”

• “Make sure the vendor is going to be around to support the purchase,” Abramson says. An older vendor with roots, commitments, and financial means is an obvious choice. A new vendor with strong management, skills, and reputation who proves out through considered research can also be a sharp choice.

 

Why Always Use Call Recording

Call recording and VOIP

Monitor your conversations and diagnose arising problems.

Everyone has called a customer service at some point in his life and been greeted with a message of this sort: “This call MAY be recorded for quality assurance purposes.” Its a white lie as it is not based on a chance. All the conversations get recorded and for a good reason. Call recording is being used to ensure customer satisfaction and monitor employee productivity. And while it can hardly be used as evidence in court it can help refresh the memory of an employee or stubborn client. Today, more and more businesses know the true value call recording and are using it to some extent. The truth is that most Apps for call recording are not integrated in the dialer. And most dialers insist on saving all data on the phone limited memory.

Dispute Resolution

When a customer calls support, he is usually trying to convert, seeking help or reporting a problem. The reason for the call can be from unclear information to customer mistake or simple lack of knowledge or information. Of coarse it can also be because of defect product or simple misunderstanding. In many cases the person conversing on the phone can’t comprehend the root of the problem right away or simply misses some of the provided information. Having a call record allows the tech team or managers to listen to that conversation and diagnose the specific problem. The process slow, time consuming and often neglected but can improve the overall work flow if used for similar cases.

Fosters Growing Businesses

As businesses develop, its not uncommon that they establish offices in multiple locations or start to outsource part of their tasks. It becomes more difficult to manage multiple locations and offices that are located abroad. Call recording than steps in to ease the diagnosing if conversation and conversion problems as well as monitoring of customer satisfaction. It can be done at any location without need of much or any investment.

Productivity

When recording calls the business can make customized call reports based on different factors. Call length, call scoring, and number of calls per employee, time to answer, calls peak hours and even customer satisfaction can be measured. It is even possible to highlight personal calls, leading to better interconnectivity in the company or weeding the employees that tend to make excessive personal calls. Just knowing that you can listen on the conversations your employees will deter from making personal calls, will pay more attention to how they are addressing the customers and refrain from sharing sensitive company information. Overall, the business achieves better productivity and optimizes the use of time and resources.

Where VOIP kicks in

Apart from all the other benefits of VOIP we have already discussed it can really shine when it comes to call recording. VOIP providers have it hard as VOIP is harder to sell and has to bring more to the table. Voice recording is one of those things and it is easier and better than because of the Internet nature of VOIP. Voice recording is provided as free feature and in most cases is embedded in the VOIP servers. That means that the calls are saved a remote server and the you get a link to the media that you can open from any device at any place and any time you wish. As a bonus it does not clog your phone memory and if done right can be used from both office VOIP phones and mobile applications.

How to Choose a VOIP Provider and How Important Is It For Your Business

 

VOIP is a telecommunications technology that replaces and upgrades the legacy Public Switched Telephone Network cabling. Its only drawback is that it requires Internet, but in return VOIP provides secure access and lots of extras important to business telephony.

VOIP BENEFITS

 

Transferring to VOIP is almost mandatory if you are running business that relies on telephony or if you are simply planning to change your telecom system. VOIP offers important benefits, both financial and operational. It simplifies the infrastructure and reduces call, maintenance and moving costs.

A growing trend

Growing numbers of businesses have already moved to VOIP realizing these benefits. The trend is not surprising considering the lower costs for businesses. According to analysis switching from legacy systems to SIP trunking lowers the total cost by 50%.

Upgrade legacy systems

VOIP gives the business access to the all the benefits of Internet telephony. With the new infrastructure Voip connects your PBX to an Internet Telephony Provider, benefiting you from the lower cost of long distance calls and professional pbx functions. You can even use rented cloud PBX to lower maintenance and infrastructure costs.

Connect your branches

If have interstate branch offices and want to connect them to the communication facilities of head office, you can connect them with VOIP. This can be done by connecting the sites to your infrastructure or using a service provider that can connect your facilities with cloud PBX. Both ways, you provide your branches with improved communications eliminating duplicate infrastructure while effectively halving the support staff needed.

Simplify infrastructure

Operate separate networks for data and voice is not cost effective and is even harder to backup. You can make significant savings with VOIP transition. using a single channel for data, voice and video will reduce network complexity and you will cut the costs for upgrades, backup lines and maintenance.

Mobile communications

As mentioned before the main disadvantage of VOIP communications is the requirement for internet connection. It is not much of a problem when you are calling from the office but field workers don’t have that privilege. Some VOIP providers like MIXvoip recently solved that issue by using DTMF allowing mobile VOIP calls to be made even without internet connection.

Selection factors

With that many benefits, how would you proceed when choosing a VOIP provider? Which are the most important factors to consider?
As people that have been in the VOIP business for quite some time now, we recommend you to choose by:

  1. Security
  2. Quality of Support
  3. Extended Services
  4. Pricing
  5. Mobility
  6. Call Quality

 

Security

Security the most important factor because VOIP is an Internet technology. As such it can be subject attacks and other risks that come with that environment. Service providers offer different security measures and techs. Software measures include authentication, encryption and the use of secure real time transport protocols. Hardware security is mostly done with the use of separate network access routers it is called transport-layer security and is used to protect your network against attacks that can disrupt the phone service.

Quality of support

Quality of support really important too and definitely should be considered. As with every service, at some point problems will arise and you should be confident that your provider can minimize the downtimes. VOIP is an Internet service often hosted on cloud servers, as such businesses don’t need support staff on site, the service provider support teams have the responsibility to keep everything running.

Pricing and mobility

Pricing and mobility are mostly self explanatory. They are both very business specific and depend on individual business structure and needs. Some providers charge flat, based on number of devices, others charge based on the number of calls your business makes. Most VOIP providers do not offer unlimited calls but there are exceptions. If you have lots of field workers you should make sure the company offers a mobile app.

Call quality

Call quality is not that important but shouldn’t be neglected. Most providers promote on call quality but you should know that sound quality requires more data. When more data is used you can make less simultaneous calls without call interferences and you will need to upgrade your internet plan.

VOIP is essential if you want to enjoy the advantages of business communications, save money and achieve business, financial and operational benefits.

The Benefits of VoIP and IP Telephony

VoIP and IP Telephony – The Benefits Revisited

 

Over the past 14 months i’ve met with many different customers at many different levels. One thing I continually do is talk about the benefits of converged technology such as VoIP and IP Telephony. The last few blogs have leveraged convergenced as a foundation for unified communications as a next generation service offer but in this post I thought I would try something different and revisit the benefits of some common technology – VoIP and IP Telephony.

Most people understand the benefits of transitioning to a converged all-IP environment. As more applications come onto the market and the technology proves itself, these firms will be able to avail themselves of the many benefits of such converged technology adoption.

So why consider leveraging VoIP and IP Telephony?

· Offers advanced call routing and enables new applications to further customer service initiatives.
· Accelerates and facilitates the move from a legacy environment to converged networks.
· Anchors IP innovation across the enterprise, and helps deploy a web services infrastructure enabling rapid development of IP-based applications and services.
· Facilitates the deployment of real-time workforce collaboration tools, which fosters an environment of high worker productivity, innovation and information sharing.
· The market isn’t moving towards converged networks – it’s there! Therefore the adoption of IP and VoIP are foundational steps on taking you down that path.

What are the benefits of VoIP and IP Telephony?

· Voice over IP can bring customers the benefits of network optimization and greater value through the convergence of services over a single connection. One IP network will handle data, video and voice.
· It can reduce total spend on traditional telco services by converging voice and data onto one pipe, eliminating the need for leased line charges from a telephone service provider, since all calls are flat rate.
· Depending upon the design all calls may be on-net as is the case with Global Crossing’s VoIP Onnet services. Compared to traditional TDM solution with the exception of private voice networks the majority of calls may be delivered off-net and thus more costly to operate from a call perspective. Fully converged services extend the on-net “look and feel” through our enterprise VoIP network. Instead of building their own TDM networks and deploying proprietary on-net calling plans, customers will gain value by leveraging a service providers VoIP network such as Global Crossings.

IP telephony adoption also delivers the following benefits:

· It can help lower cell phone charges by enabling worker productivity on the road and remotely.
· It reduces high toll, long-distance usage.
· It facilitates real-estate consolidations through extension and directory mobility by leveraging VoIP with “find me follow me services”.
· It reduces PBX support issues by migrating to fully converged network-based services that are centrally located.
· Packet-based voice traffic becomes just one application running over a multi-service network, allowing for more efficient bandwidth utilization.
· With dynamic bandwidth allocation technology in the absence of voice traffic the full network is available to data traffic.
· The move to IP telephony is a good first step towards convergence, and allows for more sophisticated network management by running voice over an existing data network.

What are the possible challenges in deploying VoIP and IP Telephony?

· Converged networks can be more complex to operate – the LAN’s additional complexity needs to be managed. This complexity can be offset through a managed VoIP solution.
· The business processes associated with troubleshooting and managing network quality need to be well-defined.
· Depending on the age of the network already in place, the transition to IP telephony may require some additional costs associated with hardware requirements such as advanced telecom gear to replace older equipment as well as replacing the end telephone stations used for traditional telephony with advanced IP-enabled sets.
· Additionally, if power over Ethernet is chosen there may be additional expense associated with powering the handsets.
· Finally, VoIP requires advanced traffic management and statistical analysis on edge and core components in order to track and trend network utilization and problems appropriately. Such systems may not necessarily be in place which would require further network management software to be deployed.

There you have it …. some of the VoIP and IP Telephony benefits revisited. There are cetainly more but those are just a few that I captured this evening.

Cloud adoption

Few cost savings reported, time for a closer look?

The cloud has been the source of clever headlines for a years now, but what are the experiences of the early adopters? Research firm TNS surveyed 3,645 IT decision makers around the world to find out.

The study, sponsored by CSC, found that the primary driver for moving to the cloud is not cost based, but a need for the business to be able to access information from anywhere on any device. A third of respondents cited this, or mobility, as the prime driver, with only 17% saying that cost was the driver. This reflects a larger trend towards consumerization of business as workers use a variety of devices to manage their daily work.

Interestingly only 14% of respondents downsized their IT workforce following an adoption of the cloud, and 20% hired more cloud experts. Perhaps because cost was not the main driver for adopting cloud services, many companies reported no cost savings, or minimal savings. Almost half of US small businesses and a quarter of US businesses reported no savings.

Differences in cost savings are marked, region-to-region, with Brazil reporting the biggest savings, with over 90% of businesses reporting savings and an obvious correlation in the research is that Brazilian companies prepared their employees best for the move, providing information and training. Security is perhaps not the huge issue that the industry believes, with only a quarter of businesses more concerned about security after adoption. Almost half of the well-prepared Brazilians are less concerned about security after adopting the technology.

The business opportunities for cloud are clearly in the small and medium business area, where the benefits are clearer and the resistance to the change is less but it is also an area where telcos are not in their comfort zone, according to a consensus at a recent STL Partners gathering.

Whether large companies, including telcos are themselves adopting cloud services is still being examined. Certainly, the risks involved in telcos outsourcing critical processes to the cloud will not happen overnight. Just because almost half of US Government agencies report that they have moved some processes to the cloud – as part of their ‘cloud first’ policy – does not mean that large companies generally are leaping onto the bandwagon.

It is interesting, and will be of concern to some, that the cost saving argument for cloud adoption appears to be flawed. There are, of course, those industry veterans who witnessed the same phenomenon when outsourcing was the ‘next big thing’ some years ago. For large companies, unless the processes being considered for outsourcing are working well do not go ahead, outsourcing a problem seldom works and as one European IT manager from a decade ago remarked “why add legal problems to technical ones – that is all you are doing?” Or is it?

Business and Telecommunication

Business requirement of telephony system, perceived from three dimensions, namely hardware, software and as a service.

Telecom sector business trends and changes happening in each generation of telephony. Analysis of next generation telecom business solutions and possible market areas for small and middle business companies.

In its life journey, telephony systems have traveled from plain old legacy systems to an era of advanced stage of Voice over IP communications supported by high-speed internet connection. Telecommunication feature requirement or demand has now moved to such a diversified stage that the business demand-supply chain keeps changing at a very fast rate. Let me to explain this.

As an example: A requirement or demand of a telephony feature like video conferencing is now no longer dependent on a particular way of implementation i.e. not only limited to hardware solution within an enterprise but have also available on mobile as an application software. It means that business solution of ‘video conferencing’ can be achieved via many dimensions like free soft-phone based, license soft-phone based, hardware based, Mobile/laptop based, or even home decor Television based.

This implies that telephony business must have dynamic business model and not sticking to particular solution. Business model must be capable to switch to alternative solutions at any moment. For big players this is not an issue of any concern, but small business players, must pick wisely what kind of telephony system they will use and what their sustainability is. They must think of moving their on-going business with telecom generations of high-speed internet and digitization.

In legacy telephony, business was oriented towards cost of each audio phone call, number of calls, and Local vs STD based calls, as this ware the core services available. Videos call at that time ware among major earning business solutions.

As a generation of telephony moves on, until 2.5 G to 3G, audio and video phone call is like default services and internet based, location based, on-demand or live streaming was on a high demand. At this stage, new business players who forecast this as an era of stating point of next generation telephony service were able to make a lot of money. Many entrepreneur and many small telecom businesses have grown up to support this demand both with hardware, software and as service.

Many software solutions and telephony applications were developed, protocols were defined and universal standards were placed. Businesses grew with software application around audio call, video call, conference, 3-way calling feature, announcement, advertisement service during telephony services. Hardware based solutions also grew in parallel and High-Definition quality were integrated with above listed telephony services. Small business which were software based have grown up and earned much, whereas big players have taken up this as a complete hardware and software solution, by building up of their own networks. Some business also grew targeting services of telephony application, whereas some targeted the support of telephony service, like Analysis and Analytical tools, testing tools etc. Legacy business was on backward compatibility support of these new telephony service.

At present telephony demand has changed a lot in its demand and implementation. From fixed hardware to mobile based app solutions. Business players have also re-shuffled and realigned themselves. Telecom operators are moving ahead to meet the demand with high speed internet solutions with legacy hardly contributing to a small percentage of profit. On other hand telecom R&D organisations / MNC have started working on next generation technology with high skilled human resources. Business players oriented towards software based adhoc service providers are also growing. Businesses are investing more on mobile based telephony solution like whatsapp, facebook, etc . A bulk of small business earning are also centralised around information on public platform and on advertisement. Telecoms are now moving towards IOT (internet of things) and wifi solutions. Hardware independent, time independent, resource independent fast and easy communication is needed with rich functions and high definition quality.

Small business players interested in telecom business must consider these changes in trends of telephony application demand and supply. Changes from fixed dialling system to mobile based automatic voice-recognition based high-speed internet service, must be analysed for any business investments. Legacy telephony in future is not going to last for couple of more years. SS7/ISDN based telephony system is going to vanish from market being replaced by high-speed and wifi solution.

Eventually telecom market is moving towards virtualization system capable fast and easy expansion of resource with change in demand, Big data and their analysis, single click software application supporting telephony functionality, hardware and location independent application and location-time applications. Those small business working on core legacy technology should try an attempt to move towards high-speed internet based telephony feature. Those small business working on hardware based legacy telephony should try an attempt to move towards digitization and integration within next generation hardware systems. Those small business working on services of legacy telephony should try an attempt to move towards adhoc or license free solution with telecom operator. Small business players interested in telecom business as a solution can work on providing mobile based soft-phone solution as a client solution. As side service they can provide VoIP data analytics, new VoIP features or Wifi solutions for middle business players. IOT – internet of thing is another major evolving in telecom sector, which small application and sensor based device communication are in trial, small and middle business sectors can also think towards this dimension of telecom solution. Telecom sector is vast and it depend so each business player’s vision and mission to work upon.