Improving Communications for the Mobile Workforce
Customer satisfaction, delivered.
The way we work today has changed dramatically over the last decade. Work has essentially become an activity that we can do from almost anywhere (I’m actually writing this blog post from the laundromat). More businesses are getting on board with the idea of remote and flexible workforces, which is made possible by the range of virtual office solutions available to us that make working outside the office much easier. Those who have integrated this model have found:
- Improved employee morale and retention
- Ease in hiring the best workers, not just the ones that are in close proximity
- Ability to reduce office space
- Increased worker productivity
- Reduced carbon footprint (fewer cars driving to and from the office)
Smartphones, tablets, mobile scanning devices, GPS … these have allowed us to increase operational efficiencies, improve communications with our home office and reduce manual tasks. This results in more efficient route accounting, quicker invoicing, better customer service and stronger customer relationships because there’s more time to spend with the customer vs. tackling process issues.
At Econotel, we believe in ShoreTel’s Mobility solutions. Small or large, our customers find unified communications (UC) to be a superior way to operate; in the office or out in the field. Whether it’s VoIP, 3G/4G or cellular, they can stay connected wherever they are in the world.
A mobile device that acts like an office phone.
Seamless communication means successful communication. ShoreTel Mobility gives iOS and Android devices the same productivity-enhancing features that unify communications for workers in the office—like video conferencing with room-based systems, peer-to-peer video, web conferencing, calendar access, CRM integration, instant messaging and presence—as well as desk phone features like extension dialing, conference calling, company directory access, hold and call transfer.
The types of features available to us are ideal for customer-facing roles:
- Easy access to our contacts
- Desktop applications and other programs we use on a regular basis
- IM and chat capabilities
- Web-based applications for presentations (voice and video), and screen sharing
Unified communications offers the transparency we want, and the opportunity to provide outstanding customer service, accuracy and responsiveness regardless of our location. For information about better mobile communication for your field workers, the ways ShoreTel solutions can help you improve lines of communication, or to schedule consultation, simply email us or call (401) 435-4900.
Tags: unified communications, uc, cloud computing, voice and data communications, IP telephony, video conferencing, voice mail, messaging, presence, ShoreTel, VoIP, data communications, mobility, BYOD, tablets, Smartphones, integrated communications, cloud services, telephony, unified messaging, web chat, IM, instant messaging
Big Data and Unified Communications
Take-Out or Delivery?
Just the other day I went out for pizza. Today I received a message from my credit card company asking if I’d like to rate the restaurant. What a great way to give someone an opportunity to give a shout out. I found the restaurant on my iPhone, I paid with my credit card and wrote a review on my laptop (and opted for a “share” on Facebook). Information is everywhere. We communicate in multiple ways; personally and professionally, morning, noon and night. From our voice, to the keyboard to the keypad, the options we have today are numerous and super convenient. For business VoIP systems, it’s become very much the same. Tons of data is being generated every minute, with a variety of ways to use it toward the growth of business.
What is Big Data all about?
You may have heard the term “Big Data”, but never really had a chance to clearly understand what it’s all about. Big Data describes all the data that exists out there; from government data to consumer purchases to instant message chats. The excitement isn’t just about the amount of data, it’s about all the things we can do with this data to create happier customers, stronger team collaboration and smoother workflows.
All of the data businesses capture on a daily basis can be of great use if they choose to use it. From improving the way workers perform their jobs, to building stronger relationships with customers, there are many ways this data could improve the operations of a business. When we utilize the benefits of unified communications, we can analyze all this data and transform it into information that simplifies and enhances:
- our marketing strategies
- the way we manage transactions
- our business methods
- how we collaborate internally
- how we communicate with customers
Putting Big Data on the Table
Unified communications is an important channel for the movement of all this data. Knowing how we can use it and making the most of the applications we use to make it work for us is where we’ll get the most benefit. Whether we’re looking at data about our customers, our suppliers, our inventory or our sales history, it can help us make better decisions when it comes to figuring out
- Buying trends
- Customer preferences
- Troubleshooting product failures
- Improvements in customer response times
- Internal collaboration
Of course we’ve all heard stories about the costs involved in developing systems that will do the mining of all this data. There are many more options out there today; much of which come at a very affordable price tag. With unified communications systems, you can combine your business data and communications onto one platform, which can greatly improve the data mining process. Applications, for example, that allow a technical support representative to retrieve information that will increase their response time and resolve customer issues more quickly is what utilizing big data is all about.
If you think migrating to UC will be a big investment, be sure to factor in the total cost of ownership; specifically, the benefits you will realize to provide more efficient work processes and customer service. Whether it’s creating an environment that encourages greater flexibility or implementing cost-reducing efforts that bring increased productivity, consider the costs you’ll incur if you don’t choose UC.
Companies who want to be innovative, productive and competitive will be the ones who utilize their data to master the art of understanding their customers, their employees and their markets. The possibilities are endless if we can harness this information and make the most of the technologies that bring it to us. If you’d like more information on how UC can help your business grow and achieve new market potential, contact us or call 800-776-4967 for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation.
Tags: unified communications, uc, cloud computing, voice and data communications, IP telephony, video conferencing, voice mail, messaging, presence, ShoreTel, VoIP, data communications, mobility, BYOD, tablets, Smartphones, integrated communications, cloud services, telephony, unified messaging, web chat, IM, instant messaging, big data
Health Center Makes Quick Recovery with ShoreTel® Phone System
Customer: Thundermist Health Center
Industry: Health Care Services
Solution: ShoreTel Business Communications
For over 45 years, Thundermist Health Center, a Federally Qualified Community Health Center headquartered in Warwick, RI, has provided healthcare services to people in Woonsocket, West Warwick, and South County, Rhode Island who struggle with transportation problems, addiction, unemployment or underemployment and many other issues. Thundermist’s goal is to improve the health of patients and communities by delivering exceptional health care, removing barriers to that care and promoting healthy lifestyles.
With their flagship health center in Woonsocket being nationally recognized for its innovations in patient flow and use of technology, it seemed only natural to have a phone system with advanced features and functionality that would meet their quality standards for patient administration and general business communications.
Thundermist was experiencing rapid growth. They were making plans to open a new call center, and putting the final touches on a new health center facility. The legacy phone system in place was complicated to use and had a poorly-designed interface. Upgrades and maintenance were cumbersome and time-consuming to perform, which often required weekends and evenings to make necessary changes. With only three IT support staff in-house, they wanted a modern phone system that would be straightforward to integrate and allow them to make quick changes based on business requirements. In particular, they wanted to be able to easily add extensions when new employees came on board, or be able to make hunt and work group changes quickly and in a clear-cut fashion. It was also important to have a solution that offered an easy-to-use GUI (graphical user interface) to make training and everyday use intuitive for their staff.
Andrew Tomkiewicz, Director of Information Technology, was referred to Econotel. The Econotel team was able to evaluate Thundermist’s current system, discuss their strategy for growth and determine best course of action based on their business communication requirements. They looked at a number of different phone systems, but ultimately determined that ShoreTel had a great user interface, seemed very easy to implement and fit their budget. With the addition of a new call center in the works, the ShoreTel system also had everything they would need to get that off the ground without having to purchase additional features. Other phone systems they evaluated were complicated to set up and make changes, and after talking with other users they were convinced that the simplicity of the ShoreTel system was best for their on-the-go staff of doctors, nurses and administrative staff. With Econotel’s help, the ShoreTel solution was chosen and they went right to work to set things up. With a new facility going up and the move of another, they put together a plan that allowed them to prep one site and then install the other for a seamless integration. Once the equipment was installed, Econotel came in to perform hands-on training with their staff, along with a guide for each user. “It was a very smooth process,” said Tomkiewicz. “Econotel was great. They taught us how to use the GUI and how to add extensions, set up the hunt and work groups, route pulling and so on. From there we were off and running,” he added.
Today Thundermist has 6 locations and over 425 users in Rhode Island. They have continued to use the ShoreTel phone system, which offered plug and play deployment in each of the new facilities they opened. Econotel has continued to provide them with advice, recommendations and regular updates on trends and technology. “They are a great source of knowledge, and their ability to get the answers we need makes them a great partner,” said Tomkiewicz.
What’s next for Thundermist? “Our call center operation is constantly evolving,” said Tomkiewicz. “ShoreTel and Econotel will definitely continue to be part of our growth plans.” For information on ways a modern phone system can accommodate your organization’s business requirements, contact us or call 800-776-4967 to schedule a site assessment.
Join the party! BYOD in UC
I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather carry one device over two. Juggling a work phone and personal phone during the work day is about as fun as standing in line at the post office. If you aren’t already, it’s likely that your organization will get on the BYOD band wagon.
BYOD is an acronym for “Bring Your Own Device”, which refers to the method of allowing employees to use their own personal communication device (like laptops, tablets and Smartphones) to perform work-related business. Corporate policies are being developed to enforce certain guidelines to protect both the company and the employee – particularly when it comes to device management and security of data.
Companies are quickly catching on to the fact that enabling an employee’s personal device to operate like a company device is not as daunting a task as one might have thought. Although there are definitely very careful steps that need to be taken in terms of security and network access, the positives can far outweigh the negatives.
BYOD and Unified Communications
The number of personal devices used in the workplace has nearly doubled over the last 2 years, and it has been estimated that by 2017, half of employers will require employees to supply their own device for work purposes with the typical organization spending over $300 per year per employee on mobile applications, security, management and support.
Along those lines, the pace at which UC (unified communications) has grown is largely due to the mobile worker and use of personal devices. The convenience of Smartphones and tablets, (along with other mobile computing devices) has given them a greater range of flexibility, and virtually improved the way communications are carried out internal and external to the business. Because these devices have the ability to connect, communicate and function just as desktop devices do, they have integrated easily into today’s work environment and improved the user’s ability to do their job.
How is BYOD used in the workplace?
The ideal scenario is to enable workers to use their personal device to perform many of the applications they currently use on a desk phone and computer. This includes:
- Voice Communication
- Instant Messaging
- Video Conferencing
- Text Messaging
For mobile workers, this is life-changing. Accessing their company network to check email, customer account status or download network documents save huge amounts of time. Checking voicemail at the touch of a button, participating in a video conference or even communicating with headquarters via IM (instant message) improves productivity by leaps and bounds.
Granting workers the flexibility to utilize these applications remotely improves response time and satisfies customer needs without compromising the workload and effectiveness of their job.
How does BYOD impact the organization?
- Improves employee satisfaction
- Reduces internal IT workload
- Improves worker productivity
- Increases employee responsiveness
Simply put, BYOD can drive innovation. This is due to the increasing number of mobile workers in the workplace, and the ability for personal devices to offer the features and functions present in on-premise phone systems and desktop computers.
The Big Picture
Benefits can be realized instantly. The personal and business identity of your employees remains separate – the business line follows the user from the desk to the field, never having to reveal the personal number of the device. Of course the most important aspect of BYOD is the ability to seamlessly collaborate and communicate with colleagues and customers regardless of their location. This keeps productivity high and costs low. Learn more in this ShoreTel Mobility Solutions Brief.
Interested in discussing your organization’s requirements or have questions about BYOD? Call us today at 800-776-4967 or request a free consultation!
Tags: UC, unified communications, personal devices, BYOD, bring your own device, Smartphone, tablet, iPad, iPhone, ShoreTel, phone systems, VoIP, voice communication, modern phone system
When Communications Collide
“Just send me a text”. How many times have you heard someone say that? We now live in an age where we want instant gratification, answers on the spot, and we don’t even bother sending an email when we can IM (instant message) a co-worker to get what we need. With all the methods of communication today, the term “Unified Communications” is a great way of coining a term for the many ways we work today.
In a nutshell, Unified Communications (UC) is an arsenal of tools that simplifies our ability to make contact with (and be contacted by) co-workers, colleagues, customers, suppliers, etc. made possible by IP telephony and the integration of computers, telephones and network capabilities. Typically, UC is made up of these 5 elements:
- IP Telephony
- Instant Messaging (IM)
- Audio/Video Conferencing
- Unified Messaging
What makes UC so great is the variety of ways you can get there. Every UC application can be accessed through a personal computer, Smartphone, tablet or mobile computing device. This has come about as a result of the changing ways we live and work, and the balancing act that takes place that allows us to satisfy both. We want to be able to access the company network when we’re working from home, or the beach or the slopes. For those that work in the field, they want to be able to manage their personal computing device with the same features and functionality their desk phone would provide. With text, chat, voice and video we are able to satisfy every preference for communication that exists today.
Benefits of UC
Unified Communications not only provides the flexibility we need to perform our daily responsibilities, but it increases our productivity and co-worker collaboration as well. For customer-facing employees, we value transparency. When today’s workforce spans the globe with schedules as busy as ever, we want to shield our customers from what is and instead be able to respond and be as accessible as if we are right down the street. The result? Increased customer satisfaction, improved productivity and a motivated workforce.
Many features of UC allow work to increase productivity. For example, when we can easily be reached with automatic call forwarding (such as the find me/follow me feature), we can be more responsive to customers and internal team members. For project teams, video chat and conference virtually minimizes travel expenses and scheduling conflicts; this can mean the difference between meeting project deadlines and missing the boat. The less time spent trying to round everyone up to collaborate effectively, the more productive and cost-effective our efforts will be.
Is it time for you to consider UC?
Implementing unified communications in your organization is not only an investment in a new system, but an investment in your business. In a relatively short period of time, the total cost of ownership is reduced when you experience:
- Labor savings
- Increased productivity
- Reduced equipment costs & travel expenses
- Increased customer satisfaction
If you’re experiencing any of the following, then it might be time invest in UC:
- Are you struggling to serve your customers adequately due to worker bandwidth?
- Do you operate with separate phone systems in each of your locations?
- Is call routing difficult or operating inconsistently?
- Are you exceeding expense budgets to send workers where they need to go?
Increasing the effectiveness of your workforce is easy when you have the tools to operate quickly and easily and with very little user training.
Tags: BYOD, Bring your own device, ShoreTel, UC, unified communications, integrated communications, voice & data, mobile communications, conferencing, smart phones, tablets, data security, cloud computing, video conferencing, web chat, IM, instant messaging, unified messaging, VoIP, telephony
A phone system for the way we work today
Cloud computing sounds a little mysterious, but we are surrounded by it. As my laptop gets older, I value my Dropbox account, and push important documents there on a regular basis in the event that it (or my back-up drive) gives out on me some day. Accessing emails and voicemails with a simple press of a button is something we do without even thinking. As consumers and business professionals, the cloud has enabled us to work, live and communicate more easily than ever before.
But can we really trust the cloud?
It’s like the sock in the dryer mystery. Where does it go? Will it ever re-appear? Anything virtual is a little scary at first. But once we realize the benefits far outweigh the risks, we can sit back, relax and enjoy the conveniences (and cost savings) it brings. With regard to security, storage and accessibility, industry-leading manufacturers like ShoreTel own, configure and manage the service, not your IT department. When it comes to function, things like intelligent call routing, contact center capabilities, mobility and business process integration are managed within the organization, but system maintenance and management is handled by the vendor. With the cloud, there’s no capital investment for hardware – and upgrades and scalability are a snap. You can always count on your system being up-to-date.
For most of us, the phone is where 80% of business is conducted.
A reliable, functional and adaptable phone system should be at the heart of every business plan and become part of your strategy to serve and excel at what you do. To remain competitive today, businesses need to be smarter, faster and better than the rest. Looking for operational excellence? Your cloud-based phone system can quickly boost worker productivity:
- Mobile Use – greater mobility allows us to be more flexible and more responsive.
- Consumerization of IT – smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices keep us “office ready” without being tied to a desk phone.
- Scalability – you no longer need to plan ahead regarding capacity, or take on features you don’t really need. Cloud-based phone systems are easily scalable.
- Team Focus – instant messaging and video conferencing lets groups and teams work faster and more easily when the cost and time of travel are eliminated. Especially when many companies are home-office friendly with employees spanning the globe.
- Secure data connectivity – leaders like ShoreTel have invested heavily in the security of their data centers, connectivity and servers, which gives you peace of mind.
Products like ShoreTel Sky and cloud unified communications services are great for small, medium or large businesses, and gives peace of mind for those looking for a secure and fully-functional way to manage their communications. They even offer services that integrate with CRM solutions like Salesforce.com, which simplifies call tracking and managing pipeline activities even more.
Tags: unified communications, uc, cloud computing, voice and data communications, IP telephony, video conferencing, voice mail, messaging, presence, ShoreTel, VoIP, data communications, mobility, consumerization,BYOD, tablets, Smartphones, integrated communications, cloud services, telephony, unified messaging, web chat, IM, instant messaging
We’ve come a long way, baby.
When it comes to modern phone systems, it’s amazing how times have changed. And how much time is saved, for that matter. With the ability to IM (instant message), receive voicemails via email, conduct a conference call via video, and have easy access to desk phone functionality wherever you are, it’s tough to turn away the thought of moving over to business VoIP (voice over IP).
Can I afford to dump my traditional PBX?
You can’t afford NOT to switch. Traditional office phone systems are costly from the get-go. And they continue to incur variable costs – whether it pertains to usage, upgrades, office moves, adding users, buying into new features, etc. Oh, and what about disaster recovery planning? Traditional phone systems just don’t have your back when it comes to security and functionality.
Transitioning to a premise-based business VoIP telephone system from an industry leading manufacturer like ShoreTel, for example, is more cost-effective over time than it would be to maintain your existing system. Many of our customers tell us their new ShoreTel system pays for itself within a year; this calculation factors in the increase in worker productivity, cost savings in terms of travel and overall ease of use.
Consider the modern phone system a way to gain market share.
When you transition your PBX phone system to an in-premise or cloud-based solution, you’ll begin realizing the benefits immediately:
- Fast implementation
- Easy to manage
- Scalable to accommodate business growth
- Reporting at the click of a button
Finding the right solution provider will make transitioning even simpler. A company that has a lot of experience making the changeover to a modern phone system will guide you through each step in the process. This includes infrastructure planning, feature and function options and user training. The beauty of it all is that much of what is needed to be done once the system is up and running can be managed by your internal IT resources. Such things as adding or removing users, adding numbers, making accommodations for additional locations and activating call forwarding can all be managed in-house.
How does my modern phone work in the cloud?
Cloud computing (often referred to as a hosted solution), is extremely flexible. The heavy lifting is all on the shoulders of your supplier. Cloud applications and cloud VoIP systems are located in secure data centers, where vendors take responsibility for owning, configuring and managing them. Businesses connect to these applications through the Internet or private connections. Whether you’re a small organization or a large corporation, it’s all the same in the cloud.
- Easily add users
- Opt-in on new features without disrupting your business
- Remote users have access to all in-premise phone system features
- Customize a disaster recovery plan that works for you