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Converged Technology Professionals - ContactCenterWorld.com Blog

Value Your Vacation

Summer is winding down - it's time to squeeze in those last minute vacations before the kids go back to school.

However, vacations aren't as common as they used to be.  A recent Google Consumer Survey revealed that 42 percent* of Americans did not take a day off last summer and Americans are leaving an average of 3.2 days** of paid-time-off unused each year.


This news is not healthy and needs to be reversed because vacation days are a great way to recharge after a stressful day/week/month/year in the office.
If at all possible, take a vacation from the responsibilities and stresses at work and unplug completely from the phone and laptop.  When work demands don't allow a 100 percent break, limit time away from family and friends by blocking out short periods of time and focus on being highly productive and efficient.
Unified communications, collaboration and mobile solutions provide many of the same resources available at work while at a hotel.  With these productivity enablers, those emails and voicemail's can be handled quickly. An online web conference can be completed in an hour, and a quick IM can address questions in minutes. These tools allow employees to stay on top of work projects without loosing entire days of vacation fun.
Calls and email are in one place for fast review and responses.  Email boxes fill up fast.  With UC and mobile resources, work emails are routed to your mobile phone where they can be prioritized for answering during the blocked out work hour or handled after the vacation is over.
Incoming phone calls and voicemail's also can be moved to a mobile phone and organized to save time.  The audio message is streamed to a mobile device where all recent activity can be tracked.  Employees can review and respond to a customer with a question or a coworker with a problem.  When a voicemail does need a response, make the call without getting stuck with a huge calling fee by moving incoming calls onto the Wi-Fi and off the cellular network to avoid call charges.
Join a can't miss meeting.  The business doesn't stop during vacations and sometimes an employee needs to be on a conference call on online meeting.  The powerful combination of UC tools and a mobile client integrates calendars and streamlines scheduling, managing and participating in audio or online conferences. Employees can join multimedia work sessions through their laptops, tablets or phones and easily share spreadsheets or presentation materials with others in the meeting.
Keep deliverables and projects on track to meet upcoming deadlines.  Deadlines don't move and that can make vacations inconvenient.  A quick IM or text can help a colleague make a decision that will keep the business-at-hand moving forward.
Visuals are another great, quick way to share knowledge and help colleagues avoid confusion on important projects.  Desktop sharing shows a coworker or a client the hard-to-explain specifics and quickly reveals processes or details that may not be easily understood through email or voicemail.
Balancing work and life is always difficult, and vacations add another layer of complexity.  Studies show that days off lead to better health*** and more productivity.  Earned vacations should be taken without guilt because business and work projects can move steadily forward by checking in for short periods when it's absolutely necessary.  The many communication options in mobile, UC and collaboration tools will keep the work on track and for those critical times when employees can't completely check out on their days off.
 
*http://skift.com/2015/01/05/travel-habits-of-americans-41-percent-didnt-take-any-vacation-days-in-2014/
**http://www.projecttimeoff.com/resources/infographics/overwhelmed-america-infographic
***http://www.projecttimeoff.com/research/numerous-health-studies-prove-time-good-us

Source: http://ct-pros.com/blog/post/value-your-vacation

Publish Date: August 13, 2015 5:00 AM


We Are Family! (Plus 5 Considerations When Choosing Your UC Partner)

When you peruse newsfeeds on LinkedIn and IT Blogs one of the things that strikes you is the push to the bleeding edge on how fast everything is moving.  Soon we will be consuming all of our unified communications via mobility and the cloud.  To put it bluntly, it is true for a cross section of our users!  We have many clients pushing the envelope and wanting more ways to communicate within the business no matter their geography.  One thing I still hear quite frequently from some clients though, is they want the phone to ring and be able to pick it up and have fantastic voice quality every single time.

Like every family, a business has a cross section of users that consumes technology in very different ways.  It's not always a generational difference, so don't they caught-up there.  In our family Grandpa Bills runs circles around the younger generation when it comes to consuming technology.

One of the most important factors when looking at implementing a new unified communications technology in any business is to provide the ability to have something for the whole family of users.

The CT-Pro's family of users appreciates the fact that we bring a balance in this area.  Be sure to keep in mind these five considerations when choosing your UC partner:

  1. We provide solutions that are at their core, rock-solid ways to deliver pristine voice quality.
  2. We vet all manufacturer software releases typically longer than most partners to make sure each release is "baked" and ready for prime time.
  3. We go through a rigorous upgrade pre-questionnaire with an engineer for each upgrade to make sure the environment hasn't changed and that all technologies will continue to talk flawlessly.
  4. Most importantly, we keep our customers apprised of the roadmap.  Technology plans don't happen overnight, and many times knowing 12-18 months out what is coming and possible is important for an overall technology plan, as it can affect other technologies in the business.

The bottom line... Feel safe in knowing your partner can still disco and lead you in a comfortable path.

Source: http://ct-pros.com/blog/post/we-are-family-plus-5-considerations-when-choosing-your-uc-partner

Publish Date: August 13, 2015 5:00 AM


"You better start swimming, or you'll sink like a stone..."

We are now past the half way mark of 2015 (July)... A lot in our industry has changed rapidly since January.  It is really making for some eye opening times from my perspective.  I thought the Dylan classic tune "The times are a changing" would be a fitting tune to describe how fast things are moving.

This year, in only 6 months, we've seen a lot of M&A activity in our base (more than the previous 5 years combined). We've also witnessed a rapid adoption of outsourced IT/help desk and applications/software migrations to the "cloud" across our growing base.  Combining those trends this quickly alone is a lot in itself, however, we are now witnessing an overall consolidation and significant change to the Unified Communication industry.

Much like your old dial-up connection to the world-wide-web the former industry giants leading the UC industry are now in the rear view mirror of relevancy (Cisco, Avaya, Nortel).

I'm sure you've seen the social media phrase:

“Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles.  Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content.  Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory.  And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate.  Something interesting is happening."

With the coined term "cloud" becoming an everyday acronym in IT, it does not speak to how nimble our industry is evolving to solve business challenges in this short period.  Now every relevant UC manufacture is doubling down to be opportunistic for that new big piece of the pie in Gartner Magic Quadrant.  It's no longer a race to provide features/functions.  It's very much a time of disruption and for new leaders to emerge including Microsoft, ShoreTel, 8x8 amongst others.  Some will make it others will fail and many will be acquired.

Should you be considering a change in your UC strategy it's very important you do your homework on two key elements:

1. The Manufacture's forward strategy and leadership.

2. The Technology Partner/Integrator experience and ability to adapt. 

 

We see a lot of our peers and competitive manufactures doing business as usual and not fully embracing this "cloud" evolution.  They better start swimming or they will sink like a stone.  Do your homework and choose wisely so you don't sink your career with them.

 The times are definitely changing...

 

Source: http://ct-pros.com/blog/post/you-better-start-swimming-or-you-ll-sink-like-a-stone

Publish Date: July 21, 2015 5:00 AM


Stress Test Your Contact Center

Contact centers are the heart of a business. And when the rhythms of a contact or call center are even slightly off, it can be an early sign of upcoming trouble. Diagnosing your contact center’s health is easy with ongoing report monitoring. Dozens of real-time and historical reports in ShoreTel Enterprise Contact Center show what’s working and what needs to be improved. Start digging into the stats and analysis in these reports and take the guesswork out of understanding what your customers are saying, how well campaigns are performing and which agents know their stuff.

ShoreTel reports cover a gamut of information about callers, trunks, groups and agent activities. Real-time information about call-abandon rates or low traffic reveals current, in-the-moment happenings in the contact center.

Real-time reports show:

  • Visual and audible threshold alerts on critical conditions, such as an unacceptably high rate of abandoned calls
  • Updates on every campaign, regardless of the channel. From one consolidated view, the report shows current activity for voice, email and chat interactions
  • How a campaign that is underway compares to a prior campaign
  • Queue activity for every agent logged into the platform

Historical reports provide a view of past activities and define a baseline for comparisons. These reports are stacked with valuable data and statistics that inform an organization of its contact center’s health.

Historical reports show:

  • Activity by date or by interval
  • Number of dialer attempts to reach destination
  • How a queue or group is performing compared to typical key performance indicators
  • Agent activity from employment date to now, during the campaign time period, or during any specific timeframe
  • Reasons for incoming calls
  • Campaign performance stats

Six Steps to Strengthen Your Contact Center Health

Now that the reports have revealed an accurate measure of the contact center, what’s next? Take these proactive steps to strengthen your contact center’s overall health to drive greater levels of customer satisfaction and sales.

  1. Add training classes. If a subset of agents are underperforming or consistently making the same mistakes, schedule mandatory refresher courses that focus on specific skills, features or any aspect that will improve how they interact with customers.
  2. Rework schedules. Reports show when call traffic volumes spike and when all you can hear are the crickets. Change the agents’ schedules to best accommodate busy times and reduce hours for non-busy times to save costs and ensure agent productivity.
  3. Update the campaign. Test results from a split campaign or early results can show that the effort isn’t performing as expected. Know when to stop a campaign and go back to the drawing board to tweak the effort so the team can reach performance expectations.
  4. Evaluate agent performance. Before performance reviews, check the individual agent’s activities to understand how he or she is completing required tasks. Reports show agent response times, number of interactions completed, inactive times, comparisons to peers and more.
  5. Identify major concerns and confusion from callers. I What questions do agents field most often? Realizing where the confusion exists can help the organization add clearer, straightforward information. Changing a process or adding more explanations can minimize incoming support calls so agents can work on other revenue-generating projects.
  6. Create reports for executives or board members. These reports are huge assets for upcoming meetings about call center activity. They can show that trouble tickets have decreased, wait times are shorter, incoming calls are steadily increasing, sales are higher and much more. Showing business leaders real data and analysis builds a strong case for justifying call center costs, gaining additional funds and showcasing performance results.

About the Author:

Isabel Florence is the Marketing Director at Converged Technology Professionals, Inc.  Her marketing experience spans almost a decade.  She is an expert in branding, marketing campaigns, SEO, website management, event planning and social media.  She is in charge of managing and writing content for CT-Pros.  Outside of work, Isabel is mother of one and tries to enjoy the short Chicago summers, while hibernating in the winter.

Source: http://ct-pros.com/blog/post/stress-test-your-contact-center

Publish Date: June 17, 2015 5:00 AM


Buyer Beware of the Cloud Traps for Voice

PART 1


With the rapid adoption of voice in the cloud we are encountering some pretty horrific stories.  I thought I’d share some of the traps over the next couple posts that our clients fell victim to before switching to CT-PROS offerings.

1. No Contract Commitment i.e. Month-to-Month

Sounds great, no long term contract, what’s not to like, right?

“The price was cheap and we were not locked into an agreement, it sounded like a no brainer because it carried little risk…”

The reality is, it carries SIGNIFICANT RISK, and the old standard “if it’s too good to be true, it typically is,” could not be truer in the cloud market today.  The no contract offering is a common one and the sales presentation makes it sound painless.  However, visualize the forest from the trees before you ink that “no brainer contract”...

Once you select your new provider you need to port your numbers.  Although this is a routine task done within our industry it’s typically done on average every 3-6 years when changing your telecom providers.  In the cloud, the company you are selecting is now your provider of not only the technology for your end users but they are also your new telecom provider for all your usage. Regardless of the organization you choose, that port comes with risk.  Inevitability there is some sort of service disruption to go from one carrier to another.  Then there is also the introduction of changes in the technology for your end-users that they now have to ramp-on.

·       Who is coordinating this on your end to ensure everything is done right?  How much time will that take?  What is that cost to your business?

·       What is the cost to your business to switch your technology out and to train your end-users on something new?

 

Assume now your 30-60 days into your new solution.  You realize, unfortunately, the new solution was not the experience you intended for. How much disruption did you just experience last month to switch and how much did it cost i.e. time to your business to make the change?  Now, add on the salt in the wound… Clients are complaining of choppy audio and end-users have lost all faith in your no brainier solution.

“No problem!” you say to yourself… “It’s month-to-month let’s cancel and evoke the month-to-month contract…”

WRONG:

The average port takes 30-60 days to coordinate from one carrier to another, something you now realize as you just went through it.


Yes, that bead of sweat on your head is visible…

Now you’re potentially 4 months into an agreement that’s not delivering, considering you have to wait to move away to vet something better and deal with yet another port experience and adoption of yet again new technology. Not to mention while feeling the heat internally.

Yes, the sweat permeating through your shirt is now visible…

Now you’ve created loss combined with grief from internal staff and clients limping along.

Yes, now people are talking at the water cooler how terrible this choice was…

Now you realize you need to repeat the process again and present to the management team your first selection was not what you thought it was i.e. a no brainer.

Yes, now is about the time you should start putting out your resume...

The idea and beauty of cloud is it’s managed and you don’t need to spend the resources to manage it.  In a nutshell that is why it’s being adopted so rapidly.  However, if you chose the wrong carrier you’ve actually created a bigger mess and cost your business a considerable amount of money. The carriers offering these options know this and they are banking on the fact that you won’t change because of the overhead and pain to the business to do it again.

Food for thought:

From a financial perspective the companies offering these type of agreements do not make money if clients go month-to-month.  It actually takes a considerable amount of months to show profitability per client for solution providers in the cloud.  They have overhead and costs it’s not just software.  They know this but consumers don’t.  The reality is they are banking on you being stuck and the percentages are in their favor for this.

The trap here is simple, month-to-month is really long term because the cost to change more than once is absurd when you could have chosen a premium product and paid only a few bucks more a user.  There are premium products out there beyond what we offer with ShoreTel.  Our clients who have lived through this will advise you if you see a sales pitch offering month-to-month show them the door as quickly as you can!

If it sounds too good to be true it is…

About the Author:

Joe Rittenhouse is the President of Business Development and a managing partner of Converged Technology Professionals, Inc.  His expertise is in business consulting/therapy specializing specifically in VOIP, Cloud Services, and Contact Centers.  Joe’s experience in the IT demographic encompasses over two decades.  Outside of work, Joe is a husband and father of four.  Joe is also a self-proclaimed season tour veteran of the Grateful Dead.

Source: http://ct-pros.com/blog/post/buyer-beware-of-the-cloud-traps-for-voice

Publish Date: May 26, 2015 5:00 AM

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