If you’re in the process of researching unified communications (UC) and want to gain additional insights to assist you in the decision-making process, check out our recent webinar entitled, “UC Deployment Options: Getting The Most Value, Flexibility and Choice.”
ShoreTel CMO Mark Roberts explores the topic with IDC analysts Rich Costello and Amy Lind, asking questions that range from what’s driving the demand for UC to which countries and industry sectors are leading the UC adoption curve. The one-hour discussion also touches upon the various UC deployment options – onsite, cloud and hybrid – and the benefits of each, as well as recent IDC research that outlines what businesses see as the most compelling reasons to purchase UC.
Lind noted that one of the biggest trends her research firm has seen is that cloud is driving interest in the growth and adoption of UC, causing more companies to seek a Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) solution. She also highlights the rapid increase in hybrid deployments.
“In that scenario (hybrid), the business can leverage existing assets and have the flexibility to deploy cloud where it makes sense and at their own pace,” said Lind. “A key to this type of deployment is that the business has the flexibility of choice to deploy the best mix of on-premises and cloud that works for them, where and when it makes sense for them.”
Both Lind and Costello present results from recent IDC research studies that provide real-world insights on unified communications & collaboration (UC&C) trends and forecasts. The webinar discussion also examines industry vertical sectors leading the adoption curve.
“Some sectors are definitely further ahead on the UCaaS adoption curve than others,” said Lind. “Those that are much more amenable to cloud & UCaaS are professional services (e.g., legal, real estate), manufacturing and resources, and somewhat surprisingly, financial services.”
Lind adds that those sectors less willing to move the cloud are typically concerned with security, reliability and privacy, as well as stringent accountability and regulatory requirements that apply to their vertical. In response to this, she notes that, “We’re seeing vendors and communication service providers developing customized solutions that are targeted to some of these key verticals and address specific industry concerns around security, privacy and compliance.”
Get further insights on unified communications and collaboration by listening to the webinar recording.
Publish Date: November 16, 2016 5:00 AM
Contact center staff do so much more than field calls in today’s modern hospital. Healthcare contact centers have evolved from siloed call centers to multi-functional communications hubs. They touch virtually every area of the hospital. Their expanded responsibilities, including their vital role in helping busy clinicians provide well-coordinated care, are mission-critical. Is your hospital doing everything it can to maximize its contact center to better support providers and patients?
Check out five ways to better leverage your hospital contact center for clinical communications:
1. Maintain vital information: Contact center teams are tasked with maintaining vital information to support clinical communications throughout the hospital, including employee contact information, on-call schedules, physician on-call lists, and more. This is not an easy task if your organization currently stores this information in multiple databases and disparate systems. Contact center software can consolidate all of that data into a centralized, web-based directory and on-call scheduling system that both the contact center and individual departments can update in real time. For example, Meriter-UnityPoint Health has 158 departments within the system, and they used to print paper copies of on-call schedules. Once Meriter-UnityPoint upgraded to a healthcare console solution with a web directory and on-call scheduling solution, they reduced time spent updating on-call schedules by 67 percent and were able to eliminate the floating paper copies and fully rely on the information, increasing efficiency and patient safety.
2. Coordinate response to emergency codes: With an integrated healthcare operator console in place, a clinician can hit the code blue button in the patient’s room and simultaneously notify the response team and the operator. Codes pop up on an operator’s screen and they can perform the tasks that coincide with the code according to hospital procedure. They may log the code and track responses and escalations; make overhead announcements; or message additional staff. This allows the care team responding to the code to devote all of their attention to resuscitating the patient and the operator to assist with the other activities needed for a fully integrated method of response. At Banner Health, nurses sometimes had to leave a patient to make a call to the operator to launch a code. When Banner implemented an integrated operator console, their nurses were able to push the code blue button at the bedside and instantly alert operators with all of the information they need—the facility, room and other pertinent details—and staff gained back that valuable time for patient care.
3. Deliver critical messages to clinicians on their preferred device: Hospital contact centers are charged with providing excellent service not only to their external customers—patients and their families—but also to their internal ones—physicians, nurses and other staff. A fully integrated contact center allows operators to send messages to clinicians on their device of choice, whether that’s a smartphone, tablet, pager, Wi-Fi phone or voice badge. This flexibility was a request of physicians at McLaren Northern Michigan: They wanted to receive critical messages on their smartphones in addition to or instead of their pagers. By upgrading their operator console and web solutions, McLaren is now equipped to send messages to multiple devices. If the hospital supports secure communication devices, like secure text messaging smartphone applications or encrypted pagers, operators can even send messages that contain protected health information (PHI).
4. Track and escalate messages: Nowadays everyone has a mobile device on them; however, if you’re a busy clinician, you may not always be able to check it for critical messages. With integrated contact center and secure messaging solutions, operators can access a full audit trail to see who has or hasn’t received a message so they can take further action and escalate the message to another provider if necessary. At North Mississippi Medical Center, this powerful integration and audit trail insight not only sped communications in time-sensitive situations, but it also improved relations between operators and clinicians.
5. Provide after-hours answering services: Contact centers are generally viewed as a necessary expense for running the organization, but many contact centers have turned into revenue-generating departments by providing after-hours answering services for affiliated physician practices. Besides generating revenue, this also gives healthcare organizations more control over the full customer service experience. At Southern New Hampshire Health System (SNHHS), moving their physician answering services in-house worked well for physicians and patients because they were able to rely on the operators’ experience in the healthcare environment, which is not always the case with third-party answering service companies. SNHHS was also able to accommodate each physician’s unique protocols or requests. For example, “only call a certain phone number after 10 p.m.,” or “after two tries, call this number.”
Healthcare contact centers are more important than ever. Organizations rely on them to not only deliver exceptional customer service, but also to support exemplary patient care. Technology like the contact center solutions from Spok help tie the contact center more closely to clinical communications and ultimately enhance the patient experience throughout the hospital.
Spok is a sponsor of the 2016 ShoreTelOne Global Partner Conference, a gathering of ShoreTel’s channel partners and distributors as well as industry analysts and consultants from around the globe. The event will take place the week of Dec. 5 at the Gaylord Palms Resort in Orlando, Fla. Learn more about the conference here.
Marc Davis is an accomplished marketing/product management executive with a background of creating and implementing strategies for growth, developing customer-focused tactics, leading organizational change, and managing business P&L. He has expertise in all phases of the marketing and project management process from inception to production. This includes the development of strategic plans, innovative marketing programs, and products and processes that deliver bottom-line results and increase recognizable revenue. Marc has lived in Minnesota his entire life, and in his spare time he enjoys exercising and local art and music. Connect with Marc on LinkedIn.
Publish Date: November 15, 2016 5:00 AM
With the switch back to Daylight Savings Time this past weekend, many individuals in North America and other countries worldwide like to think they’ve gained back an hour of precious time. But for the overworked, spread-too-thin IT managers of the world, even one extra hour of time won’t help much.
Time – or more precisely, the lack of it – is the biggest daily headache for most IT managers. Often working with limited resources and a small team, they still have to shoulder an immense set of responsibilities. In addition to new growth initiatives, there are multiple systems to maintain and often multiple locations to support.
If you’re an overworked and understaffed IT manager, wouldn’t it be nice to stop worrying about at least one of these systems? If you’re thinking “yes,” then consider moving your business phone system to the cloud.
Many small- to mid-sized business don’t have the luxury of keeping a telecommunications expert on staff. By deploying a cloud phone system, you can transfer many of the responsibilities for support and maintenance to the vendor who can serve as that telecom expert for you. At the same time, you can standardize communications across your entire organization and simplify telecom management.
Moving to a cloud phone system can go a long way toward alleviating your workload and give you more time to focus on higher level business initiatives. Here’s how:
Reduce the Need to Manage Multiple Vendors
Managing multiple vendors can not only impact your daily productivity, but do some serious damage to your company’s bottom line as well. Outdated systems that are patch-worked together typically cannot deliver a consistent user experience with the same features and functionality, regardless of location or device. Trouble-shooting problems is more time-consuming and, because the systems may not be integrated, you’re not getting a consolidated view of your operations.
Lower the Total Cost of Operations
Managing to budget is a core responsibility and a cloud phone system can help you consistently meet your targets. By working with just one vendor instead of many, you’ll lower the total cost of operations by reducing the complexity of day-to-day management and time spent trouble-shooting.
Future-Proof the Business with the Latest Technology
One challenge with traditional phone systems is that the technology ages quickly. With a cloud system, you can always take advantage of the latest features and applications. Plus, there are increased opportunities for customization and integration with other business applications. And lastly, employees can leverage new capabilities as they need them, without ever involving your IT team. It’s a great way to future-proof your business.
Save Time...and Headaches
By reducing complexity, a cloud phone system will save you time and allow you to focus of mission-critical tasks that drive productivity. With easier implementations and uniform deployments, your IT team can spend less time training users and more time working on high-value projects that move your business forward. You might still have headaches, but they won’t be caused by your phone system.
Looking to move away from your on-premises phone system? Learn more about ShoreTel’s cloud phone system solutions here.
Publish Date: November 9, 2016 5:00 AM
In an office overlooking the vast, rolling fields of Buckinghamshire, UK, you may not expect to find the operations centre for one of the leasing specialist foreign exchange consultancy firms, who, each year, help their customers manage $1 billion.
International FX (IFX) began as a two-person business, and has been growing ever since. The walls of their smart office are bedecked with large screens detailing the slightest fluctuations in exchange rates across the globe, which are assessed on behalf of their customers; many of whom are private individuals, as well as large corporates such as airlines, hotel chains or pharmaceutical companies
IFX Operations Director Tom Greenwood sees recording calls as a vital part of his business process, and has therefore been using call recording technology for some time. Having recently upgraded to Oak’s new call recording application – which features a host of benefits ideal for his company – Tom is really impressed.
“We make and receive around 500 calls each day, and in many of them we receive instruction to undertake a financial deal on behalf of a customer, or state an exchange rate that a deal will be completed at,” said Greenwood. “It is crucial to our business that if any of this is queried at any point, we have the facility to investigate quickly and easily.”
Greenwood goes on to add, “Oak’s call recording system is fantastic; better than anything I have ever seen. I am particularly impressed by the ability to send a recording via e-mail direct from the system as a .WAV or MP3 file, whilst retaining the encrypted file on our system. In the event of a dispute arising, we immediately send a copy to our lawyers.”
In March 2003, Royal & Sun Alliance was fined £950,000 by the Financial Services Authority (FSA), who made direct reference to the lack of call recording being contributory to the fine being imposed. It is not always the fear of such a fine that encourages a company to consider call recording to be a vital investment, as Greenwood explains.
“Recently, we had a private customer who asked us to assist in the exchange of €700,000 (£545,500 at the time), following the sale of her house in Spain,” said Greenwood. “The agreement had been made, and we had been instructed by her to undertake the exchange over the phone, which constitutes a contract between both parties.”
But, according to Greenwood, the customer then decided to change her mind.
“We were left with a liability for a deal she had authorized us to undertake,” said Greenwood. “Due to a drop in the exchange rate, we were exposed, within one day, to a loss of £9,600, and by the end of the situation, this had grown to almost £25,000. Fortunately, by having the call recording, we were able to prove that a contract had been entered into, and therefore we were not liable, saving us a lot of money.”
Many customers who use Oak call recording have experienced the same benefits as International FX. It often takes just one incident where a call recording is used to pay for the initial investment. Please visit www.oaksi.com for more details about our call recording solutions.
OakSI is a sponsor of the 2016 ShoreTelOne Global Partner Conference, a gathering of ShoreTel’s channel partners and distributors as well as industry analysts and consultants from around the globe. The event will take place the week of Dec. 5 at the Gaylord Palms Resort in Orlando, Fla. Learn more about the conference here.
Laura Emm has been coordinating Oak’s PR initiative for over 10 years, and has assisted many Oak dealers with writing up their own Oak case studies that they can use for marketing purposes. Her goal, along with the rest of the marketing team, is to ensure dealers have the right tools to assist them in their promotional efforts. Branded videos, brochure and live demonstrations are just some of the other options available.
Publish Date: November 3, 2016 5:00 AM
Think back to what your organization looked like 25 years ago. You likely are envisioning big computer screens and massive phones that were used only to take and receive calls. If you look around today, you likely see much thinner computer screens or laptops, but in many cases, that big dinosaur phone still remains. Why? Because it’s such a vital piece of doing business that it’s a major concern to replace. However, most businesses who have taken the leap to a VoIP-based phone system know they are far better off because today’s solutions can solve communication problems quickly and more effectively than ever.
VoIP solutions provide resources and tools that combat the most common communication issues that legacy phone systems just fail to address. Today’s VoIP solutions drive enhanced performance and convenience for organizations like never before with features and tools companies trust to do business better.
Here are a few ways today’s VoIP solutions solve everyday business communication issues:
Communication Issue #1:
“I need someone who can answer and route calls to the right place.”
How Today’s VoIP Solutions Help:
Many companies struggle to find or support the need for someone to conduct necessary administrative work like answering phone calls. Although basic voicemail services used to work, today’s customers expect more and may hang up before even leaving a message to call a competitor who can get them to the right person. Today’s systems provide the ability to route calls to multiple lines. When a call comes in, the system identifies who’s calling and routes the call to the right place without the need for a receptionist.
Communication Issue #2:
“I wish I could avoid the massive voicemail catch-up I have to do every morning!”
How Today’s VoIP Solutions Help:
Remember the days when you got into your office to see your red light on the phone, and you preceded to spend the next hour and a half addressing issues from when you were away from your desk? Good new is, those days can now become a thing of the past because with a modern solution you can instantly forward all calls right to your mobile phone. This convenience provides immediate access to your customers and clients - improving response times and enhancing employee productivity.
Communication Issue #3:
“We want to expand internationally, but I worry about the high costs associated with calling overseas all the time.”
How Today’s VoIP Solutions Help:
Since calls are routed using the Internet rather than traditional phone lines, the cost to make and receive calls from anywhere reduced drastically, making international calling more convenient than ever. You can say, “Goodbye!” to those crazy per minute charges the phone company is famous for.
Communication Issue #4:
“We want to allow our employees to work remotely, but we need team collaboration to get things done.”
How Today’s VoIP Solutions Help:
While face-to-face meetings are convenient, they aren’t always realistic for today’s workforce. VoIP solutions provide the ability for your employees to work from anywhere, attending video conferences and conference calls no matter what their location. This also enables companies to attract top talent who work from a distance, because they can now communicate with their team through chat services and conferences like never before.
Phone systems like our ShoreTel line of products are continuously enhanced with features that provide companies with the tools they need to communicate more efficiently. When organizations make the transition to a VoIP-based service, they gain a competitive advantage over many of their competitors who continue to run on legacy systems that no longer meet the immediate demands of today’s customer.
ManoByte is a sponsor of the 2016 ShoreTelOne Global Partner Conference, a gathering of ShoreTel’s channel partners and distributors as well as industry analysts and consultants from around the globe. The event will take place the week of Dec. 5 at the Gaylord Palms Resort in Orlando, Fla. Learn more about the conference here.
Amy Post is a former television news reporter who has a passion for developing clear, concise and engaging content. When Amy figured out that you could actually make a career out of being a writer without the hassle of being on TV, she began typing and making marketing magic for clients all over the world - including many ShoreTel partners. When she’s not writing, she can be found traveling, trying new wines, or pounding the pavement training for her next marathon.
Publish Date: November 1, 2016 5:00 AM
Halloween is less than a week away! It’s a spooky time of year, but a poor IVR experience can spook your customers at any time. Don’t scare away customers and potential sales with bad IVR practices. Our infographic highlights the customer experience demons that may be hiding in your interactive voice response system. (Click on the link below to download the infographic.)
Publish Date: October 25, 2016 5:00 AM
ShoreTel Connect CLOUD – a unified communications solution for businesses of all sizes – has been recognized as a 2016 INTERNET TELEPHONY Hosted VoIP Award winner.
The award honors services that have demonstrated innovation, unique features and noteworthy developments that improve functionality and usability for their customers.
“Congratulations to ShoreTel for being honored with an INTERNET TELEPHONY Hosted VoIP Excellence Award for innovation in IP communications,” said Rich Tehrani, CEO of TMC. “ShoreTel has consistently demonstrated outstanding quality and has delivered exceptional solutions for its customers.”
Thanks, Rich! We're honored to be among this year’s winners.
About INTERNET TELEPHONY magazine
INTERNET TELEPHONY, one of several magazines published by TMC, has been the IP Communications Authority since 1998™. Beginning with the first issue in February of 1998, INTERNET TELEPHONY has been providing unbiased views of the complicated converged communications space. INTERNET TELEPHONY offers rich content from solutions-focused editorial content to reviews on products and services from TMC Labs. INTERNET TELEPHONY magazine reaches more than 225,000 readers, including pass-along readers.
Publish Date: October 19, 2016 5:00 AM
Customer Service Week 2016, the annual celebration that recognizes the importance of customer service and the people who deliver it, is a not-so-distant memory now. But if all went as planned, chances are that you and your employees might still be basking in all the good vibes generated by the activities that took place in your contact center last week.
Some call this the ‘CSW afterglow’; it can last anywhere from a few days to 6 weeks max. And then the glow fades as everyone falls back into stale routines and attitudes until Customer Service Week rolls around again next year.
Sadly, many organizations miss out on the opportunity to build on the momentum generated during Customer Service Week. It typically comes down to a lack of time and money. Understandably, they simply can’t sustain what they spent during this one week in October throughout the year. Not to mention that people need to be in their seats working versus participating in contests and events.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can keep riding the CSW wave throughout the year without breaking the bank or losing productivity. The key is to minimize offline activity while still rewarding employees and keeping your environment fun and enjoyable.
With these thoughts in mind, below are 9 low-cost ways to keep the spirit of Customer Service Week alive year round:
1. Random Drawings (multiple recognitions, one gift) – You might not be able to provide a monetary reward for every employee who achieves perfect attendance or a specific performance goal, but their achievements can qualify them to be part of a random drawing for a particular gift. Also, remember to provide public recognition of all those who qualify via an email or board listing their names.
2. Casual Dress Days – If your office tends to be more formal, consider rewarding high-performing employees with a day to kick back in some casual clothes. In addition to having a more comfortable day at their desks, the casual clothing also serves to alert co-workers of the recognition.
3. Food - Since everyone gets a lunch break anyway, take it a step further and bring in pizzas for the team to reward a special effort. It’s not a large outlay of cash, but it does afford yet another way to encourage team building. In fact, anything you can do to get your team talking and interacting on non-work related topics will allow them to connect more on a personal level.
4. Supervisor a la Carte – Have your supervisors dress up as pushcart vendors and wheel around free goodies (e.g., ice cream, candy bars, baked goods) while the frontline remains online. Agents can choose what they want and eat the treats when they’re offline. Raise the bar for supervisors and consider giving prizes for best costumes and pushcart design.
5. Time to Stretch – It’s not easy sitting at your desk for hours at a time, looking at a computer screen. Institute daily stretch periods where everyone can get up and give those muscles a break. Make it fun, but also make it worthwhile by researching the best ways to alleviate tension in the neck, shoulders and back. Allow employees to volunteer to lead the exercises.
6. Chair Massage – If the daily stretches aren’t enough, you might want to consider this idea. At one contact center, they actually brought in massage therapists for anyone who wanted a neck and shoulder massage while at their desks. There was no interruption in work, but everyone felt a lot more relaxed!
7. Supervisor for a Day – Reward those agents who have achieved specific performance measures with an opportunity to shadow a supervisor for a day. Have them join the management team for meetings and encourage their input on various issues. This not only gives agents greater empathy for management issues, but also can uncover frontline hot buttons and areas for improvement.
8. Dress-Up or Theme Days – Working in a contact center can be stressful. Dress-up or theme days are a low-cost way to keep spirits to keep agents smiling. Come up with creative themes, establish teams and encourage friendly competition. You can use some of the ideas above to reward the winning team, or provide small rewards such as gift cards to area restaurants or stores.
9. Voluntary Time Off (VTO) – Allow your agents to earn VTO “chips” based on parameters that underscore behaviors you want to reinforce (e.g., strong attendance, specific performance metrics, quality standards). The chips can be used at the agent’s discretion and “cashed in” on VTO eligible days. VTO chips not only reward positive behavior; they also provide employees with a bit of control over their work schedules on those days when they may need to come in late or leave early.
Publish Date: October 10, 2016 5:00 AM
Telephone calls represent the most common point of communication with customers for most organizations. This channel of engagement should be a key area of focus for mining the business intelligence available that could optimize your customer experience.
At Brightmetrics, our experience and services are often applied to four common areas critical to execution of world-class customer engagement: customer satisfaction, staffing levels, employee productivity and identifying employee coaching opportunities. Read on to discover what insights you can garner to make better business decisions with the right ShoreTel phone system analytics.
1. Customer Satisfaction
By measuring activities such as abandonment rate, time-in-queue, wait time and call transfers, you can determine a lot about the experience your customers have when they contact your organization. You can answer questions such as how long callers are willing to wait to speak with a representative, whether or not they’re able to get answers to their questions with the first person they speak to and how long they have to hold, on average, before they get a resolution to the reason for their call. Having perspective on the ever-changing answers to these questions is vital to your management team and provides the ability to help shape the customer experience your organization wants to deliver.
2. Staffing Levels
Does your staff consistently match your needs when it comes to customer calls? Your best answer will come from the analytics your phone system provides. If staffing is too low, obviously customers won't receive resolutions to their inquiries in an appropriate amount of time. If your staffing is too high, your organization is wasting funds on an expensive resource (labor). Determining the right mix on staff is complicated, and the factors weighed are compounded by the fluid nature of the needs that often shift based on time of day, day of week and external factors. The best approach is leveraging your data to help you become more predictive with smart analysis which will, in turn, empower you to make staffing decisions that are the most proximate mix of your investment of resources to the needs of your market.
3. Employee Productivity
Are your employees participating in activities contributing to the organization’s success, or are they doing the minimum required to look busy and run out the clock? You can find that answer in your ShoreTel phone analytics. From a high level overview of employee activity, down to cradle-to-grave reporting about a specific call, uncover what your employees are really doing on every single call to determine if their activity is contributing to the goals you have for their department as well as the overall objectives of your organization.
4. Employee Training
There are always opportunities to improve employee performance by providing the right training. However, what training is right for your employee or team? Again, you can answer this through analytics of your phone system. For example, if an employee is constantly transferring a specific type of call instead of handling that call on his or her own, it’s likely that the employee needs to be coached in that area. Or if the handle time of a particular agent is low and the transfer rate is high, you might need to take a look at that agent’s overall training to identify gaps. Alternately, if you have an employee who is consistently outperforming peers, it makes sense to study that individual’s key metrics to see how you can assist the rest of the team in repeating that success.
With the right analytics, there are endless opportunities to turn those reports into business intelligence that contribute to the business decisions you make every day for a successful organization. Given the right analytics tool, there are many things you can learn from your ShoreTel phone system.
Brightmetrics is not like any ShoreTel reporting tool you’ve ever seen. We enable you to harness the power of your ShoreTel phone analytics contribute better business intelligence to your daily operations. Contact us via phone: +1 707 238 4455 | email: email@example.com | web: www.brightmetrics.com
Matt Beatty is a veteran in B2B technology customer and channel engagement, having served at companies ranging from SMB to enterprise-level services and solutions. As EVP of Customer Success, he is responsible for facilitating the discovery, maximization and continual improvement of value delivered by Brightmetrics services to customers and partners. His team drives improvement in engaging customers and partners in more thoughtful, specific and relevant ways.
Publish Date: October 5, 2016 5:00 AM
In the old days (circa 2010), it might have made sense to start investigating new business phone system options just a few months before the contract came up for renewal. But today, that approach won’t do you or your company any favors.
With the rate of technological change taking place and ever-increasing customer expectations, there’s no time like the present to revisit both what you currently have in place and, more importantly, what you want to achieve going forward. Beyond new feature functionality and integrations, you also need to determine which deployment option – onsite, cloud or a hybrid mix of the two – is the best fit for your business needs.
So no matter where you’re at in your contract, there’s no time like the present to revisit your current solution and plan for the future. Even if you elect to stay with what you have, you will be better prepared to make the right decisions for your business when the time comes.
Below are 7 steps to get started on BEFORE your contract expires:
1. Know the terms. What is or isn’t possible under your current agreement? From a contractual standpoint, how much lead time is required if you are considering a change?
2. Define your needs. Your business needs – and those of your customers – may have changed dramatically changed from the time you purchased your last phone system. Identify your key business drivers and ask yourself if your current solution is able to meet those objectives.
3. Do your homework. Armed with your business needs, it’s time to go shopping. Make certain you know what functionality is essential to meeting your business needs and what you would be willing to wait for or live without. These days, with some vendors offering customizable solutions, there’s no need to accept a less-than-perfect-fit.
4. Plan, plan, plan. Anytime you consider introducing a change in technology to your organization, your ability to plan for the change will be crucial to the success of the new solution. Communications systems are no different. Give your organization enough time to select and implement a solution so the change will be seamless. Identify a dedicated internal team who will be charged with articulating current needs, navigating through various solutions and, ultimately, assist in successfully implementing the technology. Consider how you will roll out the new system and train employees to ensure staff adoption and minimal disruption to productivity.
5. Seeing is believing. Certainly you should see your future solution in action either via a demo or in-person, but you need to go further. Get customer references and be sure to ask questions that go beyond just functionality.
6. Execute the new contract with enough time to be successful. All too often, the previous five steps take longer than anticipated and you end up jammed for time against your ending contract. Don’t place your organization in that difficult position. Make sure you give your team a wide timeframe to ensure your decision and system will best meet the needs of your business.
7. Eat the elephant in a planned fashion. Organizations using outdated technology often lack certain features and hence, can’t wait for you to ‘bring it on’ ASAP. While your new technology partner may be capable of delivering everything on your wish list, factor in your organization’s ability to absorb and implement a large amount of change, especially if those changes impact key processes. Consider a phased approach or, at the very least, a companywide introduction to the new technology that includes a discussion of how it will be implemented over time.
Publish Date: September 29, 2016 5:00 AM
If you’re looking to improve the customer experience within your business, start by mapping the customer journey. Creating such a map will help you to quickly identify all the interactions – or touch points – your customers experience, along with issues that could ultimately impact loyalty.
Since a good number of these interactions often take place within the contact center, it’s imperative to get this team involved in developing your interaction map. Contact center managers and agents have unique insights into your customers’ needs and challenges, and they know what makes customers happy. Their observations are central to defining a stellar experience.
But beyond personal insights, the contact center also collects a wide range of information – both quantitative and qualitative – at each touch point. This granular data shows which interactions cause the most friction and, more importantly, how to fix them.
Using real-time and historical reports, managers can identify the times when customers are most likely to call, how many minutes they spend on the phone with a representative, and how often and at what point they abandon the call. This data illuminates the barriers and obstacles customers face in getting issues resolved.
For instance, consider transfer rates. Ideally, your calls or processes will direct customers to the best-suited agents right away, meaning customers will get fast, effective answers without being transferred at all. If transfer rates are high, it’s time to re-evaluate your IVR menus and call routing practices.
Other contact center tools can also help you to assess if you’re effectively addressing customer concerns. Transcripts of calls and web chats can provide anecdotal evidence of what works – and what doesn’t. In addition, data pulled from an after-call survey can help managers assess overall customer opinion and identify breakdowns in the existing experience.
Customers regularly tell agents -- via phone calls, chat and email -- what they think about your company’s products, sales process, service, marketing, website, advertising and more. That qualitative feedback, combined with technology tools that can help you to gather and analyze customer data, makes the contact center is a veritable gold mine of information.
Mapping the customer journey is just the first step to developing an integrated, cross-functional plan for improving end-to-end customer service. But starting your journey with the contact center will ensure that you get off on the right foot.
Learn more about ShoreTel’s contact center solutions here.
Publish Date: September 22, 2016 5:00 AM
The Web Marketing Association has recognized ShoreTel for outstanding achievement in web development as part of its annual WebAward Competition. ShoreTel received a 2016 WebAward for Best Telecommunications Website.
The WebAward Competition sets industry benchmarks for the best websites based on the seven criteria of a successful website. The ShoreTel site was judged on design, innovation, content, technology, interactivity, copywriting and ease of use.
The goal of the WebAwards is to provide a forum to recognize the people and organizations responsible for developing some of the most effective websites on the Internet today.
Beyond validation, entrants benefit from a website assessment by a professional judging panel, which provides specific feedback on how each site ranks against standards of excellence.
The Web Marketing Association was established in 1997 to create a high standard of excellence for website development and marketing on the Internet. Staffed by volunteers, it is made up of Internet marketing, advertising, PR and design professionals who share an interest in improving the quality of website development and marketing on the Internet.
“We’re pleased to be recognized for our work,” said ShoreTel Web Marketing Manager Ed Chao. “In today’s digital world, a company’s website is vital to the success of an organization. For that reason, we’re continually reviewing and enhancing our site to maximize its effectiveness and impact.”
Publish Date: September 21, 2016 5:00 AM
In human terms, a 20-year-old is still considered relatively young. But in the fast-changing world of technology, a communications company’s ability to thrive and grow for two decades is quite an accomplishment and frankly, a reason to celebrate.
And that’s exactly what ShoreTel employees will be doing on Friday, Sept. 16 – a day before the company’s official 'birthdate' of Saturday, Sept. 17 – as office locations around the world will hold anniversary gatherings to celebrate all that’s been accomplished since ShoreTel’s founding in 1996.
A Look Back at ShoreTel’s Early Beginnings
In light of the upcoming anniversary, CEO Don Joos recently shared a short history on the founding of the company, as well as thoughts on where the communications industry is today and what to expect in the future.
“ShoreTel’s history actually began a few years before the company was incorporated with the ShoreTel name in 2004,” explained Joos. “Our founder, Ed Basart, was implementing a communications project and, in his frustration, kept thinking ‘there’s got to be a better way to do this’. “
Out of that frustration, ShoreTel was born with the company’s entrance into the IP telephony market in 1996. Twenty years later, ShoreTel’s offerings have expanded beyond IP business phone systems to also include unified communications and contact center solutions available from the cloud, onsite or a hybrid of both. In addition, ShoreTel also now offers Summit, a fully hosted voice and SMS communications platform.
ShoreTel Today & Tomorrow
“We’re still grounded in Ed Basart’s original idea of a better way of doing things,” said Joos. “But in today’s digital world, we’ve expanded upon the idea by working to make interactions simple.”
Whether those interactions are between people (e.g., a phone call), between a person and a machine (e.g., using a self-service IVR menu to pay a bill) or machine-to-machine (e.g., an invoice system that automatically sends a text message to remind a customer of a payment date), the goal is the same – to make everyday interactions for both businesses and their customers as effortless as possible.
“We’re at a really exciting time within our industry right now,” said Joos. “The customer needs are continuing to evolve, and I think we are well-positioned to help them grow, help them innovate and help them fulfill their requirements.”
Looking to the future, Joos believes that as companies strive to improve the customer experience and use it to differentiate their business, communications solutions such as those offered by ShoreTel will take on increasing importance.
“You’re always going to have customers that just need a complete, bundled solution and what we provide today is a perfect fit for them,” said Joos. “But what we’re seeing more and more is enterprise customers who are really looking to mix and match – they want to buy certain things from us, but they also want to be able to develop their own ‘secret sauce’ that will make them innovative and unique in the marketplace.”
Joos noted that ShoreTel’s ability to speak to both needs – providing both solution components along with a platform that enables customization and the ability for businesses to differentiate themselves – will enable the company to thrive.
“It’s a unique position that we have and one that we will undoubtedly be able to expand upon,” said Joos.
Here's to the future, and all the opportunities it will offer to customers, partners and employees alike. Happy 20th Anniversary, ShoreTel!
Publish Date: September 13, 2016 5:00 AM
In its projections for cloud services, Gartner sees a widely expanding market. The analyst firm says the overall public cloud market will grow by 16.5% and be worth $204 billion by the end of 2016. In addition, the markets for Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) are all set to grow between 20% and 40% as enterprises seek to cut data center costs and deploy systems and databases over more cost-effective networks.
Despite these growing adoption rates, many companies still aren’t ready to make a full-scale move to cloud-based technologies. If you are among those who want to take a measured approach to cloud adoption, look no further than your phone system as a great place to start. By working with a communications provider who offers both cloud and hybrid phone systems, you’ll not only get expert guidance, but also the flexibility to customize a migration path that fits your business.
Below are four reasons why starting your journey to the cloud via your business communications needs makes sense:
1. You can manage deployments in small groups. For many businesses, the phone system is the ideal service to serve as a catalyst in your transition to the cloud. Since it can be deployed in a phased approach, you can learn by transitioning small groups, teams or locations one at a time with little overall risk. Plus, you can also lean on the expertise of your service provider since most cloud vendors have helped countless other companies through similar transitions.
Beyond the initial implementation, businesses can also learn how to manage overall cloud applications from their service partners. They offer expertise your company may not have internally, making them an ideal resource to help you build a path to the cloud.
2. You have the flexibility to embrace the cloud fully, or bit by bit. Not only can deployments be phased, but moving your business communications to the cloud doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. You can choose a full cloud deployment or start with a hybrid approach that combines both cloud and onsite solutions. Hybrid solutions allow you to mix and match communications applications as you need them, and give your company the flexibility to deploy only what your business requires today, while keeping the option open to add additional cloud services or locations later.
3. You can make smarter use of internal resources. A system provider with cloud expertise can help you make better use of your internal IT resources. With a cloud deployment, applications are hosted remotely and maintained by the provider, relieving IT of most or all network-related tasks. The business then consumes the services on a subscription basis rather than owning the infrastructure. In this model, the cloud provider manages the extra workload while freeing your IT team to focus on the initiatives that drive revenue for your business.
4. You can gain the buy-in you need to move forward with other cloud-based solutions. For any deployment to be successful, it must have buy-in from users. By focusing on your phone system early in your migration, you can introduce employees to the cloud’s many time-saving, productivity-enhancing benefits of the cloud. As their comfort grows, your ability to transition other systems and processes to the cloud will become easier. A provider with a reputation for excellent customer service and training options will help you quickly get buy-in from your employees.
For many of today’s businesses, a move to the cloud is just a matter of time. Choosing a phased approach with an early focus on your phone system is a smart choice, and tapping the expertise of a cloud phone service provider can make it an even smarter one.
Learn more about ShoreTel cloud phone systems here.
Publish Date: September 7, 2016 5:00 AM
If the contract on your current legacy on-premises phone system is coming up for renewal, you may already be considering new options. But even if you’re in the beginning or middle of your contract, you should also start examining cloud alternatives right now.
1. Obsolete Technology - Given the rapidly changing demands of your business and, depending on the state of your equipment, chances are that a portion of your on-premises phone system is obsolete if you’ve had it for a while. Even with a newer system you may have found that it’s not effectively addressing customer needs and/or maximizing staff productivity.
2. Throwing Good Money After Bad - Some businesses try to stay current by adding functionality, but too many add-ons can result in multiple solutions (and vendors) that become difficult to maintain. At some point, the decision needs to be made regarding continued investment in legacy equipment versus fully replacing it, moving to the cloud, or considering a hybrid solution.
3. Changes in Your Business - Your examination may signal that it’s time to begin transitioning now. The economics and increased functionality might make sense, especially if your business is changing in size, increasing the amount of remote workers or expanding to new locations.
4. Migration That Works for You – If your business has separate business units, operational locations or multiple PBX contracts, an alternative option to a full “rip and replace” would be a gradual migration of the most logical parts of your business to the cloud. Start with departments where you can save the most money or that have the highest call volume or fluctuations in staff.
No matter where you are in your contract term, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by beginning to investigate your options now. There’s no time like the present to begin getting your ducks in a row. Download our free, interactive planning guide to help identify items on your to-do list, gain additional insights via resource links and keep your sanity in check.
Publish Date: September 1, 2016 5:00 AM