When customers call with problems, they expect fast resolution. Don’t let an outdated phone system slow you down.
If you’re relying on older technology, connecting the customer with the right person, right away could be challenging, resulting in longer hold times and callbacks. Plus, since today’s customers have multiple ways to interact with your business, they may seek answers using a variety of channels, from email and instant messaging to social media. All of this makes delivering a stellar customer experience more than a little challenging.
To deliver an exceptional experience, customers must to be able to escalate complicated issues quickly and easily. For that, says Forrester Research, customer service teams need three technologies: queuing and routing, customer relationship management (CRM) and workforce optimization.
A unified communications (UC) solution that integrates these components optimizes the escalation process. With both information and people just a click away, your team can deliver a frictionless experience – even for those customers with complex issues. The following examples illustrate how unified communications can help you do the job.
Getting the right answer to a customer quickly requires efficient team collaboration. When voice and data communications are integrated, escalating an issue to the right expert becomes much simpler.
If agents don’t have the knowledge required to solve a problem, UC enables them to seamlessly escalate the issue to others on the team, even while they continue the conversation with the customer. On their dashboard, agents can open a panel and begin a private IM session with a colleague. Or, they can place a side call to discuss the issue with a supervisor.
Because they’re browser-based, unified communications apps allow collaboration among internal teams while external users can join the collaboration without the need for plug-ins, multiple application windows, passwords or complex set-up. This means agents can collaborate with the customer, too. For example, they can share a video or screen and visually walk the customer through corrective steps.
Reach Experts Wherever They Are
Another advantage of UC -- it allows employees to find colleagues wherever they are. Apps for smartphones, tablets and wearable devices make it possible to reach subject matter experts and supervisors in any location – whether it’s another part of the building, a branch office, an airport or at home. This significantly cuts down the amount of time spent making multiple phone calls to track down the people needed to solve the customer’s problem.
Easy Access to Customer Insights
Unified communications is at its most powerful when it’s integrated into other business applications, such as CRM. With access to detailed customer records, your team is better prepared to troubleshoot issues. For instance, with the ability to view a customer’s contact history, the agent can identify the most recent representative who resolved a similar problem for the client, use the presence feature to determine if that same expert is available, and then simply click to route the call.
Perhaps the most beneficial aspect of UC is that all of this is largely invisible to the customer. Seamless communication happens behind the scenes, enabling team members to resolve issues efficiently. The customer is more likely to rate the experience highly -- a huge win in customer loyalty -- all made possible with help from unified communications.
Learn more about ShoreTel’s unified communications solutions here.
Publish Date: May 24, 2016 5:00 AM
As CEO, Don Joos is ShoreTel’s number one pitchman. But on May 19, Don stepped his game up a notch as he threw out the first pitch to one of the company’s newest customers – the Milwaukee Brewers -- at at Miller Park in Milwaukee. Take a look:
Publish Date: May 20, 2016 5:00 AM
Never underestimate the value of happy customers.
According to Forrester Research, companies that provide a superior customer experience grow faster by a range of metrics than those who don’t, develop greater loyalty among customers and can charge a premium for their products and services. In addition, happy customers are more likely to both buy and recommend a brand’s products and services.
So how can CMOs and customer service executives be sure they’re consistently providing their customers with the best experience? As important, how do they measure it? What’s the best way to gauge customer happiness?
Typically, executives track a handful of key performance indicators such as sales and customer satisfaction. However, those measures alone don’t provide a complete picture of the overall customer experience – or how to address problems.
Use the three metrics below to help round out your view of the customer experience – and up your game in the process:
It’s easy for organizations to put surveys in place to measure customer and employee attitudes and use system data to track operational performance. But it’s often harder to take the next step: Act on the data. A whopping 57% of the companies participating in the Temkin Group 2015 State of CX Metrics report said they failed to take action based on what they learned.
Of course, it’s never fun to learn your customers aren’t happy. But knowing that they’re not – and why they’re not – actually gives you a competitive advantage so long as you act on the information. Using these metrics to implement the right kind of training and tools for your frontline employees will result in a more engaged and effective team which will, in turn, raise the bar of your customer’s experience. And that can be a game-changer.
Learn more about ShoreTel’s contact center solutions here.
Publish Date: May 19, 2016 5:00 AM
SIP trunking is a great way to gain cloud benefits while maintaining control over your onsite communications solution. But did you know that it can also foster business growth?
It’s true. By making it easier for a company to scale, manage telecom needs and invest in new opportunities, SIP trunking can indeed accelerate growth. Read on to learn more.
Scale as Needed
SIP trunking offers greater flexibility, allowing you to meet the demands of changing business requirements more easily. Because it eliminates the need for new infrastructure or hardware, adding remote sales professionals or a large group of new employees at once is almost effortless. This holds true even in business situations that are elastic or unpredictable as SIP trunks can be added or removed as necessary.
For example, if your business experiences seasonal fluctuations, you might be able to justify having more employees year-round with SIP trunking due to its cost savings and ability to scale on-demand. That kind of flexibility means your operations will be incredibly nimble and able to move far more quickly than your competitors.
Simplify Telecom Management
With SIP trunking, you can simplify your telecom management by eliminating the need for hard wires and the maintenance associated with them. If you want to increase capacity, all you have to do is contact your vendor to add additional trunks. By simplifying your telecom operations, your IT team will have less to worry about so they can focus on core business initiatives that give you a competitive edge.
Invest in Growth Projects
Lower costs make SIP trunking especially appealing to your chief financial officer and business strategy team.
The technology’s cost savings are significant. Not only does SIP trunking reduce infrastructure costs, but some experts believe it can save companies as much as 50% on call costs. On top of that, SIP trunking allows you to increase call capacity without incurring additional costs for hardware, infrastructure or maintenance. So while new phone lines are a necessary result of growth, they don’t have to break your organization’s budget.
That’s why your CFO will love SIP trunking. Meanwhile, the business strategy team will be able to reallocate savings into strategic growth projects. With more funds to divert to innovation, your company can make bold moves toward promising growth opportunities.
If you haven’t started to explore SIP trunking, it’s time to dig deeper into how this technology can foster growth for your business.
Learn more about ShoreTel’s SIP trunking solutions here.
Publish Date: May 17, 2016 5:00 AM
As you define the requirements for your new unified communications (UC) solution, it’s important to identify the capabilities that fit best with how your team works. Why? Because rolling out the right features and apps will have a direct impact on adoption rates which, in turn, will maximize use of the technology.
One way to ensure a higher rate of adoption is to have a clear picture of how your employees work, communicate and collaborate. Use the three-step process below to ensure that you gather all the data necessary to develop a reliable picture of your team’s needs and preferences.
1. Conduct Internal Research
Before getting caught up in all the options, identify the needs of your organization. First, conduct an internal systems audit. Look at what’s in place, create an inventory of communications applications employees already have and gather data on which ones they actually use, how often they use them and through which endpoints and devices. Then, identify how these applications are applied to everyday workflows, paying particular attention to the processes where integrating voice will add new values.
Next, survey your employees. How they work today is only one piece of the puzzle. Ask them how they want to work. Are they happy with the procedures and tools they use today? What improvements would they make? You’re sure to get criticism, but also gain valuable feedback in the process.
2. Analyze Employee Demographics
Where your team members work is as critical as how they work. If they’re dispersed across multiple locations or work from home, UC collaboration tools such as desktop sharing and video and web conferencing will merit a closer look. Look for a solution that can deliver the same features and flexibility for all employees, no matter their device or location.
If you have a large workforce that travels frequently, mobility features will be essential. For example, those users will likely want features that enable them to move seamlessly from a laptop in their hotel room to a mobile phone in the car on the way to the airport.
3. Review Organizational Goals
Finally, align your findings with your organization’s goals. Know your KPIs and determine which UC capabilities are most likely to have a strong impact. For instance, one KPI might be to increase workplace productivity. Features such as click-to-call can streamline workflows, while the ability to integrate business process applications can reduce the time spent on each customer call. As a result, UC features such as this will allow you to handle more inquiries in a more efficient and effective manner.
This process will provide a 360-degree view of your team’s communications needs and preferences. You’ll be rewarded with a clear definition of exactly which UC capabilities best fit your organization. Your choices will not only guarantee higher adoption rates, but also help your company to achieve other goals as well.
Learn more about ShoreTel’s Unified Communications offerings here.
Publish Date: May 13, 2016 5:00 AM
Despite the advent of the Internet, email, texting and a slew of other communications technologies, the fax machine is still a persistent presence in many offices.
Though somewhat surprising, the use of fax machines still makes sense in the modern age. They offer a simple, one-step alternative to sending document copies from one location to another, without having to go through the multi-step process that scanning and emailing require.
With today’s VoIP fax technologies, you no longer need to be at a physical location to fax a document. Instead, you can send and receive faxes from desktop computers and mobile devices. And, with full fax capabilities embedded in their email clients, modern office workers can transfer critical documents to any fax machine and get delivery confirmation by email. Likewise, they can receive documents sent from a fax machine directly into their email account, removing the dependence on standalone equipment.
Road Warrior Advantages
For those working remotely, VoIP fax provides the ability to send and receive faxes from mobile devices. By removing the physical requirement to receive time-sensitive documents, VoIP fax eliminates delays and speeds decision-making. For example, sales professionals can close deals even while on the road, executives can accelerate company goals as they vacation, and attorneys can move forward more quickly on complex negotiations when away from the office.
On top of all that, VoIP faxes can be saved and searched like emails. This is a particularly valuable feature for critical documents like legal contracts, which need to be easily retrieved for reference on multiple occasions.
“The integration of faxes into the system is very important for our business,” says Paul Christiani, CIO of American Title and a ShoreTel customer. “A lot of our business is done via fax, so when faxes come in, they come in through the ShoreTel equipment and are sent to employees through the email system. Users are alerted faster and they can give it their immediate attention if necessary. This improves customer service because many of these fax transactions are extremely time-sensitive.”
Going Green Provides Cost Savings, Too
Delivering faxes electronically helps organizations go green by cutting back on the amount of paper generated in the course of doing business. This results no only in reduced paper costs, but other cost savings as well. It eliminates the need for physical machines, reducing costs for hardware, ink and technical support. This can mean significant savings, especially for businesses with large offices and/or those with with multiple locations.
Companies that adopt VoIP fax across their organization will streamline their workflow and achieve greater efficiency, higher productivity and speedier resolutions. All of this leads to making your business more agile, an essential part of doing business in the modern world.
ShoreTel Connect HYBRID Fax accommodates and enhances traditional faxing. Learn more about it here.
Publish Date: May 11, 2016 5:00 AM
This year’s Midsize Enterprise Summit (MES) East may be over, but no doubt the conversations and ideas generated during the event will continue for some time to come.
MES East 2016, which took place May 1-3 in Indianapolis, is one of the industry’s largest gatherings of CIOs and senior IT executives from across North America. This year’s MES East theme, “The Big Shift”, addressed the issue many midsize business leaders now face; with limited IT budgets, will they continue business as usual or is now the time is to explore and implement new solutions that will enable their business to better compete?
Be it at our booth or in the Boardroom sessions, the level of engagement and interest in new communications tools that allow for improved collaboration and productivity was in high gear. Members of the ShoreTel team presented to more than 200 CIOs during a total of 13 boardroom sessions which showcased the full Connect portfolio and provided a hands-on demo of Connect ONSITE. Often times, there were several ShoreTel customers within a particular session. These IT leaders not only provided real-world examples of our products in action, but also voiced rave reviews for ShoreTel solutions and overall responsiveness.
Publish Date: May 10, 2016 5:00 AM
Business has evolved, with new innovations, like the Internet of Things (IoT), big data and 5G, continuously changing how businesses and customers engage. To enable today’s business to leverage these innovations and transform their customer experience, we recently announced the latest release in our contact center portfolio at our Mitel Next event in San Diego, California. With this newest edition of MiContact Center Business, businesses are empowered to deliver a consistent, intelligent customer experience across voice, email, social media, SMS, video and self-service.
At Mitel Next, our contact center portfolio General Manager Brian Spencer examined today’s changing customer demographic and the importance of providing a millennial-ready digital customer experience. As individuals, we ourselves are mobile consumers that expect instant access to information at any time from any device—and so do our customers. And with so much information directly at our fingertips, we expect an intelligent, personalized customer experience every time we engage with a business. And it’s not just individuals that are increasingly connected; today’s customer experience is heavily impacted by a giant network of connected things, devices and enterprises.
Brian also touched on today’s constantly changing business model and the crucial need for the agility to respond to changing customer expectations in order to stay successful. The newest generation of MiContact Center Business is a mobile-first, millennial-ready customer engagement platform which delivers that agility, transforming every interaction into an opportunity to build customer loyalty.
MiContact Center Business powers digital customer experience through:
Learn more about MiContact Center Business >
Watch the Mitel Next video broadcast >
Publish Date: May 10, 2016 5:00 AM
I believe the Internet’s greatest strength – the ability to amplify thought -- is also its greatest weakness.
Need proof? Look no further than the much-maligned Millennials who, coincidentally, grew up in step with the Internet.
Elders lambasting those coming of age for their shortcomings isn’t anything new. In fact, if you were to go back in time, earlier generations probably said many of the same things about their younger counterparts that we often hear today about Millennials.
“Self-absorbed, lazy, entitled, think they know it all…” I could go on, but you get the picture.
For previous generations, the passage of time erased those earlier disparaging remarks. But thanks to the bullhorn reach of the Internet, this will not be the case for Millennials. Today, not only are more people exposed to a particular line of thinking, but the sentiments -- and resulting stereotypes – live on in digital memory.
While we humans may forget, search engines have memories like elephants.
Most every Millennial I have ever spoken with takes issue with how their generation has been portrayed - and with good reason. No one wants to be stereotyped, put in a box with a label and judged before the first introduction. Each person wants to be viewed for the unique individual he or she is.
So what’s the takeaway for modern marketers?
In this day and age of big data, analytics and ‘what’s trending’, it’s easy to lump people into a category. While it’s helpful to start with personas, don’t lose sight of the individual. Instead, use the power of technology to personalize your message and connect with your audience in a way that speaks to their unique needs, preferences and idiosyncrasies. It will serve to make the experience richer and more memorable.
Technology can give us a clearer picture of not only what our target audience is looking for, but how they want it delivered and when. Use these capabilities to your competitive advantage. Listen and engage with your customers. And when they express concerns or frustrations, respond and work to rectify the situation quickly.
With today’s digital marketing tools, we can identify and connect with target audiences better than ever before. But that strength can become a weakness if, in the process of labeling large groups, we lose site of the very individuals we are trying to reach.
By addressing your target audience as people vs. personas, you’ll no doubt improve your bottom line. And with the strength of the Internet to amplify your ideas, you might just end up changing ill-conceived stereotypes as well.
Mark Roberts has more than 20 years of technology sales, marketing and product management experience. As ShoreTel’s CMO, he leads the company’s marketing strategy, product marketing, demand generation, branding and external communications efforts.
Publish Date: May 5, 2016 5:00 AM
Today’s customers shop online. They check their healthcare test results online. They text, tweet, or use a browser to make reservations at hotels, airlines, and car rental agencies, and to purchase tickets to sporting or cultural events. They check into hotel rooms and airline flights online. They even text emojis to buy pizzas!
Today, customers handle financial transactions totally differently. There’s rarely any need to physically go to the bank. You can make a deposit to any bank account – checking or savings – by using your smartphone and your bank’s mobile app. The app prompts you to select the account in which to deposit the money and supply the amount of the deposit. You then take photos of the front and back of each the check you intend to deposit – no more deposit tickets – and you tap Send. The app connects with your bank and, in a few seconds, you see a message on your smartphone indicating that you’ve made a deposit. And that message is, essentially, your receipt.
Customers can still write checks today to pay for goods or services they purchase, but most don’t because of the hassles associated with providing identification. Most customers find it much easier to simply use debit cards to make a payment directly from a checking account. Or, they use credit cards to postpone payment until they receive a bill from the company.
Even the way customers use debit and credit cards is changing; they don’t need to swipe a card, sign, or enter a PIN anymore. They just tap on the machine or use their phones to charge their cards.
To pay bills from the electric company or the gas company, customers can write checks but again, most find it simpler and easier – and cheaper, since there’s no postage involved – to visit their bank’s website and use the bank’s online bill payment tool. Online bill payment tools enable the customer to set up vendors just once and then pay them whenever bills come due.
For the most part, banking has become self‐service. When customers need cash, they can go to the bank, but they no longer need to go inside. They can, instead, use the bank’s ATM to withdraw money from any account. Fewer people are involved in the transaction, and customers spend less time in line, not to mention that they also bank on their own schedules.
Customers can also make deposits at ATMs, but why bother when using a smartphone is so much easier?
Customers can check the balances of all bank accounts by logging in to their bank’s website either via a browser or using their smartphone’s mobile app. The way customers handle financial transactions has essentially eliminated the need for savings passbooks, checkbook registers, and in most cases, even writing checks.
Effectively, customer interactions with businesses today rarely occur in person. Most contact happens through electronic means. Thirty years ago, businesses drove technological advances. But today, consumers are driving technological advances. They are demanding the ability to interact with your business in the way that is most convenient for them.
Further, today’s consumer choices have broadened; they aren’t limited to visiting the local mall to shop. Instead, using digital technology, they can shop any place in the world. Just think of Christmas: Because of expanding mobile commerce, customers can get their shopping done at the busiest time of year without setting foot in a store or post office.
Not long ago, most of us limited the use of our mobile devices to finding basic information. We reserved conducting highly personal interactions, like shopping for goods or making financial transactions, to a more “secure” location, like the local store or bank. We didn’t yet trust that our devices were secure enough to enable us to safely make purchases or pay bills.
Today, many of us are confident that these issues have been resolved. We’re more willing to complete the transaction on a mobile device. And, because so many of us are willing to use mobile devices to shop or bank, we’re in a position to make and execute purchase decisions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
That kind of demand from customers puts today’s businesses in the hot seat. You’ve always had to meet your customers’ needs; now, you have to do so at an increased pace, during new hours, using new methods. While voice‐based communication with customers still plays a strong role, consumers are increasingly looking to digital communication methods and demanding the flexibility to interact with companies through the customer’s preferred media.
And, because customers are no longer limited to making purchases locally, you have to make certain that providing positive customer experience moves up in the hierarchy of your business’s priorities. In this way, your business goals will reflect the importance of customer satisfaction and help you keep existing customers and gain new ones.
To compete and grow your revenue, you’ve always had to understand who your customer is, but today, that understanding is even more important. Without sound knowledge about your customer, you can’t expect to deliver an outstanding customer experience.
Publish Date: May 5, 2016 5:00 AM
Business focused on accelerating growth turn to cloud communications for a simple reason: It increases their agility, especially when it comes to harnessing the power of unified communications (UC). A hosted UC solution offers simplicity, flexibility and scalability – all powerful and welcome attributes for a business that’s facing constant change.
But finding a hosted solutions provider that can meet your company’s evolving needs can be daunting. Since cloud communications technology is also evolving, finding the best choice for your organization requires that you understand both your own business needs along with where the communications industry is heading.
J Arnold & Associates, a firm that monitors the communications technology landscape, identified three “hot button” trends that organizations need to bear in mind as they evaluate potential solutions: scalability, integration and security. Let’s take a closer look at what each involves.
UC Hot Button #1: Scalability
A cloud communications solution must have the ability to accommodate change. While this is a core requirement for most businesses, it’s particularly important for those that are growing, want to remain agile and competitive, have a remote workforce or need to optimize contact center resources.
If your business fits one or more of those categories, a hosted unified communications solution offers several benefits. First and foremost, cloud-based solutions are borderless, allowing businesses to scale along any vector, physical or virtual – by number of locations, for example, or by geography or type of office setting.
In addition, flexibility is a key driver of agility. When using cloud-based products, companies can migrate to hosted unified communications at their own pace, regardless of how fast their business is growing.
Also, cloud solutions are cost effective. Because they’re usually purchased on a subscription basis, cloud communications services are an operating -- not a capital -- expense.
UC Hot Button #2: Application Integration
Perhaps the greatest advantage of hosted UC solutions is their ability to bring together all facets of communications. With the ability to integrate applications such as conferencing, instant messaging and fax, a company can streamline interactions both internally and with customers, partners and prospects.
That means your workforce can be more productive and able to quickly adapt to different situations, seamlessly transitioning from one mode to another in real time and working in a multi-channel mode, if necessary.
Plus, hosted unified communications provide employees with access to enterprise-grade applications that extend top-quality collaboration capabilities to any workspace environment, including remote sites, mobile modes and teleworkers. Businesses thus find it easier to support a disparate workforce, even if they have offices around the world.
UC Hot Button #3: Security
Security is always a concern for businesses, and data risks associated with cloud communications are no exception. It’s important to recognize the nature of the security threats your company faces and make sure they’re properly prioritized in your business planning.
When it comes to selecting a telecommunications solution, be sure to work with a vendor who ranks security at the top of their list. For example, look at their churn rate and try to determine how many customers they’ve lost over security concerns, and find out how quickly their data center teams can implement security fixes when necessary.
For a more detailed explanation of these trends and to develop a better understanding about how to select the kind of partner who can most effectively address your needs, download our eGuide, "3 Hot Buttons for Hosted UC".
Publish Date: May 4, 2016 5:00 AM
We're pleased to introduce and congratulate our ShoreTel Fan-of-the-Month for May 2016 -- Kathy Erbes-Mrsny, customer care manager at Canteloupe Systems. The company's deployment included the hosted ShoreTel Sky VoIP system, ShoreTel Contact Center, IP 400 series phones, remote management capabilities, and softphones.
You were looking at a hosted and managed telephony system to ensure business continuity and provide advanced contact center features. What led you to choose ShoreTel Sky?
"Although Cantaloupe is a small firm with a seven-person contact center, we wanted disaster recovery, reporting capabilities, and no responsibility for managing the system,” said Kathy. She liked the ShoreTel interface and the hosted ShoreTel Sky product. It was affordable and offered both the robust reporting capabilities and outstanding service and support Kathy needed.
What is the contact center workflow and how has ShoreTel helped improve productivity?
The contact center has seven agents who receive between 50 and 100 calls a day, which last half an hour to 45 minutes. Although ShoreTel technology is night and day compared to the previous legacy on-premises solution, the transition has been painless and support exceeded expectations.
“Ninety-nine percent of the time ShoreTel functionality is easy to understand. But when programming is beyond my comfort level, I reach out to the ShoreTel support line and get help. I’ve been very, very impressed with the caliber of the people. They know their stuff,” explained Kathy. “Again, as a small company, I don’t want to dedicate somebody part or full time to telephony troubleshooting or administration.”
ShoreTel enables Kathy to monitor agents on an overhead screen tied into each computer. It displays the queues, the agents, and who’s on what call. So if an agent is away from the desk, in the middle of a call, or doing research, everyone knows their status and it helps ensure the work is evenly distributed.
How has the ShoreTel dashboard changed the way your agents work?
“The ability to have agents work remotely is a convenience for employees. With the ShoreTel dashboard, I can gain insight into agent productivity. The agents also like using softphones, which enables them to see information about who is on what call,” explained Kathy.
ShoreTel Sky reporting is also a hit. It delivers all information a contact center manager could possibly want.
“The reporting features have given us more visibility and transparency. I had none of this before. Now I can get phone stats with a push of a couple buttons,” said Kathy. “For a management tool, it is unsurpassed.”
What would you say if another company with a small contact center asked you about the ShoreTel Sky VoIP business phone system?
“ShoreTel has a world-class phone system and support organization that runs 24x7. The person that helped us set up the system was excellent. We had very few issues. The ShoreTel Sky solution was priced competitively and I don’t have to become a ShoreTel authority to have an expert product at my fingertips," said Kathy.
“All I can say is I love it, love it, love it, love it,” said Kathy. “How does it get any better than that?”
Publish Date: May 2, 2016 5:00 AM
Midsize Enterprise Summit (MES) East, one of the industry’s largest gatherings of CIOs and senior IT executives from businesses across North America, will take place May 1-3 at the Marriot Hotel in Indianapolis. ShoreTel is pleased to be a Gold Sponsor of this year’s event, which is expected to be bigger and better than ever.
MES provides a great opportunity to interact with seasoned Gartner analysts, vendors and peers. If you plan to be among the MES attendees – many of whom are ShoreTel customers – be sure to stop by our booth #405 for some great giveaways and insights on technology offerings designed to support your strategic objectives.
ShoreTel representatives will also present during a total of 13 Boardroom sessions, which will be held on both Monday, May 2 and Tuesday, May 3. During these sessions, CIOs and senior IT leaders are assigned to peer groups based on business focus and technology interests. During each 30-minute boardroom session, ShoreTel presenters will introduce ShoreTel Connect Onsite using an interactive demo with iPads given to each boardroom attendee. All those who attend a ShoreTel Boardroom session and who complete a survey will qualify to win an iPad, one of two that will be given away during a drawing to be held during the May 3 awards ceremony.
MES is a unique opportunity to gain expert advice, network with with midmarket peers and vendors, and see new technology innovations in action. We’re proud to be sponsor of this great event!
Note: ShoreTel CMO Mark Roberts was recently featured in an article that was distributed to all those who plan on attending MES East 2016. Read what Mark has to say about what today’s midsized enterprises are looking for when it comes unified communications technology.
Publish Date: April 28, 2016 5:00 AM
With the advent of the digital communication age, customers have new ways to communicate and shop that didn’t exist 30 years ago. Effectively, for the customer – and therefore for your business – the world has become a much smaller place.
To understand just how things have changed with the onset of digital technology, let’s examine the marketplace 30 years ago and compares it to the marketplace today. You could go back more than 30 years ago, but that isn’t necessary to demonstrate just how much the buying experience has changed for today’s consumer.
Thirty years ago, customers shopped at local shopping malls. They visited their doctors’ offices to get test results and phoned hotels, airlines, and car rental agencies to make reservations. (And, sometimes, they simply went to travel agencies to have someone else make all their arrangements.) They checked into hotel rooms and airline flights at the hotel’s front desk and the airline ticket counter. Thirty years ago, customers purchased pizza and tickets to sporting or cultural events by standing in line or making telephone calls.
The buying experience was completely different 30 years ago. Take a look at the 30‐year‐old financial transaction experience.
If a customer wanted to make a savings account deposit or withdrawal, he brought a bank‐issued passbook – a record of the account’s deposits and withdrawals – with him on his trip to the bank, along with the money – cash or checks – that he wanted to deposit. The bank teller would record the transaction in the passbook and stamp the passbook to make the transaction official. The passbook entry was the customer’s receipt from the bank for the transaction and the passbook showed the balance in the account.
If a customer needed to deposit one or more checks to his checking account, the process changed somewhat. The customer would manually prepare a deposit ticket, typically, but not always, at home. The deposit ticket identified the amount of the checks and, in some cases, the names of the people who issued the checks. The deposit ticket would also contain the bank’s routing number and the customer’s account number.
The customer then went to the bank, where he waited in line until a bank teller could help him. (If he hadn’t completed the deposit ticket at home, he’d fill one out at the bank.) When the customer reached the teller’s window, he’d present the checks and the deposit ticket. The teller would work some magic with the bank’s equipment to record the transaction, keep the checks and the deposit ticket the customer completed, and then provide a deposit receipt to the customer. The customer would keep the deposit receipt as his record of the transaction until the account statement from the bank arrived in the mail. Once the customer confirmed the deposit on the bank statement, he could, if he wanted, throw the receipt away. The customer was responsible for keeping a record of the deposit.
Customers used their checking accounts when they spent money. If a customer bought something from a store at the local mall, they often wrote a check to pay for the item—and typically they had to present at least two forms of identification before the retailer would accept the check because retailers had no assurance that the customer had enough money in the checking account to cover the cost of the purchase. The customer’s only alternative was to pay with cash.
To obtain cash, customers wrote checks to themselves, went to the bank, stood in line for a bank teller and presented the check. The teller would check the account’s balance and provide the cash.
Customers paid phone, electric, water, and other bills by writing checks and mailing them to vendors. As the customers wrote checks, either to pay bills or to make a purchase from a store at the local mall, they would record information about each check – the date it was written, the name of the check’s recipient, and the check amount – in the checkbook register. Customers also recorded deposits in the checkbook register so that they could determine the account’s balance at any point in time.
Vendors who received checks from customers as payment for items purchased at stores or for phone, electric, water, and other bills would bring the checks to a bank as deposits, completing deposit tickets and waiting in line for a teller, as previously described. The banks would keep the checks the vendors presented and return them to the customer along with the account’s monthly statement.
Before the digital age, your customer’s experience involved a lot of people and required a lot of time invested both by businesses and by customers, creating a lot of points in the buying experience where things could go wrong. And, your customer’s experience was localized. That is, if a customer had a bad experience – like having to wait in line for an hour – he might tell three or four people or, at most, five or six people.
My, how things have changed. In our next post in this series, we’ll take a look at the modern side of customer experience.
Publish Date: April 28, 2016 5:00 AM
While more and more businesses have come to understand the advantages of cloud-based telecommunications systems, it’s often hard to get around the fact that moving from an older solution costs money. That puts executives in a quandary: Do they put off the investment until it’s absolutely necessary and use their dollars for other initiatives, or upgrade their system now in order to take advantage of the flexibility, cost-effectiveness and power a cloud-based solution can offer?
It’s a decision that involves more than dollars and cents. Cloud-based phone systems provide organizations with tools that allow everyone from remote workers to call center staff to salespeople on the road to connect easily and quickly, share information and join meetings from wherever they happen to be at a given moment. At a time when sales, product development and customer service often depend on speed to satisfy market demands, cloud solutions can make all the difference to a company’s success.
But spending money wisely is also important, and that’s where SIP trunking comes in.
Bringing Cloud Benefits to Onsite Phone Systems
Simply put, SIP trunking lets companies leverage the cloud’s power without requiring them to replace their existing onsite phone systems. High quality digital voice service and full-featured unified communications become available without additional hardware costs.
SIP trunking seamlessly connects the features of your onsite telephone system with those offered through the cloud. For example, enhancements that would have required you to invest in new hardware and software can now be added without the involvement of the IT staff or the need for capital expenditures. Dedicated communication lines aren’t necessary either. All you need is a strong Internet connection take advantage of SIP trunking.
Sound technical? Well, it is, but that’s not your worry anymore. Once you’re set up with SIP trunking, the responsibilities of making things happen in the cloud are transferred from your technical staff to your vendor. While you can administer your phone system to add or remove users or specific features, the vendor takes on the tasks associated with hardware and software updates, system maintenance and everything else that has to do with the cloud-based features you can now access.
What are some of these features? For one, your customers will now be able to reach you through a local phone number. Through the network, you can connect to any region of the country, effectively giving you a presence anywhere you do business.
In addition, your system will be more reliable. Your legacy solution may depend on a direct connection between you and your vendor. If something happens to that connection, your system goes down. SIP trunking allows access through multiple IP connections, meaning redundancy is built-in. Plus, SIP trunking can also improve employee productivity by removing geograhic barriers and improving collaboration no matter if your staff is in the office or working remotely.
ShoreTel has some of the most well-respected SIP trunking technology and expertise available anywhere. With that comes a path to enhanced telecommunications services for companies who want more flexibility in the way they upgrade services, cut costs and lay the groundwork for the continued growth of their business. Learn more ShoreTel SIP here.
Publish Date: April 27, 2016 5:00 AM