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How to run a small business from a smartphone

Desiring to be “always on” and connected, today’s workers are employing a range of devices to get work done. (See: “Are small business employees using multiple devices for work? Tips to protect data.”) However, thanks to an abundance of mobile apps and cloud computing, it’s very possible to run a small business strictly using a smartphone or a tablet. While that might enable you to run an office virtually from anywhere; you may not want to tear up your lease or ditch your desk at a co-working space just yet. There may be times when you want to assemble your team for a face-to-face meeting or customer needs might require an all-day conference hosted by your small business.

Access the cloud from a smartphone

With company data stored in the cloud, you conveniently can check on an order, edit a document, look up employee information, review a vendor contract and more right from your smartphone or tablet.  Besides data, there is a host of applications that run on remote cloud servers  from email to customer relationship management (CRM) software. Simply log into a web-based service to access all the applications and data you need.

Select from range of mobile apps

If anything, the biggest challenge when it comes to mobile apps to run your small business may be which ones to choose, whether cloud or web based. Here are some of the top categories, you’ll want to consider:

Time tracking: Time tracking apps can help whether you need to track billable hours for customers or just want a better idea of how you spend your time each day. They also can help improve forecasting and time management by measuring estimates against actual time worked. Among time tracking apps are Toggl and TSheets.

Financial Management: Financial management apps can track your spending, automatically create budgets and analyze spending habits over time to help you decide where you can save.  Mint and Quicken are two to consider.

Note taking: Store, organize and share text, photos, videos and voice recordings on your smartphone or tablet with note taking apps. Evernote and Microsoft OneNote, two popular apps, sync all your notes through the cloud so you can access them anywhere, anytime.

Credit card transactions:  Whether you are a five-person coffee shop or a 100-person office, a number of mobile apps enable you to easily accept credit cards.  Square and Paypal Here are smartphone card readers.

Conferencing and collaboration on the go

Running your business also involves conferencing and collaborating with your team and customers, often on the go. There is a range of apps to use with a smartphone or tablet – and the aid of a headset for audio clarity – for calls, messaging and more.

Conferencing: Online meeting and video conferencing apps like Cisco Webex, Avaya Scopia and Microsoft Skype for Business make it easy to conference with employees and customers wherever you are.

Collaboration: New mobile-centric collaboration apps like Cisco Spark and Slack enable group messaging, content sharing, video calling, and desktop sharing.

With so many available apps providing a range of functionality, your small business truly can be in the palm of your hand.

Source: http://blogs.plantronics.com/small-medium-business/how-to-run-a-small-business-from-a-smartphone

Publish Date: August 18, 2016 5:00 AM


Problem-solver, diplomat, expert, and empathizer: a CSR needs to be all these, and more. How can you help equip them for success?

Answering the phone is just the start. Today’s customer service representative (CSR) listens, understands, and acts upon a customer’s needs with skill, rigor and thoughtfulness. Every minute, every day, the CSR needs to demonstrate that they have the customer’s best interests in mind, while presenting the company in the best possible light.

In fact, for the customer, the CSR doesn’t just represent the company, they are the company. Their job is to completely engage with the customer to provide the most informed advice, support, and guidance.

An effective CSR must possess a certain kind of temperament, professionalism, and skill—but these alone are not enough.

At the same time, they also have to be well equipped—and that starts with a consistently well-functioning headset that enables them to hear and be heard clearly at all times.

Plantronics Manager Pro can help.

Plantronics Manager Pro is cloud-based management software that gives IT complete visibility of every headset in use. With the ability to monitor, manage, and maintain CSR headsets from any web browser, IT can remotely configure settings, update firmware, and troubleshoot remotely—and help equip each CSR for success.

Find out more
See how Plantronics Manager Pro can help make headset management effortless. Learn more here.

Source: http://blogs.plantronics.com/contact-center/problem-solver-diplomat-expert-and-empathizer-a-csr-needs-to-be-all-these-and-more-how-can-you-help-equip-them-for-success

Publish Date: August 17, 2016 5:00 AM


Are small business employees using multiple devices for work? Tips to protect data

Today’s tools for business are a far cry from the days when a desk phone and PC were standard small business office equipment. With a desire to be always on, most workers, whether they bring their own mobile devices (BYOD) or use ones provisioned by the company, work from a desktop or laptop, smartphone and possibly a tablet to conduct business throughout the workday.

Why so many devices to get work done?  ITProPortal.com, a leading UK source of technology, indicates a global survey found that workers believe using a range of devices makes them more productive, connected and able to respond more quickly to changing events. As an example, if someone is working on a laptop and an email comes in needing an urgent reply; the person can make a call over a smartphone, using a headset to cancel out background noise, versus a softphone in order to avoid interrupting the workflow.

And the rule is not one device per task, either.  ITProPortal.com points out that workers often start one activity and finish it on another. This is especially true of smartphones. When workers start activities on a smartphone, they often finish them on a laptop at some point.  Cloud storage makes this possible by enabling employees to access information wherever they are over their preferred device.

Protect company data across devices

With employees using a range of devices, some of them personal, to access small business data in and out of the office, the risk of data compromise increases. According to research conducted by the Ponemon Institute and Keeper Security issued in June, 50 percent of small and medium businesses have had a security breach in the past 12 months. “The 2016 State of SMB Cybersecurity” found that the most prevalent breaches are web-based and phishing/social engineering.

Protecting small business data begins with education. Training should cover the risks posed by viewing and editing company data over public Wi-Fi networks as well as downloading software from the Internet, providing sensitive information on websites and opening suspicious attachments.

Small business cyber security measures also should include:

Control mobile device access: Instruct employees to password protect mobile devices and encrypt data to protect loss from cyber threats. Establish policies for lost or stolen devices.

Create user account on business computers: Create separate user accounts for each employee and require strong passwords that are changed regularly.

Control data access: Employees should only have access to data that is relevant to their jobs within the organization. Grant employees access to data on a “need to know” basis.

Update antivirus software: Keep security software, web browsers and operating systems up to date as a protection against viruses and malware. Always run a security system scan after each update.

Install firewalls: Make sure firewalls that come with the computer’s operating system are always turned on. Firewall software can be installed for more robust protection.

Secure Wi-Fi networks: Password protect your Wi-Fi network so only those who have access to the password can get on.

It may take more than one device to get the job done these days. But it only takes one hack to jeopardize small business data. Make sure it’s protected.

Source: http://blogs.plantronics.com/small-medium-business/are-small-business-employees-using-multiple-devices-for-work-tips-to-protect-data

Publish Date: August 11, 2016 5:00 AM


Keep remote small business employees connected and engaged with Unified Communications

Today’s millennials are changing the workforce. They want improved work/life balance and at the same time they value team collaboration. With finding and hiring quality labor among the top small business labor management issues, according to a Plantronics sponsored survey, employers are responding by enabling flexible and remote work options. However, keeping everyone connected can be difficult when some of the team works away from the office all or part of the time. That’s where Unified Communications (UC) comes in.

UC is the technology platform that integrates a range of devices – desktop PCs, laptops, smartphones and tablets – as well as operating systems and applications so that employees can work from anywhere with the tools they prefer and still stay connected to the company and each other. The platform also provides a host of collaboration tools, including e-mail, instant messaging, web and video conferencing and fax, all of which are accessible through the convenience of one interface, saving time to check multiple inboxes.

Not only does UC support employees with the tools they need to do their jobs seamlessly away from the office; it helps to maintain team spirit. Real-time applications, such as chat and video conferencing, help remote employees feel that they are part of the team.

Connect remote employees to customers

UC also enables small business team members to connect and collaborate with customers from anywhere. Platform features such as Find-me/Follow-me improve responsiveness. With the technology, you give out one number, even a virtual one. When someone dials that number, the IP telephony system routes the calls to selected numbers – office phone, mobile number, home phone or other — at the same time or sequentially.  If there is no answer after routing the call to all the numbers; the system will leave the call in voice mail, which can be retrieved from any device.

In addition to Find me/Follow, UC enables presence, a status display. Since it lets employees know when someone is  available, an employee needing help to answer a customer’s questions can engage with a colleague over chat, conference in another employee or transfer the call to a more knowledgeable team member and avoid long hold times or a call back to track down information.  Video and web conferencing also help when its necessary to view a product or share a presentation.

Ensure training for success

Don’t overlook comprehensive training as you roll out UC to remote employees (and those working internally as well). Just because new tools are available does not mean everyone will jump on the bandwagon. Old habits die hard and it can take time and encouragement to get employees to use UC features. Training should include explaining the value of each new feature, besides demonstrating how to use it.

Also get feedback during the training to help employees overcome hurdles or reluctance. If you are conducting the training over video conferencing, record the sessions so employees can review them later if they need a refresher.

Device-as-a-Service makes it easy to deploy UC

With Plantronics Device-as-a-Service Pro, you can acquire a complete Unified Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS) solution along with Plantronics audio devices. The program bundles UCaaS offerings and your choice of Plantronics Voyager®, Savi® and Blackwire® families or the CS540 into flexible 12- 24-or 36-month payment options. With Plantronics Device-as-a-Service Pro, you easily can scale usage up or down to align with changes in business and match the right audio device to team member work styles. For information about Plantronics Device-as-a-Service Pro, visit: http://www.plantronics.com/us/daas-pro/.

 

Source: http://blogs.plantronics.com/small-medium-business/keep-remote-small-business-employees-connected-and-engaged-with-unified-communications

Publish Date: August 4, 2016 5:00 AM


Every CSR in a customer service center uses a headset—and that’s the challenge

Each day, without even really thinking about it, every customer service representative (CSR) in your company relies on one essential tool to do their job effectively: a headset.

A well-functioning headset enables them to hear and be heard clearly, and present the company they’re representing in a professional, agreeable way.

Of course, most CSRs don’t think twice about their headset when it’s performing as expected. But as soon as a setting needs to be adjusted, they notice it, right away. So does the customer who’s calling in.

And so does the IT Help Desk.

IT is responsible for hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of headset users company-wide—with no easy way to know how many or what types of headsets are being used. No easy way to update headsets with the latest firmware. And no easy way to make adjustments, except to run around from user to user to provide the service they need.

But there is a better way to manage, monitor, and maintain headsets—without the runaround.

Plantronics Manager Pro is a cloud-based headset management tool that enables IT departments to accurately track inventory, and schedule and deploy firmware updates whenever needed. The result is effortless management of headsets for IT departments.

Find out more
See how Plantronics Manager Pro can help make headset management effortless. Learn more here.

Source: http://blogs.plantronics.com/contact-center/every-csr-in-a-customer-service-center-uses-a-headset-and-thats-the-challenge

Publish Date: July 13, 2016 5:00 AM


Employees and management may not see eye to eye on small business workplace noise

Recently, in “Is small business worker productivity declining? Noise may be the culprit,” I looked at the effect of noise on worker productivity. Underscoring the impact of noise on productivity is a “2013 U.S. Workplace Survey” conducted by design and architecture firm Gensler in which 69% of survey participants indicated that they are dissatisfied with noise levels at their primary workspace. The Gensler survey found that overall workplace performance in 2013 dropped 6% since 2008 when the firm conducted its previous workplace survey.

Now new survey results indicate that when it comes to noise and distractions in today’s open office environments workers and management may not see eye to eye. A study conducted by Oxford Economics “When the Walls Come Down: How Smart Companies are Rewriting the Rules of the Open Workplace” funded by Plantronics examined what workers want from their office environments, and what managers need to do to enable the highest productivity and satisfaction from their teams. The study included 600 executives and 600 employees from a range of industries around the world.

The study found that the ability to focus without interruptions is a top priority for employees when it comes to office design. Yet only 39% of executives say ambient noise affects their employees’ productivity and just 33% say loud colleagues are an issue. As a result, the study found that very few companies have taken meaningful steps to address the problem. In office construction, noise is an afterthought and executives overestimate employees’ ability to drown it out with the tools available to them.

Employees cite other workplace challenges

The study highlighted that above all workers value getting work done and that interruptions are having an impact on productivity.  Other challenges impacting productivity and work/life balance include:

  • Technology integration is a work in progress: Employees are expected to be connected to the office all the time, but only 40% say the devices they use at home integrate seamlessly with their work tools. The survey found that 65% of employees say they prefer a single device for their personal and work lives, rather than different devices for each.
  • Too much connectivity could lead to burnout: Mobile technology and pressure from colleagues drive constant connectivity. Furthermore, more than one-third of employees say they use their tech devices primarily out of habit or compulsion, fear of missing out, or social pressure.
  • Always available: Among executives, 26% say they expect employees to be available after hours always or frequently, but 47% of employees say such availability is expected.
Help employees be more productive

The report lists the following recommendations for employers to help their employees work more productively:

  • Begin a dialogue with employees about what is working and what needs to change regarding office design, working remotely, and technology use.
  • Ensure employees have the tools and devices needed to work from anywhere.
  • Give employees the quiet time, spaces, and tools required to conduct focused work.
  • Encourage everyone to disconnect after hours to find a balance between work and life.

Giving your small business employees the right tools also may mean getting them noise-canceling headsets so that they can listen to music or white noise to cancel out distracting noise around them. Find Plantronics headsets to suit your team at https://www.plantronics.com/us/solutions/small-medium-business/.

Source: http://blogs.plantronics.com/small-medium-business/employees-and-management-may-not-see-eye-to-eye-on-small-business-workplace-noise

Publish Date: July 12, 2016 5:00 AM


Is it time to update your small business phone system?

Are mobile working small business employees missing customer calls? When they are out of the office, mobile workers may be taking calls on their smartphones, using noise-canceling headsets to block out background noise. But if calls are coming into traditional desk phones that can’t switch to a mobile device or another desk; customers and prospects will need to wait for a call back. Furthermore, there may be times when a mobile worker needs to refer a caller to someone else in the organization, but there is no way to transfer the call.

Delayed responses and asking callers to call another number impact customer service and can result in lost sales and dissatisfied customers taking their business elsewhere. An outdated phone system can affect your small business bottom line in other ways. You may be spending too much time and money maintaining an older system. Every time you add a new employee or someone leaves, you need to work with your vendor. When there’s a bad connection, a technician needs to come to the office.

VoIP answers the call

To address these issues and others, many small businesses are switching to Voice over the Internet Protocol (VoIP), although some still rely on Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) and even Primary Rate Interface (PRI) service, which transmits multimedia data in addition to audio data, reports Software Advice. In its 2015 VoIP Software Small Business Buyer Report, the resource for software buyers, found that 36 percent of survey respondents use VoIP versus 24 percent that use POTS and 11 percent PRI.

VoIP can save your small business communication costs because you don’t have to install new phone lines since VoIP equipment hooks directly into your existing broadband network. With your data and phone system converged into one network, you also spend less time on system management and can easily add or delete users and efficiently change phone features from a central Web portal.

Other productivity and efficiency benefits of VoIP are:

  • Advanced features: In addition to standard features, such as voicemail, caller ID, three-way conferencing and call forwarding, VoIP also offers a host of advanced functions. With automated attendant, your phone service can greet callers, screen calls and through the use of voice prompts route them to the appropriate person on your team. Find me/Follow me routes unanswered calls to a series of phone numbers you choose – desk, cell or home. Many VoIP systems also provide integrated web and video conferencing.
  • Enhanced multitasking and collaboration: By integrating applications, you make multitasking easier. For example, you can be on the phone and check a voicemail that you received in text via email that may contain information that is relevant to the call. If necessary, you can switch from an audio call to a web or video conference to enhance communication or collaboration.
  • Integration with other business systems: VoIP enables you to integrate your phone with CRM or ERP systems to automatically log call information into these systems, so you don’t need to manually enter the data.
Choose cloud-based or on premise installation

Choose between a cloud-based VoIP Virtual PBX (also called a hosted PBX) and an on premise IP PBX. To make it easy for small businesses to acquire Plantronics products along with a complete cloud-based software solution, consider Plantronics Device-as-a-Service Pro. The program bundles Unified Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS) offerings, which are based on VoIP, and Plantronics UC audio devices from the Voyager®, Savi® and Blackwire® families or the CS540 into flexible 12- 24-or 36-month payment options. For more information about Plantronics Device-as-a-Service Pro, visit: www.plantronics.com/DaaS.

Source: http://blogs.plantronics.com/small-medium-business/is-it-time-to-update-your-small-business-phone-system

Publish Date: July 1, 2016 5:00 AM


Cover all the bases when training remote small business workers

Considering the challenge many small businesses face in finding and retaining good employees (Plantronics survey found that 44 percent of small business owners say attracting and finding quality labor is the biggest HR pain point); you don’t want to lose team members because they feel their opportunities are limited and the company is not investing in their future. Among millennial workers, in particular, employer education and training are an expectation, writes the HuffPost Business in “9 Company Perks Every Millennial Wants (and Expects).” The blog post cites a millennial-specific survey conducted by professional services firm PwC which found that 35 percent of survey respondents cited growth and education opportunities as attractive employer perks.

It’s not only the need to meet employee expectations that makes training important. As your small business grows, you need people who can take on more responsibility and help the business expand into new areas. Hiring from within is far easier and more beneficial to employee morale than bringing in outsiders.

Meet remote training challenges

With some of your team working remotely all or part of the time, training can be challenging.  Online courses or webinars enable your team to learn whenever they want and wherever they are. But other training may require bringing professional trainers into the office or scheduling brown bag lunch sessions led by internal managers, and then you’ll want everyone to participate at the same time. If it’s not cost-effective for remote employers to travel to headquarters, you’ll need to arrange an audio or video conference.

Regarding technology tools, in addition to providing your remote workers with mobile devices or implementing a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy for anytime/anywhere learning, consider employing cloud-based web and video conferencing as well as document sharing. There also is a host of cloud-based learning management systems, some of which are free for a limited number of users; others are billed monthly. Use these systems to design your own training courses.

Other considerations to ensure the successful training of remote workers include:

Start training with time at headquarters: Bring new employees into the office for their first few weeks of training and to meet the headquarters team. It’s important for new hires to feel a sense of belonging and that is best accomplished when they can interact with people face-to-face.

Create a mentor program: Provide a newly hired remote employee with a mentor from within the organization. Mentors will be responsible for helping remote workers develop skills and knowledge to do their job competently and advance professionally.

Encourage participation in associations:  Pay for remote employees to join local business organizations and associations where they can learn through networking as well as take advantage of seminars and workshops that are offered.

Set milestones: Your training program should include milestones. Check in periodically to see how your remote employees are doing and to find out if they are having any difficulties that may require adjusting the training or changing the pace.

Ensure crystal clear communication: Since training can take place anywhere – in a hotel lobby, a coffee shop, an airport lounge as well as a home office – it’s difficult to control background noise. A noise-cancelling headset can ensure that training isn’t compromised by the inability of remote workers to hear clearly regardless of noise around them from others or the environment. As an example, Plantronics newly announced Voyager 5200 and Voyager 5200 UC feature WindSmart technology, an exclusive Plantronics innovation that ensures extraordinary wind and noise reduction.

Learn more about Plantronics Voyager 5200 and Voyager 5200 UC to help remote workers score big on their training.

Source: http://blogs.plantronics.com/small-medium-business/cover-all-the-bases-when-training-remote-small-business-workers

Publish Date: June 16, 2016 5:00 AM


Is small business worker productivity declining? Noise may be the culprit.

Are you concerned that your small business employees are less productive these days? In the first quarter of this year, the Labor Department reported that productivity – the hourly output per worker – declined at a 1.0 percent annual rate. Fourth-quarter 2015 productivity saw a 1.7 percent rate of decline. Furthermore, productivity has only risen in two of the last six quarters.

Some attribute the decline in American productivity to email, writes Elena Holodny in Business Insider in “Email might be making American workers less productive.”  She cites an online survey of 400 U.S. white-collar adult workers conducted in 2015 that found participants estimated they spend 6.3 hours a day checking emails. Work emails account for 3.2 hours; and personal emails 3.1 hours.

Spending too much time reading emails may be part of the problem; but it’s not the only reason some workers feel less productive. Noise and speech privacy actually are the biggest complaints of office workers. Harvard Business Review reports in  “Noise at the Office: How to Cope” research indicates that office noise disrupts concentration, decreases productivity and increases stress.

Among participants in a 2013 U.S. Workplace Survey conducted by design and architecture firm Gensler, 69 percent indicated that they are dissatisfied with noise levels at their primary workspace.  Gensler found that overall workplace performance dropped 6 percent since 2008 when the firm conducted its previous workplace survey.

Headsets are a boon to workplace productivity

One cost-effective solution to the decline in workplace productivity because of noise is headsets. Some years ago, Plantronics commissioned a study by independent ergonomics-consulting firm E3 Consulting Corporation to determine how headsets can significantly increase productivity. The study involved loan processors of a national mortgage corporation who spent at least 10 percent of their workday using the phone.

Participants were divided into an experimental group using headsets and a control group that did not. Over the study period, the number of loans closed by participants in the experimental group increased by an average of 23.5 percent over the prior month. When asked to evaluate their individual productivity, the experimental group participants said they thought their productivity increased by an average of 22 percent based on headset use.

Headsets are particularly helpful for employees unable to concentrate in today’s open-space office environments as well as in noisy environments out of the office where many work these days – coffee shops, airport lounges, train stations, hotel lobbies and even parks. Headsets can cancel out background noise to boost concentration. On a call, they assure participants of audio clarity, which makes the communication more productive.

Headsets also play an important in realizing the efficiency and productivity benefits of Unified Communications (UC), the technology platform that integrates desk phones, PCs and mobile devices into one data and voice network so that these devices can talk to each digitally and provides a range of communications tools, such as email, voicemail, chat, video conferencing and more.  By being hands free, users can seamlessly move between the various modes of communication. As an example, while on a webinar, a UC user can launch a chat session with another participant.

Work in the noisiest places with new Plantronics headsets

Plantronics latest headset offerings were designed with mobile professionals in mind. The new Voyager 5200 and Voyager 5200 UC feature WindSmart technology, an exclusive Plantronics innovation, which ensures extraordinary wind and noise reduction to help combat the noise mobile workers encounter while on the go. WindSmart incorporates six layers of technology to combat the entire noise ecosystem. The aerodynamic boom on the Voyager 5200 lets wind slide past without creating turbulence. The boom’s windscreen acts as the first layer of protection for the mics, and then each mic is further sheltered in a ‘wind box’. Four omni-directional mics and a proprietary wind-cancelling algorithm keep the mics focused on the wearer’s voice and remove disruptive noise.

With one touch, the new headsets connect with Siri, Google Now, or Cortana so that users can call phone contacts, send messages, schedule meetings, or even search the web – all via voice. Plus, voice alerts give talk time updates and even announce incoming callers. Users simply say “Answer” or “Ignore” to manage calls without lifting a finger.

Learn more about Plantronics Voyager 5200 and Voyager 5200 UC to keep noise down and productivity up.

Source: http://blogs.plantronics.com/small-medium-business/is-small-business-worker-productivity-declining-noise-may-be-the-culprit

Publish Date: June 9, 2016 5:00 AM


Today’s CSRs are under pressure to do a lot more for customers. Is your IT department equipped to deliver what they need?

Discerning, informed, and connected. With a multitude of choices in the marketplace, multiple buying channels, and instant access to information, today’s customers have never been more empowered, or more demanding.

They’ve come to expect the ability to deal with a company on their own terms, very often opting for the convenience of self-service. So, when they do take the time to call a company, it’s usually because they have an immediate need—an issue they want resolved right away, and to their complete satisfaction.

An effective customer service representative (CSR) plays a critical role in meeting those expectations. No detail—from the CSR’s speaking voice to the quality of the sound on the line—is too small.

That’s why a headset is such a vital tool to the CSR. When it’s performing as expected, it’s barely noticeable. But if a setting needs to be adjusted or updated, it’s immediately noticed—and IT needs to handle it, right away.

For companies with hundreds or even thousands of CSRs, it has meant a lot of effort for IT to manage their needs efficiently—until now.

Plantronics has developed a solution that helps IT monitor, manage, and maintain headsets. Plantronics Manager Pro is a cloud-based management tool that results in effortless management for IT, helping ensure users always have well-maintained headsets that enable them to confidently engage with customers, and ultimately improve the customer experience.

 

Find out more

See how Plantronics Manager Pro can help make headset management effortless. Learn more here.

Source: http://blogs.plantronics.com/contact-center/todays-csrs-are-under-pressure-to-do-a-lot-more-for-customers-is-your-it-department-equipped-to-deliver-what-they-need

Publish Date: June 2, 2016 5:00 AM


Go mobile: Be where small business customers are these days

No doubt you’ve heard that “you need to go where your customers are,” and today your small business customers have gone mobile. In fact, according to comScore, mobile surpassed the desktop as the leading digital platform in 2014 with total activity on smartphones and tablets accounting for 60 percent of digital media time spent in the U.S.

The growing use of mobile devices means that customers expect to engage with your small business wherever they are and whenever they want. Customers not only want to explore your product and service options while they are on the go; they expect a seamless experience to get questions answered and issues resolved via the mobile channel.

The shift in customer expectations suggests that companies adopt a “Mobile First Strategy,” writes Craig Borowski, Market Research Analyst, Software Advice in “Improve the Customer Experience Through Better Mobile Support –  IndustryView 2015.”   He explains, “A mobile-first strategy means that no matter what a customer might need to do—learn about a new product, receive customer support, process a return or chat with an employee—it can be done on a mobile device and the CX will be equally positive.”

Mobile website versus app

The first step of your mobile customer engagement strategy is to decide whether you want a mobile website or to take the experience even further with a mobile app.

If the primary goal is to communicate your products or services to mobile users, a mobile website may be all you need. You can offer mobile-friendly content to a wide range of users immediately; since your website will be accessible across a range of devices. You also have greater reach with a mobile website since users can find your small business through search and online directories. It’s also simple for users to share mobile URLs through a simple link. They can email or Instant Message (IM) the link or post it on social media sites.

Though more costly because they are not device independent, a mobile app can provide a more personalized user experience with specific functions – such as easier product configuration. You can customize the app to take advantage of a device’s video, audio, camera, GPS and other capabilities. You also can develop an app for a special marketing or promotional campaign and offer coupons or discounts. Since mobile apps don’t require a connection, users can access content offline, too. This can be useful if you want to create a mobile product catalog, for example.

Maximize the Customer Experience

Whether you choose mobile website or app – or both – you’ll want to maximize the customer experience. Scott Sachs in “How to deliver quality mobile customer service” recommends a number of ways to do that.  Among them, first analyze the types of queries customers make, such as their account balance or the locations of your stores or offices. When you understand what customers are looking for, you can design a User Interface (UI) that requires as few taps as possible to get the needed information.

Sachs also advises that you look for ways to enhance how you deliver service to customers.  He says that customers should be able to access key product information, FAQs and other help and have an easy path to a service agent if they need to engage with one.

Mobile use is changing the customer engagement landscape. Find out what your customers expect and plan your mobile strategy accordingly.

Source: http://blogs.plantronics.com/small-medium-business/go-mobile-be-where-small-business-customers-are-these-days

Publish Date: June 2, 2016 5:00 AM


How to get your small business team off and running with Unified Communications

This Sunday, May 29, marks the 100th anniversary of the Indianaoplis 500, called “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”  It takes a lot to put together a race of such importance; and not everything happens on the track.  At the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) headquarters, just outside the track, planning and operations take place for the big event.  A few years ago, the IMS undertook a  telecommunications system upgrade to improve communications and collaboration between its various departments – legal, sales, accounting, food and a studio production team – and to aid mobility for team members who need to  stay connected as they move between the office and track. IT chose to deploy the Microsoft Lync Unified Communications (UC) platform.

Since the transition involved replacing desk phones with the UC solution that runs over laptops, as well as smartphones and tablets, IMS IT wanted to ensure employees would be comfortable with the change to soft phones and the use of Plantronics UC headsets. To bolster acceptance, a week into the trial of the first phase of the rollout, IMS offered employees the option to return to their desk phones if they were not satisfied. Turns out, no one did. The first phase of the rollout took five months. Deemed successful, the rollout to the rest of the organization continued.

Old habits die hard

Despite the productivity and collaboration benefits of UC , which integrates desk phones, PCs, smartphones and tablets into one integrated data and voice network accessible through the convenience of one interface, some small business employees may be resistant to change. Others may take time to familiarize themselves with all the features of your UC system, which can be many. (See: “Must-have unified communications features for your small business” Part 1 and Part 2.)

As Mike Sapien, an analyst with OVUM writes in “Unified Communications: Getting End Users on Board,” for CIO, “The assumption that end users can immediately jump in, knowing which tools to use to improve their productivity, is a bad one.”  Users will need training when the system is deployed and Sapien advises that learning initially should focus on just a few of the UC features. Once your small business team gets the hang of those, you can move on to other uses and  applications.

As part of your deployment, you may want to start with a trial group like the IMS did and see where there are problems or hurdles to acceptance and then incorporate that feedback into your training program. And don’t think of training as a one-time event. It should be an ongoing process, since users might fall back on the traditional ways they are used to doing things, such as sending an email off to see if someone has time to chat rather than using presence to let them know the person they are trying to connect with is online.

As important as training is, there’s also a need to promote adoption. Set an example by using the technology yourself to communicate with your team to encourage them to get on board. In the IMS situation, it helped that the CEO championed the deployment, forgoing his desk phone for Lync and the Plantronics headset. Encourage conversations about the use of new technology. Organize brown bag lunches, for example, where you talk about the technology and how it’s aiding  efficiency and productivity and customer service.

Have a transition strategy in place before you rollout your UC platform. With the right plan in place, you’ll achieve the results you want and won’t leave your small business team in the dust.

Suggested reading: Indianapolis Motor Speedway utilizes UC and Plantronics wireless headsets to race towards success

Source: http://blogs.plantronics.com/small-medium-business/how-to-get-your-small-business-team-off-and-running-with-unified-communications

Publish Date: May 26, 2016 5:00 AM


Plantronics and Cisco Jabber: Building Better Meetings

As I’ve pointed out before, people are joining more meetings virtually now than ever before.  It’s probably no surprise that our research found that more than 60 percent of meetings today include at least one remote user. At Plantronics, our goal is to help make any virtual meeting feel natural, as if everyone is sitting around the same table. Conversations should be fluid. Visuals should be clear. The technology in use should enable dynamic collaboration for every meeting participant. In other words, technology should act as the framework to build better meetings.

To that point, I’m excited to announce that Plantronics has just completed the full certification of our unified communications (UC) portfolio with Cisco Jabber for Windows 11.5, certifying our compatibility with past, present and future releases. We’re the only headset vendor to have undertaken this commitment to Cisco and Jabber. Plantronics consistently invests in maintaining Cisco certifications, and with our software and audio solutions, this results in better meetings for all involved. What this means is that using a certified Plantronics audio solution with Cisco Jabber ensures a high quality audio experience with plug-and-play simplicity. It’s a message of assurance for IT and a great benefit for end users.

We’ve found that Cisco Jabber for Windows can help not only by enabling collaboration anytime and from anywhere, but also by reducing communications delays by providing presence information. It can help team agility and performance by instantly expanding one-on-one chats to larger, group conversations. This is one of the great capabilities of Cisco Jabber for Windows:  the ability to easily escalate an instant messaging (IM) chat into a meeting using audio and video and extend the reach to a Cisco WebEx meeting if you need additional and/or external participants. It’s simple, it’s quick, and as a result, it’s a better meeting for everyone involved.  These things, combined with Plantronics’ commitment to superior audio and user experiences and reduced external distractions, makes for a winning combination. And certification across our entire UC portfolio means we can provide this great experience regardless if your work style is office-based, flexible or even highly mobile.

Cisco Jabber for Windows is built on open standards for interoperability, it can be deployed on premises or on demand as a cloud based service and it’s integrated with commonly-used desktop business applications. Voice is prioritized so as not to experience reduction in quality, regardless of whether you’re inside the network or working remotely. Plantronics being fully certified for Cisco Jabber for Windows means you can collaborate with confidence.

Source: http://blogs.plantronics.com/unified-communications/plantronics-and-cisco-jabber-building-better-meetings

Publish Date: May 16, 2016 5:00 AM


Office headset use is on the rise. Get the right fit for your small business needs

Demand for headsets in the workplace is on the “cusp of rapid growth.”  That’s the forecast from analyst firm Frost & Sullivan who projects that the Contact Center and Office (CC&O) headset market will reach $2.60 billion in market earned revenues by 2021, which represents more than double the $1.20 billion figure for 2014. The analyst firm said that, “Adoption will continue as organizations realize the role of CC&O headsets in driving productivity in the workplace by enabling hands-free communications and an efficient work environment.”

Among the factors driving the demand for headsets in today’s workplace are the need for mobility in the office (see: Wireless headsets let your small business team move freely in the office and stay on calls) and hands-free capabilities while you are on a call to input something on your computer or locate a document on your desk or in a drawer or to engage in chat while you are conferencing. The desire to eliminate background noise in open-office environments (see: Headsets offer a sound solution to noise in the small business workplace) is another factor.

Headsets also integrate multiple modes of communication devices in Unified Communications (UC) environments. A survey conducted by Plantronics a few years ago found that 54 percent of small businesses were utilizing UC or planning to implement the technology platform that incorporates desk phones, PCs and mobile devices into one data and voice network so that these devices can talk to each digitally.

Choose the right headset

Here are some questions Plantronics recommends you ask in order to choose the right headset for your small business needs:

What audio communications devices do you and your employees use? Do you use desk phones, smartphones, softphones or a combination?  If you only use your desk phone, do you also do training online or attend webinars that require audio? These types of questions will determine if you need a versatile headset that you can use with several devices – one that works with your desk phone or your computer or smartphone – or a standard one-device headset.

Do you need a corded or wireless headset: Do you or your employees need to access files that are away from your desk during a call; or are you typically sitting at your desk for the duration of the call?

Do you have an open office environment?  Your environment can influence the type of headset you choose.  Do you work in private offices, open spaces or cubicles?  If you work in cubicles, how high or low are the walls?  In an open office environment you may want a stereo over-the-head headset versus a speakerphone, which is better suited for a private office.

After you’ve answered these questions, go to Plantronics Compatibility Guide and follow the steps to determine the best headset for you and your small business employees.

Accessories/cords help answer the call

Some headset accessories you  may need are:

HL-10 Lifter or EHS Cable for wireless headsets: Enables call-control away from your desk — simply answer a call by clicking on the headset button. The compatibility guide will tell you which cable is necessary with your phone setup.

Audio processor, amplifier or direct connect or quick disconnect cable for wired headsets:  You will need one of these to connect your wired headset to your desk phone. The compatibility guide will determine which one you’ll need.

Find  more about Plantronics headset accessories at: https://www.plantronics.com/us/category/accessories/.

Source: http://blogs.plantronics.com/small-medium-business/office-headset-use-is-on-the-rise-get-the-right-fit-for-your-small-business-needs

Publish Date: May 12, 2016 5:00 AM


How DECT-compliant headsets support small business with high levels of security and audio quality

When it comes to purchasing a wireless headset for your small business team, you immediately may think of Bluetooth. It’s the global wireless communication standard that connects devices together over short distances. Plantronics Bluetooth headsets let you connect to PCs, smartphones and tablets to make and receive calls as well as participate in video conferencing and listen to your favorite tunes.

But Bluetooth isn’t the only standard that connects headsets to mobile and other devices. Many headsets, including Plantronics, are based on the Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications (DECT) standard. Originally used to connect cordless phones (handsets) to a base station, DECT nowadays also is used to establish a wireless communication link between a headset and desk phone, mobile phone or computer to make and receive calls.

DECT versus Bluetooth

Range is one of the differences between the two standards. Bluetooth typically has a much shorter range than DECT. Whereas Bluetooth’s effective reach in an unobstructed outdoor setting ends at about 30 feet; DECT potentially supports clear voice communication over approximately 350 feet enabling users to work where they want, when they want and how they want. The newer Class 1 Bluetooth standard can offer up to 328 feet of range provided both ends are Class 1 Bluetooth, however.

Since it does not share spectrum with other wireless technologies, DECT technology also often is referred to as being “interference free.”  DECT operates at the 1.9 GHz frequency band unlike WiFi and Bluetooth devices, which use the same 2.4 GHz radio frequency (WiFi also operates in the 5GHz band) to communicate. As a result, Bluetooth and WiFi can interfere with each other and with other proprietary devices that operate on the same frequency.

Security is one of the many other strong points of DECT technology.  DECT uses a layered system, which includes subscription, encryption and authentication, to ensure a very high level of protection against eavesdropping. Certain industries, such as healthcare and finance, require DECT-based wireless communications to help ensure maximum security and confidentiality.

Plantronics meets the call for enhanced DECT security

When it comes to advanced security, Plantronics DECT wireless solutions are the industry’s first and only headsets that meet the enhanced security standards of the DECT Forum Security Certificate, which are designed to reduce the risk of eavesdropping. Plantronics DECT headsets provide:

Subscription verification: Base and remote devices are paired to one another so they can easily identify their correct base or headset. A secret authentication key is calculated using the DECT Standard Authentication Algorithm (DSAA). Definition of this algorithm in full is only made available to equipment manufacturers. The length of time that devices are in subscription is limited for additional security.

Authentication: Both ends check that the appropriate authentication key is used and calculate cipher keys (used to encrypt the data sent over the air) using the DECT Standard Cipher (DSC). The definition of this algorithm is made available only to the equipment manufacturers.

Encryption: The 64-bit cipher key is used to digitally encrypt the voice data being transmitted over the air link. At the receiving end, the key calculated in the authentication stage is used to decrypt the data.

Dynamic channel agility: As part of the DECT protocol, devices will dynamically move to new channels in response to interference. Because the timing and destination of this hop is unpredictable, it adds a layer of security to the transmission.

Dynamic power control: The Plantronics Savi® family and CS500 Series of DECT products makes use of adaptive power control, lowering the radio frequency power levels required to communicate when the user is close to the base, as is typical. Potential cyber attackers would have to be within this range, or use high-gain directional antennas to attempt eavesdropping, limiting such a potential.

To learn more about Plantronics DECT Security Certified Products, download Plantronics white paper.

Source: http://blogs.plantronics.com/small-medium-business/how-dect-compliant-headsets-support-small-business-with-high-levels-of-security-and-audio-quality

Publish Date: May 6, 2016 5:00 AM

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