In the current connected age, consumers have more than a few choices to interact with a brand and learn more about its offerings and services, and most of these avenues are accessible right at their fingertips. From social media, to dedicated websites, to live chat and VoIP calling, touchpoints are now more important than ever to the customer journey.
This isn't just an opinion - according to recent research from McKinsey, consumers are more likely to engage and purchase from a brand that provides multiple touchpoints across their journey. Businesses with fewer touchpoints were shown to have lower levels of engagement as well as conversion.
"Consumers are more likely to engage and purchase from a brand that provides multiple touchpoints."
"[C]ompanies with more digital capabilities across channels are able to convert sales at a rate 2.5 times greater than those with fewer touchpoints," Econsultancy contributor Luke Richards wrote, reporting on the McKinsey findings. "These brands are also seeing more positive word-of-mouth online due to their larger multichannel footprint."
In this way, an omnichannel strategy that includes numerous areas for your customers to interact with your brand isn't just a luxury anymore - this type of multi-touchpoint strategy is now essential to the success of your company in the current marketplace.
The vast majority of today's brands already have a multi-pronged approach to presence, both online and offline. As SurveyMonkey explained, anytime a consumer comes in contact with your brand - be in through an advertisement, social media comments, your website, or a brick-and-mortar location - this connection is considered a touchpoint in their customer journey. Touchpoints span the entirety of the consumer lifecycle, including interactions with the brand before, during and after a purchase.
All kinds of different platforms, marketing materials and communications systems can be included in customer touchpoints. Some of the most common include:
Before a purchase:
During a purchase:
After a purchase:
These are some of the most popular customer touchpoints, but this is by no means an extensive list. Your organization may have had success reaching shoppers with coupons or other offers, via a branded mobile app or through in-person meetings at a conference or other event. All of these touchpoints should be considered when companies look to create a cohesive touchpoint strategy and improve the overall customer experience their business is able to provide.
An important step to enhancing the types of connections your customers have with your brand is to outline the touchpoints shoppers interact with during their journeys. This touchpoint map can then serve as a guide for improvements, wherein the marketing and customer service teams can ensure that each touchpoint supports a certain part of the journey and a specific purpose.
Once you understand the different touchpoints your customers leverage, it's time to map these in chronological order. In this way, stakeholders will be able to see the path that customers took to conversion and repeat sales, as well as other paths that might have resulted in page or cart abandonment.
As marketing firm Spectrio noted, touchpoints often revolve around customer journey steps like brand awareness, encouraging interaction, initiative sales, and urging repeat sales. It's important to remember here that mapping won't just result in a single path, and consumers may take different routes to become aware of and complete a transaction with your brand. In this way, it's helpful to create four or five different maps that demonstrate the most common paths customers take.
There are a variety of ways to enhance customer interactions using your touchpoint mapping information. First and foremost, it's important to study both negative and positive patterns - mapping may show that a considerable percentage of customers that find out about the brand via social media, and follow a link to a specific landing page on the brand's site end up converting. On the other hand, research may also show that additional touchpoints or materials are needed to bridge a customer's journey from the website to conversion - in these instances, it can be helpful to lead shoppers to a video, informational graphic, an ebook or even the customer service center to provide another, valuable touchpoint while avoiding abandonment.
Overall, a critical part of any brand's touchpoint strategy is its unified communications system, particularly the solutions that are customer facing. Including easily accessible live chat or a link to the contact center on the website, for example, can offer just the support a consumer needs to convert. Allowing shoppers to seamlessly reach out to the company to get their questions answers and concerns quelled is imperative - and successful consumer interactions supported by UC technology can even serve as a critical differentiator in highly competitive markets.
To find out more about how your UC system fits into your customer touchpoint strategy, connect with the experts at Teo Technologies today.
Publish Date: March 15, 2018 5:00 AM
There are plenty of reasons to use VoIP telephony instead of the classic public switched telephone network (PSTN). Compared to PSTN, VoIP infrastructure supports many more device types, along with simpler network infrastructure and cost-effective calling plans, among other benefits. Let's start by looking at the device differences in more detail.
PSTN has been in use for decades. Its advancing age is most apparent in major limitations such as the complexity of adding new lines and the difficulty of accommodating individuals who aren't always near a deskphone.
In contrast, unified communications (UC) systems with VoIP provide several advantageous options:
The market for desktop IP phones continues to expand, in large part because of their increasingly sophisticated feature sets, according to a 2018 Prudour forecast. In addition to the capabilities listed above, phones can now support color touch screens, built-in front-facing cameras and numerous familiar PC port types, such as USB and Gigabit Ethernet.
"IP phones may heave features like dual SIP lines, HD voice, call logging, Power over Ethernet and local three-way conferencing."
A UC solution gives your team the flexibility to take calls on whichever device is most convenient or appropriate in a given situation, whether that's a laptop someone's simultaneously using to check email or a military-grade IP deskphone using SRTP and TLS encryption for maximum protection.
For end users, VoIP phones enable a wider range of options than they enjoyed with PSTN-based systems. For IT, it has an opposite, but still beneficial, effect – namely, streamlining the underlying network infrastructure.
With a traditional private branch exchange (PBX) in place, discrete networks must be maintained for voice and data. Multiple cable types are needed for supplying power, IP connectivity and voice capabilities to individual devices. This setup creates considerable complexity and can drive up infrastructure-related costs, both on equipment procurement and maintenance.
The combination of VoIP service with IP phones offers a much simpler alternative. All data can be sent over IP networks. Plus, standards such as PoE provide a convenient way to channel both power and connectivity to compatible deskphones.
As an added benefit, VoIP telephony is the ticket to much more economical distance calling. A typical PBX doesn't include long distance in its accompanying base plan, requiring an extra expenditure just to ensure reliable communications with branch offices as well as remote customers. VoIP providers usually cover long-distance calling out of the box and are easy to use across your entire wide area network (WAN).
Speaking of WANs, the emerging need to support modern VoIP solutions has prompted major changes in WAN designs, many of which now use software-defined architectures to dynamically find the best paths for VoIP traffic. VoIP/UC platforms have adapted in kind, with HD voice codecs that determine real-time network availability between endpoints and select the optimal one each time.
There's no doubt that VoIP can deliver substantial savings and flexibility when upgrading from PSTN, but it also makes a difference in the most fundamental domain for a phone system: call quality. Sending calls over an IP network enables greater clarity than analog telephony. Fewer remarks will be need to be repeated, plus subtle voice intonations can be more readily picked up.
Is it time to upgrade your phone system and take a decisive step toward better, more cost-effective communications? Contact Teo Technologies today to learn more about your VoIP and UC options.
Publish Date: March 9, 2018 5:00 AM
If you have ever called customer support at a large company, you've probably heard a prompt to the effect of "this call may be recorded for quality assurance purposes." These recordings of agent-customers interactions are usually reviewed selectively to determine if the employee properly greeted the caller and offered disclaimers and upsells, if appropriate.
While call recording is common, not every company uses the collected data the same way. It's possible for the sheer number of calls on file to overwhelm a team's ability to extract any value from them. The data might sit in storage, gathering digital dust despite possibly holding valuable clues about where the organization could improve.
Imagine looking for a needle in a haystack, but not knowing what a needle even looked like. This is essentially the predicament in front of anyone attempting to parse call records for insights that might improve productivity, if they don't have any specific key performance indicators (KPIs) in mind.
For call centers, relevant KPIs might include:
With these parameters in place, it's possible to narrow the range of recorded calls that might deserve full analysis. For example, you could zero-in on non-sales calls that lasted for more than one minute – a relatively long time, often avoided by agents who can identify callers who won't convert.
Business communications systems with custom call recording can streamline the process even further by letting you apply such filters to vast sets of recordings. That way, you're spared the trouble of randomly sorting through calls that might not shed any light on agent performance.
Outfitted with other features such as VoIP with on-demand recording (i.e., deciding which calls, outbound or inbound, to categorically record, and when to end recordings on individual calls), a unified communications (UC) contact center platform puts all the information you need for more productive operations right at your fingertips. What gains can you expect from upgrading to a UC/VoIP call center with advanced recording capabilities? A few of the biggest ones include:
Call recording is subject to many interlocking regulations around the world. In the U.S., the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is one of the most prominent privacy-related laws. Its titles apply to the exchange of electronic protected health information (ePHI), including phone calls in which this data may be handled.
"Business communications systems with custom call recording let you apply search filters to vast sets of recordings."
To avoid the high costs and bureaucratic complexity of noncompliance, it's a good idea to use a call recording system built from the ground up with security in mind. Approach your VoIP system with the same seriousness you would a traditional private branch exchange, ensuring you have all relevant call records on file and protected by access controls.
Support specialists encounter a variety of situations, from routine troubleshooting to more difficult sales/refunds transactions, each day. Thanks to call recording, you can document all of these cases and review them as necessary, both to improve training and take corrective action when necessary.
Successful calls with relatively quick resolution times can be singled out and used as models during trainings. Meanwhile, you can analyze calls in which the scripts provided to agents were ineffective and use that info to revise future prompts. Agents can also be assigned to remedial courses designed to help them close sales consistently, resolve calls more quickly, etc.
Modern contact centers, like those available from Teo Technologies, feature highly integrated architecture combining call recording, automatic call distribution, CRM access and much more into one convenient platform. They can also be deployed in the cloud, on premises or in a hybrid setup depending on your organization's unique requirements.
The result is a future-proof solution that can be efficiently scaled, modified and maintained even as your needs evolve. A trusted, proven partner like Teo will guide you through the entire process of attaining a contact center that's right for you. Contact us today to learn more!
Publish Date: March 5, 2018 5:00 AM
Unified communications represent key technological assets, and most businesses have had some sort of communications system in place for years. However, while systems like email, VoIP, video conferencing and messaging were previously siloed in many business settings, it wasn't until a few years ago that these powerful platforms came together under a single UC solution.
Even if your organization has only had UC in place for a short time, now is a golden opportunity to consider an upgrade - and business leaders may be surprised at how much this type of investment could pay off for their company.
The days of siloed corporate communications are long gone. Now, employee users often look to leverage several communication solutions simultaneously - for instance, workers on a conference call may message each other during the conversation, or share documents as the call is happening to bring another level to their collaboration.
In this environment, businesses across numerous sectors are seeking more complete and robust UC solutions, and the market growth demonstrates the criticality of these technological tools. According to a 2018 report from Global Market Insights, the unified communications and collaboration market is on track to grow considerably through 2024, surpassing a value of $57 billion. IT, telecom and cloud tools will maintain the majority market shares, especially as more companies seek to invest in these areas.
"The unified communications and collaboration market is on track to grow considerably through 2024, surpassing a value of $57 billion."
In some enterprise settings, financial resources may be scarce, and executives must make important decisions about how to best utilize available capital. Because the company already has UC technology in place, this is typically an area that is overlooked. However, legacy systems that don't support the proper collaboration and productivity could represent the Achilles' heel of the business.
Older systems that don't make the best use of the cloud, or enable employees to seamlessly share and collaborate with one another across multiple platforms can prevent workers from achieving optimal productivity. In fact, having to switch between disparate systems could be creating daily hangups for staff members that don't just frustrate the workforce - they could be costing the company money in terms of customer satisfaction and brand reputation.
"[M]any managers of older unified communications systems are hesitant to invest in new equipment, citing budget as their major concern," NWN contributor Jon Iannotti wrote. "If this sounds familiar, then it's time to analyze the cost of remaining static versus the value of moving the company forward. "
Before business leaders look to rip and replace their existing UC, there are a few important questions to consider:
"[C]ompanies that have implemented bring-your-own-device policies may need to upgrade their UC platform to support BYOD," Goetz wrote. "Certain unified communications platforms do not support all the mobile operating systems, call-forwarding features and mail integration for all major mobile devices."
Once business leaders have decided that it's time to update their UC, there are a few key steps to take to help ensure that the upgrade will go smoothly.
First, it's imperative to work with a knowledgeable vendor with a large service portfolio. In this way, the UC partner can help identify the most pressing updates to make as well as the investments that will provide the best return for the organization.
It's also important to include education in upgrade plans. Holding training sessions with employees will help ensure that they understand the features included in the new solutions and will be in position to leverage them in the most optimal way.
It can also be helpful to create a schedule for the rollout of new systems, particularly if updates will be extensive and include multiple upgraded solutions. This will prevent internal IT staff from becoming overwhelmed while ensuring that any issues that come up can be addressed before the deployment of additional, new communication features.
To find out more about upgrading your UC system, connect with the experts at Teo Technology today.
Publish Date: February 6, 2018 5:00 AM
Cybersecurity is a more of a journey than a destination. Just when you imagine you've secured your network infrastructure against all realistic threats, a new exploit emerges that requires immediate remediation. Recent high-profile incidents such as the Meltdown and Spectre exploits in most CPU architectures, the KRACK flaw in WPA2 Wi-Fi security and the various advanced strains of device-hopping ransomware illustrate how rapidly the security landscape can shift.
Protecting sensitive data from theft requires dedicated security systems overseen by experienced personnel, either in-house or on external teams. Unified communications (UC) platforms are not security solutions per se, but they can complement the protection you get from other tools. Here's how:
With UC, you can conveniently access email, voicemail, VoIP calling, instant messaging, screen sharing and much more from a common set of interfaces. This consolidation simplifies communication for employees while discouraging the use of shadow IT services (i.e., software and hardware unapproved by the IT department) that increase overall security risk.
Indeed, Forrester Research discovered that a plurality of all data breaches were the results of careless actions by people within the affected organizations. Carelessness is amplified by the use of multiple unvetted apps and devices that might leak data without users' knowledge. A single verified UC solution and accompanying secure hardware makes life easier for everyone.
"UC infrastructure is newer and easier to manage than what it's replacing."
UC platform often replace legacy systems such as onsite private branch exchanges. Whether they are implemented as premises-based or cloud computing solutions, they deliver substantial upgrades to network security.
For starters, the infrastructure is newer and typically easier to manage. If it's situated in the cloud, then the service provider also likely handles all essential updates and patches, relieving internal teams of the burden of keeping up with these never-ending releases.
UC infrastructure is designed from the ground up to be secure, plus it is often hosted in data centers with robust physical and informational security controls. As a result, key applications such as email and messaging are securely implemented from end to end, giving employees straightforward access to a wide range of safe communications options.
Virtual private networks (VPNs) are common workarounds for unsecure connections. They provide a secure tunnel for your network traffic, but are often costly to use and irritating to maintain.
Enter UC. Solutions such as the Teo Unified Communications suite implement secure endpoints protected by both TLS and the Secure Real-time Transport Protocol (SRTP). The combination of TLS and SRTP obviates the need for standalone VPNs, further simplifying your security infrastructure and reducing the risk of incidents such as someone forgetting to secure his or her connection.
IT budgets have not grown much in recent years, despite the proliferation of new technologies and security threats. In this context, any cost reductions are incredibly valuable, both for their own sake and for the funds they potentially free up for other projects, including investments in security tools.
Upgrading your business communications systems to UC often reduces your total spend on telephony by integrating many functions into a single platform. Teo UC suite can improve your collaborative processes and give you more freedom within your budgets. Contact us today to learn more about what our UC platform can do for your organization.
Publish Date: January 31, 2018 5:00 AM
Remember chatbots? These creations were among the most hyped innovations in business technology just a few years ago. Facebook made a prominent commitment to implementing chatbots within its Messenger application, while Microsoft developed Tay, a bot with its own responsive Twitter account. The proposed uses for chatbots at the time were vast, covering everything from weather reports to assistance when shopping online.
In practice, chatbots weren't quite ready for prime time when many of them rolled out to mass audiences in 2016. Tay was shut down within hours after it behaved unpredictably in response to Twitter interactions and Facebook similarly decommissioned a few chatbots it had been using to test negotiation-specific language. These results were similar to the shortcomings of many other forms of artificial intelligence (AI), including IBM's "Jeopardy"-winning Watson AI, which while technically impressive can seem "dumb" when it comes to thinking like humans.
"Chatbots weren't quite ready for prime time when many of them rolled out to mass audiences in 2016."
Chatbots haven't gone away by any means, they've just moved out of the public eye and into narrower use cases, such as unified communications (UC) contact centers. Chatbots represent yet another channel for connecting customers to organizations, one that can potentially extend upon the advantages of live chat.
With chat, agents have already gained key advantages over phone and email, such as proactive nudging (i.e., a message offering to assist a customer on the site) and more granular recordkeeping (since chat logs are more easily searchable than call recordings). Chatbots can potentially extend and complement these capabilities by offering:
Indeed, chatbots may be better understood as extensions of current contact center improvements in automation and efficiency, rather than as disruptive innovations. UC contact center solutions such as Teo Contact Center already offer capabilities such as computer telephony integration (aka CTI). CTI allows agents to view account information details in real-time on their PCs during calls and can be used in tandem with automatic call distribution to optimize agent workflows and deliver personalized responses – something chatbots aren't currently good at.
Chatbots can be viewed as the tip of the spear for cloud computing's influence over customer service. The automation and scale of cloud-hosted resources has enabled more cost-effective and multifaceted contact center operations than were possible when on-premises infrastructure was the only option.
Even without chatbots, the benefits of cloud are interwoven with solutions like Teo Contact Center, which can be deployed in the cloud or locally depending on your organization's particular requirements (the feature set is identical regardless of implementation type). Deep integrations with existing business applications and legacy systems, a comprehensive interactive voice response system for resolving inquiries without agent intervention and a powerful outbound multimedia interaction controller make it easier than ever to support a modern contact center.
Contact Teo today to learn more about UC contact center offerings!
Publish Date: January 30, 2018 5:00 AM
The drive toward unified communications (UC) by both enterprises and SMBs has revolutionized how their employees use devices and applications:
These effects have taken years to emerge: Consider that VoIP, a critical component of any UC suite, dates all the way back to the 1970s, when it was pioneered in an early flight simulator supported by internet predecessor ARPANET. Like video conferencing and other components of UC, VoIP required adequate supporting infrastructure to achieve real-time performance, and such a technical base only emerged relatively recently.
Now that decision-makers at every firm from a new small business to a decades-old enterprise have access to viable UC options, what should they look for when evaluating these application bundles? The sheer number of features, infrastructures and add-ons rolled into many modern UC packages can seem overwhelming. Let's look at what you can focus on to make your selection process easier:
UC brings together numerous functions across voice, video and messaging, in addition to its capabilities in email, fax, and call blocking and recording. To stitch all these activities together, it's common for UC architectures to require additional components such as external gateways, extra interfaces, dedicated servers for mobility and voicemail and much more. It almost goes without saying that adding so many different moving parts to the system creates substantial overhead for IT while increasing the chances of something failing, resulting in disruptions to critical applications.
In the Teo Unified Communications suite, you don't have to deal with such complexity. The underlying Teo System Architecture obviates the need for numerous add-ons. Accordingly, it exhibits better scalability and resiliency than other UC architectures that have to be assembled piecemeal with higher risk of failure and poor performance.
This design superiority is readily apparent in activities such as screen sharing from a softphone. Instead of requiring viewers to download plugins and applications to participate, the screenshare happens over HTML5 and is accessible from any mobile or desktop device with a simple link.
Cyberattacks have become more sophisticated in recent years. Perpetrators had numerous options for zero-day flaws to exploit, such as the "Eternal Blue" loophole in Microsoft Windows that enabled the groundbreaking WannaCry and NotPetya ransomware campaigns. Additionally, there's significant risk from workflows and programs that are not technically compromised but nevertheless enable data leakage; unapproved (by the IT department, at least) cloud services are a prime example.
UC is a vital link in the security chain, since critical information is regularly passing over its endpoints. Moreover, the stakes for adequate protection have risen dramatically with the passage of regulations such as the General Data Protection Rule (GDPR) in the European Union, which is set to take effect in May 2018. GDPR places new liabilities on all data centers processing workloads for EU-based entities, even if those facilities aren't located in the EU proper.
In Teo UC, you get the benefit of robust endpoints that securely authenticate over HTTPS via TLS. Passwords are never sent in plaintext, and all media is shielded by the Secure Real-time Transport Protocol (SRTP). With extensive utilization of both TLS and SRTP, there's the added benefit of reduced reliance on expensive virtual private networks, which become redundant.
Presence is a cornerstone of UC, allowing for location of devices connecting to individual applications and insight into whether they are currently available to receive communications. At the same time, managing it can quickly become a headache without the right application architecture or the underlying wide area network (WAN) infrastructure to support it.
Effective presence requires a UC platform that reliably synchronizes availability states, so that users don't end up calling or messaging an endpoint that isn't actually available/connected. It also needs a WAN capable of assessing network paths such as jitter, latency and packet loss and rerouting traffic as needed so that the performance of real-time apps – including presence, VoIP and video conferencing – is not degraded by congestion affecting lower-priority programs.
"Effective presence requires a UC platform that reliably synchronizes availability states."
The move toward software-defined WANs (aka SD-WANs) has addressed some of the traditional problems with supporting apps like presence. However, the network itself can only go so far in enabling seamless communications; a reliable UC platform such as Teo UC is also essential.
UC should make your operations simpler, not more complicated. As we have seen, though, many suites produce the opposite effect, through a combination of complex infrastructure, insufficient security and poor state synchronization.
You don't have to worry about these shortcomings with Teo UC. Built on a robust and scalable architecture, our platform is your ticket to a more productive future for your organization. Learn more by visiting our UC product page or contacting us directly by phone or live chat.
Publish Date: January 30, 2018 5:00 AM
Once upon a time, the telephone was the primary mode of communication, especially when customers needed to reach out to company brands. This made things relatively easy for businesses - all they needed to do was set up a call center and enable consumers to call whenever they had a problem, question or concern.
Times have changed considerably, though, and for many customers, picking up the phone to make a call isn't high on their list of preferred communication channels. With mobile capabilities and digital experiences being increasingly demanded, the time to modernize enterprise contact centers is now.
As TechTarget pointed out, most businesses have already taken steps to update their customer-facing communications by implementing new technologies that open up additional communication channels. It's at this time that brands shift from call center to contact center.
"In today's high-touch, constantly connected work where information spreads instantaneously, the term call center is limiting," TechTarget stated. "[A]gents must adapt to new technologies and communication channels that extend beyond the phone."
In this way, if your organization only offers phone communication capabilities to your customers, the time to upgrade and bring your service into the contact center age was yesterday.
For many businesses, the contact center represents the central jewel within the customer service crown. This essential piece of the puzzle enables clients to have their questions answered, get any issues resolved or obtain assistance with their orders or services.
However, when the contact center cannot provide service that is up to the level consumers are expecting, it can take a significant toll on the business:
Overall, contact center modernization can create a resource that's more than just a touchpoint for customers - the contact center can actually become a main force propelling and supporting a beneficial consumer experience.
When it comes to carrying out modernization efforts, where should your organization begin?
First and foremost, it's critical that if your business has not made the move from call center to contact center, you do so immediately. Your customers have spoken, and they no longer want only one option for communication - they seek out omnichannel support and the means to use the most preferred and most convenient channel for their needs.
Current statistics show that there will be more than 5 billion mobile phone users by 2019. Alienating these users by not supporting text, live chat and video is a huge mistake in the current technology landscape. Your call center should include multiple different channels for customer communication, providing a choice for consumers.
Options for self-service
Today, it's all about aligning capabilities with customer demands. In the same vein as providing additional communication channels, you should also consider providing self-service options for
"70 percent of today's consumers now expect a self-service application."
clients. CGS reported that 70 percent of today's consumers now expect the availability of a self-service application. Best of all, a system like this can help customers get the assistance or answers they need quickly, and more complex issues can be addressed by live agents.
Reporting and analytics
Another critical step for contact center modernization is to ensure that supervisors and stakeholders have a clear picture of the activity taking place here. Organizations are leveraging data analytics for all kinds of purposes these days, and the contact center should be included in these initiatives.
Advanced call center solutions can support robust reporting and analytics about the number of connections and engagements made as well as the services provided. Key performance indicators can tell an in-depth story about the contact center and the ways in which customers reach out, helping stakeholders create goals for the company and improve client services.
Trained service agents
A contact center is only as good as its staff members, and it's important that your service agents aren't overlooked during modernization efforts. This is especially critical when new systems and technologies are put into place: Take the time to train your employees on the best ways to leverage these in order to get the best return on investment and the highest overall value.
Contact center modernization should be high on your list of company priorities, but you don't have to go this road alone. Reach out to the experts at Teo Technologies to learn what your contact center needs and how to get there.
Publish Date: January 19, 2018 5:00 AM
When it first emerged, instant messaging didn't immediately find a foothold in business settings. After all, it was mainly used for more leisurely pursuits, including communicating with friends and family.
Much has changed in recent years, however, and now instant messaging represents a critical element of enterprise unified communications, especially within organizations with remote or traveling employees. Instant messaging has much to offer when leveraged effectively and efficiently in the corporate world, particularly when paired with advanced online presence settings.
Let's take a look at what you should know about including instant messaging in your company's unified communications infrastructure:
Instant messaging and online presence technology are now being increasingly utilized in corporate settings, and the statistics help to demonstrate the reasons driving these investments:
One of the most effective ways to make use of instant messaging in a corporate setting is to combine it with the essential features of online presence. In this way, staff members have more details about their co-workers' availability before sending an instant message, helping to eliminate missed messages or otherwise inefficient use of UC technology.
The Software Advice survey discovered that the majority of companies experience some level of productivity increase thanks to employee use of presence settings. This includes 7 percent that noted a significant increase, 16 percent that saw a moderate increase and 24 percent of businesses which experienced at least a minimal rise in worker productivity.
"21% of companies experience a moderate to significant increase in productivity when employees have access to online presence and instant messaging."
Despite initial concerns on the part of enterprise leaders, most organizations don't find online presence distracting - on the contrary, it can help support use of overall unified communications by providing status updates as to the best times for connections and cooperation.
"Collaboration is interruption: If you didn't have to work with others, you could get right down to work, but part of work is coordinating with others, and it takes extra effort and time for that coordination to take place," noted Gartner analyst Bern Elliot.
In order to reap the most benefits from instant messaging and online presence UC features, it's important that company leaders take the time to consider potential use cases. Many organizations across industry sectors have found success by putting instant messaging and online presence to work for their company in the following ways:
Instant messaging can provide numerous advantages when used in an enterprise setting, particularly when it's used to complement and support online presence and other advanced UC features. To find out more, connect with the experts at Teo Technologies today.
Publish Date: December 13, 2017 5:00 AM
An increasing number of organizations are leaving their siloed, disparate communications systems behind in favor of a solution that is more integrated and unified. Now, unified communications represent a linchpin for enterprise daily operations, enabling employees to more seamlessly connect and collaborate with one another.
This uptick in adoption is also relevant to overall market growth. According to research from Global Market Insights, Inc., the UC sector is still expanding, and is forecast to reach a value of $96 billion by 2023.
However, as more organizations in an array of different industries leverage these critical technology solutions, hackers and malicious actors are taking notice. UC systems are often used to house and transmit considerably sensitive information, which can be tempting for cyber attackers.
Overall, we've seen a steady increase on the number of new malware samples for about the late decade. G Data reported that in 2016, a total of 6.83 million new malware samples were detected by security researchers, and experts are forecasting more than 7 million never-before-seen samples will be discovered this year.
Worse still, it's not just new malware that's worrisome - hackers are also recycling older threats, upgrading coding capabilities to make an outdated virus ready for new victims. In addition, as hackers increasingly leverage more sophisticated and advanced strategies to infect victims, it's more and more difficult to fight off an attack.
When cyber attackers breach a UC system, it can give them access to all sorts of sensitive data, important business communications and other intellectual property. For this reason, UC technology should be at the top of the list when it comes to security priorities.
One of the first steps for proper protection is to be aware of the threats that are coming your way. Here are a few of the most pervasive and dangerous attacks concerning UC infrastructure that hackers favored this year:
Attackers have taken to holding data for ransom, encrypting critical assets within a victim's systems until he or she pays up usually in the form of untraceable Bitcoin.
This threat comes in connection with UC due to the ways ransomware is usually delivered - it often begins with a legitimate-looking, yet malicious email containing an infected link. Users are tricked into opening the email and clicking the link, which then begins the ransomware infection.
Once the ransomware is in place, the victim's computer displays a warning notification noting that the user has been locked out of his or her files until the ransom is paid. While some cases have emerged wherein victims pay the amount asked for and access to files is returned, more often than not, hackers will take payment without removing the encryption. Some attackers have even asked for a second ransom, confident the victim will pay.
According to Barkly, about 4,000 ransomware attacks took place each day in 2016, and attacks on businesses have increased - where an event once took place every 2 minutes, these instances are now happening every 40 seconds, Kaspersky reported.
Ransomware and phishing often go hand-in-hand. Similar to ransomware - and many other threats - phishing impacts an organization's email system, which is often the heart of UC. And like ransomware, sophisticated phishing attacks are on the rise.
SC Magazine reported that during the first half of 2017, Kaspersky Labs blocked 51 million phishing attempts. These attacks have impacted the mobile platform as well (known as smishing or SMS phishing), and have risen 250 percent since January.
While many users and employees are aware that phishing is a problem, one in every 14 people are still tricked into opening malicious phishing emails. Much of this has to do with the time and planning involved on the part of hackers - attacks use several different strategies to encourage clicks. This includes social engineering, wherein hackers will include the victim's name as well as the names of their boss or supervisor within the email to make it appear official. In other cases, tempting deals, discounts or coupons are offered - a particular threat during the busy holiday season.
Although many businesses still leverage traditional conference calling, video conferencing has become increasingly popular to support communication and provide an in-person feel. Research from IHS Markit found that 86 percent of businesses plan to make video conferencing a part of their UC system by next year.
"One in every 14 people are tricked into opening malicious phishing emails."
As these solutions are deployed in more enterprise settings, researchers have found that they can provide an entryway for prying eyes and ears.
"[V]ulnerabilities could allow hackers to eavesdrop on confidential meetings, read documents sitting on a conference table, or even zoom in to record keystrokes (such as passwords) typed by meeting participants on their laptops," eSecurity Planet contributor Jeff Goldman wrote.
These threats only scratch the surface when it comes to companies' use of UC systems. Motivated hackers seeking to snoop and steal data for fraudulent purposes are becoming increasingly crafty in their attacks, but this doesn't mean that your organization can't guard against them.
First and foremost, it's critical for IT administrators and other department supervisors to educate users about the risks. Employees that have a better understanding of the strategies hackers use to support a breach can be on the lookout for suspicious activity, illegitimate emails and other signs that point to cybercriminal activity. With the right knowledge, workers can become a pillar of enterprise security, as opposed to a weak link.
In addition, experts urged that UC systems have security measures in place. Goldman noted that a main misstep many organizations make is forgetting these basic protection measures and providing easy access for attackers. For instance, businesses have been known to deploy their videoconferencing solution and connecting it directly to the internet without placing a firewall or password protection in between. However, skipping this step in security can translate to considerable risk for enterprises, their employees, their important data and the infrastructure that supports daily operations.
To find out more about how to best safeguard your UC technology, contact the experts at Teo today.
Publish Date: November 30, 2017 5:00 AM
A great unified communications system hinges on its ability to seamlessly connect disparate employees in far-flung offices so they can collaborate and work together better. Unfortunately, convenience in the digital world often comes at the expense of security. No matter what line of work you do, ensuring privacy and safety in your communications runs directly against your simultaneous desire to conveniently connect with colleagues.
As you build out your UC environment, take note of some of these common blind spots where gaps can develop in your security practices and risk mitigation procedures:
The most common causes of the biggest hacks or data breaches in any industry tend to cluster in a handful of soft targets: passwords, email and communications devices. Locking these down as much as possible will reduce the bulk of the risk faced by almost any business related to cybercrime, or simple carelessness.
The easiest way for a criminal or unscrupulous client to do damage to any organization is to exploit password vulnerabilities. All it could take is just a single lucky guess or a dedicated hacker running a brute force attack to unlock an entire network of systems and confidential documents stored by one business. The prevalence of data breaches at large corporations recently only emphasizes the imperative of using strong passwords and managing them throughout an organization.
Within any one business, there could be thousands of emails being sent and received each day. Without following the best security practices and adopting the right tools, every one of these messages poses a potential risk of fraud, digital theft and more.
The first step to making email safer for everyone in your organization is to set strict standards for its use. These need to be adapted to the unique and evolving needs of employees to answer some important questions, including:
To go the extra mile in pursuit of email security, according to Marconet, businesses should utilize encryption like the SSL standard to protect their email servers from prying eyes. In addition to SSL encryption, look into enterprise spam filtering services to prevent malicious emails from ever reaching your inbox in the first place.
Applying best-practice security standards to every device, for every employee and across all networks is no doubt an exhaustive, labor-intensive approach to reduce the risk of loss related to cybersecurity incidents. The importance and sensitivity of this task is constantly being highlighted, however, as in this recent report from Trend Micro on newly unearthed vulnerabilities in certain UC networks.
In particular, Trend Micro found that pagers, still in wide use throughout health care, law enforcement and other fields where workers need to be on-call, continue to display serious security flaws without intervention from security experts.
Modern-day pagers are usually connected to an SMS or email network - a supervisor or automated system can send a page from anywhere and ensure it is delivered to its recipient almost instantly. But even when these messages are sent over secure channels, the opportunity to take advantage of them for malicious purposes still exists:
These findings are relevant even in UC networks that don't use pagers, since they involve tactics known as "social engineering" that rely on the inherent difficulty of verifying someone's identity remotely. The prevalence of social engineering as a means to commit digital fraud only underscores the need for robust security in not only UC environments, but throughout all business systems.
Contact Teo Technologies to learn more about building a safer communications network for your business.
Publish Date: November 28, 2017 5:00 AM
One of the top characteristics of unified communications is right there in the name - a system that isn't unified and holistic in nature simply won't provide the key capabilities that today's businesses require.
In the current corporate environment, UC technology has become an increasingly important linchpin of enterprise activity. And as more organizations seek to initiate bring-your-own-device, teleworking and other innovative working styles, the ability to collaborate and communicate with co-workers and partners will be that much more critical.
The best UC solutions are those that provide all of a business's essential communication and collaboration tools from a single interface. Having to switch between platforms and windows isn't just frustrating - it's also a time-consuming process that can considerably impact overall productivity.
It's time for decision-makers to take another look at their unified communications suite to ensure that their employees have everything they need for success. In this way, a critical question to ask is, "What's missing from my UC?"
Email is an absolute essential for communication today. However, when a company deploys a new UC solution, they may elect to keep their existing email platform. After all, familiarity is important for end users, and administrators don't want to spend time, effort and financial capital fixing what isn't broken.
"UC has become an increasingly important linchpin of enterprise activity."
In these situations, your UC solution should be able to support integration with top email platforms like Gmail, Microsoft Exchange, Office 365, Yahoo Mail and others. Appropriately linking your UC platform with your email enables important assets like call recording, voicemails and conference call invites to be sent directly to users' main inbox. This helps establish a truly unified platform for communication and collaboration.
Building off email, TechTarget contributor Chris Partsenidis noted that the ability to integrate with other third-party applications is key. This extends particularly to the organization's customer relationship management platform, which can be carried out via a plug-in or specially created API.
When it first emerged, instant messaging was mainly viewed through a social lens, and not necessarily immediately applied to business. After all, with voice and conference calling alongside email, many companies didn't see the need for instant messaging.
Times have changed greatly since then, though, and IM capabilities have grown to become an important piece of the UC puzzle. Instant messages bridge the gap between phone calls and email, providing a faster and more streamlined way to immediately get in touch with co-workers or clients.
In fact, instant messaging isn't just a powerful tool for staff members - it's also become a top communication method among consumers as well. One study found that 90 percent of customers would choose messaging as their preferred communication channel.
However, a UC solution that only provides messaging simply isn't complete. This powerful communication feature should be coupled with presence capabilities, allowing other users to see who is available at that particular moment. Presence ensures that messages aren't sent to an employee who has already logged off for the day, reducing the chance that time-sensitive communications fall through the cracks.
Many organizations have made the switch to cloud-based or as-a-service UC solutions, and it isn't difficult to see why. A UC platform that lives on the company's premises and is only accessible on location doesn't provide much value for those operating outside of the office. If your current UC can't support remote workers or mobile capabilities, it is definitely missing an essential capability.
The ability to leverage the UC solution while away from the office is another feature that's only becoming increasingly critical. Global Workplace Analytics noted that teleworking is on the rise - overall, 3.7 million people hold positions that enable them to work from home at least half of the time, and this working style has increased by more than 100 percent among non-self employed staff members since 2005.
It's also worth pointing out that organizations that still utilize on-premise and non-mobile accessible UC solutions are missing out on considerable cost savings. An on-premise solution means the company's own internal IT workers are responsible for updating, maintaining and ensuring the performance of the hardware backing the system as well as the software element. A cloud-based solution, on the other hand, is managed and maintained by the service provider, translating to cost savings as well as more time for your IT staff members to devote to other, mission-critical initiatives.
However, cloud and mobile capabilities don't have to be mutually exclusive. Some organizations may prefer a hybrid deployment configuration that marries the best of on-site and cloud solutions. The best UC providers should support an array of installment options to ensure that you can select the one that suits your business's unique needs.
"Collaboration has never been more streamlined or stress-free."
It should go without saying that a UC solution that doesn't offer conference calling is definitely missing a main piece. However, it's most beneficial to find a solution that provides other collaboration features - chief among these is screen sharing.
Consider you're on a conference call with your co-workers and you'd like to talk through an extensive spreadsheet. As opposed to distributing this document separately and then discussing it on the call without the benefit of a visual element, you can instead initiate screen sharing. In this way, everyone remains on the same page, and can view the document together in real-time. Collaboration has never been more streamlined or stress-free.
Finally, your UC solution provider should also offer robust customer support to solve any issue or answer any question. Vendors that make customers jump through hoops like recorded messages or scripted responses aren't providing the value they should.
While you may think that a UC solution that includes all of these elements - and more - would be exceedingly hard to find, you need look no further than Teo Technologies. Teo offers the most complete unified communications services portfolio, supporting an array of critical features that can be deployed on-premise, in the cloud or in a hybrid configuration. To find out more, contact the experts at Teo Technologies today.
Publish Date: October 31, 2017 5:00 AM
Currently, contact centers play an important role in many businesses' customer services architecture. These centers provide a continually accessible resource for consumers to reach out to the business and get their questions answered and problems resolved.
However, contact centers have historically been plagued by customer service issues that take place when customers are passed around to different agents and forced to repeat themselves. This not only frustrates callers, but can complicate communication flows for the contact center, making it more difficult for managers to glean the visibility they need.
The solution here is to leverage advanced contact center communication technology that can streamline customer-agent interactions while supporting the highest quality service possible.
Before we get into the advantages that communication systems can offer contact center staff, it's important to understand what's included under this umbrella. The best solutions support baseline capabilities including inbound and outbound communication, call recording and quality scoring to support voice, messaging and other channels.
In addition, advanced solutions also provide innovative features like automatic call distribution, interactive voice response and intuitive interfaces for agents and supervisors. In this way, agents have all the tools they need to appropriately respond to customer needs, and clients are able to reach out to the contact center via the channel that best suits their requirements.
"One of the first benefits many notice is the deep-rooted integration between systems."
One of the first benefits many contact center staffs notice - and one of the defining characteristics of unified communications - is the deep-rooted integration that exists between systems. This means that if a conversation moves from channel to channel, nothing is lost in translation and clients need not repeat themselves to different service agents.
This also creates a more robust and unified experience for agents who need not switch between platforms or windows to find the information they need. UC technologies can be integrated into the organization's customer relationship management platform, ensuring that all interactions are tracked and pertinent details are organized in a way that streamlines communication and puts agents and consumers on the path to optimal resolution.
Because advanced UC in the contact center supports an array of different communication channels, agents are able to communicate with customers via the platform that they most prefer. Studies have shown that not all clients want to pick up the phone and call for assistance right away - some feel more comfortable with messaging or email instead.
In order to meet these needs, contact centers must have a UC system that can support all of these channels, providing agents with a single, holistic solution.
"When using the same UC platform, agents can launch an IM, voice call, and even screen-sharing session from the agent desktop, without having to find the right tools for communicating with people outside of the contact center," UC Strategies contributor Blair Pleasant wrote. "Callers don't have to be placed on hold while the agent is calling an expert for information, and the agent can engage with the customer while sending and receiving the textual messages from the SME. Collaboration between agents and SMEs is enhanced, facilitating knowledge sharing and resulting in better results for the customer."
Automatic call distribution means that calls can be more quickly routed to the available agent best suited to solve the caller's issue. As opposed to being passed around from agent to agent before reaching the right expert, callers can be put through to the right person immediately.
As Customer Think's Bidisha Gupta noted, this can increase first call resolution rates, ensuring that any issues are solved the first time around while helping to eliminate repeat calls. When their problems are solved in the most efficient way possible, customers are more satisfied and the company achieves higher retention.
The bottom line here is that advanced UC systems have the potential to improve the overall quality of agents' interactions with customers. With a UC solution in place, the contact center is equipped to support the most preferred communication channels and quickly find resolutions for customers.
To find out more about the advantages your contact center can reap from advanced UC technology, contact the experts at Teo today.
Publish Date: October 30, 2017 5:00 AM
Communication is essential to virtually every business function, but traditional analog systems no longer fit the bill. Video chat, instant messaging and conference calls are the standard now, not amenities.
But there are several options to choose from when deciding how to go about implementing successful a unified communication strategy. Since each company has their own unique set of needs, capabilities and goals, this means there's no single cookie-cutter solution.
However, by weighing the pros of the various choices and matching them against your organizational requirements, companies can craft a UC strategy that best suits their needs.
Companies in highly regulated industries, such as, banking, education or health care, need to ensure the highest levels of privacy and security over all types of information transfer. From patient medical issues to student data, there are a host of compliance factors that must be addressed. Naturally, decision-makers in these sectors will be highly risk averse, making them hesitant to trust cloud security.
Using solely cloud-based UC might limit control over certain compliance issues. If left unchecked, this can lead to fines, a loss of consumer confidence and other long-term detrimental issues that can impact the bottom line. However, cloud-based UC systems are highly secure, with firewalls and encryption to protect sensitive data.
Businesses that use on-site UC systems retain a much greater capacity to guarantee the security and safety of the communication network, thereby remaining in compliance with your industry's regulatory framework. An on-premise UC solution eliminates any exposure problem, by keeping the system fully in-house. With this kind of insular network at your disposal, businesses can continue to utilize a UC system without worrying about the latest internet-based viruses infecting your system.
Off-site, or cloud-based, UC provides its own sets of benefits. This means the entire platform is hosted on the internet, allowing end users to send, transfer and store information all online.
"Mobility is a top priority for many companies nowadays."
Mobility is a top priority for many companies nowadays. With more employees than ever traveling for client meetings or working from home, it's imperative that businesses have the ability to connect with outside companies and remote workers.
When a company needs to grow quickly or downsize due to external factors, there can be limited room to maneuver. Off-site UC also allows for greater flexibility and scalability. This lets the system meet a company's ever-changing demands and needs.
With many advantages on both sides of the equation, it can be difficult to make definitive choice on which system works best.
Thankfully, a hybrid UC system can be the solution the company needs. A hybrid UC deployment combines aspects of on-premise and cloud-based tools to provide the necessary requirements a companies requires to modernize their communication network.
This combination of the low start-up costs, predictable low monthly subscription payments and a vendor-managed infrastructure of cloud deployment mixed with the system resiliency of an on-premise system make the hybrid solution a great option.
No matter which type of UC solution is chosen though, decision-makers should guarantee the provider offers comprehensive solutions that satisfy the company's needs. The UC platform should be integration ready and compatible with web browsers, email clients, Outlook, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Salesforce CRM, Lync, Skype and more.
Companies shouldn't have to re-align their workflows and operations to their UC solution, their communication system should be flexibility enough to fit their current design.
Click here to learn more about how Teo Technologies provides companies with industry-leading communications solutions.
Publish Date: September 29, 2017 5:00 AM
The cloud has become one of the most important - yet most confusing - concepts of modern day technology and therefore business in general. Due to the confusion surrounding this crucial technological feature, many companies have been hesitant to dip their toes in the cloud water, let alone fully embrace it.
This is a huge mistake. From the invention of the printing press to the telephone and through to the commercial adoption of the internet, those enterprises that fully invest in the innovative changes brought on by the latest technological advancements are the ones that have the most to gain. And cloud computing is no exception.
A robust unified communication platform can be just the gateway needed to introduce the latest technological breakthrough to companies that are still hesitant about using the cloud.
Despite the abundant advantages that cloud-based solutions bring to the world of business, there's still a large contingent of leaders who have not made the decision to leverage cloud-based technology.
A recent survey of nearly 800 companies conducted by Nemertes Research, an advisory and strategic-consulting firm specializing in analyzing and quantifying the business value of emerging technologies, found the following about adoption plans for specific cloud communication apps:
Unified Communications as a Service:
Cloud Document Sharing:
Cloud Contact Center:
As the survey's results illustrate, both the perception of cloud-based solutions and their implementation are fairly consistent across the range of options. On average, roughly a quarter of businesses are using this option, with less than 20 percent, on average, planning to take advantage of the many benefits offered by cloud-based communication. In most instances, about 15 percent of respondents outright rejected the idea altogether.
"About 15% of companies rejected using cloud-based communication apps."
Companies that are still taking the time to evaluate, or that have not even considered the possibility of using this technology, will be left in the dust if they're not prepared to actively make the transition to using cloud-based solutions.
Reduced overhead expenses are one of, if not the main, reasons why companies should burst out of the status quo and begin using cloud-based solutions. This is especially true of a unified communication platform that bundles together all the forms of digital interactions needed to successfully run a business - no matter the industry.
Companies can also see big savings through acquistions, operational and indirect cost reductions. A cloud-based solution doesn't require the expensive digital infrastructure needed to run all the different components of an analog communication system. Having the entire UC platform hosted on a managed cloud provider at an off-site data center requires far less investment in hardware, such as servers and developing proprietary software.
With a menagerie of components at play, though, it can be difficult to obtain a total cost of ownership (TCO). However, in terms of capital and operating expenses, as well as indirect costs, cloud-based solutions typically provide more bang for your buck.
Using a robust unified communication platform can help companies ease their way into the cloud. Not only do UC solutions, like VoIP phone calls and video conferencing, work similar to their analog counterparts, but there are also different ways to incorporate this technology, from going fully cloud-based to implementing a hybrid solution.
Unified communication provides an easy route for companies to dip their feet into the world of using cloud-based solutions to ultimately save money and find new revenue potential.
Publish Date: September 28, 2017 5:00 AM