Category: Business

What Are the Most Helpful VoIP Features for Small Businesses?

Just five or six years ago, VoIP was still considered a “different” type of business phone system—one that wasn’t the norm. The pandemic, however, changed that way of thinking. Firewell Technology Solutions believes that Internet-based phone systems aren’t simply the norm now—they’re mandatory for business continuity.

During the pandemic, VoIP and video conferencing have skyrocketed by over 210%. This is largely due to the move to remote work and hybrid offices. Sixty-seven percent of surveyed companies say switching to VoIP helps improve call handling.

So, no longer is the business phone system tied to a physical location. This enables fluid management of a business with staff spread out over many locations.

Additionally, VoIP significantly reduces costs for businesses. The technology is much cheaper to use than a traditional landline-based system. Calling plans are also often less expensive, and a company can add new numbers for very little cost.

VoIP has several helpful features for small businesses. But owners are busy and may not have time to have all of them enabled.

What are the best features to drive efficiency, productivity, and positive caller experience?

Here are some of the best features of cloud-based business phone systems to leverage.

Automated Attendant

In many small companies, the person answering the phone also has a lot of other duties. You can free up that person’s time and give the caller a better experience with an automated attendant.

An auto-attendant acts as a company directory. It will forward calls to the correct department or staff member for you. Record a pleasant greeting and ask the caller a few questions. Such as, “Press or say 1 for sales, 2 for technical support,” etc.

The caller gets the person they need without having to explain why they’re calling twice. Once to the person that answers the phone and once to the person they’re transferred to.

Find Me/Follow Me

What’s the most favorite user feature for VoIP? According to 77% of surveyed employees, it’s the Find Me/Follow Me feature. This includes the ability to use a virtual phone number that is accessible from all devices. Staff can also transfer calls from one device to another with ease.

Whether you are on a PC, in a conference room, or on your smartphone, you can get your calls. This feature reduces friction and allows people to give out a single phone number. Callers can then use that number to reach the person via mobile, home office, or onsite office.

Hold Music

Playing pleasant music while your callers are on hold might seem like a small thing. But it can have a big impact on customer satisfaction and lead generation activities.

We found some eye-opening statistics from a study on hold music versus silence. In the study, researchers kept people on hold for 1 minute. Results showed:

  • On hold in silence: Over 50% of the callers hung up
  • On hold with music: Only 13% of the callers hung up

Additionally, 45% of the silent group that did not hang up thought they were on hold for 3-5 minutes. They were on hold for just one minute. While on the music side, 56% of people thought they were on hold for less than one minute.

So, you can see the power of activating that one simple feature of your VoIP system. You may notice happier customers and fewer leads hanging up before they reach anyone.

Voicemail Transcription to Email

When you’re coming out of a meeting, going through a string of voicemails can be frustrating. You have to listen to each one to figure out the people to call back first.

Voicemail to email in VoIP services, provides recorded voicemails emailed to you. This also comes with a transcription of the message. You can quickly glance through the emails and scan the text to rank callbacks. No need to listen to every message first.

Ring Groups

Ring groups are an especially helpful feature if you have a small team. It allows a group of numbers to ring simultaneously until one person in the group picks up.

This means that another staff member may be able to assist a caller, rather than them needing to leave a message. Ring groups are great to set up for sales teams, accounting teams, and customer support teams.

Call Reporting

Another bonus of VoIP phone systems over analog is that you get real-time call reporting. What are your busiest times when you need more staff? Do you have a problem with calls not getting answered fast enough?

Your call reporting can give you insight into those things and more. Make sure you check out these reports and then automate the ones you like so you’ll see them regularly.

Local Support

This isn’t a system feature, but it’s important to have. If you sign up for VoIP from a company halfway around the world, you don’t have any local support when you need it.

Having someone that can come to your office is important. They can set up VoIP desk phones and help you optimize ring groups, mobile apps, and more. Your business phone system is one of the most important pieces of technology you have. Make sure you have the local support you need to keep it operating reliably. Firewell Technology Solutions proudly offers and supports VoIP services from the top brands in the market.

Looking for Local VoIP Solutions?

Get expert VoIP services and local support. We’ll integrate your cloud-based phone system with your entire technology environment. Contact Firewell Technology Solutions today for a free consultation.

 


Featured Image Credit

This Article, adapted, has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

Everything You Need to Know About Microsoft Viva Sales

Firewell Technology Solutions can empathize: data entry can be a real drag for salespeople. The time salespeople spend on administrative tasks is time away from customer interactions; however, that data is vital. This is where Microsoft Viva Sales comes into play.

It’s important to capture customer orders, quotes, needs, and more. Lead and sales reporting help sales managers know where to direct their attention. Analytics also help drive more efficient ways of closing the deal.

Microsoft has taken up the mantle of this challenge. It is about to launch a new digital experience for sales teams. Microsoft Viva Sales is part of the “Viva” line of applications. These include things like Viva Insights for improved staff wellbeing. As well as Viva Learning for staff development.

The Viva apps natively integrate with Microsoft Teams and the Microsoft 365 ecosystem. They include automation designed to eliminate boring tasks and enable more work engagement.

Viva Sales is a “CRM helper” application. Read on while Firewell Technology Solutions goes through some of the most asked questions about the app, its features, and when you can get it.

What Is Microsoft Viva Sales?

Viva Sales is an application that will provide sales and lead insights. These insights populate throughout Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams. The focus of the app is to cut unnecessary manual entry to give sellers more time to sell.

How Does Viva Sales Work? Is It a CRM?

Viva Sales is NOT going to replace your normal CRM platform. Instead, it connects to your CRM and other sales-related apps. It leverages the data from these connections. This makes it easier for salespeople to get the prospect data they need to enable their work.

Salespeople spend approximately 34% of their time on administrative tasks.

Viva Sales Basics

Some of the core advantages of Viva Sales are:

  • Eliminate Forms: Data entry for sales professionals is greatly reduced. This frees them up for more customer relationship building.
  • Powerful Data Leveraging: Viva Sales connects to several platforms. This includes non-Microsoft programs and CRMs. The integration allows salespeople to cross-reference data points and gain valuable insights.
  • AI-Driven Help: Salespeople will get prompts that are AI-driven. These suggestions and reminders help them along in the sales process with a lead.

Interconnected Interface

Microsoft Viva Sales provides sales-specific insights throughout the various M365 applications. Salespeople natively see important customer details, wherever they are. Including in their Outlook Calendar or when in their Microsoft or non-Microsoft CRM.

Microsoft Viva Sales
Image courtesy of Microsoft

Viva Sales Features

 

Tag to Capture Sales Interactions

Tagging is also known as using someone’s “@name” to get their attention. Tagging is a popular software integration used throughout many cloud-based apps. It’s also used within Microsoft 365.

Salespeople can use the familiar tagging function. They can use it to capture data from another M365 application for a prospect or customer. This includes adding someone to a list of customers by using a tag for their Viva Sales name. The system will capture the contextual information on the lead or customer.

Collaborate

Viva Sales makes it easier than ever to collaborate with your team on a sales prospect or customer. You don’t have to chase down information to copy/paste into a message. Use that tagging function to populate lead information from Viva Sales in seconds.

Microsoft Viva Sales Collaboration
Image courtesy of Microsoft

You can also easily edit or open a lead/customer record. No need to look for and open another app. The process gets you where you need to go in as few clicks as possible.

Call Summaries & Integrated Data

One thing that customers and salespeople hate is a lack of understanding. For example, when a salesperson doesn’t know about a recent customer interaction.

This can happen when company communication systems store data from different sources separately. Such as phone call messages being in one place and a customer’s website chat session being in another.

Viva Sales brings all that customer engagement data together into a single view. This allows the salesperson to see call summaries and capture call action items.

Download & Customize

Salespeople that prefer an Excel view of their contact list can get this from Viva Sales. Download lead and customer lists. Customize the application per the organization’s needs.

When Will Viva Sales Be Available?

Microsoft has announced that Viva Sales will be “coming in Q4 2022.” There is no exact date for the launch yet, but you can be sure that we will keep an eye on this!

In the meantime, you can watch a video explaining the application on Microsoft’s site here.

Take Advantage of Microsoft Viva Automation

Microsoft built the Viva suite of digital experience apps for productivity. These apps help employees find information faster, feel more connected, and work more productively.

Now is the perfect time to explore those that have already launched and get ready for Viva Sales.

Contact Firewell Technology Solutions today for a free consultation to improve your team’s digital experience.

 


Featured Image Credit

This Article, adapted, has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

Lead Your Business More Effectively by Implementing Unified Communications

 

Unified communications are a go-to solution for business owners looking to streamline their businesses and increase employee productivity in the long term. See how it benefits your business.

Providing high-quality communication channels is crucial for any company. After all, it promotes cross-department collaboration and faster exchange of ideas. Since phones often don’t suffice for this, many business owners turn to unified communications.

But what exactly is unified communication?

In this article, Firewell Technology Solutions explains exactly what unified communications are. Read on to discover the main concepts of this approach and how you can use it to help your business achieve success.

What Is Unified Communications?

Unified communications is an all-in-one platform that unifies phone, video, screen sharing, and chat into a single space. It’s a ready-to-use system that allows for seamless communication in numerous ways.

The system operates in the cloud, making it easily accessible to all team members with access to the Internet.

But why should anyone consider switching to unified communications?

There are several reasons, but this is the most crucial: 

Business leaders who adopt it would be able to impact their business every day and make it seamless for employees to interact with each other.

That said, we’ll list 5 of the key features of this concept to help you better understand how it can help you scale your business.

The 5 Features

Feature #1. Mobility

When connected to unified communications, all employees can stay connected at all times and from all locations. It doesn’t matter whether they’re working from home, vacationing on a remote island, or sitting in the office. They’ll still be able to chat, receive calls, and more.

Feature #2. Unified Messaging

This allows employees to handle different message types using a single tool. They can easily switch communication modes, depending on their needs.

Feature #3. Conferencing 

Whenever you need conferencing tools, you’ll have them in the palm of your hand. You can allow a group of teammates or customers from outside your organization to connect and speak via video or audio from different locations.

Feature #4. Fax Support

Faxes received through unified communications appear as email attachments. This way, users can also receive faxes on their desktops and smartphones.

Feature #5. Presence

This feature lets other users know each other’s status. That means you’ll be able to see when someone is online (Active), busy (Do Not Disturb), or away (Out of the Office).

How Unified Communications Help Business Leaders

So, what are the benefits of using unified communications in your business? 

Let’s explore 6 of them below.

Benefit #1: Higher Team Productivity

Particularly during this time of evolving remote and hybrid work environments, it’s important for business owners to boost their team’s workflow and eliminate bottlenecks. Because once they do so, productivity will dramatically improve.

This can be done thanks to unified communications.

This type of communication makes it easier for team members to save time on various tasks, including:

  • Faster file sharing that gets rid of email threads for teamwork
  • Ability to receive calls from any location
  • Ability to receive voicemails and faxes directly in the email
  • Single-click video meetings for emergencies

Teams with access to such technologies can be more effective and get more tasks done in a single day. It also helps get rid of communication challenges.

Benefit #2: Lower Communication Costs

Legacy phones and on-site communication tools often cost more than your IT budget should allow.

On the other hand, unified communication relies on the Internet for all its activities. This means your phone system turns to Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and integrates with the rest of the tools. This approach eliminates the need for server and hardware infrastructure procurement and maintenance.

Unified communications also make it super easy to add new users. You can simply do so via an easy-to-use dashboard without having to make service calls.

Finally, the cost of unified communications is the same every month. There won’t be any surprises to your budget.

Benefit #3: Enhanced Customer Service with Unified Communications

Whether or not a company is successful greatly depends on the quality of its customer service.

With unified communications, your employees can provide great customer service easier because they can respond to client queries regardless of their location—all chats, incoming calls, and emails are visible from any device.

You can also integrate all your CRM software on the platform for added benefits.

For example, when a person contacts your business, the person in charge can see all the necessary information and notes related to that client. In the end, they can help them solve issues faster.

Benefit #4: Empowering a Remote Workforce

Thousands of companies have switched to remote work over the past few years. There are plenty of benefits to this approach after all.

However, a constant concern here is ensuring that remote workers have all the tools they need for work.

Thanks to unified communications, all communication aspects are included in a single platform. This means that all your remote worker needs is a stable internet connection to get access to your network and all the features, just like the rest of the team.

Benefit #5: Increasing Organizational Agility

When you increase your team’s productivity, the same follows for the entire organization. The organizational agility reflects the strategic value of unified communications. And the results you achieve impact your business as a whole.

So, to see how this approach benefits your work, you must view unified communications from the management side as well.

Sure, communication has a utilitarian role for management. But when that communication drives productivity, streamlines workflow, and leads to enhanced business outcomes, it’s where you really get to see its value.

Benefit #6: Enhanced Security

The security aspect is crucial for every business. And unified communications enhance the security of a business by integrating all applications into a single platform.

As a result, it becomes straightforward for the IT team to apply specific security policies across all apps. It’s also easier for them to manage security patches and compliance updates since all applications share the same protocols.

Realizing the Power of Unified Communications 

Streamlining the processes inside an organization is extremely important in improving the overall performance of its employees. And unified communications allow you to do just that.

With it, you can boost your customer experience and make your team more efficient by integrating your whole communications system into a single platform.

Unified communications will let you and your team make calls, host conferences, send emails, receive faxes, and chat from a single, unified space to make your job (and life) easier.

If you’d like to learn more about implementing unified communications in your business, we’d be happy to help. Firewell Technology Solutions proudly partners with 8×8, a service leader in the Gartner magic quadrant for unified communications. Partnered with 8×8, Firewell Technology Solutions provides VoIP and unified communications in Visalia and Fresno. Reach out to us and we can have a 10-15-minute non-salesy chat to discuss this topic further.

 


Featured Image Credit

This Article, adapted, has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

What Is an MSP (And How to Choose the Right One for Your Business)

Managing data and IT solutions in-house can be challenging and expensive. That’s why many organizations turn to MSPs.

Digitalization has forced businesses to alter their operations and make IT a huge part of their day-to-day affairs. Still, some owners can’t cope with the change effectively, so they hire a Managed Service Provider, or MSP, to take care of the work.

But what exactly is an MSP? 

Simply put, this is a third-party company you can collaborate with to help manage parts of your business, such as your IT or cloud needs. It provides technology and expertise to boost your organization’s stability and scalability.

Working with Managed IT Service Providers like Firewell Technology Solutions can have tremendous benefits for your enterprise.

For instance, our deep understanding of cutting-edge technology can help you improve performance, operations, and security while reducing overhead. In addition, they can offer several creative solutions to help you navigate the evolving landscape of the big data world.

But the strongest suit of any MSP is usually their ability to deliver tailor-made solutions that fit your company perfectly.

Their expertise allows them to analyze your business thoroughly and render their services according to your strengths and weaknesses. Plus, they consider the regulatory environment and compliance of your operation to safeguard against legal issues.

Another great thing about MSPs is that they can support your business even after hours.

They offer support measures and staff to maintain and protect your organization 24/7. MSPs can even tap into your system to resolve issues and deploy updates without going to your office using remote technology.

Overall, MSPs can help take your company to the next level. However, you can’t work with just any service provider. You need to select the right team for your enterprise, and this article will show you how.

Choosing an MSP – What to Look For

Hiring an MSP shouldn’t be a hasty decision. Instead, you want to take a variety of factors into account.

Here are six important factors to keep in mind: 

Factor #1: The MSP’s Track Record

Prospective MSPs should provide success stories to demonstrate they’re suitable for your business. You can also look for testimonials, references, and endorsements. These will help you determine if the team has been operating for a while and if their reputation is solid.

Working with a reputable MSP can give you peace of mind with the knowledge that your system will be appropriately managed. Moreover, you’ll feel confident that the MSP will do all in its power to preserve its name.

The MSP’s success hinges on yours in some respects, which is why they’ll view you as a valuable partner.

Factor #2: The Range of Managed Services the MSP Provides

MSPs offer a variety of services. Some teams are full-service companies, meaning they address your cloud and IT needs comprehensively. In contrast, others may help you with different pieces of your tech puzzle.

Therefore, consider your needs carefully and ensure your MSP can meet them.

Regardless of your service package, the MSP needs to keep up with the latest technology trends. Otherwise, numerous security issues may compromise your company and allow the competition to prevail over you.

Factor #3: Support

As previously indicated, MSPs can work round the clock to ensure your business is compliant and maintained adequately. However, they should also increase their support quickly and adjust staff schedules as your company grows.

That’s why you should consider an MSP that offers training for your employees.

It lets them understand the necessary changes and encourages them to train other team members as they join your business. But if your employees are too busy, you can instruct the MSP to carry out all the training.

Factor #4: Response Time

Your network can go down for any number of reasons, preventing your employees from working and your clients from reaching you. This situation can even cripple your reputation, customer base, and revenue. In the worst-case scenario, it can even make you shut down your business.

Fortunately, a high-quality MSP can help you avoid this scenario. They can identify threats to your system and neutralize them before hurting your company.

Moreover, if an incident takes place, they should respond immediately. They need to mitigate the risks as soon as possible to keep your organization from crumbling. Be sure to ask your prospective MSP what their guaranteed initial response times are.

Factor #5: Security and Backup

One of the most important duties your MSP should perform is to shield your data from cyberattacks. This is critical to protecting your company and customers. Besides, safe data storage might be mandatory in your industry, which is why your IT department could use all the help they can get.

Once you work with an MSP, they should recommend robust security solutions and endpoint protection to combat harmful software. And throughout their engagement, they should consider compliance to help prevent legal issues.

Another major part of their mission should be the implementation of backup software. It enables you to retrieve your data in case of a breach. Such implementation may involve automation, a restoration plan, and a no-downtime policy.

With a failproof backup and security strategy in place, you should be able to run your company more confidently. The risk of downtime will be drastically lower, allowing you to operate smoothly, maintain high sales, retain customers, and preserve your brand.

Factor #6: Guidance on Workflow Options

Your MSP shouldn’t just deal with cybersecurity – they should also suggest adopting the best practices across the entire tech landscape.

For example, they should advise you on various CRM solutions and project management applications. They should also help you revamp your approach to workflow and data to create efficiency in all departments.

The fact is, partnering with an MSP yields amazing results through a relationship centered on guidance. Your team can work faster, collaborate in real-time, and be more tech-savvy. In fact, savvy IT service providers like Firewell Technology Solutions realize that business stability and growth are two-way streets: we all do better when we all do better!

Recruit Your MSP Carefully

While price is important when selecting an MSP, it pales in comparison to all the factors listed above. Be sure they’re a perfect fit for your enterprise, even if you need to pay more.

With high expertise, customized services, and an understanding of threats, a reputable team can help you stay ahead of your competitors.

If you need more assistance choosing your MSP, get in touch with our experienced team. Let’s schedule a quick 15-minute chat and figure out the ideal MSP for your company.

 


Featured Image Credit

This Article, adapted, has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

Why Having a Continuity Plan Is a Sign of Great Leadership (And How to Create a Foolproof Plan)

 

Your business faces all sorts of threats that can disrupt your operations. A comprehensive continuity plan can help address them. 

Carrying on with business as usual is easy when nothing out of the ordinary is happening. But the fact is, crises can strike anytime. And when it happens, you need to be ready to pivot your operations quickly, safely, and efficiently. This is why Firewell Technology Solutions recommends having a robust business continuity plan in place. 

It prepares you for the worst, such as market nosedives and governments shutting down entire countries. And in these cases, your plan allows you to embrace remote work, enabling you to keep functioning and servicing your clients. It also lets you support your team at home and make them feel comfortable through various predicaments. 

These are just some of the key benefits that a business continuity plan can bring to your business. This article will delve deeper into its significance and explain how to create one for your company. 

Why Your Business Needs a Continuity Plan

A business continuity plan details a process that your company should take to neutralize and recover from different threats. It can also help protect your business’s assets and personnel during disasters, allowing them to function uninterruptedly. 

Business continuity plans are usually developed as part of a company’s overall risk management. This means you should consider creating this plan ahead of time, not in the middle of a crisis. 

The most significant benefit of creating a business continuity plan is that it provides a clear picture of how to proceed should those threats happen. It also tells you how those circumstances can impact your operations and how to implement procedures to mitigate them. Furthermore, it helps you check if the systems work and are up to date. 

Another tremendous advantage of having a continuity plan is its ability to ensure secure and continued access to your systems. It dictates how your team and IT service provider can reach critical platforms, the available bandwidth, and whether you need to boost their network capacity. 

The overall effect can be a reduced risk of losing your business and team members. 

It can safeguard against financial loss, lost productivity, and a damaged reputation. On top of that, it helps protect your employees from injuries or death in case of threats. 

But what specific threats can you address with a continuity plan? 

Here’s a quick list:

Threat #1: Pandemics

As you’ve no doubt experienced, pandemics can affect your business plans in numerous ways. 

For example, they can force your employees to work from home, increasing demand for some services, and reducing demand for others. Moreover, they can prevent you from distributing your offerings due to supply chain problems. 

A business continuity plan can help you overcome these bumpy periods. 

It formulates how your team will communicate throughout the period and perform business off-site. And it can also provide several options in terms of service distribution.

Threat #2: Natural Disasters

Natural disasters are extreme geographic phenomena, including tornados, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, wildfires, and earthquakes. They’re tricky because they’re hard to predict and can leave disastrous consequences within seconds. 

Like global pandemics, they can disrupt the supply chain in affected areas, which is why you need a business continuity plan.

Threat #3: Utility Outages

Water shutoffs and loss of communication lines or power can hinder your daily operations. It’s especially true if such outages are predicted to last long. 

Without a continuity plan, the risk of asset damage and productivity loss is drastically higher.

Threat #4: Cybersecurity

Cyberattacks are computer-based attacks on your technical assets. The most common examples include data theft, ransomware, distributed denial of service, and SQL injections. 

In the best-case scenario, your infrastructure will function less efficiently until you resolve the issue. But in the worst-case scenario, you could lose access to all business data.

Create the Best Continuity Plan for Your Business

Developing a foolproof continuity plan requires a systematic approach. Here’s what your strategy should involve: 

#1. Identifying Goals for Continuity

Business continuity doesn’t just comprise your IT systems. It encompasses all essential business functions, like public relations, human resources, and operations.

Since your company is unique, you’ll need to create a plan according to your specific goals.

So, determine the most important processes and figure out how to back them up with recovery strategies.

#2. Setting up an Emergency Continuity Preparedness Group

Choose several cross-functional managers and anyone else who can contribute to the plan, such as your IT service provider.

Determine the emergency response leader and make it clear they’re in charge of moving things forward when disaster strikes.

#3. Business Impact Analysis and Risk Assessment

Identify, research, and analyze your potential threats thoroughly. Discuss them with your team and see what would happen if you had to reduce, eliminate, or modify certain services.

Make sure to document all issues along the way.

#4. Focusing on Continuity for Customer Service

Your clients need empathy and transparency during crises. And the only way to meet their expectations in such trying times is to ensure your customer support team understands your continuity plan.

If necessary, hire more people to answer client inquiries.

#5. Addressing Business Function

Your plan should incorporate critical business functions. These include business risk, impact on customers and employees, emergency policy creating, community partners or external organizations, and financial resources during disasters.

This is vital to ensure business operations are functioning asap.

#6. Staff Training and Plan Updates 

Present your continuity plan to stakeholders and promote a proactive approach through trial runs to verify the plan works. This way, you can pinpoint any weaknesses or missing aspects. Then, based on your findings and feedback, train your staff to make the implementation smoother.

Following this tactic doesn’t leave much room for error.

Besides helping you maintain business operations and the supply chain, it also builds customer confidence. If your response to emergencies is effective, your customers will appreciate it. This allows you to preserve your brand, prevail over your competition, and mitigate financial loss.

Don’t Let Crises Cripple Your Business 

Disasters happen even in Fresno and Visalia, and they can be the ultimate test of your leadership abilities.

That’s why Firewell Technology Solutions believes that instead of leaving your company to chance, you should create an in-depth business continuity plan before emergencies arise. Make sure everyone is on the same page, and you’ll be able to come out stronger after any predicament.

If you need more insights into developing a continuity plan, get in touch with us today. Let’s set up a 10-15-minute chat to determine your goals and how to achieve them.

 


Featured Image Credit

This Article, adapted, has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.