Author: Casey Houser
Posted on June 12, 2020 by Casey Houser
For a quick update on the state of our Video Calling beta test, our COO, Lon Baker, provided some insight about what’s been going on behind the scenes.
Foremost, Baker expressed his excitement about the impact that video will have on VirtualPBX in the years to come.
“I know this is cliché,” he said, “but it’s my belief that video will start a new era for the company. This is such a big jump forward for us regarding our capability. It marks our departure into unified communications where we’ll have voice, video, and soon SMS texting for all our customers.”
“I’m excited to see this come to pass. The work I’m completing with our remote team is moving quickly and showing what we’ll be able to offer users of video and voice in a range of calling environments.”
The Testing Process
Baker and several other developers at VirtualPBX are all working from remote workspaces to test video calling on a number of devices. They have thoroughly tested a range of Yealink desk phones, including the Yealink T5 series, to which Baker said “they are working great.”
Additionally, the team has full video functionality on the VirtualPBX Desktop Softphone and hopes to finish testing the VirtualPBX Softphone App for mobile devices soon.
The Video Calling beta test is benefiting from a testing procedure that includes calls on specific devices for upwards of an hour. Lon’s remote testing team experiments with video-to-video calls, video-to-voice calls, and groups calls that include video and non-video participants.
“This lets us know that all our customers will be able to continue to benefit from conference calls,” Baker said.
Audio Conferencing functionality is available for all users of all VirtualPBX Phone Plans. Video Calling will add to that capability and allow a mix of participants to participate in group calls, whether or not they choose to use video.
VirtualPBX Web Phone
Baker said he wants Video Calling to be available to every customer that wants to use it – regardless of their ownership of a high-end desk phone. Although VirtualPBX plans to support video capability on all devices capable of working with a VirtualPBX Phone Plan, we know that not all customers begin their plans with devices in hand. This is where the VirtualPBX Web Phone comes into play.
The VirtualPBX Web Phone is offered to every customer, free of charge. It runs in modern web browsers like Chrome and Firefox, and it work with all the features available in VirtualPBX Plans.
“Adding Video Calling capability to the Web Phone is extremely important,” Baker said. “This addition will allow all customers to complete video calls.
“We own the entire technology stack for the Web Phone, which is exciting because it means we can build it as we see fit. We’re working with open standards like WebRTC to solve the issue of device compatibility and make video accessible to everyone.”
Since modern web browsers run on most operating systems and devices – computers and smartphones with Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, or Android – and because the VirtualPBX Web Phone runs on those browsers, VirtualPBX is addressing the issue of cross-compatibility. Every user can rely on the Web Phone being accessible on any device they own.
“This removes headaches for us and for our customers,” Baker continued. “WebRTC is a mature standard. It has worked well for our existing version of the Web Phone, and for video, we’re confident that our customers will be happy with that performance as well.”
Ongoing Video Calling Beta Testing
Lon and our other developers are excited to continue working through testing various devices and to send information back to our partners. They have made patches to existing code bases to make video a reality for VirtualPBX, and this has allowed them to send those same fixes to our partners that help develop products like the VirtualPBX Softphone.
This process will continue as the development team addresses more devices and begins working with our beta test customers to troubleshoot specific issues those early adopters may find.
Further updates to the Video Calling beta test will be revealed here in our blog and on our Video Calling page. Visit that page today to sign up for the beta test and gain early access to this feature. Your participation and feedback will be invaluable as the development process moves forward.
Posted on June 9, 2020 by Casey Houser
Today’s guest post was written by Ashley Lipman of Outreach Mama, a link and authority building agency.
Word-of-mouth marketing is evolving into world-of-mouth marketing. As more businesses move online, having recommendations and reviews is more important than ever for building customer trust. Over half of B2B purchasing decision-makers rely on reviews as a source of credible information.
What does this mean for modern businesses? Building trust requires a multi-faceted approach. Here are five tips for getting online reviews and building customer trust for B2B organizations.
Become a Reliable Industry Expert
Making your name synonymous with knowledge is a must in the modern business world. Positioning your brand as a reliable source of information will do wonders for building your audience and establishing trust. Take Niel Patel, for example. He’s been involved with numerous digital marketing brands, from QuickSprout to Crazy Egg. Yet it’s his name that stands out as an industry expert and leader.
Consider how you can position your business in this way. Share great content and cultivate a giving attitude when sharing information with your audience. Share your insights and start a conversation. Build customer trust by showcasing your passion for your industry and prove that your business will be around for years to come.
Create a Review Collection Funnel
Most businesses make the mistake of viewing reviews as a passive form of marketing. You provide a service, and someone will leave a review. However, to capitalize on this opportunity, you need to have an active procurement strategy in place. In other words, you need to create a review collection funnel.
A review collection funnel will outline when and how you reach out to clients for reviews. Outline a strategy for following up with customers, asking for reviews, and tracking your reviews over time. This strategy should also include how you’ll respond to positive reviews and address negative feedback. Remember, a negative review is an opportunity to change their minds.
Offer Exceptional Proactive Customer Service
One of the challenges with offering services in the digital era is that you could be facing competition on a global scale. There will be numerous other businesses offering the same product as you. Fortunately, businesses don’t purchase products; they are buying customer service.
Offering exceptional, proactive service is what will set you apart from the competition. Showing each customer how much you care about their success is a foolproof way to build customer trust and receive glowing reviews and testimonials. Don’t wait for your customer to come to you with a problem; reach out and offer solutions before a problem arises while adding a human touch.
Showcase Case Studies
Case studies are an excellent form of customer proof. They go beyond a positive review from a B2B customer and outline the experience and the results. For decision-makers, a case study provides quantifiable evidence of how your product or service has helped similar businesses.
Discuss your intentions with your most successful clients to request the use of their experience for a case study. If you’re just starting your business, offering a deep discount in return for sharing their progress is a fantastic way to build your reputation.
Offer Trials and Guarantees
One of the biggest barriers for online clothing shopping was the inability to try something on before buying. What if a consumer purchased a shirt and it didn’t fit? For many people, the perceived risk outweighed the reward. The solution, of course, was to create return policies that suited the new purchasing format.
Keep this in mind when positioning your products or services. Consider how you can create a “try before you buy” environment. For service-based businesses, having a free trial is a must. This approach allows your B2B customers the opportunity to evaluate your offering before committing. Having a money-back guarantee is also an effective way to build trust and reassurance when investing in your offering.
With these five tips, you can garner positive reviews and build customer trust with your B2B customers.
Posted on June 4, 2020 by Casey Houser
We’re now six months into the global spread of COVID-19. It has caused dramatic loss of life and an altering of the economy most people have never seen before.
In order to keep employees safe, many businesses have adjusted their work practices to include telecommuting. We put out a call to all interested businesses to share their working from home tips for success. Now, after sorting the overwhelming response we received, we’d like to share their experiences with you.
We hope you can find some wisdom here from the wide range of businesses we had the pleasure of getting to know.
Generalized Advice and Experiences
Several of our respondents talked about their company’s experiences and the manner in which they have used various online tools to go remote. Their shared stories highlight what a lot of us are seeing in our own workplace situations, and they mark the need for both cooperation and community in the workplace.
Chat Software in a Sea of Challenges
Robert Moses, founder of The Corporate Con/noisseur spelled out what it seems that a majority of businesses are facing. Moses said The Corporate Con/noisseur has offices in Atlanta, Raleigh, and New York city and that all employees in all offices transitioned to home work beginning in March.
“This shift was, initially, difficult on all of us and required both patience and understanding from the top down,” Moses said.
“Initially, before the pandemic, many of our internal communications occurred via face-to-face meetings between centralized teams,” Moses continued, noting that the Slack communications platform helped pull all the remote workers together so they could be productive. The company has used Slack extensively, and within its talks to “dramatically reduce meetings and the number of emails sent,” other project management software has been considered.
Moses called The Corporate Con/noisseur stronger and more resilient as a result of dealing with this restructuring of everyday work.
Repurposing Online Chat Software
Steve Johnson, a developer at Too Much Tina Marketing also noted that Slack has become an important tool in keeping the team connected. What’s unique here is that the chat service has been extended into a conduit for data archiving.
“Each of us have created a personalized Slack forwarding e-mail address and set it up as a new contact in our phones,” Johnson said. “This allows each of us to forward e-mails, texts, URLs, screen shots, and other pieces of content into Slack where it can be shared, discussed, tasked, and archived for future reference.”
Johnson also noted that the Too Much Tina Marketing team has invited clients to participate within Slack. Their clients have found it useful for communications about business matters. Moreover, Johnson said, the Too Much Tina employees have tried to make Slack a fun and inviting place, which has urged clients to try Slack that were initially hesitant to adopt another piece of software.
Relying on Voice and Video
In some cases, businesses have actually stepped away from text-based chat platforms in order to keep their operations running smoothly. The work from home tips for success from Dan Edmonson, founder and CEO of Dronegenuity, included call-outs for phone calls and video-based chat because, in Edmonson’s words, “allowed us to experience the benefits of in-person interaction.”
Edmonson noted that Dronegenuity had previous experience with remote work, so the transition to remote work for the entire staff wasn’t overwhelming. However, team members were accustomed to weekly meetings in a co-working center so everyone could stay on track. Because of this, Edmonson continued, “a remote working environment has required our team to focus on communication methods that closely resemble the feeling of in-person communication.”
Making Real Life Virtual
This type of experience that mimics in-person meetings also takes place for Leo Young, a realtor for Coldwell Banker who said that interactions with prospective homeowners have gone virtual.
“Where possible,” Young said, “we conduct business remotely, such as with virtual showings instead of in-person showings, virtual home inspections instead of in-person home inspections, and digital closings instead of in-person closings.”
Young commented that all the realtors in his area have been “very understanding to accommodate and reduce physical interaction.”
Prioritizing Company Culture
Sean Nguyen, a director at Internet Advisor, told VirtualPBX that a special video chat session was created to keep morale high among the changing work culture.
“I feel like it’s my job to ensure that I keep the team spirit alive,” Nguyen said, “so I’ve set up a daily ‘social’ video call, in addition to whatever ones we have for work purposes. It’s helped us tremendously. It’s a time that we set aside for us to just chat, see each other, catch up, talk about our families, etc.”
Nguyen noted that this daily video call has helped keep the company culture alive. It’s allowed the Internet Advisor team to stay connected in a way that’s not specifically tied to work tasks, hopefully “coming out the other side an even stronger team than we were before.”
Tips, Tricks, and Statistics
Other respondents were more forthcoming about their working from home tips for success and the statistics associated with their transition to remote work.
Maintaining Mental Health
Sunny Ashley, founder and CEO of Autoshopinvoice, spoke about the reality of maintaining a balanced life when working from home.
“Working from home blurs the line between your professional and personal life,” Ashley said. “It doesn’t allow your mind to have a clean break between working hours and after-work hours.”
To combat the blending of home and work, Ashley recommended creating a sustainable schedule and creating physical boundaries between those places. This can manifest in the creation of a schedule that works for you, including finding a “productivity sweet spot” when you know you’re best at tackling important tasks. Checking email, responding to messages, and other less cognition-intensive tasks can be saved for a time outside that zone.
Physical zoning can be created by setting aside a space for your work – no matter how simple.
“Dedicate one chair, table, or room in your house purely for working,” Ashley said. “Your mind will begin to build a habit of associating the furniture or space with work. When you get up to do something else, it’ll be easier to adjust back into home life.”
Tyler Brooks of JAM Paper & Envelope recommended bringing the traditional workplace into the home office by way of familiarity.
“Put on some music or a podcast, whatever you normally listen to while at work at the office,” Brooks added. “This is also a really great method of getting into the head space to complete your daily work tasks as normal.”
For some businesses, it’s important to keep a close eye on the tasks at hand. Tom De Spiegelaere, founder of Tom Spicky says use of Time Doctor software helps track employee productivity.
“Through the software,” Spiegelaere reported, “I’m able to know a few things – how much time an employee spends on each task, whether an employee is visiting any unproductive sites like social media, and whether the employee is really working at the time.”
Importantly, a heavy dose of disclose comes along with this activity tracking.
“I tell my employees that we’re using the software to monitor their productivity,” Spiegelaere concluded. “I believe it’s important to be explicit in the matter.”
Jane Flanagan, the lead project engineer at Tacuna Systems, also advocated for the use of Time Doctor, noting that login and logout times can be recorded and that time stamps can be associated with specific tasks.
More than that, Tacuna employees are expected to meet short-term goals throughout their work weeks.
“Working from home should not mean ‘anything goes,’ so we set up rules and guidelines concerning time, work hours, work to be done, communication, conduct, and others,” Flanagan said about Tacuna’s structure.
A More Hands-Off Approach
Although strict time tracking might work well in some offices, it isn’t the path forward for every company. Michael Lowe, Car Passionate said his employees are allowed to adjust their schedules to fit their own preferences. There’s only one overarching goal: work must be completed on time.
“All staff have the ability to work when they want as long as the work gets done,” Lowe said. “Easy. Right?”
Lowe noted that work-life balance has always been a high priority for Car Passionate. The company’s switch to remote work has brought in new ways to keep the balance intact, such as virtual meetings through Zoom, quiz nights, and online game competitions.
At Car Passionate, video chat helps the team stay connected. Email, Lowe pointed out, is the company’s primary method of communicating about projects and workloads.
Take Advantage of the Small Things
One of the working from home tips for success from SEO manager Jen Penaluna is to find simple ways to access important information. At Bigfoot Digital, Penaluna called out trust and transparency is key elements to a successful remote work atmosphere.
Bigfoot Digital uses the team collaboration platform Team Huddle, and Penaluna noted a specific feature of that software that helps identify the mood of any associate.
“The added bonus of using Team Huddle for team management,” Penaluna said, “is that each team member can add an emoji to their check in, so I know who’s happy or who’s stressed and can help out accordingly.”
Emojis can range from the serious to the silly. Their inclusion in a remote work atmosphere, however, may see their power of emotion identification come into play in a productive way.
Less Can Be More
Don’t be afraid to communicate less if it suits your business. Several companies listed here have shared their desire for increased communication through a number of audiovisual platforms, but that type of path isn’t always a great fit.
“Though most experts say you should communicate more, I say to use caution,” said Tim Reitsma, the co-founder of People Managing People.
Reitsma, who has more than 10 years business consulting experience, reported that his employees have found a lot of creativity in the content they have created from home – possibly as a result from the company’s limited connection requirements.
“Employees can quickly get disengaged if their Slack messages are blowing up with irrelevant messages all day long,” Reitsma said. “We only send Slack messages and have Zoom video calls when it’s absolutely necessary.”
Challenge Your Operations Model
Tiffany Bradshaw, a wine educator and executive director for Boisset Wine Collection, had to change the fundamental manner in which their business was conducted.
“I am a wine educator who does wine tastings through Airbnb experiences,” Bradshaw said. This would include samples of wine for participants who, because they will be trying multiple types of wine in a sitting, won’t need a full bottle for any one type.
The need for isolation during coronavirus, however, made it so in-person wine tastings were out of the question. Bradshaw had to begin completing wine tastings virtually.
“It’s obviously much more difficult when people have to buy huge bottles of wine in advance as opposed to just having a 1 ounce pour of each wine,” Bradshaw said. The obstacle has not stopped the operation, though. Now Bradshaw is challenging the core nature of the wine tasting process, using video calls as the important link between business and customer.
Take Advantage of Market Needs
Big businesses aren’t the only ones that have a need to go remote. Freelancers have been affected just as much, either through working from home rather than a co-working space or by dealing with other companies that have begun remote work.
Freelance writer John Boitnott spoke about how his personal circumstances haven’t changed much in the past few months.
“I’m one of the fortunate ones, I think,” Boitnott said. “I’ve been working from home primarily since 2013 so not too much has changed for me.”
What has held his freelancing career stable in this time, and what has kept him connected to clients, is the common need for written content.
“Most companies recognize how vital content is to their business and want to keep their strategy in place. The truth is, content is so important in terms of search engine ranking and lead generation that very few can afford to limit it as a part of their ongoing strategies.”
See what you can rely on in your business’s market to help provide stability in your own work.
Consider Your Working From Home Tips for Success
What is it that helps your business succeed in this time of remote work?
If you’re finding success, that’s great. But if there’s still improvement to be made, we hope that the reflections offered by these business have given you some food for thought.
For further reading, check out our profile of two VirtualPBX staff members who share their working from home tips for success as mothers of young children.
Posted on June 2, 2020 by Casey Houser
VirtualPBX is reaching beyond voice-only capability with its first Video Conferencing beta test.
This beta test allows our participating VirtualPBX Phone Plan customers to conduct 1:1 video chats on a range of devices. Customers will be able to use their existing phone numbers, so there’s no additional setup required for anyone to get started.
Feedback during this process will be essential for building out the capability of our video service. We intend to support all video-capable devices that would normally work with our Phone Plans – including our own VirtualPBX Web Phone that’s offered to all customers regardless of plan type. Video capability will also expand to allow group conferences so entire teams can join multimedia meetings.
Supported Devices in Beta
Our initial device support during this Video Conferencing beta test includes these desk phones and software-based phones:
- VirtualPBX Softphone
- Yealink T5 Series desk phones
- Linphone 3rd-party softphone
- Bria 3rd-party softphone
Coming soon, we will also add video capability to our Web Phone. This will allow customers to hold video-based conversations on their laptops or smartphones through the Chrome and Firefox web browsers.
Our team is currently testing a number of other desk phones and software applications for video capability. As they are approved, devices will be cleared for use during the beta test.
Stay Tuned for Group Chat
Initial video conversations for our Video Conferencing beta test will be between only two participants. All VirtualPBX Phone Plan numbers are capable of completing video calls, so when the system is ready for group chat, participants will be able to complete larger calls in the same manner as 1:1 calls.
Group chat will arrive soon as we continue to test and refine our video feature. We will rely on customer feedback during this process to judge the quality of video transmissions as we transition from 1:1 to 1:many. Eventually, entire departments will be able to speak to one another between a range of different devices.
Start 1:1 Video Today
Interested participants can learn more and sign up for our Video Conferencing beta test at this link. Both existing customers and new customers are eligible to join.
If you don’t yet use a VirtualPBX Phone Plan, we’d be happy to speak to you about which plan best fits your business. Talk to us today about getting started, and mention Video Conferencing if it’s a feature you’re excited to use at your business.
Posted on May 27, 2020 by Casey Houser
One of the more understated features of our Advanced Call Reports software is its ability to deliver call center metrics to your email inbox.
Within Advanced Call Reports, you can create as many reports as you need in order to analyze your KPIs associated with inbound and outbound calls. How you then retrieve those reports is up to you – either on-demand through your dashboard or through your email.
The benefit of automatic delivery to your inbox is that can be faster than on-demand pickup and it can keep you on schedule throughout the busy workday. Let’s explore those ideas a little.
Consolidation of Activities
You probably check your email every morning and spend at least 10 minutes sifting through new messages. As a call center manager or team leader, your email keeps you connected with company departments and with the broader world of business through subscriptions to various services.
What if your call center metrics could become one of those services?
It’s easy to make that a reality. Creating a schedule within Advanced Call Reports requires only that you create a report and know when you need to see it. It’s as simple as selecting the Create Schedule button, choosing the Report you want to see, and marking its recurrence (daily, weekly, monthly…) and time of day when you want it delivered.
Emails with call center metrics then arrive when you need them. Taking a few minutes here saves you the need to sign in to Advanced Call Reports on your daily, weekly, or monthly basis. It consolidates the locations you need to visit to gain the same information, which is an excellent advantage to anyone with a large to-do list.
Keeping You on Time
The automatic delivery of call center metrics like Calls by Ring Time or ACD Queues Pro Agent Status also offers a secondary benefit: it keeps you on schedule.
Most of us, from time to time, slip up and forget about that weekly meeting or quarterly analytics overview. When that happens, it’s often a quick scramble to attend the meeting or cobble a report together. What if you could save yourself from yourself?
Properly spaced report deliveries can remind you about your appointments by association. Your Monday-morning email of “Sales Dept. Weekly” can immediately prep you for the morning meeting with that department. A “Company Metrics” report delivered a week before your quarterly presentation will keep your managers’ meeting in the forefront of your mind.
You will be reminded of upcoming events and shown the necessary business metrics you need to make each meeting a success.
Keep Your Call Center Metrics in Order
Our Advanced and Enterprise Phone Plans give you access to Advanced Call Reports among a host of other included features like ACD Queues Pro, Call Recording, and External Storage to Amazon AWS.
We’re available 24/7 to discuss how VirtualPBX Phone Plans can meet your needs and to show you how Advanced Call Reports fits into your business. Start a discussion today to see how we can keep your call center metrics organized and fit alongside your busy schedule.