Author: Dan Quick
Posted on December 12, 2017 by Dan Quick
If you haven’t heard by now, California has been experiencing some of the most destructive wildfires in years. Recently, right to the north of our corporate headquarters in Silicon Valley, the Napa and Sonoma County fires raged right through the downtowns of several neighboring cities and has left thousands of displaced workers still without a clear path back to normalcy. Now, to the north of California’s largest city, Los Angeles, the Santa Barbara fires are causing even more destruction at a record-setting pace. The largest of those blazes, the Thomas Fire, is just over the weekend now the fifth largest wildfire in California’s modern history. This unsettling trend of increased climate instability and the fallout from it on California and the world as a whole is obviously a large topic to address. There is one facet of it, however, that is something that we have a great deal of experience in addressing. Specifically, we’ve found that businesses that are able to bounce back quickly from these catastrophic events tend to all have one thing in common in that they each have a thorough Business Continuity Plan (BCP) in place well before it’s too late.
Finding a Safe Place for Displaced Workers
Getting employees and families to safety is paramount in emergency situations, and because that is such an immutable priority, there’s no time to waste discussing how to show up to work the next day. That’s why a BCP is so critical to create and practice before it’s required, so that when life is at stake employees can be unencumbered by anything that isn’t absolutely essential at the time. But when the dust settles and the smoke clears, what then? For our customers across the globe who have, unfortunately, been exposed to some of the most terrible experiences due to extreme weather, fires, earthquakes, and other emergency scenarios, they have routinely outperformed their local competitors in the aftermath because they never had to worry about how to get back to business when the time was right. A BCP covers everything from chain of command to alternate staging areas during fire drills, but for our purposes, we focus on the communication aspects of one with our hosted business telephone service.
Working as a Displaced Worker
Our hosted business telephone services are all cloud-based which means they can travel wherever you go so long as there is an internet or data connection. This means that BCP planning on communications services for our Dash customers, for example, is a foregone conclusion. Any employee on a Dash system can totally recreate their office communications system from anywhere they land following displacement during an emergency event. Because the core technology that Dash customers rely on to stay connected is never housed in their offices, but rather in our multiple secure and redundant server locations, their phones never actually go down in these situations. For other companies with an on-site PBX or older, copper-wired business telephone, they have more at stake. Those businesses will be completely shut off from their business in the event of an evacuation until the property is both safe to return to and all services have been restored. And as we’ve seen in the recent Atlantic storm season, that can be weeks or months until it happens. For these companies, there is a solution, though, and that is to employ an automatic business failover system like PBX Parachute that automatically deploys at the first sight of trouble.
Landing Safely Under a PBX Parachute
PBX Parachute acts as the cloud-based telephone systems that we described above, but because it’s designed for companies that already have an on-site telephone system, it has several unique features. First of all, because it mirrors an existing telephone system that, barring an emergency event, is otherwise working satisfactorily, the rest of the time it is lying dormant for a negligible fee. Once it is triggered by any detected outage or by a manual deployment, it then only replicates the portions of a business telephone network that the users have chosen to keep operational. For some businesses that means just a few key employees or departments, for some others, it means the whole business, and others still want it to deploy to just a prepared general statement as a recording for inbound callers telling them they are experiencing an event that will keep them from the phones for a period. Whatever the configuration a business’ BCP calls for, PBX Parachute can be customized to work as well as even the most robust hosted business telephone system.
Business Continuity Planning and emergency failover are obviously massive topics that are as diverse and unique as the companies they serve. That’s why we have our BCP experts on hand around-the-clock to help customers whenever disaster strikes. Don’t wait until you’re on hold with your own telephone company in the wee hours of the night to discuss your communications plans at work. But even if you do choose the middle of the night, we’ll be here waiting for you all the same. Get in touch today to learn more.
Posted on December 7, 2017 by Dan Quick
Following our recent addition of the all new ACD Queues on Dash, we’ve been getting some increased interest in how businesses can benefit from them. In some cases, those companies have been waiting their entire existence for the sleek and reliable call management that comes from the all-new ACD Queues on Dash, but for others, there has always existed an even more appropriate solution. Ring Groups, also commonly called Hunt Groups, are an alternative option to using a full call queue system like the ACD Queues on Dash that offer plenty of similarities and advantages for the right business over their more enterprising big brother. What else makes them attractive to some businesses is that Ring Groups are already an included feature in all Dash Basic, Pro, and Unlimited Plans. To help companies decide which departmental queue system to use for their business, we have the following comparison of the difference between ACD Queues and Hunt Groups.
What are ACD Queues and Hunt Groups?
To begin outlining the difference between ACD Queues and Hunt Groups, it’s best to make clear the basic function of each. Ultimately, businesses with a growing call volume found it was best to provide easy channels to drive inbound callers to the appropriate parties separated by their needs and the directed to the relevant departments. This is also where the term, “Departmental Queues,” comes from as queuing systems are generally divided along departmental and job-function lines. Early queuing systems provided by legacy telephone companies over copper wires required truly massive footprints to house expensive on-site hardware and were prohibitively costly for all but the wealthiest of businesses. As hosted telecom and VoIP platforms like the modern day Dash Plans began to replicate and improve on call queues, the technology began to become far more widely available to businesses. Along the way, though, and before products like the all-new ACD Queues on Dash were made available, there existed a clever alternative called Hunt Groups, or on Dash as they are still known, Ring Groups. Though the two technologies serve to answer the same general needs for businesses, they go about it differently and have their own strengths.
So What’s the Difference Between ACD Queues and Hunt Groups?
Ahh, yes, the million dollar question. Below we’ll address some of the key differentiations between Ring Groups and ACD Queues and then you should have the information you need to determine which technology is right for your business.
- Complexity The core variation between the two technologies boils down to their vastly different complexity. Ultimately, Ring Groups are just a collection of extensions that a user selects to represent any given department or queue but remain static until the admin makes any changes. ACD Queues are dynamic lists of agents that can surge and act as backfill automatically per a predetermined hierarchy that admins can adjust as calls are being received. And because business can change on a dime, this means that ACD Queues are designed to react and adjust as call volumes spike proactively, and not necessarily require that an admin make those adjustments for the system.
- Customization A simple Ring Group can be made as elaborate as the user wants, but the number of options on how to do that is relatively limited. If there is a small organization and everyone shares roughly the same tribal knowledge and autonomy to serve customers, then they all could really be included in each one of the department queues a caller can choose from. From larger organizations where the skills and knowledge base is far more specialized and segmented, the departmental (and therefore the queuing) divisions are much clearer. However, because some departments will have more insight into others than just their own, they can be assigned to serve as backups to any particular queues. For example, Accounts Payable can field calls for Accounts Receivable and vice versa and perhaps Sales will be able to pitch in if Marketing is swamped, as well.
- Management From a people management standpoint, this is where ACD Queues are head and shoulders above Ring Groups. Admins can use any number of ranking systems to assign to their agents from how skilled they are, how tenured (meaning newer trainees can be given lighter call loads), and of course their skillsets or specialties. Also, ACD Queues allow for custom wrap-up times following calls for agents to properly annotate accounts and prepare for new calls along with a host of other options that all allow for equal and even call distribution among agents. Ring Groups do not have these advanced options available.
- Distribution Combining all of the above comparisons leads to this next key differentiator. Whereas ACD Queues offer a multitude of options on how a queue’s traffic will be divided among that department’s agents, the same cannot be said for Ring Groups. Ring Groups, instead, simply ring all members of a group simultaneously until one of them answers the call. In a small office, this can be just a small consideration, but as organizations grow, they often find that the surgical assignment of individual calls to specific agents to be a more effective and efficient method of handling inbound callers.
- Mobility One good thing about both systems is that, because they each operate on the award-winning cloud-based Dash platform, they each enjoy mobility benefits like no other system. All of the respective functions, reporting, analytics, and customizations for Ring Groups and ACD Queues can be accessed and managed from the palm of one’s hand anywhere there is a data or internet connection. This type of physical freedom has opened the doors to a new breed of call center that is completely decentralized and one that accommodates the popularization of the remote workforce.
- Cost One of the other clear distinctions of Ring Groups and ACD Queues on Dash is the cost of each approach. Ring Groups are included in Dash Plans as just one of dozens of advanced features whereas ACD Queues are a premium feature not unlike Salesforce CRM or Webhooks Integrations that also come as an available option to businesses. Whichever direction a company chooses to go, however, it is abundantly clear that each of these options is wildly more flexible and affordable than anything offered by an on-site telephone option.
Get Started With Better Call Routing
Another similarity that both Ring Groups and ACD Queues on Dash have is that getting started with either is as simple as 1-2-3. In most cases, new users of Dash can be up and running and actually making and receiving phone calls in as little as 5 minutes. Simple head to the Dash Plans page, pick the one that works best for your budget, and you’re off and running. Also, we’re around 24/7 so you can always contact one of our expert Support Staff or even find on social media at our Twitter or Facebook accounts. No matter how you decide to reach out, though, we’ll be happy to help you answer any other questions you may have about the difference between ACD Queues and Hunt Groups, and which will be the right strategy for you and your business.
Posted on December 5, 2017 by Dan Quick
Success in a contact center for a business is one of the often overlooked but highly important factors to running a successful operation. Contact centers are often the nerve center for a company whereby the total sum of all customer contact is funneled to the appropriate departments. This means that everyone from a sales prospect to customer needing support and even potential media and PR contacts all can conceivably have their first impression of a company determined by a member of the contact center staff. The critical nature of creating a uniformly satisfying call experience for people reaching out to any contact center, therefore, cannot be overstated. And while there are plenty of pieces of advice on how to properly staff and train call centers, how a virtual call center can save businesses a great deal of money, and even on how to teach millennial workforces about proper phone call etiquette, there isn’t much help for businesses that are already operating a contact center and need to review its efficiency. Until now, that is. These 4 ways to review your contact center communications system address some of the biggest challenges facing call centers as well as offer suggestions on how to address them.
4 Ways to Review Your Contact Center Communications System
As we’ve mentioned, hiring and training the employees of a contact center is essential to making the most of the communications hub of a business. However, even the best, most well-trained employees are left with their hands tied if the systems they rely on are inadequate when it matters the most. That’s why these points of review are to assess the needs and abilities of a contact center communications system so that the team you invest so heavily in can always get the job done.
- Review Call Volume The number of calls a contact center receives is more than just a static number. Time of day, originating time zones, time of year, relation to promotions/advertisements, and a host of other factors all contribute to the overall call volume consideration. Tracking all of these nuances is more difficult than using a simple call count, but can be done with a modern cloud-based business telephone system that utilizes intelligent call tracking like DNIS numbers. Additionally, hosted telephone systems can provide real-time data visualizations that add insight into peak call periods over the course of a year or intraday. If these features aren’t available for free on your current plan, it may be time to shop for a new option.
- Review Call Routing Flow A frustrating or lengthy call routing experience is likely one of the most often-cited reasons for dissatisfaction by inbound callers. Receiving a lot of missed calls and voicemails? Using the right balance of Ring Groups and/or ACD Queues will streamline callers to their desired departments or parties in a way that expedites their needs and evenly utilizes all of the call center’s employees equitably and effectively.
- Review Call Queue Administrator Tools Admins are responsible for managing hundreds or even thousands of calls a day, so the tools they rely on are subjected to even higher expectations of simplicity than anything else. Being able to monitor calls, agent status, and call traffic is just the beginning. Ideally, call queue management will also include the ability to assign agent strengths, assign overflow or escalation queues before traffic volume becomes an issue, and even determine how long agents should have between calls to wrap-up notes and prepare for the next call. A modern cloud-based call center can provide call queue admins with details and functionality well above and beyond what is typically available from on-site telephone systems. Plus, being cloud-based, admins of modern contact centers can accomplish this all from the palm of their hands or from anywhere that they have an internet or data connection.
- Review Quality Assurance Procedures We’ve alluded many times to the importance of hiring and retaining the best people for your business, but using the contact center communications system is one way many companies forget to ensure those teams are the best they can be. For example, recording inbound calls for quality assurance is better than a live eavesdrop because it provides the opportunity to have agents listen to their performance with a manager or trainer. Nothing prepares a contact center employee to improve their next calls quite like the chance to hear a conversation played back to them for guidance.
Move From Internal Review to External Search
These are just some of the areas where a contact center communications strategy is desperate to perform if it’s going to keep pace with a growing business and an increasingly demanding consumer. If your business phone system doesn’t support these any of the above mentioned advanced configurations, reporting, or functionality it’s definitely time to put it through some closer scrutiny. Did you know that some businesses that switched their call center operations from a legacy, copper-wired telephone system to a cloud-based business phone saved as much as 40% on their monthly expenses? It’s true. By cutting the cords to the outdated technology that traditional phone companies rely on you do more than just save money, too. The added benefits of mobility, flexibility, customization, and the ability to always have the highest marks in all of the above categories makes cloud-based communications an essential technology for contact centers everywhere.
Posted on November 29, 2017 by Dan Quick
Just when you thought we couldn’t pack any more functionality into the award-winning Dash Business Phone System, we’ve got another big piece of news to share. For years, we’ve been providing the most robust and capable enterprise-grade business telephone features for businesses of all sizes and on all budgets. We’ve done that by offering a variety of plans and core technologies that power them, but recently we’ve been able to begin solving a greater number of businesses needs with a single platform- Dash. Now that Dash is established as more than just a pretty face thanks to its massive library of core functionality and new features like Salesforce CRM and Webhooks Integrations, Dash has become a legitimate telephone service solution for even the largest of organizations. Now, with the introduction of the all new ACD Queues on Dash, there is a Dash Plan for every company.
What’s New in the All-New ACD Queues On Dash?
Many of our longtime customers remember our TrueACD Queues for some of our legacy plans. These were industry-leading technologies that gave companies an previously unseen level of control and visibility into their call queues at a fraction of the cost than traditional phone service providers were charging. We’ve used those years of experience and feedback from our users and have learned invaluable lessons which we poured into the all-new Call Queues for Dash. All of this means we can offer the most reliable ACD queues in the business with several key improvements, too. First of all, the entire interface has been rethought to fit into the sleek and intuitive design of Dash that has become so popular. This makes navigating and managing all of an entire company’s worth of call queues simple and effective from the palm of your hand, anywhere you happen to have an internet or data connection. Second, is the revolutionarily simple call monitoring interface. With a simple and elegant tile interface, the admins instantly have clear and actionable information in real time on how their queues are performing and what types of call loads are being handled. At a glance of the monitoring view, an admin can immediately see call traffic at the queue or individual agent levels and manage call routing based on a variety of intelligent methods, plus, agents themselves can have the same remote flexibility, too. Agents manage their status by simply toggling their options through the same Dash portal or using shortcut keys on their VoIP device. Any single one of these innovations would be enough to get many queue users to jump for joy and they’re all included in the all-new Call Queues for Dash.
Get Started With the All-New ACD Queues On Dash Today
Like all of our new features from our VirtualPBX Product Roadmap, there are beta periods and soft launches to allow for some of our customers to experience the new functions first hand and provide feedback. This communication loop is essential to the overall success of our newest features and allows for us to test them in real-world conditions before announcing them. Because the all-new ACD Queues on Dash are no exception to this rule, they have been out in the field for some time and many of our Office Plan users are migrating to them right now. To make that transition yourself or to inquire how to include call queues in your current Dash business phone service, contact any one of our Sales or Support representatives. Also, if you’re already using the new departmental queues on Dash and have any questions, we are always available 24/7 for your needs and have also updated the online ACD Queues Support Guide to let you troubleshoot on your own schedule, too. No matter how you manage them, though, we hope you love the all-new ACD Queues on Dash and are looking forward to introducing you to the next great release before too long, too!
Posted on November 27, 2017 by Dan Quick
We’ve told you about it, you’ve waited for it, you’ve set reminders for it, and the time has finally come! It’s time for you to shake off your tryptophan stupor and get your head in the game for the massive Cyber Monday Sale. We’ve never done this before, and we’ll never do it again, so if you want to upgrade your entire business communications system for prices that you’ll swear are typos, now is the time to act. For only the remaining hours of today, this day only and possibly never again, we are giving 20% discounts on all Dash Plans as well as including one free month of VirtualPBX Concierge Service!
What This Means in Real Dollars
We’ve never been shy about how much our customers save when they switch to VoIP. Why should we? When you have something that has helped thousands of companies save literally up to 80% over an on-site telephone system, you really need to talk about that. Think about your telephone bill and then take 80% off of what you’re currently paying. Pretty substantial, isn’t it? That’s the type of benefit we’re talking about with switching to VirtualPBX and a cloud-based telephone system. But the great thing is that savings on service are just the beginning because the flexibility, features, and around-the-clock 24/7 support that comes with every Dash Basic, Pro, and Unlimited Plan makes switching even more valuable. And now, for only a few more hours, you can save an additional 20% up front by taking advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with the VirtualPBX Cyber Monday Sale!
No Time to Lose
This Cyber Monday Sale is only going to last for Monday, November 27, 2017, and only for the 24 hours as recognized here at our headquarters in San Jose, California. That means that you’ve only got until 11:59 PM PDT to save and the clock is ticking. Plus, remember that all plan sign-ups today during the sale get a month of VirtualPBX Concierge Service for free to streamline your transition and make your configuration a no-brainer, just like this deal! Act now and leave making a leftover turkey sandwich for later because this deal, much like Aunt Patty’s Pumpkin Pie, is going fast and won’t last forever!