VirtualPBX Blog

Building a remote team from scratch? Start with these 5 tools.

Welcome to Edition 14.0 of The VirtualPBX 5. It’s that time of the month when we share our 5 favorite topics, tips, gadgets, and apps.

Building a remote team from the ground up is a big undertaking. Having the right tools in place is essential to building a rock-solid foundation for your remote team. Lucky for remote team managers, there are many excellent tools available in 2017.

As remote workers ourselves, we have experience testing a plethora of remote working tools. Through many years of trial and error, we have discovered which tools have improved our team communication, connection, and collaboration.

Here are our top 5 tools to build your remote team around! Ready to take your remote teams communications to the next level? Test drive VirtualPBX with a 14-day free trial.

top 5 tools to build your remote team around

Tech Talks – Pizza & Customer Support Tracking System

VirtualPBX Tech TalksWe’ve been around for a long time and have collected some of the best minds from across several industries, and we think it’s high time they got their day in the spotlight. In this series of blogs we’ll be unearthing some of the technology and talent that power our hosted communications platform.

Pizza Customer Support Tracking System

Jeff Weinstein, Director of Operations & Pizza Afficionado

We live in an age where, not only can you order an item off of Amazon and get it the same day, but you can also track it’s location and progress along the way. Our visibility into the inner workings of the services that we rely on isn’t limited to just the large, multi-billion dollar technology companies. Domino’s Pizza even has a live Domino’s Tracker that allows you to watch the progress of your recent orders. Perhaps it’s because we here are just so accustomed to trackers like these or perhaps because we just get most of our inspiration from pizza, but either way it was with this inspiration that we introduced our first Customer Support Tracking System into our support arsenal. And it is because of that new technology that we’ve decided to sit down with Jeff Weinstein, VirtualPBX Director of Operations, to discuss it.

Let’s just start from the top and let me ask, what exactly is the new Customer Support Ticketing System all about?
First off, to explain the system I think that the concept of tracking a package for a delivery or like you mentioned, a pizza, is a good way to describe the new platform to those who may be unfamiliar with it. So when a customer of ours has an item they want to discuss with us, the moment they contact a member of our Support Team, a ticket is automatically created. This isn’t unheard of in itself as it’s common for support teams to track the progress of their open issues, but we’ve integrated some slick technology so that the progress is visible to the customer who initiated the contact as well. This way, there’s no guessing involved in if their issue is being addressed or not, and it’s a practice that’s very much aligned with our values of transparency. Of course, as much as it’s satisfying to see your issue is being resolved and not falling through the cracks, it sure doesn’t beat a fresh pizza, either!

Okay that makes sense, but if our Support Team is already getting recognized for great service, why introduce this now?
Essentially, this is all about constantly improving upon our foundation of providing award-winning support to all of our customers. So on one hand, we’re introducing an entirely new platform for our customers to follow along in the progress of any issue’s resolution, but on the other, it’s actually just much more of the same for our team. Just like when we launched Dash and were lucky enough for it to have made such a splash when people first saw it, that didn’t mean that we weren’t still unrolling new features and building upon it after the fact. Because we’re always adding more options to our product line, our Support Team has more to become experts on. Fortunately, we’re on top of it all for now, but we’re positive that we can always improve and adding a transparent tracking and ticketing system is the best way to ensure we’re positioned for continued success.

Well tracking the progress is neat, but is there anything else that the new system does for users?
I’m glad you asked, yes! So one of the neat things about this new system is that it’s more than just the tracker and improved ticketing system, it’s also like having an automated assistant help out between steps. What happens is that we have designed the system to, immediately following the submission of a new support issue, respond to the customer with confirmation and with suggested support articles that may help in the interim. We have a vast library of content on tutorials, how-to’s, and even a comprehensive YouTube channel to lean on, so there’s a good chance we can offer some assistance even before we offer assistance, so to speak. Also, back to the process improvement motivation that drives everything we do, customers can even up-vote or down-vote the suggested articles we share based on how helpful they were to addressing their problems. This was the system is designed to both shorten the distance between problems and solutions but also it helps improve the accuracy with which we address them over time.

So Jeff, is there anything from your experience has made introducing a Customer Support Ticketing System easier or more difficult?
Well it’s never easy to be the best, but we try to stay at the top of our game all the time. Fortunately, though, there are some situations from my past that have helped make this integration go more smoothly. Specifically, when I worked with government agencies like at the Department of Homeland Security, the process was obviously a massive priority. We had to introduce all manner of new procedures and policies to an organization that already had systems in place, and more importantly, we had to ensure that there was no interruption along the way. This was good practice for VirtualPBX. Our customers rely on our products to keep their businesses running, so it was absolutely essential that our Customer Support Team was fully accessible to them as we designed, tested, and integrated our new Customer Support Tracking System. It took a lot of late nights and after hours efforts to get it done, but so far our customers’ initial reactions assure me that it was well worth the effort.

Okay one more thing, because there’s a bit of a common thread going here, what’s your favorite pizza?
I’ve got to go with the classic supreame. I like it all.

To learn more about the VirtualPBX Support Team, our new support tracking system, or to contact them yourself to try it our, check out the VirtualPBX Support page. Also, you can find us for more Tech Talks and join the conversation by following us on Twitter and liking us on Facebook. And for the record, nothing beats a classic pepperoni in my book.

Leave the Office for Valentine’s Day

leave the office for valentines dayTo be honest, most people don’t need a reason to leave the office because they typically have a few on standby and ready to go. But reasons to leave the office for Valentine’s Day are a little more understandable because most folks also understand the importance of spending the day or evening with a special someone. We spend a lot of time talking about the flexibility of our hosted communication systems because they are just what the situation calls for when you need to be working but also be somewhere outside of the office. What I want to address here, though, is that sometimes you need to leave the laptop at home for a while.

When Working Remotely is a Liability

I was fortunate enough to take a special, pre-Valentine’s Day outing over the weekend to the old growth redwood forests of Northern California. To do this, I had to rely on a combination of working around an absence and trusting I had the right tools to get the job done while I was away from the office. Fortunately, that trust comes easily for me because I rely on the recently updated VirtualPBX Softphone App on my smart phone and Follow Me Calling that forwards calls to me on any device or number I choose for when I’m not right at my desk or laptop. The flexibility that these tools offer me to stay in constant contact when I need to be working are invaluable for when I need to leave the office. Okay so that’s it, right? End of story? Not quite.

Leave the Office, or Leave the Office Behind?

Normally, for folks like us, when there is a need to work remotely that gets met with remote telecommunications tools we consider that a happy ending. While that remains the case, there is something else to consider with this particular instance of being flexible with your work schedule; sometimes it’s necessary to leave the phone behind. We’re just as focused on designing and delivering reliable business phone systems as we are on ensuring that they’re used properly, too. Often times that means leveraging our award-winning VoIP Support Team but also it means reminding remote workers about the dangers of mission creep in an out-of-office environment. When we work outside of the office, we have the tendency to let the clear delineations between working and nonworking hours evaporate. Certainly, this is part of the appeal of working remotely! But there comes a time, and for many folks that time is today, when we need to remember the real important things in life, specifically the people we share it with.

Don’t Catch the Early Train Just to Stay Glued to the Phone

For those of you who are amending your typical work day to accommodate special plans for Valentine’s Day, good for you. I’d urge you, though, to remember that just because you can work from anywhere, perhaps tonight’s special dinner out isn’t the time nor place to practice that. Plus, because you can have voicemails on Dash sent to your email, all of the work you set aside will be patiently waiting for you when you’re done. And for everyone, please remember that Valentine’s Day isn’t solely for couples. Whether you’re on cloud nine or if you’re feeling down in the dumps today, try calling your mom or sibling to wish them a Happy Valentine’s Day. They’ll appreciate hearing from you, and then you can turn off the phone and focus on enjoying all of those fancy chocolates that will be on sale tomorrow.

We Have a Winner! #MobileYear Sweepstakes Winner, James Doyle

MobileYear Sweepstakes WinnerThe #MobileYear sweepstakes ended at the end of January and we’ve connected with our winner, mister James Doyle of the greater Tampa Bay area in Florida, for a brief chat about how he plans to use his winnings. As you recall, we proudly partnered with Remotive and Sneek, two awesome companies for remote professionals, to put together a prize package of distance working assets worth well over $1,000. Together with one free year of Dash Business VoIP Service, James is all set to tackle anything his business gets tossed his way. And as we found out, it turns out this is about the best possible timing imaginable for him, because he’s recently launched a new business.

Serendipity and Swoll

For those that may not be aware, “swoll,” is one of those new terms to describe what the youth in America refer to as being really bulked up from a lot of working out. And while James never actually used that term, it’s definitely related to his new business. James has always had an entrepreneurial spirit and, after honing his customer service skills through a successful career in the hospitality industry, he decided to combine his passion for fitness with his love for, well, dessert. Enter the newest sensation sweeping the fitness nation, FREEZINda! This is James’ patent-pending concept of an easy and enjoyable way for athletes to eat protein powder in a nice, frozen, ice cream-like form. The good timing of becoming the #MobileYear sweepstakes winner coinciding with the launch of a new business can’t possibly be overstated, especially with James’ bi-coastal lifestyle.

With You Wherever You Work(out)

James may call Tampa Bay home, but he has family in San Diego, enjoys vacationing in the summer all the way up in Anchorage, Alaska, and has business partners and franchises popping up all over the country so, clearly, he’s a man on the go. James recognizes the importance of establishing a good amount of momentum as soon as possible after launching a new company and counts the flexibility of his new remote working toolbox among his best assets to accomplishing that. Plus, considering he has employees, franchise opportunities, and supply partners scattered across the globe, he is going to be on the move a lot over the next year.

Stay Tuned for the Next Opportunity

We don’t make a habit of running sweepstakes that often, but we had a record-breaking amount of turnout for the #MobileYear sweepstakes, and really that can’t be ignored. While we can’t guarantee when the next such opportunity will come along, we can definitely tell you it has gotten us thinking about how we’re going to execute on the next one. The best way to keep in the loop for whenever that may be is to be like James and follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook. Plus, you can always get some insight into what we have coming around the corner by taking a gander at our interactive VirtualPBX Product Roadmap on Trello. You can comment on what we’re doing, make suggestions, and you just might even get some inclination of what else we have brewing in the sweepstakes department, too.

Thanks to everyone who entered and helped to make this #MobileYear Sweepstakes such a huge success and please join me in congratulating James and wishing him luck with FREEZINda!

Partner Blog Series – Do you really need a desktop phone?

For our Partner Blog Series we like to highlight the relationships we have with our peers and business partners from across all areas of the telecommunications industry. We know that when it comes to relationships, the whole really is greater than the sum of the parts. That’s why we want to share with you the wisdom, experience, and perspective of the companies we work with.

For the inaugural edition of the Partner Blog Series, we’ve called on Hummingbird Networks, the expert providers of new and refurbished networking equipment. Today they examine some of the most often asked questions that revolve around the increase in hosted telecommunications’ popularity.

do you need a desktop phone

Do You Really Need a Desktop Phone Anymore?

It might seem to some like a ridiculous question to ask, but many businesses are starting to take a hard look at it anyway: Are wired desktop phones actually necessary anymore?
Of course, for many businesses, the answer is “yes” and will be for years to come. However, for others, it’s not so obvious. They may have a workforce that’s heavily invested in bringing/using their own devices. Perhaps their workforce largely telecommutes, and the office itself is minimal. Perhaps cloud solutions are taking the place of traditional phones.
So today, we wanted to take a look at some of the technologies that are disrupting traditional desk-based telecommunications. You might not be in a position of ditching your desk phones today, but by next year or beyond, it may not be too far out of the realm of possibilities.

6 Trends Quickly Rendering Traditional Desk Phones Irrelevant

1 – BYOD

Bring-Your-Own-Device is nothing new, but businesses are still discovering ways of taking advantage of it to cut their own costs. When 100% of your workforce already owns a smartphone, and probably prefers using it for communications, why force them to use desk phones? At the very least, it could end up making them duplicate efforts at maintaining contact lists and such.
After all, there are plenty of hosted communication systems that can take calls placed to a main office and intelligently re-route them to workers’ smartphones already. With the right VoIP provider partner, it’s not that hard for companies to set up their own ad-hoc Unified Communications network without a heavily investment in new hardware.

2 – Telecommuting

There are certainly pros and cons to having a workforce that’s mostly remote. Scheduling meetings is difficult, and there are still those who say remote conferences lack the immediacy of face-to-face meetings and simply aren’t as productive. Then again, there are also still those that say vinyl sounds better than digital.
Either way, having a largely remote workforce certainly does cut down on expenses because your workers will be mostly or entirely using their own home equipment. There’s no point maintaining office phones when no one is in the office to use them.

3 – On-The-Go VoIP and Softphones

So, all your employees use their own smartphones, but you’re concerned about security, centralization and call-tracking when they’re all on different phone models, operating systems, and service providers. That’s really not an issue either. There are plenty of softphone software VoIP solutions that create a unified data-based communications network which is largely or entirely hardware-agnostic.
The best solutions out there are easily integrated into existing Unified Communications (UC) setups as well, which, when implemented properly, create a best-of-both-worlds setup with all the benefits of UC but vastly less investment in infrastructure.

4 – Customers Preferring Non-Voice Communications

Here’s a little factoid about millennials a lot of people might not know about: On the whole, they prefer text-based communications to voice by a pretty large margin. A survey last year showed that:

  • 76% describe text/email as “more convenient”
  • 75% would rather lose voice communications than text
  • 63% believe phone calls are more disruptive than text

One-fifth even said they never bother to check their voicemail!
So a company whose target market is largely those under 40 may find their telephone systems going unused, simply because their buyers don’t like making phone calls. And given that the influence of millennials on marketplaces is only going to grow for the next 20-30 years, this could signal a major change in how business/buyer communications happen in the decades to come.
Speaking of alternatives…

5 – Video Calls and Video Conferencing

Let’s not forget the other side of the “voice alternative” coin. Video-based communications are growing rapidly and are being driven by some of the largest players in technology. It’s now increasingly common for even everyday “phone calls” to be video calls instead, generally using VoIP-based platforms. The technology is right on the cusp of becoming truly mainstream, although it’s still being held back slightly by problems maintaining frame rates in lower-bandwidth environments. But because bandwidth is expanding consistently, this is an issue that will lessen greatly in years to come.
Given that desktop videophones are extremely expensive and fairly limited in their functionality, it seems fair to assume the move to video communications will largely happen on portable devices.

6 – Cisco Collaboration (and similar ventures)

The final factor to consider is that even the largest of communications companies are starting to push away from desk-bound solutions. Last year, Cisco turned a lot of heads by announcing a
major collaboration with Apple with direct integration of Cisco/Meraki systems into the iOS 10 operating system for iPhones and iPads.
Basically, a company with an existing Cisco or Meraki network and an install base of iPhones can already enjoy all the benefits of a fully on-the-go mobile UC system with virtually no additional expenditures or setup. That sort of plug-and-play functionality would be attractive to companies interested in the tech discussed in this article, but hesitant to embrace ad-hoc solutions.
Plus, if Cisco Collaboration gains popularity, it’s virtually inevitable that other similar deals will follow suit. This is more speculative, but it’s entirely possible that within a few years, all the major smartphone brands will carry software allowing them to directly integrate into cloud-based UC setups.

Towards A Phoneless Future…?

Overall, the trends point to communications simultaneously becoming more robust and more mobile, with less emphasis on voice-specific communications. The general millennial distaste for telephone calls will undoubtedly be a major driving factor here, particularly if they pass on that distaste to their own children.

What do you think? Are deskbound telephones officially in front of the technological firing squad, or is Hummingbird Networks jumping the gun? Let us know by joining the conversation on Twitter and Facebook, and make sure to stay tuned for more from the Partner Blog Series.

VirtualPBX on TwitterVirtualPBX on FacebookVirtualPBX on YouTubeVirtualPBX on Pinterest