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The VirtualPBX Blog showcases topics that matter most to your business. Whether we discuss a trending Top 5 or dig deep into telephony, these features offer something for every business.

Chatbot Customer Service and Phone Support: Delivering Excellence Customer Service

Chatbot customer service joins phone support - Man wearing visorToday’s guest post was written by IntelliTicks — developer of an AI-powered chatbot for sales teams.

As you observe the rise of apps like Uber, Netflix, Amazon, and Airbnb, you will realize that people love the convenience these brands provide in the form of swift resolution of their queries and problems through chatbot customer service.

Any delay in service would cause customers leave one business for another. This is why businesses all over the world strive to move lightning fast when handling customer concerns. Brands don’t want customers to switch to a competitor, so brand provide users with quick, frictionless interactions that promptly resolve their problems.

The question for businesses is how to improve customer service without over-extending their budgets.

Phone Support and Chatbots

There are plenty of benefits for deploying a chatbot in conjunction with phone support through a Business Phone System.

Both allow businesses to answer customer queries quickly at any hour. Both also support each other by providing unique benefits to the businesses and customers that use them. What follows is a quick look at the overall picture of phone support and chatbot benefits for businesses.

Phone Support

Benefits

VoIP phone systems are affordable. Phone support delivered through a VoIP telephone system can be much more affordable than using a conventional phone system. Softphones can be used on any existing device, so hardware costs are initially kept low. Per-minute costs for inbound and outbound calls are also easy on the budget.

Phone support builds brand loyalty. Customers who prefer to get their queries answered in a short time can call up the phone support. With a well-staffed Support department, a business can help customers with issues quickly and to the customers’ satisfaction, generating loyalty for the brand through such thorough expediency.

VoIP systems easily route calls. VoIP phone systems provide built-in functions for routing calls to individuals and groups. If a call isn’t answered, it can be forwarded to another device for the same user or to a different Support rep. Smartphones, desk phones, and laptops are all within reach.

Why To Use It

Phone support is a great way to make the customer feel valued as the customer gets empathetic answers from the customer service representatives.

Customers love it when a human agent listens attentively to their queries and gives great support to them in the matter of minutes. It’s a personal method of turning a dissatisfied customer into a happy one.

Phone support gives a customer a feel of investment and attention from the businesses that help in retaining customers. Real-time interaction is also helpful in getting feedback about products and services because customer service reps can hear the tone in customers voices when they talk about interacting with the product. These same calls also give representatives a chance to ask customers what they can do to create an improved product.

Chatbot Customer Service

Benefits

Chatbots — chat robots — communicate with customers online in the form of personalized conversations. This communication can take place through voice and text, and customers can find this type of support on mobile apps, websites, and on popular chat platforms such as Facebook Messenger and Slack.

These services are often free to use with a trial or limited plan, including brands like IntelliTicks, which offers paid plans for businesses that need to scale upward. This makes chatbots flexible enough to grow with businesses at a moment’s notice.

Chatbots have the capability to help customers at every stage of their journey in the sales funnel.
They can provide quick access to product information and answer routine consumers questions in the language customer speaks. Customers write their queries as if they’re speaking to another person; then the chatbot interprets the text to accurately respond in real-time.

Chatbots can run 24/7 and handle multiple customers at one time. This gives businesses a constant online presence so possible prospects are not lost.

Why to Use It

Chatbot customer service is great for businesses that have a lot of website traffic and don’t want to spend money on hiring and training human resources to engage with visitors. They can answer repeated queries without delay and can generate leads by just being there for customers at any hour.

Automated online chatbots are also much less expensive than traditional support structures. The setup for a call center can be extensive; its training time long; its overall cost expensive. Chatbots can begin operation in a matter of minutes.

Businesses can also easily customize their chatbots with preferred response phrases and direction. As an example, linking customers to an FAQ page can help businesses take advantage of support docs they already have in place. Chatbots can also take the lead by answering simple questions and engaging customers with discounts/offers/new products/services information.

Convergence Between Chatbot Customer Service and Phone Support

Chatbots are immense technology innovation, but they can’t currently replace person-to-person interaction.
Phone support is crucial for it offers an empathetic response to the customers who always seek someone to listen to and hear their problems. It offers an engaging way for customers who prefer a more personalized contact with a brand to troubleshoot their issues.

Chatbots, on the other hand, can help in engaging customers who prefer the online service. Chatbots also don’t have to be impersonal. They can easily offer a phone number for voice support for any customer who’s interested.

Both are important for businesses in delivering excellent customer service, increasing brand loyalty, and catering to a worldwide audience.

The Local Party Line – A Predecessor in Disguise

Balloons - The Local Party LineThe “local party line” and modern forms of voice communication are more alike than you might expect.

Party lines – where many people shared the same phone number and only one conversation was possible at a time – acted as the predecessor to Business Phone System features like audio conferencing and individual/group extensions. They each, in their own time periods, have responded to the human need for effective group interaction.

Although the party line mostly died out by the late 1900s, with the literal writing on the wall signaling its final hours as early as 1971, improvements and affordability in communications technologies have made it possible for all individuals to gain personal phone numbers and all businesses to offer extensions throughout their organizations.

Take a look at our blog’s previous discussion of the party line timeline, and stay tuned to this text for a comparison of the past to the present day.

Audio Conferencing / A Single Shared Line

One of the most exciting elements of a local party line (the traditional, early-1900s era version), is that it offered no privacy to its users. A group line was exactly what it sounds like: the whole group had access to the single line at all times.

The whole compliment of VirtualPBX employees, if using a party line, would have to wait in its own queue to dial a single customer. It would be first come, first served for our Sales team when making outbound calls. And only when one Sales representative finished their conversation would anyone else have the chance to begin a new one.

Moreover, anyone with access to that line could pick up their phone and listen to the present call. This would quickly become awkward and annoying for our employees. And imagine the privacy concerns for our customers.

It’s clearly not an ideal situation for any business.

Move Forward to Conferencing

VirtualPBX Phone Plans, of course, are part of a communications system that has moved far beyond that limited reality. The plans excel in their offering of Audio Conferencing to all users. Any two or more plan users can meet among themselves or with customers.

Local party lines looped callers together so those individuals could save money and make use of limited resources. They could have used their own group line to conference with one another. However, we expect that it would have proven an irritation more than a bonus.

VirtualPBX Conferencing doesn’t suffer from the limitations of high cost or limited availability. The digitization of communications has eased those burdens considerably. It builds on the limited function of traditional party lines by linking together multiple individuals in a way that’s both private and uninterruptible. Eavesdropping becomes a thing of the past because conferences can be made invite-only and may be protected with passwords.

Individual and Group Extensions

VirtualPBX plans also give users their own individual extensions and offer Ring Groups for simple call routing to departments.

Believe it or not, individual extensions became a part of the local party line too. In a limited fashion, extensions were created when service providers offered distinct ringing patterns for users of a line.

Our Sales team, now theoretically accepting inbound calls on an old-timey local party line, could have their own “extensions” as ring codes that would be completed in a fashion similar to 1 long, 2 short.

For example, Sales rep 1 could be signaled with 1 long ring followed by 2 short rings. Another rep could have 2 long, 2 short. And yet another could have 2 long, 1 short. It was undoubtedly confusing and limiting.

Modern Extensions

What you get with modern VoIP phone systems like VirtualPBX are extensions like x1234 or x5598. You can set them yourself and take advantage of the thousands of possible combinations with four digits.

Furthermore, those extensions can be used in a variety of ways, including as direct links to an Auto Attendant or within Ring Groups as group participants.

No More Local Party Lines

The local party line is gone. And frankly, good riddance.

Still, there’s a respect to be paid for what it accomplished in its heyday. And there’s a lot of functionality in modern phone systems that relate closely to the basic predecessors in the party line.

The next time you dial a colleague or hold a conference with customers, be thankful for its ease of use and for its privacy.

Best VoIP Phones of 2019 & 2020: What Other Review Sites Say

Best VoIP Phones of 2019 & 2020 - Polycom VVX 300Today’s blog post will offer something a little different — it will be supported by our competitors’ opinions about the best VoIP phones of 2019 and 2020.

Many of the phones we offer in the VirtualPBX Store have made their way to other review sites. That gives us a great opportunity to show you that praise these devices have received outside our borders.

Don’t only take our word for it. See what they have to say.

The Balance Small Business – Polycom VVX Series

Polycom VVX 400In its article this year, The 8 Best Office Phones of 2019, which was updated as recently as Nov. 21, 2019, The Balance Small Business noted the entire Polycom VVX Series as a great pick for businesses with employees who telecommute.

The VirtualPBX Store offers more than a dozen VVX models to suit the demands of businesses of all sizes. In particular, The Balance Small Business reflects on the 3.5-inch touchscreen display and video capability available on these models.

The review points out that employees “might be in remote locations, but this doesn’t mean [they] don’t need to periodically hold meetings or otherwise meet face to face.” Executives are able to take advantage of the VVX 400’s 12 lines and speed dial buttons to easily reach other employees.

TechRadar – Yealink SIP-T46S

Polycom T46GTechRadar also pointed out, in its Best IP Phones of 2020 review, that a large screen and intuitive display can work well for midsize firms.

We found it funny, but definitely appropriate, to see TechRadar’s observation that “this Yealink IP phone is great option if you’re seeking a phone with a big and useful display that’s operated with buttons rather than using your greasy fingers.” How often do you consider the impact a touchscreen will affect your productivity? Sometimes grease happens, and sometimes it’s a huge win to have a button to press.

The Yealink SIP-T46S confirms the extensibility offered by this model’s USB ports, which can accept a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi dongle to open the main unit to a wireless headset or local internet.

TechRadar also added that the T46S’s 16 lines and “fantastic call quality” help open this model to the midsize business crowd. Executives in this market may find themselves with more than one SIP account and speaking to other employees, managers, and company stakeholders on a daily basis – all of which demand clarity of voice.

The Best VoIP Phones of 2019 and 2020

The reviews we profiled here are just a few of those available in a crowded search for “best VoIP phones.” Our hope is that these two picks can help you narrow down the choice in finding new phones for your office.

There are multiple models available in the VirtualPBX Store within the Polycom VVX series and for other Yealink models as well. Take a look through what we offer, even through the refurbished models, and don’t hesitate to ask the VirtualPBX Sales Team what phones would fit best at your business.

Polycom Rebate Program 2019 Ends Dec. 31st!

Polycom VVX 300 - Polycom Rebate ProgramYour business could save up to $60 per device this holiday season with the Polycom Rebate Program.

If you trade in your old desk phones, you can get rebates for multiple desk phones and conference phones available through the VirtualPBX store.

Polycom phones work with VirtualPBX Phone Plans, but you don’t need to be a VirtualPBX customer to participate. You only need to purchase 5 or more Polycom phones and match each purchased phone with an eligible trade-in. Visit PolyRebate.com to register for your rebate, and visit VirtualPBX to purchase your new models.

Rebate Conditions

The Polycom Rebate Program 2019 isn’t stringent with its conditions. You only need to find out which phones you want to purchase and the hardware that’s available for trade-in.

Two broad categories of phones are represented in the program:

  • Polycom SIP Handsets, including base models in the VVX 100, 200, 300, 400, 500, and 600 series, and the Soundstation IP 5000
  • Skype for Business Handsets, including VVX models labeled as the Skype for Business versions

Official program details are available at this link. The following sections here cover the basics.

Polycom SIP Handsets

Polycom VVX 400This is the category of the phones listed in the VirtualPBX Store.

To claim the rebate, you only need to purchase and match, as a trade-in, at least 5 eligible phones. Trade-ins can be Polycom phones and competitors’ phones. Polycom states the criteria as follows.

Eligible competitors phones include “any working business grade desktop phone from a vendor other than Polycom.”

Eligible Polycom phones include “all Polycom SoundPoint IP phones, SoundStation Conference phones, Polycom CX500, CX600, CX300, and VVX Series — noting that all Polycom equipment must have been purchased over one year ago to be eligible for rebate.”

Polycom Skype for Business Handsets

Similarly, phones in the Skype for Business category are available for a rebate upon purchase when at least 5 models are purchased and replaced with an appropriate trade-in.

Eligible trade-ins for these models do not include competitors’ devices. Polycom lists the eligible phones as “all Polycom SoundPoint IP phones, SoundStation Conference phones, Polycom CX500, CX600, CX3000, and VVX Series phones” — again noting that “all Polycom equipment must have been purchased over one year ago to be eligible for rebate.”

Polycom Rebate Program 2019

Polycom SoundStation IP 5000The Polycom Rebate Program only lasts until the end of the year. Use of any rebates need to be complete by Dec. 31, 2019.

This could be a great opportunity for your business to refresh its collection of devices. Models like the Polycom VVX 301 are affordable enough for small or medium-size businesses that want to outfit their office rooms. The Polycom SoundStation IP 5000 can bring together entire teams in a single meeting room – great for distributed businesses and conference calls with stakeholders.

Your reason for a refresh is your own. But the immediacy of the rebate program is definitive. Collect your aging devices by the end of the year to gain discounts on an armful of new phones.

Find the Best Call Center Phone and Headset for Your Business

With thousands of options available, you may have a hard time finding the best call center phone and headset for your business. We’ll keep this post simple.

In the following sections, you’ll find three choices (and a bonus) for the best call center phones and headsets available in the VirtualPBX store. Individual links are also provided for each device.

Follow these links to get started:

  1. Best Call Center Phone on a Budget
  2. Best Headset on a Budget
  3. Best Phone for Management
  4. Free, Full-Featured VirtualPBX Web Phone

Top Call Center Phone on a Budget

Yealink SIP-T21P E2Our choice for the best call center phone on a budget is the Yealink SIP-T21P E2, which is available for only $44.99. That low price, however, doesn’t mean this call center phone leaves out important features.

Two of the most important aspects for any good call center phone is its codec support and headset attachment capability.

The T21P supports the Opus codec, which is a popular, open-source codec that supports narrowband and wideband frequencies – all while remaining low on bandwidth consumption. This makes it extremely versatile and great for use in crowded networks like call centers. In short, the T21P can provide clear audio without overloading your call center’s bandwidth availability.

Additionally, the T21P provides a headset port, so agents can attach their headphones/microphones to the base unit. They will retain the ability to use all the buttons on the phone but will otherwise keep their hands free when taking calls.


Best Call Center Headset on a Budget

Plantronics SupraPlus HW261NOur pick for the best call center headset on a budget is the Plantronics SupraPlus HW261N. It’s available for only $89.99 through our store.

Call center agents should be able to wear the HW261N without fatigue. It weighs only 86 grams, but still supports wideband audio formats and includes noise canceling through its microphone.

This noise canceling headset with microphone pairs with many styles of phones and computers, so call centers of all types can find something to like about this device.


Top Call Center Phone for Manager

Yealink SIP-W60PWhile call center agents usually stay at their desks when answering calls, managers may need to carry phones around the office floor. That’s why we want to highlight the Yealink SIP-W60P, at $149.99, as our choice for the best phone for a call center manager.

The W60P, like the T21P, supports the Opus codec. It can operate for as many as 30 hours of talk time. And a 10-minute charge can recharge the handset with two hours of talk time.

Managers can also take advantage of the W60P’s support for eight concurrent calls. Additionally, a single base station (the W60B) can provide service to eight handsets (the W56H). Our link presented here includes the base station and handset in a single package.


Free, Full-Featured VirtualPBX Web Phone

VirtualPBX Web PhoneOne alternative to hardware phones that many businesses are trying is the browser-based phone. All VirtualPBX Phone Plans come with our free Web Phone that works as a full replacement for a desk phone.

Web Phone works in the Chrome and Firefox web browsers, so it can run on any computer a call center agent has access to. It can receive inbound calls and complete outbound calls. It also has access to the full range of VirtualPBX system features – the most appealing for call centers being ACD Queues.


What’s the Best Phone for You?

There are a multitude of call center phone choices available for new and existing call centers. While this list isn’t long, it does provide some viable options for any business looking for reliable devices.

Our presented hardware above gives agents and managers the ability to process calls without breaking the bank. And if you choose VirtualPBX as your VoIP service provider, Web Phone is a great pick for easy setup and the tightest of budgets.