General Telephony

Get to Know Your Customers Day

Get to Know Your Customers DayOur very first customers came on board more than 20 years ago as our business was just getting off the ground. As many businesses may recall from their early days, or perhaps are experiencing right now, those first customers come with lessons that in-turn shape your objectives, processes, and often your product or service itself. Being receptive to these lessons can be the defining factor in whether a business makes it past their first year, but can’t be forgotten just because things are going well. This is exactly why today, Get to Know Your Customers Day, actually occurs four times each year. As Kristin Smaby puts it, “When customers share their story, they’re not just sharing pain points. They’re actually teaching you how to make your product, service, and business better.”

Beyond Get to Know Your Customers Day: Regularly Solicit Feedback

While a few customers may offer their opinion without being prompted, it’s certainly not the norm and in most cases leaves out customers who feel less passionate – whether that be for positive or negative reasons. To incorporate customer feedback in your business discussions, the best place to start is by soliciting feedback regularly. While many companies do this on an annual or biannual cadence, we’ve found that asking for feedback after an engagement with our team returns a higher percentage of responses. These responses typically include greater detail since the experience the customer had is still fresh in their mind. There are many services that can help to automate this process, like AskNicely which can trigger an email after a ticket is closed in your CRM. You may also consider soliciting customers for reviews on public sites like Consumer Affairs which will give potential customers comparing their options a glimpse into what their experience with you will be like. Here are some examples, taken from our own Consumer Affairs Profile:

Make Followups Personal by Calling Your Customers

Now for the most important part: consume all of the feedback you’ve received and remember to put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Not only did they purchase your product or service, but they took the time to share their thoughts. If anything in their response is unclear, there is a matter that is unsettled, or they are upset, reach out and call them right away. You may even consider getting a special phone number for customer feedback only. Not only will you be able to get to the bottom of the issue, but your fast response time and personal approach will let the customer know what you truly care about their experience – and not just because it’s Get to Know Your Customers Day. But don’t just respond to the negative reviews! Be sure to thank customers who have reviewed you and reach out to learn more. Digging into positive reviews may also help you build a library of testimonials or case studies.

Vacation with Out of Office Features for 4th of July

Out of Office FeaturesWith the 4th of July holiday coming in hot this coming Wednesday, businesses everywhere will have to consider their out of office plans as they stare down a day of inactivity in the middle of the week. Many times, this holiday is continently placed at the beginning or end of a week, but being smack dab in the middle of the week makes it less likely that everyone will be taking time off at the same moment. For example, of the employees here who are taking time off, half of them are doing so at the beginning of the week and the other half are going on the back end. This type of unpredictability on who will be where makes ensuring the continuity of operations that much more difficult, and also that much more critical to get it right. Fortunately, with the simple automations that abound throughout VirtualPBX VoIP platforms, ensuring that inbound callers are treated with the same high levels of service that they’d expect any other (non-holiday) time of the year is almost too easy! In fact, this is exactly why we built out the Holiday and Business Hours to be so intuitive and customizable in the award-winning Dash Business Phone System.

Out of Office is the Only 4th of July Office Hours Option

Wow, that’s pretty wordy, huh? The point is that this is one of those few holidays that, at least for offices that don’t work directly in services or carnivals or BBQ industries and the like, you should probably just take the day off. We all want to be able to celebrate in peace and not have to worry about customers’ needs going unmet, that’s why all VirtualPBX Dash Plans come with a few handy ways to manage that with just a few clicks of the mouse.

  • Business and Holiday Hours Being able to make a few clicks and know that your business will have a recording made and call traffic routed accordingly over the 4th of July holiday makes being out of office that much easier. Plus, setting your business hours for the 5th, 6th, and every other day of July (and all the months, actually) is easy, too. Using this feature to set your holiday schedule each calendar year allows you to confidently leave the office whenever your company has an observed holiday coming up. Or, you know, a weekend.
  • Follow Me Calling We understand that not all of the team can get fully away during the holidays each time. For them, establishing a series of telephone numbers to ring either concurrently or in succession is a handy way to ensure that no matter where they’re at on the 4th of July, they can be gotten in touch with. Of course, we’d never advocate doing this, but because users can choose how long each number rings, they could hypothetically make it ring so long that the caller eventually hangs up, too. Don’t get any ideas, though.
  • Mobile for Business And for those folks who don’t want to architect their ways out of having to speak to customers (wise choice, FYI), they can even opt to use the only 4G LTE nationwide mobile network available to VoIP users with our Mobile for Business feature. This way there’s no need to change a sequence of forwarding numbers or pretend you can’t be reached. Because, you know, customer conversations are a good thing.

The Best Way to Get Out of the Office this 4th of July

All of the suggestions above are a good idea to use this, and every, holiday, but there’s one more consideration for any organization that isn’t a 24 hour, around the clock outfit. Specifically, and frankly even for a 24 hour firm, using an Auto Attendant is the best way to compliment or replace any live receptionist duties a company may have. Everything from intelligent call routing, to personalized greetings, and voicemail-only extensions can all be managed at scale by the Auto Attendant. The best thing about this feature is that it comes standard on every single Dash Plan at no extra charge, too. So what are you waiting for? Get your Auto Attendant set-up, schedule your business and holiday hours, and go make some BBQ plans to be out of office on this 4th of July!

How To Use VoIP to Watch Soccer at the World Cup (and stay employed in the process)

watch soccerEvery four years, the most important global sporting event is staged. I’m not talking about the Olympics, but rather the World Cup. This weeks-long tournament is preceded by months, and even years, of qualifications where countries all over the world hope to punch their ticket to the biggest stage in sports. Unfortunately, you may not be aware of this because, like the majority of our audience, you may happen to find yourself somewhere in the United States of America at the moment. That’s an issue for our national awareness of the tournament (as evidenced by the 40% decrease in Americans who watch soccer compared to 2014) mostly credited to the fact that the United States failed to qualify for the first time since 1986. That’s even longer than we’ve been in business, which as you know, is a really long time. As lamentable of a result as the US’s failure to qualify really is, it would be disingenuous to say we aren’t still pretty ravenous about the tournament over here at VirtualPBX. And why shouldn’t we be? Not only are we people who like to travel the world and experience new places and cultures, we’re also a truly global company with team members and customers scattered across the planet. In that sense, we really couldn’t miss the event if we tried. For many other organizations, though, following the excitement from halfway around the world can cause complications with their work schedules. That’s why we’ve compiled the best ways to use VoIP to make sure you can stay plugged into the action all while staying employed along the way.

Use VoIP, Watch Soccer

The reality is that we’ve got a lot of freedom with our days because, as a distributed workforce, the responsibility is on us to make sure we’re producing at the levels we need to get the job done. When that’s the case, we can prioritize our time to include family responsibilities, personal needs, community involvement, and when the time is suitable, even a little world-class soccer. For those who aren’t as accustomed to this permissive scenario, we’ve offer the following tips on how to watch soccer using VoIP for the remainder of the tournament.

  • Follow Me Calling Follow Me Calling is the intelligent call forwarding system that allows employees to include a series of telephone numbers that will ring to find you wherever you go. So setting the cascade of numbers from your desk phone, cell phone, favorite sports bar, and soccer club hangout is, in this instance, totally acceptable.
  • Mobile for Business VirtualPBX Mobile for Business allows VoIP customers to access a nationwide 4G LTE network designated purely for your business operations. This means that if you’re in a more remote area and you don’t have an ultra fan base for your Moroccan or Senegalese viewing needs immediately available, you can take your work phone and road trip it to wherever you can watch with friends.
  • Auto Attendant Adding an Auto Attendant is the best way to keep operations working smoothly during any heighted period of activity, be it during a busy project or a non-stop soccer watching marathon. Auto Attendants act as a virtual receptionist that can take incoming calls, play recorded messages, and route them through to their desired parties or voice mailboxes. Basically, this is the person who is going to cover for you when you’re not at your desk because you’re away watching a game.
  • Business Hours Automating the business hours, lunch periods, and corporate holidays for your business is a great idea because nobody wants to have the sense of dread that they may have forgotten to turn on voicemail and out of office reminders once they’ve already left for vacation. Setting office hours also comes in handy when all the above suggestions just aren’t good enough so you have to make a new holiday to get away to watch your favorite team. We haven’t done that, yet, but we reserve the right to do so.

Watch Soccer, Even if it’s on Tape Delay

We’re normally not too likely to prescribe behavior to anyone, anywhere. We figure that whoever you are, whatever you do, is enough. However, one thing that is difficult to overstate is the importance of having shared experiences, especially when those experiences are shared with our neighbors not just next door, but also across the world. That’s what the World Cup is and that’s what it means to us. Hopefully, you can use some of these tips to get away from the desk for a few minutes to watch a game, but even if you want to watch the tape-delayed events later on in the evening after work is over with, chances are good you’ll walk away having been entertained, impressed, and a little more connected with the world than you may have started. Also, if you have any other suggestions on how watch the games, or if you just want to shoot the breeze about your favorite players and teams, hit us up on Twitter or Facebook, because we’re always more than happy to do that, too!

The Ways How Building Open Source Software is Like Baking a Cake

open source software and cakeWe recently launched the all-new and totally free to acquire VirtualPBX Web Phone for all of our Dash Service Plan account holders to use. This was a big deal for our customers and us because it was the first time that open-source WebRTC (Web-Based Real-Time Communications) software was used to create such a powerful telecommunications device that was being made freely available to the hosted PBX community. We’re rather proud of the Web Phone for both its formidable performance and durable reliability as much as we are for the fact that we’re literally giving it away to anyone who wants to use it. Since its debut earlier this year, however, we’ve been getting lots of questions about how it was made, how we can offer it for free, and general questions about what features users would be losing out on by using it. The short answer to that is that anyone on a VirtualPBX VoIP plan will get 100% parity on the feature set on the VirtualPBX Web Phone as they would on even the highest quality VoIP Desk Phone. We understand the skepticism, though, honestly. We have so many people who make the switch to VirtualPBX from other services that promise a lot and deliver a little that it’s entirely understandable why some people may be wary to accept something that is promised to be so impressive, much less that it’s being offered for free. To address some of the apprehension, we’ve tapped one of our engineering rockstars to explain WebRTC and Open-Source Software but still we’ve decided to make it even more approachable with a new analogy. And it’s one that I think is close to almost everyone’s heart; cake.

Open Source Software As a Cookbook

First of all, who doesn’t love cakes, right? There’s a reason cake is ubiquitous at birthday celebrations and that’s because, while we may have disagreements about the flavors or icing, it’s pretty tough to go wrong with a fat slice of cake. And how is our new Web Phone like a birthday cake? Well, just like the spongy goodness of a cake, the VirtualPBX Web Phone shares a variety of similarities.

  • Our new web phone is comprised of a balanced apportionment of carefully selected ingredients. Too much tech and not enough UX design can leave a similarly bad taste to a cake baked with too much rising agent that may have a lot of volume to it, but the aftertaste is something that people may not care for.
  • Choosing the right platforms to be compatible with (ie, being immediately optimized for all modern web browsers) is also a lot like picking the style of cake layers. A multi-tiered and festooned piece of bakery may look good, but is it something that works for everyone? Not likely. From a reliability standpoint, a simple sheet cake is what you’d need to make sure that anyone, anywhere would be able to, sink their teeth into, a new web phone.
  • And, of course, one of the most obvious of similarities between cakes and the VirtualPBX Web Phone is that they each can be universally popular assuming the recipe is followed to the tee. This is great for our users because we host and manage all of the necessary technology behind the web phone in the cloud which means that they can rest assured that the recipe is right 100% of the time. Because you know the secret to making perfect Tollhouse Chocolate Chip cookies, don’t you? It’s following the recipe perfectly.

Use Our Open Source Software as Much as You Want

Here’s another similarity between great cooking and great open source software; when people make something incredible, they want to share it with everyone else. Just like you can find recipes from amateur and professional chefs being freely given away across the web, we’re also happy to provide our web phone totally free of charge. That means that you can have as many of these as you want on as many devices and for all of your employees and the cost will always be zero dollars and no cents. The VirtualPBX Web Phone operates reliably on any modern web browser on any web-enabled device, phone, tablet, or computer. The only thing you pay for is the use of your Dash Service Plan, and your pooled minutes are drawn from each user in the exact same way they always had been. Now, the only thing that changes is you get the industry’s best and, ahem, freshest web phone technology for all of your employees totally free. No more buying and provisioning VoIP phones, no more paying licensing fees for softphone applications, and way more budget left over for, if we have anything to say about it, cake. You can’t always eat as much cake as you’d like, but with the VirtualPBX Web Phone and a Dash Service Plan you can at least have your cake and eat it, too!

VirtualPBX Answers: How Does an Internet Phone Call Work?

Internet Phone CallPlacing a phone call is pretty straightforward and something that most people probably don’t think twice about. With the advent of the digital age, placing an internet phone call is becoming more common and, although the end result is the exact same as with a traditional call, many people question the mechanics behind how this works. And because plenty of our readers have asked us on either Facebook or Twitter exactly what an internet phone call is and how it works, we’ve decided to address the topic in this latest edition of VirtualPBX Answers.

What is an Internet Phone Call?

In its most simplistic terms, an internet phone call can refer to any type of voice communications that don’t rely on traditional copper-wired telephone line infrastructure. This means that an internet phone call is a voice connection that relies on data connections over the world wide web to connect two parties. This is where it gets a bit nuanced, but there’s a difference between an internet phone call and other voice connections. Connections that link parties via actual phone numbers require a particular set of technologies, and this blog will focus on those. Conversations that occur between phone numbers will always need to interact with the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) regardless of if they are antiquated wired phone calls or modern internet phone calls. Picturing the PSTN as a massive switchboard that directs traffic to all known telephone numbers may be a bit difficult to conceptualize, but it’s an accurate summation of what it does. Older analog telephone calls route through wires into PBX’s (Private Branch Exchange) that are like sub-stations for the PSTN and can be either on-site (for corporations, perhaps) or installed as intermediaries by a telephone company (in neighborhoods or apartment complexes, for example). The call is then routed from the PBX to wherever the destination is located via a series of wires and PBX locations along the way. An internet phone call does something identical in result with a fraction of the logistics.

How Does an Internet Phone Call Work?

An internet phone call relies on converting the audio of a phone call into packets of digital information that it will transmit over data connections. These packets travel into a virtual PBX, which is a digital facsimile of the aforementioned PBX, but it is entirely hosted in the cloud. The audio is then ushered to its destination form the hosted PBX to the PSTN and thereby the internet phone call is connected to the desired telephone number. The name for voice connections that use this method is Voice Over Internet Protocol, commonly referred to simply as VoIP.

What is the Advantage of an Internet Phone Call?

There are a variety of benefits for using VoIP and internet phone calls over traditional means, most of which are immediately apparent in a monthly telephone bill. The cost savings of VoIP over a traditional phone service can be staggering, too, when organizations with more complex needs like call routing, ACD queues, and call recording are present. However, even simple phone plans for individuals are routinely more affordable over VoIP, as well. Additionally, the fact that internet phone calls require no physical equipment or on-site engineering know-how to operate makes their flexibility, adaptability, customization options, and scalability the hands down winner over older, copper-wire telephone options. Not to mention the fact that with advanced WebRTC (Web-based real-time communications) options becoming more popular, there are even free web phones that operate perfectly from any modern web browser, too. To find out how much your business would benefit from a new VoIP service, simply compare your telephone bill with one of these Award-Winning VoIP Plans from VirtualPBX.

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