Dash Business Phone System Interface

Guest Blogs

Guest blogs highlight the expertise of our industry peers and business partners. These in-depth pieces prepare your business for success with a professional perspective on telecommunications topics.

Building a Positive Brand Reputation Through Your Telephone Switchboard

Build Brand Reputation Through Telephone Switchboard - Billboards in New YorkToday’s guest post was provided by TelephoneVox – a company that specializes in the production of professional audio for telephone switchboards.

Today, the brand is considered a fundamental element for the company, a pillar on which most of the business performance is based, even more than the product itself. Building a positive brand reputation, therefore, is of the highest importance.

A telephone switchboard, also referred to as an Automated Attendant or interactive voice response (IVR) system, can help build that reputation by assisting customers in a friendly and efficient manner. The benefit of using an automated call processing service can be found in both hardware switchboards and through hosted phone services like those offered by VirtualPBX.

Why is the Brand so Important?

Several prominent marketing experts have spoken publicly about the role that brand reputation plays with respect to consumer loyalty and integrity.

Bruce McColl, head of marketing at Mars, has noted the limits of the brand-consumer relationship. He remarked in an interview with The Drum that expecting consumers to love a brand is “one step too far.” He said the challenge is to resonate with consumers on a personal level while keeping in mind that “nobody wakes up and thinks ‘what does Snickers have to say today?’”

Likewise, Byron Sharp, a marketing expert at the University of South Australia, has stated that, if the product is readily available and if the experience offered by that brand is top-quality, it will be easier for the consumer to become fond of the brand and remain loyal in the future. “Familiarity breeds contentment,” he said in a post on his personal blog.

Product purchase is affected by many new offers that come up daily, so brand recognition becomes more important as a differentiating factor that lies beyond what individuals might outwardly consider (like price or availability).

Building Positive Brand Reputation Through the Telephone Switchboard

It is essential for brands to maintain and build reputation, and the audio messages played by their telephone switchboards can be one of the best methods to use. A switchboard, automated attendant, or IVR is typically simple to configure and is consistent in its contact with inbound callers.

Why is a good audio message the key to a brand reputation?

An individual’s call frequency to any company often depends on the amount of information or support they require. When they’re in need, they will reach out. Otherwise, they’re probably happy with their service and will keep to themselves.

Although the latter situation is generally positive, it doesn’t afford your company many opportunities to build your brand reputation with the customer.

With those limited contacts, however, come powerful opportunities to root the concept of a brand by taking advantage of a genuine voice recording. An person’s voice can show the customer that, despite the limited information in a switchboard greeting — an initial greeting and a layout of touch-tone options — the brand wants to make a personal connection with the caller.

In direct contast, many companies use social networks, chatbots, and instant messaging to build their brand image. They rely on text-driven messages that, although convenient, may lack the personal touch that an audio-based message can convey.

What Is Your Best Brand Experience?

Think about the best experience you had with a brand’s automated attendant.

You were probably greeted by a clear, professional voice that guided you through the company directory. If there was a wait, it was likely enlivened by music that made the wait for a live employee less taxing.

This type of experience can turn into a positive memory which, ultimately, helps gain trust in the brand. Your follow-up interaction with the company from your ‘best brand experience’ likely also moved more smoothly. It would have taken you less time to process the transaction since you didn’t have to consider the trustworthiness or good/bad feelings about a brand in addition to product price and availability.

The positive brand reputation had already been created, and it carried into the future transaction.

Customers are the lifeblood of every company. Managing your brand through a switchboard can offer rewards that other forms of brand-customer interaction cannot replicate. The way you invest in your own automated attendant will determine the improvement of your own brand reputation.

An Exploration of Cloud Services: SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS

AWS Monthly Use Google Search - SaaS, PaaS, and IaaSToday’s guest post comes courtesy of Dmitrii B., the CEO and founder of GRIN tech – a full service digital agency in design, marketing, and web development alongside white-label agency & media outreach.

According to the IDC research organization, by 2021, companies from around the world will spend more than half a billion dollars on cloud tech. This is two times more than in 2016. At the same time, there is a clear tendency: the public cloud workloads are growing, while the situation is exactly opposite for the private cloud.

Such a shift is partly caused by cloud providers, who offer users of public clouds more and more features that simplify the development of services.

Let’s take a deeper look at the key concepts of SaaS, PaaS, IaaS. You can link to any of the sections below by following this navigation:

  1. Introduction
  2. Software as a Service (SaaS)
  3. Platform as a Service (PaaS)
  4. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

The Essence of Cloud Solutions

Clouds have appeared as a reflection of the general trend of the shared consumption economy, which is focused on use instead of ownership. This has already given us the exchange of housing, car sharing, and even wedding dresses for rent.

There are more and more things and services that can be used and paid for only by their actual use, without large capital expenditures for the purchase.

In the case of IT infrastructure, capital costs can be significant. Paying for this expensive infrastructure can unnecessarily weigh down business, so adoption of a rental model (the cloud model) is often justified.

In addition to potential savings in capital costs, there are other significant advantages:

  • Speed: Leading suppliers can get a cloud in minutes/hours.
  • Flexibility: Visualization technologies allow you to get as many computing resources as you need here and now. Missing and buying too slow a server is not a problem.
  • Saving on associated costs: Including uninterrupted power supply to the server
  • In certain cases, savings on maintenance personnel (more details below)

Sounds promising, huh? Just keep in mind the drawbacks:

  • Connection Dependency. You need a stable internet connection for cloud services to work.
  • Limited Features & Lack of Control. Say you implement a cloud-based CRM system. It’s all good, but then you need just this one new feature… but you don’t own the product to make the decision.
  • Security. For businesses that desire strong security practices they control, it can be worthwhile to hire an in-house team rather than leave security detail to a third party.
  • Technical Issues. You cannot fix your cloud computing problems in-house, and some providers do not offer around-the-clock technical support.

There are three main formats of cloud solutions by the service model to explore: Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).


Software as a Service – SaaS

The most user-friendly clouds. You just work in the necessary programs via the internet (without installing them on your device).

Advantages

  • Technical details are completely hidden. You connect through the internet to the ready-made program.
  • Update, performance, and other technical issues and problems are handled by the service provider.
  • Lightning-fast onboarding (mostly). It is enough to order a service and you can use it in a few minutes.

Drawbacks

  • Not all programs are available in this format for technical reasons.
  • The possibilities of setting up and changing the program to suit your requirements are limited.
  • Strong dependence on the service provider and the quality of their work.
  • You often have limited control over your own data.
  • It may be more expensive than other types of clouds or traditional applications, especially for large customers.

Examples of SaaS

As a rule, SaaS is provided by the developers of these very applications. There’s often a need for businesses to adopt multiple vendors to see all their needs met for cloud software use.


Platform as a Service – PaaS

You rent a certain computing platform consisting of virtual computing services (analog of the central processor and server RAM), data storage services (analog of the server hard disk), data transmission services (traffic consumption), etc.

You can design arbitrary virtual computers with a variety of system and user software. Suppliers – the leading IT companies with a worldwide reputation – provide stable operation of these computers and programs. Solutions in this area are popular with corporate customers and developers.

Advantages

  • Amazing flexibility – you can build a computer of any capacity (from a micro server comparable in power to a smartphone to a cluster of hundreds of thousands of servers), and install on it a variety of applications.
  • Major suppliers have huge geographically distributed networks, which allows you to easily deploy fast, mass and fault-tolerant applications.
  • There is an opportunity to additionally connect advanced services, in which Oracle, Microsoft, Google have unique competencies – the use of artificial intelligence, analysis of large amounts of information, etc.
  • You can often pay only for consumed resources rather than a block of allowed resources

Drawbacks

  • To use it, it is necessary to “assemble” the system of virtual components. This requires specific knowledge and skills.
  • Each platform imposes its own restrictions on implementation, there is no complete freedom in implementation.
  • There is a high base cost.

Examples of PaaS

This table notes a number of major PaaS providers and their product offerings in a range of capacities such as web hosting and database hosting:

Google Cloud PlatformAmazon Web ServicesMicrosoft AzureOracle Cloud
Computing PowerGoogle Compute EngineAmazon EC2Azure Virtual MachinesOracle Cloud Infra OCI
Web & App HostingGoogle App EngineAWS Elastic BeanstalkAzure Cloud ServicesOracle Application Container
Container Application HostingGoogle Kubernetes EngineAmazon EC2 Container ServiceAzure Container ServiceOracle Kubernetes Service
Serverless ComputingGoogle Cloud FunctionsAWS LambdaAzure FunctionsOracle Cloud Fn
SQL DatabasesGoogle BigQueryAmazon RedshiftMicrosoft Azure SQL DatabaseOracle Autonomous DataWarehouse
NoSQL DatabasesGoogle Cloud Bigtable
Google Cloud Datastore
Amazon DynamoDBAzure Cosmos DBAutonomous NoSQL
Data StorageGoogle Cloud StorageAmazon S3Azure Blob StorageOracle Cloud Storage OCI

The total cost of PaaS use considers the consumed computing resources, space in storage, and the amount of data transferred over the network. Idle servers are cheap whereas often-used servers can become expensive. This Amazon Web Services calculator lets you input these considerations to get an idea of the costs you might incur.


Infrastructure as a Service – IaaS

You rent a server/computing resources. The service provider is guaranteed to work at the server level (electronic filling of the server, internet, power supply, etc.) / virtualization technology (see below).

There are three formats for providing the service:

  • Dedicated server: Renting a separate physical server that can be used only by you. It has a relatively high cost but guarantees that all the computing resources of the server are fully at your disposal. The provider provides full administrative access to the server, and your specialist sets it up the way you want it.
  • IaaS for a pure virtual data center: The provider installs special virtualization programs on one or more servers and then passes access to the management interface of these programs to you. This approach is very flexible, as you can create and configure any number of virtual servers for yourself.
  • VPS/VDS as a virtual private/dedicated server: This is when the IaaS from the previous point is configured by the vendor for you and only transfers access to virtual servers that you cannot change. Important differences are the virtualization technology used (e.g. KVM / XEN / OpenVZ / Hyper-V / VMware) and the guaranteed performance. VPS/VDS can offer low cost but may also show low/unstable performance due to overselling.

Advantages

  • The purchase of the server is not always reasonable, as it becomes obsolete over time. By renting a server, you can always change or update it with minimal costs.
  • It is possible to choose and manage the performance and parameters of the server as you want.
  • Complete freedom to install any operating systems or programs you need.

Drawbacks

  • It requires an engineer to set up and maintain.
  • Often, there is a specific server/virtualization specification that is tied to the characteristics of the server/virtualization technology. This may lessen the flexibility of server use.

Examples of IaaS

The market is saturated with vendors. Our personal experience at GRIN tech is with a 32GB RAM monster from Hetzner that costs us around $55 per month. It hosts approximately 15 projects and still has a lot of room left for company expansion.

To Summarize

From my experience on client projects and what I see in the industry, I’d say for pretty much every need small and medium businesses are facing there already exists some sort of cloud solution.

Even when a company decides to build something with in-house devs – the infrastructure itself can easily rely on cloud infrastructure from a 3rd party vendor.

5 Invoicing Mistakes Small Business Owners Make (And How to Avoid Them)

Invoice and calculator on table - Avoid These 5 Invoicing Mistakes

Today’s guest post comes courtesy of Uwe Dreissigacker, the Founder and CEO of Invoice Berry, an online invoicing and expense tracking platform.

As a business owner, invoicing might seem straightforward, making invoicing mistakes rare.

Invoices are something you send out at the end of the month manually without giving them much thought. But if you want to stay on top of your cash flows and continue being in the black as a business, it’s crucial you stop making these five invoicing mistakes.

Sending out a professional invoice and getting paid on time is a responsibility you can’t take any chances on. Your invoices are directly tied with your cash flow and business revenues even if it may not seem like it.

What this means is that something as simple as sending out an invoice for your provided services or product can increase your future earnings.

But this can’t happen unless you stop making the common invoice mistakes listed below.

If you want to improve your relationship with your customers and increase your future profit – be sure to read on.

1. Not Enough Details
2. Not automating your invoices
3. Not tracking your invoices
4. Not following up on late payers
5. Having poor manners on your invoices


1. Not enough details

To avoid this first invoicing mistake, you need to learn what exactly goes into an invoice.

When most small business owners start working on their invoices, they just list all the provided goods or services and move on with their day.

While this has been the standard for a long time now, and yes, you might still get away with it today, there are just so many other things that you can add to your invoice.

Your invoice is an extension of your business.

Essentially, you’re communicating your business culture, values, and beliefs through an invoice. Something as simple as creating a custom invoice with a personalized template can leave a lasting impression on your clients and increase your brand reach as well.

Of course, it’s important not to overstuff your invoice, but you should still go the extra mile when creating one.

For example, you can also attach your business voicemail number to your invoice in case your clients want to reach you immediately. This, in turn, encourages inbound calling and provides another way for your customers to reach you.

Once again – by taking your time and making your invoices more detailed, you get more brand value, better customer experience, and a means for them to contact you. All of this through a simple invoice.

2. Not automating your invoices

As mentioned above, most business owners just fill out an invoice last minute and don’t worry about it until the next month.

This is where the recurring invoice can help you out.

A recurring invoice is a type of invoice which automatically charges a client at specific intervals.

For those committed and returning clients, automating invoices is a great way to save time and money. Automating and using recurring invoices allows you to take care of more important things.

The supplier doesn’t have to wait for the customer to pay or repeatedly ask for the client’s credit card information. And similarly, the customer doesn’t have to send manual payments.

The idea here is to make the payment process convenient and more professional for everyone involved.

In order for a company to start using recurring invoices, they must first ask for permission from the customer to be charged on a regular basis for a specific amount. After that, the charges will continue to apply unless the contract is terminated or the client withdraws permission.

Essentially, if you put in the work and create a custom invoice and then start automating it (a process which doesn’t take long), you’re saving money and time in the long run.

And the less time you spend on invoicing manually, the more time you have for work and other tasks.

3. Not tracking your invoices

This is another important benefit of electronic (and automated) online invoices.

As a business owner, you probably have a lot of things to keep track of and eventually, you might feel that they’re starting to pile up.

Fortunately, using electronic and online invoices means having one less thing to worry about.

What happens when you start tracking and managing your online invoices?

Well, for one thing, they become neatly organized in one place where you can go over your past and draft invoices. You can also see which invoices are outstanding, still pending, and not paid yet. All of those invoices are also backed up digitally, so you won’t have to worry about losing them.

Did you know that in 2016 the estimate for electronic invoices reached around 30 billion worldwide with an annual growth rate of 10-20%? (Source)

Invoicing Market 2016 - BillentisTo this day, this number has been increasing.

The fact of the matter is that in addition to being very convenient, electronic invoices allow business owners to help get a better overview of their finances.

4. Not following up on late payers

This may sound like an obvious invoicing mistake, but it still happens.

Sometimes a client might forget to pay, either because they forgot or out of fear of confrontation, and the invoice gets lost in their inbox. Even if they simply forgot to pay, it’s your cash flow at stake here.

To avoid this, be sure to follow up with your clients who are late on their payments. Like all other businesses, they get busy and possibly didn’t mean to delay the payment. Either way, be sure to send a polite follow up to remind them.

Alternatively, if you want to make sure your invoices get paid on time, consider updating your late payment policies and set an extra fee on late payments. This way, your clients will know for sure that they’d have to pay extra if they keep delaying your invoices.

Ideally, you should set payment terms for no longer than 14 days or so. Otherwise, your clients may procrastinate on your invoice. If they still skip on the due date, be sure to follow up, or if it’s urgent, you can call them virtually.

5. Having poor manners on your invoices

At the end of the day, if you want to continue and improve your current relationship with your clients – you should focus on the way you communicate with them.

Your invoices are a further extension of this. They’re part of your bigger customer experience strategy.

Treat your clients like people. They’ll appreciate it and return the love tenfold.

Consider being polite and adding simple phrases like “thank you for your business!” at the end of an invoice. This can increase your invoice payments rate and make them want to do business with you again in the future. As an added benefit, it also increases your brand image and leaves a lasting impression.

This may not sound like a big of a deal, but the closer you are with your clients the better. And you lose nothing by being polite!

The next time you’re customizing your invoice, focus on your manners. Improve your greetings, leave a “thank you” note at the end, and in general, don’t forget that there’s a person on the receiving end of the invoice.

Your clients will appreciate the small things, and you have nothing to lose.

Avoid These 5 Invoicing Mistakes

All in all, if you have no clear invoicing system set up, then you might be setting yourself up for failure.

In the past, you might have gotten away with a simple invoice which just lists the payment items and date. But now, there’s so much more that can go in an invoice.

Remember: the more personal your invoice is the better.

Be direct and concise when it comes to your finances, but also be polite when you can.

At the end of the day, you’re running a business. Automating your invoices opens up the possibility of focusing on other aspects. There are even more advantages to using online invoicing software, but generally speaking, you should know that electronic invoices are a powerful tool.

They’re an extension of your business and brand, so why take chances with your clients?

The next time you’re handling your invoices, be sure to take the extra step and avoid these five invoicing mistakes!

New Survey Report Offers Insight Into Robocall Issue, STIR/SHAKEN

Two People Shaking Hands - STIR/SHAKEN Protocol to Combat RobocallsOur guest post today comes courtesy of Riley Panko, a Senior Content Writer at Clutch, a B2B research, ratings, and reviews firm in Washington, D.C. VirtualPBX’s Content Specialist Casey Houser contributed to the report, providing industry context.

Robocalls are a growing nuisance, disrupting legitimate communication on both individual and businesses phone networks.

Americans received a shocking 48 billion robocalls in 2018.

Clutch recently conducted a study of nearly 700 people who receive robocalls to understand the steps they are taking to combat them.

The report found that 67% of people are unlikely to pick up a phone call from an unknown number. Experts say robocalls erode trust in phone-based communication.

The survey also reveals that the National Do Not Call Registry is ineffective for the majority of those that sign up. New technology will seek to actively validate legitimate phone calls to combat robocalls, as opposed to just retroactively punishing offenders.

Clutch Study GraphNational Do Not Call Registry Ineffective Over Time

More than two-thirds of those that signed up for the National Do Not Call Registry say that it’s ineffective – 49 percent say they receive the same amount of robocalls and 19 percent say they receive more robocalls.

The National Do Not Call Registry was first implemented in 2003 with live telemarketing in mind.

Nowadays, though, most robocalls are automated. This means that robocallers can call a huge number of people in a short period of time, with a human only required when someone actually picks up and takes action on the robocall.

Automated robocallers don’t have much incentive to not call the people on the Do Not Call list – enforcement of the list has been limited.

This is increasingly true as robocallers become harder to track down. The rise of “spoofing” allows robocallers to use VoIP technology to trick caller ID into displaying any number. This means that many people do not know who is actually calling them, and where they might be located.

STIR/SHAKEN Will Actively Validate Legitimate Calls

The future of robocall protection requires a proactive approach.

The Federal Communications Commission supports the implementation of two initiatives known as the “Secure Telephone Identity Revisited” (STIR) standard and the “Signature-based Handling of Asserted information using toKENs” (SHAKEN) standard. Together, they are known as STIR/SHAKEN.

This technology checks all incoming phone calls for the presence of a certificate, distributed by a trusted policy administrator. If the number contains the certificate, then the call will be validated. This may be displayed on caller ID with a check mark, similar to how Twitter verifies accounts.

VirtualPBX applauds the adoption of STIR/SHAKEN.

“We actively support new anti-spam measures such as SHAKEN/STIR that create a traceable, encrypted phone connection between caller and receiver,” said Casey Houser, Content Specialist at VirtualPBX. “This new tech made a big splash recently with the FCC and large telecoms, and its adoption throughout the telecommunications market should mark a large decrease in the amount of spam callers receive.”

So Far, Only T-Mobile is Ready

The FCC recently pushed for major telecom providers to be ready to adopt the two standards. As of early 2019, only T-Mobile announced they were ready for implementation.

Robocalls will not be stopped with traditional preventative practices. STIR/SHAKEN may be a glimmer of hope in a world overrun with robocalls.

Add Some Holiday Cheer, and Best Practices, to Your Phone System

Holiday cheerToday’s guest post comes from Snap Recordings, a professional voice recording service provider with over 100 male and female voice talents that has been recognized as a leader in professional voice recordings for business phone systems. Order professionally recorded greetings by Snap Recordings from within your Dash account.

Most businesses will see a significant increase in phone calls during the busy holiday season. While this is great for your bottom line, more callers means longer hold times, and that can create caller frustration during an already stressful time of year. Does your phone system have the holiday cheer necessary to keep callers happy and engaged?

By adding professional holiday greetings and music to your business phone system, you can create a more festive experience for callers and reduce hangups. Meanwhile, you can focus on critical operations like tackling customer concerns and shipping goods.

Best of all, you don’t need to start from scratch. Simply adding some festive holiday background music and short seasonal greetings to your existing messages may be all you need to see positive results. Try these phone system preparation methods as soon as possible.

Add Holiday Cheer to Your Telephone Greeting

When you adjust your holiday hours and customer greetings in the VirtualPBX phone system, you give your callers the opportunity to stay up-to-date with ongoing company events. With a simple, friendly greeting, you can offer the courtesy of mentioning your changing schedule, and you can lighten the load on your receptionist.

Moreover, you can cross-promote your products and services to a captive audience. Customers may have to sit on hold for a few more minutes than usual, so it’s in your best interest to share important information about new products and possible shipping time changes while your audience is waiting.

Do all this with a bit of mirth. Research from as far back as the 1980’s has shown that providing structure to on-hold programming — through appropriate messages and music — can help reduce the perceived time a caller thinks they’re on hold. In short, your cheerfulness in messaging that sits alongside festive music can decrease the mental strain customers feel when they wait for a live company representative.

Express your gratitude to your customers and clients. Let them know you appreciate their continued business. Be as heartfelt as possible, and remain dedicated to a few effective goals by following some industry best practices.

Holiday Greetings Best Practices

Only use professionally-recorded greetings

Even the best self-recorded greetings fall short when it comes to fluid voice and crisp audio quality. Customers won’t perceive your business as competent and professional if you don’t sound professional.

Keep messages sincere

The holidays evoke warm, happy feelings, and your holiday greetings should have that same tone. If you want to sound honest and heartfelt avoid overly-wordy or sterile greetings.

Avoid religious sentiments

While many people have a religious connection to this time of year, not everyone shares the same beliefs. Unless your religious message resonates with your entire client base, you’re better off sticking to secular greetings.

Choose the right music

Working with a professional gives you access to a large library of holiday tracks. Be sure to choose holiday music that compliments your brand and conveys a tone that is in line with your image.

Don’t wait until the last minute

The holidays are a busy time for everyone. Getting started on your holiday greetings as soon as possible is the best way to set yourself up for success.

Grab Your Holiday Gift Box Today

Snap Recordings is offering VirtualPBX customers a Holiday Message Gift Box that includes 12 ready-to-use professional, pre-recorded holiday voicemail greetings and hold messages, a Holiday Messaging Guide, and a promo code good for your first order. Grab your gift box before January 7th, 2019 to take advantage of this value packed gift!

Don’t forget about our year-end Refurbished Phones and Hardware Sale. The sale ends December 31st!