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10 Simple Rules for Setting up a Business Phone System Auto Attendant

Posted by Gregg Haughton on May 11, 2012 1:44:00 PM

When we install a business telephone system, part of the job is to script the auto attendants and creat the menu trees. This blog post will provide 10 simple rules to follow to make your business phone system a productivity tool rather than a source of frustration to your customers.

  1. KISS - If you choose to answer your calls with an Automated Attendant, which is common, make sure the front end greeting is simple and easy to follow. It's tempting to try to provide options for every type of caller or question. If you use an auto attendant, keep your front end options to the few most common types of calls. If your auto attendant tree has more branches than a Harry Lauder's Walking Stick bush you'll confuse many callers.
  2. Option 1st, then number - Many auto attendants are set up backwards. "Press 1 for sales" should be "For Sales, press 1", otherwise when the caller recognizes what dept they need to reach, the number will have already been said.
  3. Make sure everyone has a name recorded in their mailbox - How many times have you spelled a persons name int the directory only to hear "for extension 345, press *". The name recording in a mailbox must be recorded so the system can confirm to the caller they are reaching the right person.
  4. Have something on hold - When an auto attendant transfers a call, make sure the caller is not listening to dead air. Maybe it's our inherent mistrust of machines, but callers will fear they have been disconnected if all they hear is a click, then silence. This is an ideal time to play some recorded marketing message (see the messaging on hold blog for more detail). If not, then music is a good alternative.
  5. Never create a loop - Often referred to as voice mail jail, make sure that each branch on your auto attendant menu tree has an end. Ideally,  someone should answer the call, but if no one is available, send the caller to a mailbox. Never send the caller back to the beginning of the auto attendant menu.
  6. Check mailboxes - If you set up a general mailbox, or departmental mailbox, make sure it gets checked regularly. Ideally, the mailbox should light a message waiting light or be converted to an e-mail and sent to someone responsible for returning calls.
  7. Check your hours - Most companies set up day and nite greetings. Make sure the clock and settings in your auto attendant match your business hours.  
  8. Set up a back door - Give your employees an easy way to call in and check messages. If you don't have voice mail to e-mail, program a number or extension that plays a simple message such as "to check your messages, press #". You'll be surprised how many folks don't check messages after hours because they don't know how to navigate in the auto attendant.
  9. Keep the voice consistent - Make sure the same (preferrably cheerful and clear speaking) voice is used on all company greetings. As callers move thru the system, they should recieve instructions from the same voice.
  10. Keep the menu current - You shoud periodically listen to your greetings to make sure they are relevant. If you close a department, make sure it's eliminated. Make sure any names listed still work for your company. 

For many of your customers, your auto attendant is your businesses front door. Make sure your front door gives a great first impression and your business will benefit.

I welcome your comments and encourage you to check your front door.

Gregg Haughton

 

Topics: Business Phone System, VoIP Phone System, Auto Attendant

Call Recording on your Business Telephone System

Posted by Eric Moore on Apr 19, 2012 12:08:00 PM

“Your call may be monitored or recorded for quality assurance purposes”. It seems like every time we make a call these days, whether it be into a financial institution, an insurance company, a customer service center or even a small mom and pop car dealership, we hear that recording prior to reaching a live person.

Why is that? Well, with the advent of digital recording technology, inexpensive call recording software has replaced older, costlier reel to reel or DAT tape recording platforms that formerly, only large corporations could afford.

Whereas call detail reporting on a business telephone system provides the ability to track, monitor and optimize call activity, call recording platforms gives a company the tools to ensure that their customer facing personnel are interfacing properly with the public.

Conspiracy theorists and paranoiacs will claim otherwise but there are actually valid and constructive reasons for recording calls: order entry/accuracy, training purposes, performance management, dispute resolution and keeping the occasional rude employee in line are but a few examples.

Consider taking or documenting a complex order with many components- what better way to guarantee that you’re taking down the correct info than recording the conversation, then going back and listening to each entry and confirming that you have all the pieces to the puzzle before submitting for entry?

Or contemplate a new hire in a telemarketing firm that needs to learn a new sales pitch- recording the call will allow the recipient to listen and fine tune their delivery before sending them out in the field and running into the proverbial buzz saw that is the general population.

There are regulations at the State and Federal levels to recording calls so please consult with a legal advisor to determine what is and isn’t acceptable. Suffice it to say that to inform the caller that a recording is taking place is the first step. If you feel that Call Recording could benefit your business, please inquire within our office- we can help!

 

Is the fax dead? It can still be part of a business phone system.

Posted by Gregg Haughton on Apr 13, 2012 9:06:00 AM

My first job was selling for an AM radio station that no one listened to. My second job was with EBC Communications selling two bleeding edge technologies, cell phones and fax machines. In 1986, cell phones were rare, and fax machines were even more so. The first fax machine I sold was a Nitsuko machine that was purchased by a Mail Boxes Etc franchise in Westport. It cost over $5000. The paper came in big rolls and used thermal transfer to print. Ah, the good old days...

Today, cell phones are practically disposable, and every business office has a fax machine. Many are gathering dust except when they spit out junk faxes shilling cheap vacations and flat roof repairs. Is this yet another technology going the way of the typewriter?

Well, yes, no and maybe.

There are still many business that use fax; medical, real estate, legal to name a few. But even in this die hard community of fax users, the trend is toward paperless document delivery. I just renewed an insurance policy using an on line e-signature to bind coverage. Health care's push to electronic medical records is reducing fax traffic in this document rich profession. Many real estate companies have set up web portals so their agents can access documents and handle them electronically.

Part of the problem with fax is geography. The traditional fax machine sits on a counter in your office and you have to go to it. In today's "everything at my fingertips" world, this is a disadvantage. This is where a business phone system can come into play. Many support fax server technology, which allows you to send and receive faxes from your desktop.

Another way to handle faxing is by using cloud based solutions. This is a service which converts fax documents into an e-mail with a PDF attachment and also allows you to send a document to cloud and it will convert it to a fax which can be received by a traditional fax machine. This is paperless, requires no equipment, and you only pay for the service you use.

 The curtain call for faxing may be coming soon. As the telecommunications world moves to VoIP (voice over internet protocol) and more businesses use IP based services, faxing becomes technically difficult. The compression and error correction technology that allows us to speak over IP services can cause fax transmissions (which are analog signals) to fail. The cost to have a dedicated fax line is hard to justify when all you get are deli menus and vacation offers.

I can see a day in the not-too-distant future when faxing is something we remember fondly and the technology is no longer a component of a business phone system. If you would like to evaluate fax technology, send me a fax at 203-234-4999.

Gregg Haughton

Topics: Business Phone System, Faxing, Fax Server, Cloud Based Fax

Bluetooth for your Business Telephone System

Posted by Eric Moore on Apr 5, 2012 12:41:00 PM

 

Bluetooth technology, created by Telecom giant Ericsson in 1994, is a proprietary open wireless standard for exchanging data signals over short distances from fixed and mobile devices, creating what are now called personal area networks with high levels of security.

Bluetooth is an effective and clutter free replacement for cabling and it provides a secure way to connect and exchange information between popular electronic devices such as PDA’s, mobile phone, laptops and video game consoles to name a few.

Interestingly enough, the word “Bluetooth” is the English derivation of “Blatand”, the name of a 10th century Danish king who succeeded in uniting numerous disparate Danish and Norwegian tribes into a single unified kingdom- Bluetooth technology does the same with communications protocols by uniting them under one universal standard.

ICON Voice Networks has embraced Bluetooth technology by providing an industry-first internal Bluetooth module that allows users to pair and use a Bluetooth headset with their Iwatsu Icon Series telephone. This effectively gives the end user more choices of comfortable ear piece headsets at significant cost savings than other wireless headset options currently available.

It allows for one touch remote answering and disconnection from calls and alleviates the need to pick-up your telephone's handset. Plus the range is up to 300 plus feet in a normal office environment. Please inquire with our office to see how this technology can benefit your work environment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Companies...ONE Business Phone System.

Posted by Justin Stackawitz on Apr 5, 2012 12:17:00 PM

For someone in need of a new business telephone system, it would certainly seem logical that if there were more than one separate organization involved - if, for example, a landlord was providing communications for multiple tenants - an independent phone system solution would be required for each company.

That is not necessarily the case, though. I am currently working on a project for a multi-tenant medical facility in which all of the tenants are controlled by their affiliated hospital. As such, the hospital is responsible for accomodating each tenant's communications needs (telephone lines, business phone system, voicemail, etc.). Rather than forcing the hospital to acquire separate and disparate phone systems for each of their practices, I was able to easily design a solution which takes advantage of the capabilities of a single system to meet the needs of all tenants concurrently.

There is a great deal of flexibility in the way that telephone systems can be programmed. Because each individual telephone line coming into a system can be told to route its calls to a completely different location than those of another telephone line, this allows the freedom to create separate groups of extensions, with each group representing a completely different company. Just because there are 9 telephone lines (for example) feeding the phone system, that does not mean that they are all accesible by every extension on the system. Similarly, a centralized voicemail system can be accessible by any extension on the same system, so that any of the companies (or groups of extensions, from the phone system's perspective) can have access, and as long as there are enough mailboxes to cover all of the extensions, no additional voicemail is required.

Returning to my medical facility scenario, I was able to use the exact model that I just described. There are to be three separate medical practices all inhabiting the same geographical area of a building, each with three telephone lines of their own, and roughly 10 extensions...so I will provide them with a single, centrally located, PBX telephone system, with ONE internal voicemail card. So long as I equip the system with the capacity to accept 9 telephone lines, 30 telephones, and enough mailboxes in the voicemail for all users, the rest will be left up to our expert technicians! They just need to make sure that the telephone lines for each practice are separated from one another and that those lines will access ONLY those extensions corresponding to the same practice.

So, if you are a landlord, a property manager, or even just have a neighbor that you want to share a phone system with, it may be a lot easier than you thought.

Topics: Business Phone System, business telephone system, PBX, voicemail

Maintaining Mobility WITHIN Your Office

Posted by Justin Stackawitz on Mar 29, 2012 4:08:00 PM

"Mobility" is a term that you will often find associated with VoIP business telephone systems. In almost all cases, the mobility that is being referred to (especially if it is in the context of marketing a phone system) has to do with connecting to a system from outside of the office. For example, we often license IP phone systems to include software for Smart Phones which allows remote workers to use their mobile phone as an extension directly from the phone system inside the office.

However, today I am writing about a different kind of "mobility"...having the ability to move around WITHIN an office, warehouse, plant, or even outdoor grounds. It is fairly typical to have the need to be able to move around within a facility while maintaining a conversation, but users are often confused by exactly how to accomplish this, and what capabilities their specific phone system supports. For the purposes of this blog, I will refer only to handheld cordless phone options, but there are also versions of wireless headsets which provide the freedom of mobility.

Some business phone systems have proprietary cordless phone models which will only work with that particular system...while they may be harder to come by (particularly if it is an older phone system), they are likely more user friendly because they can have multiple lines and behave more like the other desktop sets.

In addition to these proprietary models, good old fashioned analog cordless telephones (just like one that you might put in your house) are also a completely appropriate option for integrating with a phone system. These phones are only single-line devices, so they have some limitations, but they still serve the basic needed purpose of allowing users to move about while remaining communicative.

A third option for intra-office mobility is a variation on the single-line cordless unit just described. There are third-party manufacturers that produce long-range cordless phones designed to integrate as an extension on a telephone system. EnGenius is the manufacturer of choice for Granite Communications, as they offer a few different versions of their phones, each for a different type of application. We have installed this type of phone for a wide spectrum of customers, from residences all the way to an orchard...in each case, using the phone with appropriate range for that specific location.

Please inquire with me if you want to explore cordless options and increase your mobility!

Topics: VoIP Phone System, business telephone system, cordless phone

The Benefits of Telephone Headsets

Posted by Eric Moore on Mar 29, 2012 1:01:00 PM

With the rise of computer and telephony-based occupations, many workers experience neck pain or upper back pain in the workplace due to poor posture, positioning, or simply handling the telephone incorrectly. Once worn only by telephone operators 60 years ago, business telephone headsets are becoming more and more prevalent and with good reason. Headsets add many advantages to the workplace as they significantly reduce neck pain, upper back pain, and shoulder tension. You can go so far to say that it improves productivity as well.

It is in the use of the telephone handset that the most significant work related disorders of the neck could occur. When the habitual act of cradling the handset against the shoulder and neck is performed routinely, or held for long periods of time, discomfort, chronic neck pain or back pain, is often the result. As a result, headsets have become a key accessory in alleviating workplace injury.

So, where to begin? There are many flavors and models to choose from but they’re broken down into 2 basic groups- Wired headsets with a base station that connects directly to your phone and Wireless headsets which though the base station is connected, the actual headset is free of any encumbrances which allows for mobility while engaged in a call.

 Advantage to the wired model is its less expensive and more suitable to the worker that simply needs hands free capability. Wireless models allow the user to be mobile within the confines of the office, free to move to a filing cabinet up to even 300 feet from their workstation to retrieve a relevant file. But, they can range anywhere from 60% to 80% more costly than their “wired” counterparts. Bluetooth technology has enhanced the wireless models functionality and headset design by interfacing with many current business telephone systems- but please check with your current vendor as to which headsets integrate with your phone system before choosing a model and purchasing.

Feel free to inquire with our office as to which headset is right for you.

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Topics: Business Phone System

How to set up paging systems for business telephone systems

Posted by Gregg Haughton on Mar 28, 2012 4:33:00 PM

The speed of sound at room temperature on a dry day is 768 miles per hour or a little over 1000 feet per second. That may sound fast, but as we all have experienced during a thunder storm, it's a measurable delay.

What does this have to do with business telephone systems?

In many cases it's important to have a public address or paging system as part of the business phone system. Car dealers, manufacturing facilities, medical centers, and retail operations (to name several) have a need to alert people who could be anywhere in the facility. This is done by installing an overhead paging system.

This is where the speed of sound is relevant. I have seen (or rather heard) many systems where the paging speakers are installed at opposite corners of a facility facing toward the center. Although this seems logical, it's the wrong way to position the speakers and makes the pages hard to understand. Here's why...

If you are standing in the direct center of a facility and the paging speakers are equal distance from you, the sound takes the same amount of time to reach you from each paging speaker, and the audio will be clear. But, if you are closer to one speaker than the other, the sound from the closer one raches you before the one that's farther away. The sound that you hear is muddled because of the delay between the two sources.

The correct way to arrange the speakers is to create a "wave of sound". Speakers need to all face the same direction. Usually the speakers are arranged in rows, equally spaced and angled downward at 45 degrees, with rows starting at the back wall.  I have a slide rule that calculates how many speakers are required based on the room dimensions and ambient noise level. For example, in a 50,000 square ft warehouse, with moderate noise, eight horns would be appropriate.

If the paging system in your facility is not easy to understand, or you think having a public address system would benefit your business, contact me. It may be as simple as moving some of the speakers to the right location.

Update for 2017 - Thank you for visiting and reading my post. This has been a popular post so I have updated the information to include paging for cloud or hosted phone systems. Follow this link to read the upated post:

Paging Systems in a VoIP world

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Gregg Haughton

Topics: Paging Systems, Public Address Systems, Business Phone System Paging Systems

What is Call Detail Reporting and how can it help my business?

Posted by Eric Moore on Mar 22, 2012 12:27:00 PM

CDR or Call Detail Reporting is the process of collecting phone call data on your business telephone system and analyzing this data, and then reporting on the telephone network's cost, performance and capacity

Traditional PBX manufacturers would typically provide a “bolt on” component piece to capture this information or use a third party software package due to the fact that older phone systems could not provide this functionality. Many current telephony systems include Call Detail Reporting largely due to systems being software rather than hardware based.

On older, traditional PBXs, the connection is through a serial port. On newer models, an Ethernet connection is normally used. The information is delivered via the appropriate method to a PC running the CDR software.

The objective reporting software is to gather the raw CDR data and allow the user to produce graphical reports. Call logging software packages differ in the sizes of PBX systems that they can support (from hundreds of extensions to hundreds of thousands of extensions). They also differ in reporting capability and support for specialized PBX features.

In general terms, Call Detail reporting can offer a snapshot of how effectively a company is using their telephony resources- some of these include:

Cost Control – it can track the cost of calls, cost of trunk lines, costs by department or individual extension the number of unused extensions, etc. It can also capture instances of telephone fraud or scamming campaigns.

Performance– looks at how long it’s taking to answer phone calls- by extension or by department and demonstrates whether they meet acceptable levels of customer service.

Capacity Management – judges whether the system is being over or under-utilized. It examines trunk usage and call patterns that show where extra capacity is required or where cost savings can be achieved.

CDR reporting provides essential information to help streamline costs, enhance customer service and maximize existing resources.

Adjusting to Your New Business Telephone System

Posted by Justin Stackawitz on Mar 22, 2012 10:35:00 AM

This blog continues the train of thought that I began with an original entry about managing the transition from one phone system to another. In that case, I was referring specifically to overseeing a project and taking care of the important details required when implementing a whole new technology (something that I am very familiar with as a Project Manager!).

But what happens once the install goes without a hitch, and you’re all alone with your shiny new phone system?

Typically, at Granite Communications, our goal is to train the new system users on the basics of everyday use, while intentionally leaving out all the little gory details of every last possible system function that someone might encounter….well, never! This is designed so that the average telephone user can hit the ground running on their new system, while those that intend to take advantage of the more advanced features of a system can fill in those gaps as they move forward (with our guidance, of course).

Hopefully, you have been adequately trained by the folks who installed and programmed the system, so you at least know how to operate your desk telephone enough to be able to make and receive phone calls! But, chances are, there are also some things about the new system which are significantly different than what you were comfortable with on your old system. This can be a challenge. Remember that practice makes perfect! Us humans are, for better or worse, creatures of habit; so after you have spent the last 5 years getting used to the ins and outs of how to efficiently use the telephone on your desk, it should come as no surprise that it would be a bit jarring to have to re-learn a whole new set of habits with your new telephone.

It can become frustrating, and even overwhelming, to make this adjustment, especially if you are someone who relies heavily on your telephone communications. For example, I will never forget the day that  I was doing some follow-up training with the very busy receptionist (after the basic group training) at a fairly large company who had just installed a brand new VoIP telephone system. In this case, she was on day 1 or day 2 with her new system, and was still having trouble getting 100% comfortable with it. Old habits die hard, and after about an hour and a half, she was ready to pull her hair out! The good news is that it wasn’t long before she turned the corner, and started getting used to just how to process all of her calls most efficiently. In fact, I probably could have stopped in two weeks later and she would have taught me a thing or two about the system that I had never seen before!

The moral of the story is that change, ultimately, is good. Initially, there will likely be some growing pains, and there will most definitely be an adjustment period at the very least; but once you come out on the other side of the changeover, and you are comfortable with the new technology, your business will thank you for it.

Topics: Business Telephone Systems, training, train

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