Pinnacle Telecom Urges Organisations To Join The IP Telephone Revolution

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This week we are urging organisations to join the ‘IP telephone revolution’ to get free voice calls along with the ability to combine it with sophisticated software.

By routing telephone calls through IP – Internet Protocol – telephony is currently undergoing its biggest evolution since Alexander Graham Bell invented the first prototype telephone in 1875.

Telephony has historically been based on analogue ‘circuit-switched’ technology. Imagine an old-fashioned switchboard operator plugging in wires to establish a connection, and you get a pretty good idea of what circuit-switching means.

Over the last decade, however, a new digital communications ‘architecture’ has been rapidly maturing and is transforming telephony. The development of the World Wide Web has made Internet Protocol – or IP – a familiar household term. IP is essentially a digital language that allows computing devices to exchange information over a network.

IP telephony today is mature and reliable, and the business benefits it delivers are compelling. The fundamental advantages of IP telephony over analogue systems are lower telephone bills and smarter business communications.

Most corporate data networks are IP-based and can support IP telephony. This means that voice traffic can be sent over the same network and effectively ‘rides for free’. This is known as ‘voice and data convergence’ – or just ‘convergence’. Maintaining a single converged network, rather than separate voice and data networks, can deliver massive cost savings.

And since voice calls are now data, you can manage voice traffic with sophisticated software applications to deliver some very clever features and functionality.

For example, phones can be plugged into standard data ports, meaning your building only requires a single set of cabling. IP telephony also eases future growth as it’s simple to add extensions or integrate new sites into an existing network.

Regardless of where remote workers are located, they will be able to access the same key services and functionality as their colleagues based in the office enabling you to offer the same seamless service and customer care across your entire organisation.

IP telephony also makes it easy and cost-effective to include temporary workers or even a temporary office for ad-hoc projects, and consolidate resources such as operator positions in one central place.

It’s because of reasons such as these that IP telephony has been gaining significant traction with businesses of all sizes, and sales of IP-enabled systems are now outstripping sales of traditional analogue ones. Indeed, the number of IP extensions has exceeded the 2 million mark, and will account for 74% of the market in 2013.

Through IP telephony, organisations will be better able to implement remote or mobile working, advanced messaging, networking and contact centre functionality, dramatically improving the way people communicate, work and collaborate.

There are some amazing features that can be incorporated into an IP telephone system, for example ‘one number access’ where each member of staff can be allocated a number and all calls automatically are routed to wherever they are and whatever handset they’re using – wireless, desktop or IP ‘soft phone’, which is a piece of software which turns a laptop into an IP phone. This ‘follow me’ roaming helps customers, suppliers and other members of staff get through to the right person first time.

There is also ‘unified messaging’ where staff can have ‘anywhere, anytime’ access to all their messages – voicemail, e-mail and fax – through one single interface. This makes it easier for users to manage messages without the need to juggle different devices and they benefit from having a record of communications in one place. Remote workers, or those on the move, can also retrieve messages remotely or have them forwarded automatically, wherever they may be.

Or there is a raft of remote working features, where IP telephony seamlessly supports remote workers, allowing businesses to offer more flexible working practices to ensure they get the best from their staff. Armed with a laptop, a headset and an IP soft phone, remote workers can use all the same features and functionality as if they were sitting at their desk.

IP telephony is an ideal solution for companies wanting to save space by using ‘hot-desks’. Users can simply log onto a phone wherever they feel like sitting down and their number will be instantly assigned to that desk.

IP Telephony, however, will not provide sound business benefits for all organisations. For this reason, Pinnacle Telecom will ensure that we advise you on the best solution for you, which is easily and cost-effectively amended to implement new technology when it’s right for your business.

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How we help organisations through the mire of remote employee management

mobile_phone_6.16.14Technology and business pressures have led to more and more managers needing to lead teams that work off-site or are constantly in the field. Though a manager may no longer be able to simply walk down the hall to talk to team members, employees’ need for management is no less real.

In fact, good management is even more important in remote environments than in traditional cubicles, conference rooms, and break rooms. A distributed workforce requires different management techniques and skills to keep them motivated, productive, on track, and trained.

Although many management techniques and skills parallel those used in managing a centrally based workforce, managers need to apply an additional six key techniques to be successful in the remote environment.

Often managers assume they will have less communication with their employees when they are remote – in fact, the reverse is true. Managers of a distributed workforce need more communication with these employees.

Employees who work off-site can feel isolated, and can have trouble adopting company standards and procedures. They can have higher turnover, and even develop into “lone wolves”, who are unwilling to work in teams.

Increased communication counteracts this tendency and helps each employee cohere with the rest of the company. Whether it comes by email, text message, or phone, communication is essential. Remote managers need to make sure they are accessible to their employees by multiple avenues.

Here at Pinnacle we offer two important things: sage advice, and the resources to put in place the right employee mobile management plan. For example, we provide organisations with a location-based service that runs as an app on employee smartphones and can be administered by a manager from a browser-based web tool.

Key features that could be incorporated into a mobile management solution include:

  • Google Earth views displaying real-time, precise location of a mobile workforce
  • Identify nearest member of staff to customer locations
  • Alert on arrival and departure at customer sites
  • Automated Privacy for employees outside of working hours
  • Works with GPS-enabled smartphones
  • No hardware cost, no installation costs, no maintenance costs
  • Automatically generates on-site expenses, time sheets and mileage reports

Managing employees in the field has always been a challenge, especially for small businesses offering delivery or in-home services. Mobile devices provide employers with ever-expanding options for tracking and checking on the status of employees.

But the be-everywhere-your-employees-are ethic raises issues about Big Brother in the workplace. When it comes to “mobile management,” you’ll have to decide on how tight the electronic leash should be.

Simply put, in addition to other features like time tracking, you will be able to see you where your employees are, where they’ve been, and where they should be next. The goal is to make organisations more efficient through, for example, smarter dispatching, better customer service, and even fuel savings. And yes, to also help businesses keep tabs on employee productivity.

Our clients can have a handful of mobile workers and one office, or a multi-site infrastructure with thousands of employees, but we provide a simple application that sits on their employees’ GPS-enabled mobile device.  This means can choose a solution that meets their specific requirements which is cost-effective and scalable, without having to invest in new technology.

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Companies should look to internet-based communications to transform their operations

imagesCompanies need to look at internet-based communications to transform their operations. Internet Protocol – or IP – communications provide businesses with tools and capabilities for making business processes work better, and connect everyone in and organisation to collaborate, identify and implement business process improvements.

It is not often that a real opportunity comes along for dramatically transforming the way you do business – making it more cohesive, effective, productive and profitable, all with a single approach. But such an opportunity is now within the reach of almost any business.

This opportunity for improving business processes comes from a new development that both simplifies and enhances business communications in many significant ways. It involves putting phone calls on the same IP network as email and other data communications. This bridges the gap between two hitherto separate worlds of communication, linking your phone with your computer, your voice mail with your email,and enabling new ways to sort, mix and manage information and communications on a single network.

By integrating telephone systems with the technology of the Internet – Internet Protocol, or IP – companies can now give employees a new set of powerful communications tools that are as easy to use as email and the World Wide Web. These new communications tools have arrived on the scene just in time to answer the call of businesses that are grappling with the new realities of the global economy. They provide easy and economical ways of sharing information to make quicker decisions. They help businesses and individuals communicate efficiently with suppliers, customers, partners and other collaborators. They meet the needs of a mobile workforce, making everyone in the organisation accessible anywhere and at any time.

The business case for moving to an integrated IP communications solution is irrefutable. The challenge facing businesspeople today is how to rethink their business processes and strategies to make the most of these innovations. Every business has innumerable processes to help get things done. These processes may be as simple as a list of mobile phone numbers kept by receptionists so that customers can keep in touch with key people when they don’t answer their phones, or they can be as elaborate as the tools used by a contact centre to ensure that customer queries are directed to the correct agent first time.
Hundreds of business processes such as these, in almost every aspect of any operation, need to be reconsidered in light of the new possibilities that are made possible using IP communications.

Many organisations hope they can achieve improvements in their business processes by making technology investments in products such as enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), and similar software. The problem with this approach is that although the software may provide a company with better information about its operations, it doesn’t necessarily make it easier for employees to collaborate and communicate with each other to share information and act upon it.

IP communications fills these gaps and in the process create improvements that increases the effectiveness of previous business process improvement investments. Organisations need to look at how they do things now, what they want to achieve and how they can improve their processes to achieve their goals more successfully. In many cases, technology may provide the means to do this, but it should never become an end in itself.
A good starting point for seeing how IP communications can transform business processes is to ask how your business would change if everyone were in one location. Imagine you had a company of 25 people all working in the same office. You answer the phone and there is a key customer on the line with a question you can’t answer.

You know that there are two or three people in the company who have the information the customer needs. All you need to do is stand up, look around to see if they’re there and whether they are busy. If one of them is free, you simply signal to them to pick up the phone or you simply ask them for the information you need.

If they are busy and the customer call is important enough, you have the option of walking over to their desk and interrupting them. It is likely that in this environment you will be able to provide the customer with first contact resolution – linking them immediately and directly with the person or information they need – leaving the customer satisfied and allowing you to move on.

This first contact resolution is the key to business success and typically provides small businesses with a strong competitive advantage. Now consider what happens in a company with a workforce scattered around different locations, perhaps in different parts of building or some people working remotely.

The two or three people with the information you need are not in the same office. You have no idea whether they are in their offices, on the road or on holiday. You have to tell the customer you’ll get back to them. You try calling people who might help and you get voicemail for each one. You send emails, but you don’t know when or if they will respond.

Maybe you can reach them through instant messaging or maybe they’ll see the message on their Blackberries. You might get lucky, but you could spend a day or two playing telephone tag before you finally get an answer to the customer’s question. Then you need to call the customer back, which could result in another round of telephone tag. The customer gets frustrated and your other tasks have been put on hold by a slew of phone calls, voice messages and emails – all because of a simple question that should have been answered in thirty seconds.

In many businesses this cycle happens every day. On the other hand, with an IP communications solution in place you’re able to answer the same questions and resolve customer issues in the moment and with first call resolution.

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Communication Linked To Firms’ Ability To Grow

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It’s impossible to overstate the significance of telecommunications technology to any business, especially as it relates to growing the capacity of businesses. Telecoms technology is any firm’s central nervous system, and without it a business can’t compete or survive in today’s information service-dependent economy, making it one of the most important investments to make as a business expands.

Telecommunications technology has many roles, including transmitting information, improving efficiency and productivity and ultimately helping businesses expand. Arguably the greatest contribution of telecommunications technology is its empowering firms to reach more customers with fewer resources and manpower.

Online credit card processing and phone payment, virtual meetings, queued customer service lines, remote monitoring – even basic home and network security monitoring and the like are examples of how your firm can service more clients.

Telecoms has radicalised the phrase ‘do more with less’. It essentially reduces the costs of all transactions. For example, your customers can use the phone or the Internet to make and cancel orders without an employee being involved. Telecoms technology can make your delivery operations smoother by automating many of the basic processes that people once handled.

With the vast amount of information available to each employee of your firm, telecoms technology allows more employees to access and harness information. Mobile and wireless has also freed employees and helped with costs. No longer is an employee required to be in any particular location to get work done.

At Pinnacle, we specialise in take all of the ways a business communicates – person-to-person and conference calls,  social media, email, fax – and integrate them independently of device and location. We are here to help businesses be more productive, enabling them to excel in customer service while at the same time cutting their costs.

We are experts in helping firms access critical information seamlessly and automatically switching between devices, media, and networks, and having continuous, synchronised access to information and applications from a common user interface.

The telephone remains an important element of a customer service strategy. By using call management techniques, you can handle incoming calls quickly, even when lines are busy, and you can route calls to employees with the right skills to deal with the inquiry.

Or if your employees in sales, technical and service teams spend a large portion of their working days with colleagues, visiting customers, working at home or traveling, mobile telecommunication can help them maintain essential contact and work productively on the move.

And the increasing sophistication of smartphones makes mobile telecommunication an integral part of a wider communication capability. Employees can use the same telecommunication device to access data, send and receive emails, work on documents or participate in multimedia conferences.

Our easy-to-use and flexible systems help businesses to simply ‘get more done’ by being able to access emails, calls, faxes and vital business information in a single location; check on team member availability; screen calls and messages to help workers focus without missing key calls; and all designed to work within current familiar interfaces like Microsoft Outlook.

These sort of systems are vital to improving customer service as they enable such things as routing calls to the best available person; linking relevant client information to incoming calls automatically; using social media to extend reach and relate to customers; and getting through first time with one-number reachability.

And, of course, there is the all-important element of saving money, such as by slashing conference costs by up to 90% with integrated in-house conference calling; cutting trunk charges by up to 30% with internet-based calling; reducing office and travel costs with mobile worker support; and saving important time with voice and web-collaboration including video.

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Communications systems ‘vital to business success’

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Organisations large and small must address a wide range of communications needs based on the roles of their workers and the needs of their customers and clients. Today’s competitive markets demand communications solutions that are flexible enough to provide everyone – from the reception desk to the main office – with the communications capabilities they need to be productive.

Communication tools can make an important contribution to productivity. The UK Office for National Statistics found that investment in telecommunications had a positive effect on productivity, explaining up to 7.5 percent of productivity differences in manufacturing firms.

Although individual tools, including email, fixed-line phone, voice mail, mobile phone, instant messaging and conferencing offer specific productivity benefits, many organisations recognise the additional benefits of integrating them in a unified communication solution.

Research firm Chadwick Martin Bailey reports that failing to integrate communication devices can reduce productivity. In a survey of firms without unified communication, 56 per cent of the respondents reported that employees trying to reach a colleague simply guess which device to use and fail at the first attempt. Nearly half of respondents missed a deadline or experienced project delay because of communication problems.

And mobile communication enables employees away from their desks to maintain contact and access the data and applications they need to maintain productivity. A study of teleworkers found that 69 percent cited higher productivity when working remotely, while 83 percent felt that that their ability to communicate and collaborate with colleagues did not change when working away from the office.

For communication systems to be effective they need to be jargon-free, intuitive, and enable you to become very productive very quickly. This is how organisations can excel in customer service, for example by managing callers during busy hours or to cater for business continuity in the event of a disaster by instantly redirecting calls to another site.

Or you may need to record calls for compliance or training purposes and report on productivity. Or, from a marketing point of view, systems can help your monitor your advertising campaigns and report on the return on your investment.

Whichever communications system was chosen, it is important that:

  • Employees are accessible and able to respond immediately to the needs of others through real-time communication methods;
  • There are a wide range of better, smarter ways to work with colleagues, customers, and business partners;
  • Whatever their role, wherever they are, workers need to stay connected to each other and to customers.

Whether it is meeting the messaging needs of executives, keeping front-line personnel in touch anywhere and anytime, or deploying collaboration, web conferencing, or other productivity-enhancing communications, you need to make sure the solution is tailored to match your needs.

Does reception and customer service stand at the doorway to your business? Do your front-line workers and representatives have the telephone technology they need to make the right first impression and deliver superior support? Can workers in your organisation respond quickly to ever-changing demands, no matter where they are?

Are your sales leaders tuned into emerging, fast-changing opportunities anywhere, anytime – whether in the office, while visiting customers, or on the road? Do your desktop phones give your employees exactly what they need to stay in touch and meet the communications challenges they face daily in a global marketplace? Can management always get immediate access to corporate, customer, supplier and other information they need to make better, faster decisions?

At Pinnacle we establish exactly what any project needs to achieve. We establish the current process, set project goals, and gather the functional and non-functional requirements. We start with a current system inventory and then evaluate it for quality and relevancy. Once we’ve established what already exists, we check for missing parts of a complete system.

Our overarching aim is to make sure that work ‘flows’ better. We make sure clients can take control of their communications systems by providing online access to a full range of routing, monitoring and managing tools to empower any organisation with the perfect customer service package.

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Unified Communications vital to the success of SMEs

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The concept of ‘Unified Communications’ is a vital tool in the armoury of smaller enterprises, and it will lead to more valuable and efficient consumer communications, customer relationships and employee teamwork.

Technologically, we live in exciting times. In the workplace, no form of business technology has been as dynamic as converged voice and data communications – an area where the rate of innovation and change has literally been non-stop, and shows no signs of slowing.

For most small and medium-sized enterprises – SMEs – the rapid changes in communications technology have brought significant opportunities as well as challenges. For example, once largely restricted to large enterprises, advanced Internet Protocol-based – IP – platforms have evolved to the point that highly reliable and fully-featured communication systems are now available – and affordable – to businesses of all sizes.

This means that the widespread availability of sophisticated telecommunications capabilities has levelled the global playing field and given smaller firms the ability to effectively compete against much larger players.

At the heart of this technology is a concept called ‘Unified Communications’. It represents the intersection of IP telephony and advanced online applications and it can launch SMEs into more valuable and efficient consumer communications, customer relationships and employee teamwork.

Just as texting, mobile access, and social media have made the world wide open for a company’s customers, the same possibilities are available within companies. SMEs are being profoundly impacted by the change, or becoming vulnerable to more aggressive and technically savvy competitors.

But Unified Communications can put SMEs on a plane with much larger companies. An audit of current capabilities and an understanding of new technology developments will make a positive difference in workforce and customer communications. Businesses are migrating to unified communications platforms that allow them to pull their voice, data and video messaging together into one system. This provides significant cost reductions, and also helps them look and operate more like a big enterprise.

From a customer service standpoint, collaboration technology via Unified Communications has enabled SMEs to share information on customers in real time to improve service levels, such as pop-up screens that coordinate a voice call with data screens identifying the caller and providing background on their call history. Telephone call control, enriched by a wide range of desktop devices and applications, allows financial organisations freedom to change the way they do business, improve staff retention, create efficient business processes, and better customer interaction.

Through unified communications platforms, collaboration tools are enabling SMEs to communicate in real-time with their supply chain partners, for example, regardless of their location. And reachability may the most compelling reason for SMEs to adopt Unified Communications. Many businesses have staff working from remote locations and they can now stay connected with remote workers while presenting a seamless face to the customers.

From a customer service standpoint, the capabilities delivered by Unified Communications solutions have provided significant competitive advantages for SMEs. For example, with teleworker solutions, contact centres are no longer limited to providing service only during the office hours of the headquarters.

The next phase of reachability for most SMEs is providing simplified and immediate access to their employees who use primarily mobile devices. Companies have started to take advantage of features and functionality such as mobile extensions, which allows mobile workers to receive both their office and mobile calls on a single number.

And through their experience on the internet, consumers have learned that tools like firewalls, anti-virus solutions and spam filters are essential to protect their personal computers. Those same concerns are multiplied for small businesses choosing a Unified Communications system.

In the past few years, security concerns kept many small businesses from adopting Unified Communications. Just as a network or website could be hacked, so could customer data shared via Unified Communications. However, IP solutions now offer a high degree of security. Most current networks are backed by industry standard encryption. This encryption ensures confidentiality and protects against eavesdropping or interception of conversations.

Pinnacle is leading the way toward a new and more personalised approach to communications for enterprise and small business. Our innovative solutions, applications and desktop appliances enable clients to access, process and control their communications and information naturally, simply and efficiently.

Unified Communications solutions allow SMEs to collaborate over distance and time and to interact with their customers, colleagues and partners as never before. By combining the power of voice, data and video over converged high speed networks, this provides enterprises with flexible and personalised tools that lets them connect to their most valuable customers.

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‘Convergence’ can lead to better communication and lower bills

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Businesses should look at converging their telephone and data networks to increase efficiency and cut costs. Joining voice communications with your organisation’s network could lead to a raft of improved features and lower bills.

The move of voice from a separate telephone network to a data network using Voice over IP – or VoIP – is at the heart of what is termed ‘convergence’. VoIP is the data transport mechanism used to deliver telephony over a data network using the internet instead of traditional telephone switches. Although VoIP is all about the transmission of data and IP Telephony is about the system and applications used, VoIP and IP Telephony are used interchangeably to essentially refer to the same thing.

IP Telephony has cost advantages over conventional telephone systems – ease of management, flexibility in use, the reduction in costs associated with the addition and relocation of personnel through moves, and the reduction in line costs mean that IP Telephony can reduce overhead costs by 17 per cent, and for organisations with 500 or more staff, savings can be as high as 32 per cent.

Converging voice onto the network provides for enhanced flexibility and mobility within the organisation. As voice moves to the network it can be managed in a similar way to other applications, moving the voice system out of the closet and onto networks, enabling companies to manage voice communications far more dynamically.

For the end user, it means that the ability to communicate is no longer tied to a desk, but instead has been liberated to enable them to communicate from any location across the network.

Centralised management of a voice communication system can reduce overhead costs by removing the complexities that exist in maintaining traditional telephone systems. The use of web-based tools to manage the system means that applications and services can be more dynamically designed and managed.

In a VoIP system, new applications can be added simply, without the need to make adjustments to each physical device, meaning companies can:

  • Audit the status of the managed devices
  • Perform remote programming and maintenance
  • Locate unused directory numbers and unused circuits

Managers can sit anywhere on their company’s network or dial in from a remote location to make changes where necessary. However, the true value in convergence lies in unifying communications. The aim of unifying communications is to reduce the communication gaps that exist between workers and the various devices and applications that are used to interact.

Ultimately, improved business interaction improves workflow and reduces communication gaps, thereby increasing efficiency and boosting customer service. Unified communications moves beyond the conventional context of convergence by integrating telephony with a multiplicity of communications tools.

This is where convergence truly gets interesting. The convergence of voice and data enables new applications to be created, from presence and availability tools, to conferencing and collaboration tools to tools to enhance corporate mobility and business continuity.

Understanding what it is you are trying to achieve and how convergence tools can aid your organisation is a vital first step on the road to convergence. Understanding where you are today and what is required to achieve your goals will enable you to develop your roadmap.

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