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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Call Management Reporting Can Slash Business Costs

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Organisations need to take a look at ‘call reporting’ as a way of bringing down their business costs by up to 15%. Logging and recording calls using cutting-edge but affordable software can show a telephone network’s cost, performance, capacity and quality of service.

The old maxim that ‘You can’t manage what you don’t measure’ has proved to be so true when it comes to communications. Retaining existing customers, controlling costs and seeking competitive advantage have always been difficult goals and a challenging economic environment only adds to that difficulty.

For smaller organisations, often without in-house technical skills and experience to determine which communications products and applications are best suited to their needs, the prospect of using technology for commercial advantage can be daunting.

Our telecoms systems are designed to manage and improve the use of telecommunications throughout an organisation by delivering a wide and flexible range of reports that show them exactly what is going on in a format that is easy to understand and tailored to their business.

As well as the immediate cost savings of up to 15% on calls can be realised as well as the associated savings in staff time, these reports can quickly highlight further immediate savings that can be made by terminating unused lines, redeploying unused extensions, and identifying and eliminating unnecessary and unauthorised private calls.

In addition, real-time call reporting will alert you quickly to any unusual telephone or trunk activity, thus potential telephone fraud can be recognised early and huge expense avoided.

Call Management reports can highlight such areas as:

  • Cost Control – cost of calls, cost of trunk lines, costs by department or individual extension, number of unused extensions, etc. Call logging software can also discover instances of Telephone fraud.
  • Performance Management – looks at how long it is taking an organisation to answer phone calls by operator, department or extension and demonstrates whether they meet acceptable target levels for that organisation.
  • Capacity Management – judges whether the system is being over or under used. It examines trunk usage and call patterns that show where extra capacity is required or where cost savings can be achieved.

Call Management software is a simple to use, yet highly sophisticated management tool that lets an organisation see what is happening within their business when it comes to telephone usage and much more. Quite simply, Call Management can help you run your business better, increase productivity and save you money.

With Call Management you can reconcile your phone bill by seeing reports that show the phone calls you actually made, by number, call duration, which extension made the call. More significantly, you can block calls to unauthorised numbers so you don’t get caught out again. It’s a sad fact that the hacking of phone systems is on the increase again.

Criminals can hijack un-protected systems – usually at night or over a weekend – and use them to redirect calls to overseas locations or very expensive premium rate numbers they own.

The first users general know about it is when they get the bill, often tens of thousands of pounds – and be warned, you are liable and you have to pay up. Call Management can protect you against this fraud by identifying any irregular call patterns and stopping the calls before damage is done.

With Call Management you can also list out your major accounts and identify calls to and from them in simple-to-read reports. How many calls did you miss last month from your biggest customers? Call Management can tell you.

And do you know which of your customers is tying up your expensive customer service desk? Are 80% of your service calls coming from just 20% of your customers? Worse still, are those 20% of customers really spending any money with your business? Once again, Call Management will identify the issues and provide the reports you need.

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‘Doing nothing’ is the wrong option when it comes to future communications challenges

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Right now every every business across the world is about to face their biggest challenge – and opportunity – in over two decades.

It’s not a milestone invention like ARPNET’s launch of email in the 1970’s. Nor is it a ‘first’ like the Mosaic ‘consumer’ web browser ten years later. It’s not a single evolutionary step forward like the move from mainframe to desktop computing.

In fact, it isn’t even a single defining event at all. It’s the convergence of a series of trends forcing organisations to choose their next move very carefully. This is so significant because, according to research consultancy Loudhouse, it’s the reason why almost 9 out of 10 enterprises surveyed are investing in their communications infrastructure in the next twelve months.

Not 18 months, or two years, or five, but right now. Organisations need to decide whether they will be one of the 89 per cent of firms taking the path to this new and exciting unified communications future – and in doing so gain a competitive edge.

Doing nothing is likely to mean spending an increasing proportion of your already over-committed budget on supporting ageing communications technologies.

But organisations doing something – taking proactive action – means you will be able to instantly leverage new cost-saving technologies like SIP; reduce maintenance and upgrade charges; enjoy pay-as-you go utility pricing models, for example, hosted telephone systems; and deliver agile new services that allow users, customers and suppliers to work and collaborate socially – wherever and whenever they are – and on their favoured devices.

Organisations that remain static – i.e. those wrestling with the realities of supporting a complex, expensive legacy communications infrastructure – will soon be struggling to compete at all.

For example, interconnecting platforms and equipment, and maintaining disparate voice and data networks, requires substantial expertise and resources that bite deep into already stretched budgets. Added to which, there’s those ever-escalating network, hardware, maintenance and upgrade charges to consider.

And if that wasn’t enough, the older the system the more limited the ability for it to address new user demands like mobility. Yet each new solution or product represents an additional layer of cost to the business. And because it’s old, one day it just might expire.

This patchwork quilt approach to maintaining an ageing communications infrastructure has even wider implications. These include exposing the business to network vulnerability due to system redundancy, to say nothing of the potential for security breaches this creates.

And then there’s the ‘knee jerk’ and expensive investment decisions that are frequently made following a system failure. Worse still, the inability to leverage new communications channels quickly and with ease puts organisations on the back foot when it comes to competitive advantage – from constraining the productivity and performance of employees to failing to deliver the social media and collaboration tools customers expect.

Clearly, the cost of doing nothing represents a missed opportunity – both in terms of competitive advantage and cost savings.

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Leading the way with ‘Hosted Telephony’

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Hosted telephony services are changing how small, medium and large businesses use voice communications. They can deliver an extraordinary range of business, financial and technical benefits – making business voice communications more resilient, saving money and making it easy to adapt to change.

Office phone systems are often called PBXs – Private Branch Exchanges – or PABXs – private automatic branch exchanges. In the simplest terms, they connect any two or more phone users in the same organisation together.

Of course they can do a vast amount more, providing facilities such as voice mail, conferencing, call forwarding and so on to make life easier. PBXs are sited at the business’ site, and connect to the outside world via analogue and digital circuits, with cabling around the business location to which handsets are connected. The intelligence to make the components work together is within the PABX itself.

Hosted phone systems, by contrast, take most of the switching and intelligence of the conventional on-site system and move it off-site to a remote location where it is managed by a service provider, such as Pinnacle. Equipment at the business’ site is limited to the phones themselves, a switch, and broadband routers.

As a result, hosted systems are usually quicker, cheaper and easier to install and set up than conventional phone systems. As they are hosted remotely, there is less need for on-site expertise or maintenance.

In contrast, premise-based PBXs require equipment to be located on site. The organisation will be responsible for installing, managing and, when required, upgrading the equipment, as needs change.

Hosted telephony services are good for:

  • Small and medium-size businesses.
  • Organisations with multiple offices or remote users, and those that anticipate rapid changes in size.
  • Any organisation wishing to avoid the significant capital cost of acquiring an on site phone system.
  • Organisations with limited on-site knowledge of managing a phone system.

On-site or premise-based systems are best for large, stable businesses with a predictable number of users that need custom features or to integrate their phone system into their business applications.

Hosted phone systems provide small- to medium-sized businesses with abilities and features that are available to larger organisations, while providing the potential to reduce long-term operating costs considerably.

As with any rapidly growing technology, there is a wide variety of providers and a range of features at widely varying prices. Key benefits include: basic operating cost reductions due to lower call charges, the need for only one communications network, and lower maintenance costs.

There is a minimal investment risk, because no significant upfront investment is needed, and straightforward installation costs are based on tested, reliable components connecting to a system which IT personnel already understand.

It is important to make sure that your system has the basic features that you require now for the operation of your business and for its future growth than to drive the cost to the absolute bare minimum. Be clear about your initial and ongoing costs, contract terms and additional costs you may be committing to.

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Integrating mobile devices into communications infrastructure key issue for companies

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Organisations need to take a fresh look at how they are integrating their employees’ mobile phones into their corporate communications network. Mobiles should be an extension of a feature-rich network rather than a stand-alone add-on for employees.

No business tool is more essential or ubiquitous than the phone. With the huge array of technologies now at our disposal, we still depend on the power of voice communications that let us connect instantaneously and talk with anyone in the world.

No more so than in a world where business operations are spread around the globe with highly mobile employees on call at all hours. The evidence is all around us. Look in any airport lounge, sit in any train, stop at a cafe or walk along the pavement and you will see people conducting business on their mobile phones.

Wander through the corridors of any organisation and you will encounter more evidence of a workforce on the move, as people continue conversations on mobiles en route from one meeting to the next. Look around the offices and you will see the empty desks of the many employees who are working elsewhere – perhaps somewhere else in the building, teleworking from home or travelling anywhere in the world – but still just a phone call away.

What is not so clear and obvious, however, is how this mobile workforce and their organisations are using their communications tools. How do their mobile phones link up with laptops, desktop computers and office phone systems? Can employees switch smoothly from one device to another on the go? Do customers and colleagues know how to reach them at all times?

Are their messages all collected in one mailbox or do they sometimes languish in a voicemail system that the user forgets to check? How does the organisation manage its mobility solutions? Are costs under control? Are mobile communications fully integrated with customer relationship management systems and other business solutions? Finding the right answers to questions such as these is crucial in a business environment where so much depends on instantaneous action and decision-making.

Customers now expect an immediate response. Supply chains operate on a just-in-time basis. Employees must collaborate in teams whose members could be anywhere in the world. Staying ahead of the competition – or even just keeping up with it – in this environment requires highly efficient and well-integrated mobility solutions that will keep individual employees connected at all times.

New tools are helping businesses that are now grappling with the new realities of the global, mobile economy, which link mobile phones with computers, voicemail with email, and provide new ways of sorting, mixing and managing information and communications.

By using the technology of the internet – Internet Protocol (IP) – to manage their telephone systems, companies can now give employees a new set of powerful communication tools that are as easy to use as email and the worldwide web. Odds are if your business is on the move so are you and your employees. Tracking down essential staff at key moments is integral to your business. Finding them is another matter. Employees can be between offices or stores, with a customer, working from home or on the way to grab lunch. You’re no different. How to stay in touch?

Yet people can and do communicate with their colleagues and customers while they’re out of the office using multiple devices. But they often have to call many different numbers to reach them, only to leave messages in multiple mailboxes. Mobile workers are constrained by the fact that their mobile phones are on a separate network from the office phone system, so they don’t have access to all the calling features and productivity tools that are available on the office phones.

So how can you solve these problems and make your mobile workforce more accessible and more productive? You can begin with a very simple, yet fundamental change that orients your communications system around individual users rather than the devices they use.

A traditional phone system connects one device to another, with the result that all employees have separate numbers for the desktop phones in their office, their cell phones and their home phones. In many cases, because each of these devices has their own voice mail, messages are left in multiple locations.

A unified IP communications solution can provide each employee with a single number and a single source for voicemail. By doing so, it won’t matter to the caller where the person they’re calling is or what device he or she is using. The caller simply dials a four-digit extension number that automatically rings the recipient’s mobile phone, desk phone, or other device of choice simultaneously. Messages all go into a single personal inbox that allow people to respond to voice and email messages alike, even if they are on the road, by using a voice interface on their mobile phones which negates the need to log on to their computers.

One contact number and single source voice mail is significant. But this type of application goes further. IP mobility solutions also make it easy to switch communications from one device to another, so that a worker can take a mobile phone call on their way into the office and then seamlessly transfer it to the desk phone. Even more powerful and far-reaching in its impact is the way these mobility solutions can be used to extend the reach of critical business applications by connecting them with employees in the field.

Pinnacle Telecom is leading the way toward a new and more personalised approach to communications for organisations. Our innovative solutions, applications and desktop appliances enable you to access, process and control your communications and information naturally, simply and efficiently.

Our solutions allow organisations 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.

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The importance of Unified Communications

Small-Business-CommunicationsAlthough a much-used buzzphrase, what exactly is the importance of ‘unified communications’ in today’s ultra-competitive marketplace.

Well, at its heart, it is the development of systems designed to tackle constant pressure on managers and key employees, and the intense competition for customers.

The goal of unified communications is simple: to make it easy and cost effective for employees to reach one another – as well as business partners and customers – as soon as they need to, wherever they are.

The idea is to merge two or more communications into one user interface, allowing users to see whether someone is available for a phone call, video or telephone conference or instant message chat, and then to contact them in the most appropriate way.

So the next time a customer calls your business with a question about your services, instead of playing ‘phone tag’ trying to find the person who knows the answer, they can be routed to the right employee immediately.

There can be constant pressure on a few ‘go-to’ employees, who everyone else in the organisation relies on for help and information. Because they are so important to the health of the organisation, their time is at a premium. What they need more than anything else is a tool that can help them prioritise their communications.

Managers need technology that allows them to take important calls from anywhere, and ignore the interruptions that can wait for another day. Doing that requires tools that can identify important callers, properly route critical communications, and enable collaboration from anywhere.

In most organisations, customer service is priority number one. In many companies, for example, product offered by one competitor can be easily matched by another, so what matters most is their service. Success requires features that guarantee customers get the answers they need, the minute they need them.

These same organisations need advanced communications technology to meet their business goals, but don’t always have necessary staff devoted to IT and telecommunications issues. As a result, they need technology that is easy to understand and justify, and simple to deploy, manage and use.

So by integrating voice and online communications, ‘unified communication’ technologies make it easy for your employees to identify and locate the right person at the right time, get critical information, make faster and better decisions, and deliver exceptional customer service. It can also cut the costs of communications, including voice, instant messaging and conferencing.

Unified communications can deliver a variety of benefits, including:

  • Customer Care – With skills-based routing, presence information and conferencing, unified communications makes it easier to stay in touch with customers, and ensure they get the answers and support they need;
  • Better Productivity – It can use information and click-to-communicate capabilities to get the right information to the right people as soon as they need it, which helps managers make better decisions more quickly, which in turn speeds development and production times, and fills orders faster;
  • Lowering the Cost of Communications – Unified communications may sound expensive, but it can actually help reduce your communications costs. IP telephony has been shown to save thousands of pounds on voice calls alone – throw in decreased call volumes (thanks to instant message chats) and reduced travel (thanks for audio, video and web conferencing), as well as lower costs for conferencing delivered on-site rather than via a hosted service, and you have a technology than can quickly pay for itself.

Many organisations don’t have the time or money to spend on complex, costly technology implementations. They need tools that are easy to use and deploy, cost effective, and complete.

An all-in-one appliance can deliver all those benefits and more. The right one will be easy to install, maintain and service, and it will be simple to use. It will contain a host of communications applications, all accessible through a single client. And it will be extremely cost effective.

Since the majority of knowledge-based employees spend most of their time within Outlook, for example – composing and answering emails, scheduling appointments, and managing their contacts – integrating other forms of communication into that application makes enormous sense.

This is why organisations should look for a solution that will ensure the technology is simple to deploy, manage and use, without the need for a fully staffed IT department, and without too much cost and complexity.

Unified communications is a popular buzzphrase in business today, but the fact is that with the right technology it can boost productivity, increase customer care and cut communications costs.

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Unifying the worlds of voice and data key to business success

imagesCompanies embracing the merging of voice and data technologies will be the ones which prove most successful.

The worlds of data and voice have evolved separately in recent years, but those organisations which marry them together using current technologies will see substantial benefits in the form of capital and operational cost savings, lower cost of ownership for hardware, reduced risk associated with continuity and disaster recovery, and new opportunities for innovation.

First, there is the world of the data centre. Its servers and other hardware components, and the business applications that run on them, are the backbone of the organisation. They turn the reams of data that companies generate and collect into the information they need to understand and operate the business.

Then, there is the world of telephony. Here, voice applications ensure that the people whose performance determines how well the organisation does, how effectively it competes, and whether it succeeds or fails, communicate with one another in myriad ways to ensure that information is understood and acted on. Even in today’s high-tech world, voice communication is the beating heart of the business.

Managing those worlds is not easy. It means having two of everything. Two budgets. Two groups of personnel with different sets of specialised skills. And two technology infrastructures to buy, deploy, and support, because data applications and voice applications have very different needs when it comes to the hardware they run on and the ways in which they can be managed.

At least, they did until now, and we can help those organisations which want to take this next big leap forward.

Reducing the overall number of physical servers in a data centre has the obvious benefits of capital cost savings. And server consolidation also leads to immediate operational savings, because office space is needed to house hardware, and less energy is needed to power and cool the fewer servers that do the job.

And organisations used to labouring over two plans for business continuity and disaster recovery – one for data, the other for voice – can now encompass their entire IT infrastructure with a single plan. And they can have a common set of service level agreements (SLAs), processes, and tools for their single infrastructure.

In short, companies can now fundamentally change the way they think about their IT infrastructures and their resources. Instead of managing individual boxes, they can manage overall IT services. Instead of devoting most of their budgets to maintenance, they can focus on innovation.

And, for the business people who depend on data and voice applications, it means a better quality of service at considerably less cost.

Uniting the worlds of data and voice on a single infrastructure means:

  • Reduced capital expenditures. Running telephony and data applications on the same servers means fewer servers are needed, so the total cost of ownership for the information infrastructure drops dramatically.
  • Reduced operations and maintenance costs. Managing communication solutions along with other business applications does away with the costs of duplicate maintenance tasks.
  • Reduced power consumption. The power savings inherent in data environments can also be applied to voice applications.
  • Improved application availability. Applications are no longer subject to prolonged downtime for physical server maintenance.
  • Integrated business continuity. Consolidated disaster recovery management means that management methodologies and best practices can be applied consistently across all applications in the data centre, including business communication applications.
  • Increased business innovation. Freed from having to maintain two separate infrastructures, IT can devote resources to developing new applications and services that build competitive advantage.

The world of the data centre have been around since the days of mainframe computers. These were huge and expensive, and organisations had to use every ounce of power they offered and squeeze every bit of potential out of them.

One problem to realising their potential was that different software applications can require different operating systems. Unless a way could be found to run more than one operating system on a mainframe, different computers would be needed to run different software – something too expensive to be practical.

The solution to the problem was called ‘virtualisation’ – dividing a mainframe into partitions capable of running different operating systems and applications – in other words, turning one ‘real’ computer into two or more ‘virtual’ computers – and this made it possible to slice and dice resources and put the pieces to their best use.

Today, virtual computers can be created and modified at will. Applications and databases can be moved from one virtual machine to another without disrupting the work of the business people who depend on them. Deploying new software and maintaining hardware has become much easier, and the cost of running data centres has decreased significantly. Virtualised data centres deliver huge cost savings and operational advantages to today’s organisations.

But just as the data centre world has evolved since the era of the mainframe, communications technology has evolved through a series of exciting changes into the unified voice communications of today.

VoIP made it possible to run voice applications over the Internet, and to centralise many of the maintenance tasks associated with keeping a voice infrastructure running. It also enabled unified messaging capabilities, such as the integration of voice mail and email.

Control of voice technology has become software-based, and the advances in telephony have enabled the reliable, flexible, capability rich, internet-based telephony systems that today enable teleconferencing, web and audio conferencing, centralised global call centre operation, and other technologies that organisations depend on to keep communication flowing.

Pinnacle can help organisations unite their business data and voice applications on a single infrastructure. All of the benefits of the data centre and VoIP telephony can be realised with less capital spending, lower operational and maintenance costs, reduced power consumption, and easier and more dependable business continuity and disaster recovery. What used to exist in two different worlds can now, for the first time, be united in one.

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