Collaboration the driver to better business

index

Effective collaboration with co-workers, partners, customers, and others is critical for meeting an organisation’s goals and driving its productivity. And in a world where work groups are spread throughout a building, across a country, or around the world, fostering productive collaboration is more important and more challenging than ever.

Just about everything that gets done in an organisation is the result of collaboration. Only by working together, by sharing knowledge and resources, and by building consensus about goals and how to achieve them can teams of workers accomplish what none of them could alone.

Collaboration within an organisation drives productivity and competitive advantage. Collaboration with partners extends those benefits across the enterprise. Collaboration with customers builds profitable relationships.

In short, collaboration is a critical ingredient for achieving any organisational goal. This, combined with the changing nature of the workplace, makes it both more important and more challenging than ever to foster simpler, more spontaneous and productive ways to collaborate at work.

It’s no secret that the traditional workplace is changing. The once centralised organisation is becoming increasingly widespread and diverse all the time. The classic warren of beige cubicles in a single location has been replaced by offices across the country and around the globe, by remote workers in satellite locations, and by individuals teleworking from home offices.

With all of these changes, it’s not surprising that workers aren’t what they used to be either. The evolving workplace calls for new ways of working, and the best workers are eager to embrace ways that will make their lives easier and help them be more productive.

In a world where speed characterises the flow of information among vast networks of people, communication with friends, colleagues, and superiors takes place faster than ever.

This challenges organisations to provide the new tools that workers want and need to turn creative collaboration from a special event into a spontaneous and natural part of their work lives.

Recognising the importance of collaboration, organisations need to invest in a range of tools and techniques to foster it, which include multimedia solutions that address the new workplace by enabling people in diverse locations to see and speak to one another, to share documents and presentations, and to interact almost as though they were in the same room.

Bad collaboration is worse than no collaboration. All too often people scuttle from meeting to meeting to coordinate work and share ideas, but far too little gets done.

They need the kind of spontaneous, any-time collaboration that people need to be their most productive. And they need to have the intuitive and fast collaboration that the changing workforce is coming to expect.

To be sure, occasional centralised meetings are necessary. But they don’t address the need for ad-hoc collaboration throughout the day. Something more is needed to make collaboration a normal part of a productive work day – a next-generation tool that makes initiating and conducting multimedia collaboration as natural and easy as making a phone call.

That is the challenge that companies tell us they are facing. Pinnacle uses various technologies to make meetings become a whole lot simpler and more spontaneous. Whether you plan them in advance, or start them in response to emerging needs, collaborations can become just another part of a productive work day.

The aim is that there’s no need to send documents in advance or to interrupt productive activity to schedule collaboration – it just happens when you need it to.

Posted in Pinnacle Views | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Call Management Reporting Can Slash Business Costs

service-pack-4668

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.

Posted in Pinnacle Views | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

unified-communications-large-370x229

Companies 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.

Posted in Pinnacle Views | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Organisations need to look to the future of the way people work

index

Organisations should start looking at the future of the way their workforces operate in light of both cultural and technological changes. The differing needs of employees both now and in the future means that organisations should carefully weigh up their technological needs now to ensure they lead the process rather than be led by workers.

We currently have a workforce made up of many generations, but we also have a rapid pace of technological change. In just a few years, someone who used to be well versed on the latest email platforms and online collaboration tools is faced with a plethora of social media channels and smartphone apps.

Such a diverse workforce is divided by different personalities and personal preferences, and different ways of working. For example, research shows that women value flexible working hours and locations, whilst men value choice over tools and technology.

Today’s younger workforce, which has grown up using the web and advanced personal computing devices, appears to be more open to new ways of working, and find the prospect of a ‘portfolio career’ appealing.

Looking ahead, there will be no ‘traditional’ way of working, as organisations look to appeal to a diverse workforce that wants to pick and choose its projects, hours, devices and location. But organisations could be making a mistake if they simply roll out technology to appeal to this diversity.

Technology should not define a business, but become the enabler for a business to define its culture, its spaces and the kind of organisation it wants to be.

Many organisations make the mistake of giving employees all the tools they need to work flexibly, but how these are used needs to come from the leadership table. What culture do you want to create? What behaviour do you want to incite? It’s important that direction is given on how employees use this technology.

The emphasis for flexible working is often facilitating this outside of the office environment, but many workers still value the traditional office space for social interaction, sharing ideas and meeting with different parts of the organisation.

The value of flexible working is its inherent ‘flexible’ nature: an organisation cannot promote the idea of flexible working and merely cover the provision of a desk and a chair for their employees’ spare room, they need to look at connectivity, collaboration, and real-time communication.

Over the next twenty years, those workers who knew little beyond the nine to five culture will move into retirement and younger people entering the workplace will have grown up having seen their parents work flexibly.

The experience gained in the education system will be critical in shifting our culture and equipping young people with the skills they need to work in less structured ways. But there is little evidence of the education system adapting in order to prepare students for new ways of working.

The younger generation still struggles with independent work, even at university level, and this could lead to serious productivity issues in the future if our workers lack the discipline to work effectively of their own accord.

It is essential at this early stage in the virtual workplace evolution that we identify the best methods to engender a positive, binding working culture, through self-management skills, promoting ‘leaders’ over ‘managers’ and providing tools – through technology – to supplement this.

Ultimately, balance will be key.

Posted in Pinnacle Views | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Crucial communications questions for at-risk companies

images

What would happen if your telephone system failed and you did not have a plan in place to deal with it? Would your business still be able to operate? Would you be able to contact your customers or suppliers? What alternatives could you arrange and how long would it take?

Incidents in recent years have illustrated all too clearly the affect that natural disasters can have on a business. For example, localised flooding has affected thousands of businesses, some of which never recover.

Without timely communication – when, where, and how your customer wants to communicate – there is no customer relationship. Despite all the innovations in self-service over the past decade, the most important connection is often the voice a company can put on the other end of a telephone.

Yet many companies underestimate how fragile that link to the customer is, how many different ways that connection to the customer can be jeopardised – and how broad their options are for ensuring that they never lose touch with a customer.

We help companies with the level of preparedness they need to achieve consistent customer communications through the role of remote technology to ensure continuity and an effective long-term strategy.

A communications continuity strategy is essential for maintaining customer relationships, but upgrading communications systems that increase flexibility have some side benefits as well:

  • IP telephony system upgrades, which are a key solution to the continuity issue, have produced overall communications systems savings of between 25 and 60 per cent.
  • Companies that have changed their communications systems to be more prepared for business disruptions have seen an average savings of up to 85 per cent a year when IP telephony is involved.
  • New systems enable access to voice messages and faxes even if – in the event of a power failure or severe weather, for example – phone systems are down and the office is closed.

To understand continuity, you need to think through your customer’s eyes. They are not tethered to a specific phone or location when they call you. They can reach out from a home or office desk, a cell phone, WiFi hotspot, or a IP Telephony link.

They have little sympathy for an accidentally severed fibre-optic cable, or a road accident causing a power disruption. All you know is that you are out of touch during crucial moments – moments when a customer wants to initiate a contact.

The effects of those service interruptions can ripple through your organisation with greater long-term effects than a major catastrophe.

When customers can research and switch suppliers and partners in a matter of minutes, during even a modest interruption, your company simply vanishes from the customer’s radar.

The cornerstone of any customer communication strategy is accessibility. Know how your customers will access your company during a disruption of services or locations. On the other hand companies are not structured properly to provide to give employees accessibility to their jobs.

If you are having a conversation with a customer and you are told to evacuate the building for a fire or a drill, the technology exists today to switch that call to your wireless handset, allowing you to walk right out of the building and keep talking, and it will be seamless to the customer.

Relationship continuity is subject to pressures great and small, old and new. Much of the high-profile effort put into relationship continuity planning revolves around high-profile threats – threats of terrorist attacks, pandemics, and devastating, wide-ranging natural disasters of flood, earthquake, and fire.

Although substantial, by their very nature these are not the threats most companies face most of the time. Companies must seek modern strategies to deal with a varied range of continuity threats.

Outdated continuity plans fail to account for modern threats and vulnerabilities. They fail to take an updated view of the importance of ongoing customer relationships.

Posted in Pinnacle Views | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leading the way with ‘Hosted Telephony’

imagesHosted 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.

Posted in Guest posts | Leave a comment

Get control of your telephone calls via the web

index

This week we have introduced a complete communications service for businesses that is packed full of features and controlled via an easy-to-use web portal. Our new ‘Horizon’ service lets managers easily control the business environment while enabling employees to maximise their productivity.

The suite has lots of clever features and an emphasis on control through the web that takes away the need for an often-expensive IT expert. Managers can quickly configure the system according to their organisation’s changing requirements, while their employees can manage calls easily and effectively.

With only a minimal capital outlay required, a reliable and proven service, and a jargon-free approach to telephony and communications, Horizon is suitable for any sized business looking to improve their productivity and image. It conveniently integrates your fixed and mobile capabilities so that you never miss a call. Callers dial one number to reach your desk phone and mobile phone simultaneously; you can move ongoing calls seamlessly from one phone to another without hanging up and both phones share a single voice mail box.

As Horizon is hosted on your behalf, you only pay for what you need on a simple ‘per seat’ basis. As you are not buying a physical phone system, there is no major hardware investment and there are no financing costs to consider.

You will also get all the cost benefits of IP telephony including free site-to-site calls even – across international boundaries – and cheaper call rates. If you use Horizon together with mobile services you’ll benefit from incredibly competitive rates for calls between your fixed and mobile devices.

Horizon helps businesses become more efficient by enabling flexible work environments through hot-desking, home working, and extending the service to mobile devices. You have total flexibility with the numbers you want to use. You can keep your existing numbers or get new numbers. You can extend your business reach and use any local area number no matter where you are located. Have a London number in Llanrumney!

And unexpected events such as snow, floods or strikes won’t disrupt your business. Because Horizon sits in the “cloud”, the service provides business continuity features that allow your organisation to carry on making and taking calls.

Horizon provides a broad range of call handling features that are accessed via the web through a dashboard giving access to information such as your call history, voicemail and recorded calls. Personalised settings are quick and easy to set, ensuring calls are handled effectively.

You can record inbound or outbound calls for compliance, customer service or audit purposes. This optional feature allows secure online access to file storage and retrieval of call details. You can set Horizon to record some calls, all calls or record calls on demand.

Horizon provides IT managers with a powerful administrative management capability while giving employees freedom to control calls quickly and effectively. Set-up is quick and easy and you can choose to pass down control to the user or you can retain control of the individual user features.

You can use Auto Attendant to provide callers with call routing options for different areas of the business or create announcements to inform callers of details such as opening hours and website address when the office is closed. Horizon can be used with a range of handsets from a choice of manufacturers, and is not tied to one type of manufacturer or hardware for an installation, therefore allowing us to customise the offering that’s for you.

Horizon is ideal for any sized business and is highly effective in organisations that have more than one site that work together. The system is capable of serving hundreds of employees. Businesses with employees who are regularly on the move or out of the office will never lose calls as each user can simply tell the system, at the click of a mouse, where their calls should be sent: their desk, their mobile – or both – or their colleague. And if they miss a call they can pick up their voicemail no matter where they are.

The service is provided centrally so you don’t need an expensive system on each site. Horizon connects branch offices together, calls are free between locations and everyone shares the same dial plans and directories. As it’s hosted on your behalf, there are no expensive maintenance or running costs and you pay for what you use on a simple per-user basis. In the event of a disaster the services can be instantly moved across to a backup plan that can include, for example, diverting calls to different locations without loss of functionality and without expensive call forwarding costs.

You can put calls on hold, play marketing messages, move calls seamlessly between users and offices, and your customers will get the best experience when calling your business. In addition, Horizon provides a cost-effective way to record calls. This centralised feature means calls can be recorded from any location, in any direction and configured instantly at the click of the mouse.

Posted in Pinnacle Views | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment