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The Ultimate Guide to more Productive Conference Calls

Conference calls are an important part of corporate business life, however, they have many pitfalls and too often become time wasting hazards. At Unite, we’re all too familiar with conference call woes. Here are a few tips to keep your team’s conference calls productive:

Familiarize yourself with the services of your conferencing system

Before you begin a conference call, take some time to research the service and learn its features. It is a wise idea to go over certain commands and features at the start of a conference call to ensure that everyone on the call can participate. Simple things like “mute” may help you throughout a large conference call to eliminate background noise or distractions for others on the line. Your system or phone may also allow you to record the phone meeting.  By recording a conference call, you are able to review the information covered during the meeting at anytime. You may also send the transcript to those who were unable to attend so that they can remain informed.

Ensure someone takes charge

Oftentimes it will be obvious who should take charge of the call, usually, this role is filled by the person who organizes the call. However, there may be times (such as a collective weekly team call without a manager or “boss” on the line) where the person in charge may not be so obvious. Participating in a conference call without a clear leader may cause awkward silences, confusion about the subject matter, and an overall lack of call direction. If you feel uncomfortable taking the lead on every team call, feel free to circulate the responsibility with other members of your team. Just remember that there should always be an assigned call leader in advance. As a manager, this role assignment can be a great technique for teaching management skills and organization to your employees.

Circulate or discuss an agenda with key talking points before the call begins

Having key points to discuss will help move the meeting along and ensure productivity. If you summarize your agenda at the beginning of the meeting you will help everyone else keep on course as well. Often conference calls may be the fastest way to address multiple issues, but the conversation needs to remain focused and on track. Referring to a master list of “to-do’s” can seriously impact your productivity.

Keep it short and simple

The quickest way to lose participant focus is to extend your phone meeting longer than is necessary or longer than the scheduled length. By keeping the teleconference call short and concise, you will have engaged participants who do not dread your calls. Consider only inviting those who are vital to the issue or project being discussed. If you limit the number of participants, the time spent discussing each issue will automatically become more time efficient.

Encourage participation by those on the line

Just like a regular workplace, some employees or clients are really good at making their voices heard. However, there are also valuable opinions that can go unheard if some participants are not invited into the conversation.  Use your agenda to indicate when people will be needed to present their opinion. This will also avoid the traditionally chaotic “any last comments” conversation at the end of the conference call.

Summarize the call and follow up with assigned actionables

A quick summary or overview of topics discussed, solutions, decisions, and issues that must be explored further should be circulated amongst those who participated in the call. Create responsibility by assigning tasks that were discussed on the call or by asking for a follow up with a firm date attached. The follow-up and actionables are what will make your conference calls “successful”. If you began the call with an agenda, then you will already have a template for the summary.

Is a Cloud-Based Phone System Right for My Business?

Cloud technology has made its way into many aspects of business, from data storage to development platforms. Cloud-based phone systems provide an opportunity for companies to upgrade their existing phone service, but some decision-makers are hesitant to embrace the cloud until they know whether it’s right for their business. Use this guide to learn the answers to the most common questions about cloud-based phone systems.

How does a cloud-based phone system work?

Similar to other cloud-based technology, the vendor sets up and configures the phone system with their resources. The business connects to the cloud-based phone system over the internet to access the service without needing to deploy it on-site.

What makes cloud-based phone systems different from the company’s current solution?

A traditional PBX commercial phone system requires a significant resource investment to house the necessary equipment. The upfront cost is significant, and the company also needs a place to store the hardware. A cloud-based system eliminates the need for PBX equipment, as the cloud provider handles all of the hardware on their end. The setup and configuration process are streamlined due to the cloud, which makes changing settings and features an easy process.

How does a company benefit from adopting a cloud-based phone system?

Cloud-based phone systems incorporate advanced features that would be expensive or impossible to attain through a PBX-based system. Eliminating the upfront equipment purchase makes these systems more accessible to small- and medium-sized companies. Ongoing cost-efficiency comes from working with a vendor that provides continual upgrades and handles maintenance and troubleshooting. Businesses can upgrade and downgrade their service as their needs change, and they can quickly get up and running.

Can companies transfer their numbers to cloud-based systems?

Organizations can seamlessly shift their existing numbers to the new system, eliminating the need to update company materials. Keeping the same number also conveys professionalism to the business’ customers and clients.

Is the cloud reliable?

Cloud-based phone systems often end up being more reliable than on-site PBX systems. Companies that have electrical outages or other disasters occurring at their main headquarters can still access cloud-based phone systems since the equipment is at a different geographical location. This redundancy makes it possible to continue normal phone operations even if the rest of the company’s systems are down.

Will cloud-based phone systems become obsolete shortly?

Cloud-based technology has the advantage of being continually developed by the provider to incorporate the latest innovations. Companies automatically receive improvements to their service whenever they’re added.

Is a cloud-based system right for a small or medium business?

Some companies may rely on a basic business phone or even their personal cell phones to handle their offices’ communication needs. One reason they use this approach is due to the expensive investment required for PBX systems. Cloud-based systems offer product tiers that are suitable for small businesses while giving medium-sized businesses the features they need to continue expanding.

Is your organization interested in seeing the power of cloud-based phone systems for yourself? Whether you want to decrease your voice communication costs, need a professional system for connecting with customers or you’re seeking the flexibility of the cloud, you stand to benefit from adopting this robust technology.

Contact us today to get more information about the right cloud-based phone system for your company.

BELL SNR Alternative Service

BELL SNR Alternative Service

Those who run their own business (or help with the communications aspect) understand the daily trials and tribulations that occur with the phone systems. Whether it’s unreliability, inefficiency, or incredible price fluctuations, it often seems like you’re trapped in a never ending telecom contract.

What many big telecoms won’t broadcast to their current clients is that there are alternatives to the major solutions. Even for big business. At the end of the day, reliable, efficient, and affordable telecom services make a serious impact to the bottom line of a business.

What’s great about the alternative options? Smaller telecoms are eager for your business, and will provide top-notch service often at the fraction of the price that you’re paying now with a major competitor. In addition, smaller telecoms are more in tune with their clientele, which means no unexpected service cancellations or package terminations that could seriously impact your business.

In the past 2 years, both Rogers and Bell have terminated major business package offerings for their clients and are phasing them out (Bell SNR + Rogers One). Unite, on the other hand, has constructed additional packages for these potential customers in an effort to allow them to continue providing their best business to their customers with the same telecom services.


What is Single Number Reach?

Simply put, single number reach (SNR) is a phone system setup that allows you to route your phone calls to a single device chosen by the user. With most telecoms, you can change the device via an internet portal anytime and anywhere. For example, if you leave the office early one day you can route all calls to go to your cellphone instead of your office phone.


Wait, is single number reach just the same as call forwarding?

No. Communications nerds (AKA, us) will tell you that call forwarding is defined as landline-to-landline call routing. Single number reach is controlled through a web interface that can be changed instantly depending on which device you have at the time. Call routing with a single number reach solution can also include wifi connected devices such as tablets.


The benefits of single number reach:

  • Efficiency as an employee
  • Adaptable to an on-the-go lifestyle or work schedule
  • Eliminate confusion between voicemail boxes by checking only ONE for messages
  • Single number reach packages are cost effective
  • Employees have full control over their daily phone calls
  • Web portals are easily accessible and easy to use
  • A modern way for businesses to provide great customer service
  • Flexibility in terms of choice between being in the office or being on-the-go
  • Route calls to an assistant or coworker if you need a mental break
  • No long distance, network spans across Canada
  • Area code can display being in a specific city/area (even if you’re working remotely)

 

With Unite specifically, there is no long distance charge to use single number reach. The network spans over the entirety of Canada. Another major cited benefit of single number reach is being able to organize your voicemails and messages. This means no more forgotten (or missed) messages.


How Single Number Reach can help your business’s image:

In business, your image can be just as important as your work. If a client perceives that your office is in a certain city (even though you may work from another location), you can design single number reach to have that specific area code. Again, if you’re working from home, you can still use your office number and route the calls to your home phone. Which also means no need to provide your personal phone numbers to professional clients.


Why do Employees + CEOs + Managers need an SNR solution?

As any good manager knows, a productive team is a team that produces results. Productivity directly impacts your bottom line.

 

Some fast facts about productivity in the workplace:

  • The highest performing 10% of workers work for 52 minutes, followed by a 17-minute break.
  • Telecommuters tend to be 14% more productive than their office-bound coworkers
  • Happiness makes people 12% more productive

 


Here are some ways that a single number reach system (SNR) can seriously impact your team’s productivity:

  1. On the go efficiency
    Many of the happiest offices boast some of the best productivity. The secret? A great work/life balance for the employees that have earned it. Allow your employees freedom to come and go with a single number reach solution. They can easily route calls to their cellphone if they’re on the way to an appointment or to their home if they need a day to work remotely. In this day and age, there’s no need to be tied down to an office phone or desk just for the sake of it.
  2. Unite support is a game changer
    Have you wasted hours on the phone with telecom support? Finding solutions to problems with your communications systems can be the most unproductive way to spend an afternoon. Often, when you end a call with a support representative and realize the problem still persists…you have to call again and start a new ticket in the system. Which means explaining your problem to the next support rep on the other end of the line all over again. With Unite’s SNR package, your business receives a dedicated case manager for your support calls. No need to explain your past problems or confusions, simply let your case manager know what you need help with and they’ll be able to access your past service assistance records. Unite is also a believer in remote support as much as possible, which means avoiding pricey, inefficient, and lengthy technician calls to your office. We’ll only send a technician if you REALLY need it.
  3. Change your style from a “Busy Manager” to a “Productive Manager”
    Yes, there’s a big difference. Being busy often means you’re moving from one task to the next without finishing any of them. As a manager, employees will be disrupting your day with various problems (including those that are technical like phone lines going down).With a fully operational and easy to use telecom solution, you’ll find the knocks on your office door and phone calls are much less. Allow your employees to take their productivity and work/life balance into their own hands while you can focus on managing the projects that you need to.The ideal manager is a leader who can exemplify productivity to their team by being productive as well in the office. In addition, you can also give yourself a healthier work/life balance by using the single number reach (SNR) solution to its full capabilities. Let your employees know when you’re stepping out, and route your calls to your cellphone for maximum productivity.

Stress Reduction and Burnout Prevention

A stressed out team is a mentally and physically unhealthy team. Stress and burnout leads to high turnover rates, unhappiness in the workplace, conflict, and more. As a manager, stress reduction and burnout prevention should always be top of mind to maintain a team that’s fit to conquer every day.

 

Some fast facts about burnout/stress in the workplace:

  • Stress is responsible for over 70% of workplace accidents, 50% of absenteeism, and over $300 billion in associated costs.
  • Employee output falls sharply after a 50 hour work week.
  • On average, employees with high stress have 46% higher healthcare costs.

Here are some ways an SNR solution can impact your stress reduction and burnout prevention strategies:

  1. Maintain total control with an easy-to-use web portal
    Eliminate stress around operating and maintaining several different devices at once. If you’re in the office, an SNR solution allows you to route your cellphone, home, and work calls through your office phone. No need to check multiple devices throughout the day. Additionally, an easy to use web portal eliminates any stress around programming a complex phone system.
  2. Increase ease of communication amongst your team
    With a proper SNR system, the responsibility of being available and ready to communicate falls on your team. If an employee is taking an afternoon to work remotely, they will be available via their office phone number too with an SNR solution. Additionally, employees may often find that communicating with their manager can be hard depending on the manager’s schedule. If a manager’s preference is to have an employee call them, then an SNR solution can make it much easier to reach a manager who is on-the-go. Many CEOs or managers today are often going to meetings or traveling for business, which makes an SNR solution invaluable.
  3. Make mental breaks easier
    A large part of managing a productive team is providing that team a healthy mental space for work. Feeling overloaded, stressed, or overworked can have a serious negative effect on employee output. If a small vacation or mental break is needed by an employee, they can route calls to a coworker, assistant, or secretary with a single number reach solution. Or calls can be routed to an office phone if they’re working remotely or home sick. That way messages can be checked on a single voicemail box the next day when they return to the office.


Flexibility

A flexible workplace means providing a better work/life balance for your employees. This, in turn, can boost their happiness, lower turnover rates, and increase workplace engagement and enthusiasm. Many employees cite flexibility as one of the most important parts of a job (and as a major factor in a decision to leave a role).

 

Some fast facts about burnout/stress in the workplace:

  • One third of US workers cite work life balance and flexibility to be one of the most important factors when considering job offers.
  • 32% of workers say that a flexible workplace would impact their health positively.
  • 45% of employees feel that they don’t have enough time each week to do personal activities.

 

Here are some ways an SNR solution can impact your flexibility offerings:

  1. Meet an employee’s needs
    Having an employee work from home or remotely is significantly easier with an SNR solution. Simply change the call route to the selected device and allow your employee to work from whichever location best suits them. In particular, a flexible workplace in terms of working remotely (due to any number of reasons) is statistically proven to be a happier workplace.
  2. Decrease employee turnover rates
    Modern day employees cite lack of flexibility as a major reason for leaving a current job. Again, an SNR solution can allow an employee freedom beyond their office phone. They can stay connected while on the go, accomplishing both personal and professional tasks throughout the day. Employees also do not have to be concerned if they’re home for health reasons (post-surgery) or because their children are sick. Again, it’s easy to stay connected and up-to-date without having to leave their home.
  3. Hire top talent & offer remote work
    Choose to hire beyond the boundaries of your office to recruit top talent. Utilizing an SNR solution means working remotely is easy. Your remote employees can also appear to have the same office phone and extension as your current workplace employees to maintain consistency with your clients and customers. Relocating employees is no longer a necessity.

The Cost of Poor Communication and Customer Service: A Case Study

Poor communication can cost a business thousands of dollars per year — and this is a conservative estimate. According to a recent independent survey, employees spend more than two-thirds of their day communicating and collaborating, yet lose almost 15% of total work time to unforeseen challenges.

The negative impacts of poor communication in the workplace include:

  • Increased employee turnover
  • Increased absenteeism
  • Decreased staff morale
  • Poor customer service
  • Direct lost profit from customers and clients

Not only does poor communication between employees affect the bottom line, so does poor outward communication with your customers and clientele. According to Forbes, the cost of poor customer service is over 62 billion to businesses.

During a recent study, customers stated they were dissatisfied with communications when:

  • They felt unappreciated
  • They encountered rude or unhelpful staff
  • They were redirected to multiple agents
  • They were not able to speak to a real person on the phone
  • They were not able to get answers and were put on hold for too long

According to Forbes, this is what your customers WANT from your service channels:

  • Customers want an easy experience
  • Customers want to deal with knowledgeable people
  • Customers want a friendly experience
  • Customers want speedy service and a quick response
  • Customers want consistency

So how can a business remedy the cost of poor communication?

Find better communications systems, enforce full customer service training, and study the impact of their communications by asking clients, customers, and coworkers how the process is working for them.

A number of your process problems can be solved by simply providing your staff with the right communications tools. The right telecom solutions are incredibly important to solve many of the problems cited above. For example, a single number reach solution can route a phone call to the correct agent in the office, making transfers minimal. This, in turn, solves the problem of not being able to speak to a real person AND not being able to reach someone knowledgeable.


 

Bell

In Canada, Bell currently stands as one of the two largest national telecom rivals (alongside Rogers). Bell offers its clients a number of telecommunications services, and is widely regarded as a “safe” choice for business owners. However, Bell also often receives a number of complaints based  on their reliability, poor customer service, and lack of technological innovation. Recently, Bell negatively affected a number of businesses when it announced the termination of its Single Number Reach program (Bell SNR). This termination put the business number of many of Bell’s customers across Canada at risk.

 

Termination of Bell SNR

In a lengthy letter to their current clients, Bell states that they’ll maintain the SNR service to those who currently have it but will be slowly phasing it out. Not only did a number of clients feel blindsided, it left them looking for alternative options to the major telecom provider that they were currently signed with.

 

Unite Offering (SNR Alternative)

Luckily, a number of other telecommunications companies offer an alternative. Unite prides itself on better customer service, significantly better value, reliability, and 20+ years of industry experience. After the recent termination of Bell SNR, Unite developed an exclusive package for business owners and IT professionals in need of an alternate solution. Unite prides itself on listening to the needs of their customers by delivering solutions that are built to be reliable and suit your needs.

 

Unite’s SNR Alternative Features:

  • Keep your existing SNR business number
  • Costs at least 50% less than Bell SNR services now
  • Includes many more complimentary features
  • Free dedicated fax and voicemail lines
  • Free Canadian long distance
  • Single agent per case who knows your business
  • Unite adapts to your current telecom hardware

The full comparison: https://www.unite.ca/solutions/single-number-reach-snr-alternative/

 


The Last Word…

In closing, it’s not hard to see that your office telecom solutions matter. From office productivity, to employee morale, to customer service, to overall communication in and out of the office, the right solutions truly impact the bottom line. Considering an SNR solution could be impactful for your business, especially for those who are looking to get things done on the go. Alternative telecom options are available for those who have been using the Bell SNR solution but have found themselves in the dark since the recent termination. Unite, in particular, offers a comprehensive package that includes additional features at a fraction of the price to Bell’s previous offerings. Being a business owner is never easy, but finding the right solutions to run your business smoothly can help take a serious weight off.

How VoIP & Hosted Solutions Are Impacting Office Communications

Cloud technology is becoming an integral part of office communications, which is drifting from the standard Private Branch Exchange (PBX) technology. The switch to cloud-based VoIP systems puts more focus on collaboration or Unified Communications technology – a functionalities layer that runs over top the PBX system.

Your PBX system is equipped to sustain a voice calling platform for your office. This technology does not allow for more modern communication methods like e-mail and video call. With collaboration solutions, all these technological breakthroughs in communication can work alongside a traditional PBX system.

 

How Hosted PBX Systems Work for Office Workplaces

Cloud-based phone systems take standard VoIP protocols and implement PBX functionality. This feature makes it possible for the cloud VoIP to take on PBX features, all without needing to install any hardware. Hosted PBXs come with more empowering features, such as auto attendant, conference calling, mobile calling, email integration and web-based interface.

The switch to cloud communications will result in real savings. The estimates suggest that a new business will save as much as 90 percent on international call costs. Likewise, local calling rates will go down by 40 percent as a result of converting from a standard business calling solution. Furthermore, initial installation expenses are not a concern like they are with traditional enterprise phone systems, as the setup process is mostly software-based.

 

Working Remote With Cloud VoIP Communications Technology

Traditional phone service providers typically fall short when used by staff that is on the road rather than always in the office. The entire team can maintain healthy communications through the flexibility of a cloud VoIP solution. Any type of mobile device on Wi-Fi or with data (laptop, smartphone, tablet, etc.) will be able to run on the hosted telecom system.

Hosted PBX communications technology makes it possible to forward calls from within the office to mobile lines. This function will not modify the customer service experience one bit, as the destination phone number will not be shown to the caller. The remote-working staff member will also be able to call the hosted PBX system first and then make calls from within it, so outgoing calls are also masked.

 

Cloud-based VoIP vs. Hosted PBX: What’s the Difference?

There’s a little confusion surrounding these two terms. Cloud VoIP refers to any VoIP system that runs through a cloud server. The cloud services are supported by VoIP companies and supplied to many clients, which makes the average cost more affordable for those clients.

The downside of cloud phone services is the lack of predictability determination within the software. These services cannot catch expected usage spikes, and when they happen, it can drag down the sustainability network-wide. The result is the potential for a single user to max out the usage volume or storage capacity for the entire office. If an overage is expected, a hosted PBX solution will prevent network instability.

In short, hosted PBX solutions offer a higher level of efficiency for large-scale businesses due to their “pay-per-seat” pricing models. But, the cloud PBX solution offers more reliability for smaller businesses trying to scale because of its “pay-for-use” pricing model.

 

Conclusion

VoIP and hosted solutions are changing the enterprise communications technology game. The result is cheaper telephone customer service, as well as more fluent interoffice and team collaboration. These office telecom products come at varying price points – it all depends on the features you wish to deploy.

If UC communication systems like hosted PBX (Unite) seem right for your business, reach out for a quote based on your office’s telecom needs.