Topics:@voipproviders voip voip providers communication benefits small business public speaking entrepreneur networking Augmented Reality successful business tech products
Guest Post by Nicholas Shaw E-commerce is a fiercely competitive field. Consumers have a wide range of choices when it comes to buying online. For that reason, global online conversion rates stand at an average of only around 3 percent. If you run an e-commerce business, you need to find every way you can to get a leg up on your rivals. Advances in technology provide new ways to do just that. With smart software solutions and VoIP systems, any firm can propel itself to success. What you’ll find out here is exactly how you can blend VoIP and e-commerce software to benefit your business. Before we get to the possible benefits for your firm, though, it’s worth getting on the same page about VoIP. What is VoIP? Chances are, you’ve heard of VoIP. It’s an acronym and a type of tech that’s got tongues wagging in recent years. What you may not know is precisely what VoIP is and how it works. VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. At a basic level, it’s a modern alternative to the traditional telephone network. VoIP lets you make voice calls using your internet connection. Voice call audio gets turned into data and transmitted over an internet connection. That’s rather than traveling via traditional telephone lines. What that means — among other things — is that you can make calls via your PC or tablet. There is also a range of advantages to using VoIP for business communications. Advantages of VoIP VoIP is a growing concern. Businesses and individuals alike are increasingly adopting the tech for calling. As a result, the global VoIP market is undergoing considerable and sustained growth. VoIP’s growing popularity is due to the advantages the tech has over traditional options. The following are a handful of significant benefits a VoIP Phone system can deliver to businesses of all types: Cost reduction — For both personal and commercial users, VoIP is often cheaper than traditional options. You don’t need to spend big on hardware or phone lines to set up a VoIP system. Calls themselves can also prove much less expensive. As you’re using the net, geographical distance doesn’t matter for VoIP calls. That's crucial for long-distance and international conversations. They aren’t nearly as expensive as with traditional telephones. Reliability and maintenance — Traditional telecoms infrastructure is quite fragile. Phone lines can go down in extreme weather. Vandalism or other human interference can cut a firm off entirely from the phone network. A VoIP system is far more reliable. It doesn’t rely on outdated infrastructure. Nor does a VoIP system need costly, expert maintenance. Mobility and collaboration — VoIP solutions are a better fit for modern businesses. With VoIP software, you can connect to your network via mobile devices. Your staff aren’t tied to their desks to make or take business calls. You also get a wide range of additional features with the best VoIP systems. You can, for instance, manage messaging, email, and calls all from one platform. As a result, collaboration across your organization becomes much more straightforward. Those benefits explain why firms across niches are adopting VoIP solutions. As an e-commerce business, you’ll want to know the specific ways you can leverage VoIP for your advantage. Leverage VoIP and e-commerce software The beauty of VoIP for e-commerce is how it can combine with your other tech solutions. You must compete on a lot of fronts, to keep up with the competition as an online retailer. A clever combination of VoIP and e-commerce software can help you in a wide range of those areas. Let’s look at how combining VoIP and software solutions can boost your business in five diverse ways: Improving customer experience Lots of businesses are looking to customer experience as a way of standing out from their rivals. Customer experience is the complete impression your firm leaves on a customer. It’s how that customer thinks of your brand after they finish an interaction with you. To deliver superior customer experience, you must excel at all touchpoints. You have to succeed in each touchpoint between you and the customer. That means you must deliver a consistent service to customers across your organization. The many collaborative features of VoIP systems make them invaluable in this area. VoIP solutions can integrate with your other software and platforms. You might, for instance, integrate VoIP with your CRM or inventory management system. Such integrations give your agents immediate access to customer data. They can provide accurate updates on orders to any customers who call for assistance. Other features of VoIP systems, too, make it easier to offer excellent customer experience. Interactive voice response (IVR) technology is a prime example. IVR allows for self-service calls. Callers can navigate menus — sometimes by voice command — to ensure they reach the right member of your staff. That means you can immediately help them. What’s more, it saves your agents time rerouting calls. Adding long-term benefit to customer service VoIP systems also make it easier for you to maintain customer service levels over the long term. There are many features of the best solutions that you can leverage for customer service oversight and training. With a VoIP solution, call monitoring and recording is far more straightforward. That means you can keep and review interactions between team members and customers. You can quickly point out mistakes or areas for improvement. That helps existing staff up their customer service game. It also lets you review communication across your organization. You can use examples of excellent customer service calls, meanwhile, as training aids. Letting new staff learn from real calls is a great way to get them up to speed. It ensures new employees maintain the level of customer service your organization expects. Offering 24-hour accessibility As an e-commerce business, you’re open to customers all the time. They can buy through your website whenever it’s convenient for them. It’s one of the reasons why so many people prefer buying online than from traditional stores. That 24-hour nature of e-commerce also means there’s consumer demand for help at all hours. To best serve customers, you need to give them the best support, even outside your primary office hours. A VoIP phone system integrated with e-commerce software makes this much easier. Smart call forwarding can transfer calls to a secondary location. For example, one in a different time zone if you have one. With a system linked up to an order management platform, staff at any location can aid customers. If you don’t have multiple locations, you can set up automated messages to provide support. Intelligent voicemail systems, too, can be invaluable. They make it simple for customers to leave a message with a team member who can help them as soon as your office opens. Having better control of the supply chain and logistics Inventory management is vital to e-commerce businesses. Having the right stock on hand and control over your supply chain is just as crucial as customer service. Most e-commerce firms rely on inventory management software to keep a handle on goods. That type of e-commerce software helps you to manage orders, warehousing, and deliveries. Another vital aspect of supply chain logistics is maintaining supplier relationships. This often needs some direct communication over the phone. As keen as many of us are on email, building trust usually takes a real conversation. With a VoIP phone system, reaching your suppliers can be both simpler and cheaper. You won’t need to dig out those supplier numbers; they’ll all be in the system. What’s more, calls to suppliers overseas are so much cheaper via VoIP. Enhancing upsell opportunities We’ve already talked about how VoIP phone systems can aid customer experience. What they can also do is to help your sales staff make hay from the people calling your business. Take, for example, a customer who calls with a query. You may have to leave them on hold for a while until a customer service agent is free. With a VoIP system, you can use their time on hold to share marketing information. If your VoIP solution is fully integrated, you can take them through the whole buying process. From being on hold, to asking a question, you can market and upsell a product or service in a matter of moments. That’s the kind of joined-up business thinking allowed for by VoIP and e-commerce software. Boost your business with cutting-edge tech solutions It’s all very well hearing about the tech side of new developments like VoIP. As a business owner, though, you want to know what such advancements can do for you in practice. It should now be clear how valuable integrated VoIP and software solutions are to e-commerce. By leveraging these solutions, you can boost your business in an array of areas. From enhanced customer experience to smart upselling, you can get a real jump on your rivals. Nicholas Shaw is the CRO of Brightpearl.
Guest Post by Sara Marcum The more efficient a business is, the more profitable it will be. Successful business owners are already aware of this, which is why they turn to software solutions to increase efficiency and motivation at the employee level. Successful business owners also know that they have to take measures in order to protect their own assets. Besides utilizing regular liability insurance solutions in their company’s infrastructure, owners will often invest in insurance to protect their income. It's reassuring for employees to know that if the inevitable occurs, the company has its emplpoyees assets covered as well. Using software for efficiency One of the easiest ways to promote efficiency in a business is to incorporate various software applications into your business structure. These types of software promote productivity across multiple levels. If the majority of your employees work from home, keeping track of their productivity and efficiency is vital. Calling all internet providers Some businesses have always offered the option to work from home to their employees. One of the best ways to be efficient in such a position is to have an internet provider that you can count on. Dealing with an internet service that is slow makes efficiency and productivity hard to maintain. Sometimes even the weather can impact performance speeds. If you plan on having employees in a position where they can work from home, making sure that they have a dependable internet connection should be a top priority. Managing tasks and projects Managers need to find a way to make sure that all their employees know what their tasks are and when they are due. They need to be able to ask questions about those tasks and have a place to submit them. Thankfully, there is a technological solution for that. Asana Asana is one of the more popular choices among businesses and managers. Asana allows for the creation of tasks and collaboration on projects by more than one employee. It is also available in app form for Android and Apple. Asana helps with efficiency because groups can be brought together to collaborate, which is helpful when employees may not all be in the same geographical area. Asana also helps make each individual accountable for their own work by sending daily emails to let employees know what they have due. Trello Trello has the same premise as Asana. You can collaborate your groups into one space including sales, marketing, management, and human resources. Trello is known for its ease of use and speed. The setup alone allows for due dates, file storage, assignments, checklists, and other efficiency applications. Trello also has the compatibility to integrate with other software. Over 100 compatible software integrations include Google, Slack, and many others. Evernote Business Evernote was founded on the idea that a product was needed to address the increasing volume and speed of information that a business undergoes. Evernote brings together teams using versatility and functionality to allow document creation, project collaborations, and information storage in one place. The search feature on Evernote is quicker and more effective than most of the other project management tools available today. It is also capable of integrating with tools you are already using. Keeping in touch I come from the age when you used Yahoo Messenger or AOL Instant Messenger to talk with your friends. Since that time, Google has risen above the rest to offer Gmail and Hangouts. Now everyone has a Gmail email account while Yahoo or Hotmail accounts are less utilized. Technological evolution isn’t just cell phones and computers; it is your communication methods as well. MySpace quickly fell off the face of the planet when Facebook became the social media platform of choice. Let’s take a look at how businesses and their employees can efficiently keep in touch with one another. Email There are several different email service providers that can benefit not only you, but the employees in your business. If you need a free email that allows for collaboration, Gmail is probably the best. There are other domains out there that can accomodate business, and you can research these email providers to find the best fit for your needs. Instant messaging Sometimes you just can’t wait for an email response. That is where the innovation of instant messaging comes in handy. You can see if your manager or colleague is online and send them a message. When you need an “instant” answer, “instant” messaging can be the most efficient solution. Slack Slack leads the instant messaging category. The features it brings are like none across the World Wide Web. Slack not only allows for one-on-one conversations, but it also allows for team collaboration in private channels. If you have more than one Slack account, you can combine them onto one desktop application. This allows you to move effortlessly between the two when it notifies you of messages. Spike A newcomer in the field of business communications, Spike allows you to integrate your email into a user-friendly instant messaging format. This application works on top of an existing email account and works in real time. Additionally, Spike offers groups and channels as well as video conferencing capabilities. Google Hangouts Google Hangouts works a lot like Skype, without the subscription. You can have conversations and video chat with colleagues. It is a more straightforward application, though. You find the person via their Gmail address and talk to them. You can chat as a group, but as far as collaboration goes, it’s not as efficient as other instant messaging software applications. Tracking tools One of the most useful tools for keeping track of team and business efficiency is by using ActivTrak. ActivTrac is data driven, which means it can monitor the productivity of your employees as well as integrating with existing Google sign-ins. It offers easy-to-use controls that allow you to track not only productivity and efficiency but also team behavior analytics. Keep it simple The bottom line for any efficient business solution is to keep it simple. The more complicated the application, the more trouble employees are going to have using it. If your employees spend the first 45 minutes trying to open all their applications and set them up, then they aren’t being efficient. The best way to stay efficient is to stay connected. These software solutions offer a way to stay connected to your employees and a way for them to stay connected to you. Sara Marcum writes and researches for TheTruthAboutInsurance.com. She is a mother to two boys and the stepmother to a little girl. After many years of working outside of the home, she decided it was time to make a change and pursue her dream of writing. She is currently working on a novel while juggling all the other tasks in her life.
Guest Post by Sara Marcum Owning a small business is rewarding. As a business owner, it is important to maximize your profits while keeping your assets safe in the process. For example, making sure that you have excellent business insurance to protect your business could make all the difference if the unimaginable happens. Whether it is through insurance or technology, businesses are constantly looking for ways to save money. Incorporating VoIP into a business plan can help reduce some business expenses. Important characteristics of small businesses Small businesses have unique characteristics. You can tell small businesses apart from a corporate business with just a surface-level look. When starting out, funding is often difficult for small businesses. They often do not have the backing like larger corporate businesses which forces them to take out loans. Loan selection can make or break a small business. Authentic values The foundation of a small business is generally built on the owner’s core values. When businesses promote their values in their marketing and the way they interact with customers, it radiates throughout the rest of the business. This is how loyal customer relationships are cultivated. VoIP providers that put values first are often an asset to small businesses. They understand what it means to believe in something, and they know how to foster the lasting relationships with customers that are vital to small businesses. Small businesses that view their values as a priority come across as more authentic. This authenticity isn’t always present in bigger businesses who mass-produce and sell products. VoIP prides itself on no contracts and a plethora of options available with their services. Because they don’t try to tie anyone down with a hidden upcharge or early termination fees, they are especially great for startup businesses. More personal customer relationships Whether they take a specific interest in something a customer is searching for or just have conversations about family, a small business embraces its customers as a part of the family. They are viewed as more than just dollars and cents. Service providers take extreme pride in their VoIP services. Just like small businesses take initiative in each of their customers, so do service providers which make them stand out from traditional landline businesses. Growth and adaptation from mistakes If something comes up that trips up a small business, they don’t just lay down and take it. They learn from whatever it was that caused the bump in the road. They adapt to changes and grow from the experience. VoIP is a newer concept for some businesses. VoIP providers are an obvious choice for small businesses as a logical and cost-effective way to show customers that they are capable of adapting but keeping their communication strong. Best small business tools Owners have to worry about a lot of different things when they run a business. They have to run the business, calculate expenses, find trustworthy employees for the business, and other small details behind the scenes that no one thinks about. Fortunately, they have options available to help them manage their responsibilities. Marketing and advertising Several different companies offer specials for small businesses and their owners who are looking to market or advertise their brand. These business marketing solutions can range in price from the low end to thousands per month. Having another company handle your business marketing and advertising can save a lot of time while still incorporating the values of the business. One aspect of advertising can be making seemingly endless phone calls. With VoIP, you don’t have to worry about hidden fees. You know what your prices will be upfront. Human resources Human resource solutions that can put payroll, onboarding, and training all in one structured program can be beneficial to business owners. Having an online solution to keep track of payroll and attendance can cut down on personal ledgers and the possibility of losing information. Voicemail services provided by VoIP can make it easy for employees to leave a message if they aren’t able to get you on the line. Accounting solutions Paying for a program that can help keep track of cash flow is important in a business, big or small. Owners have to keep track of the amount of money coming in versus the amount of money going out of the business. Accounting software is available to help with keeping track of invoices that are due and personal invoices that need to be paid. Businesses have a lot of calls coming in and out all day long. VoIP offers call screening tools as well as attendant services that can get calls routed to who they need to go to. You won’t have to worry about calls being lost. Office solutions From Google to Microsoft, a variety of office solutions are available. Things like document writing to note-taking and presentations are easily accessible to small business owners. If your business has several different locations or even different floors, staying in touch is important. VoIP services can help connect everyone together, whether by a conference call or a video conference. Communication systems From intercoms to phone calls, there are different products out there to help small businesses. VoIP providers offer internet style servicing options. Group chat software is also available to keep in touch with employees, especially those who may be in an entirely different country. Keeping the communication lines open for business is what helps them succeed. Why is VoIP a good small business solution? Switching from a traditional landline phone to VoIP is becoming a trend with businesses. These internet protocol based phones have more features, and you can call from just about anywhere you have an internet connection. VoIP is also a cost-effective solution for smaller businesses. The price ranges anywhere from $15 to $20 per month depending on the VoIP carrier you choose. You can conference call just like you would with another service, but you can do it from your smartphone if you aren’t at the office. You can do it from your computer if you don’t have a handset available at the time. Small businesses are good at adapting to the changing world around them. Using VoIP as a form of communication is a technological innovation that isn’t likely to go away anytime soon. It is important for small businesses to maximize any sort of technology that will save them money. Research which VoIP service provider will be the best for your business. The internet provides a multitude of information to help make the best decision for you. Welcome to the next phase of technological innovation! Sara Marcum writes for USInsuranceAgents.com. She is a full-time wife and mother to two boys and the stepmother to a little girl. After many years of working outside of their home, she decided it was time to make a change and pursue her dream of writing. She is currently working on a novel while juggling all the other tasks in her life.
Guest Post by Nahamani Yisrael Successful entrepreneurs come from all walks of life and in all shapes and colors. Even amid individuals from the same ethnic or socioeconomic group, there is a wide variety in how group members process thought. This form of diversity among business owners adds a unique layer to the business environment. The way in which these individuals see the world around them allows each to solve various societal problems through their product and service offerings in their own one-of-a-kind way. Regardless of the industry in which these individuals operate, as leaders of their respective organizations entrepreneurs are often tasked with introducing their brand to new audiences. Quite often this is done through networking and public speaking engagements. Speaking on behalf of one’s company, especially in front of large crowds, can be intimidating to anyone, however introverted entrepreneurs often find these task particularly daunting. Recently I had the opportunity to attend a networking event where Angela Jenkins, Vice President of Human Resources of YWCA of Cincinnati, sat on a panel of African American career women. Jenkins spoke to a group of hundreds of women leaders, entrepreneurs, and aspiring career women. She was poised and succinct and delivered encouraging words with what seemed like great ease. After the event I approached her to commend her on her powerful delivery which conveyed her passion for the subject matter at hand. Through our brief conversation I learned that she considered herself to be an introvert, I was shocked yet intrigued. As I began working on this article, I was reminded of our brief encounter. I reached out to Jenkins to learn more about her tactics for overcoming her natural sense of apprehension in order to deliver a powerful message to her captivated audience. She agreed to allow me to interview her for this article, and we met for brunch near her Downtown Cincinnati office. During our face-to-face interview, Angela Jenkins advised me of how she was thrust into a leadership role at U.S. Shoe when her supervisor became unexpectedly ill. With little time to prepare, she took on the responsibilities that the role presented, including facilitating trainings for new hires. As her organization grew, through the acquisition of Lens Crafters, a then young company with an intense growth trajectory, Jenkins's speaking responsibilities also increased dramatically. Jenkins attributes her success during this period to a strong mentor who continuously encouraged her to pursue personal development and pushed her to achieve her goals. “Because of my natural introverted tendencies I don’t typically seek out leadership opportunities, but given the circumstances I was the best person for the job,” says Jenkins. Introversion itself is a cognitive behavior that causes the individual to reflect inwardly. One’s inward reflection may erroneously be deemed as shyness or quietness; however, shyness and quietness are both social phenomena, not cognitive at all. In an effort to gain a better understanding of how introversion affects leaders, I reached out to one of my former college professors, Julian Mendoza. Mendoza is an innovation and venture consultant. He is also a member of the Adjunct Faculty at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio where he often teaches leadership courses to students at The Williams College of Business. “Many people misinterpret introvert behavior as social cues. A thoughtful pause is just that: a pause to think. The introvert brain wants to take in as much input as possible. That takes time, as does the processing.” Mendoza further explains the template-driven nature of introverted individuals. “Additionally, if the person is “pattern-oriented”, s/he would seem startled (like a deer in the headlights) if the new inputs are very strange to the pattern models that were carefully developed and now kept on the shelf as ready templates.” While the nature of introverted individuals may seem slower to respond than extroverts, the careful, deliberate response in many cases may be superior to someone who just blurts out the first thing that comes to mind. Sitting across the table from Jenkins at our brunch, I could see that she was taking in every aspect of the room around us. She sat facing the doors where she could input each new arrival into her mental template of the room. The words she used to answer my probing questions were very deliberate and well thought out. I could tell that she wanted me to succeed in creating an impactful article that would help shed light on how introverted leaders could capitalize on their uniqueness and excel at public speaking and networking. I took this opportunity to ask her for some specific tips that I could share with readers. Her answers came very easily to her, as if she had been waiting for me to ask this exact question. “Always practice and prepare!” she said almost immediately. “When preparing for a speaking engagement, I do a lot of reading. I always write out notes, well basically bullet points, to remind me of what I want to say.” Thinking back to that March morning when I first encountered Jenkins, I couldn’t remember seeing any look at any notecards or pause to review any bullet points. “Do you actually use them during your speech?” I asked for clarification. “No, not really, I just feel more comfortable knowing that I have them,” she answered. Jenkins paused, giving me time to jot down my notes before she delivered her second tip. “Find someone who is stronger than you and allow them to coach you.” For a moment I thought she was speaking to me personally, but soon remembered how she had praised her mentor at Lens Crafters. According to Jenkins, this individual always set the stage for her to excel, providing her with all of the resources she would need for constant improvement. The part of Jenkins's statement that stood out to me was being coachable — taking feedback with grace and applying said feedback to future endeavors. Jenkins, by being coachable, was able to learn from every speaking engagement. Though she may have been nervous at first, at the end of her speeches she typically ended with an “OMG moment”, from which she drew the courage to do it yet again. Most introverted individuals know that they are unique. This uniqueness gives them qualities that add value to their respective organizations. Jenkins hopes that more introverts will be given opportunities to step outside of their comfort zones and share their message with the world. With a lot of preparation and a bit of encouragement, introverted entrepreneurs can effectively deliver their message to both large and small groups of individuals, who could potentially be their next big client, referral source, or brand ambassador. Here are a few tips that can help you excel at your next big networking event: Prepare an elevator pitch — Practicing your elevator pitch in a safe environment is the best way to increase your confidence and help you work out any kinks in your spiel. Try having someone record you as you give your pitch. Not only can you go back and review it, but you can also post the final version on your social media profile and let your friends and followers know about your business. Arrive early – Try arriving a few minutes before the event starts. This gives you additional time to get over your natural jitters and allows you to meet new arrivals one by one versus entering a crowded room of unfamiliar faces. Take along a companion – The goal of networking is to meet new people and introduce them to your business and/or brand. You may feel more comfortable knowing that there is someone in the room with whom you are familiar. However, make sure that you step away from time to time to give yourself an opportunity to mingle. Stake out your safe space – Find a quiet corner to which you can retreat should you begin to feel overwhelmed. One tactic is to leave a book or briefcase in your safe space so that others can see that you have claimed this space for your own. In the event that there aren’t any such spaces that you can use for this purpose, there is always the option to go to the restroom or step outside to catch your breath. Recharge your batteries after the event – Be sure to schedule downtime after each big event to allow yourself time to recharge. Resist the urge to stack appointments as this does not permit you the necessary self-care time that introverts often require. Nahamani.org works with organizational leaders and provides public relations management and PR coaching. These services are designed to help our clients obtain both media publicity and paid speaking engagements. Clients of Nahamani.org often have a great product or service, but need extra help getting their brand message to the right individuals. Nahamani.org provides them with the resources they need to propel their brand to the next level.