Employee Morale and Productivity Go Beyond the Paycheck

In a recent article published by Inc. Magazine, employers are looking for unique ways to improve employee morale in 2012. Increases in paychecks are no longer the happy-maker that they used to be.  Alternatives sighted in the article include ‘over communicating’, ‘celebrating wins’, and ‘keeping it real’.  All in all, the biggest factor for most employees is the ability to have work-life balance. http://bit.ly/yHBI3l

Once an anomaly for baby boomers pulling all-nighters at the office to keep up with the Joneses, work-life balance actually has a standing chance with today’s technologies– it’s called TELEWORKING.

For many business owners, just the thought of allowing employees to work from home is daunting – they perceive it to ensure lost control, lack of insight into employee productivity, and simply an administrative nightmare.  However, according to Forbes’  ”How Flexibility Can Boost Employee Productivity”, teleworking is more about adapting your work environment to accommodate for the ways in which your employees most thrive – the end goal being to increase productivity. http://onforb.es/qNQOSI

According to an article published online by the Teleworking Coalition “Will We Need Any More Office Space?”, teleworking, once considered an alternative workspace strategy, began as a corporate cost-saving measure.  While cost savings is still a predominant motivator, other factors have emerged to make the trend more compelling for employers; employee satisfaction, enhanced productivity and better teaming. As such, the use of teleworking has become not only an alternate to leasing or buying more office space – it’s become a strategy to secure top talent, increase employee productivity and job satisfaction, and in many instances, improve the overall effectiveness of a workforce.

Technologies, like Avaya IP Office, exist to support the next generation workforce.   For a demonstration of the solution, visit YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/avaya#p/c/61568CCB0826DEE2/4/x8FylR9vzB8. Or, check out a real-life use case of one Dallas-based company gaining big benefits from IP Office: http://www.avaya.com/usa/case-for-avaya/customer-stories/scott-scott-llp

Putting a Lid on Mobile Communications Costs

Having a cell phone started out as a convenient way to keep in touch. Now it’s a business necessity. Spending on mobile devices and communications is growing rapidly:

  • Smartphone sales are poised to outstrip that of PCs and laptops, if they haven’t already.
  • Data traffic on mobile networks is growing at exponential rates, driven primarily by rising consumer adoption of video streaming services.
  • Location-based services (LBS) are coming into their own, which will drive even greater use of mobile communications.

To manage your growing reliance on mobile communications, look for opportunities to control your costs.

Evaluate the plans: Mobile service providers are increasingly looking to tiered pricing plans, enabling you to choose solutions tailored to your specific needs. Options such as zoned billing, flat-rate unlimited plans and free mobile-to-mobile are becoming part of the mix. Maximizing your buying power may mean shifting to a primary provider for everyone in the firm.

Analyze your usage: Before choosing a plan, take the time to closely analyze the ins and outs of your mobile usage:

  • Examine actual employee activity to better understand costs, usage and patterns. This can be the first step in controlling costs and/or changing user behavior.
  • Make sure you are paying for services you are actually using. Unused minutes, extra usage fees, roaming charges as well as unnecessary purchases, such as software or ringtones, can all add to your mobile bill.
  • Consider providing an accounting to employees. Making individuals more aware of how they are using their mobile devices is always a good idea.

Look at the alternatives: In business, it’s estimated that well over half of all mobile usage occurs within the halls and walls of the enterprise, where alternate solutions exist and where a user’s desk phone may be only a couple of feet away. IP-based communications solutions for small and midsize businesses, such as Avaya IP Office (www.avaya.com/small), provide a way to better manage mobile costs, such as

  • Handling incoming mobile calls on landline phones when convenient. You can pre-configure the system to push the mobile call to a ‘free’ landline phone in real time.
  • Eliminate services (e.g., mobile voicemail, conferencing services or text messaging) that are better handled through IP Office.
  • ‘Business-enable’ personal phones or laptops with softphone to take advantage of Wi-Fi hotspots in airports, hotels, coffee shops, etc. For a business traveler, this can result in large savings.

Cutting the Cost of Mobility

Spending on mobile devices and communications is growing as more and more people demand anytime-anywhere access to each other.  Consider this: while economic data shows personal consumption expenditures from 2007 to 2010 (including the heart of the economic turndown) slowed to a modest 2.9 percent growth, spending on mobile devices increased at a 17 percent rate. The growing cost of mobility is getting the attention of anyone who worries about budgets, as well it should.

In business, it’s estimated that well over half of all mobile minute usage occurs within the halls and walls of the enterprise, where alternate solutions exist and where a user’s desk phone may be only a couple of feet away.

So what can enterprises do to embrace mobility and take advantage of the productivity benefits it brings without incurring the high costs? For small and growing businesses, Avaya IP Office offers a number of options for better managing your company’s mobile phone charges:

  • Avaya IP Office allows you to handle incoming mobile calls on landline phones. You can pre-configure the system to push the mobile call to a ‘free’ landline phone in real time.
  • Avaya IP Office allows you to eliminate redundant services (e.g., mobile voicemail, conferencing services or text messaging) because you can get these capabilities through IP Office.
  • IP Office makes it easy for employees to ‘business-enable’ their personal phones if and when required. No client needs to be downloaded; you can simply enlist your personal device for business use when needed (e.g., to use enterprise dialing or search the corporate directory). The business does not have to pay for the cost of the mobile device and the user gets to keep their preferred device.
  • Many enterprises have Wi-Fi or WLAN networks allowing employees to stay mobile within their workplace. Wi-Fi hotspots are also commonplace in many public places such as airports, hotels, coffee shops, etc. the user can move all communications over Wi-Fi. For a business traveler, this can result in large savings.

The Agency Group, a global talent agency with offices in the U.S, Canada and Europe recently implemented a mobility solution using Avaya IP Office and chalked up savings of around $50,000 a year. See the video at http://bit.ly/qGYytO)

Upgrading your office communications: Is it worth it now?

Deciding whether and when to upgrade your communications is a challenge for every small and growing business. Today’s new communications solutions offer many advantages, but are they worth it? What’s the best way to make an intelligent judgment? Here are three options to help answer that question:

Survey employees: One strategy that many businesses use is to survey their employees. Employees are a great source of insight. Complaints that ring true in terms of impact on the business—lost productivity, poor customer service, and unnecessary costs—may give you all the information you need to build a case for an upgrade.

What If?: Another option is to play a bit of “What If?”: what would be the impact on your business if your communications gave you:

  • The ability to recognize your top customers and route their calls for priority attention
  • Enable your employees to give out one number—their work number—and get their mobile phone, office phone, home phone, etc. all working together
  • Get built-in call recording for analyzing customer service or simply catching everything said on a critical call
  • Eliminated the need for outside conferencing services

Many companies that upgrade their communications report that the impact is huge, but they really couldn’t “see it” when they were just getting by with an older system.  Playing a bit of “what if” can help identify real benefits.

Calculate the Value: Perhaps the best way to determine if an upgrade is worth it is to take a cold, hard look at the finances. A new communications system can lower the costs of long distance, mobile phone plans, conferencing services and more. It can eliminate the need for technicians to visit your company for routine system administration and reduce the time that employees (such as front desk personnel) devote to answering the phones. It can help make your business greener, giving options for employees to work from home:  cutting energy costs and possibly the cost of office space.  These savings can add up to tens of thousands of dollars a year. An easy way to calculate your savings is to use an online calculator.  Avaya has one for its IP Office solution at http://www.avaya.com/usa/campaign/ip-office-roi-calculator/

Also, when you upgrade from an older Nortel or Avaya solution to Avaya IP Office, Avaya offers a way you can save as much as 60% of your original system investment. To learn more, go to http://www.primetelecommunications.com

Finding New Markets/Customers/Partners Everywhere

If you are looking for a bright spot in today’s economic news, think exports: in July 2011, the United States sold $178 billion in goods and services abroad, an all-time high, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. Exports have actually been growing at a pace greater than the 15 percent required to double them by the end of 2014—the stated goal of the Obama administration.

Brazil, India and China — the three countries expected to account for more than 25 percent of world GDP in just five years’ time—are increasingly on a “Buy American” spree, creating an enormous opportunity for U.S. businesses. Turkey, Panama, South Africa, Argentina , Peru, Thailand, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Egypt have all increased their consumption of U.S. goods and services by 25 percent or more over the last year.

This isn’t an opportunity just for big U.S. multinationals. Small and midsize companies account for almost 97 percent of U.S. exporters. In fact, more than two-thirds have fewer than 20 employees. Nonetheless, exporters are a select group: the vast majority of businesses don’t globally.  But with some two-thirds of the world’s purchasing power outside U.S borders, that’s probably a mistake. Add to that: with the Internet, It’s easier and more cost effective to go global than ever before.

Test the market: Want to know if your products have legs overseas? Take advantage of free tools such as Google key word search to investigate the popularity of your product in different markets.

Don’t worry about language: Daunted by the idea of doing marketing where you don’t know the language: take advantage of social media vehicles (i.e., Facebook) and get people who like your offering to promote it in the right target language.

Get an agent: Need a partner to represent you: find agents and distributors for your product via business-to-business matchmaking site such as Alibaba.com.

Last, but not least, you’ll need reliable, robust communications capabilities. A small business communications solution such as Avaya IP Office gives you lots of options for call coverage addressed to global needs, such as having announcements and other messages in a variety of languages or setting up a 24/7/365 call center.

Also, keep in mind that the U.S. government is wants you to export—and is prepared to help. The Jobs Act signed into law in 2010 enables the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to provide more export-related financing and also supports state grants. Is going global right for you? Start by using the interactive tool developed by the SBA: Six Steps to Begin Exporting, at www.export.gov/begin.

5 Questions To Ask Yourself About Your Current Phone System

In today’s competitive business environment, every sale is critical, every resource precious.  And, every dollar spent has to drive bottom line results.  That’s why it’s important for you to assess your current communication system.  Here’s five questions you should ask yourself:

1. How much do you know about callers before you pick up the phone?

We are all familiar with traditional caller ID, but now you can take it to another level.

IP Office gives you instant access to your database before you answer the phone. If the caller is a prospect or customer, your sales team will have a full profile and contact history before they say, “Hello.” Your team is better informed, and their calls are more effective.

2. How many phone numbers do customers need to reach you?

Making your customers hunt for the right number — and potentially be unable to reach you — slows transactions and reduces customer satisfaction.

With IP Office, one number — the office number — is all an employee needs to give out because your system knows where to forward each call. We call it “one number reachability” and your customers will love it.

3. Is setting up a conference call complicated and costly?

Conference calls have become a way of life for businesses. With IP Office, you no longer have to connect to a third party to hold your conference calls. You can start a conference call from your own phone at a moment’s notice. It’s fast, easy and free. With a 128-port conference bridge, IP Office has you covered.

And for last-minute invitations, you can use IP Office’s co-worker presence feature to check other colleagues’ availability to join the meeting.

4. Can your employees still conduct business while traveling?

When your staff is on the road, you can’t afford to let problems or order requests wait until the right person returns to the office.

With IP Office, your employees who work outside the office — whether full time or out due to an unforeseen situation — can access all of the same communications tools available in the office. From the home, a hotel room, an airplane terminal or almost anywhere, they can stay on top of their work so nothing slips through the cracks.

IP Office can also convert your voicemails into e-mails and send them so your team members get instant notification, retrieve all their messages and have the ability to reply ASAP.

5. Are you able to adjust to periodic fluctuations in call volume?

Whether you use a traditional call center or simply have people answer phones, managing call volume is important to customer satisfaction. Even if you’re busy, customers don’t want to hear busy signals.

IP Office gives you the technology and tools you need to quickly adjust your call handling capability with fluctuations in call volume. By identifying peaks and valleys of your business calls, you can adjust your staffing and make better use of call recordings to minimize wait time and reduce caller frustration.

With IP Office’s customer service applications for agents and supervisors, you’ll communicate more effectively with agents through wallboard displays — and you’ll get detailed data on calling patterns to help drive more effective sales campaigns and day-to-day selling performance. 

Visit http://bit.ly/ocDpfI to learn more today!

Day in the Life: Small Business

Has anyone out there cracked the code on how to best manage your email inbox? If so, call me!  My inbox over-floweth to the point of no return.  I’m at the point where I can’t take a day off because if I do, I crash the email server – not really but it’s almost that bad.  The most difficult thing about email is that in today’s world it is a little ‘reactive’.  We are a society built on instant gratification and response. With email, you send something, not knowing if someone will read it or respond to it. And it often requires a lot of follow up.  But, without it, I am unproductive at best.

I long for the day when life will be simpler and I won’t be so dependent on technology.  But for now, it serves a critical purpose and so I am trying to accommodate for it. Things are starting to get a little easier though.  There are now ways to leverage my desktop via my work’s communication solution so that I can check someone’s availability without having to tap into my email system.  It’s an instantaneous view of someone’s status called ‘presence’. And the best thing about it is that I not only see the status of the people  I work with that are on the same network, but can view the status of colleagues and vendors that are external to my organization.  It’s great!

So now, instead of picking up the phone and having to leave voicemail, or sending an email and not knowing when I’ll get a response, I simply watch their status on my screen and wait until they are available to take action.  Seems like a no-brainer to me to use this technology – it’s such a time saver. Time I so badly need to follow up on emails!

Read about how presence and the other great time-saving benefits of Avaya IP Office helped one small business by visiting a Day in the Life: Small Business at http://bit.ly/kyaIlu.