How To Not Get Boxed Into a Communications Upgrade

Upgrading to any new technology is rarely a cut and dried decision. You hear about all the new things that are out there, but you also know that change means disruption and may force your business to give up features you now take for granted.

For most IT decision makers, the ideal technology upgrade scenario is to get new capabilities, but hold on to the things they like in their current solution. That’s exactly what Interline Brands did when it upgraded its communications at 130 locations to an Avaya IP Office solution.

A leading distributor and direct marketer of maintenance products, headquartered in Jacksonville, Fl., Interline was able to get a host of new capabilities while racking up huge savings in acquisition, operational and transition costs.

The Interline locations around the world are mostly small distribution centers/storefronts. Many of them used the PARTNER Communications Systems, a solution first introduced in the 1980s that over the years became one of the top selling small business communications systems of all time.

Interline wanted to keep using the PARTNER systems, but accepted the fact they were based on dated technology and no longer being manufactured. Then Interline discovered the best of both worlds: Avaya offers a “version of its best-selling small business IP Office solution that essentially mimics how the PARTNER system worked.  Interline was able to continue using many of the same features as its older PARTNER solution (cutting down dramatically on training and transition costs), hold on to its PARTNER telephones (cutting down on acquisition costs) and still get the benefits of moving up to a new IP-based communications solution.

With 130 locations, Interline also got the ability to administer the systems from a central location. Streamlined administration, together with consolidating existing analog lines at many locations into digital services, cut overall spending and enabled full ROI within three months.

Interline is also benefiting from:

  • One-number access. Calls to an individual’s office number can ring simultaneously on the mobile or home phone so calls are never missed
  • In-building wireless capabilities. A must for warehouse locations
  • Conferencing. It’s possible to quickly set up conference calls with up to 64 people to enable cost-effective collaboration.
  • Automated Attendant. Users can customize caller greetings so key callers receive a personal message and are routed directly to the most appropriate person or team.

To learn more about Interline’s experience and what it can mean for your business, read the case study at http://www.avaya.com/usa/case-for-avaya/customer-stories/interline-brands

For a great resource on upgrading your communications, see the Definitive Guide to Upgrading Your Communications System at http://www.avaya.com/usa/resource/assets/premiumcontent/thedefinitiveguidetoupgradingyouravayacomsys.pdf

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)

Upgrade Your Nortel BCM – Yes or NO?

What if your existing Nortel phone system is working fine? Should you follow the old adage: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” Here are some sensible guidelines that can help you make that decision:

  • You should upgrade if your current Nortel BCM phone system is more than three years old.
  • You should upgrade if you haven’t updated your current Nortel phone system for several years and the software and/or hardware used on your current system is no longer supported.
  • You should upgrade if you plan on operating your business for at least 5-10 years or longer.
  • You should upgrade if your business is experiencing growth and/or your business will be relocating in the near future.
  • You should upgrade if email and mobile communications are important to your business.
  • You should upgrade if a significant portion of your sales and customer service takes place through your communications system.
  • You should upgrade if your business relies on conference calls.
  • You should upgrade if your business makes heavy use of fax communications.
  • You should upgrade if you need call recording capabilities for compliance purposes or to improve employee training.
  • You should upgrade if you operate more than one location.
  • When the risks and the opportunity cost outweigh the savings gained by holding on to your current solution, it’s time to upgrade.

Not every company with an existing Nortel solution needs to upgrade. While you can unquestionably benefit from a new solution, the gains may not be enough to offset the savings of just holding on to what you have now. This may be the case if:

  • You acquired your Nortel system less than three years ago.
  • You plan on closing or merging your business soon.
  • Communications is not important to your business, i.e., you don’t do any sales or customer service over the phone or via e-mail.
  • You don’t do any advertising where you promote a phone number or website.
  • You don’t use a mobile phone.
  • You never do conference calls.
  • You do not do any fax communications.

The checklists provided above are just guidelines. Ultimately, the decision to upgrade your communications is never simply a “yes” or “no” decision. Another way to decide is to look at some of the key capabilities of a new Avaya IP Office solution. These can be so important to a growing business that even if you are missing just one, it’s time to consider getting a new phone system.

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

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!

Expanding your Brand: The Mobile, Social Media Revolution

A world where people are more connected and communicating presents numerous opportunities to expand the awareness of your company and your brand. Plenty of businesses are starting to take advantage of these options—and reaping the rewards.

If you are wondering how you can start taking more advantage of social media in your business, take a look at some recent success stories:

  • IBM, the computer services giant, knew it had a huge opportunity to sell more of its services to the growing financial community in India, but was little known there. To build awareness and relationships and jumpstart the kind of dialogues that lead to sales, IBM India’s CFO, Robert Parker, leverages LinkedIn, Twitter, and blogging.  Parker is now host to LinkedIn’s largest CFO community and at the top of unpaid search lists for CFO issues in India.
  • To burnish its position as one of Canada’s leading communications services companies, and develop a lower cost channel of sales leads, TELUS Business Solutions created a website (www.telustalksbusiness.com) where businesses can come together, exchange ideas, and gather expert advice.  Visitors to the site quickly qualify themselves in terms of size and interest and then they are off and running. But this quick qualification allows TELUS to deliver a stream of detailed customer profiles to its sales team.  TELUS reduced its cost per lead by 30%.
  • Start-up business Silver Barn Antiques in Columbus, Tex. hadn’t formulated its e-commerce strategy—it didn’t even have a website. Instead it launched its operations while relying on a Twitter account and a blog to connect to suppliers and customers nationwide, jump starting its supply chain and its sales.

In none of these instances was social media the only marketing effort—but in each one, social media accomplished a goal more quickly and efficiently than traditional online or offline marketing.

What’s the right social media tool for your business? As in all things, it depends on your objectives, your target audience and the brand image you want to convey. There are no best practices. But before plunging in, keep the following in mind:

  • Research your target market to find out what they are doing online. If there are lots of LinkedIn groups, but no one is using them, it’s either a dead end or an opportunity for you to fill the vacuum.
  • Regardless of what social media you are using—and most likely you will use several—don’t be self-serving. People don’t want to be “sold to,” they want help. Create strong, smart, well thought-out content that adds value to your customers’ lives. Give them information they can us. Think the three I’s:  insights, incentives and inspiration.
  • Finally, remember to keep the conversation going.  With social media, you can start and stop at any time. But you can’t start and stop, start and stop. If you do, you are constantly forced to reinvent your community and it’s probably not worth it.  Set a schedule of posting and tweeting that works for you.  Remember: you are in this for the long haul!!

For more great stats and information about the Social Media Revolution, watch this video: ttp://bit.ly/ri7sPF

9:22:38 AM

Avaya Helps Talent Agents Keep Talking – On Nortel Phones

If ever there was a profession that depended on the telephone, it’s the talent agent.  E-mail? Yes, in a pinch.  But for the most part these guys prefer to talk, talk talk.  I was reminded of that by a video posted by Avaya about a group of talent agents known—appropriately enough—as The Agency Group.

The Agency Group handles mostly rock bands. They have got 50 agents and an incredible roster of over 1000 artists, from established names like Pink Floyd to every variety of indie band out there.

In the video, the agents are on the phone ALL the time: in their offices, roaming the halls, at the airport, in a hotel, etc. Avaya developed the video for two reasons:

  • To showcase the mobility capabilities of its Avaya IP Office solution—you get one number reachability on your mobile, office phone, home phone—wherever you happen to be working.
  • And to show how Avaya IP Office now works with Nortel hardware, saving companies who upgrade thousands of dollars

The latter issue was a big deal for the Agency Group, which wanted the Avaya IP Office mobility capabilities and things like the built-in conference bridge, but didn’t want to give up its investment in Nortel handsets. The Agency Group put Avaya IP Office in two offices (keeping the Nortel phones) and also kept the Nortel switches at three other offices. Everything is connected via SIP and it all works together—the Avaya systems “see” the Nortel extensions and vice versa.

Many of the agents use Avaya one-X softphone software on their PCs and laptops and handle all their calls that way.  If they travel and have access to Wi-Fi, they can route all their calls over the Internet. One agent traveled to China for a week and saved $3,000 doing that. Overall, Howie Gold, the IT director at the Agency Group, estimated that upgrading to Avaya IP Office is saving the company as much as $50,000 dollars a year—including the cost of not having to switch out the Nortel phones.

A lot of companies are in the same situation as The Agency Group: they have older communications systems that are working fine, but they want to take advantage of new capabilities such as one-number reachability and the built-in conference bridge. The ability to keep using Nortel hardware and upgrade to the Avaya IP Office communications switch gives you the best of both worlds.

You can see the whole video about The Agency Group at:http://www.avaya.com/usa/VideoPlayerPopup.aspx?CurrentPath=/master-usa/en-us/resource/assets/videos/agency_group.flv