A man working at a restaurant, checking wine bottles and writing on a clipboard.

A national brand still needs to build a local presence for each store or location.

It’s important for franchises and other companies with multiple locations to have a local presence online. When consumers want to communicate with a local business, they want to go straight to the source, as quickly as possible.

For example, let’s say today is your son’s birthday. He told you last night—for the first time ever—that what he wants most in the “whole wide world” is a pet turtle. You don’t know anything about caring for turtles, or whether local pet stores would even have them in stock. However, one look at those big, pleading eyes, and you know you’re going to spend the next morning finding out. (And, hey, at least he didn’t ask for another puppy!)

The next morning, while you’re running birthday party errands, you use your smartphone to look up the number of the big pet store chain. All you can find is a link to the brand’s national website. You assume there’s a store locator somewhere on the site and that you can probably find the phone number if you dig for it.

Suddenly, you notice an ad for a smaller local pet store that includes a phone number. With one click, you have someone on the line, who confirms the store has what you need. An hour later, you have a turtle and $100 worth of supplies.

This scenario is good news for the local store and bad news for the big brand. One had the name recognition, but the other was easier to find online.

Moving Quickly, Spending Quickly

When consumers are in a hurry — and these days, everyone is in a hurry — convenience often trumps brand loyalty. This is particularly true for mobile users, who need information quickly and are prepared to spend quickly in turn. Seventy-six percent of people who conduct a local search through a smartphone visit a business within 24 hours, according to Google, and 28 percent of those searches result in purchases.

If mobile users are searching for a local business online, whether it’s to find driving directions, check inventory, see store hours, or find a phone number, they’re likely already planning to visit, if not already en route. If the information they need is too difficult to find, they might be wooed away by competitors who aren’t playing so hard to get.

How Can National Brands Build a Stronger Local Presence?

Given the hypermobility of today’s consumers, the right digital strategy doesn’t just help brands drive online sales and mobile purchases. It can also drive foot traffic by connecting users with brick-and-mortar stores — if they can find information about them. The following are three ways franchises and other national brands can build local presences for their various locations:

1. Publish Local Information

When mobile users look up a local business and find an 800 number, they immediately envision being passed through numerous phone trees and then being told to hold for a representative. They know that’s part of the deal when they call, say, the cable company or the Internal Revenue Service, but they don’t want to go through all that hassle to talk to a business right down the road. They want to call a local number. Even if your company isn’t local, you can use a business phone system to portray a local presence in individual markets by publishing a local phone number in any area code.

Every location doesn’t necessarily need its own website, but it should be easy to find contact information for every store or branch, as well as store inventory, hours of operation, and any other important location-based information.

2. Optimize That Information

Instead of burying local information so deep on your brand website that neither customers nor Google’s spiders can find, each location needs its own unique page that has been optimized for search engines. That way, when customers search for a business name and location, they don’t just find a link to the brand’s store locator — they find a listing for the local business.

3. Start Unique Social Media Pages For Each Location

Social media is a great way to publicize contact information for each individual location. Just as importantly, it provides a way for businesses to connect with communities and put a local face on the national brand. Customers can ask questions, leave reviews, and find out about sales or special events that are only happening at those locations.

Of course, those customers can also like, share, and tweet about the business to their friends and family members nearby. After all, they have a strong local presence, too.

To learn more about unified communications for your geographically dispersed enterprise, speak to a Vonage Business consultant.

Taylor Mallory Holland

Taylor Mallory Holland is a professional writer with more than 11 years of experience writing about business, technology and health care for both media outlets and companies. Taylor understands how enterprise mobility and cloud technology can reshape industries and provide new opportunities to streamline workflows, improve employee collaboration and reimagine the customer experience. She is passionate about helping business leaders understand the impact that emerging technologies can have on communication, operations and sales and marketing.

Linkedin  |  Twitter

A man in a suit talking on a mobile phone

By using cloud solutions for your business phone system, your employees will never miss calls.

Your best customer has a problem, and there’s only one employee who can provide the solution. You call his desk phone and get his voicemail. You check again, but your email from before lunch is still sitting there unanswered. And, of course, you hear a prerecorded message when you dial his mobile phone. Meanwhile, your client is still waiting. In times like these, when you’re trying to get answers from someone who isn’t in the office, it’s a good idea to look into cloud solutions for business phone systems.

Using a Cloud-Hosted Phone System

In this scenario, the fault doesn’t necessarily lie with your employee — it comes from your team members not having the tools they need to do their jobs. Without the easy accessibility of a cloud-hosted phone system, you may not be providing the service your clients expect from you. In today’s age, customers expect immediate help on whatever channels they’re using. When you prioritize moving to the cloud, you will have a consistent, cohesive means of communication wherever your employees are located.

Your employees will be able to step away from their desks and manage call routing, either for the day or for just a few hours. This significantly cuts down on missed calls, which will increase productivity and improve customer service. And they’ll have options for setting their preferences, either on a user portal or through a mobile app.

Features of Cloud Solutions for Business

Your team may never miss a call again with the features provided by cloud-hosted phone systems. When heading out of the office to work at home while waiting for the cable company, you can forward calls from your desk phone to your mobile phone. This way, you can give the customers who will be calling the service they deserve. Calling via your business mobile app, your customers will not see your personal information, but rather a business profile that makes a very professional impression and provides a seamless experience across devices.

If you aren’t sure of the exact number where you can be reached, you can use a “follow me” feature, which calls the first number in sequence and then moves to the next number you designate as the second. Or, you can set up the phone system to ring all your forwarding numbers at the same time. If you’re going to be in an important meeting or need some quiet time to get a client proposal written, you can set your phone to “do not disturb,” and it will send all your calls straight to voicemail.

With the functionality and features available through cloud solutions for business, customers can feel confident they’ll reach someone at your business when they call. It’s an expectation of service they come to count on. And as most savvy businesses know, when service is lacking, customers may simply find another company to deal with.

Contact a Vonage Business consultant to learn more about cloud solutions that meet your unique requirements.

About Jennifer Goforth Gregory

Jennifer Goforth Gregory is a technology freelance writer specializing in B2B and telecommunications topics. She has written for national brands including IBM, Samsung, ADTRAN, Adobe, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, Verizon, Costco and American Express. One of her superpowers is being able to translate technical speak from the experts that make products work into language everyone else can understand. Jennifer has a master’s degree in technical communication and lives in North Carolina with her husband and two kids.

Linkedin  |  Twitter

A man and a woman shaking hands, standing outside in a city.

With CRM in the cloud, your sales superstars can spend more time on making sales.

Imagine you’re a busy sales leader. You’re finally at home and queuing up Netflix. Then, you get CC’d on an urgent email from one of your biggest clients to your top salesperson, who — as Murphy’s Law would have it — is on vacation.

The buyer lost the final quote from your sales rep and needs it for her morning meeting with decision-makers, but you don’t know those numbers offhand. They should be in your customer relationship management (CRM) system, but only if the salesperson remembered to update it (and that’s a big “if”).

Without CRM in the cloud, you need the software on your business computer to access the information — but you left your laptop at work. Now, you have three options: You could begrudgingly kick off your slippers and trek back to the office; send a new quote, which could make your team look inconsistent and disorganized; or start calling other salespeople to find out whether anyone brought their work computers home and can look up the information for you — they’ll definitely love getting that call at dinnertime.

With cloud CRM, you wouldn’t have this problem, since all you’d need to access customer information is a login and an internet-connected device. A robust cloud-based CRM can help boost sales productivity, call center efficiency, and marketing effectiveness. However, like any business tool, it only works if everyone uses it, and most people will only use it if it’s convenient.

Businesses both large and small are embracing this technology to take advantage of the following six cloud migration benefits for CRM:

1. Mobility

Whether your sales pros are working from home, traveling for business, or communicating with clients after hours, they might often need to answer business calls when they’re not in front of their computers. However, they almost always have their smartphones within reach. By giving them CRM access on mobile devices, you enable them to better serve clients and work from anywhere.

2. Updatability

CRM grants businesses the ability to analyze customer interactions and data and enables sales teams to better collaborate. However, when people are taking calls on the fly, they need the ability to update CRM data on the spot. Otherwise, they might forget to do it later on. CRM in the cloud is always right at their fingertips. So, short of “My dog ate my smartphone,” they’re all out of excuses.

3. Scalability

Smaller companies might not need all the bells and whistles that large enterprises want from CRM, but as those companies grow, their needs change. Upgrading or switching to a different CRM down the road can be costly and time-consuming. With CRM in the cloud, new capacity, features, and functionality can be automatically pushed out company-wide — no IT overtime necessary.

4. Affordability

With cloud CRM, there’s no costly upfront installation or hardware costs, and the pay-as-you-go model enables smaller, sleeker sales organizations to use only what they need. Your IT department doesn’t have to install, maintain, or upgrade the application. All of that is handled remotely, freeing up your IT resources for more strategic (i.e., more interesting) projects.

5. Reliability

“Hope for the best and plan for the worst.” It’s a cliche if there ever was one, but it’s also sound business advice. With CRM in the cloud, critical customer data is continually backed up and protected from any scenario that could threaten information stored onsite.

6. Compatibility

CRM in the cloud can be easily integrated with other key business applications and technology, enabling different departments to better collaborate, share information, and streamline workflows. Cloud-based CRM can also be integrated into communications systems, such as email or the business phone system. Phone service and CRM integration enable devices to automatically log calls and prompt users to update information about customer interactions.

The bottom line? You need accurate and complete information in your CRM. Yet your employees are people, and as a general rule, people don’t love paperwork. Cloud CRM makes that part of the job quick and easy, so your team can focus on doing what they do best: selling.

To learn more about CRM integration and business phone service, speak to a Vonage Business consultant.

Taylor Mallory Holland

Taylor Mallory Holland is a professional writer with more than 11 years of experience writing about business, technology and health care for both media outlets and companies. Taylor understands how enterprise mobility and cloud technology can reshape industries and provide new opportunities to streamline workflows, improve employee collaboration and reimagine the customer experience. She is passionate about helping business leaders understand the impact that emerging technologies can have on communication, operations and sales and marketing.

Linkedin  |  Twitter

Four men sitting around a conference phone.

Cloud technology can help you make the most of vendor management.

Imagine a world where your business had no access to outside vendors. Your phones (and–gasp! your internet) wouldn’t work. Your office wouldn’t be cleaned. Your salespeople wouldn’t be able to track their leads through customer relationship management (CRM) software. Not to mention that specialized support like graphic design, creative ideation, and industry-specific software could be majorly impacted. Your team wouldn’t be able to do their jobs, and your bottom line would quickly be affected.

Vendors likely play a huge role in your business’ productivity and expertise. However, vendors are only as good as your ability to manage them. Without proper vendor management, your business can lose not only money but the crucial services needed to keep your doors open and customers happy. Simply by using cloud technology for vendor management, your small business can see the following benefits:

1. Vendors Can Reach You When They Need You, Regardless of Your Location

It’s Saturday morning. Your IT service provider noticed your servers are down and needs you to make a decision on the best course to fix it. However, you’re enjoying a rare moment of peace with your kids at the beach. Instead of having to make sure every vendor has the phone numbers of key employees, small businesses using a cloud-based business phone system have a single contact number that reaches them across all devices. The best part is that the vendor doesn’t know whether you’re at your desk or sitting with your feet firmly dug into the sand, since your private information is not shown.

2. Remote Vendor Management Is a Breeze

When using non-cloud-based vendors, small businesses commonly run into the problem of needing specific information, but can’t access it as they’re at a client site or working from home on the weekend. You cannot move forward on accounting or follow up with a vendor if you don’t have access to the information you need. Solving an issue usually takes phone calls, time, and plenty of hair-pulling frustration.

However, if your company uses cloud technology to manage vendors, you could log right in and see the needed information in real-time without any delays or outdated information. This works across devices, too — whether you’re logging in on your tablet or smartphone, cloud technology helps you do your job.

3. You Can Collaborate with Vendors

Many times, your vendor isn’t just providing a service, but is working together with your team on a project. Sending emails back and forth can be cumbersome, and document versioning issues can cause your team to lose valuable time and work. By using many of the cloud-based collaboration tools and working together in a virtual war room that is stored on your private cloud, your team can be unstoppable.

Whether it’s mocking up building plans with a contractor for remodeling your space or rolling out a new IT project with your managed services provider, your team can work together in real-time using online chats, video conferencing, and document libraries. More importantly, this collaborative approach helps your vendor understand your company’s needs, which ultimately results in better service.

Does your vendor management make the grade? Connect with Vonage Business to find out.

About Jennifer Goforth Gregory

Jennifer Goforth Gregory is a technology freelance writer specializing in B2B and telecommunications topics. She has written for national brands including IBM, Samsung, ADTRAN, Adobe, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, Verizon, Costco and American Express. One of her superpowers is being able to translate technical speak from the experts that make products work into language everyone else can understand. Jennifer has a master’s degree in technical communication and lives in North Carolina with her husband and two kids.

Linkedin  |  Twitter

A close-up of a person's hands, using a smartphone.

Business phone systems have changed dramatically thanks to smartphone technology.

What would your daily life be like without technology? Adding a meeting to your calendar, ordering pizza, emailing your boss and checking your social feed: nearly everything you do uses technology. An entire day — Jan. 6 — has even been set aside officially as National Technology Day. So, it’s the ideal time to consider the massive, major changes business phone systems have seen as technology has made everything faster, easier, and more automated.

From Party Line to Mobile Phone

At the center of this technology explosion is the telephone. Just a few generations ago, the telephone didn’t even exist. When it was invented, households had to use a party line shared with other people, meaning that others could (and often did) listen to conversations. Soon, the party line evolved into private lines, but the phones were attached to the wall with a cord. If you wanted to make a private call in your house, you had to snake the telephone cord under a nearby door. And to make a call, you had to turn a rotary dial, which is where the expression “dialing a number” came from.

Fast-forward to the next evolution of telephones: cordless phones, push-button dialing, and then mobile phones. All three became popular at about the same time. However, first-generation mobile phones looked very little like today’s versions, as they were up to two feet long and weighed as much as 40 pounds. Over time, they thankfully shrank in size and weight until we had the flip phone, which was smaller, mobile, but only made– you guessed it– phone calls. You know the rest: flip phones ultimately gave way to the smartphones we know and love today.

Smartphones: A Changing Way of Life

It’s not an exaggeration to say that the invention of the smartphone changed life as we know it. The smartphone changed how people conduct both their personal and work lives. Today, you’re reachable anytime, anywhere, not only by phone but also via video call, email and texting. Even more than that, this palm-sized device has become a hub for everything, including finding directions, checking the weather, taking photos, and posting on social media. It isn’t just a phone — it’s a control center for your life.

And the significance of this smartphone goes far beyond these uses. It sparked the invention of other technological tools like the tablet, the smart watch, fitness trackers, Google glass… What’s more, the smartphone has become such an important tool in today’s culture that many people who previously were resistant to using tech tools have become more technologically proficient and even depend on them in their daily lives.

Business Phone Systems Innovations

On the business side, smartphones have changed consumer expectations. Companies are using apps to communicate with customers and conduct transactions. They’re creating experiences that work across devices for both employees and consumers. Employees can also seamlessly manage their connections with customers, regardless of the device, thanks to cloud-based CRM integrations. And business phone systems were influenced, too: new, advanced features have innovated in workplaces so that employees have the same excellent functionality and seamless experiences they’ve grown to expect from their personal devices. Modern business phone systems offer features like virtual receptionists, paperless fax, and voicemail transcription, enabling employees to work they way they want.

Without the invention of the telephone, today’s culture would look very different. Thankfully, you don’t have to imagine a reality without this vital piece of technology (you could just watch the Walking Dead).

Just for kicks, celebrate National Technology Day by counting every time you use a device related to the telephone. You might surprise yourself.

For more information on how a sophisticated business phone system can help your team, contact a Vonage Business representative.

About Jennifer Goforth Gregory

Jennifer Goforth Gregory is a technology freelance writer specializing in B2B and telecommunications topics. She has written for national brands including IBM, Samsung, ADTRAN, Adobe, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, Verizon, Costco and American Express. One of her superpowers is being able to translate technical speak from the experts that make products work into language everyone else can understand. Jennifer has a master’s degree in technical communication and lives in North Carolina with her husband and two kids.

Linkedin  |  Twitter

A remote employee types on her laptop.

Working remotely is becoming more common and more productive.

As the mobile workforce continues to grow, telecommuting programs are becoming an increasingly important aspect of modern business operations. More people are flexing their telecommunicating muscles than ever before due to maturing technology behind the scenes and a shift in the definition of traditional offices.

To prove this point, one need only look at a 2015 Gallup poll in which 37 percent of U.S. workers reported taking advantage of telecommuting opportunities over the past decade. This figure represents steady growth and a seven percentage point increase since 1995. The poll also recognized a change in the way people use their newfound flexibility. Rather than seeing the bulk of telecommuting use outside of business hours in addition to traditional hours, the split has become almost dead even for those doing so within the regular nine-to-five as well. This means today’s employees have preferences when it comes to working remotely — and luckily, with cloud-based communications, they have options.

Though you could nerd out over these fancy statistics all day, these numbers simply highlight the need for well-developed telecommuting programs (and the cloud communication solutions to support them). So, how do you go about building such a thing?

Step 1: Establish Expectations

The first step toward building a successful telecommuting program is to lay out expectations for both the employees taking advantage of the program and the organization offering it. Users must fully understand the expectations of the organization while they pump up the jams in their home office. An organization must have a clear vision of the purpose of telecommuting in its own culture and employee workflow, and communicate this purpose to their employees.

For smaller businesses, establishing user expectations can often be left up to individual managers who know the exact parameters of each user’s specific job. While Janice’s TPS reports could easily be done from her humble abode, Jennie’s sensitive data analytics might require more onsite attention. For larger companies, detailing user expectations should take a more general approach for each job category. Regardless, as you build your employee expectations, it’s typically a good idea to think over the following items:

  • Work environment expectations: Does each employee have an isolated, distraction-free workspace?
  • Communication expectations: Does each employee have phone forwarding, high-speed internet, and virtual private network (VPN) access?
  • Availability expectations: Are employees expected to maintain business hours when telecommuting?
  • Planning expectations: How far in advance should telecommuting days be planned?

When it comes to expectations from an organization’s point of view, these should simply be an outline of what the company sees as the value telecommuting should bring. In laying out this vision, you’ll be much better able to assess the productivity of your program and how the above user expectations should be shaped.

Step 2: Preparing Your Infrastructure

With a comprehensive plan of what your program will look like from both a user and organizational perspective, you can begin to deploy your world-conquering telecommuting program. It’s important to keep in mind that the goal here should be to facilitate a seamless transition from the traditional office to remote workplace. After all, Janice knows how to whip up a mean TPS report, but she simply needs a system to enable her to work as effectively at home as she does in the office. Making telecommuting easy from a technical standpoint will enable your users to more easily meet the expectations outlined above.

To get you started, here are some typical pieces of infrastructure you’ll need to support a successful program:

  • Remote accessibility for internal systems: This is usually in the form of a VPN or virtual infrastructure.
  • Mobile hardware: Depending on the job requirements, this could take the form of a laptop, tablet, or even just a smartphone.
  • Communication software: This should cover the ability of the user to communicate through voice and video. This category includes tools such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), virtual meetings, and instant messaging systems.

These three key components of telecommuting infrastructure will provide the framework with which your remote users can connect, collaborate, and communicate effectively. Consider a unified communications-as-a-service (UCaaS) solution, which typically packages all this functionality for ease of use and deployment.

Step 3: Manage from a New Perspective

Due to the flexibility it offers, telecommuting is clearly a growing trend with some very tangible benefits. That being said, a successful program requires a slightly different management approach. Since you give up some transparency and visibility of users when telecommuting enters the picture, you’ll need to rely more heavily on effective communication and, ultimately, trust.

Fortunately, that same infrastructure discussed earlier will allow you to maintain open communication across the board. For example, cloud-based communication services would enable Janice to schedule and hold company-wide meetings to drive home the importance of that cover sheet — all from the comfort of her home office. By using shared workspaces such as screen-share or video conferencing, Janice could even collaborate with the team back at the office without losing valuable face-to-face time. Such services simply remove any barriers to being just as effective remotely as a user would in a traditional office setting. Due to the high level of communication and transparency these services provide, Janice’s position can be managed virtually.

In the end, telecommuting is steadily rising as a preferred alternative to the traditional office. By carefully considering expectations, supporting infrastructure, and management strategy, your telecommuting program will be ready to usher in a new era of pajama-empowered productivity.

Are you interested in boosting productivity with your remote team? Speak with a Vonage Business consultant to get started.

About Joe Hewitson

With a degree in applied computing technology and over a decade of experience in the IT and software development industries, Joe Hewitson has his finger on the pulse of cloud technology. From developing communication applications for the cloud to deploying VoIP solutions in enterprise environments, he’s seen it all. The one thing Joe loves more than staying on the cutting edge of cloud and VoIP technology? Writing about it.

Linkedin  |  Twitter

All Features

Looking to make your phone system even more powerful?View our series of VoIP features.

See All Features

Making
Global Calls

Reach out to international clients with affordable international calling rates.

View International Rates