A woman sitting at her desk, speaking on the telephone.

Today’s professionals have many business communication tools available to them.

Today’s professionals have a greater range of business communication tools at their fingertips than ever before. For some people, the sheer volume of options can be dizzying and perhaps even overwhelming. However, these tools offer choice and flexibility in communicating a message. As Marshall McLuhan famously said, “The medium is the message.”

When initiating a conversation, the business communication tools themselves can influence the way a message is interpreted. That dynamic can determine whether the result is effective collaboration or awkwardly crossed signals. With that in mind, here are four types of modern communication technology that businesses are using today and how they can best be used to convey a message:

1. Real-Time Interactions

It’s common for employees to ask each other quick questions in real-time throughout the work day using business communication tools such as text messaging or video conferencing through a unified communications platform. When doing so, it’s always a good idea to consider the communications medium with which the recipient is most comfortable. After all, as anyone who has worked in an office knows, some people are avid texters and others prefer to go old school with a reliable phone call. It’s important to factor in the urgency of the conversation — i.e., how rapidly a response is needed and how quickly the recipient is likely to reply using that channel — as well as whether it concerns a fairly typical subject or something that is more sensitive and prone to misunderstanding.

For more immediate and quick exchanges connoting a sense of immediacy with a casual atmosphere, texting and instant messaging are a great way to go. Although text conversations can sometimes appear terse or overly casual to some, they can be enhanced with emojis and images to lighten the mood — a well-timed smiley face or cute cat gif can do wonders for morale. However, nuanced conversations that involve a sensitive or complex message might be best suited to a video chat in which both participants have the benefit of visual cues and even physical objects they can use as props to better understand one another. This is especially valuable for check-ins involving teleworking staff.

2. Social Media

In the social sphere, sending and receiving a message is immediate and intimate. People typically experience these interactions on their smartphones, which they rarely part from and tend to view as an extension of themselves. And when people have a positive interaction on social media, they are delighted. Yet for all the intimacy and the opportunity to make a meaningful connection with a customer, social media is a very public place to have a conversation. It’s a venue in which reputation and authenticity matter, especially when giving a referral or serving as a brand advocate. Accordingly, people take close note not only of the message a brand sends, but how it is conveyed.

On the plus side, social media is versatile. Businesses can use text, photos, videos, and links to communicate their messages, which they can then amplify through the use of hashtags and paid advertising. However, tone and timing are everything in the social world, which moves at the speed of light. Examples abound in which businesses have been roasted for tweets that were either poorly timed, tone deaf, or viewed as overly opportunistic. As Mashable reported, Cinnabon faced considerable backlash after it tweeted a tribute to Carrie Fisher that many found to be in poor taste. Companies wanting to avoid such an embarrassing social media fail should have a good sense of the cultural norms on social media and know their audience well before getting too familiar online.

3. Cloud Communication Integrations

Customers expect an excellent customer service experience from the brands with which they do business — no matter which part of the business they may be engaging with at the moment or which communications channel they may be using. They also have little patience for waiting long periods to get the answer they seek. Any of us can relate. Who hasn’t rolled their eyes a little upon hearing yet another customer service representative complain that their computer is running slowly?

To circumvent problems like these, companies are finding great value in synchronizing their cloud business applications for greater operational efficiency so that all relevant information can be accessed within a single window. Most commonly, they are integrating their business applications with their business phone service. This lends employees greater confidence, since they have instant access to the data they need without having to clumsily switch between applications. That professionalism comes across positively in exchanges with customers.

4. Contextual Communications

Businesses can deepen their communications reach by further leveraging the power of the cloud. As Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS) builds momentum, developers now have access to an array of efficient communication APIs. As a result, they’re building real-time communication features such as voice, video, and text messaging into their applications without the need for a complicated infrastructure to support them. For example, a retailer can now make it possible for a customer to call or message customer service directly from within the app rather than having to initiate that exchange separately. The transaction becomes more intuitive and convenient, ensuring a positive customer experience. And it can also provide contextual information about the customer, such as what is in their shopping cart or which tickets they’ve previously logged, to aid in the speedy resolution of their request.

There are many ways for businesses to have meaningful and impactful conversations, both among their employees and with customers. Companies may find it worthwhile to investigate how today’s business communication solutions can increase internal efficiency and enhance customer engagement.

Contact Vonage Business to learn more about how cloud-based communications can aid your company.

About Rose de Fremery

Rose de Fremery is a New York-based writer and technologist. She is the former Managing Editor of The Social Media Monthly, the world’s first and only print magazine devoted to the social media revolution. Rose currently blogs about business IT topics including VoIP, UC, CRM, business innovation, and telework for Ziff-Davis as well as HP’s Tektonika program, HP Innovation Journal, HP Channel, Intel, and Vonage’s content marketing program.

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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.

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A woman using a smartphone while sitting at her desk.

Some companies may be reluctant to change, but enterprise cloud solutions can make a big difference.

At first, the cloud may have seemed like a lot of hype and just another technology for enterprises to spend money on because “everyone else was doing it.” You know, like mobile, the internet, or social media. Of course, all three of these today are vital tools for enterprises to increase productivity, raise brand awareness, and better engage with customers. In fact, it’s hard to imagine a business surviving in the digital age without a website, Facebook page, or mobile app.

Though enterprise cloud solutions have also become indispensable to organizations seeking to be more agile while saving money, some businesses are still hesitant about moving to the cloud. After all, a cloud migration is a lot more complicated than building a website or even managing employee BYOD devices, right?

Not really. The truth is, moving IT processes, data storage, and communications systems to the cloud is much easier than many business decision-makers believe. Conversely, the longer a business waits to move to the cloud, the harder it is for it to compete in the digital economy. Businesses that still haven’t jumped on the cloud can put themselves at a competitive disadvantage. For example, enterprises with on-premises legacy phone systems and contact centers struggle to meet the requirements of digital-savvy employees and customers.

Enterprise workers today demand the ability to do their jobs from anywhere and using any device. They want the flexibility to remotely collaborate and communicate with colleagues from their homes, to join video conferences on their smartphones, and to access Salesforce on their laptops during a client meeting in the field.

The High Costs of Resisting the Cloud

Legacy communications systems simply can’t support these critical functions. The end result can be lower productivity, frustrated employees, and higher turnover. According to the Future Workforce Study 2016 from Dell and Intel, 42 percent of workers ages 18–34 are likely to leave a job because their employers provided substandard technology. That percentage is likely even higher among workers whose jobs require constant use of technology, such as call center agents.

Likewise, older, in-house communications platforms can’t scale to handle data and service requests from the growing number of mobile users who want real-time service and the luxury of communicating with customer support via phone, online chat, messaging, or any other digital channel.

However, cloud-based communications systems are flexible and scalable and allow enterprises to satisfy the productivity needs of a mobile, remote workforce, the scalability and cross-channel functionality of a busy contact center, and real-time service requests from mobile customers.

In addition to enabling a business to compete more effectively by leveraging the most advanced digital technologies, moving communications virtually to the cloud eliminates the need to replace expensive on-premises PBX equipment. The result can be an efficient transfer of capital expenses to operational expenses, or even an overal cost reduction.

Migration and Support Made Easy

Enterprise cloud solutions today are available to organizations of all sizes. The key is to partner with a provider with deep experience and roots in cloud technology to provide support throughout the process. A provider with an enterprise cloud backup service can store data in multiple geographic locations, enabling businesses to maximize uptime, even during and after disasters.

Moving to the cloud may appear daunting to some businesses, but even the most ardent cloud holdouts are beginning to realize that the alternative — falling hopelessly behind the competition — is somewhat more daunting. The right enterprise cloud solutions can lift any business that chooses the right partner.

Is your enterprise ready for the cloud? Contact a Vonage Business consultant today to get started.

About Chris Nerney

Chris Nerney is a technology writer who covers both enterprise and consumer technologies. He has written extensively on cloud computing, unified communications, enterprise collaboration, VoIP, mobile technology, big data and analytics, data centers, converged systems and space technology. His writing has appeared in Computerworld, CIO.com, Data-Informed, Revenue Cycle Insights, Network World, ITWorld and many other technology publications, including enterprise whitepapers. Chris lives in upstate New York with his wife and three children.

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A woman sitting at a desk, talking on an office phone.

While they’ve been around for a while, desk phones still meet many business needs.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. If you’ve ever worked in an office environment, this saying really hits home — despite evolution in form, many offices leverage fundamental technology to perform key functions and meet business needs. In other words, old tools and tech are prevalent in offices around the world, for better or for worse.

Here’s a look at six still in use today:

1. Faithful Fax Machines

You read that right. The “beeeee-owwwwww-chkchkchkchkc” sound that haunts your nightmares isn’t gone from corporate culture, it just took on a new form to meet emerging demands. While original versions of the classic fax machine came with a limited capacity to connect and no one could ever quite remember whether the paper was supposed to go in upside-down, print-first, or with a cover page to satisfy the wrathful gods of document dissemination, new iterations elevate the execution but keep the core idea.

Electronic fax solutions let you easily scan or select a document from your computer, then send it to a fax-specific phone number or email address. Either way, the document shows up in email inboxes rather than producing reams of poorly toned paper. Better still? No busy signal. Ever.

2. Dutiful Desk Phones

Ah, the desk phone. Where would Hollywood films about corporate greed be without these unwieldy telecom tethers for protagonists and villains alike to shout at and violently slam down? Here’s the thing: While the form factor has changed slightly to reflect new aesthetic expectations, most companies still outfit the bulk of their workforces with standard desktop telephones. It makes sense: They’re cheap, convenient, and easy to manage. Better yet? New Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) solutions make it easy for companies to shift from traditional copper telephone lines to digital alternatives, allowing them to easily add new lines, forward calls, and opt in mobile devices. Long live the desk phone!

3. Predictable Printers

Of course printers are still a thing. Despite pushes to eliminate paper in many offices, there’s always a need to have hard copies on hand. And honestly, some companies just love having rooms and rooms stacked with full-to-bursting file cabinets.

Basic office printing actually got its start in 1938 thanks to dry ink, static electricity, and flashes of light. Xerography (and eventually print juggernaut Xerox) was the result, and thus began the mad rush toward inkjet and laser printers used around the world. Today, high-speed, low-waste printers are the norm in most offices, but there’s also a real uptick in 3-D printing as this technology goes down in cost and has more viable uses than printing tiny boxes or random pieces of “art.” On the “that’s crazy” side of things, CNet noted that Dubai recently 3-D-printed an entire office building. Okay, guys, maybe settle down a bit?

4. Perennial “Post-Its”

In 1968, a chemist at 3M accidentally created a low-strength adhesive sticky enough to hold but weak enough to be repositioned multiple times. No one cared. However, a church choir member frustrated by too-slippery bookmarks changed everything. Today, Post-It® Brand Notes remain a huge part of office culture — beyond the classic canary-yellow squares, there are bigger versions, tiny tabs, and a host of Post-It paraphernalia. Do they really improve productivity and help meet business needs? Maybe! Are they everywhere? You bet!

5. Cameras and Calculators

No matter the office, no matter the business, you need a camera and a calculator. Pocket calculators are classic desk decorations, while cameras were typically kept by management for special occasions, such as the office holiday card or a bit piece in the local paper. And while film cameras (sorry, Kodak®) along with classic calculators have largely vanished from common culture, they’re not really gone. They’ve just taken on a new form: mobile devices. Every staff member now carries around a powerful computing device-and-camera in one, making it easier than ever to snap a photo or do the math while simultaneously sparking debate about the intersection of social discourse and business use. Speaking of which…

6. Mercurial Mobiles

According to Office Xpress®, the first business-related mobile phone call was made in 1973 from a Motorola® in New York City to Bell Labs in New Jersey. And for 30 years, mobile tech advanced largely outside the workplace — although thanks to the ’80s for those hilariously bad super-brick phones that C-suite executives in suspenders liked to shout into at fancy restaurants — until touch-screen smartphones went from science fiction to reality.

Now, companies are deep in the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) deal, trying to figure out where personal and business mobile use collide and where they should stay separate. No matter the ultimate answer, mobile is here to stay, and for many companies, that means rolling smartphones into a solid VoIP plan rather than trying to manhandle mobile into something resembling corporate compliance.

If you have an office, you’re likely using old tech and tools to meet current business needs. Fortunately, there are ways to upgrade these tried-and-true pieces of tech to improve your efficiency — and up your coolness factor.

Ready to learn more about implementing new versions of time-tested tech? Touch base with a Vonage Business consultant.

About Doug Bonderud

Doug Bonderud is an award-winning freelance writer with a passion for technology and innovation. His ability to create compelling, thought-provoking and timely content helps empower the voice of corporate vision. From UCaaS to VoIP to cloud computing, Doug has experience covering all aspects of evolving digital environments and their effects on both people and policies.

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Two men and a woman sitting at a table, viewing something on a tablet.

Helping your teammates get to know each other will go a long way toward employee engagement.

The New Year is here, and with it comes a unique opportunity for introspection and resolution. While that gym membership card is still fresh, it’s also a great time to set some employee engagement goals for your own staff. To that end, there’s one area of employee interaction any organization would do well to improve this year: collaboration.

Why collaboration? Well, according to a recent Microsoft survey, employee collaboration is one of the most important skill sets to foster in the workplace. Understanding the importance of collaboration is great and all, but how can you help your team grow in this area?

1. Getting to Know You

When it comes to collaboration in the workplace, the topic really boils down to your team’s ability to engage with one another. Convenient, huh? If you could somehow make it second nature for employees to engage and collaborate throughout the day, regardless of team or project structure, the entire organization would likely experience a greater level of productivity. Fortunately, there’s a little-known secret to breeding employee engagement, and it starts with familiarity.

Be honest with yourself for a minute. Is it easier to confide in your best friend of 20 years or the new guy in Cube 3A? While it’s not always possible to be best friends with your co-workers, just getting to know them on a deeper level will help facilitate easier collaboration. Simply put, your team will be more apt to talk things through with colleagues they know and care for. Inspire these types of connections by promoting open communication and encouraging camaraderie through effective team-building. A word to the wise: Know your audience on this one, and try to avoid any trust-fall snafus.

2. Let’s Talk Tech

Fostering a work environment where people not only feel free to collaborate, but make it a top priority is bar none the best way to increase employee collaboration in 2017. So, what’s the next step? Give your team all the necessary tools to collaborate effectively. In this new year, that means deploying the right technology to make communication a piece of cake regardless of physical location.

Let’s face it — in this age of smartphones and high-speed mobile internet connections, there’s really no excuse for a lack of communication. From document-sharing services to mobile communication platforms, it’s never been easier to enable high-level collaboration. Add a dash of the cloud, and new deployments can be taken care of faster than the Millennium Falcon during the Kessel Run (that’s less than 12 parsecs, for those keeping track).

3. Deliberate Communication

Alright, so you’ve now figured out how to help your team want to collaborate while also enabling them to do so anywhere, at anytime. Now, if only they used their collaboration time effectively. In an effort to train your team in effective communication (the cornerstone of collaboration), taking a page from the playbook of any agile methodology is a good strategy.

For those unaware, these business methodologies thrive on highly functional communication. In particular, the pages you should really pay attention to deal with purpose and focus. Every meeting or collaborative effort should have a well-defined and deliberate goal. This goal would ideally be small enough in scope to be attained within a week or two of actual work. Focusing on bite-sized, purposeful goals will help keep your team’s collaborative genius on the right track.

4. Everybody Plays a Part

Ultimately, it’s just not enough to show people how and why collaboration is integral to the success of any SMB. At some point, each individual has to have a stake in the investment. Without some tangible ownership and responsibility, there just isn’t enough motivation for truly effective collaboration. So, how do you encourage user buy-in and employee engagement?

As cheesy as it sounds, the solution is to make everyone feel important. This is actually easier than it sounds, too, because in most situations, each individual is important — otherwise, why would they be on the team? All you need to do is make it painfully apparent. Catchy metaphors and motivational posters can be useful here — seriously. Going back to the first point, investing in professional relationships will naturally transition into easy illustrations of each team member’s importance.

There you have it! Four ways to embark on the new year with more effective collaboration. As it turns out, a little team building with a dash of technology is all you need.

Find out how Vonage Business can help you get the most out of your phone system to foster effective collaboration.

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.

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A woman sitting at her desk, speaking on her mobile phone.

Your BYOD policy may be outdated. It’s time to take new look at it for the new year.

Out with the old, and in with the new — 2017 is here, and it’s the perfect time to reassess current policies, see what’s working, and ditch what isn’t making the cut. Consider the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) movement. For the better part of a decade, this has been a tech industry buzzword that prompted a personal device revolution in the workplace.

But the BYOD policy landscape simply isn’t the same as it was five years ago or even during 2016. Bottom line? It’s time for a fresh start.

Here are three BYOD rules to retire in 2017:

1. My Way or the Highway

Mobile devices are everywhere. They’re so prevalent, in fact, that manufacturers are now taking the user out of the equation to create wireless Internet of Things (IoT) networks that can collect, store, and even analyze vast amounts of data. What does this mean for your company? As noted by Enterprise Apps Tech News, the “if it’s not there, it doesn’t exist” tactic remains a common approach for companies and IT departments not sold on a BYOD future.

Spoiler alert: This doesn’t work. Guess what happens? That’s right, shadow IT. Users connect with the devices of their choice, regardless of what IT permits or restricts. As a result, this is the first policy you need to ditch in 2017: My way or the highway can quickly strand companies on the side of the digital road wondering how competitors got so fast.

2. Quiet, You!

Another policy for you to consider tossing? Limits on how and when staff can use personal devices for business or corporate devices for personal things. It sounds unfair, right? Why should you have to bear the brunt of this responsibility? Well, because it’s 2017, and people enjoy working on devices they like and are familiar with. Sure, you could tell staff they can only make work calls from personal devices during work hours or to switch off their corporate-issued smartphone when they’re not in the office, but the chances of these rules actually being followed are slim.

Of course, you might point to a lack of mobile and traditional integration — if your mobile provider doesn’t play nice with existing Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) or Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunking services, you could be looking at big bills just to let users call on whatever phone floats their boat. The solution? Opt for integration. Choose a cloud-based solution that merges mobile devices with traditional business phone systems to provide unified access. Everyone comes out a winner. You get to toss bad policies, and users get to call on the devices of their choice (which, let’s face it, they were going to do anyway).

3. Meager App-ettite

Do you want increased productivity from mobile employees? Of course you do. So, here’s the thing: You need them to shelve the “approved apps-only” BYOD policy that seemed like a great idea three years ago. Sure, it worked back then, when employees and employers alike were just starting to figure out how BYOD could drive revenue instead of driving up costs for the sake of convenience, but it no longer holds the same value. According to Networks Asia, the emergence of “digital natives” and “citizen developers” has empowered an era of personal mobile choice. Users don’t want IT to dictate the apps and services they should be using. Instead, they want the ability to pick and choose solutions that work for them and meet current project demands.

By locking down app selection, IT departments create new organizational problems that prompt workers to circumvent the rules for the sake of expedience. However, by tossing bad policies and opening a dialogue with employees about what they want, how they want it, and how it empowers their work, it’s possible to proactively streamline your BYOD network rather than struggle to catch up with increasingly tech-savvy employees.

The New Year has arrived, and it’s time for a BYOD policy shakedown. Toss device demands, lose the call restrictions, and empower employee choice to maximize ROI.

For more tips on updating your BYOD policy for the new year, contact a Vonage Business consultant.

About Doug Bonderud

Doug Bonderud is an award-winning freelance writer with a passion for technology and innovation. His ability to create compelling, thought-provoking and timely content helps empower the voice of corporate vision. From UCaaS to VoIP to cloud computing, Doug has experience covering all aspects of evolving digital environments and their effects on both people and policies.

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