March 2 2017 Digital OfficeDeveloping a business phone etiquette plan will help build a strong brand. Companies put a lot of time, money, and thought into creating a great customer experience, both online and in person. But what about on the phone? Phone calls are the primary — if not the only — human interaction that customers have with many companies. So, what business owners and their employees say, and how they say it, can make or break the brand experience. Simply put: If your team doesn’t have proper business phone etiquette, it won’t matter to callers that your website is awesome or that your marketing is engaging. How do you ensure that all customer communication is professional and on-brand? Develop business phone etiquette policies that address the following: 1. How Employees Identify Themselves The way an employee answers the phone sets the tone of the conversation and should clearly reflect the brand image you want to project. Are you going for casual and friendly, or professional and efficient? Should employees give their first names or their full names and titles? Do they also need to identify the company and perhaps the department? The answers to these questions will depend on your brand. If you want to seem hip and approachable, something as simple as “Hi, I’m Bill. How can I make your day better?” might suffice. For a more professional tone, a formal and informative intro might be more appropriate. 2. Vocabulary Selection Word choice also depends on the brand. Is slang acceptable? Where should employees fall on the scale between friendly and formal? Is it OK to use customers’ first names, or are Mr. and Ms. more appropriate salutations? Also, consider the audience and what vocabulary they might not understand. Are there internal terms or technical jargon that might confuse or bore customers? If so, consider providing examples of customer-friendly ways to discuss common technical topics. 3. Environment If you’re running a startup tech company or managing a team of stockbrokers, loud background noise might suggest that exciting or innovative things are happening behind the scenes. For most business calls, however, too much noise just makes it hard to hear. And if the conversation concerns sensitive information, such as financial or health data, background noise might suggest the call isn’t as private as the customer would like. What noise levels are appropriate when your employees take calls? When should they step into a private office or conference room? If you’ve embraced the virtual enterprise and remote workers, of if your employees take business calls while on the go, what noise level or privacy concerns should they consider before answering? 4. Putting Customers on Hold No customer likes to be kept waiting, but most don’t mind a brief hold if they understand why, if they agree to it, and if they believe your team cares about resolving their problems quickly. Being told to “please hold” without an explanation doesn’t send that message, nor does leaving a customer on hold for too long. Spell out what employees should say before putting a customer on hold and when it’s OK to do so. For example, is it okay to answer call waiting with a customer on the phone? Also address how long to let someone wait. Should employees come back on the line at certain intervals, if only to let customers know they’re still working on it? If they know a task will take more than a few minutes, should they offer a call-back instead? 5. Transferring Calls The words “I’ll need to transfer you” fill many callers with instant dread. They’ve been scarred by previous transfer experiences, where they were either disconnected or directed to the wrong person … again, again, and again. A virtual receptionist can help direct customers to the right individual or department, but employees may still receive questions or requests they’re unable to address. What policies can you put in place to ensure callers don’t get caught in a transfer loop? For example, should employees put customers on hold and talk to their colleagues before transferring calls to them? Do you have (or can you create) a company directory they can consult that spells out exactly which calls should be directed to which person or department? 6. Handling Inappropriate Comments It’s unfortunate but true: Some customers are … challenging. There are those who will, on occasion, make inappropriate comments that catch your team off guard. By preparing them to respond well, you can ensure they handle these situations with grace and respect. Spell out how they should handle challenging calls. What should they say when callers resort to yelling, cursing, or even name-calling? Who should they call on for backup? Think about typical calls from the customer’s point of view, and consider whether there are other critical moments where better business phone etiquette could lead to a better brand experience. If you have a smart, talented team, it knows how to talk to customers, so you don’t have to script every interaction. However, getting everyone on the same page goes a long way for brand consistency and a great customer experience. Speak to a Vonage Business consultant to learn more about communication tools for your small business. 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 February 14 2017 Industry TrendsThese features will make you fall in love with business phone systems. Do you like your small-business phone systems? Love them? It seems like a silly question, but with Valentine’s Day upon us, it’s worth taking a look at five phone features that transcend average attractiveness and interest to really capture the hearts of small-business owners. Here is a list of five stand-up pieces of tech you’d be willing to bring home to meet your mom: 1. Virtual Receptionist What do customers want when they call your company? They want the ability to speak with a real person. As a result, many organizations still spend on in-house or third-party receptionists to answer incoming calls, direct requests, and handle basic inquiries. While this makes sense on the surface, there’s actually a better way to increase the value of business phone systems — the virtual receptionist. It works like this: You set up as many pathways and answer trees as you want, making it easy for callers to quickly find the person, department, or automated answer they need, and you can customize call rules by time of day or to accommodate employee out-of-office days. What’s more, admins can log in to the virtual receptionist portal anywhere, anytime, to make changes on the fly. The result? Callers get straightforward and specific options that eliminate the need for generic (and costly) routing from traditional receptionists. In addition, they reach the “end of the line” — their intended department or staff member — faster. All in all, it’s a match made in heaven. 2. Visual Voicemail According to Hello Operator, SMB owners and managers spend a significant amount of time listening to voicemails. Wouldn’t it be great if you could take your relationship with voicemail to the next level? That’s the idea behind visual voicemail, which converts all incoming voicemails into text. This text — along with the caller’s number and attached audio file of the original voicemail — is then packaged into an email and sent to your assigned email account. Instead of putting a hold on other business while you call in and check your voicemail, you get an email that lets you quickly scan for relevant details and decide whether an immediate callback is warranted or you can address the issue later. 3. Paperless Faxing It’s 2017, but companies are still using fax machines. Some prefer the classic “bzzzzz-weee-o-weeee-o-vzzzzzzzzzht” of paper-based faxes, but most wish they could break it off with their long-term fax machine and find a communications companion that better meets their needs. Meet paperless faxing — it’s suave, smart, and is much more pleasant to listen to. It’s also simple. If you’re sending a fax, you just scan or select your document, attach it to an email, and send it to the paperless fax email address. If you’re receiving a message, the fax comes in via phone number but gets routed to your email and sent as an attachment. Think of it this way: Original fax has a lot of things you like, but new fax is just a better fit. 4. On-Demand Call Recording Many SMBs have a love-hate relationship with data. They know how important data is in a digital-first world, but collecting data — especially from communication channels — can be time-consuming and difficult. The solution? On-demand call recording. Employees or managers can decide when and where to record calls, and recordings can be turned on for all calls or implemented on a call-by-call basis. Data is stored online and is easily accessible through a secure web portal. As required, staff can send recording attachments through email. It’s like getting something in a new relationship you never knew you needed — suddenly, data is easy to capture, reference, and utilize. 5. Admin Access Sometimes love isn’t flashy or loud, and it’s the simple things that make all the difference. That’s the idea behind easy admin access, which lets you fully manage and customize business phone systems. You’re able to easily configure the virtual receptionist, set up individual extensions for employees, configure user access, and customize individual features. Put simply? The heart of your Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) system is in your hands — cue the slow music and dimmed lights. Communication is absolutely vital for small business, so why settle for a phone system you only tolerate when you could have one that you fall more in love with every day? Are you ready to take your business phone system relationship to the next level? Contact Vonage Business today — representatives are always happy to play matchmaker. 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. Linkedin | Twitter Thanks for signing up. We’ll email you with the latest updates on the Amazon Chime launch on Vonage Business. Stay tuned! In the meantime, check out other great Vonage Business Features here. With so many customers preferring to communicate with text messages, it makes good business sense to offer them the option. The Vonage® MobileConnect for Essentials app lets you send and receive text messages via your Vonage Business number†. So, you don’t have to use your personal phone number to stay connected. Your texts from the mobile app clearly reflect your business identity. †Mobile charges may apply. With the MobileConnect app for iOS® devices and Android™ phones, you can send and receive texts from any U.S. phone number, or chat internally with coworkers. It’s all about communicating the way your customers prefer – and that often includes text messaging. Why You’ll Like It: Give your customers another preferred way of communicating. Enjoy texting to and from U.S. numbers, and one-to-one chat between other users on the account. New for iOS 10 users: Group messaging now available. Maintain your business identity every time you text or call a customer, even if you’re on the go. Get Started The Text Messaging feature can be accessed using the MobileConnect app and is included on all accounts with Unlimited and Metered extensions.* *Reasonable and acceptable use policies apply Back to Features Are you looking for an office communications system that makes sense? With our hosted Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) solution, businesses get affordable phone service via the Internet. While this is an extremely affordable and efficient method of communicating with co-workers and customers alike, it’s likely you will feel overwhelmed in choosing the best hosted phone system for your business. And that’s where Vonage Business comes into play. We’re here to serve as a fundamental division of your business; we’re here to be your professional communication presence. Vonage understands the importance of a reliable business phone system, and we’re continuously making advancements on our VoIP hosted phone system. We also understand that a phone conversation is often a person’s first impression of your business – how the call is answered, placed on hold, transferred over, picked up by voicemail, etc. We want that first impression to be a positive one. Vonage hosts all the technology necessary in the cloud, and delivers all the professional features of a corporate phone system. Unlimited calling service and powerful business features like Voicemail to Email and Virtual Receptionist are included at no extra charge. At Vonage, our customers enjoy the cost-efficiency of our hosted phone system. For a low flat rate, they don’t have to worry about minutes used or how many long distance calls are made. Our VoIP phones include the same features as a traditional phone system for a Fortune 500 company, but our price is unbeatable. Our customers also appreciate the convenience of our phone services – they can access their office phone almost anywhere around the world, as long as a broadband connection is available. In essence, a hosted phone system by Vonage is the way of the future. Many small to mid-sized businesses are catching on to the many benefits of VoIP technology – and switching from their outdated landline systems. And in time, it’s likely all companies will make the easy switch. The bottom line is that business VoIP phone systems make sense as business owners are looking for practicality in communications. Our goal is to power small to mid-sized businesses, and we’ll customize your phone system so it suits all your communication needs. Not all business VoIP phone service providers are alike – Vonage is used by over 375,000 people for business calling. If you’ve been comparing VoIP companies and are confused about who’s the best for your business, these four major differences should give you more of an idea why Vonage is the best provider for small and mid-sized businesses. Residential vs. Business First of all, Vonage Business only provides service for small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs). We decided early on that we wanted to focus our business model on helping SMBs grow, which is why we target our offerings to business-class services. This doesn’t mean that if you work from a home office that we won’t work with you – we will! We partner with offices and organizations to make sure that we’re focused on delivering the best commercial services for retail, restaurants, offices, NPOs, warehouses, distribution centers, call centers … you name it. Service Vonage Business started from a small office in midtown Atlanta and grew rapidly – so much that in 2014 we made the move to our new headquarters. This puts us in the unique position to understand the issues facing SMB’s from a personal level. We pride ourselves on providing an in-depth knowledge base site so customers can immediately find answers to questions about setup or adding features. Our customer care team is well versed not only in our products, but also in VoIP technology and is available if customers need support. Innovation Part of the reason that Vonage consistently rolls out new included features and add-ons is because of our in-house engineering team and also because of our proprietary technology. We built the system that we use to provide your VoIP service – providers in our space mostly rely on open-source or leased technology which either limits or slows down their ability to create customized plugins and features. No Annual Contracts We don’t require our customers to sign a restrictive contract. We want them to stay with us based on their satisfaction with our service. Thousands of customers have been with us for years because of our ability to allow them to telecommute, use analytics and reporting tools to measure call data, customize their system with Virtual Receptionists and Call Queues and much more. We believe in being a resource to help grow your business – not hold you back. Are you interested in getting a free quote or speaking to a Vonage Business rep about how we can help power your business? Fill out the form to the left, or explore our site to see how easy signing up can be. The cost of business VoIP service has always been a compelling reason for businesses to switch from using their old, analog system to a hosted phone system. Not only are monthly bills typically lowered by a minimum of 30%*, but being able to administer the entire system by yourself means eliminating costly maintenance fees. Finally, with so many affordable VoIP phones to choose from, making and receiving calls on an IP phone or mobile phone allows you to stay connected almost anywhere – without breaking the bank. The Upfront Cost of Business VoIP Service Let’s say that you’re a brand new business with nothing in the office but some empty desks and file cabinets. First, you’ll need to invest in a quality Internet connection which typically means a cable or T1 line – at least. You’ll need a quality router to deliver Internet to your different employees and you’ll also need IP phones that are compatible with VoIP technology. And honestly, that’s about it as far as an upfront cost. You don’t need a special in-house PBX to manage your phone system and you don’t need to hire a maintenance professional to set up or regulate the system. If you’re an established business with most of that equipment, you may only need IP phones, which begin as low as $50 for a business-class, entry-level phone. As long as you have an acceptable Internet connection and a way to have all of your employees connected, you’re good to go! The only additional cost from your business VoIP service is if you decide to add on additional features like Company Call Recording, Voicemail Transcription or maybe a Virtual Mailbox. Monthly Add Ons One way to boost your productivity with your business VoIP service is to select some add-on features that suit your office. Insurance agents, medical offices and legal specialists who may need to – or may be required to – record all calls can do so with a premium add-on feature like Company Call Recording or On-Demand Call Recording. With a no annual contract VoIP service, you can choose to cancel this feature at any time. So if you’re running tight on cash one month and you want to reduce the amount of features in your VoIP phone system, it’s as easy as calling the Customer Care department and temporarily cancelling those features. Cost-benefit of Off-Site Maintenance When thinking about the cost of business VoIP service, consider the savings that you’ll accrue month after month when you don’t have to continually hire a tech to come out and refresh the system, install new features, plug in someone’s phone or configure settings. Vonage Business hosted model means that we push features directly to provisioned phones. When we roll out a new service offering, you and your employees will automatically be able to use it – no maintenance or waiting necessary. Canceling an Old Contract Many prospective customers don’t think they can afford VoIP because breaking their current contract would cost them hundreds of dollars. Because everybody is different, why not contact Vonage’s Sales department for a no-hassle quote? Then, compare those monthly costs to what you’re currently paying. Chances are, even if your current provider charges you a few hundred dollars to cancel, you’ll still be saving money by switching to Vonage. So why not get a quote right now? A helpful VoIP rep can give you a quote that’s customized for your needs and it’ll help you get started in figuring out the cost of your business VoIP service. Many business owners aren’t sure whether or not switching to a hosted PBX from their traditional, on-premise solution is a good move. After all, they’ve invested for years in infrastructure that they trust, and they’re hearing a lot about “the cloud” but not really sure how it can save them money. Business VoIP is designed to deliver competitive, business-class quality at a lower cost precisely because of lower maintenance costs, cloud infrastructure and off-site administration. Business VoIP and Hosted PBX Can Reduce Monthly Bills In a nutshell, a business VoIP/hosted PBX is an all-in-one phone system that delivers big-business features to businesses of all sizes at affordable prices. IP phone systems can lower costs while actually increasing productivity. At Vonage Business, our research with customers across all industries has revealed that our VoIP customers save up to 36% on average over traditional carriers.* And because there’s no need for an on-site technician, making changes is as easy as logging into a 24/7 online portal and customizing your system. More Powerful, Less Expensive than Analog Our business VoIP customers have told us time and time again that with their analog phone system, not only were they paying much more for the service, the phone service just wasn’t delivering nearly as much as they needed. Every feature cost extra and what they were really paying for was – essentially – a bare-bones service. Vonage is dedicated to making VoIP better and more advanced for businesses of any size. That’s one of the reasons that our competitively-priced phone systems come with dozens of included features while reliably delivering the basics. Our included features not only save you money from your monthly bill, they also help to increase productivity by saving time, streamlining workflow, capturing essential voice data, and making your operation more efficient. Business VoIP features like the Virtual Receptionist, Voicemail to Email and the ability to work while on the go increase productivity. So you’re saving more than just a significant percentage on your monthly bill – you’re saving valuable time and resources that can lead to increased sales. Looking to cut costs within your business, but unsure of where to start? Vonage will help you figure out the best plan for your phone system, and you’ll be well on your way to savings. Complete the form or give us a call today at 1-844-324-0340 to learn how you can start saving! As all business owners know, making savings where you can is one of the most crucial things you can do. However, cutting costs at the expense of successfully managing your business can actually do more harm than good. Fortunately, saving on your office phone system these days isn’t as difficult as you might imagine. By taking a look at technology such as cloud-hosted or VoIP service for your business phone needs, you can grab onto significant savings for your company. So where do you start? Ditch That Copper-Wire Service. One of the most traditional types of phone service is through copper-wire, and chances are this is the type of system you are already most familiar with. While these systems are considered fairly reliable, they also come with a host of drawbacks such as expensive equipment to purchase, technician set-up and call out fees and even a contract that can tie you down for several years. Most small to mid-sized businesses who opt for a copper-wire office phone system will likely find themselves with an enormous financial outlay, and very little chance of getting the customization that they require to run and grow their businesses. Move to the Cloud. Though the name might make you think it’s in the sky somewhere, cloud-hosted and VoIP systems are actually run via your high-speed internet. Providers, such as Vonage Business, host your office phone’s nerve center. This provides your business unrivaled access to new customizable features and dramatically reduced pricing. Compare, Compare, Compare. There are many VoIP office phone providers in the marketplace, but the quality of their products, customer support systems and pricing structures can vary. When you’re looking at the competition, ask yourself the following: Q: What kind of contracts are required? A: Vonage Business has no annual contracts. Ever. Q: What features are included in the plan? A: There are over 40+ standard features to help manage your business and increase your productivity with Vonage Business. Q: What kind of international rates can be expected? A: Vonage’s international rates are up to 75% lower than traditional carriers. Take a look at our rate calculator to find out more. What about costs? Cost might seem like the most important thing when searching for an office phone plan. However, it’s also essential to think of value alongside price. If targeting the lowest price means having to sacrifice top-notch customer and technical service or a less reliable business phone system, it could actually end up being detrimental to your bottom line. If you’re ready to see how Vonage Business can help cut your business phone bills, simply fill out the form above and one of our friendly reps will call you. When our customers first hear about our “no annual contracts” policy for our top-of-the-line business VoIP systems, it’s usually met with surprise. This is particularly true among customers who have been dealing with traditional copper-wire business phone solutions, which often require contracts that last at least a year or more. Expensive, lengthy contracts are business as usual for wire-based legacy systems. However, the cloud revolution has made the shackles of long contracts, expensive equipment and service call-outs a thing of the past. In short, the cloud is a business phone revolution. Why No Annual Contracts? We believe in our service and products. When you sign up for your cloud-hosted service with Vonage Business, we know you’re going to love it. We want our customers to stick around because they’re delighted with what we provide, not because we’ve trapped them in a long-term contract. Our features are top of the line. We’ve built a second-to-none phone system that’s feature rich, making it easy for your company to grow and succeed. Even our most basic packages come with over 40+ mission-critical features. We’re always developing new and exciting features and plug-ins for our customers – all hosted in the Vonage Cloud. Reliability is our specialty. Keeping your business running and on target is a primary concern, particularly when it comes to your phone system. Vonage Business’ cloud-hosted business phone system is one of the most reliable in the industry. From bad weather to unexpected emergencies, not even an internet outage can keep you from fielding your customer’s calls quickly and efficiently. Our customers save 30% or more on their bills.* Many business phone service providers, at first glance, appear to offer great savings. However, oftentimes this is because they lock you into a lengthy, multi-year service contract. Wondering why Vonage Business offers business VoIP services with no contracts? If you’re not happy with us, we don’t want to trap you into a huge commitment. It’s true – we offer no annual contract business VoIP that our 36,000+ customers use and love every single day. These thousands of business owners are working hard to build a business and we want to be their partner in success.