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Your voice disaster recovery plan.

Nov 1, 2018 2:24:23 PM / by One2Call posted in Blog, Communications

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Build a disaster recovery plan for your voice services to ensure that your customers can always reach you.

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Failing to plan is planning to fail.

Your company probably already has a disaster recovery plan (DRP) in place for your IT services. You make sure your data is backed up daily and you have written procedures in place to restore a failed piece of hardware should you ever need to. But what happens when your voice services are disrupted? Any number of events can occur to make your office voice services unusable - from builders accidentally cutting through cables during road works, to an epidemic that results in high staff absenteeism, or even a natural disaster that damages your office. When your staff are unable to answer the phones, business grinds to a halt.

Having a proper voice DRP in place ensures that you can keep doing business - and keep your customers happy - no matter what keeps you from opening your office.

1. Get out of the weeds

Creating an effective voice DRP is dependant on you gaining a high level overview of your company and the way your communications are handled. This will ensure that your DRP covers all bases and will enable each department to keep working effectively when a disaster occurs.

Start by identifying how calls are made and received by each department. Create a document that includes this information and be sure to make a note of:

Phone numbers.

Which numbers does your company own and where does each of them ring through to when called?

Inbound call routing

How are calls routed after they are initially answered? You might have an IVR that directs calls automatically, a receptionist who directs them manually, or you might drop callers directly into call queues or ring groups. Make a note of how a call flows through each department in your company, from the time the phone rings to the time the call ends.

Outbound call routing

What do your staff members need to do in order to make an outbound call? Do they have to dial 9 to get an outside line? Do they have account codes that need to be entered to call long distance numbers? Document the procedures that must be followed to make an outbound call under normal circumstances so that you will know how the procedure differs during a disaster.

Key personnel

If there are a handful of staff members who handle the majority of the calls in your organisation, write that down. These are the people who need to receive calls the most in the event of a disaster. If they are well trained on how your voice services will change during a disaster, you won’t need to worry about answering “how do I…” questions.

Supplier information

Ensure you include contact details for your key telecoms and connectivity suppliers. They will be able to help you implement your recovery plans if necessary. Gain a thorough understanding of how calls are made and received at your company and make sure it is documented in detail.

Identify threats

Now that you know how calls are handled by every department, identify any weak points that could cause the communications process to break down. At this stage you don’t need to figure out a solution, you simply need to identify the types of problems that might disrupt your communications.
Consider what might happen if:

Key personnel are not available

Is there anyone else who can answer calls? Are they correctly trained to do so? Can call forwarding or diverts be activated to direct calls?

Most staff are unable to get to the office

Staff absenteeism can happen due to ill health, pandemics, extreme weather that can make commuting difficult, or even your own company functions. No matter why absenteeism might occur, you need to ensure you understand the impact it will have on your ability to handle and route calls.

Your office is closed

Not a standard disaster by most definitions, but how a
call gets routed when your office is closed - be it outside of business hours, a holiday, or because the office is inaccessible for whatever reason - is important to keep your customers happy and, with sales lines in particular, ensure your business can continue to make money. Are your customers aware that your office is closed when they call in? Are they able to reach the right department on their own, or are they directed to a general delivery voicemail system and left feeling like nobody will ever return their call?

Your phone lines are dead

Maybe someone has cut the wrong cable, or a disaster has damaged your office location. Whatever the case may be, how does it impact your ability to do business if you pick up the phone and have no dial tone? Do you have any single points of failure that need addressing?

2. Fill in the blanks

You now know how calls are handled and what might stop those handling processes. Now it’s time to figure out how to fill any gaps in your voice DRP. Some solutions will be people or process related, others will be technological in nature. Look into each of the following:

Manual failover

If the person(s) who normally answer your phones aren’t in the office, make sure there are others available who can take on that role. They should be trained on how calls are routed throughout your organisation, as well as how to correctly operate any telephony equipment involved in the process.

Automated failover

IVRs can always answer calls without any human intervention required. Having an IVR will let your customers route their own calls if they cannot be answered by a person.

SIP trunking

If your company still makes use of traditional analogue or ISDN lines, moving to SIP trunking will provide a large range of voice DRP options. SIP trunking solutions will often allow calls to automatically failover to a secondary office location if your primary office is offline. For companies with a single office location, calls can be diverted to a mobile or any other number to ensure they can still be answered.

Inbound call management services

Alongside SIP, providers are now starting to introduce self-serve call management solutions that allow companies to set up and control how calls are routed to their business. This means that any necessary changes can be made, quickly and easily, via an online portal. The last thing you want to be doing in the event of an emergency is sitting on hold, waiting for your phone provider to make changes for you - some changes to legacy ISDN lines can even take days to be implemented! By choosing a provider who allows you to make these changes yourself, you can get your calls flowing within minutes, using any internet connected device.

Hosted PBX

Most companies have PBX equipment at their office locations that handle call routing, voicemail, IVRs and call queues. If your PBX is unavailable, many of the call routing features that you depend on can be lost if calls are then diverted to another location. This can be confusing and frustrating for customers calling in. A hosted PBX solution removes these features from the on-premise equipment and instead hosts them in the cloud. With a hosted PBX, your customers receive the same call flow no matter what’s happening at your office locations. In addition, most hosted PBX services allow your phones to connect to the service from anywhere - so if you have a disaster, your staff can plug a phone in at home, or access the service via a softphone on their desktop, and keep working.

Speak with your phone provider to see what business continuity options are available to you. Once you have identified any required solutions, ensure they are put into place. Lastly, take all of your voice DRP documentation and ensure that the people involved in executing the plan have read and understood it.

Make sure a copy of the plan is stored somewhere safe and can be accessed should your office become inaccessible.

3. Just do it

Ignoring the creation of a voice DRP is ignoring something that could critically damage your business. Following these steps will ensure you have a bulletproof plan that keeps calls coming in and your business operating:

  1. Document the call flow processes at your company, both for inbound and outbound calls.
  2. Identify any gaps that might disrupt your call flow. Include gaps caused by people, processes and technology.
  3. Identify and resolve any gaps that you identify - train additional employees, implement SIP trunking, get set up with an inbound call management system or implement whatever new processes and technology necessary to prevent disruption to your voice communications.
  4. Document your plan in detail and distribute it to everyone who plays a part in the plan’s execution. Make sure copies of the plan are also stored off-site, so that they can be referenced if your office is inaccessible.

Ensuring that you have a full voice DRP will provide your customers with an uninterrupted service, keep them happy and keep you in business.


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Beware and prepare: weather the seasonal business threats.

Oct 1, 2018 2:55:33 PM / by One2Call posted in Blog, Communications, resillience, snow, UC, voip, weather

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6 ways cloud communications saves your business money

Sep 1, 2018 9:56:29 AM / by One2Call posted in Blog, Communications

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There’s a good reason cloud communications is a buzzword among businesses. By tossing their premise-based phone systems, companies are discovering new, streamlined methods of communication, while reducing a number of risks.

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Omnichannel – the new buzz word you should take seriously.

Aug 1, 2018 11:13:49 AM / by One2Call posted in Blog, Communications

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The secret to a more productive mobile workforce

Jul 13, 2018 2:42:31 PM / by One2Call posted in Blog, Communications

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Mobile working is a reality, yet too many businesses are failing to help their mobile workers to be as successful as they could be.

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A range of factors are driving the trend towards increased mobile working:

  • Increased adoption of smart devices
  • More reliable high-speed connectivity
  • Demographic changes in the workforce
  • Changing employee expectations around work-life balance

Being effective and productive away from the office is about more than simply having a smartphone and a laptop. It’s about having access to the right tools, the right information and the right contacts – all in a format that meets the particular challenges of the mobile worker.

Read on to discover:

  • How ineffective enablement impacts your mobile workforce
  • Key mobile enablement considerations
  • Recommended tools that mobile workers need to optimise their effectiveness
  • How converged communications can enable mobile workers

Ultimate Phone Systems Buyers Guide Call to Action button

The cost of ineffective mobility

Mobile workers still face incredible challenges and frustration when they don’t have the right tools to keep them aligned with the rest of the organisation.

Ineffective mobility hurts employees and business results:

  • Poor service delivered to customers
  • Important decisions delayed
  • Increased risk of security breaches
  • Loss of valuable information
  • Lower job satisfaction
  • Feelings of exclusion
  • Lower productivity

 


33% of workers cite poor communications as their greatest challenge when mobile.1

80% of workers feel it’s harder to work in mobile teams.1

Sources: 1 ProjectsatWork.com, 2013


What will help your mobile workers?

Enabling mobile workers to be truly effective relies on equipping them with the right tools for the job.

So what aspects of their work do you need to think about? Below are a number of key areas that any business with a signi?cant proportion of mobile workers should be considering:

  • Contactability
  • Access to information
  • Ability to collaborate
  • Access to contacts
  • Personalising the experience
  • Compliance requirements
  • Cost control
  • Separating personal and business
  • Full communications functionality

How to maximise business performance and mobile productivity

Things to consider:

Contactability

  • Are employees easy to reach when they’re mobile?
  • Do customers have one number access to mobile employees?
  • Do employees have quick access to subject matter experts?
  • Is the availability status of office workers easy for your mobile workers to see?

Access to information

  • Do employees have easy access to corporate directories and business applications from their mobile devices?
  • Do employees struggle to ?nd key information when they need it while mobile?
  • How effectively is the information presented to them on their smartphone or tablet?

Full communications functionality

  • Do mobile employees have access to key business features, such as conferencing and transferring calls?
  • Are employees using non-IT approved business apps because they lack the tools they need while mobile?
  • Are you able to record all calls, including those made on a mobile device?

Work/life balance

  • Do your tools support work/life balance to improve employee retention and satisfaction?
  • Are your employees able to effectively handle business calling from their personal mobile device?

Personalising the experience

  • Are the tools you provide flexible enough to adapt to different employee needs and device preferences?

Cost control

  • Are your mobile employees able to make business calls over the most cost-effective network?
  • How do employees separate business from personal calling from the same mobile device?

Cloud communications offer significant advantages

Today’s cloud communications solutions enable companies of all sizes to enjoy next generation communications and collaboration, without the cost and complexity of a premise-based PBX.

However, not all Cloud communications solutions are created equal. Businesses with a signifcant proportion of mobile workers should prioritise solutions that offer:

  • Seamless user experience across all devices
  • Better mobility
  • Full fixed and mobile integration
  • Support for multiple identities
  • Flexible functionality
  • Full visibility and control

 


Cloud communications enable you to deliver the seamless experiences that your employees and your customers now expect, and offer tremendous potential to improve mobile productivity.


What do your mobile workers need to work smarter?

Here are the key features to look for to enable and empower your mobile employees:

Seamless user experience

Businesses with mobile workers should look for solutions that offer a seamless communications experience across all channels, locations and devices.

Key features to look for include:

  • Seamless movement of calls between different devices (e.g. desk phones, desktop computers, laptops and mobile phones).
  • A single interface to manage all communications and collaboration – e.g. voice, video, messaging, content, tasks.
  • Automatic synchronisation of contacts and information across devices.

Comprehensive collabortion tools

Effective collaboration tools close the gap between mobile and office-based colleagues, reducing delays and improving
outputs. Key features to look for include:

  • Persistent workspaces that make it easy to communicate, share and assign tasks across a team.
  • Easy sharing and updating of ?les between colleagues.

Optimised for mobility

The productivity and motivation of mobile workers can be significantly enhanced by providing intuitive, easy-to-use, context-aware apps designed around their specific needs – significantly reducing the time they spend searching for information across different applications.

Key features to look for include:

  • Embedded contextual intelligence, which enables employees to be automatically presented with relevant information based on what they’re doing at the time – fltered by contact, topic or information type.
  • Integration of data from multiple cloud applications (business productivity applications, customer relationship management, social networks, content) within their mobile app – so the information they need is easily accessible.
  • Easy access to conference calls and collaboration sessions functionality, eliminating the need for employees to use bridge numbers and passcodes.

Full fixed and mobile integration

Implementing a solution that offers full integration across ?xed and mobile networks will help to deliver a seamless user
experience and lower your costs. Key features to look for include:

  • A single number for each employee that automatically routes calls to the right device.
  • Business functionality from mobile employees’ smartphones or tablets.
  • A single dial plan covering all locations and employees.
  • Free on-net calls between your employees, even when they’re calling from their mobile devices.

Flexible functionality

To cater for the needs of different types of employees, you need to ensure you have access to a flexible set of tools, which can support a diverse range of working patterns and device preferences. Key features to look for include:

  • A choice of apps to reflect the different needs of office-based and mobile workers.
  • Support for a range of smartphone, tablet and desktop devices.

Support for multiple identities

To ensure your customers are always treated professionally while also protecting your employees’ right to privacy and a work/life balance, you should implement solutions that are able to support separate business and personal identities.

Key features to look for include:

  • Support for multiple personas for each employee, enabling different rules and call handling features to be applied, depending on the type of call.
  • The ability to present a business identity to a called contact even when calling from a personal device.
  • The ability to place business calls from a personal device without the employee bearing the cost.

Full visibility and control

To limit your risks you’ll want to ensure you have full management visibility and control over how employees are sharing and storing company information. Key features to look for include:

  • The ability to centrally control an employee’s business identity and track their business activity.
  • Mobile VPN support to protect access to your company network and valuable business information.
  • Centralised storage of contact data and other business information, minimising the risk of valuable information being lost when an employee leaves.

It's time to unleash your full business potential

Transitioning to a truly mobile-enabled cloud communications solution can help your business to unleash its full potential and deliver tangible business benefits:

  • Higher productivity and responsiveness
  • Increased employee morale and engagement
  • Improved collaboration
  • Higher customer satisfaction and loyalty
  • Lower security risks
  • Lower operational costs

Leverage the benefits of cloud communications

Cloud communications solutions offer the lowest risk option for securing the most advanced mobile communications capabilities to empower your mobile workforce. Make the move to a full cloud communication for your business and benefit from:

  • Leading cloud solutions
  • Improved mobile productivity
  • Anywhere access while mobile
  • Transformative mobile working experience

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10 characteristics of an agile business.

Jul 2, 2018 2:02:36 PM / by One2Call posted in Blog, Communications

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A network manager’s guide to phone system end-of-life and beyond.

Jun 18, 2018 11:39:04 AM / by One2Call posted in Blog, Communications

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Find out how to manage your phone system through the end-of-life process and get a new system to fulfil all of your business needs.

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Alongside your daily tasks of managing IT infrastructure and assisting colleagues, the task of sourcing a new phone system can seem like an unwelcome extra burden.

However, by choosing the right phone provider, this process can be made surprisingly easy. It can also deliver far greater efficiencies and cost savings, future-proofing your company’s communications and resolving all those minor frustrations that can stem from outdated and expensive hardware. In short, an end-of-life (EOL) phone system is an opportunity disguised as a crisis.

Ultimate Phone Systems Buyers Guide Call to Action button

To ensure that a new phone system is optimised for your company’s requirements these are the key points you should consider:

1. Your company’s infrastructure

Even if your colleagues are all based in one location, there is still a great deal to consider such as how many employees need to be catered for and how they communicate with customers. Add in satellite offices or remote-working arrangements and this picture becomes far more complicated. For hardwired phone systems, you need to consider what rights you have to modify each building (depending on whether it’s owned outright, leased or sub-let), and whether your ideal phone system can be achieved within these restrictions.

The traditional problems of limited ISDN availability (and landlords refusing to allow the installation of unsightly cabling) can now be resolved with cloud-based SIP trunking. This creates a virtual comms room online, with hosting handled off-site. Staff can simultaneously retain their current phone numbers and gain far greater flexibility without hardware filling the building because Voice over IP systems use the same cables as broadband connections.

2. Bespoke solutions

It’s rare for every member of a company’s workforce to require the exact same phone functionality. Needs will usually vary from one department to the next – recording facilities for customer service calls, conference calling for the MD, and landline-to-mobile diverts for regional reps.
The best phone and data providers will tailor a package around your company’s unique requirements, rather than shoehorning you into a one-size-fits-all contract and the internet is ideal for creating bespoke network solutions.

3. Scale

A truly effective business phone contract will deliver much more than one fixed number for each employee. It will consider the volume and nature of calls – the percentage of international numbers dialled, for instance, or how many hours of talk time are used in a typical month. Your business phone service provider should be able to handle any amount of traffic without issue – even if every employee tries to dial out simultaneously – while avoiding punitive charges for exceeding arbitrary usage quotas.

4. The failings of your existing system

This might sound like stating the obvious, but if your existing phone contract is drawing to a close, or is about to lose supplier support,
think about any issues that have been reported by colleagues in recent months. Consider the efficacy of services like voicemail and call redirecting – could they be better and if so, how? Older phone systems often struggle with the demands of modern businesses, but what are the specific issues that cause your colleagues problems? Having identified these frustrations, a new system can then be tailored around your findings, to deliver responsive solutions.

5. Cost

A hardwired infrastructure can be expensive to install and maintain, but the quiet revolution in cloud hosting can lower costs while simultaneously raising service levels. Session Initiation Protocol trunking (SIP) can be set up and expanded far more affordably, because everything takes place online, and potentially unlimited bandwidth ensures this system can be expanded as and when needed. New services can be added with ease and hosted packages eliminate any need for comms rooms or on-site hardware, while still providing round-the-clock customer service and a global infrastructure.

6. Flexibility

Some companies have a pressing need for flexibility from their phone systems:

  • Perhaps your company would benefit from allowing staff in Birmingham to call customers in the capital using a London area code, to infer local
    service.
  • Maybe you dream of being able to reconfigure your phone system when circumstances dictate, without having to log a support ticket and wait for the provider to get in touch.
  • Your CEO might be introducing home-working as a trial, requiring staff to have equal comms support at home and in the office.

In any of these scenarios existing contracts may be found wanting whereas a web-hosted phone system can deliver the flexibility you need.
This is particularly true for companies with short-term leases on their existing premises, where relocation might be in the pipeline. Online systems are not tied down to a physical location, which makes them far more portable and flexible.

7. Hosting

ISDN lines were once the default option for phone calls but today cloud hosted systems are becoming a preferred alternative. Indeed, many calls made using traditional architecture are already being converted to IP, since the same cabling can usually be used for telephony and internet access. A hosted system enables every location (mobiles, home offices, etc) to become part of a single cohesive network, which is regularly upgraded with the latest communication offerings. Hosted systems are also less prone to disasters than their hardwired forefathers, and they can be expanded far more easily.

Once these issues have been considered and decided upon, the only remaining step is to find a dependable and affordable provider of voice, mobile and data services, with global reach allied to local expertise. They can guide you through the transition process and ensure not just continuity of service, but demonstrable improvements in the calibre and dependability of your company’s communications.

The need to replace your phone’s EOL systems can be a blessing in disguise…

 

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