General Telephony

Tech Talks – Pizza & Customer Support Tracking System

VirtualPBX Tech TalksWe’ve been around for a long time and have collected some of the best minds from across several industries, and we think it’s high time they got their day in the spotlight. In this series of blogs we’ll be unearthing some of the technology and talent that power our hosted communications platform.

Pizza Customer Support Tracking System

Jeff Weinstein, Director of Operations & Pizza Afficionado

We live in an age where, not only can you order an item off of Amazon and get it the same day, but you can also track it’s location and progress along the way. Our visibility into the inner workings of the services that we rely on isn’t limited to just the large, multi-billion dollar technology companies. Domino’s Pizza even has a live Domino’s Tracker that allows you to watch the progress of your recent orders. Perhaps it’s because we here are just so accustomed to trackers like these or perhaps because we just get most of our inspiration from pizza, but either way it was with this inspiration that we introduced our first Customer Support Tracking System into our support arsenal. And it is because of that new technology that we’ve decided to sit down with Jeff Weinstein, VirtualPBX Director of Operations, to discuss it.

Let’s just start from the top and let me ask, what exactly is the new Customer Support Ticketing System all about?
First off, to explain the system I think that the concept of tracking a package for a delivery or like you mentioned, a pizza, is a good way to describe the new platform to those who may be unfamiliar with it. So when a customer of ours has an item they want to discuss with us, the moment they contact a member of our Support Team, a ticket is automatically created. This isn’t unheard of in itself as it’s common for support teams to track the progress of their open issues, but we’ve integrated some slick technology so that the progress is visible to the customer who initiated the contact as well. This way, there’s no guessing involved in if their issue is being addressed or not, and it’s a practice that’s very much aligned with our values of transparency. Of course, as much as it’s satisfying to see your issue is being resolved and not falling through the cracks, it sure doesn’t beat a fresh pizza, either!

Okay that makes sense, but if our Support Team is already getting recognized for great service, why introduce this now?
Essentially, this is all about constantly improving upon our foundation of providing award-winning support to all of our customers. So on one hand, we’re introducing an entirely new platform for our customers to follow along in the progress of any issue’s resolution, but on the other, it’s actually just much more of the same for our team. Just like when we launched Dash and were lucky enough for it to have made such a splash when people first saw it, that didn’t mean that we weren’t still unrolling new features and building upon it after the fact. Because we’re always adding more options to our product line, our Support Team has more to become experts on. Fortunately, we’re on top of it all for now, but we’re positive that we can always improve and adding a transparent tracking and ticketing system is the best way to ensure we’re positioned for continued success.

Well tracking the progress is neat, but is there anything else that the new system does for users?
I’m glad you asked, yes! So one of the neat things about this new system is that it’s more than just the tracker and improved ticketing system, it’s also like having an automated assistant help out between steps. What happens is that we have designed the system to, immediately following the submission of a new support issue, respond to the customer with confirmation and with suggested support articles that may help in the interim. We have a vast library of content on tutorials, how-to’s, and even a comprehensive YouTube channel to lean on, so there’s a good chance we can offer some assistance even before we offer assistance, so to speak. Also, back to the process improvement motivation that drives everything we do, customers can even up-vote or down-vote the suggested articles we share based on how helpful they were to addressing their problems. This was the system is designed to both shorten the distance between problems and solutions but also it helps improve the accuracy with which we address them over time.

So Jeff, is there anything from your experience has made introducing a Customer Support Ticketing System easier or more difficult?
Well it’s never easy to be the best, but we try to stay at the top of our game all the time. Fortunately, though, there are some situations from my past that have helped make this integration go more smoothly. Specifically, when I worked with government agencies like at the Department of Homeland Security, the process was obviously a massive priority. We had to introduce all manner of new procedures and policies to an organization that already had systems in place, and more importantly, we had to ensure that there was no interruption along the way. This was good practice for VirtualPBX. Our customers rely on our products to keep their businesses running, so it was absolutely essential that our Customer Support Team was fully accessible to them as we designed, tested, and integrated our new Customer Support Tracking System. It took a lot of late nights and after hours efforts to get it done, but so far our customers’ initial reactions assure me that it was well worth the effort.

Okay one more thing, because there’s a bit of a common thread going here, what’s your favorite pizza?
I’ve got to go with the classic supreame. I like it all.

To learn more about the VirtualPBX Support Team, our new support tracking system, or to contact them yourself to try it our, check out the VirtualPBX Support page. Also, you can find us for more Tech Talks and join the conversation by following us on Twitter and liking us on Facebook. And for the record, nothing beats a classic pepperoni in my book.

Partner Blog Series – Do you really need a desktop phone?

For our Partner Blog Series we like to highlight the relationships we have with our peers and business partners from across all areas of the telecommunications industry. We know that when it comes to relationships, the whole really is greater than the sum of the parts. That’s why we want to share with you the wisdom, experience, and perspective of the companies we work with.

For the inaugural edition of the Partner Blog Series, we’ve called on Hummingbird Networks, the expert providers of new and refurbished networking equipment. Today they examine some of the most often asked questions that revolve around the increase in hosted telecommunications’ popularity.

do you need a desktop phone

Do You Really Need a Desktop Phone Anymore?

It might seem to some like a ridiculous question to ask, but many businesses are starting to take a hard look at it anyway: Are wired desktop phones actually necessary anymore?
Of course, for many businesses, the answer is “yes” and will be for years to come. However, for others, it’s not so obvious. They may have a workforce that’s heavily invested in bringing/using their own devices. Perhaps their workforce largely telecommutes, and the office itself is minimal. Perhaps cloud solutions are taking the place of traditional phones.
So today, we wanted to take a look at some of the technologies that are disrupting traditional desk-based telecommunications. You might not be in a position of ditching your desk phones today, but by next year or beyond, it may not be too far out of the realm of possibilities.

6 Trends Quickly Rendering Traditional Desk Phones Irrelevant

1 – BYOD

Bring-Your-Own-Device is nothing new, but businesses are still discovering ways of taking advantage of it to cut their own costs. When 100% of your workforce already owns a smartphone, and probably prefers using it for communications, why force them to use desk phones? At the very least, it could end up making them duplicate efforts at maintaining contact lists and such.
After all, there are plenty of hosted communication systems that can take calls placed to a main office and intelligently re-route them to workers’ smartphones already. With the right VoIP provider partner, it’s not that hard for companies to set up their own ad-hoc Unified Communications network without a heavily investment in new hardware.

2 – Telecommuting

There are certainly pros and cons to having a workforce that’s mostly remote. Scheduling meetings is difficult, and there are still those who say remote conferences lack the immediacy of face-to-face meetings and simply aren’t as productive. Then again, there are also still those that say vinyl sounds better than digital.
Either way, having a largely remote workforce certainly does cut down on expenses because your workers will be mostly or entirely using their own home equipment. There’s no point maintaining office phones when no one is in the office to use them.

3 – On-The-Go VoIP and Softphones

So, all your employees use their own smartphones, but you’re concerned about security, centralization and call-tracking when they’re all on different phone models, operating systems, and service providers. That’s really not an issue either. There are plenty of softphone software VoIP solutions that create a unified data-based communications network which is largely or entirely hardware-agnostic.
The best solutions out there are easily integrated into existing Unified Communications (UC) setups as well, which, when implemented properly, create a best-of-both-worlds setup with all the benefits of UC but vastly less investment in infrastructure.

4 – Customers Preferring Non-Voice Communications

Here’s a little factoid about millennials a lot of people might not know about: On the whole, they prefer text-based communications to voice by a pretty large margin. A survey last year showed that:

  • 76% describe text/email as “more convenient”
  • 75% would rather lose voice communications than text
  • 63% believe phone calls are more disruptive than text

One-fifth even said they never bother to check their voicemail!
So a company whose target market is largely those under 40 may find their telephone systems going unused, simply because their buyers don’t like making phone calls. And given that the influence of millennials on marketplaces is only going to grow for the next 20-30 years, this could signal a major change in how business/buyer communications happen in the decades to come.
Speaking of alternatives…

5 – Video Calls and Video Conferencing

Let’s not forget the other side of the “voice alternative” coin. Video-based communications are growing rapidly and are being driven by some of the largest players in technology. It’s now increasingly common for even everyday “phone calls” to be video calls instead, generally using VoIP-based platforms. The technology is right on the cusp of becoming truly mainstream, although it’s still being held back slightly by problems maintaining frame rates in lower-bandwidth environments. But because bandwidth is expanding consistently, this is an issue that will lessen greatly in years to come.
Given that desktop videophones are extremely expensive and fairly limited in their functionality, it seems fair to assume the move to video communications will largely happen on portable devices.

6 – Cisco Collaboration (and similar ventures)

The final factor to consider is that even the largest of communications companies are starting to push away from desk-bound solutions. Last year, Cisco turned a lot of heads by announcing a
major collaboration with Apple with direct integration of Cisco/Meraki systems into the iOS 10 operating system for iPhones and iPads.
Basically, a company with an existing Cisco or Meraki network and an install base of iPhones can already enjoy all the benefits of a fully on-the-go mobile UC system with virtually no additional expenditures or setup. That sort of plug-and-play functionality would be attractive to companies interested in the tech discussed in this article, but hesitant to embrace ad-hoc solutions.
Plus, if Cisco Collaboration gains popularity, it’s virtually inevitable that other similar deals will follow suit. This is more speculative, but it’s entirely possible that within a few years, all the major smartphone brands will carry software allowing them to directly integrate into cloud-based UC setups.

Towards A Phoneless Future…?

Overall, the trends point to communications simultaneously becoming more robust and more mobile, with less emphasis on voice-specific communications. The general millennial distaste for telephone calls will undoubtedly be a major driving factor here, particularly if they pass on that distaste to their own children.

What do you think? Are deskbound telephones officially in front of the technological firing squad, or is Hummingbird Networks jumping the gun? Let us know by joining the conversation on Twitter and Facebook, and make sure to stay tuned for more from the Partner Blog Series.

Happy and Healthy for 2017 – Skip the Gym and Workout Your Updates

happy and healthy for 2017You know the routine, New Year’s resolutions are a boondoggle for personal trainers and gyms across the country. For the daily workout set, the heightened foot traffic is a bit of a frustration until the eventual ebb in the tide of gym goers returns to its natural levels. For those well-intentioned people who tried to get right for the new year, though, that brief commitment can come with a lot of disappointment if they fall short of their goals. That’s why I’d recommend that you take care of those low-hanging fruits within reach first. Specifically, stay happy and healthy in 2017 and strengthen your digital footprint first with a quick workout for your software updates, instead.

Healthy and Happy for 2017

Let’s get one thing clear; we’re all about healthy living here. We even commit our company time and identity to giving back with athletics, but let’s be real, that isn’t for everyone. That’s why we’ve outlined this easy way to make sure your life gets a workout and rebuild through your online behaviors, instead.

  • Make sure that you maintain creative and effective password protection practices.
  • Keep up with all of the sweet new technology you got over the holidays and make sure you update your hardware and firmware to keep your connected devices safe and secure.
  • While you’re at it, make sure to regularly search for and install software updates because not all updates are for redesigns or features. Some, like our latest Softphone App Update, are chock-full of patches and fixes that keep you up-to-date with current security developments.
  • The best defense is knowing what to look for. That’s why you need to familiarize yourself with some of the top phishing scams that are used to lure victims in.
  • Another way to get both happy and healthy in 2017 is to make sure you are reducing clutter in your email inbox, too. It’s not neccesarily a security issue, but it’ll probably make your life a little easier either way.

Get Started Now

It’s not easy to stop a dedicated hacker from making you their victim, but it is easy to ensure you’re not their first choice. When the bulk of cyber security schemes go down, something to remember is that the bad actors are dealing with thousands of possible targets, and they always choose the path of least resistance. Following these simple steps to keeping your passwords, software, and hardware all up to date in addition keeping an eye out for fishy information requests is all but guaranteed to keep your digital self happy and healthy in 2017 and beyond. Working off all of the holiday cookies, however, is something that no amount of password protection will help with, unfortunately. Stay safe out there and maybe we’ll still see you at the gym.

Driving Down the VirtualPBX Product Roadmap

virtualpbx product roadmapThe VirtualPBX Product Roadmap is more than just a statement of goals or a timeline for what’s ahead. Our product roadmap is a contract to our customers, our industry, and our team. To fully appreciate how important it is to put forth an honest, open, and transparent product roadmap publically, we wanted to take a moment to walk you through the process of creating it.

VirtualPBX Product Roadmap Dissected

One of our core principles is following through on what we say. The first part of that is clearly outlining our expectations for ourselves, which in turn lays out the expectations for everyone else. Making these milestones public is the most effective way to solidify our commitment to pushing the bar higher for hosted business telephone systems. However, because we are keen to make the most out of everything we do, this product roadmap is more than us calling our shots. You can participate in the process of us rolling out new products, features, and services through this platform. Join in the process in any of the following ways –

  • Vote up or vote down existing agenda items to make sure we’re allocating resources to the places that matter most to you.
  • Sign up for exclusive advanced access to new products and features by participating in Beta versions of the latest technologies.
  • Include your own submissions in the form of feature requests.
  • make sure you never miss a thing by joining the VirtualPBX Product Release Newsletter
  • And most importantly, rest easily knowing that your business VoIP provider is always working towards improving and enhancing your service, 365 days a week.

The Conversation is Everywhere

We are committed to keeping the VirtualPBX Product Roadmap up to date and to using it as a beacon to drive us forward, but we need your help. You already know how to use the roadmap to keep us on track, but your options don’t stop there! Make sure to let us know what you think, tell us what you need, and just stop in to say hi by following us on Twitter and liking us on Facebook. Remember, you’re the reason we suit up and show up each day, so the more you can tell us what you need, the quicker we can deliver it!

Email Overload to Overdrive – 5 Tips for Inbox Zen

Email is one of the most universally powerful tools ever created. But as the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility. That’s why we’ve asked one of the most responsible people we know for help with maximizing the power we get out of our email. So are you ready to walk the path to email nirvana? If so, let these 5 tips for inbox zen be your guide to telecommunications tranquility.

Focus Grasshopper

Set intervals throughout your day to review and work through your Inbox with intention and focus. Don’t allow email to constantly distract you from work or life throughout the day because that habit can soon bleed into nights and on weekends. When not processing your Inbox, do just that – NOT processing your inbox! Quit your email client and/or silence all email notifications, especially on mobile devices, so you don’t get distracted.

Your Inbox is not a To-Do List

Of course, some emails require you to take action, but often that action can be taken later. Don’t treat your inbox like a task manager. Instead, utilize task management tools like Wunderlist, Todoist, and Trello for that and leave your inbox for emails.

Most task or project management tools allow you to forward email into them. Use this feature liberally to move tasks to the right tool to keep your inbox clear while putting reminders in their place.
Plus, if you want to keep your email and task manager the same, Gmail even has a task list built-in with a keyboard shortcut to add an email to your list.

Suggested Tools: Wunderlist, Todoist, Trello, and Google Tasks

Reply When Ready or Not at All – aka Punt!

When you first see an email you may not be ready or able to reply to it. Leverage an email client that allows you to snooze an email. Just like your alarm clock, snoozing an email helps you manage when you deal with it. You can push emails to the next business day, weekend, next week or at a specific date and time – when you will be ready to focus on replying.

Suggested Tools: Google Inbox, Outlook for iOS and Android, Airmail, Polymail, Nylas-N1

Proactively Protect Your Time

There are always new meetings to schedule with so-and-so to discuss such-and-such. Just because there will always be new meetings doesn’t mean that you have to email back and forth to schedule them. Instead, try giving your attendees a list of dates and times to choose from in the initial response. This allows you to manage your time instead of the other party taking control. Some email clients, Outlook for iOS and Android and Nylas-N1, even allow you to insert a sleek list of options for the recipient to choose from.

Suggested Tools: Outlook for iOS/Android, Airmail, Polymail, Nylas-N1

Automate, Automate, Automate

Your company sends a boatload of notification and alerts which, for anyone who is typically paying attention to what’s going on, is really nothing more than extra noise. Most apps and services have filters or rules. Use them to file, delete or forward these emails as you need. This will reduce the clutter in your inbox and silence the noise in your email zen garden.

Suggested Tools: Google Gmail, Apple Mail, Airmail, Polymail, Nylas-N1

Let others have the last word

Don’t respond to emails with “Thanks,” “Sounds good,” or ?. These emails are nice, but create opportunities for more distractions. Another benefit is the less you say, the more your emails will be read – others will know it’s important if you send something.

Suggested Tools: You!

VirtualPBX on TwitterVirtualPBX on FacebookVirtualPBX on YouTubeVirtualPBX on Pinterest