Making A Good Impression: How VoIP Can Help A Sole Trader Or Micro-Business

Many smaller businesses struggle to make an impression. When up against the big players in a market place, it can be difficult to make yourself stand out. And how do you become bigger when the bigger guys are competing against you.

The answer could lie in a VoIP system.

With the potential to give a load of additional features, a VoIP system will allow a smaller business to appear like a larger one. An IVR menu can guide calls as they come in, giving a better customer experience and giving the appearance of a larger company.

Music on Hold gives the same advantages, as do Ring Groups directing calls.

Sole Traders can benefit from a Memorable Number, a local number area code, a virtual land-line sending calls to a mobile, or a one-person set-up delivering a VoIP service.

A micro-business (defined as one employing fewer than 10 employees) can also reap the benefits of a VoIP system. They might have more sophisticated requirements than the one-man band. They may need more sophisticated call routing for a larger staff count, and the ability to transfer call between users. A VoIP system allows much more complicated phone set ups than were traditionally possible.

A Hosted VoIP system will send calls to any of the users specified when a caller rings up, and the system will then allocate calls according to the user’s wishes. One, two, three or all phones can ring when the main number is called. Calls can be passed to a dedicated person, or a team. You can use a receptionist to answer calls, an answer team, or an independent call answering service.

If you don’t want to employ a receptionist, then a a menu auto-attendant (where you hear a voice which, for example, prompts: “Press one for sales, two for accounts” ) can guide callers to the correct person or department. Just one of the many enhanced features available on many Hosted VoIP services, this saves staff time, and enhances the customer experience.

Even Music on Hold can help. Think of the difference between being on hold with music, and being on hold without. One experience is pleasant and the time goes by, the other seems to take an eternity.

All these things make for an improved experience for customers. Smaller organisations seem bigger. A room with one person in it makes the same impression as a building with various teams and departments. The upshot of it all is customers feel happier and more reassured doing business with a smaller company.

Which, of course, is a good way for a small company to become a larger one.

Innovating For Success

Covering the start of our company, the thinking behind it and the drive moving us forward, the feature in today’s Press and Journal provides a great insight into SureVoIP®.

Gavin Henry, SureVoIP MD - The Big Interview

It tells the intriguing story of how our MD, Gavin Henry, found himself in the position of starting Scotland’s only independent VoIP Provider.

 

Gavin Henry started the company after gaining a BEng (Hons) in Electronic and Communications Engineering. From there he gained an interest in programming, including Linux and Open Source software. This was the start of a recurring theme, and in 2003 he developed a consultancy selling Linux IT support.

 

The next milestone for the company came 2 years later, when Gavin took the decision to leave his full-time job, concentrating solely on developing the target market and capabilities of his own consultancy.

 

A big step for anyone, Gavin’s decision was encouraged by a growing customer base, and a desire to move into the exciting field of VoIP telephony.

 

SureVoIP® was born!

 

From there, the company has gone from strength to strength, adding to its portfolio of business-grade services along the way (including the ability to supply internet connectivity).

 

The company now has a customer base of over 1,000 customers, all relying on it to provide business-critical telecoms. SureVoIP® is the trusted supplier of telecoms to a vast range of companies, including oil majors, multinationals, national charities, TV channels on Sky, wind farms and national hotel chains.

Working Safely In The Big Freeze

We are all seeing the stories of snow covered roads, stranded motorists and people braving snow storms to get to the office.

These are all ordinary risks associated with living in the UK, where we get bad weather, freezing winds from the Arctic, and icy cold fronts blowing over from Siberia.

Or are they? Is it possible to run your business without taking these risks?

What would the knock-on effects be if you could guarantee your employee safety, make sure no-one is late to their desk, and that people don’t have to be sent home early due to blizzards?

If this sounds like an ideal solution, then you should consider a Hosted VoIP solution.

Due to the technical abilities of such a system, workers can be geographically located anywhere, and still work as if they were at their desk. As long as the employee in question has a good, stable internet connection, they can work for you from literally anywhere.

At times like this, many workers repeat the golden phrase – ‘working from home’. If you don’t have a VoIP system, then this is just a warming daydream, taunting you as you trudge through slush with shoes filling with ice water.

But if you do have a VoIP system, then suddenly other possibilities open up for you.

Not only do you have the ability to allow your workforce to work from anywhere, but you can allow this to become policy. You can hire remote workers, avoiding the need to supply desk, chair, utilities, security etc. Indeed, some companies now work entirely from disparate locations, without a physical office housing them all.

They transfer calls just as if they were in the office, phone out using the company number, and have the same company Music on Hold and auto-attendant menu for callers as the standard phone system.

Another factor to bear in mind is the company’s Duty of Care. No-one wants a staff member injured due to travelling to work, or travelling home at the end of the day. Allowing working from home removes that risk.

Working from home can increase productivity in general, increase your company’s growth potential, and increase staff safety.

It can also give you the edge over the competition. Remember, if a VoIP system puts you ahead of the curve, so you are also ahead of all your competitors. As they struggle with staff not attending, or taking time off to look after kids on snow days, or staff slipping on the ice and heading to hospital, so you are up and fully functional, answering customer phone calls without a ‘slip up’.

Contact us to put a VoIP service in place, for a competitive advantage and to increase staff safety.

Smartphones versus landlines: Who’s winning, why, and how you can benefit

The traditional phone landline is engaged in a battle with the smartphone, and the landline seems to be losing.

The vast majority of people these days have a smartphone. It’s not that uncommon these for someone not have a landline at all. The smartphone provides them with all the telecoms they need, whether at home or elsewhere.

The smartphone is ubiquitous, handy, and essential for a lot of people. In fact, it has gone beyond essential for a lot of people. The phenomenon of smartphone addiction is actually becoming recognised by some medical professionals.

So – the situation we have is the smartphone in a seemingly unstoppable march, stealthily taking over global telecoms supply, while the landline apparently slinks into retreat.

There is a way to make this global trend work to your advantage.

With VoIP, you can use your smartphone is more ways than ever before. Softphone apps are now available to download and use, and this changes how your smartphone can function. It is no longer just a mobile phone, it has been transformed into a VoIP-enabled mobile office!

The app for the smartphone (also called a ‘softphone’) is software, downloaded onto your smartphone. It works in tandem with a VoIP service, allowing you to carry all the extra features and functions in your pocket.

Once downloaded, it allows you to make and receive calls, transfer calls, and serves as your office phone system.

You can call customers showing your advertised company number, you will be included in any ring groups that have been set up, and you can even have music for callers to listen to if they are on hold!*

In short, all the features you have on your office VoIP service will transfer into the smartphone in your pocket.

Because a VoIP system is not tied to any particular location, you can transfer it to anywhere you have a stable internet connection. While using a smartphone, it is using 3G or 4G to connect to the internet.

Working from home becomes as easy as plugging your deskphone into a different internet connection. Just unplug it from the office connection, take the phone home, and plug in to your home connection. As long as the phone is connected to the internet it will work.

Not only will your phone work, the whole of your office phone set up will work. You can transfer calls to a colleague, or pick up a colleague’s phone if they don’t answer.

You can call out displaying your advertised company number, rather than your personal mobile.

You can give your company’s virtual receptionist or a pre-recorded greeting message.

The range of features available is limited only by the features you have on your business VoIP service.

So in the battle between landlines and smartphones, the smartphones have scored another win. The landline loses on the grounds of flexibility and available feature-set. The smartphone now adds the softphone app to its arsenal, and takes the fight directly into the business arena.

See more about the Bria softphone app
See more on our Hosted VoIP services
See more details on our Fully Managed Hosted VoIP

*The features available on your softphone app will be dependent on the VoIP system serving your main phone system

How To Connect Remote Workers In Different Locations

As Providers of VoIP, we manage communications for many different styles of office set-up.

One of the most challenging set-ups to tackle and manage, is one for a larger company operating from many disparate locations.

There are a few challenges with such a set-up, including keeping everyone in the team connected, and ensuring calls coming in are handled correctly.

If we look at the situation without using a VoIP system, then we have a bunch of remote workers, working in different offices, answering their own phones. they will need to use their own home phone, or their own mobile. They will be displaying these numbers when calling customers. Customers will be calling them on their own numbers. And remember, all this is happening whilst these workers represent your company.

Now let’s look at the situation with a VoIP system.

In this scenario, we have an over-arching phone system, serving the needs of all the remote workers. Workers will receive calls to your official company number, and can call out displaying the same.

Workers can transfer calls between themselves and call each other internally. They can also see if colleagues are on a call or are currently available*.

Using a SureVoIP® Hosted VoIP service, a company can set up a phone service where their advertised numbers rings to any or all employees specified, no matter where they are working. Sally could be working from a satelite office in another city. Allan could be based on a remote island off the coast of Scotland, and Jim could be travelling to meet an important client, only able to use his smart phone to communicate. They will all be included in the company phone set up. They will all receive calls to the company number, and they can all transfer calls from one to the other. They can also call each other as an internal call, which provides another benefit – all calls between SureVoIP® users are free, so employees will save on their bills!

Employees can also call out and display the official company number, giving a far better impression than calling customers with their own mobile or home phone number showing. This presents a far better image, giving the customer a sense of dealing with a more cohesive organisation. It also acts as an aid to employee security (as it removes the possibility of revealing personal info to customers).

An additional advantage is how the incoming calls are handled. You can have all employee phones ring, or have them ring in sequence if some workers are prioritised. With our Fully Managed service, you can even have a virtual receptionist. Using this, you can then have calls routed to the most appropriate person. For instance, a customer calls in, and wishes to talk about a recent invoice. Your virtual receptionist (or IVR menu Auto-attendant, to give it its proper title) listed the option ‘Press 2 for invoicing queries’. When they press 2, the customer will be directed to Allan (the invoicing person), who is on his island off the Scottish coast.

Not only that, but if the customer wants to discuss a quote with Sally, the sales executive, then Allan simply transfers them through.

And if the customer wants to talk to Jim, then Sally just transfers him on. Not only does the call transfer seamlessly, but it will also reach Jim anywhere he has a 3 or 4G connection. A Soft phone app joined with a Hosted VoIP service means your office is in your pocket.

So, as you can see, an office of three people has been transferring, collaborating and taking part in the customer journey. And one was in a different office, in a different city. One was miles away on an island. And one person was using an app whilst travelling.

The list of available functions and features doesn’t end there. Our Fully Managed Hosted service gives conferencing, so you can set up calls with multiple people. It gives Time of day Routing, so you can divert all your calls at certain times to a specific destination (for instance an on-call engineer). It also gives call recording, so you can rest easy that you have the facts at hand should there ever be a dispute with a customer.

So not only a telecoms solution like a traditional office, but a lot more besides!

Get in touch to find out just what a Hosted VoIP service can do for you.

See more about our Fully Managed Hosted service.

Find out more about our Hosted services.

* Requires BLF function on hardware

Screaming Customers, Disputes and Confused Staff – How Call Recording Can Benefit You

VoIP opens more possibilities than using a ‘traditional’ phone system. One of these possibilities is the ability to record your calls with out the need for any special equipment or phone lines.

All users on our Fully Managed service, for instance, can have all calls recorded automatically by our system.

 

No hardware or specialist devices are required on site, no training or specialist staff will be required, and no specialist phone will need to be bought.

 

Our Fully Managed VoIP service can be set to record all your calls, both in and out, and all it takes is an email to our Technical Support team. That’s it!

 

No rushing to a hardware store, credit card in hand. No phoning round various suppliers to compare prices. No reading manuals, leaflets or instructions. And no visits to the local college or polytechnic to get yourself trained in IT hardware installation and maintenance.

 

Just a quick email, webchat or phone call.

 

If you request it at the start we will enable it from the day and time your service goes live. Every call, both in and out, recorded and saved in case you need it.*

 

Recording is useful for all customers who wish to reassure themselves against future disputes. In the unfortunate event that a dispute does arise with a customer, and the customer is claiming something has been promised but not been delivered, then the recording of the call can easily be sourced and listened to by management or senior staff. The issues moves from personal opinion into simple fact. The recording will not lie, and will give all involved a reliable reference point.

 

Equally, the recording will not get confused, misunderstand or jumble the facts as time goes on. It is an unfortunate fact that, in times of stress, people often become confused. If the person is a disappointed customer, they are likely to have twisted facts round in their head, and this is completely unintentional. It is simply human nature, we all find it hard to believe we have made a mistake, and when engaging in a dispute with a supplier it can be difficult to back down. So your irate customer can be difficult to calm down, and they may not wish to listen to your side of the story.

 

With a recording of the call, you are armed to give him the simple facts of the matter. It is no longer in doubt who said what, to whom, or why. Everything said can be listed to and reviewed. Your company may be right, or the customer may be right, but you will know the facts of the case.

 

Recordings can also be very useful when it comes to staff training. It can be difficult to take in advice, keep products and services in mind, and chat to a customer when you are a new start and everything is unfamiliar. Listening in on live calls can make people feel uncomfortable, and may make the new start nervous. But reviewing calls, when everyone is calmer and the employee can think more clearly, can prove far more advantageous. Remove the stress from the situation, and pass on clearly your expectations during a review session. Clearly explaining what you want them to do and say will be far more difficult when a live call is actually taking place. It will be easier, and prove more effective, when they are calmer and can think about what is being said, and react to advice being given.

 

Call recording is especially useful for those who work in the Legal or Finance sectors. These industries are very open to accusations of misleading advice, mis-selling or other unscrupulous practices.

 

It also means that Regulating Bodies can review what is being said by those in the industry to their customers. Whenever a complaint is raised by a member of the public regarding a company supplying financial advice, products or services, the Regulatory Body will ask to review all the calls which are relevant. In which case, they put themselves in the driver’s seat regarding assessing the situation. They no longer have to listen to two sides arguing about who said what and to whom. They can listen to the whole dialogue, and decide on the facts of the matter.

 

If you are a company operating in the Financial sector, then you are actually legally bound to use Call Recording. New legislation currently planned to come into force means these recordings must be kept for at least five years, and possibly seven.

 

If you are a Financial Services company, and wish to discuss our Additional Call Recording product, get in touch and we’ll be happy to help.

 

If you a company of any sort which wishes to use Call Recording to provide assurance in the event of possible customer dispute, start a conversation with us and we can discuss the many advantages we can offer, including the standard Call Recording our Fully Managed service offers.

 

 

*Our standard Call Recording gives three months, or 5 Gb of recordings, whichever occurs sooner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How To Appear Bigger Than You Are

Don't worry, you haven't stumbled upon a blog devoted to 'How to react if you are being attacked by a bear'.

 

This blog will give an overview as to how Hosted VoIP phone services can benefit smaller companies and sole traders.

 

One of the initial challenges to overcome when working for yourself is how best to manage your image. It is tricky to set up a company, win over customers, do all the necessary admin, and balance your books. It can be a bit like spinning plates, only there are far more than you actually handle!

 

Well SureVoIP® can at least help with one aspect – Presentation.

 

It is a sad but true fact that we judge on appearances, before anything else. Psychologists tell us that we judge the personality of someone we have just met within a quarter of a second.

 

Don't feel guilty – it's not just you, and it's not really your fault. The human brain is used to processing millions, if not billions of pieces of data every day. It does this by pattern matching, and it does this by making guesses. The brain basically takes a rough overview, assumes this pattern repeats itself, and fills in any gaps in its perceptions with these guesses.

 

This how optical illusions work. The brain has created lots of short cuts in order to process the vast amount of data which surrounds it, and optical illusions use this. The famous Muller-Lyer illusion pictured is a good example.

Muller-Lyer Illusion

 

We can use this trick of the brain to work in favour of the smaller business.

 

The Muller-Lyer illusion relies on mental shortcuts to fool your brain
 
Customers are used to certain levels of service when calling companies. This works in both a positive and a negative way. Service which doesn't match the image projected will prove harmful to that company. For instance, if you are thinking of buying from a company, and their website has spelling mistakes on the home page, the chances of you buying from them will quickly decrease.

 

The alternative is also true. If a company's service meets or exceeds your expectations, then you will be far more likely to buy from them.

 

This is the key point of this article, and this is how VoIP can help the smaller business.

 

By working on your presentation, you can greatly improve how customers perceive you.

 

Customers and potential customers make assumptions, or ;guesses', to refer to our potted psychology summary given above.

 

We can use this mental trait to our advantage. Giving a level of service associated with a larger company will create this mental image in the customer's mind.

 

Therefore, making use of a phone system which creates an appropriate image will work to enhance customer's perception of your company. People have fewer reservations about dealing with a larger company, so appearing as larger will result in a better image, and more successful dealings with callers.

 

This can be achieved by using many of the features and functions of a VoIP service. This kind of phone service adapts well to people working from differing locations, so you don't need a physical office. You can transfer calls between users as if you were all located in the same place. Callers will always experience the same phone set up, no matter which employee they dial. Music on Hold, coupled with a menu auto-attendant, gives the re-assurance of being in contact with a larger company. It also means that all your users have a cohesive 'brand identity' to callers.

 

Conference calling opens the door to more in-depth meetings, without having to physically travel to meet.

 

All your callers can get in touch using your company advertised number, and reach any of your staff members.

 

All a big improvement to just handing out your mobile number and hoping for the best!

 

We even offer a paired down service for Sole Traders. Our Single User service gives a useful range of functions, and is designed specifically for the single person working on their own.

 

For more info on our Hosted services

To see details of our Single User service

More info on the Muller-Lyer Illusion

Make The Best Use Of Your Internet Connection – Use VoIP

There can be very few companies who could operate without an internet connection.

 

Accountancy platforms, CRM systems and file-sharing websites have all become essential for modern businesses, and they all have one thing in common. They all rely on an internet connection.

 

As we are so reliant on our connection in order to work, it does lead onto one obvious conclusion.

 

Why not use it for your phone calls as well?

 

VoIP has progressed from a low cost substitute for 'ordinary' phone calls. It offers a cost effective alternative with increased functionality over a traditional phone system.

There is nothing to lose, and a lot to gain, from your company switching over to using VoIP.

 

And one of the biggest gains is to use one of your resources to its fullest.

 

If you are one of the forward-thinking people who have invested in a future-proof internet connection, why not use this resource to its maximum capacity?Along with maximising the ROI on your internet provision, VoIP allows a variety of other positives.

 

Your workers don't need to be based in one central office. In fact, your workers don't need to be based in an office at all.

 

As the phone system now lives 'in the cloud', it doesn't matter where users are physically located. As long as people have an internet connection, they can connect to their business phone system. Rather than using other means or methods to get in touch (calling from their home phone, calling from personal mobiles, putting messages in bottles), employees simply log in from wherever they are, and use the company's VoIP service.

 

This in turn leads to an interesting question – do you need an office at all? This is the ultimate extension of the remote working idea. If you don't actually need an office, why pay for an unnecessary expense? There are more and more companies who are working from a 'virtual' office. Workers are based in different physical locations, but using the same phone system. They can transfer calls seamlessly between each other, dial out displaying the company number, and receive calls to the company number. Calls will route in exactly the same way. Menu Auto-attendants and Music on Hold will all function as normal.

 

Callers will have no idea that their call has not gone through to an ordinary office. Their call will be transferred to the most appropriate person. The company's official audio greeting messages and Music will play as normal. The only difference is that your 'office' exists virtually, using the internet.

 

As just about everyone needs the internet (at home or on the move), why not use it to its best advantage? Get in touch to discuss the possibility of revolutionising the way you work.

 

More on our VoIP solutions

More on how we can help with your internet connection

 

The Traditional Phone And The Sword Of Damocles

Over the last few years there has been a steady shift from traditional telecoms set ups over to internet-based telecoms.

 

There are a number of advantages using the internet to deliver services, for instance scalability, speed of provisioning, and end-user control.

 

There is another advantage which is perhaps not as well known.

 

Traditional telecoms has been sentenced to death.

 

BT decided that the ISDN telecoms service (the network which delivers voice and data across the country) will be shut-down in 2025.

 

An alternative, SIP trunking, has been becoming increasingly popular, boosted by the need for more control and increased flexibility from end users. In our digital-driven fast-paced environment, people require more functionality with less rigidity associated with traditional telephony. People expect to be able to make changes quickly and easily, and preferably in real-time. Customers expect access to portals giving control and relevant information. What customers don't want, and will no longer accept, is waiting weeks for changes to be implemented.

 

The change from ISDN to SIP has been gathering momentum, and the recent announcement from BT will only increase the numbers seeking to change.

 

Hosted VoIP is one of the opportunities which SIP technology has opened up. A Hosted VoIP system gives customers much more functionality than traditional telecoms. On-line portals give real-time information, and the ability to up-date and control system functions. Delivery over the internet gives the ability to up-date functions, alter and customise features, and push out settings to hardware.

 

It gives a scalable, usable telephony resource to customers, with the reassuring factors of longevity and stability. The ISDN option offers little regarding these factors. It is an anachronism in an environmnet of data packets and virtual machines. After all, think about any other technologies from 1988 – would we expect our old desktop PCs to run a modern business? Or would anyone be happy to walk around with a huge brick of a mobile phone? So it is with ISDN, it is simply not capable of keeping pace with the demands we now place on the technology.

 

So maybe it is with some relief that BT will take the venerable old beast out to retire in green pasture – the way is clear for a more capable, faster and user-friendly future.

 

See your Hosted VoIP options.

See more useful VoIP Info

 

How To Move Office And Take Your Phones With You (The Easy Way)

Moving office is a stressful time. You have decorators to arrange, furniture to move, files to transfer, and all while keeping your customers happy.

VoIP users have the flexibility to take their telecoms set up wherever they go. As long as they have an internet connection, all the phones will just unplug from the old office, and plug in when in the new one. As the provider has all the details of the system (extension numbers, call routing etc) then the system will behave exactly the same in the new office as it did in the old one.

Where your phone is physically based makes no difference to the system (we like to call this a platform). After all, your LinkedIn account doesn’t care where you are – you just log-in from any internet connection. A VoIP system is just the same.

All users of a Hosted (‘Cloud-based’ is just another way of saying ‘Hosted’ by the way) VoIP service can take advantage of this. Many people change where they work on a day-to-day or even minute-by-minute basis. Need to work from home for the rest of the afternoon? Simply unplug the phone from the internet, and plug in at home (although you can use a smartphone app, or buy two phones, if you want to save the hassle of carrying a phone with you). It is this flexibility which makes VoIP so appealing when it comes to managing an office move.

If you are considering relocating your office, then moving to VoIP would be an ideal starting point. You can transfer existing numbers to your new VoIP account (termed “Porting”), and acquire new numbers with your new area code.

We assist our customers in any way we can, including assisting with the transtition to a VoIP system, and helping to move and relocate existing equipment. We have also helped by specifying, supplying and setting up new equipment. Obviously, we can only provide this level of service to customers who are physically located near us, but we are happy to offer the benefit of our experience to customers based anywhere.

To read more about SureVoIP’s experience with Porting numbers, please see our Number Porting article.

As the UK industry regulatory body, Ofcom offer their own advice on Number Porting.