Live chat customer support has rapidly grown in popularity in recent years. But, this should come as no surprise; it’s beneficial for customers and brands alike.

Live chat undeniably improves customer service levels. Companies appreciate it for its customer satisfaction and loyalty-building benefits. Customers, on the other hand, have learned that the little box in the corner of the screen is where they can instantly get any support they need, whenever they need it. And they like it! In fact, they like it so much that over 80% of customers are happy (and using) live chat customer support.

live chat customer service

There’s no more being put on hold on the phone or waiting to get their emails replied to. They appreciate how easy it is to use and how efficiently their issues are dealt with.

However, while live chat popularity is increasing, there’s still the issue of companies managing to do it well and keeping their customers happy in the process. Because simply having live chat customer support won’t cut it. It needs to be efficient and personalized to increase customer satisfaction. Otherwise, it may end up having the opposite effect.

And, with the coronavirus pandemic we are currently facing, it’s never been more critical to keep your customers satisfied and engaged. The first wave widely affected businesses all over the world and even led to bankruptcy in plenty of cases. So, with the second wave in full force, you will need to be prepared.

Good communication is key to your business surviving any lockdowns, restrictions, and other hurdles thrown at you by the virus. It’s crucial to maintaining a good connection with your customers and showing how committed you are to keeping them happy. Having a comprehensive customer support strategy will keep your team happy as well and what’s more, well-structured, effective live chat can also be a source of revenue.

Keep reading to find out the best tips for live chat customer support so that you can improve your operations and stay ahead.

1. Standard Operating Procedures Are Key

You can’t do anything well without proper structure. The quality of customer support your team can offer is directly affected by how clear and organized your customer service processes are.

To maintain your high standards or improve your current ones, you need a detailed procedure that everyone can easily follow through.

Having specific rules and operating procedures in place can ensure that your customers receive the quickest and best answer. For example, every good customer support system has standard processes and scripts for answering routine customer queries. Say a customer wants to return a product, your customer service reps must be able to provide that customer with immediate information on your company’s return policies. And, refer them to the appropriate department for solving their query in a timely manner.

Clear standard operating procedures will also help you provide consistent customer support. This way, customers will know what to expect and won’t be complaining that they get a different answer every time they talk to one of your reps.

On top of this, customer support teams are also proven to be more efficient when SOPs are put in place. They are useful both for training your teams and for simplifying their workload. Having multiple customer service scenarios, segmented by various customer types and clear procedures means that all they’ll have to do is follow them for the best results. They take out any ambiguities and allow them to resolve customer queries with confidence.

2. Decrease Response Times

Since live chat’s popularity is based on how quickly it solves queries, you will need to focus on delivering this to customers as efficiently as possible. Short response times translate into good customer service and high levels of customer satisfaction.

To improve your response times, define them clearly. Let’s say each question must be answered in 90 seconds or less. This way, your customer support teams will have a clear KPI and they know that they cannot take longer than that to respond to a customer. Even if that answer is ‘We are still processing your request’, the customer must feel that they are being tended to and you didn’t step out for a coffee.

To make things as efficient as possible, and especially if you are short on staff, you can use predefined answers to solve the most common customer queries and automate as much of your live chat customer support as you can.

No need to a whole mind map out of it, but your live chat agents will have more time to focus on the important parts of the issue if they will have a couple of pre-made answers available just one click away.

3. Personalize Live Chat Sessions

Your live chat customer support must always be professional. But, that doesn’t mean you should not be open and friendly. Customer experience is based on how well you make them feel and how engaged you are in your communication with them.

Show your availability and be approachable right from the start with a welcoming message to make them confident about talking to you. Be empathetic and make your customers feel important and appreciated. Listen closely to what they are saying and address matters directly. If they are angry or upset, maintain a calm and professional tone and assure them that you are doing everything to help them. Being professional, composed and friendly is a must – 42% of customers will do business with a competing company if they experience an interaction with a rude or unhelpful staff member.

Through the course of the live chat conversation, a good tip is to sprinkle in your customer’s name and ask more personalized questions. This will bring the conversation up to a more individual level and increase their engagement and the chances of them becoming a repeat customer.

To end your conversation right, make sure you thank your customer and ask if there is anything else they require your help with. You can also add how happy you would be to help them with any future issues. Although chat often feels impersonal, adding a touch of personal branding into your conversational tone adds the human element back.

4. Use Social Mimicking

With live chat, your customers can’t see you and they have fewer cues about how the discussion is going. However, you can make some efforts to close this gap and mimic human interaction.

The concept of social mimicking is how you can overcome any communication issues and keep your customers engaged in the conversation. It’s a great live chat tip you can use for maximum efficiency. It works by mirroring their preferred manner of communication and adjusting your language and tone to theirs.

Agents need to be responsive and show empathy by observing and adjusting to the customer’s approach.

For example, say your customer is a 20-year old who wants to upgrade their current subscription to your service. Their style will most likely be casual and familiar and they will most likely use straightforward language. When your response is similar in nature to how they write, they are more likely to feel that you hear and understand them and you will help them with a quick solution.

Once the customer lays out their issue and you get a better sense of what their approach is, you can adapt your own tone and language and continue the conversation in that direction. This will help you establish an emotional connection. Remember that your main goal is to make your customers feel cared for. They need to feel your brand is relatable. So, deliver an empathic, human response.

A good tip is to put yourself in their shoes. Personalizing a customer’s experience is what keeps them loyal to your brand. So, listen carefully to their issue and maintain a positive attitude throughout the conversation. Easily getting all the information you need will also help you deliver the best outcome.

5. Break Up Walls of Text

As we’ve mentioned before, one of the things customers expect is a quick and easy resolution. This should also translate into how you chat with your customers.

Any response you give them needs to be bite-sized and easy to understand. This means that you shouldn’t let your chat session turn into an email or a wall of text. Separate several ideas into paragraphs and keep each message no longer than two sentences.

For example, if you are explaining the steps your customer needs to take to solve their issue, avoid writing all the solutions in one message and then pressing send. Breaking things up with will make it easier for them to understand the steps. And give them a chance to ask questions as you describe each step if they have any.

6. React to Your Customer

Another good tip you can use to make your live chat customer support conversations more personable is to react to your customer as they lay out the issue they need support for. You will need to send them some cues that you are listening to them because they can’t see your face and how engaged you are in the conversation.

That’s not to say that you should interrupt them, though. The idea isn’t to bother them. It’s to make them feel heard and to relate to them on a more personal level. To show empathy, don’t wait until they’ve finished everything they’ve had to say. Add some indication now and again that you are still there and you are following what they are saying. A simple ‘Yes’, ‘I see’ or ‘OK’ will do.

7. Reuse Frequent Responses

You can save a lot of time reusing your most frequent customer support responses. For best results, you can organize customer queries and your responses into categories and prepare scripts from saved conversations.

Having scripts will allow your customer support team to be more prompt and confident in their answers. They won’t be scrambling trying to figure out the best response for a particular situation because they’ll have it right in front of them. It not only improves your team’s efficiency but also your customers’ experience.

8. Use Offline Messages When You Are Not Available

You may not be able to provide customer service 24/7. So, when you are unavailable, you need to make that clear to your customers. You don’t want them to think you are simply choosing not to respond. It’s all part of providing a good customer experience to let them know exactly when they can contact you.

Let customers know your availability by providing an offline message. Let them know when your live chat agents will be available and, if possible, include an option for customers to leave a message. With their email address, the question / ticket can be added to the live chat system for follow up and even added to the database of your CRM or marketing automation software (it is good to know the difference), to use for profile building and creating a 360 degree customer view. Try to be as specific as possible about when you will get back to them.

Conclusion

Setting up appropriate live chat support processes takes some time and there are many angles to how you can approach it. Fortunately, even if you are just starting out, there are two things that will leave customers always happy. Reaction time and pro-customer support.

Even if everything else fails, responding quickly and doing your best to help the customer out will leave a positive image of your brand each and every time. If you add good leadership to the mix, you are looking at a CSR team that will bring your brand to the next level.

Vlad Falin is a founder and blogger at Costofincome, where he writes about online business and digital marketing tools.

By Vlad Falin|January 8th, 2021|https://www.3cx.com/blog/unified-communications/live-chat-customer-support-tips/


3CX! In 2020’s PC Pro Technology Excellence Awards, 3CX once again bagged the title of Business Software of the Year. Not only is PC Pro the UK’s biggest selling monthly IT magazine, but they’ve also been running their Technology Excellence Awards for an incredible 23 years!

pc pro business software of the year 2020

Each year the magazine curates the very best in software, hardware and services and, as one of the leading authorities on everything tech, the awards are one to watch out for! The Product of the Year categories are selected based on the vigorous testing and reviewing of PC Pro’s editorial team and their lineup of testers – also from Expert Reviews and IT Pro.

Editor-in-chief, Tim Danton, had this to say:

“The PC Pro Excellence Awards does exactly what the name suggests: it rewards the companies that truly excel. When people and businesses are spending hundreds of pounds on products, they deserve to know that they’re not only buying great products but that they will receive good support if things go wrong. And when it comes to products of the year, it’s always a pleasure to reward companies that deliver a standout product with an award to mark the achievement.”

2020 has presented many of us with challenges we’ve never faced, and tech companies like 3CX set about to provide solutions to help ease the pain of lockdown and restrictions. At the onset of the pandemic, 3CX provided businesses with a free, easy to implement communications system to help them adapt to remote working and get back on their feet. It’s this ease of deployment and flexibility that undoubtedly helped see 3CX nab the title of Business Software of the Year.

Dharmesh Mistry, Managing Director Specialist Division at Dennis commented:

“PC Pro has been providing its loyal readers with authoritative, balanced reviews on the best tech products and services for over two decades. This year has obviously been very unique, with so many people having had to rely more heavily than ever on their tech, turning their homes into offices for months on end, so standing out to our readers and testers in a crowded market is impressive and I congratulate all the winners.”

Not only is 3CX the ideal solution for businesses looking to implement remote working, but recent updates to the software have made the system a more powerful solution for customer service and contact centers. So businesses can continue to offer top notch customer service even when agents are working remotely.

By Amy Elliott|November 23rd, 2020|https://www.3cx.com/blog/news/pc-pro-excellence-awards-2020/

Adding onto the release of Update 7, the 3CX Live Chat plugin has undergone a makeover too. The plugin now offers a more engaging way to invite people to chat as well as provide important contact details – agents will never miss a chance to turn a visitor into a potential customer!

New Live Chat Greeting

The new chat greeting gives the option to display a customizable welcome message to prompt your visitors to start chatting, even when agents are offline. Clicking on the greeting opens up the chat box window where users can start the conversation and be quickly engaged to provide more information. We’ve also included many configuration options to give flexibility to the administrators, such as icon customization and visibility of elements across specific devices.

live chat greeting

No More Forms!

Forget boring forms. The revamped offline chat gets all the required information in a friendly, conversational style. Visitors are asked to provide name, email and information about their request through a 3-step approach. When agents are available, they then have all the info at hand to follow up during work hours.

live chat conversation

Personalized Greeting

To provide a more friendly customer experience, we’ve added variable support for the visitor name. For example, if it is configured and the visitor has provided the name and email, the welcome message will be:

Hello David! How can we help you?

Unread Indicator on Minimized Chat

A new unread message indicator informs the customer when an agent responds to the chat for a more efficient and user-friendly experience. This makes exchanges between customers and agents more rapid, saving time and allowing for a greater number of issues to be resolved.

live chat unread message indicator

How to get live chat

Install live chat on your WordPress website with our new updated plugin.

If you don’t have WordPress you can use the easy online wizard to generate a code snippet for any CMS.

Known Issues

Variable support for the personalized greeting is not currently available in pop-out mode.

By Constantinos Constantinou|December 15th, 2020|https://www.3cx.com/blog/releases/engage-customers-live-chat/

Out now V16, Update 7 adds a complete contact center. No need to purchase add on solutions. Answer calls, live chatFacebook messages and business texts from one single platform.

  • Respond to Facebook messages directly from 3CX.
  • Send and receive SMS messages from your business number.
  • Know who is contacting you with CRM integration.
  • Log, access and monitor all messages centrally.
  • Help and supervise live chat agents using monitor/whisper function.
  • Chat reporting including performance and abandoned chats.
  • Escalate a chat to a voice call to expedite helping the customer.

Send and Receive SMS

facebook and sms integration

Send and receive business text messages directly from 3CX without giving out personal phone numbers. Compose text messages to a single contact or internal user group.

Answer Facebook Messages from 3CX

Reply to your Facebook messages in the same way as live chat and business texts and have one central place for all communications. An icon indicator distinguishes between SMS, Live Chat and Facebook messages.

Live Chat Plugin Supports any CMS

live chat for any CMS

Install live chat on your WordPress website with our new updated plugin. Now you can offer an updated modern layout, with the added benefit of reducing your memory usage per page. If you don’t have WordPress you can use the easy online wizard to generate a code snippet for any CMS.

Professional Web Conference Invites

To enhance your web conference experience, we’ve changed the way we send out invites. You can now send the invite automatically. Additionally, not only are issues in RSVP links resolved, we’ve also improved formatting and content overall.

Outbound caller ID in Outbound Rule and per Route

Outbound caller ID

Update 7 now allows you to specify a caller ID in an outbound rule. This allows you to:

  • Override default Caller ID using a prefix.
  • Alter Caller ID based on Country code.

Get Update 7

Click on “Updates” in the Management Console’s Dashboard, select “v16 Update 7” and click on “Download Selected” to install this update on your PBX.
Alternatively, you can get v16 Update 7 for Windows 3CX v16 Update 7 or Linux 3CX v16 on Debian 9 ISO. Ensure you have built your CFD call flows with the latest version prior to updating.

By Nick Galea|December 8th, 2020 | https://www.3cx.com/blog/releases/update7-facebook-integration/

Juggling multiple collaboration apps at the office? You’re not alone!

According to research, 91% of companies use at least two messaging apps for internal communications. This goes against the advice of IT managers, who typically want to consolidate platforms for security and UX purposes. So why the disconnect?

In this post, we’re going to explore the challenges of using multiple collaboration tools and suggest solutions that will keep both employees AND IT pro’s happy. (Spoiler alert: it’s not about ditching all your platforms, it’s about making them work together).

Let’s get started:

The Rise of User-Centric Collaboration

user centered

You might be wondering how your organization ended up using five chat platforms when you only formally endorse one (and pay the subscription fee!).

The rise in user-centric collaboration means it’s now easier than ever for employees and teams to choose the platform that lets them work most effectively. In theory, this is a positive move. We’re all different and we all have our own communications style. As each platform has a distinct UX, it’s natural to gravitate towards a particular look and feel or towards the platform you perceive will make you most productive.

Until fairly recently, this wouldn’t have been possible. A “business-centric” model meant that access to communications tools required a corporate subscription (shout out to the good old days of Microsoft Lync!). Nowadays, platforms target users and teams directly, with free versions and cheap entry-level solutions.

Multiple Collaboration Apps = Multiple Challenges

too many apps can be challenging

Using multiple collaboration apps, particularly free ones, create multiple challenges. (Check out this article for more on the risks of free communications.) Here are the four issues most commonly raised by 3CX partners:

1. Supporting Multiple Apps is Costly

If teams within your organization prefer using different channels you could wind up paying multiple subscriptions and wasting money that could be invested elsewhere. Whilst communication tools are becoming more affordable generally, no one wants to be paying more than they need to be.

So if your marketing team wants a different channel to your developers, it’s time to dig in and understand which features matter most, so that you can identify the platforms that perform well across the board.

2. Consumer Apps Pose a Security Risk

As the saying goes, if the product is free, then the product is you. The same goes for software. If your employees use consumer platforms to discuss business matters, you’re at risk of exposing sensitive information, particularly as employee accounts cannot be monitored centrally.

Keep personal and business matters separate: use a dedicated business collaboration platform for all corporate matters.

3. Information Gets Lost

Whilst the risk of accidentally exposing information is very real so is the risk of losing it altogether. When employees use multiple applications, information has a tendency to get lost. After all, it’s hard enough trying to find information stored in your own docs, let alone scour three different platforms.

Losing information disrupts meetings, hinders project progress and makes employees less productive. The fewer platforms they use, the less information is scattered, so they won’t waste time re-tracing their virtual footsteps.

4. Lack of Internal Alignment

When teams use separate collaboration apps, silos start to appear. Working in silos means working independently of other teams/ individuals within the organization, typically as a result of poor cross-functional communication.

This lack of internal alignment can be dangerous. If teams are not communicating, or are just plain difficult to contact, it can be easy to end up heading in different directions. This isn’t good news for project work and it can inhibit growth,

What’s the Solution?

communication solution

Despite the challenges of using multiple collaboration apps, it’s unrealistic to expect total centralization. It’s important to recognize that the various teams within your organization have different requirements and this needs to be taken into consideration.

The solution is two-fold. First, endorse a collaboration platform that combines multiple communication methods into one, easy to use interface. This will ensure that the vast majority of employees can communicate using their preferred method, be that video, chat, telephony or mobile, without needing to look to consumer solutions.

Secondly, look for a communications suite that offers interoperability. Open standards technology makes it possible to integrate applications so that they can communicate with each other, reducing the risk of losing information, and forming silos.

Conclusion

The more apps you use, the more challenging it becomes to achieve unified communication across your organization. IT partners must be prepared for mixed environments but try to consolidate where possible to minimize security risks, productivity lulls, and unnecessary costs.

By choosing a multi-channel communications tool such as 3CX, you can avoid the trappings of multiple collaboration apps. Instead, you’ll enjoy integrated conferencing, calling, chat, and external communication. 3CX’s open standards approach also makes integrating 3rd party applications simple. Have one communications hub for all staff.

By Ellen Wilkinson|October 20th, 2020|https://www.3cx.com/blog/unified-communications/multiple-collaboration-apps/

News broke today that security experts Check Point have detected a series or worldwide attacks directed at VoIP servers across the globe. The attacks affected FreePBX® and PBXact® by exploiting a previously discovered authentication bypass vulnerability, CVE-2019-19006.

The attacks were part of a larger campaign targeting VoIP phone systems, in which the hackers’ goal is to sell phone numbers, call plans and access to VoIP services. This resulted in abuse of the servers to make outgoing calls to premium-rate phone numbers to generate income.

The security breach raises questions about the use of open source PBX systems; while these can be very low cost, and even free, businesses need to ask if it is worth the risk.

Man working on PC

What’s the deal with this hack?

In a nutshell, the security breach details can be summarized as follows:

  • The attack exploits CVE-2019-19006, a critical vulnerability discovered in 2019 and impacting FreePBX® and PBXact® systems.
  • The hackers used the vulnerability to access VoIP servers and gain admin control of both the phone system and servers.

What did hackers do with the compromised servers?

The hackers carried out these attacks primarily to use the PBX servers to generate revenue, which they did in three ways:

  • Selling phone numbers or call plans – Hackers or their clients could make outgoing calls from the compromised company’s phone system without being detected. Outgoing calls are a considered normal activity, so they would not activate any security alert.
  • Selling server access – They would sell admin access to the server to the highest bidder, who could then use the system resources to generate income through activities such as crypto-mining or launching attacks on outside systems. While doing this, it would appear that attacks and other activities came from the company with the breached system.
  • International Revenue Share Fraud (IRSF) – Some types of premium rate international numbers cost the callers significantly, and generate considerable revenue for the owner of the phone number. The more calls they receive, and the longer they are, the greater the revenue. In some cases, the hackers in question would use the phone system to call their own premium rate numbers, generating revenue at the expense of the business whose server was hacked.

For full details of the security breach, how it was achieved and what the hackers did, see this article.

Secure, Flexible, Affordable: 3CX

3CX implements the latest technologies to ensure security of your communications, and regular updates safeguard from fresh vulnerabilities.

By Jacob Wall|November 6th, 2020|https://www.3cx.com/blog/voip-howto/asterisk-security-breach/

As SaaS takes over, making the switch will ensure your customers can take advantage of new technologies and futureproof existing ones.

As with all technology, making the decision to move your business communications system to the cloud can be met with trepidation. IT Administrators who are used to having crucial business platforms onsite may be reluctant to move them. After all, if it’s not broke and it’s not costing anything, why be the guy responsible for changing it? In reality, moving to the cloud is simple, affordable and the single, biggest step you can take to future proof your business. If you ask us, there’s a whole host of reasons to explore the benefits of the cloud with your clients. So many in fact, that we’ve picked out our top 10 to help you bring them on board.

1. Eliminate the Risk of Obselence

Physical hardware ages and needs to be replaced with time. But, this can be time-consuming and costly for clients. With a cloud solution, the responsibility for keeping the infrastructure updated shifts from the customer to the service provider. Updates and upgrades are also taken care of. Users just need to have an active subscription to enjoy up-to-date technology without needing to set aside additional funds and resources to maintain the performance of their system.

moving to the cloud saves hassle

2. Simplify Location Management

Whilst maintaining one on premise system might not seem too demanding, the challenge with remote locations is that you typically need one installation at each site. If you have an issue, this can result in multiple site visits just for troubleshooting purposes. As you can imagine, the cost soon stacks up, especially if some of your sites are overseas. A cloud system, on the other hand, enables each office to access the same virtual server using an internet connection. The result is having one simplified system that enables internal calling between locations (imagine the call costs your customers could save). As an MSP simplified location management is also essential. Centrally manage all your clients’ communications, regardless of their location, through a single browser-based portal- you won’t even need to leave the desk.

3. Minimize Capital Expenditure

Investing in a new communications system is expensive. Why make it more so? Traditional systems require the purchase of servers, phones, network services and on top of it all, clients often pay hefty setup fees. By adopting a cloud strategy, your customers can expect to save thousands. (At 3CX we can boast that we save customers as much as 80% on their current phone bill). With providers also offering exceptionally reliable communications via WebClients and native iOS/Android apps you’ll save even more on desk phones and corporate smartphones.

4. Consolidate Communications

A communications suite typically includes voice, video, remote working, SMS, presence, and faxing—all under one roof. It’s easy to simplify and reduce your costs when you receive all your channels from one provider on a single bill. Consolidating also leads to better, more consistent communications with co-workers and customers by allowing them to use their preferred channels. Additionally, because cloud systems are software-driven and maintained by the providers, they’re usually easier to integrate with other software platforms used internally. This can include CRM systems, PMS and IoT Applications.

5. Accommodate Remote Workers

On premises systems limit your ability to take advantage of remote workers because they generally lack a direct connection to employees on the move. In contrast, moving your system to the cloud removes technological boundaries. Cloud solutions can route call traffic to any destination with an active internet connection, so routing calls to smartphones and home offices is just as easy as routing them to an office phone. Another benefit, specialist features typically used in the office can be utilised remotely such as call transfers and voicemail.

6. Enhance Security

Whilst it may seem more secure to have all of your IT systems within hands reach, in reality, the opposite couldn’t be more true. On premise systems are subjected to more hack attempts than their cloud counterparts (61.4 attempts vs 27.8 attempts on average). Whether you’re using a private cloud or public cloud to host your client’s systems, they’re going to be in safe hands. After all, cloud providers are specialists in cloud security, unlike your average IT Administrator. They may well be tech-savvy, but they can’t provide best practice like encryption, security protocols, and active service monitoring, even if they had the time too.

7. Improve Disaster Recovery

Traditional recovery approaches typically entail offsite duplication of infrastructure and data. With cloud computing, disaster recovery becomes much more cost-effective with significantly faster recovery times. Many cloud providers will automatically include a failover to another data center in your monthly plan, so you can rest assured knowing a backup of your communications system is available should the worst happen. For extra peace of mind, you could even use multiple providers in varying locations to backup your applications.

8. Increased Functionality

Traditional systems are limited in terms of features. Each feature requires specific hardware components and configurations in order to work, which typically sends costs through the roof. In the Cloud, you can access business productivity features with none of the hassle. 3CX for example, has a zero add on policy. Customers can enjoy features such as voicemail, a digital receptionist and HD video conferencing without adding extra charges to their phone bill.

9. Receive Automatic Updates and Cut the Hassle

The latest technology will give your business an edge on the competition. But upgrades can also come with a steep learning curve. They usually entail at least some downtime, costs and debugging sessions. With an on premises system, you bear the responsibility for the upgrades. Choosing a hosted service shifts that responsibility to the provider and because you’re in the cloud, it’s easier to roll out new updates and features at a faster pace. Why not take a look at Hosted by 3CX, our new managed hosting service for partners and see how it could make your life easier.

10. Take Advantage of New Technology

Hosting business applications in the cloud gives you a level of flexibility not possible with legacy solutions. This is especially true if your clients want to integrate with other essential business services. With a software-based, hosted solution from 3CX for example, you can easily integrate your communications with other essential business platforms to create one, easy to use, business hub. A hub could comprise of your clients 3CX Phone System and their CRM. Or perhaps they have a bespoke platform for making reservations- with a system in the cloud it’s easy to connect via APIs.

By Ellen Wilkinson|September 8th, 2020|https://www.3cx.com/blog/unified-communications/move-cloud/

business voip

There are many reasons to go for a business VoIP solution.

Chief among these reasons include the fact that you will enjoy massive savings by using VoIP for your business: research shows that the average business that switches to VoIP can save between 40 – 90 percent on phone bills.

However, how much a VoIP solution costs should not be the only deciding factor when scouting a business VoIP service.

Here are five key things to look out for when looking for a new solution:

1. Security features: Security should be one of the primary factors to pay attention to in a business VoIP solution.

Cost savings are great, but it’s a benefit that can be quickly defeated should hackers get into your VoIP system.

As I explained in my article on protecting a VoIP phone system, a hacked VoIP system can cost your business a lot: a particular business racked up a $166,000 bill in a weekend due to being a victim of toll fraud. That’s 34 years worth of VoIP bills in a single weekend due to hackers getting into its VoIP system and abusing it.

Some of the key security features to watch out for include the availability of a Session Border Controller or SBC (while proprietary SBC can be very expensive, 3CX offers this free to its users), secure SIP, IP Blacklisting, regular updates, and an anti-hacking feature.

2. Unified communications and collaboration: A business VoIP solution is only as powerful as its ability to foster workplace efficiency and productivity; as such, when shopping around, you want to make sure you go with a service that has a focus on unified communications and collaboration.

Some key features you might want to look out for:

  • Instant messaging/text chat
  • Fax to inbox forwarding
  • Audio/Video conferencing and real-time collaboration
  • Website Live Chat
  • Voicemail to inbox forwarding

3. Third-party integrations: You will only be able to truly enjoy your business VoIP solution if it can be integrated with other solutions your business is using.

Ideally, your VoIP solution should be able to integrate with your CRM, ERP, and accounting system such that calls can be made, logged, and recorded seamlessly in a way that enhances customer satisfaction. For example, when a customer calls in for support, all relevant information about the customer is brought up automatically – this makes it easy to resolve their complaints or issues without having to ask extra questions. Some popular 3CX integrations include Salesforce, Office 365, MS Exchange, Hubspot, and Zendesk.

4. Mobile Apps: Employees often have to be on the move and remote work continues to grown in popularity amongst today’s workforce. You should look for a business VoIP service that your employees can “carry along” with them while on the go.

For example, most quality business VoIP solutions have mobile apps that you can install to ensure the same VoIP experience even when you’re away from the office.

5. Pricing: Pricing shouldn’t be the main factor you hinge your business VoIP decision on, but it’s also very important. VoIP is often associated with reduced phone bill expenses, particularly for businesses, so you shouldn’t have to give an arm and a leg just to use a VoIP solution.

With 3CX, you aren’t necessarily billed more because you have a bigger organization (you shouldn’t be penalized for growing!). Instead, you’re billed based on simultaneous calls rather than per extension (as is the case with a lot of business phone systems). You also enjoy all unified communication features without having to pay extra and without being required to purchase add-ons.

Bamidele Onibalusi is a Google-certified digital marketer and an Hubspot-certified freelance writer with passion for the tech industry. You can follow him on Twitter: @youngprepro.

By Bamidele Onibalusi|September 18th, 2020|https://www.3cx.com/blog/unified-communications/business-voip-five-essential-features/

roi of unified communications
Unified Communications provided a vital lifeline for businesses during the 2020 pandemic. Thanks to UC, employees were able to connect, communicate and collaborate when physical workspaces were declared off-limits. And whilst the long term impact of the pandemic is still being assessed, one thing is already clear; without crucial UC functions such as calling, conferencing and live chat keeping businesses communicating, the economic impact would have been far more severe.

If your organisation adopted a cloud UC solution prior to the pandemic, it’s likely that you felt little impact when lockdowns were announced. If you didn’t, you’re not alone. According to Westcon, 36% of IT Managers in the US are hoping to expand their UC capabilities within the next three years. However, they face a shared hurdle; 23% of IT Managers believe that cost is delaying their UC adoption. This may come as a surprise to industry insiders, who are well aware that UC solutions save money rather than expend it- what’s needed, is a clear explanation of the ROI of Unified Communications.

How can Unified Communications save my organization money?

you can save money with unified communications
The main return unified communications brings to your organization is the financial boost that comes from reduced travel, lower infrastructure maintenance, VOIP calls and switching to an OPEX expenditure model.

Unified communications incorporates virtually every platform you use to communicate with teammates at work. This included calling, video conferencing, instant messaging, SMS and collaboration platforms for group projects. Combining these tools into one specialized solution not only reduces the hassle of managing multiple tools but it also brings financial benefits, as vendors typically bundle services into a single monthly plan, for a lower cost than purchasing individual tools. Making the switch also helps with financial planning and budgeting. Most providers offer annual or monthly subscriptions so you can minimise capital expenditure and opt for a much more budget-friendly OPEX model. As a result, you’ll be able to more accurately predict cash flow, manage budgets and make considered choices when it comes to investments.

Cost benefits can also be realised from switching to VoIP calling, the method of digital calling utilised by the majority of UC systems. VoIP minutes cost significantly less than traditional ISDN plans whilst internal calls (even between remote sites) are usually free. You’ll no longer pay to call international offices or employees working remotely. Add up all those internal minutes and you’re sure to have a hefty saving!

UC makes remote working easier, but what’s the financial impact?

uc enables remote working
Unified Communications makes remote working easier, by removing the barriers that would otherwise arise from having employees geographically separated. Over the past few months, there’s been a lot of talk about UC enabling the ‘end of the office,’ but less has been discussed about the financial benefits this could have for businesses and their employees.

If remote working continues to increase in popularity and workers have tools in place that enable them to maintain (or even exceed) pre-COVID productivity levels, office populations may substantially decline. In light of this, businesses could scale back workspaces, saving on rent, bills, insurance and general office costs in the process. Other cost-saving benefits of remote working include:

  • Reduced Absenteeism: Remote working has been proven to reduce absenteeism by up to 41%
  • Larger Talent Pool: By hiring remote workers you free yourself of geographic constraints. Find high performing, affordable, highly productive talent in any location.
  • Eliminate Meeting Culture: Stuck in meetings all day without a real purpose? Remote UC solutions can help by providing instant availability and enabling asynchronous working.

How does unified communications increase productivity?

unified communications makes businesses more productive
If teams communicate and collaborate better, then employees are likely to be more engaged and meetings will have better outcomes. It’s UC tools that make this all possible.

By choosing a communications system like 3CX, you’ll benefit from HD, browser-based video conferencing that can be synced with business applications such as Office 365 for seamless, virtual meetings and calendar management. With no passcodes, pins or log in details required, you’ll reduce organisation time and be able to get down to business quickly, maximising your conversations. UC platforms also take the guesswork and time out of seeing if a colleague is available. Rather than a phone number, individuals are added to the company directory by name, extension number and role. Users just need to login to their Web Client to see if somebody is at their computer or send a quick message.

The more streamlined and simple your internal and external communications are, the easier your life will be and the more productive you will be. If you want to calculate the quantifiable ROI of your productivity gains, try to work out how many minutes you would save by making the above processes smoother, what that equates to in working hours and consequently, what that would cost in average wages.

By Ellen Wilkinson|September 15th, 2020|https://www.3cx.com/blog/unified-communications/roi-unified-communications/

new office remote working

It’s quite apparent that we’re not in the clear just yet, and although many countries and regions are attempting to get back to normal, significant adjustments are being made in order to prevent further outbreaks and give the economy a much needed boost. When the pandemic began, it was hard for any of us to predict exactly where we were headed. Even now, there is a significant unpredictability regarding the trajectory that we’re on.

One thing for certain is that the Coronavirus outbreak has had an immense impact on the business world. Where remote working was previously seen as a job perk for the establishments that offered it, it’s now commonplace, and a priority for scores of job seekers. With work from home environments being implemented over night, thousands of businesses and their employees have experienced an alternative way to work and live, and are realizing that remote working is beneficial to all involved. It’s clear that businesses who wish to future-proof their operations, save money and attract talent are going to need to adapt to this new reality. Remote working is the future.

The new way of life

For businesses opting for a complete return to the office, careful planning is essential. As government restrictions are eased off, social distancing efforts are still needed to comply with regulations and to ensure that the spread of the virus is kept at a minimum. This will involve introducing a limit on the numbers of employees in rooms/spaces, adequate square footage per employee, improved ventilation, more frequent cleaning of premises, hygiene measures available for all employees, and possible rearrangement of office space.

This prospect will see businesses with open-plan arrangements potentially needing to separate larger offices into smaller spaces or at the very least, introducing cubicle style workstations for employees.

Higher productivity, fewer interruptions

So how will all of this affect productivity? During my time in lockdown, I read a book entitled Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. One of the most interesting points of the book focused on the connection between introverts, productivity and quality of work in office environments. Multiple studies have found that, although introverts often get a bad rap because of their quietness or hesitation to contribute in group settings, they many a time produce higher quality work and demonstrate higher levels of productivity.

While the book goes into the various reasons for this, one of the major assumptions is that, since introverts are more likely to prefer quiet, solitary working environments, they are able to work more productively. This was especially evident in one study, by Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister, entitled the Coding War Games. The purpose of the study was to define the characteristics of the best and worst programmers. 600 developers from 92 companies took part, and were asked to complete a set of tasks in a usual office environment during work hours.

developer in quiet office

The difference between the top performers and the worst was astounding, at a 10:1 ratio. After further investigation, they found that developers from the same companies on average performed at the same level. And when they looked at the office environment of these top performers, they discovered that their employers offered more privacy, personal space and freedom from interruption.

How does this tie in with remote working and the recent lockdowns? Well, individuals may have recently discovered that they became more productive during their time at home. This can be attributed to the increased flexibility, which allows employees to better fit their work into their hectic lives, and not be restricted by rigid work hours. But most definitely, it is also down to the elimination of distractions. Afterall, we’ve all been tempted by spontaneous coffee runs, or have been taken away from a task by a colleague innocently dropping by for a quick chat. Introducing remote working is simply introducing the way of working that introverts have always preferred and applied. It has enabled them to be more productive and, sometimes, more successful.

Future-proofing with modern solutions

Many employers still have hang-ups about allowing remote working. But we are seeing more and more evidence that this is the future, and more employees are coming to expect remote working as a must-have requirement, rather than a nice perk. What’s more, with the technology and solutions available, communicating and collaborating with remote workers has never been easier thanks to today’s UC platforms.

remote working uc solution

Modern businesses should be looking at offering flexible and remote working solutions to suit the needs of all employees. The pandemic has wreaked havoc amongst the business world, and while we cannot change this, we must use this as a learning experience to improve the way we do business and the way that employees work. Who knows? If enabling more flexibility and remote working improves productivity, it may in some way help to counteract some of the negative effects of lockdowns.

It has become overwhelmingly apparent that a worrying number of businesses are not prepared for disaster situations. By implementing a modern software communications solution like 3CX, you’re getting the best of both worlds. Efficient communications that boost business performance along with the potential for remote working, and a highly adaptable system that can easily help your business to continue as usual when the proverbial you know what hits the fan.

By Amy Elliott|https://www.3cx.com/blog/unified-communications/new-office-remote-working/