Task Outsourcing Made Easy with an International Virtual Number

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With modern communications technology, the ease of task outsourcing has brought business productivity to an all time high, particularly within the information technology industry. Rather than move entire operations abroad, IT businesses can delegate small tasks to qualified candidates anywhere in the world, optimizing workflow while freeing up in-house workers for more important enterprises.

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Outsourcing Small Tasks

Task outsourcing internationally can help to increase productivity while keeping payroll overheads to a minimum. The current shift in popularity from long term to short term contracts is largely thanks to the cost efficiency with which businesses can now communicate with international contractors. Short term, small task outsourcing allows employers optimum flexibility while enabling IT businesses to break the chains of the traditional IT outsourcing model, wherein contracts have prevented time efficient response to changes in consumer trends in the past. This rapid skilled employee turnover works to increase business resource pools, creating an efficient task network and bringing fresh perspective to business operations.

Optimizing Task Outsourcing

Miscommunication can be a major problem in task outsourcing operations. New employees are generally unfamiliar with business standards and project specifications, so opening a cheap and effective channel of communications is an essential step in the outsourcing process. With the rapidly growing popularity of web communications, many businesses make the mistake of conducting international employee relations almost entirely through email, project forum and instant messaging outlets, which can breed misunderstanding and hinder productivity. Rather than pay the crippling costs of standard international calling, businesses can now enable affordable voice communication with international workers through the activation of an international virtual number.

International Virtual Numbers

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International virtual numbers are forwarding numbers that allow workers outside the US to communicate with project co-workers by calling a number that is local to their area and country code. Calls to these numbers are automatically forwarded to a predetermined US line at no cost to the international employee. Virtual numbers generally come with the following features that make task outsourcing communications cheap, easy and efficient for IT businesses:

  • Cost Benefits: International virtual numbers require no equipment purchase or installation, making activation completely free. Most good virtual number providers offer no contract service, enabling companies outsourcing internationally on an infrequent basis to activate and deactivate service as needed. Virtual numbers can be routed both traditionally and through Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP). By primarily using VoIP technology to route calls, virtual numbers help businesses to avoid the high roaming and toll charges that are generally associated with international communications.

  • International Business Expansion: Once activated, an international virtual number need not be reserved for the sole usage of long distance contractors. These numbers have proven useful to many businesses in recruiting international clientele, creating a local presence feel that cultivates a level of comfort between business and client.

  • Unlimited Global Outsourcing: International virtual numbers offer a level of flexibility that traditional lines cannot attain. Virtual numbers can be managed through an online control center that enables the activation and deactivation of international numbers as needed. Without the line limits that most telecom companies impose, companies can outsource small tasks across the globe with minimal telecommunications management.

My Local Virtual Number: An American-Costa Rican Ecotourism Partnership

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Eco-tourism businesses like Seattle-based Wildland Adventures play a vital role in helping to ensure the sustainability of some of the earth’s most beautiful natural environments. For entrepreneurs considering breaking into the ecotourism industry, Costa Rica is a stunning place to start.

American-Costa Rican eco-tourism partnerships employ staff based over 3,000 miles apart. For any business operating on this international scale, efficient networking is essential for success. Even for established eco-friendly businesses, overcoming distance barriers can be challenging, so let’s take a look at how Wildland Adventures has worked to overcome this problem:

Wildland Adventures is an eco-friendly tourism business with locations in over thirty travel destinations. The Wildland experience places an emphasis on the importance of interacting with local culture and discovering the native way of life. Wildland’s Costa Rican location enables travelers to discover the wild and exotic Costa Rican scenery without participating in the environmental destruction that is so often precipitated by the tourism industry. To optimize visitor

cultural integration, Wildland primarily employs native workers at their international locations, while also maintaining US-based office workers. To manage such a wide and diverse network of employees, Wildland uses virtual number services.

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Virtual number services are often used in the tourism industry to efficiently manage call networking. Virtual phone systems offer the most environmentally-friendly telephony technology available today, making them particularly popular within ecotourism businesses. The following virtual number features make network management easier for businesses like Wildland Adventures:

  • Toll Free Call Forwarding: Wildland Adventures uses a toll free 800 number to offer customers all over the world an easy, free way to talk to a customer representatives about the great travel packages that they offer. When a customer dials Wildland’s 800 number, he/she is forwarded to the Wildland Adventures central office. Call forwarding works well for international businesses, enabling centralized networking and cost-efficient communications.

  • No Equipment Installation: Virtual numbers aren’t wired via traditional phone lines, which means that absolutely no equipment installation is required to activate one, making virtual phone systems an eco-friendly option.

  • 24/7 Emergency Answering Service: Because virtual numbers are routed through third-party call centers, international businesses like Wildlands can ensure 24/7 service without employing 24/7 office staff. Since Wildlands customers are often traveling off the beaten path, this availability is an essential part of their customer service package.

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Customer service is important within any industry, but for ecotourism businesses, crafting a positive customer experience is about more than just answering the phones promptly. Customers who choose an eco-friendly vacation are often seeking an experience that transcends the traditional resort package. Your visitors want to see the world as it was supposed to be–the Costa Rican jungles, the exotic wildlife, the exhilarating waterfalls.

  • Authenticity: An authentic experience is hard to find in today’s commercialized travel industry. To give your tourists a true international experience, employ native tour guides and resort workers. These workers will be able to introduce travelers to the real Costa-Rica in an authentic and often eye-opening way.

  • Exploration: Give your customers the opportunity to get off the beaten path while ensuring safety by providing experienced tour guides to introduce visitors to the local environment.

  • Adventure: Don’t limit your ecotourism business to the resort boundaries. Introduce your visitors to the local villages, to the mountain tops, to the true spiritual nature of Costa Rica.

Local Virtual Numbers

The ecotourist experience should begin with a phone call. While toll-free virtual numbers such as Wildland Adventures’ 800 number work seamlessly for international networking, the capabilities of virtual numbers can extend even further. To create a more complete sense of place, try marketing through local virtual numbers. Local virtual numbers are numbers that are tailored to a particular locality and forwarded through call centers. For example, Wildland Adventures could choose a Costa Rican phone number that, when dialed, actually forwards to their Seattle central office. Having a local forwarding number helps to create a sense of place while navigating language barriers and improving local and vendor relationships.

 

Unified Communications for Small Businesses: Minimizing Expenses

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Unified Communications NetworkUnified communications, or UC, is an undefined concept involving the integration of several different communication formats into a single, centralized platform. These formats include, but aren’t limited to, voice communication on landlines and cell phones, email, text messaging and video messaging. There is no quantifiable definition for UC, as the concept emerges as a different strategy for different entities. The overall goal of seamless, real-time communication, however, is almost always the universally desired outcome. Although the concept of unified communications existed before, it was experimental and not widely prioritized prior to the emergence of voice over Internet protocol technology. VoIP has advanced UC as a central concept for many mainstream businesses seeking to save money and increase flexibility in their communications network.

The Origins of UC

The concept of UC can be traced back to the 1980s, when businesses sought to improve communication between mobile employees in the field in an era before cell phones and personal computers were mainstream. As the emerging technologies of email and voicemail took hold, voicemail pioneer Gordon Matthews created an “email reader” onto his company’s existing voicemail system in 1985. This primitive device combined two forms of communications in a single platform, and the era of unified communications had begun.

The Modern Era

By the 1990s, big league companies such as AT&T and Microsoft were working to integrate not just voicemail and email, but business desktops, PCS and cellular phone technology. New investment bred new innovations, and in 1999, the release of the RIM Blackberry signaled the beginning of a new era. This “portable email reader”, as it was marketed, led the mobile revolution into the 21st century. But it was the arrival of voice over Internet protocol — or VoIP — technology that cemented UC as a concept that redefined business communication.

VoIP and UC

Although VoIP, or Internet telephony, had been under experimentation since the early 1990s, early versions operated on modem-based software that resulted in unreliable connections and notoriously poor call quality. As bandwith and Internet speeds improved, VoIP improved with it, and in 2004, Skype familiarized much of mainstream America with VoIP technology. This also signaled a watershed moment for business UC. The service enabled users to communicate with voice, video and messaging on the same platform over the Internet — the backbone of the UC concept.

Unified Messaging

The VoIP function known as unified messaging further bolsters business UC by providing variable access to voicemail, email, and fax communications through either phone or website access. This allows voice messages to be read over email, emails to be heard over the phone, and messages of all varieties to be forwarded to a fax machine.

VoIP Features for Business UC

VoIP technology also provides a range of other features that strengthen UC for business communications. Conference calling, for example, allows a single caller to speak with multiple parties at the same time. Find me/follow me lets mobile workers have calls forwarded to them from essentially anywhere. If the user doesn’t want to deal with forwarding, dual ringing places call to multiple phones simultaneously.

A Unified Communications Device
VoIP as the backbone of a UC strategy saves businesses both time and money by incorporating multiple features across multiple forms of communication. Using the Internet as the delivery method — as opposed to expensive and complicated traditional telephone hardware and lines — VoIP technology dramatically decreases the need for IT staffing, and updates are received through software, instead of with the installation of new hardware. Consolidation is the key to any UC strategy, and VoIP technology has the ability to channel several communication platforms through the same device at the same time. Although VoIP wasn’t designed as a UC solution, it has become one none the less.

VoIP and Business Communications: A Case Study in the Travel Industry

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Communications within the travel industry have long been fraught with challenge. Businesses must often communicate with employees over international distances, and maintain telecommunications in diverse settings. For many travel professionals, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology has begun to provide the solution.

Cruise Adventure Travel Inc: A VoIP Success Story

Cruise Adventure Travel Inc. has travel agents posted all over the globe, offering cruise adventure trips to a wide range of diverse destinations, from Antarctica to the Amazon River. When president and founder Chris Lounder first started the business, his reach was much more limited. Working from a small office in Florida with just a handful of employees, he had relatively low-scale telecommunications needs. After years of steady business growth, however, he began to struggle with the limitations of his old-fashioned phone service. As Lounder searched for the key to global connectivity, he faced three primary challenges:

  • Productivity and communication: As Lounder’s company grew, his travel agents stretched over a wider geographic area.Lounder wanted to communicate with multiple agents simultaneously, but found himself struggling to maintain steady connections. Often, he would often lose touch with one or more employees during conferences. These challenges impeded the productivity of his business such that he decided to give VoIP service a chance.

  • Call quality and connectivity: Lounder’s initial experience with VoIP was poor. The first VoIP system he used was successful on a small, local scale, but quality and connectivity were compromised when he tried to expand his call network.

  • System management: The scale of Lounder’s business growth made communications management as important to him as connectivity. He didn’t want his calls to be routed via a third-party automated service, and he wanted to be able to review phone calls made and received by his agents to ensure customer service quality.

VoIP Solutions: Hosted PBX

Lounder found the solution to his telecommunications challenges in Hosted PBX, a virtual phone network that conducts calls using both VoIP signals and traditional phone lines. Hosted PBX offered Lounder the following free calling features:

  • Failover routing: Failover routing is a Hosted PBX feature that improved the quality and reliability of Lounder’s long distance calls. His third-party call center used more than one telecom provider, allowing calls to automatically re-route via the first available line in the case of failed connectivity.

  • Remote call center management: Thanks to remote call center management, Lounder was able to eliminate his central office altogether. Cruise Adventure Travel Inc. agents now work remotely from small or home offices, and Lounder is still able to communicate effectively with every employee. He uses an online control center to connect new employees, and can monitor call logs and listen to recordings to review customer service standards at any time.

  • Free long distance and international calling: The affordability of Hosted PBX proved a great help to Lounder’s growing business. He could place international and long distance calls to remote agents without incurring extra call costs, and was able to use his telecommunications system to expand the borders of his business.

  • Seamless call transfer: Using hosted PBX, Lounder was able to set up a follow-the-sun system, whereby international customers calling Cruise Adventure Travel Inc. are automatically connected with the first available agent. This feature helped Lounder avoid losing international customers to time zone differences.