What Premium Features Does Your Virtual Phone Line Need?

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In today’s world of infinite technology, there are more options for a virtual phone than one can fathom. Advanced call routing, a number of VoIP protocols and even Instant Message Integration are all features possible with certain types of virtual service. But, realistically, how many features does a contact center really need?

The Essentials

What Premium Features Does Your Virtual Phone Line Need?For starters, virtual phone numbers have the capability to receive an international call forwarded number. This means that you can have a number local to China (or Brazil, India, Germany, UK, or anywhere else) and when locals call that number, it transfers to wherever you’re actually located. While your customers think they are calling a Beijing number, your headquarters rings on a local number – whether it’s rural Indiana or London. This enables several international numbers to ring to the same centralized office.

Local Number Portability is crucial to most businesses. While “physical” or POTS lines cannot transfer your number outside of a fairly small geographic region, virtual numbers can be moved anywhere in the world. Many businesses value their phone number almost as much as the company name, as it’s sometimes the only method of contact for a past customer.

Most of the remaining basic features are very straightforward, depending on the size of the business. Things like standard call forwarding, basic voicemail, call waitingcall blocking and caller ID come standard and require little or nothing extra.

The Upgrades

Virtual Phone Line

Along with the aforementioned, there are also some very unique features that virtual phones offer. Whether or not they’re beneficial for a business is completely dependent upon the business needs, and some are more universally accepted than others.

Trunk groups are especially common in SIP (Session Initiation Protocol), but are also very common in VoIP. Trunk groups allow a business with many lines an efficient means to call path routing. This is especially important for call/contact centers, but can be beneficial for any company with more than 2 lines.

Selective forwarding is another widely used feature in the business world, and is especially convenient for a growing business. This allows the end-user or business to create conditional forwarding services, such as busy or no answer. It can be configured to automatically reroute a busy call to another line so that the caller won’t hear a busy signal. This can be forwarded to a cell phone, backup/rollover number, or a different facility entirely.

Time of day forwarding is perhaps the most effective for managing a queue. Most businesses have a peak usage between 11-1 and another from 4-7. Being able to effectively manage where calls are routed based on these times can help managers and owners plan ideal solutions for high volume of calls.

Finally, find me/follow me is a pre-determined sequence of rings, where an incoming call is transferred to a chain of phone numbers (including cell) until the recipient picks up or the final number either terminates or goes to voicemail. This is especially helpful for decision makers and others who have time-sensitive needs, and call also be paired with simultaneous ring.

What’s Right for You?

When it comes to virtual calling, there are a plethora of options that every business needs to carefully weigh the cost and return on investment. Even a basic service offers a slew of benefits, so while it’s easy to get confused by the number of options, often it’s best to stick with the basics until a need arises. Choose the ones that are right for your business, and avoid those that can quickly increase your telecommunications spending.

Comment below: which features help your business to operate at maximum efficiency?

 

Separate Your Personal Life from the Office & Get a Business Phone Number

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Work/Life Balance

Business Phone Number

The work/life balance has become an incredibly important discussion as it’s integral to a person’s livelihood as well as their overall happiness. Studies have shown that separating oneself from work and restricting work hours are some effective ways of enforcing a proper balance between work and personal life. Other reports claim that establishing priorities, both at work and at home, is the best means to maintain this balance.

This is a subject that has gradually risen over the last few decades as technology and communications have steadily increased. Emails, cell phones, and smartphones have slowly changed the landscape of what’s “personal,” and what’s “business.” While long hours are necessary for certain types of businesses, it’s never an ideal long-term strategy for a business, and has some very simple – but easy to implement – solutions.

Causes Are Subtle

The separation of work and home can sometimes be easier said than done, especially for small businesses and startups. Workers in the infant and young stages value every client as vital to their success (and with good reason). Especially in a home-based business, the lines between business and home can become blurred.

Frequently, personal cell phones and home numbers become an extension of company business, and hence, company time. This builds stress, as the “off” switch to business mindset virtually disappears. Especially for a person with a family, this can cause a serious problem in one’s relationship with their spouse, kids or both. A common complaint among spouses is that even when this worker is present, “they’re not actually there.”

Priorities cannot always be listed in a particular order of importance. A son’s baseball game or daughter’s softball game is important. Deadlines at work are important. Closing a sale or shipping a complex order out on time is a priority. All of these must be examined within their proper frame of reference, and weighed with objective intentions.

How to Fix It!

Business Phone NumberHours are not a commodity, and hence should be valued at their appropriate net worth. This applies at work and at home – time spent at home should be centered around activities at home, while workers should focus on business tasks at work. Although sometimes difficult, when this is mastered, it enables a very full and satisfying career and family life.

Restricting business hours can seem counterproductive – as unfinished work can make personal time mentally evasive. Often, owners or professionals who work long hours have difficulty leaving the office, but it’s necessary. Sleep and personal time are both critical to working effectively, and cutting back on either can actually decrease performance. So while there may be less hours of actual working, the productivity for those hours can increase drastically from a professional.

The separation is quite difficult, but another very effective way to counteract the blurred lines is to simply turn off the phone, whether cell or home. However, many small businesses don’t distinguish between a personal or work phone. Hence, obtaining a separate business line with the sole purpose of business can give you something to walk away from (as well as a potential write-off, in some cases). There are many ways to combat the work/life balance, and each scenario is different. What may work for a single working mother may not fit for a family man, and a great solution for a single man with no kids may fail miserably for a married, working mother. Thus, the best way to strike a balance is something only you can decide.

Comment below and let us know what’s worked for you!  

3 Strategies That Will Help Make Sense of Social Media Listening

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Everyone has heard of social media marketing, but have you heard of social media listening? It’s one of the trendsshaping the social media marketplace in 2014. Social media listening is about knowing what is being said about your brand, product, and industry in the social media sphere.

It can seem daunting to imagine keeping up with what’s being said on one social media platform, much less multiple ones. However, there are tools and strategies available to help you stay on top of your brand’s reputation online. Here are three that will help you make sense of social media listening.

Social Media ListeningUse the Right Tools

Every marketer needs a variety of tools to help them get a job done, and social media listening is no exception. There not enough staff hours in the day to read everything on every site, and the rightsocial media monitoring tools will help you focus on what’s most important.

Tools like Hootsuite allow you to set up feeds that show you what is being said about certain terms and hashtags. This can allow you to filter out the noise and see only what you need to. In addition, since Hootsuite allows multiple feeds side by side, you can track multiple terms related to your company and industry all in one place. Best of all, Hootsuite is free.

Social Mention is another great asset in your social media campaign. Another free program, Social Mention collects data across multiple platforms and uses basic analytics to help you understand the tone of what is being said. You can also see what sources are most active and what sites mention you most often. This can help you target your social media marketing efforts most effectively.

Set Goals

As with any initiative, your company needs to know what it is trying to accomplish through social media listening. There will be a lot of information and interesting tidbits out there, and it’s easy to lose sight of the forest because of the trees.

With all goal setting, it’s important to make sure thegoals are SMART – Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. What exactly are you trying to do? How will you measure it? Is it achievable? How relevant is the goal to you corporate mission and objectives? How long will you have to achieve your goal?

With these specific goals in place, you will be able to tailor your social media listening program, staff it effectively, and know what results you are getting for your investment.

Build Relationships

Social media listening isn’t just about damage control. Knowing what others are saying about your brand, industry, and product helps you engage with them. By knowing what social media platforms your customers are using and what sites are most active for your industry, you can craft campaigns to reach out and spread your message in a more targeted way.

Listening is the beginning of all relationships, because it shows the other person that you care what they have to say. When you show customers your care and interest, you open a door that allows you to follow up with your expertise and solutions in a much more positive way.

Social Media Listening

Social media listening is an important part of every company’s social media campaign. Although the amount of data on social media sites is overwhelming, the right tools can help you find just the relevant information you need. Setting goals for your listening campaign will help direct your efforts and keep you from getting lost in minutiae. Finally, be sure to remember that listening is about relationships, not just damage control. With these three strategies, social media listening will help you understand your customers and craft effective outreach for the future.

 

How to Creatively Leverage the Power of Pinterest for Social Success

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Pinterest is a site whose usage is growing in leaps and bounds. At the end of 2011, Pinterest had auser base of 3.3 million, and by July of 2013 that number had grown to70 million. 72% of Pinterest users make between $30,000 and $75,000 per year. Pinterest users spend an average of 98 minutes per month on the site, and 80% of the users are women.

All of this means that a lot of eyes are on the site, and the demographics are fairly specific. This makes Pinterest a hot target for companies and individuals looking to be noticed, especially if they can serve the female middle-class market.

PinterestGetting Noticed on Pinterest as an Individual

Pinterest is a social media site, so forming relationships is key. However, before you can form a relationship, you need to know your own voice on the site. What is your focus? How do you want to present yourself to the world? What’s your message?

Once you know what you want to say, the key is to say it in a friendly way. Users love having their pins re-pinned by others, and finding users who seem receptive to your message and following them can bring your name and your pins to their attention. Many marketers suggest the 70/30 rule – 70% of your pins should be re-pinned from other users, and 30% can be your own content.

The next step is to find content that speaks your message in a very visual way. Pinterest is based on eye-catching images, and finding a way to present yourself in great imagery is essential to being noticed. If you are a photographer, showcase your best work in various arenas – perhaps have one board dedicated to nature images, and another to portraits. If you are promoting crafts, try pictures of completed projects or brief how-to infographics. However you present your message, find a way to make it beautiful and you will be much more likely to find your images shared and re-pinned across Pinterest.

Getting Noticed on Pinterest as a Company

Businesses often have a harder time understanding and engaging with Pinterest. The site doesn’t lend itself to direct, interruptive messaging, which is what most companies think of when they think of the term “marketing”. However, today’s marketing environment has changed, and a company who can rethink their strategy can thrive on Pinterest.

A company will also need to clearly define the voice and message they want to project, and that is best done by setting clear goals as to what should be established from your Pinterest initiative. Do you want to increase site visits by a certain percentage? Gain a certain number of followers? Promote a particular new product? A clear goal will make it easier to know how to present your company on Pinterest.

As with individuals, companies should expect to spend time following other pinners and building relationships. Some companies look to jump-start relationships with customers by runningpinning contests. However, if this type of interaction isn’t followed up on with a long-term strategy, you can quickly lose the new attention you’ve gained. Be sure you know exactly what you aim to accomplish before you invest time and money in any marketing strategy, including contests.

Both businesses and individuals should be careful not to over-promote themselves. While the actual guidelines of Pinterestno longer say that self-promotion is against the rules, the spirit of Pinterest is one of sharing, not blaring. You will be much more likely to gain the positive attention you seek if you develop a clear voice, build relationships, and balance your re-pinning with your original content.