Using Microsoft Teams for voice has been getting a lot of buzz lately. You may have heard of Microsoft Teams, but many are still discovering its full breadth of capabilities, from its call functions to collaboration tools for managing virtual teams. Companies can use Teams to effectively eliminate the need for a separate phone system.
The team at Integrated Communications strives to bring its customers the latest technologies available and finds Microsoft Teams to be a remote work solution ahead of its class. With businesses operating in the midst of a global crisis, teams are working remotely now more than ever. By taking advantage of Teams’ call features, businesses are better optimized to meet and sustain the communication needs that come with the transition to remote work.
The platform’s tools can work wonders to boost your team’s management, collaboration, and communication capacity. While Teams is a chat-based workspace—bringing individual collaborators together to communicate and share ideas—its lesser-known voice features help meet the broader communications needs of your business. Microsoft Teams voice solutions allow businesses to:
- Use a network completely optimized for voice
- Leverage preferred rates
- Choose the plans that work best for you
- Tap into the security of the Microsoft Cloud through direct routing
- Boost the capabilities of other apps you use to communicate, like Skype
- Feel the total support of a client services team to guide you through implementation, adoption, and training
Microsoft Teams can be helpful when working with people from various departments or projects. Multiple team members can take charge of meetings, structuring the team so that it’s highly efficient.
Get Started with Teams’ Call Features
Microsoft Teams has become an indispensable tool for businesses worldwide amid the coronavirus pandemic. A great appeal lies in its integration with Microsoft Office 365 and product tools like PowerPoint, Word, and Excel. All the product tools can be accessed in one place, making it a seamless, all-in-one suite for your business.
- If you already have a Microsoft Office 365 license, consider taking advantage of Microsoft Teams, the platform giant’s virtual meeting product. An all-in-one set of products available at no extra cost for existing Microsoft Office 365 licensed users, Microsoft Teams fully integrates with various other services outside its own products including SharePoint, Yammer, and Exchange.
- If you don’t have a license, try it on for size. Microsoft also offers a free version of Microsoft Teams that requires only an email address for simple sign up and download. If you don’t have an Office 365 license, the free version still offers unlimited chat messages and search, video and audio calls, and file and screen sharing.
Integrated Communications is your one-stop-shop for direction and assistance, with a history of serving telecommunication needs of businesses with both hosted phone systems and WAN connections. Our partnerships give us deep insight into the range of possibilities, and your best options, for hosted phone systems and integrations.
Regardless of what type of work your business does, contact the Integrated Communications team to get started with Microsoft Teams to keep your people connected and productive while they’re working from home.
As time has passed, business communications have become much more simplified. Voice and video conferencing have recently developed to the point where separate applications aren’t even required, allowing users to communicate instantly right through their browser.
Web Real-Time Communication, or WebRTC, is a potentially revolutionary online communication technology. As its name implies, it is intended to allow people to communicate instantly through a web browser rather than requiring the installation of extensions, plugins, or outside applications. Because of this, WebRTC could make business communications much more efficient for those with certain device or browser limitations. There are a number of benefits that WebRTC offers for businesses.
Increased Focus on the User
What might be the biggest benefit of WebRTC is its user-friendliness. WebRTC eliminates the limitations of applications, plugins, and extensions, and gives users the ability to communicate with each other more easily and universally, with a single solution that offers voice, video and chat capabilities.
Improved Customer Interaction
Another advantage of WebRTC is its ability to enhance customer engagement. Customers don’t have to download other programs or pay for communication services when they can simply use whatever browser they want to contact a tech support employee or other staff. Instant messaging, voice calls, and video calls are all located in a central hub.
Screen sharing is another capability that makes customer service even easier, as customers can share what they’re seeing and vice versa. Adding this technology to an online store can also be extremely helpful when customers want additional information about a product or service, enabling them to communicate with staff on the same platform as the store itself.
“Contact me” buttons and other types of calls to action can connect WebRTC with many different aspects of communication. Businesses can successfully implement it on nearly every facet of their company’s online presence, putting them in even closer contact with consumers.
Lowered Costs and Saved Time
The ability to place all methods of online communication on a single platform means that paying for multiple programs is no longer necessary. Companies only have to pay for a single solution, and it can also be a core part of a Software as a Service (SaaS) application. Ultimately, businesses will save time and money when their communication methods are located in one place.
More Opportunities for the Telecom Industry
WebRTC can also be a huge asset for the telecom industry. Telecom companies can develop a new business model to replace models for other, more traditional telecommunications applications, thus helping them transition into the new era of cloud technology.
WebRTC is beneficial in these and other ways as it continues to develop, making business communications more efficient and less expensive.
The hosted unified communications (UC), or Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS), market continues to expand as the technology develops. Small and medium businesses (SMBs) are those most likely adopt this service. The desire to use UCaaS is logical for SMBs because of their need for mobility, as they often employ sales teams and other employees who spend a lot of time in the field.
At the same time, SMBs typically have smaller IT teams that may struggle to meet the technological needs of the company. In order to meet these demands, hosted cloud services are ideal. There are several benefits smaller enterprises experience when switching to UCaaS.
Increased Productivity and Technological Capabilities
One of the main advantages of UCaaS is the ability for SMBs to operate much like their larger, corporate competitors by using state-of-the-art technology that allows employees to easily connect with coworkers, customers, and business partners. UCaaS allows remote employees to conduct business as if they were operating out of a local office. Rather than waiting for email responses, instant messaging capabilities allow for real-time questions and updates. Many companies don’t even make phone calls anymore unless they absolutely have to, since UCaaS provides efficient communication methods that replace voice communications.
For businesses that do rely on voice communications, UC can include features such as “Find Me/Follow Me” that put calls through to multiple people until someone available can answer. A hosted UC solution can also transcribe voicemail messages and provide links to audio for employees’ convenience.
Streamlined Administration and Deployment
Another benefit of a hosted UC solution is increased efficiency of administration and deployment. If a company’s internal network is capable, businesses can make a full transition to hosted UC within weeks of implementation. Employees can download necessary apps on pre-programmed mobile devices, giving workforces all of the tools they need to run operations smoothly. Employees and employers can use a web portal to centralize administration operations, with custom profiles that make it easy for each person to use.
Hosted UC offers customers a simple, reasonable monthly OpEx charge and eliminates the costs of integrating the new Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunks, private branch exchange (PBX), and Session Border Controllers (SBCs) that are normally required. There’s no need for third party video conferencing or other solutions, because they’re included with UCaaS. A/V collaboration is also included in the final price, along with regular and long distance calling.
Improved Coworker and Customer Collaboration
Online collaboration is another element that’s simplified with UCaaS. People can communicate with each other from any location. If someone is traveling for a business meeting miles away from the office and needs more information from a certain department, he or she can simply use a private audio or video conferencing solution to bring the other, more knowledgeable colleague into the meeting instantly.
These are just several of the many benefits that make switching to UCaaS an invaluable decision for any business.
Technology is advancing at a steady rate, constantly changing the way businesses and individuals communicate in today’s marketplace. Formerly, switching from a legacy network to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) lowered the costs and reduced the delays associated with long-distance calling, which enabled greater global outreach.
Currently, the need for faster connections and more bandwidth has spurred the increased adoption of Voice over Long Term Evolution (VoLTE) networks. However, the next big change in business communication will involve Voice over Mobile Broadband (VoMBB), and knowing what to expect can help companies make the transition.
VoMBB is essentially the process of connecting cellular calls over mobile broadband networks like LTE and WiFi. As more businesses continue to deploy cost-saving flexibility through remote work stations and an enlarged mobile workforce, broadband requirements have increased.
However, since massive, commercialized LTE networks are widespread, VoMBB will utilize that availability to escalate the speed and quality of voice and data transmissions, offering enhanced services for a variety of organizations.
Maintaining data protection is always a top priority. Although utilizing a public network to transmit voice data involves heightened risks, security concerns will be addressed as they were for VoIP. Encryption and authentication support provided by Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and H.323 protocols will offer businesses the cost benefits of VoMBB with familiar methods of protection.
To combat the lag time created by over-the-top (OTT) apps like Skype, VoMBB providers will need to develop relationships with OTT app developers. This change will also provide an opportunity for businesses. Mobile carriers will be able to structure voice and data transmission costs according to specific usages, which will provide businesses with enhanced regulation metrics. By monitoring this type of data transfer, improved efficiency and cost controls can be enacted.
In addition to the internal controls that companies can develop by using VoMBB, providers will be able to utilize cloud resources for immediate activation. With voice over WiFi, providers are able to offer the VoLTE infrastructure required now, and then support high-speed packet access later. This lowers costs and delivers the mobility needed by today’s businesses.
As mobile workplaces expand and the number of users who need instant remote access to business information grows, changes in the way voice data is transmitted will continue to evolve. VoMBB will offer faster connections and greater bandwidth agility through the cloud, allowing providers to lower the costs and improve service capabilities. Businesses will reap the benefits of heightened capacity and mobilized solutions that enlarge profits and support growth.
Thanks to technology, land lines have disappeared across much of America. This trend began in the residential space and was quickly followed by businesses abandoning their traditional telephone services. Voice over IP (VoIP) has swooped in as their state-of-the-art replacement, boasting customer relationship management (CRM) integration tools, automated routing, call handling, and sophisticated reporting and monitoring functions. Phone systems have come a long way, and they now serve many more purposes than just making calls. Before making the decision to abandon the company phone system, consider the following points.
Phone Systems and Customer Service
Thanks to the Internet, collaboration tools have never been more plentiful. Free conference calling, webinars, video chat, IM, and other online communications tools make the world a much smaller place and allow geographically dispersed teams to communicate as if they are only cubicles away.
Since there are so many available software options for communication, it’s easy to see how compatibility problems can arise. Utilizing different pieces of software may work for staff members, but that won’t always be the case when working with clients. Even for tech-savvy customers, it always seems like a plugin, system update, or forgotten password is in the way of getting urgent help. Less technically inclined customers may become so frustrated that they take their business elsewhere. In contrast, using a VoIP phone system is an easy way to support customers and provide them with the excellent service they demand.
The Benefits of an Inbound Phone Line
A business may not need to make outbound phone calls, but providing an inbound phone line can be useful in several ways.
- Customer service is enhanced by providing voice-to-voice contact (which is a luxury today).
- Listing a personal cell phone number to handle business calls is not always desirable.
- Having a professional business phone line generates trust and provides accessibility to quality customer service, which can be a differentiator in a congested marketplace.
Phone System ROI
One of the chief complaints about phone systems is the significant expense to acquire, maintain, and add to them. Fortunately, VoIP has made calling very inexpensive (down to a few pennies per minute), and plans can be tailored to a business’s expected volume. Whether personnel need to make one or one hundred calls per day, there is a plan on the market to fit that requirement. Many phone system plans also allow intracompany calling for free using Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunking.
For a reasonable cost, a company can have a sophisticated phone system with many valuable problem-solving features. Even better, hosted systems may perform all functions through software, with no expensive phone equipment needed. With increased customer loyalty and company growth, the ROI could be exponential.
Forgoing a phone system may save money in the short term, but ultimately it can be an expensive decision. VoIP systems are a great way to provide the communications staple needed for customer convenience while keeping the bill and equipment affordable. Before walking away from a potentially effective solution, research the available plans. The affordability and flexibility of today’s options make them well worth consideration.
More businesses are adopting Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) solutions than ever before. From streamlined platforms to centralized communications, VoIP is a truly cost-effective and flexible alternative to outdated phone systems. VoIP improves operational efficiency, cuts telecommunication costs, and increases overall performance. The preferred choice for countless brands and ventures, VoIP easily integrates into any existing telephony system or communications protocol.
Within the VoIP market, however, there are several brands and services available. The only way to secure the best VoIP package is to conduct extensive research. When it comes to the right system for your business, there are three important aspects to consider.
Scalability should be of paramount concern when selecting a VoIP system. Companies should look for the following before choosing a service provider:
- affordable VoIP services that promote brand growth and expansion;
- seamless integration of VoIP into existing telephony and business communications platforms;
- file sharing, screen sharing, uploads, downloads, and any other specific features that are needed by the business;
- Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunking to expand or reduce business lines on an as-needed basis; and
- compatibility between private branch exchange (PBX) and SIP, with the flexibility to enhance, edit, or bring on new services.
Hosted vs. On-site Services
There are hosted and on-site options available for PBX services. Both have their unique advantages and disadvantages and should be taken into consideration when adopting new VoIP platforms.
- Businesses without existing PBX hardware tend to benefit from cloud-hosting services.
- Cloud services are easier to deploy, are more cost-efficient, and eliminate the need to purchase new hardware and pay maintenance fees.
- On-site systems offer more flexibility and better control over private telecommunications networks.
- On-site PBX is the best option for companies that have the means to invest in hardware and maintenance for optimal system functionality.
Deciding between on-site and remote services depends on the particular needs of the company. Businesses should also weigh the benefits and risks of deploying these services before signing their names on the dotted line.
With the advent of burgeoning technologies and bring your own device (BYOD) policies, more and more employees are able to get work done while on the go. In fact, many now use their own mobile, wireless, and digital devices from remote venues. With this in mind, businesses need to integrate contact lists, video conferencing, and call-forwarding services for their remote teams.
With modern VoIP features, businesses are also able to secure more freedom and flexibility for workers. They no longer have to invest in expensive tools for mobile workforces, since the same applications and programs are being utilized across the board.
According to a recent Cisco study, 89% of all companies let their employees work on their own computing devices. Statista, an online statistics company, reports that the average American owns three devices, and that number is increasing. This surge in employee demand for WiFi strains the networks.
Previous coverage-based wireless network designs have ceased to meet current WiFi requirements. Optimizing wireless networks to accommodate coverage and capacity and taking additional steps to improve performance is a must.
Employees often deploy access points hastily, resulting in wasted effort, slow WiFi performance, and help desk requests from frustrated users. The five steps outlined below will help ensure optimum WiFi performance.
1. Plan WiFi Performance
This step involves asking stakeholders, such as managers and directors, how they expect to use WiFi. Questions to ask include:
- How many wireless devices will be used?
- What devices are they?
- How many access points will be needed?
- What settings must be tuned?
An infrastructure evaluation will also be necessary to determine whether it is possible to use or upgrade existing hardware.
2. Conduct a Wireless Site Survey
Wireless site surveys should be both pre- and post-deployment, and the former can be either predictive or AP on a stick. With a predictive survey, the engineer can plan the placing of access points using floor plans. With a manual AP on a stick survey, on the other hand, points are placed at different spots where readings are then taken. The post-deployment survey, in which the predictive survey and deployment are validated, is all too often neglected.
3. Perform Spectrum Analysis
Performing a spectrum analysis enables the engineer to pinpoint sources of interference in the 2.4- or 5-GHz ranges. Wireless video cameras, microwaves, and noise-emitting devices are all possible sources of interference.
4. Shut off 2.4-GHz Radios
This part of the spectrum is one of the most overcrowded, and large numbers of 2.4-GHz radios are in use. Three non-overlapping channels to use in that range exist in the United States. With many access points deployed, engineers must plan to reuse all of these and avoid co-channel interference. To make the final decision to turn off 2.4-GHz radios, one must know which devices will be using WiFi.
5. Avoid Co-Channel Interference
Co-channel interference occurs when coverage in the same area, with the same channel, is provided by more than one access point. Multiple access points serving clients on a single channel severely degrades wireless communication, depriving each device of the airtime that it can have.
To avoid this kind of interference, the engineer should make sure that each access point provides a carefully-planned cell size on a set of channels that do not overlap, thus ensuring that each client receives the optimum amount of airtime.
Taking these five steps will help optimize a company’s wireless networks and improve WiFi performance.
With the many improvements in customer data collection, companies of any size can leverage information to improve products and customer experience. However, many smaller organizations have the misconception that this undertaking is so massive that only enterprise level organizations can capitalize on it. In reality, the following three factors can be leveraged by any organization, regardless of size.
Improve the Customer Experience With Actual Experience
So many pieces of equipment today are equipped with the ability to “phone home” and report back to the mother company. This reporting includes system crashes, customer usage, and identifying why problems happen so they can be patched. More products than ever before — including washing machines, cars, and even refrigerators — now connect to the Internet and provide vital information to organizations.
Such sensors are actually not too costly in most cases and can be included easily in a variety of products. Being able to build a better customer experience is vital to staying competitive in the market. A business can accomplish this by finding out when its products develop issues and quickly resolving them — without a single call made to a customer service agent.
Understand the Target Market
Devices can also collect data about the consumers who actually use the product. For example, when users log into Facebook to create accounts for a smart watch, the manufacturer can see live demographic information that can then be directly utilized by advertising and marketing departments to understand what demographics are consuming the product and what audiences are still untapped.
Increasing Efficiency Through Data
Product development and sales aren’t the only places where data can help improve operations. Companies can also use data to improve shipping logistics by getting more accurate reads on the amount of time required to send shipments out, and HR can compile the profile of ideal employees by matching the elements of current employees with prospective job candidates.
Data is typically thought of as something that is primarily used by IT, but nearly every aspect of an organization can capitalize on it to improve decision making. It is important to remember that collecting data is useful for any organization. Small companies of all verticals and industries can utilize data. It’s up to the organization to make the jump.
Despite the increasing popularity and adoption of cloud services, many misperceptions still abound about their potential disadvantages. Companies considering a cloud service purchase should carefully sort through both the hype and the myths about cloud computing before making a purchasing decision.
Cloud misperceptions vary, but three primary myths have emerged that might cause IT decision makers to stop and reconsider their cloud purchase plans. However, the reality behind these myths should give buyers reassurance when it comes time to make a cloud decision.
The Data Center Death Knell Myth
With data and functionality increasingly moving to cloud services, IT employees may be concerned about being replaced by the very technologies they choose to deploy.
While this isn’t a completely unfounded concern, the reality is that cloud services are largely being adopted by younger and smaller companies that don’t already have in-house IT departments. The ability of the cloud to provide IT services that such companies would otherwise have to build from scratch is one of its primary advantages.
For companies that already have an established IT team, cloud services aren’t likely to steal away jobs anytime soon. Companies may move some of their data and processes, particularly storage, to the cloud, but most companies will continue to house critical data on private networks in a hybrid approach. In-house IT will continue to be needed to support private network operations.
The Security Myth
One of the most common and persistent misperceptions about the cloud is that it opens up companies to a variety of new security risks. The thought of having data leave the safety of the corporate security fortress and travel via potentially unprotected connections to a public cloud creates concern over attacks on a company’s critical data.
In reality, because of their singular focus on providing data services, cloud providers often have some of the best security experts on staff who focus entirely on predicting security vulnerabilities and protecting against attacks on client data.
The Data Black Hole Myth
Some companies worry that once they allow their data to transfer to a cloud service, they will lose control over it or have difficulty moving it or getting it back. This myth likely circulates because in the past, it had some truth to it. Making a cloud transition sometimes meant data was locked in with the chosen provider.
But trends surrounding this cloud concern are changing. Some of the larger cloud providers offer tools that make it easier to control and move data when the company chooses. Amazon’s Snowball appliance allows customers to easily migrate data, and Velostrata introduced an appliance that eases the migration of data to and from the public cloud.
Making an Informed Cloud Purchase
Cloud services provide many benefits to companies that want to improve their operations and increase efficiencies. IT decision makers have a responsibility to choose a cloud service that protects the company’s data assets and provides the right services for its users.
All technologies have pros and cons. Deciphering myth from reality surrounding security, data availability, and future IT employment can help decision makers make the right cloud choice.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is populated by countless new smart devices that might not have been thought of years ago — smart watches, health monitors, and even washing machines, all connected to the Internet. These devices equip customers with exciting new features while providing businesses with new ways to collect intelligence on how their products are actually being used. The IoT is a concept that will revolutionize contact centers in several ways.
Let’s imagine an organization that makes smart cars. The automobile can collect data such as average speed while driving, required maintenance, and services that are not being used, automatically providing a car dealership with valuable intelligence when a vehicle is brought in for a trade-in or even regular service. Such constant communication gives manufacturers a better understanding of how their products are used so that future sales collateral can focus on known customer preferences. This type of intelligence helps close sales and resolve customer complaints in a way that wasn’t possible before the IoT.
Self-Service Is King
Sometimes technology seems to malfunction. For many years, frustrated customers had to call a company only to have a customer service representative ask seemingly silly questions such as “Is the device plugged in?” Now, an IoT connected device can download system updates, apply fixes, and even report directly to the representative when a call is made, allowing customer service to focus on what is actually wrong with the device.
Calls can be intelligently routed to agents that are subject matter experts in specific aspects of a product. For example, a smart watch manufacturer might have specialists with extensive knowledge of mechanical parts as well as specialists who are experts on the operating system running the smart watch. Call center agents no longer need to develop mastery of every product offered by the organization or even comprehensive knowledge of a single device.
Proactive Customer Service
Since smart devices can “phone home,” it can be clear to a company when a device is experiencing technical issues or simply isn’t being used at all even before a customer calls to complain or attempts to return a product.
Instead, customer service can call the customer preemptively with a full understanding of what is wrong with the product or the knowledge that the customer doesn’t appear satisfied. From there, a conversation can ensue to create a positive customer experience, potentially even creating a brand advocate from a scenario that was simply unheard of prior to the IoT.
The IoT creates a revolutionary channel for customer service that wasn’t possible before. As the technology continues to evolve, even more methods to improve the customer experience will emerge.