Friday, 19 August 2016

Happy Birthday Merlin!

image courtessy of digialart

Merlin are 9 years old this week!

Naturally we are very proud and incredibly thankful to all of our loyal clients. 

Also very pleased to say, that the majority of our very first clients are still with us, which hopefully is all down to great products, system reliability and great customer service.

Although our client base has grown tremendously over the past few years, we have grown too.  Taking over a company in Norfolk has expanded our products and services, yet we still maintain the vision and values we set out from the beginning.

On our journey we have learnt a tremendous amount as well.

One very important fact is that "one size does not fit all".  Every business is unique.  Every network is different, and it's our job to ensure we support each and every need and requirement.  Luckily, because our systems are so flexible, we can and do provide a bespoke service.  Often a few small tweaks, or adding an additional function to a system can make a huge beneficial difference to a clients business.  

Our mission is still to be as transparent as we can and not wrap charges up into packages that make money for us, rather than the client. This works fine for most of our clients and they are very happy to buy from us because of this, but there are some that actually want a package because they know just how much their invoice will be at the end of the month.  Some clients actually think they really will get a better deal with a package.  It's just the psychology of a bundled up deal!

Many clients also have a preconceived idea that their telecoms will be cheaper if they buy into a longer contract term.  Often as not, this is not the case (Telecoms are a commoditised industry)  - it just makes it very difficult or expensive to move if you aren't happy with your provider.  We have noticed a few telecom companies have taken our lead and now offer a 30 day agreement.  We are very pleased to have been a pioneer in that direction. 

One last mention will be to the fantastic team of business partners who work with us.  We are very lucky to have formed some great relationships with a handful of IT companies who really work like we do; have the same principles and will bend over backwards to make something work for our clients.  They all have the same “can do” attitude, which is refreshing. We'd have no hesitation in recommending them to anyone.  

Finally, we’ll have a toast to all our clients, because we really couldn’t do it without you!

Cheers and thanks to each and every one of you.

Tina Bricknell for

Friday, 29 July 2016

Broadband outage! Do you have a back up plan?

The B.T broadband outages that occurred last week,  just highlighted a couple of points that we thought we would share with you.

Most of our clients use a hosted VoIP telephone system and when broadband was affected last week, some experienced no internet and/or poor call quality for a period of time.

The beauty of having a Merlin hosted phone system, meant that calls were quickly diverted to either a  mobile, another analogue line or another branch instantly, which gave our clients business continuity.

Clients that were affected at the time asked us what options existed to minimise the impact of such an occurrence in the future. 

We advised  that maybe it would be worth their while installing a second broadband  connection (using  an alternative carrier) so that if such a nationwide outage occurred again, they would have complete continuity for their business, as internet traffic or voice traffic could be routed to the unaffected connection.

If your business cannot function without the internet, then just imagine and quantify the monetary loss you might experience if you were down for a day. For example, staff sitting around with nothing to do, deadlines to
meet, possibility of payroll to run, end of month to deal with and missing new business opportunities.  As you can see, the cost of installing another line and broadband and the annual rental could easily be justified in a one day outage.   Added to which is the ongoing benefit of being able to use one connection for internet traffic and one for voice traffic which will give you improved performance in the long run.

To future proof  your business from the vagaries of  outages, then consider fitting another connection  for total business continuity when disaster strikes.

The Merlin Team

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Cheaper utility bills? Don't forget the service!

We all love a bargain don't we?

Hunting in the sales and scouring the internet to make sure we have the best price for a particular item.

Or, do you take it a step further and actually haggle the price down?

Savvy shoppers do this all the time -  after all, why pay more for the same product?  

So, are you seduced when a cost cutting utility company calls your business or you get a flyer through your letterbox promising your energy and telecom bills slashed to next to nothing?

We all know that trying to analyse any utility bill, whether it be electricity, gas or telephone is a nightmare.  So many different tariffs, charges, periods, call packages!  We appreciate it might be a great idea to get someone to crunch the data for you, and offer you a cracking good deal, but before you do, please take on board these useful tips.

First of all, if the deal they are offering is really too good to be true then it probably is!  No such thing as a free lunch as they say.
Find out how the consultant/broker is paid and make sure the commission structure is completely transparent.  Often as not, the amount you can save sounds brilliant, but then you discover that you have to pay the cost management consultant up to 50% of the savings over 12 to 36 months.  Hmmm, not so attractive after all!
Although time consuming, you may just be able to secure better deals yourself, taking into consideration the commission you will have to pay.  You just need to do the homework.

Are you offered several different types of contract or just a fixed contract?  Being locked into a long term contract may be easier for your consultant to manage, but won't do you any favours if prices fall.  Invariably,  if you are tied into a contract you won't be able to move and this is a bit crucial if the support and service you receive is not all you expect.

If you have signed up with a consultant to investigate savings and don't go ahead you could also find yourself being sued for the savings that they have identified that you are not taking up.  It happens.

Check the consultant/broker out at Companies House (just to make sure they do exist and you're not being sucked into any sort of scam) and it might also be a good idea to Google the name of the company to see if there have been any complaints made against them.
It's also a very good idea to find out exactly how many companies the consultant has access to.  Needless to say, a small broker may only have access to a limited number of companies and therefore may not be able to get you the very best deals.

Lastly and probably the most important aspect will be the customer service and support you receive.  It goes without saying, that if you are paying peanuts for your energy and telecoms, then you won't be getting the best customer service.
Are you prepared to compromise the level of service for cheaper prices? If so, then ultimately this could be to the detriment of your business.  
Think long and hard before you sign anything.

If you take the time to locate a reputable company (get recommendations and read testimonials) with:-

1. Open and transparent pricing
2. No lengthy tie in period
3. Excellent technical support and customer service

Then although perhaps not the cheapest on the market, surely you will have achieved the best balanced deal all round?


Afterall, a cheap buy can be an expensive buy!


All images courtesy of Stuart Miles

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Is your traditional phone system actually harming your business?

Are you in  the camp that says "If it ain't broke, no need to fix it?"

Sometimes that is perfectly true,  but there are occasions where an upgrade to something new will be like a breath of fresh air and once the change is made, you will wonder how you used to function before.
image courtesy of Kromkrathog

Moving from a premises based phone system to a hosted or Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) system is a bit like that really.

You might believe that your current system is all fine and dandy and serving you well.  You may have a few niggles and have just worked around them. 

Maybe you simply can't be bothered to do the research and it's all a bit too technical to get your head around?  Does this sound vaguely familiar?

I'm going to go over some of the main reasons why sticking with a premises based phone system really isn't doing your business any favours at all.

Growing Pains - If you've ever added an additional phone extension onto your current system you'll know what a pain it can be.  Your original phone system may only support a certain number of phones and this means that you might even need to purchase a new phone system just to cater for the increase in staff.  This translates into additional costs on  your maintenance agreement. It might even be the case that your original phone system is so old you can't get a company to look after it for you anyway.  Great, just what you need!

So, a  hosted system is streets ahead.  No PBX  to  become dated (that's the Public Branch Exchange or telephone box that sits in your back room!), no maintenance agreement to pay for and any number of extensions can be added incredibly quickly, without fuss.  Another benefit is that if you run a seasonal business, you can add or remove handsets as and when, to leverage your business. After all, what's the point of paying for something you just don't use?

Lines -v- VoIP connections - If your business has two lines into the building, you will only be able to make one call out and one call in, or two calls out or receive two calls in at any one given time.  Clearly if you are busy, this means missed calls, unhappy clients and worse still, they may phone your competitor and you've lost the business!    

VoIP connections mean that as  voice "packets" travel over the data connection (broadband) there are no "lines" so the amount of calls you can make is only limited to your bandwidth.  If you achieve 1Mbps upstream, this gives you the capacity for 10 concurrent calls.  Suddenly, you have far greater capacity to take those calls, productivity increases and staff are not waiting for lines to become free meaning you can respond to clients quicker.

Down for HOW long? - If you have a problem with your in house phone system, it means the whole system is down.  You then have to wait for an engineer to show up which could take from a few hours to a few days depending on the SLA (Service Level Agreement) that you have in place. Even diverting calls can take a few hours to organise.  With a hosted system, incoming calls can be instantly diverted to mobile(s), landline(s) or a combination.  You can even set up an automatic divert for  business continuity.  This means your business need not suffer the loss of those important incoming calls.

Less for more and more for less  - Your phone system was an expensive outlay initially and no doubt you've had to pay for every upgrade necessary, together with ongoing maintenance contracts or service on an ad hoc basis, and the older your PBX is, the more maintenance it will require.

Cost savings with a hosted system can be significant and when you take into account the additional functionality available, it can suddenly give you the ability to become more productive and more profitable. 

Suddenly you have to ask yourself “what am I doing?  Why shouldn’t I have more for less?"

Certainly a lightbulb moment. It really does make total sense.  

Tina Bricknell for
The Merlin Team