Monday, 21 December 2015

Get your business phone ready for Christmas - Read our checklist

Image courtesy of stockimages
Cards written, presents wrapped, secret Santa stashed under the tree, what next?

Have you thought about how your clients will reach you over the Christmas period?

We have put together a quick guide, so you can give this a little thought before the holiday begins.

Pretty sure you will have worked out exactly what your opening hours are and either you will close completely or perhaps have a skeleton staff working.   Perhaps some of  your staff  could work from home - they simply need to unplug their Voip phone and plug it in at home and off they go.

 Just need to make sure all your customers are aware of what is going on.  Pop the details on compliment slips and headed paper.  You could change your "on hold message" to relay your opening hours in advance of the break.  You could change your "on hold" music and have some festive carols or tunes playing, to get everyone in the spirit! (just remember you need a licence from the PRS, if it's not royalty free). 

You should look at your call routing; the ring groups and hunt groups as you may only have half your usual staff in. So, you don't want the phone ringing in empty rooms!  Make sure you notify your provider in plenty of time to make the changes you need. 

Have you recorded a suitable message regarding your Christmas hours to be uploaded to your system which will tell all your clients your opening hours and who to ring in an emergency?  Make sure these are activated when you leave for your Christmas break.

Have you got voicemail to e-mail service?  Brilliant function, so you never miss a call and can pick these up without being in the office. Please also don't forget to make sure your voicemail boxes have been emptied to make room for all those new messages.

Lastly, have a relaxing break and a very Happy Christmas!

Tina Bricknell for
The Merlin Team

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Would you rather work from home this Christmas?

image courtesy of jscreationzs

Hoorah, a well earned Christmas break is nearly here!

Well, a break for some that is. Of course, not everyone has the luxury of being able to take the whole week off in between Christmas and New Year and business needs to keep rolling. 

So, if you have to work over the Christmas period and really don't need a physical presence in the office, why not work from home? Sit in your comfy jim-jams; mince pies and "Quality Street" to hand and forget about the expense of travelling and traffic for a few days! 

Joking aside, there are now over 4 million people in the UK working from home, according to the Office of National Statistics and this accounts for 13.9% of the workforce.

Saving money on expensive offices and time on commuting really adds up. Everyone wants a better lifestyle with more balance and more precious time000 so, it really does make perfect sense. 

Telephone technology today allows you to take your office where ever you want. As long as you have a broadband connection and an IP (internet protocol) handset, you can present yourself as being in "the office" whether at home or on holiday. Your phone will be part of the office network and you simply log in your details. The phone remembers all your settings and preferences so the caller has no idea where you are working from!

If you just want to work at home for a couple of days a week, you could have your system set up so it rings in the office and at home at the same time, you just answer it from whichever location you are at. You could also have all calls easily diverted to your mobile for the day. The beauty of this is, that calls will be free between your mobile and all the other extensions in the office, even if your offices are spread across numerous sites.

Conversely, if you have to roam around from office to office to fill in for others, you simply log into your colleagues phone with your details and that phone then instantly becomes your extension. Magic!

Another practical way of making calls from home or alternative location would be to download a softphone for your smartphone, computer or tablet. The software acts just like a phone interface on your device and mimics your extension. So no need to drag a phone around with you! Headset and microphone in place and off you go. Again, calls within your network are free. 

It's plain to see, that changing to a hosted or VoIP telephone system makes for incredible flexible working. A better way of life even - just don't eat too many mince pies!!

Image courtesy of rattikankeawpn

Tina Bricknell for The Merlin Team

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Blowing 7 Myths about VoIP out of the water

There are several myths that we hear time and time again from people who are not sure about hosted telephony.  
We hear a lot of “yeah, but what about……”  so we want to stamp out these myths now once and for all!

Here are the most common myths doing the rounds and this is exactly what we think about them!

Myth 1 - Call quality is not as good as a traditional phone system

By using reputable providers, people should experience a better quality of service and clarity than those provided by the older, traditional PBX.  

Over the years  VoIP has been given a bad name in certain areas, due to some providers putting in cheaper contended services and not using tier one carriers. Tier one carriers, such as Merlin, pass voice traffic using an 80Kbps codec.   Some providers will pass traffic as low as 16Kbps, this potentially causing inferior call quality.  

The quality of VoIP calls can also suffer because of other factors such as bandwidth availability, the number of calls in progress or your own internal network setup.

Your provider should ensure that you have sufficient bandwidth to handle the calls required and also have a good understanding of your business needs and set up, so that your calls are crystal clear.  

Myth 2 - VoIP is not secure

Many people perceive VoIP as unsecure because it relies on an internet connection instead of copper telephone wires.  

Well, the internet has been transferring secure information (which includes banking details etc) on a daily basis.  

Any telephone system  is hackable, yes even old analogue ones!  

You only have to think back to the hacking scandals involving well known newspapers.  Merlin limits access to their systems strictly to the devices connected.   We lock down connections to the fixed IP addresses (where available) and monitor live call patterns ensuring that if any client were to have their network hacked, any exposure to their phone system will be minimal.   You should ensure that your provider does the same.

Myth 3 - VoIP is unreliable

VoIP has been around for a few decades now and yes, in the early days call quality was not always the best.  However, technology advances have really eliminated these issues.  Over 95% of all new phone systems are now VoIP/SIP based services.

Myth 4 - VoIP is only for the largest companies

VoIP is not just a sophisticated system for large enterprises.  As VoIP is so versatile and scalable it makes it a very powerful option for even the tiniest of companies.  Low start up costs and having the ability to add extensions and services effortlessly to your system as needed, makes this a very attractive solution for any size business.

Myth 5 - VoIP is hard to install

Well really nothing could be easier.  All you need is a broadband connection and an IP telephone, plug it in and off you go.

Your provider should always configure your phones and router for you beforehand (make sure you check to see whether they charge an additional fee) and this means there is minimal disruption.  It really is that easy!

Myth 6 - VoIP won’t save me money

Well quite the opposite, there are many savings to be made:-

  • No PBX in your office to install or maintain
  • Cheaper call costs
  • No additional fees for adding or moving phone lines
  • Free support on the system
  • Free upgrades as they become available

And best still, less missed calls due to the outstanding functionality of the system, giving you more flexibility and capacity to answer more calls and therefore, boost your profit margins.
Myth 7 - VoIP technology is too new

VoIP technology has actually been around since the 90’s.  Stop to think how far mobile phone technology has come since the “brick” you clamped to your ear, to the sleek, multi function item it has become now.  Well, the same goes for VoIP.  Uptake percentages are now far outstripping sales of traditional phone systems. The prediction is that VoIP systems are here to stay and therefore ISDN lines  will eventually be phased out just like video tape!

So hopefully we have knocked these myths on the head for you.

In fact, investing in VoIP is the smartest thing you can do now to future proof your business and avoid being strung up by outdated and costly technology.  

The Merlin Team