Thursday, 23 August 2018

This is why you will fall in love with VoIP telephony

Image by Stuart Miles at
Are you in the process of sourcing a new phone system for your business?

You may decide to stick with what you know. Possibly a traditional PBX system, or move to cloud based technology and embrace a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) system.

Here are some compelling points you should consider before signing up to any provider and will help with the decision making process!


With a traditional premises based telephone system, you initially purchase the hardware and software upfront. This means you have to gauge how much capacity is necessary, now and for the future. 

This means, if you are going through a quiet patch or your business is seasonal, you can’t scale down.  You are therefore paying for lines and services that are not in use.

With a VoIP system, it's simply a case of adding or taking away extensions and services when demand dictates. This is especially important if your business is growing, as you can add to the system incredibly quickly and easily. 


Generally a premises based telephone system costs more than a cloud based system and  delivers less in terms of functionality.  Once your premises based system is live, you then need to pay for bolt-on modules, which can be expensive.

We’d say this is probably one of the main reasons that business communications are moving rapidly over to cloud based telephone systems. 

You will enjoy standard features such as:-

Easy to access call reporting
Voicemail to e-mail
Compatibility with CRM software using TAPI or API integration, for click to dial and screen popping

Auto attendant i.e. Press 1 for sales, Press 2 for marketing.
Call queues and cascading
Call recording
Free inter-site calls

All these features can be implemented easily to create a bespoke system for your exact business needs.

Every small or medium business can now benefit from sophisticated features that once only larger companies could enjoy. The system can be tailored EXACTLY to your needs and changed with very short notice.

Business continuity

If business continuity is important to you, (and why wouldn’t it be!) then VoIP is for you!

You can easily divert calls to other phones and locations, if disaster strikes.

Divert to a mobile(s) or another landline(s) or both.  This means your business keeps moving along without loss of important calls.

With a traditional system, it can take several hours to install a divert and take the divert off once everything is back to normal.

And, with a traditional telephone system, you can only divert the lines to one number.  Conversely, with a cloud based phone system, you can divert to any number of devices. 

Infact, you can set up an automatic divert so that calls instantly fall over to another phone if your data connection goes down, or there is a fault on the line.


If you have several sites or offices or occasionally work from home then a VoIP solution gives you the flexibility of being able to work from anywhere, providing you have a data connection.

This data connection can be broadband, 3G or 4G. You simply plug your own extension in, and the phone acts exactly as it would on your own office desk! This particular feature is practically non-existent with a traditional system.


The major advantage of VoIP over a traditional system, is that you can make numerous concurrent calls.

A broadband connection with a 1 Mbps upload speed is equivalent to 10 lines. You can immediately see the potential of being able to take and receive more calls at any given time!

With a traditional system, you can only make and take calls over the lines you have. One line - one call.

Future proofing

Having a system that is instantly upgraded with the current release of software is really important. And, this is exactly what you get (free of charge) with a cloud based system.

Why would you want to wait for an engineer to call and sort an upgrade out and then charge you for doing so?

Before you decide, take your time to talk to a telephony expert to establish what is best for your business now.

Cloud based telephony is THE way forward - what's not to love? 

If you need impartial advice, give Merlin a call now.

The Merlin Team

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Is live chat the remarkable tool you think it is?

How naive can you be?

It wasn't until I read a very interesting article by Call Centre Helper, that the penny dropped and I realised that when I enter into online "live chat" I probably wasn't getting one to one assistance!

So if you are thinking about installing live chat into your business, have a read of the below article to weigh up whether it will really work for you.

The premise that having a live chat function works out cheaper is challenged and customer satisfaction will quite obviously dip if the advisor is working on more than two concurrent calls.  The other interesting point is that some customers will use live chat instead of picking up the phone, because they probably can't be bothered to query a minor issue.  This means that the amount of contact and possibly, number of complaints rise. Not what you hand in mind.

Carolyn Blunt of Real Results, has a more positive view on Live Chat, providing you follow some basic rules.

Extending your opening hours for a short period after the business is closed, with live chat,  can be beneficial for both staff and customer and if staff are trained well, they can be far more effective.

Massive growth in customer use of live chat has been recorded, with a rise of 58% in 2014 and I imagine this percentage has grown further to date. 

Before installing live chat you should consider the uptake and who your demographic audience will be.  You need to pre-empt volume and the type of questions your team will be asked.  Customers want information and results quickly. 

Staff will need to have impeccable spelling and grammar and get the right tone.  Not too formal, not too cheeky.  Being able to deal with complaints and angry clients is a must.  Ongoing evaluation of chat logs should be processed to ensure continuous quality. 

From my point of view, I love being able to log onto live chat.  I find it quick, responsive and gets results without having to pay for a call.  When done well, it's an effective customer care strategy and that can't be bad. 

As more and more companies include this as a customer tool, more and more will expect to see live chat.  So, maybe it's time to expand your customer care repertoire!

Tina Bricknell for
The Merlin Team

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Ofcom plans to protect consumer from "bill shock"

Latest Ofcom update regarding premium rate numbers.

People can end up using costly premium-rate ICSS, sometimes inadvertently, after going online to find the contact details of a particular company. But in most cases, organisations offer free, or cheaper, local call-rate numbers through which to contact them directly.
At present, most ICSS which use ‘087’ and ‘09’ numbers are regulated by the Phone-paid Service Authority (PSA). Over the last year, however, we have become concerned about consumer harm arising from ICSS operating on the ‘084’ number range. These do not currently fall under the PSA’s remit.
To address this, we are proposing to place regulatory responsibility for all ICSS with the PSA, irrespective of their number range or price.
We are inviting views on our findings and our proposal by 21 September 2018."

A move in the right direction we feel.

The Merlin Team


Monday, 2 July 2018

4 Things to think about before choosing your telephone headset

Ok, so the big decision has been made to buy a telephone headset. 

So just a few considerations before you get going:-

1.  Do you need monaural or binaural? 

If you are working in a noisy environment, it may be far better to have both of your ears in tune with the call, so choose a binaural headset.  However, if you also need to be aware of what is going on around you and possibly interact with your colleagues whilst wearing the headset, then go for a monaural set.

2.  Do you need a wireless or wired headset?

In our previous blog, we spoke about the massive benefits a wireless headset provides.  You obviously have greater mobility and you can move away from your desk to get access to files and papers and speak to colleagues if necessary, whilst on the call.  You can also pick up calls whilst you are away from your handset, which will cut down on missed calls.  Also you can stretch your legs whilst chatting to avoid sitting down for hours at a time.  Wireless headsets have a good battery life and ranges of up to 60 - 80 feet. 

However if you are predominantly desk bound and taking call after call and need to have access to your computer for making up notes then a wired headset is probably the better and cheaper option.

3.  What sort of style do I like?

You can chose from a headband over the head, over your ear or a band behind the head, the choice is yours!  Most headsets come with a headband and earpiece so you can try them out to see what is the most comfortable.

4.  Do you work in a noisy workplace?

I'm sure we've all made that call where you can hardly hear the person you are speaking too because the background noise is so high!  Call centres are notorious and often you can distinguish what the background  voices are saying!  Not great for data protection.  So a "noise cancelling" headset may be your best bet.

Well, just a few pointers to help you decide what type and style to go for.  

The Merlin Team

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Why wireless headsets are a massive win-win device for your office!

If you and your colleagues are not using a wireless headset, then read on.
Image courtesy of Imagerymajestic

It's been proven that using a headset can not only boost productivity, but assist in the decrease of painful symptoms in the neck, back and shoulders and reduce symptoms associated with sitting for excessive periods. 

With prices starting from £100 upwards, these clever pieces of kit allow you far more freedom to write notes and basically use your computer whilst talking on the phone.

You can walk around the office to locate files and documents in a nearby cabinet (moving up to 250 - 300m) away from your desk and even take a call whilst you are away from your actual phone.

Since the co-commissioning of research by Public Health England, we are becoming more aware of the link between certain diseases and prolonged sitting.  Most office workers spending 65 - 75% of their working day sitting and research shows those that sit the longest could be twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  A wireless headset will therefore allow you to roam away from your desk, stretch your legs and get the circulation going! 

Headsets have improved tremendously in terms of sound quality and overall clarity.  With the option of monaural or binaural headbands, you can chose to cover both ears so that you can block out any surrounding sound and truly concentrate on your caller. 

Many receptionists who we work with, say a wireless headset has literally changed their working day.  They are no longer chained to the desk and if they need to go and find someone or some paperwork whilst on a call they are free to do so. 

So, improved health, multitasking and no more tangled curly cords.  What's not to like?

If you would like to find out more about which headset would suit you best, just give Merlin a call on 08008778810.

The Merlin Team

Friday, 22 June 2018

Call Me Now! Creating Conversation

Just read a really thought provoking article by Allen Gannett following an experiment he conducted a while ago.

Basically he wanted to test whether actually picking up the phone and speaking to someone was better than blatting out a text or email.

The results are not surprising.

How many times have you read and re-read a text and decided it was unfriendly or aggresive even, when in actual fact, having had a conversation with the sender, it was simply you misenterpreting the language because there was no "tone" of voice?

With a laden inbox of emails, it's become an art form just managing them and keeping abreast of what is important and oh, so easy to miss that vital message.

Sure, you need certain information in writing, but Allen proved actually picking up the phone to colleagues and customers was far more productive and led to better relationships with people on the whole.

As a telecommunications company,  we certainly uphold vocal communications - so just pick the phone up to boost productivity and express yourself!

For full article

The Merlin Team

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Another Cyber Attack! Dixons Carphone plc - 5.9m credit card details lost!!

You would have thought  that following a major data breach in 2015 and being fined a massive £400,000 by the ICO, Dixons Carphone plc would have learnt their lesson.

But no.  Another cyber-attack involving 5.9 million credit card records  and 1.2 million customer records lost.

The loss of data would appear to be even greater on this occasion, so pretty sure the ICO will throw the book at them this time.

Previous issues discovered:-

  • No antivirus software on their servers
  • They all shared the same administrator password - known to 30-40 staff
  • The websites (running on WordPress) had not been patched for some 6 years and
  • No Web Application Firewall (WAF) installed.
  • Encryption keys for the databases were stored in plaintext!
So let this be a salutory lesson to everyone  - make sure all your systems are up to date and get yourselves some really good antivirus across all devices in your company.

If you need any advice regarding a superior and award winning antivirus product, please give us a call 08008778810

Full article here

The Merlin Team

Friday, 4 May 2018

Music on Hold - One licence not two

Music on Hold and Music in the Workplace

Do you have the relevant licence?

If you play (non royalty free) music on your premises for staff and customers, through the radio, TV, CD, computer speakers or MP3 or play music on hold on your phone system, the chances are, you need a licence to do so.

The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 states that playing music through such channels to staff or customers is deemed to be a public performance and you must get permission from the copyright holder to play it.  

On 26th February 2018 the Performing Rights Society (PRS) and Phonographic Performance Ltd (PPL), the UK's two music collecting societies, joined forces to set up PPL PRS Ltd to combine their licencing activities.  

This transition will mean you only have to apply for a single licence THEMUSICLICENCE, instead of the two licences previously required.

There are great benefits of playing music on hold to your customers to keep them engaged on the phone whilst waiting and we all know that music  significantly enhances the atmosphere in a waiting room or workplace and of course, it's only fair that the musicians get paid for their work.  

We are aware that random checks are regularly made by the licencing bodies, so please be warned and ensure you have the necessary licence in place, as penalities are very steep.

For more information check out the PPLPRS website 

Don't get caught out!

The Merlin Team

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

8 Years to Change Your Telephony!

Consultation will open next month regarding the closing down of the public switched telephone network (PSTN.)

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles -
We were aware of these plans some two or three years ago, and it seems that BT are at last pushing forward with their intention to move all customers over to IP telephony services by 2025.  This date is creeping nearer and now only 8 years away.

Simplistically, this means that the old technology will be switched off and, because of the nationwide roll out of fibre to the cabinet broadband and Ethernet, phone services will be delivered via SIP (Session Initiation Protocol.) 

As you can imagine, the switch over is a massive task, hence the length of time.

If you are still using a traditional phone system, there is no need to panic.  There are several IP (Internet Protocol) solutions for your business.

A quick comparison guide to show you the differences between ISDN and SIP lines

You are in control - Add or take away lines as required
Can’t be done
Substantial savings on both calls and line rentals
More costly
Business  Continuity
Calls can be re-routed easily when disaster strikes
Calls certainly cannot be diverted quickly
The way forward - convergence for voice and data
Becoming extinct
Move your phones around from location to location as long as you have a data connection you just plug in and go!
Changes take months depending on your supplier

Read full article by Kat Hall

If you need some impartial advice on the best solution for your business, please ring us on 08008778810

The Merlin Team