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In our data-intensive, smartphone-laden world, personal communications revolve around texting, emojis, memes and social networking. Using a phone is, well, decidedly passé for some. There are even memes about it. But any business owner knows that voice – actual, real conversation! – remains the lifeline of any going concern.

To keep collaboration on track between employees, partners and customers alike, businesses still need to make voice calls, still need those PBX bells and whistles, still depend on voice conferencing, and still make call-center functionality an essential element of every business day.  But these core experiences need not be static and staid. Today, traditional voice services are being delivered in new ways to help businesses better respond to the needs and behaviors of increasingly mobile and socially-connected workforces and customer bases, which are themselves becoming more and more distributed over time.

Here are three ways a future-thinking phone system puts voice front-and-center while supporting converged, digital ways of working:

1. Looping in the Distributed Workforce

It’s anticipated that over the next few years, 50% of all employees will be working remotely, be it from the road or in a static telecommuting configuration, according to Global Workplace Analytics. As for the latter, last year alone, about 3.9 million U.S. employees worked from home at least half of the time, up from 1.8 million in 2005. For those of you feeling calculator-challenged, that’s a 115% increase.

Or consider this: The same study shows that, in more than half of the top U.S. metro areas, telecommuting exceeds public transportation as the commute option of choice; and, it’s grown far faster than any other commuting method.

Rather than having employees use their own home or mobile phones to do their jobs, a virtual PBX phone system gives remote workers access to the same office calling features – call forwarding, four-digit dialing, conference bridges, etc. – no matter where they are. This cloud PBX approach delivers the ability to place and receive calls on a VoIP phone, mobile phone or computer (and seamlessly move calls between devices), all using a single business line identity. For managers, this allows for call tracking and other employee management activities, in the same way they manage workers at a corporate location.

In other words, the office can be anywhere – and today, it’s everywhere.

2. Enriched Voice Collaboration

Voice remains a central communication avenue for business, but it also becomes more powerful when it can be used side-by-side with additional modes of collaboration. A virtual PBX can be part of a flexible, feature-rich unified communications (UC) solution which marries voice with a host of powerful features. For instance, presence and instant messaging can be used to know someone’s status, thus improving the chances of reaching someone by phone. Video calls and desktop sharing can be added for enriched conversations. And users can make use of innovative personal collaboration rooms, where you can invite anyone (external or internal) to the conversation.

3. A Better Call Center

When you combine the twin benefits of a better-supported remote workforce and enhanced, converged UC, a virtual phone system can really shine when it comes to call centers.

A cloud-based approach to voice means that customer service agents don’t have to be tied to the main office — they can answer calls in the queue from branch locations or even at home. And agents can leverage the same UC features, like instant messaging and presence, to augment their voice-based customer service activities for increased customer satisfaction. Imagine taking care of an escalation in the background, messaging with a manager, while still keeping the customer engaged on the phone. These kinds of converged activities reduce call times and improve time to resolution, while allowing agents to deliver a more personalized, differentiating touch.

Clearly, upgrading a business phone system from an aging, premises-based PBX is not just an exercise in replacing one phone system with another – it’s an opportunity to do much more, unleashing productivity within an organization.

If you’re ready to supercharge your voice communications, your TPx representative can help you do just that. Our industry-leading, award-winning UC suite provides a business phone system that supports voice in a way that is decidedly future-thinking, cloud-ready and mobile-native. Reach out today to find out how we can help.

How old is your phone system in “phone system years”? If it’s time for it to retire from your company, you’ve got an important decision ahead of you.

Buying the correct communications platform can truly make a difference to the success of your business in the next 5 to 10 years. Choosing the right system could mean winning more contracts, worrying less about disasters, and even saving you money.

Before you take the plunge and upgrade your phone system, take the time to find answers to these 9 key questions.

#1: Costs

Check what is included and not included in the minutes bundle. Are there any exit clauses in the service contract? Do you have to rent the phones for longer than the service contract?

#2: Flexibility

Can you add or remove users during the service contract? Do you have to pay for devices or for users?

#3: Disasters

Can the system divert calls to mobile devices when the access network is down? Are there restrictions in the features available when people are remote?

#4: Consistency

Are all features available to remote workers, or do some get removed? Is the quality the same? For example, some mobile systems could have poor voice quality if the network is congested.

#5: Usability

Are the features the same on the phone, desktop, and mobile devices, or are they different? Do you still have to rely on a desk phone?

#6: Professionalism

Does the system support features such as auto attendant, music on hold, automatic call distribution, and call queuing, so you never miss a call?

#7: Productivity

Does the system have features like conferencing, room-based collaboration, and instant messaging and presence (IM&P)?

#8: Mobility

Does the system support iOS and Android devices? Can it support all of the productivity features when users are mobile?

#9: Maintenance

Does the system have web-based user self-administration, allowing you to control features from a single web page? Does the service support diagnostics, so the service provider can quickly identify any issues that you may run into?

Be sure to ask about the underlying technologies that the service providers have in place, as this allows them to innovate rapidly and drive the biggest impact for your business. The fanciest features or the lowest price won’t do you much good if quality, reliability, or security are not core components of the platform your service relies on.

About the Author

Stacey Kendall is a Product Marketing Manager at TPx Communications. Her role is focused on marketing for TPx’s suite of Communications & Collaboration offerings, including the UCx Hosted Unified Communications Service and SmartVoice SIP Trunking. Stacey holds a bachelor’s degree in Marketing with a specialization in Information Technology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She resides in the greater Boston area.