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Mobility with UC

Welcome to today’s office – featuring an increasingly borderless workforce, set free by the rise of smartphones and tablets. Smart mobility has given companies the opportunity to recruit a larger pool of talent unfettered by geography, who can optimize their productivity with anytime, anywhere access to messaging and email. If you want your business to truly capitalize on the benefits of the mobile workplace, however, you need to embrace mobile unified communications (UC).

Getting email on your phone is one thing; having true collaboration and connection tools wherever you are is another.

Put simply, mobile UC applications provide rich communications features and access to company resources to geographically dispersed, traveling and highly mobile workers. These apps seamlessly hook into enterprise UC platforms, giving everyone the ability to use the same full suite of key UC business applications regardless of whether they’re in the office, at home, or on the road.  This untethered UC enables teamwork in dynamic environments and empowers the mobile worker for true collaboration from any location.

Mobile UC ensures a centralized environment for the entire workforce. It’s a good bet that any modern company will find itself with employees working from outside the office perimeter at some point. Rolling out a comprehensive platform means that mobile users, communications platforms and business applications aren’t relegated to a patchwork of fragmented silos that not only hamper collaboration, but also present potential security holes. Mobile UC apps instead ensure that businesses have a level of control over how their sensitive information and services are accessed.

Additionally, Mobile UC allows businesses to offer a greater degree of workplace flexibility to their employees. Work-life balance is more than just a lofty goal: remote working or flexible hours, enabled by solid mobile access, is a crucial piece of the strategy for many companies. They recognize that working 9 to 5 hasn’t been most employees’ reality for many years, so they need to provide ways for employees to take calls and participate in meetings outside of “traditional” business hours and locations.

At TPx we offer three different mobile UC apps, for iPhone, iPad and Android devices. All are designed for versatility, comprehensive feature-richness and ease-of-use. They are full-featured extensions for our UCx platform, which is built on the high-quality VoIP service that TPx is known for. With the UCx mobile apps, users can call, chat, email, and video conference from anywhere.

Beyond UC, companies have the option of bundling in our suite of managed services, including SD-WAN, managed endpoints, managed security, virtual fax and more – which further boosts mobile strategy across the digital enterprise.

Your business doesn’t have to stop when you leave the office. Call your TPx representative today to see how we can help you to support your mobile workers and take full advantage of the modern digital workplace.

 

About the Author

Nicholas Clapper is a Senior Manager of Product at TPx. He has more than 10 years of experience in product management, and in that time he has built up his expertise in hosted voice services, particularly the BroadSoft platform. Nicholas leads a cross-functional project team at TPx that manages the company’s hosted communications products, including the UCx Hosted Unified Communications Service, SmartVoice SIP Trunking, and Internet access circuits. He is always looking for ways to help businesses communicate more effectively and more efficiently.

Unified Communications and Business Continuity

Extreme weather events seem to be the norm these days rather than the exception. Almost every corner of the country has experienced it – whether it’s a powerful hurricane that causes widespread flooding, a wildfire that burns up thousands of acres, or a blizzard that dumps snow that’s measurable in feet. And every time it happens, local businesses are hit hard with lost wages and reduced profits.

This is just one reason why businesses like yours have business continuity and disaster recovery plans in place, or are at least considering implementing them. At its core, the purpose of a business continuity plan is to prevent the interruption of your normal business operations. In the event that an interruption does occur, the plan should ensure that your organization has alternate methods for continuing operations until normal functionality is restored.

Straight “out of the box,” hosted unified communications (UC) addresses both of these aspects of business continuity. Because the service provider takes care of things like server redundancy, geographic diversity, and data backups, your business is in a better position to continue working until normal operations are restored. Also, due to the distributed nature of a cloud-based service, many of the issues that would affect an on-premises system have zero impact.

However, like any other system in your organization, even hosted UC is not completely immune to damage or disruption. If disruptions do happen, they generally fall into one of three categories:

Let’s look at these three types of events in detail, and consider the steps you can take to prepare for them.

Preparing for a Local Event

Inevitably, there will come a day that your office will become inaccessible. With hosted UC, there are many steps you can take to proactively prepare.

Also, be sure you have the details of your service provider’s warranty program so you’ll know what to do in case any of these devices are damaged. To avoid the possibility of having to pay out-of-pocket to replace damaged equipment, you could go for guaranteed replacement (where the provider will replace the equipment regardless of how the damage was caused), or you could choose to purchase insurance to cover non-warrantied repairs and replacements.

Preparing for an Interrupted Connection

The second type of disruption is the interrupted connection – meaning a power outage or disruption to network connectivity.

To address a power outage, ensure you have a backup power source (such as a UPS or a generator) available for your firewall, routers, and switches. Remember that even if these backups eventually run out and cause your devices to lose power, a hosted UC system’s features will either continue to work as programmed or automatically fail over to an alternate setting.

To address network connectivity, install at least one redundant connection to be used as a failover if the primary network connection is interrupted. For true network diversity, you could even install a 4G LTE connection as the failover, reducing your reliance on the wired connections into your building. You can also consider implementing SD-WAN to manage these failover options automatically.

When the UC system fails over to a backup connection, the IP connection switches to its backup and all lines re-register with the alternate ISP’s IP addresses; all voice traffic is then routed through that ISP and across the Internet to the hosted provider. When the primary connection is back online, the lines re-register directly to the hosted provider and normal operation is restored.

To cover yourself in either a power outage or a network connectivity loss, enable voice failover features that will allow operations to continue if the service is not available. For example, call forwarding not reachable will forward inbound calls to backup phone lines, another location, or users’ cell phones in the event that a location cannot connect to the hosted service.

Preparing for a Network Issue

Finally, it is possible there could be problems with the provider’s network. However, this type of problem is quite rare.  Any hosted provider worth their while (like TPx!) will be working on robust infrastructure with multiple layers of security and redundancy built in. Usually, if there are any problems, they occur in the “last mile” of connectivity.

The best thing you can do to prepare here is to follow all of the steps we’ve previously talked about. Most notably, you should enable features that will allow operations to continue if standard voice service is not available, such as auto attendants, call forwarding not available, and hosted voicemail.

If you are using PRI or SIP trunks, you can also enable Direct Trunk Overflow (DTO) or Trunk Group Call Forwarding. These services automatically redirect incoming calls to an alternate number if there is a service impairment or if all trunk channels are busy. Enterprise Trunking is another alternative that supports multiple inbound routing options if you have multiple locations.

 

In the end, the best thing you can do for your business is to prepare as much as you can. It’s not enough to just be aware of the potential for a problem. By proactively developing and implementing plans to manage those potential interruptions wherever they may occur, you’ll further ensure that your hosted UC service continues to function when your business needs it most.

My wish for you is that you’ll never have to actually use your business continuity plans.

 

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.

UC Call Centers Drive Better Customer Experience

Customer satisfaction is so… yesterday. Today, it’s all about the customer experience, or overall journey with your company. Customers that have good overall experiences (including satisfaction at all of their touchpoints) buy more and refer more customers. And the key to it all is seamless communications throughout that journey.

That’s why forward-thinking organizations are deploying call center solutions as key components in their integrated communications strategies. After all, in today’s world of always-on, anywhere and anytime contact, your customers have many options to reach you with feedback, questions, and, with any luck, interest in making new purchases.

To gain a serious advantage on this front, businesses are enabling seamless conversations across the call center and other parts of the company, thanks to unified communications (UC).

Breaking Down Barriers Improves Customer Experience

For most companies, customer engagement remains a siloed experience. Call center agents may not have easy access to a customer’s sales history, or even a unified view of previous customer service interactions – let alone granular information about products, tech support or other contextual data.

UC can break down those walls, supporting digital transformation initiatives that can turn call centers into modern, interactive hubs for customer service. For one, a unified dashboard allows customer service representatives to reach subject matter experts within the business in real time. UC’s core functionality – presence and all-in-one communications channels – means that reps can see who’s available, and they can reach them in the way that makes the most sense. A simple detail about a product or service might be gleaned with an IM to a marketing guru – while a screen sharing session with the sales manager may make the most sense to review the documents necessary to get a new sale moving along. At any point, these interactions can be escalated to a phone call if necessary – giving reps a hugely improved capacity for first-call resolution and garnering customer loyalty.

With UC, Your Contact Center is Always On

The interactive call center is also always-on. Thanks to UC, reps can answer calls in the queue from branch locations or even from home, and management can leverage alternate off-hours routing. The UC call center can also deliver entrance messages and comfort messages to queued calls, which increases customer satisfaction when volume surges.

All in, it’s never been easier to deliver responsive sales and service support to customers than it is today, provided your call center is powered by rich UC features. At TPx we paired our hosted call center platform with our industry-leading, award-winning UC features, including fully-featured instant messaging and presence. Our solutions come in two call center packages, both of which are completely customizable to meet your organization’s unique requirements. Whether you have five seats or 5,000, we can help you turn your call center into a hub for superior customer experience. And best of all, it’s affordable and instantly scalable. Contact your TPx representative today, or reach out to us here, to request a live demo of our call center in action.

Unified Communications in Higher Education

When it comes to today’s higher-education experience, students and faculty alike expect the same experiences they have in the rest of their lives: They want immersive digital environments and rich collaboration opportunities, untethered to classrooms, libraries or dorm rooms. Increasingly, unified communications (UC) has emerged as a key enabling technology for creating this kind of 21st century college campus, built to mold students into the future leaders of an emerging global digital workforce.

Forward-thinking colleges and universities are embracing UC, with the aim of arming faculty – and sometimes the students themselves – with the tools they need to communicate, collaborate, think critically and use a broad array of media to gather information and gain awareness of the world around them.

UC applications can eliminate the distinctions between remote and in-person learning. For instance, students can attend classes or collaborate across campuses remotely, which is a significant boon for those with constricted access to transportation or scheduling conflicts. Also, instructors can design virtual classrooms and workgroups that can include members in different geographic regions and time zones; all members can communicate in real time and share materials seamlessly from any device.

UC can also allow students, professors and staff to more easily interact outside of the standard classroom or office-hours setting. Instant messaging tools and availability indicators allow a ubiquitous, “always-on” experience that supports better collaboration. For instance, if there’s a question about a project, it becomes easy to track down a professor or teaching assistant in the way that works best.

Enabling global relationships with other students, educators and business leaders is also part of the next-gen campus vision. Using a UC platform, colleges and universities can dynamically and cost-effectively connect students with instructors and mentors from across the globe, enriching the learning experience in ways that were never possible in the past.

In short, UC in the higher-education space is all about breaking down barriers to learning, enabling greater collaboration, and giving students the modern tools they need to most effectively use the educational resources at their disposal (including access to professors). In turn, campuses can attract top talent and encourage a more diverse student body.

It should also be noted that there are ancillary benefits for schools. On the back-end, colleges and universities are unifying voice and data, and embracing mobile apps, in an effort to increase productivity and reduce operating costs. Features like audio conferencing, instant messaging, and intuitive collaboration portals all streamline the business of running an institution of higher learning.

If your college or university is looking to attract the best and brightest with a forward-thinking 21st century campus, contact your TPx representative today for details on how we can help you leverage UC to meet today’s student expectations and drive operational efficiencies.

Unified Communications in the finance sector

Something has happened in the ten or so years since the financial crisis: Banks and other financial institutions have gotten, well, rather hip. And personalized. And, dare we say it, customer service-oriented. One of the foundations for this change is the fact that they can leverage new communications approaches to become more nimble, flexible and dynamic – especially unified communications (UC).

Since being branded as a collection of too-big-to-fail, old-school, monolithic institutions that did not care for humanity, the financial vertical has refurbished itself, becoming one of the most fast-paced and rapidly evolving industries out there when it comes to serving customers in new ways. Think well-crafted account alerts and notices, intuitive and helpful self-service apps, better truth-in-lending processes, efforts to make investment less intimidating, and (gasp!!) a move away from phone trees and interactive voice response systems (IVRs). In short, when it comes to innovative models for customer engagement, financial organizations are in it to win it.

In order to offer a better in-bank experience, tellers and account managers often need to access the expertise of other people within the organization, whether it’s at the headquarters or regional center, or in other departments at the branch itself. Thanks to tools like availability indicators, instant messaging, and the ability to seamlessly reach mobile and remote employees, UC gives tellers and others the ability to collaborate and exchange information at a much more agile rate. In short, it helps make a visit to the branch a simple errand for customers, instead of an hours-long slog through red tape.

The same is true for other modes of service. UC allows for better call handling within the contact center. With CRM integration, contact center agents have immediate access to customer records with every inbound call. Knowing the caller’s identity and history ahead of time greatly improves the quality and professionalism of call handling. As a result, every customer feels like a valued guest rather than just a number attached to a bank account.

At the same time, banks have become more community-oriented in an effort to stay competitive. There’s been a proliferation of local credit unions and regional banks, investment houses have begun catering to the community and individuals in more personalized ways, and even large nationwide conglomerates have empowered their branches to be a friendly face for helping people reach their life goals.

UC is a critical piece of this reform, acting as a collaboration platform behind the scenes that enables financial institutions to differentiate their offerings and attract new sets of customers. For instance, relying on UC, today’s local branches can become more than just places to pay bills, open new accounts, deposit checks or apply for cookie-cutter loans. By offering telebanking, they can expand their offerings to include wealth management, retirement planning and investment strategy, even if their in-house resources are limited. Some forward-thinking organizations even have home-loan specialists or entrepreneur specialists available via web chat or video to help with budgets and savings plans, helping families achieve their dreams.

One other note: The finance vertical also has specific requirements when it comes to handling critical and sensitive information. For instance, ATMs and local branch additions must be connected securely, and customers demand secure mobile and online banking. There’s also the matter of interbank communications, which need to be enabled but secured locally, nationally and globally. A reputable UC provider like TPx will offer the highest possible level of security by utilizing private networks and geodiverse carrier-grade datacenters to handle UC traffic. UC also enables call recording and analytics tools that can help banks with their privacy and data protection regulatory compliance obligations as their customers’ sensitive information traverses these various networks.

If you’re a financial institution looking to up your game to be more competitive in your local markets, contact your TPx representative today for details on how we can help you leverage UC to meet today’s customer expectations.