What Mitel's Partnership with Google Cloud AI Means for Contact Centers

Customer experience is one of the most important competitive aspects of business today. With so many customers turning to online support models, businesses looking to ensure customer satisfaction without steep labor costs are challenged to find innovative ways to integrate 24/7 online customer support through omnichannel contact centers.

Rising to meet this challenge, Mitel announced in July of this year a new partnership with Google Cloud Contact Center Artificial Intelligence to bring next-generation web chat features to all Mitel Omnichannel Contact Centers, including MiContact Center Business, MiContact Center for Enterprise, MiVoice Connect Contact Center and MiCollab Contact Center.

In case you haven’t seen the incredible demonstration from Google I/O earlier this year, the Google AI demonstrates a surprisingly human grasp of language through Google’s unique natural language processing and uses machine learning to expand its capabilities and knowledge over time. Google’s AI has become one of the most sought-after enterprise AI tools on the market.

The sophisticated new feature will offer more personalized and intelligent customer experience, giving even small enterprises a polished, affordable and powerful contact center that requires very little technical expertise. With the offering available across multiple Mitel Contact Center platforms, it truly helps to level the playing field for enterprises wanting a simple and flexible webchat feature.

The contact center will not only offer the AI-powered virtual agent to enable more intelligent customer self-service but will also offer an AI agent assist which allows easy transfer of customer inquiries to live agents with full context and continued AI support to provide the agent with real-time assistance, coaching and research. It also includes powerful analytics, to offer companies valuable insights to enhance their products and services on an entirely new level.

Here’s an example of how it works: When a customer visits your site and uses the webchat feature of your contact center, the Google AI will interpret their text intelligently and use conversational speech processing to understand the intent and the question being asked. They will then source the answer in the knowledge base and provide an answer to your customer.

In situations when the chat bot is unable to determine the answer or is not confident in its interpretation, it will bring in one of your live agents to manage the interaction. What makes the new feature different from other companies using AI is that once the representative joins the conversation, the Mitel Contact Center chat bots remain in the conversation, learning and assisting the live agent. The bot will coach and support the agent by retrieving information once it understands the question and will gain new, useable knowledge from the experience. Agents will have the option of choosing to maintain only live contact with your customers while still being able to leverage the speed and intelligence of AI.

Mitel’s new AI contact center feature is expected to roll out in Q1 of 2019. As a Mitel partner, Gregg Communications can help you determine the best contact center option for your business to gain access to this incredible new feature. Contact us for more details.

Why Latency in Your Phones Drives Customers Away

VoIP telephone systems are a great solution for most businesses. The walls-free approach allows for more flexibility than ever before. As with more technology, it relies on the right infrastructure to work smoothly. While VoIP has several different elements that are important, one of the most overlooked is network latency.

A mere 150 milliseconds of latency and you’ll start to experience issues in the quality of your calls.

Here’s how that happens: VoIP telephone systems are connected to the network and communicate via data packets. If those packets of information are delayed, voice quality is negatively impacted. Attached is a document that we provide to prospects and customers to assist in determining if the business’ network is sufficient for a VoIP telephone system.

Latency isn’t the only culprit. Issues from information packet loss, or the uneven arrival of data packets can degrade the quality of calls, creating frustration and confusion for users and customers. Information gets missed, calls get dropped, and calls come through broken and choppy.

The cultural expectation of technology is that it is ultra-fast and of the highest quality. Customers get annoyed when they have to repeat themselves or can’t understand what someone in your company is telling them. When you have latency in your phone systems, your customers perceive you as fly-by-night, technologically behind, or too bureaucratic to keep up and increasingly too difficult to do business with. These are not good looks for the 21st century.

Chances are, your customers aren’t having just one poor phone experience but several.

The latency is caused by the increasing amount of data that is being shared across the global network. Networks today are set up to transfer data over hundreds of miles, traveling at the speed of light. Not all the components throughout this journey can process the full breadth of what they’re forced to handle. This creates miniature bottlenecks as your information works to get where it needs to go.

To add to this challenge, data processing is more of a two-way street than it’s ever been. Because of the cloud, VoIP phones, and more devices processing more data than ever before, there is a hefty amount of uploading and downloading. The sheer volume is staggering, and with people globally increasing the number of devices, consuming more content, and digitalizing everything from their security systems to their washing machines, the demand on our networks is only expected to continue growing at a staggering rate.

As the masses clamor for broadband space, your company has to look at options to get closer to the end points of the network streams, so that data has less space to travel through.

In short, the most beneficial way to reduce this network latency is to use a content distribution network (CDN), which reduces latency by strategically using network edge points to reduce the distance your information packets have to travel, and accelerating delivery of those information packets.

CDNs are taking the digital world by storm, improving web performance and reducing the time that it takes for rich media to reach devices. Companies using VoIP and cloud-connected communications like browser-based softphones and video calls are using CDNs to ensure smoother, richer communications.

With an increasing demand on the global network, companies who want to ensure they carve out space for their communications may find that a CDN is the best tool for the job. One thing is certain: waiting out latency issues will only beget more garbled, unclear and broken communications and frustrated customers.

Plagued by call quality issues? Contact Gregg Communications.

Providing a Great Customer Experience is Priority #1

Gregg Communications strives to provide a customer experience you won’t receive anywhere else. Over the years, we have remained one of the top Mitel, formerly ShoreTel, vendors with incredible customer service. In fact, we have taken over maintenance agreements for more than 60 ShoreTel clients who were unhappy with their last vendor’s customer service and reached out to us for help.

At Gregg, customer needs are our #1 priority even ahead of our own profits and gains. Gregg Communications’ Net Promoter Score (NPS) customer satisfaction rating of 92.49 was reached with our e3 approach to customer satisfaction – customers, colleagues and suppliers will Experience Excellence from Experts on every interaction.

We sat down with Jim Van Wolvelear, new Senior Account Executive at Gregg Communications, to learn more about how Gregg Communications achieves and maintains its high level of service to customers. Although he just joined Gregg in February, Jim brings 37 years’ experience to Gregg Communications and has been an industry colleague of Gregg’s executive team for over 30 years.

What brought you to Gregg Communications?

Jim: Thirty years ago, I worked at a company that didn’t offer call center support or implementation. At that time, Gregg was focused on call centers, so I would recommend them to my customers because I knew they would be taken good care of by Gregg. Then, 15 years ago Gregg became part of ShoreTel which I also was involved with, so we would see each other at conferences and trainings.

We started talking about me coming to Gregg about a year ago, and the more I heard about the way they treat their clients, the more I felt like it was a good home for me.

What makes Gregg Communications’ service stand out?

Jim: The service department  doesn’t just assume the customer is happy. They make sure the customer is happy. We proactively follow up to make sure the solution we provided was actually corrected from the customer’s perspective – not just from the Gregg employee’s perspective.

There is a lot of expertise here. Technology is always changing, and it takes a lot of effort to stay on top of the technology. It’s easy to get complacent with your existing clients and let them call you to let you know if they want to do something or are having an issue. Whereas, with Gregg, we proactively reach out to the customer to make them aware of new upgrades and enhancements that can be done. And, even though there’s not a lot of revenue in that, it makes for a happier, long-term customer.

The average employee tenure at Gregg is also remarkable. We can back up our service claims with the number of years’ experience and certifications our team has. The service team doesn’t have to look up answers or rely on a third party to get an answer or solution for customers. Having enough people with enough experience to answer questions quickly makes a big difference as opposed to having to make multiple calls to get an answer for customers. Our customers don’t have to wait for answers.

For example, we had a client with a unique requirement that was a challenge, but it was a requirement that had to be met. Otherwise they weren’t going to be able to resolve their internal problems with their clients. The brainstorming that was done to come up with creative solutions in house as opposed to needing to go out and find other experts in the industry to help was very refreshing. It was refreshing to see that happen.

What is important for new prospects to know about Gregg Communications?

Jim: Every company talks about how great their service is. So, it’s really critical to help the client understand that we don’t just say it, we actually live it. We give specific examples to back that up. Our numbers prove that we provide the level of support we say we will. It’s the prospect’s responsibility to do due diligence to make sure what they’re hearing is reality as opposed to a spin that makes a company, person or product sound much better than what they actually will experience.

What do you hope never changes at Gregg Communications?

Jim: Their passion for service. The support Gregg provides is world-class. It’s fun to work for them.

 

Are you your phone provider’s #1 priority? Contact Gregg Communications online or at 630-706-8222 so we can move you to the top of the list.

What is Hosted VoIP and How Can it Set Your Business Communications Free?

When you combine business communications, mobility and the cloud, something wonderful happens: borders disappear, barriers collapse, costs drop and productivity rises. It’s happening today at businesses around the globe through the power of cloud communications. If this sounds like the kind of business you want, it’s time to move your voice, collaboration and customer service to the cloud.

Hosted VoIP: What is it?

Hosted VoIP. Cloud IP. Virtual office phone system. There are a lot of names for this newest advancement in telecommunications technology. Basically, a hosted VoIP phone system is just like a high-end, on-premises PBX – only the infrastructure and hardware that make it work are taken care of by a hosted VoIP service provider.

Who uses Cloud-based VoIP?

To understand cloud-based VoIP service, you have to start by understanding the cloud. You’ve probably heard of the cloud before – it’s that thing that exists in a faraway galaxy, only accessible by IT geniuses. Actually, not so much. The cloud is just a network of servers, each designated to perform a specific function or set of functions. If you’ve ever used email or any kind of social media, you’ve used the cloud. When information is stored somewhere other than a physical device, it’s stored in the cloud.

What can Cloud Communications Offer?

Cloud technology can also provide online services. In the application of a cloud-based phone system, your day-to-day business communications are handled remotely by secure servers. That means you don’t have to worry about any physical equipment or hardware. Hosted VoIP phone systems give you the freedom to grow at your own pace.  As a VoIP cloud provider, we take care of the infrastructure, and you’re free to use as much or as little as you need.

How does Hosted VoIP work?

In short, it works like a dream. That is if you dream of a business phone system with full-range scalability, advanced capabilities and no maintenance all at one low monthly cost.

More specifically, it works by converting analog voice signals to digital packets so voice traffic runs on the same high-speed network as your existing data and internet traffic. And, because today’s cloud servers are incredibly fast, highly redundant and use advanced encryption, voice and data traffic are reliable, crystal clear and secure.

A hosted VoIP solution may be just what your business needs.

Cloud Phone Capabilities & features

You get access to a slew of unique features and functions with a cloud-based phone system. With cloud technology, your business phone system becomes more than just a telephone. These days, telecommunications doesn’t just refer to voice anymore. A hosted VoIP phone system gives you complete communication integration with all the powerful tools a modern business needs. Gregg Communications’ cloud service includes:

  • Web conferencing
  • Video conferencing
  • Screen sharing
  • Receive voicemails as emails
  • Voice-to-text technology

Benefits of cloud Communications

Cloud-based VoIP service gives businesses of any size and with any budget the same outstanding capabilities previously available exclusively to large businesses. A hosted VoIP solution gives your business the tools it needs to gain a competitive edge at an affordable, fixed monthly cost.

1.      Save money with hosted VoIP. Get the same great voice quality and features you’ve come to expect out of a communications and collaboration system without all the hardware and maintenance costs – just a predictable, low, fixed monthly cost.

2.      Endless flexibility and real choice. Cloud communications isn’t an all-or-nothing endeavor. There are several models, like public, private and hybrid cloud communications, you can choose from depending on your business’s unique situation. Once you set it, you can change it down the road based on what your needs are over time.

3.      Replacing, expanding and upgrading is easy. Technology is advancing at an exponential rate. And business communications systems are not immune from this. With a hosted VoIP phone system, you don’t need to worry about maintenance or upgrades – we take care of that.

4.      Superior customer experience.  Your business can deliver exceptional customer service on every call with a cloud-based contact center solution. Unlimited scalability, seamless mobility and integrated technology are all features that marry communications with business intelligence to continually improve the experience.

5.      BYOD that works for everyone. With more flexible work arrangements and more powerful devices available to everyone, people are getting more and more insistent on using their own devices. And new devices with new capabilities are released all the time. A smart cloud communications provider can pool resources from all of its subscribers to work on common compatibility requests, so you’re never out of date.

6.      It’s simple to manage and integrate across multiple locations. With a virtual office phone system, you benefit from standardized capabilities and total interoperability across locations. When upgrades happen, they happen everywhere simultaneously. Maintenance is outsourced to the hosted PBX provider and far fewer resources are required to understand and use systems across the business. Processes and procedures can be standardized for greater efficiency.

7.      A mobile workforce. We work in a mobile world where smartphones, mobile apps and the cloud have replaced traditional business tools. With a cloud-based VoIP phone system, your business can turn your communications into a competitive advantage that drives productivity and delivers an exceptional customer experience.

 

Learn more About Cloud Communications for Your Business

Contact Gregg Communications at 630-706-8222 for a free consultation session.

How to Foster More Effective Team Collaboration and Communications

Mobility, the speed of communications, and employee demographics have changed the business landscape. Today’s market environment is always moving, continuously connected and faster than ever before. Your ability to maintain and increase your competitive advantage in this dynamic environment is determined by how well your organization adapts to the new norm. By leveraging the most advanced communications and collaboration tools, like Mitel’s unified communications solutions, you can improve the efficiency of daily communications between employees and with customers.

New expectations require new solutions

To adapt and succeed, you must address the forces at play. Incredible advances in mobile communications technology have served as the catalyst for change. Most people now have mobile devices that are more powerful communications tools than the desktop computers that were in every office 10 years ago.

For many employees, a smartphone is the first thing they pick up in the morning and the last thing they put down at night. These devices have blurred the lines between work and play, and have made it possible for employees to work anywhere and everywhere. As a result, your employees now expect ubiquitous connectivity that will allow them to maintain conversations with colleagues and customers at all times — whether they are in the office, at the airport or on the golf course — and with whichever device they choose.

At the same time, your customers expect that they will be able to connect and conduct business with your employees using a variety of communications options — from traditional phone calls to email, text messaging, video and web chats.

These expectations are important to the Generation X and Millennials that account for two-thirds of the global workforce. They will be more important by 2020 when 50 percent of the workforce will be comprised of Millennials, the digital natives that have grown up with the web and advanced personal computing devices at their fingertips.

This guide outlines five steps that will help you adopt the team collaboration and communications tools that address the speed and mobility requirements of your changing workforce. With the right tools, you can enable more efficient interactions between employees and with your customers. And you can compete more effectively wherever your business takes you.

Collaboration tools increase efficiency and productivity

A 2017 study revealed that over two-thirds of an employee’s work day is spent on communications-based activities:

  • Almost three hours per day is spent on real-time, person-to-person communications
  • Almost an hour and a half per day is spent on email The same study revealed that almost 15 percent of total work time is lost or wasted because of inefficient or ineffective communications

The study concluded that the typical cost of inefficient communications to a mid-sized organization is approximately $11,000 (USD) per employee, per year. But it has been shown that organizations that leverage team collaboration and communications tools like those being offered by Mitel are more efficient, more productive and save time and money:

  • 60 percent of businesses using unified communication and collaboration (UCC) report saving three hours a week per mobile worker
  • Social and team collaboration technologies can raise the productivity and interaction of workers in an organization by 20-25 percent
  • Shorter service appointments, fewer missed calls and increased customer satisfaction all result in tangible cost savings and even revenue generation

How Unified Communications Enables and Enhances Mass Notification

When government agencies, schools and universities think about mass notification systems, the safety of the public or student body is usually the primary benefit they consider. But safety is only the tip of the iceberg. A sophisticated unified communications system that delivers robust mass notifications also improves productivity, interactions and agility.

When officials need to connect to the right people at the right time, notifications must be simple to craft and disseminate, with the option to send out messages to select groups of people across multiple devices. Staff, students and parents are demanding. They expect to be informed of events in real-time and through their preferred channels. The antiquated methods of phone chains and even website or social media posts no longer make the grade.

Mass notification systems yield big returns

The good news is that Mitel’s unified communications technology has advanced to the point where mass notification systems can meet these elevated expectations, enabling you to communicate quickly and effectively. They represent an investment that pays big returns for governments, schools and universities. The numerous benefits include:

  • Enhanced crisis response. In emergency situations, officials can communicate with stakeholders clearly and in real-time, even while they notify and deploy response teams and connect with them through live conference calling.
  • Automation of regular communications. They can also optimize operations by automating standard messages or notifications that need to be delivered to students, staff or residents.
  • Event notifications and reminders. The system is useful in non-crisis situations, as well. It can be used for any event that should triggers a message – from snow days to town meetings.
  • Improved transparency. Reporting is especially important for government accountability. The system should be able to generate real-time reports of auditable records, improving visibility and the effectiveness of communications among your community.  
  • Improved student retention. Regular communications about events and important information keep student bodies informed and happy, increasing retention and contributing to improvements in new enrollment.
  • Support for multimedia communications platforms. Communicate with individuals through their preferred method, whether it be SMS, email, mobile phone, landline or desktop alert.
  • Personalization. Campaign messages can be tailored to each recipient.

How it works

Whether they’re used to share daily reminders or alert the right people in a crisis, mass notification systems require the same four-step process: initiate the message, reach the right people in the preferred format, obtain confirmation and track progress with reporting.

While the process may seem straightforward, the technology that supports it must be robust. For governments, schools and universities looking to evaluate systems, here’s a list of must-have features.

Users and groups

Even with potentially hundreds of thousands of people to reach, managing contacts and their communications preferences should be easy. What’s more, the system should support the ability to create groups and targeted audiences. 

Notification process

Maintaining the integrity of the process is critical, which is why only a few people should be able to trigger a notification. With roles and permissions properly set up, that’s not an issue. But the system also has to be flexible. Each official should be able to trigger the process using their preferred method, whether it’s over the web or with a call using a landline phone, IP phone, computer or mobile device. Thus, multi-point activation is a requirement. Text-to-speech technology further simplifies the process.

 Location

Sometimes it’s necessary to alert users within a specific geographic location. With precision IP paging, officials can broadcast a message to speakers and phones in a specific area, such as a campus, building or even as precise a location as a room.

Collaboration
Mass notification is also useful to facilitate urgent conversations, even outside of a crisis. Technologies such as find-me and live conferencing coupled with mass notification can bring together stakeholders quickly and easily.

Personalization
Nothing grabs attention faster than a personalized message, making the capability to tailor communications to specific individuals or groups one of the system’s most crucial features.

Reporting and confirmations

Versatility is critical to ensure that everyone gets the message. Once a notification is sent, there often needs to be a mechanism to verify receipt. With advanced text notification (SMS), for example, alerts can be sent to mobile phones with the option to request acknowledgment. In addition, robust real-time reporting features provide both transparency and accountability.

For governments and schools, a robust and flexible Mitel mass notifications system through Gregg Communications can’t be a one-off. It’s a tool that’s used every day to keep operations running smoothly and key stakeholders informed and up-to-date.

New Year, Same Reliable Company

There is something to be said for a new year. A clean slate. A fresh budget. New possibilities in every department. The promise of innovation, change and improvement coming from every direction while businesses look for ways to increase their stability.

2017 wrapped up with quite a bang in our industry when office phone system provider Mitel acquired our primary vendor, ShoreTel. It left our clients asking questions about what the move meant for them. Our answer is a resounding affirmation that it is still business as usual at Gregg Communications. Your customer agreement is still valid, and we will continue to support your ShoreTel phone system for as long as you have it. Gregg Communications is committed to minimizing any impact on your business this transition may have. 

As ShoreTel transitions into Mitel, we continue to provide the same level of service and support to our clients. You can count on our commitment to improving business communications without interruption. Whether we work with ShoreTel or Mitel, we will offer network assessments, project management, systems implementation, training and ongoing support to our clients, no matter what industry or size they might be.

Last year, we also marked our golden 50th anniversary. You don’t get to be a 50-year-old telecommunications provider in Chicago without weathering a few changes. Gregg Communications has been in business since before the landmark ruling that allowed other devices to be connected to AT&T’s phone lines. Our strong legacy has resulted in thousands of customers having telephone systems and call centers nationwide.

It’s this consistent dedication to our customers and to our community that explains why we have a Net Promoter Score ® (NPS) of 92.39 which we’ve maintained for more than 14 years. A feat that even ShoreTel CEO Don Joos remarked “exceeds what is considered a world-class level of professionalism and customer care in the industry.” That’s something that doesn’t change as Mitel absorbs ShoreTel, because it’s a core part of who we are at Gregg Communications.

We maintain such a score by taking care of our employees as well as we take care of our customers. The average tenure of a Gregg Communications employee is over 10 years, with the sales staff averaging over 18 years. Our staff is passionate and committed to customer satisfaction – and we are committed to our team.

Lastly, we look forward to new opportunities to give back to the community we serve, year-round, with charity donations, fundraisers and hands-on involvement across multiple organizations. We are grateful that 2017 was no different. Already in 2018, we’ve been blessed with the opportunity to donate to Horizons for Youth, an organization near and dear to our hearts that mentors and enriches students in the Chicago area.

At Gregg Communications, a new year means new ways of advancing our customer goals through exceptional communications and support. And, it means new opportunities for serving the community. For it is these principles that allowed us to celebrate 50 years of service and will drive us toward our next 50 years. 

Thankful to Give Back to the Community

As Thanksgiving approaches, we’ve been thinking about the things we’re most grateful for as a company. We count our blessings, knowing it’s important to pass along some of our time, talent and treasure to the organizations that are making a positive impact on the communities and world around us. Whatever we can do to help promote those organizations is the most meaningful work we can be doing.

We are grateful to serve the organizations doing the most important work in the community.

Over our 50 years of serving the greater Chicago area’s communication needs, we’ve worked to ensure that some of the most vital organizations have easier access to the world’s leading telecommunications solutions through Mitel (formerly ShoreTel).

Chicago Community Trust

Since 2008, Chicago Community Trust has raised over $6.5 million to benefit 180 critical nonprofit organizations in Chicago. These organizations are the lifelines that help individuals and families with the necessities of life, shelter, food, clothing, health services and job training.

Chicago Community Trust uses a premise-based Mitel (formerly ShoreTel) phone system supported by Gregg Communications. With our added financial contributions and telephone system maintenance, Chicago Community Trust has a reliable way of connecting with their donors and the nonprofit organizations they partner with.

Pillars

Pillars is the largest nonprofit provider of mental health and social services in the western and southwestern suburbs of Chicago, serving 12,000 people each year with everything from mental health support to child and family services, community housing to assistance for domestic and sexual violence victims.

Using a Gregg Communications-supported, premise-based Mitel (formerly ShoreTel) phone system ensures that they have a reliable way to provide support and coordinate care for their clients no matter what their needs are. Pillars staff relies on the ShoreTel Call Center feature to field calls from domestic violence victims, so they can quickly match the victim and any children they have with the best shelter for them.

If you’re looking for a way to give back through donation, time or services, here are some other great organizations around the globe that we’ve had the pleasure supporting:

·         St. Jude Children’s Research Hospitals

·         Horizons for Youth

·         Seeds of Hope for La Victoria

·         Dreams to Reality

·         Chicago Lights

·         Mustard Seed Communities

·         Angelman Syndrome Foundation

·         Bright Pink

·         Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education efforts in Haiti

·         Second Sense

·         American Cancer Society

·         Aids Foundation of Chicago

·         Wayside Cross Ministries

With so much to be thankful for around Thanksgiving and the spirit of giving around Christmas, it’s easy to think about giving during this time of year. For all of us at Gregg Communications, it’s important to give back to the community year-round. We’re committed to supporting community organizations that enrich the lives of those less fortunate than ourselves. We encourage you to do the same in the spirit of the season. Thank you for your support.

How to Make the Business Case for Cloud Communications

When trying to determine which communications option – on-premises or cloud‐based – is right for your business, ROI (return on investment) and TCO (total cost of ownership) comparisons inevitably come into play. Which type of solution drives better value for your business? Unfortunately, this can be a difficult question to answer.

ROI and TCO models are typically designed to compare similar options—for

example, two similar on-premises communications systems built by two

competing vendors.

On-premises and cloud‐based communications solutions are NOT similar options. Plus, there are lots of costs and assumptions that you must determine when evaluating your options. Ultimately, the answer to the question “Which solution is better for our business?” may depend on more subjective measures, like the value your organization places on flexibility and risk avoidance.

It’s somewhat analogous to purchasing an airline ticket: Which is better? A non‐refundable $325 ticket, or a refundable $466 ticket that can be changed for a nominal fee?

The answer largely depends on the amount of flexibility your travel plans require and the level of risk you’re willing to assume that your travel plans won’t change.

Making a large capital investment in technology, like an on-premises communications and collaboration system, requires a commitment to a particular path.

But how do you know that the technology or solution you’ve committed to is the right choice? How will the technology change over the next 18 to 24 months? What new innovations will be introduced to the market during that time that may benefit your organization?

The answer to that question is hard enough, but most financial models depreciate capital technology investments over five or seven years, so you’ll need to really shine your crystal ball to see five to seven years into the future!

 

Beyond predicting the future of a particular technology, a premises‐based

decision also requires you to see the future of your organization.

How much growth will occur over the next five to seven years? Incremental growth over the next 12 to 24 months may be relatively easy to forecast, but any projections beyond that time frame become increasingly challenging.

If your company experiences rapid growth, the premises‐based communications system you invest in today may be woefully inadequate, requiring costly upgrades. Or, if your company undergoes a merger or acquisition, how difficult will it be to integrate with the other organizations involved in the deal?

Finally, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How do I know that the solution I’m investing in will still be around in five to seven years? It’s hard enough to predict how my own company will be doing in five to seven years, let alone how a vendor will be doing.
  • What is the vendor’s product roadmap for the solution I’ve selected?
  • Is the vendor financially soluble? Will it put its source code in escrow for me, and does my company have the resources to maintain the source code if the escrow is released?
  • Is the vendor the target of a merger or acquisition? If it is acquired, will the solution I’m purchasing be supported for the foreseeable future?
  • Will new development on the solution continue? Or will the parent company kill off the solution as a competing product line?

None of this is to say that ROI and TCO models aren’t valid. You just need to understand the limitations of these models and how cloud‐based technologies change the paradigm.

 

A cloud‐based communications solution typically doesn’t require a large

capital investment because it’s a subscription‐based, “pay‐as‐you go”

service.

The solution can be easily scaled up or down as your business requirements change. Switching to another cloud service provider, whether due to a change in technology (if your cloud communications provider doesn’t support the new technology), a change in your business requirements (perhaps due to a merger/acquisition), or a change in your relationship with your cloud communications provider (possibly due to a change in terms or poor customer service, financial insolvency, or a change in strategic direction) — though not necessarily easy — is relatively painless when compared to switching from an on-premises communications system that requires significant reinvestment.

Understanding cloud communications costs and assumptions

According to Transparency Market Research, the unified communications market is expanding at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16 percent. Revenue is expected to grow to $61.9 billion by 2018.

So what’s driving unified communications growth? In a recent Webtorials State‐of‐the Market report, companies cited each of the following benefits as factors in their ROI calculations:

  • Savings on conferencing services (53 percent)
  • User productivity gains in the office (50 percent)
  • User productivity gains while mobile (46 percent)
  • Reduced travel expenses (55 percent)

 

Tough questions and clear answers about communications systems

 

Expect your CFO to push for answers on the following:

Q: What are the CapEx vs. OpEx implications of investing in cloud communications?

A: If we use the cloud in a managed services model, costs will shift squarely to OpEx and can predictably scale up or down based on the needs of the business.

Q: Are there service level agreements (SLAs) that protect core business processes—and revenue?

A: Reputable cloud communications providers use their own third‐party data facilities with SLAs covering uptime and availability, business continuity, disaster recovery timetables, support for demand spikes, mean time to resolution (MTTR) of issues, and more.

Q: Will cloud communications be a forklift upgrade that makes key investments in the IT infrastructure over the last three to four years obsolete ahead of depreciation schedules?

A: No. The right cloud communications solutions not only support, but also leverage, currently installed platforms and the latest IT frameworks. They integrate seamlessly with virtualization, cloud computing, customer relationship management (CRM) applications and more.

Addressing business continuity with cloud communications

Cloud communications can be an integral part of business continuity and disaster recovery planning. Cloud service providers typically build highly redundant systems in robust, geographically dispersed data centers with multiple points of presence across the Internet. Failover in a cloud environment can be seamless to cloud subscribers, helping businesses continue functioning normally through various contingencies.

Assigning value to flexibility and risk

The value of flexibility is difficult to quantify and varies widely among different businesses—even among those of comparable size and in the same industry.

"A Forrester Total Economic Impact (TEI) study prepared for Mitel defines flexibility as representing “an investment in additional capacity that could be turned into business benefit for some future additional investment.”

For example, cloud communications might provide an organization with the ability to extend business communications to a mobile workforce, enable remote worker setups for contact center personnel to work from home, or use application programming interfaces (APIs) to integrate or develop third‐party mobile apps and plugins.

Technology changes very quickly, often making large multiyear investments

obsolete.

For this reason, flexibility with regard to a communications investment can be extremely valuable to a business. Plus, risk avoidance is valuable. In a cloud communications model, the service provider assumes most of the risk, including buildout costs, licensing, training, adoption of the technology, and obsolescence.

With cloud communications, you have the flexibility to grow at your own pace. For example:

  • Are you a seasonal business? Cloud communications makes it easy to add employees to the conversation and scale back again when the season is over.
  • Is your 9‐to‐5 customer care center shutting out 30 percent of your sales? With the cloud, you can easily route calls to mobile devices to extend your hours without extending your office space.

 

To learn more, contact Gregg Communications at 630-706-8222 for a free

consultation.

 

Cloud Communications Basics: What You Need to Know

Looking at the core features of cloud communications

The way that you communicate says a lot about your business and who you are as an individual. And yet many business communications systems are anything but personal. They’re one‐size‐fits‐all solutions that your business probably outgrew more than a decade ago.

Moving your communications to the cloud can help your business build your

communications around the way you work, and not the other way around.

For example, cloud communications can:

  • Deliver the same phone features of a Fortune 500 company: Mobile‐friendly communications, broad selection of endpoints, automated callbacks, announced queue times, and more—at a cost that businesses of all sizes can afford
  • Ensure a better customer experience: With intelligent call routing that sends customers to the right agent, with the right information, right away
  • Provide deployment flexibility: Only pay for the features that you need, where they’re needed, and custom bundle features as your needs require
  • Enable versatile communications: Employees access their phones, unified messaging, chats, apps, and more—on any device

Integrating advanced applications with your communications system

Have you ever stopped to think that voice is just another application—albeit,

an extremely critical application—that runs over a data network just like

email?

Voice communications can be integrated into multiple aspects of your various business processes. Communications shouldn’t just start and stop on your desk phone.

Critical business applications, such as customer relationship management (CRM) solutions, that support key business processes need to be communications-enabled so that your mobile workforce can be productive no matter where they are and what device they’re using. Examples of communications-enabled business applications and integrated capabilities include the following:

  • Salesforce.com (for example, click to dial, inbound calls auto pop customer records, find contacts via directory search, capture notes and call details to the record)
  • Microsoft Office 365 (for example, calendar-based presence notifications, click to dial, auto create calendar invitations, voicemail to email integration)
  • Google Apps (for example, click to dial, in-call management options, and inbound call notifications)

Choosing communications deployment models

Until recently, there weren’t many options for deploying business communications systems. For most businesses, the traditional deployment model required a substantial investment in on‐premises private branch exchange (PBX) systems. This model put all of the risk on the buyer because it was a long‐term strategic decision that, among other things, potentially impacted:

  • Future business growth and scalability
  • Expandability to multiple locations
  • Agility and ability to support new features and capabilities in communications‐enabled business processes (CEBPs)

During the 1990s and early 2000s, many organizations replaced their legacy PBX systems with more flexible on-premises unified communications (UC) systems, enabling these organizations to converge their voice and data networks and leverage many standard networking components in their telephony infrastructure, while offering advanced unified communications and collaboration capabilities to their users.

Cloud communications, also known as unified communications as a service (UCaaS) or hosted communications, is the newest option in business communications and is one of the fastest growing market segments in technology.

Cloud communications is growing roughly 25 percent year over year.

However, there’s more than one path to cloud communications, and different size businesses have different requirements that drive their decisions on which cloud model to adopt:

  • Small business (1 to 100 employees):
    • Some integration into other key applications like Salesforce.com and basic contact center may be required
    • Ideal consumers of mobile and public cloud solutions displacing small-end customer on-premises platforms
  • Mid‐market (100 to 2,500 employees):
    • Often have sophisticated business process integrations and contact center requirements
    • Interested in public, private, and hybrid cloud solutions preferring private networking instead of over-the‐top (OTT) solutions
  • Large enterprise (2,500 to 10,000 employees):
    • High interest in private cloud migration and hybrid cloud solutions to leverage existing investment
    • Integration into larger IT framework is a key consideration
  • Extra‐large enterprise (10,000‐plus employees):
    • Focused on solutions that can be effectively deployed to a large user community by emphasizing role‐based user types and multiple location scalability
    • Security, scalability, and third‐party integrations are key considerations
    • High interest in private and hybrid cloud migration strategies

Public cloud

Public cloud is the primary cloud communications deployment model for small and medium businesses (SMBs) and is the most popular option. It can be easily procured on a per-user, per-month basis and can be combined with private network connections, although it’s often used over a basic Internet connection or runs on an “over the top” (OTT) service. Most public cloud communications services include contact center features and integrate with popular business applications.

Public cloud communications offerings can be delivered with private networking for increased security and reliability.

Private cloud

Private cloud communications deployment models are most popular with large enterprises, key verticals, and government agencies. Private cloud communications take advantage of cloud benefits while achieving maximum levels of security and control for the organization.

Private cloud communications can be managed by a solution provider and often includes recurring cloud revenue components. Some executive decision makers may prefer the CapEx investments and perpetual licensing in private cloud models, instead of the recurring OpEx and licensing fees in public cloud models, for various financial reasons.

Hybrid cloud

The hybrid cloud leverages existing on‐premises communications investments, increases resiliency, and enables cloud management benefits and efficiencies of scale. A hybrid cloud communications strategy is often adopted by organizations as part of a transition strategy, from a traditional on‐premises phone system to a more robust cloud‐based unified communications solution that provides unlimited scalability and advanced business capabilities.

A hybrid cloud communications strategy can also be adopted as an end strategy, rather than simply a transition strategy, offering organizations the advantages of both public and private clouds. For example, an organization may choose to maintain complete control of certain aspects of its communications infrastructure while leveraging the resiliency, management, and scalability benefits of the cloud. In these cases, primary communications functions may be handled on‐premises in a private cloud deployment, while overflow call volume and business continuity/disaster recovery is handled in the public cloud.

Hybrid cloud communications favor large campus environments with geographically distributed locations. This model is embraced by IT organizations with limited resources and coverage, as it provides unified management tools to manage users across all sites.

The benefits of cloud communications include:

✓ Cost savings from reduced communications complexity and operational expenses and an overall lower cost per user compared to legacy PBX systems

✓ Improved employee productivity through a rich suite of easy‐to‐deploy communications capabilities

✓ A truly mobile workforce connected with communications tools and virtual systems across multiple locations that give employees access to resources from anywhere

Cloud computing and outsourcing aren’t the same thing

The old IT outsourcing adage was that outsourcing allowed firms to focus on their core business, rather than on technology. While that seemed like a reasonable proposition at the time, the mistake that many firms made was in giving up the control of their technology and their ability to differentiate themselves in a competitive global market. This is particularly true of firms that went well beyond IT outsourcing to farm out their customer service, sales, design and, in some cases, manufacturing processes.

Cloud computing (more specifically cloud communications) outsources the communications infrastructure, not the business processes. By simplifying network operations—such as managing firewalls, virtual private networks (VPNs), and session initiation protocol (SIP) trunks—and eliminating server administration, moving to a cloud communications provider enables businesses to reallocate IT staff to more value‐added projects and business-critical responsibilities that actually do create competitive differentiation.

Learn more about our cloud communications systems.  Contact Gregg

Communications at 630-706-8222 for a free consultation.