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The Five 'Ds' You Need for Startup Success

Posted by Ian LeWinter

May 10, 2018 10:32:24 AM

Starting your own business can be thrilling, nerve-wracking, and terrifying—all at once. While no secret formula for guaranteed success exists, common characteristics are pervasive in many of these startups and the entrepreneurs who created them. Here are a few:

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Discipline

Most new businesses have limited resources and have to disperse them with great care. Don’t waste money printing 5,000 business cards for two employees operating a company from a living room and don’t waste cash on a complex, legacy phone system when a small business virtual phone has everything you’ll need.

Delegation

You are going to learn pretty quickly that once you have even a bit of success, it’s going to be difficult to do everything yourself. You have to be able to delegate work and trust that it will get done correctly and to do that, you have to make the right hires. Don’t skimp on background checks and the interview process  so that you can be as close to 100 percent sure about a candidate before making a commitment.

Drive

A strong work ethic is important in any job but is particularly pervasive in founders of new businesses. You have to be willing to put in some long days but also have the focus to know where your energy needs to be directed at any given time.

Dedication

It’s a near certainty that you are going to hit some hiccups as a startup and that some sacrifices will be necessary. Although the most successful startups have created billionaires, initially founders and CEOs don’t rake in the big bucks. In fact, 66 percent of Silicon Valley founders pay themselves less than $50,000 per year. But if you truly believe in what you are selling, after a few years of modest earning you may find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

‘Daptability

OK fine: We cheated a little here. But adaptability is so important we couldn’t leave it out. To achieve startup success, you have to be flexible in your approach to product development, branding strategy and pretty much anything else. No business plan goes 100 percent perfectly; the key is making sound adjustments as you go.

Have another ‘D’ that’s essential for startups? Let us know in the comment section! 

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Topics: Industry Trends, Cloud Phone, Business Phone Number, Small Business Productivity, Improve Your Business

4 Ways Phone Customization Makes an Independent Consultant's Life Easier

Posted by Erica Berry

May 10, 2018 10:31:59 AM

Independent consultants are busy people. Phone calls are coming in, client requests are being made and keeping up with the workflow can be a challenge in itself. So, when it comes to business communications you need something reliable and professional -- with customization capabilities that work for you. 

To get all these features, you might think you're stuck with an expensive centralized phone system, but you're wrong. We know independent consultants have unique schedules and work environments -- whether you're on the go, or have co-workers all around the country who connect remotely, or because it's just you in your home office. With all these factors in mind, you probably don't have the need for a phone tied to a physical location. So,what's the solution to your individual situation and communication needs? A customized phone system that connects directly to the mobile phone you already have.

Here's how phone customization can help improve the life of a busy consultant:

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1 - Separation of business and personal identities

Many consultants often have one or a couple of co-workers in the business, but would prefer to have the image of a bigger business. Having a distinct business phone line and voicemail greeting that establishes your consulting business as a separate entity from you personally with a voicemail greeting that speaks to a more professional image, and may win customer trust more easily.

2 - Improved focus balanced with communication needs

Oftentimes, consultants are working on a project that requires a chunk of time with heavy focus. Customization of phone settings allows for minimal disruptions at the times that matter most. This includes receiving voicemail transcriptions, instead of picking up calls and setting notifications to email only so that texts don't distract from the focus-heavy project.

3 - Time savings through efficiency and better coordination

When a consultant has multiple co-workers or business partners working for the same clients, it might be easiest to set up extensions through the business line so that the caller can use the auto-attendant to reach the appropriate person at the business, without having to look up a bunch of phone numbers. Oftentimes, consultants work from their home office, so these extensions can be life-savers in coordinating communication without a "middle-man".

4 - More professional business image

There are many ways that customizing your phone presence can make your business look bigger and more professional. Perks to customization include: getting your business a toll free number that's easy to remember; routing your calls to multiple calling devices, if that's your preference; customizing your business message to say exactly what you need it to say right now, and more.  

Does your current phone system let you do all this? If not, it's time to make the switch and see how customization can help you boost your productivity and provide better communication between you, your team and your clients. Comment here if you have more ideas on how to improve business phone communications.

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Topics: Industry Trends, Cloud Phone, Small Business Productivity, Improve Your Business

Are 800 Phone Numbers Still Relevant? History of the Toll Free Number

Posted by Natasha Grach

May 10, 2018 10:30:55 AM

The toll free number has evolved over the years from a novelty during the days when AT&T had a monopoly on them in the 1960s, to the ubiquitous customer service and marketing tool it is today. But the world has changed. Modern customers often aren’t as concerned with who is going to pay for a call, especially with many home phone plans now including long distance and mobile phones which will ding them for minutes no matter where the call is ending up. So it begs the question: are toll free 800 phone numbers still relevant today?

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The early days

From the creation of 800 numbers in the 1960s to the 1980s AT&T held a monopoly on them, and charged a premium many times those of regular calls for the service. Fortunately that came to an end in 1982 when the monopoly that was “Ma Bell” was divided into more seven independent companies. The ensuing competition for long-distance rates, including 800 numbers, drove rates down. This opened the door for businesses that previously could not afford 800 phone numbers and many adopted them as a standard business practice.

Following the breakup is also when the vanity number cropped up. Customers could now select their phone number associated to numeric keypad codes and with it unforgettable corporate numbers. This innovation changed the way businesses marketed phone numbers forever. 800 phone numbers became so popular and such an accepted business practice, that by the late 1990s there were none left and thus the creation of 888, 877, 866, and, most recently in 2010, 855 numbers were introduced to meet growing demand.

The year 2000 and beyond

While the Internet age has delivered a multitude of voice options for consumers including various VoIP offerings and the growth of mobile phone usage has changed our communication patterns and business landscape, the need for toll free numbers is still present today. Even though the draw of the toll free number has less to do with cost to the consumer than in the old days thanks to the unlimited phone plans of today, toll free numbers still offer the perception of reliable customer service. They offer a professional image for businesses, as well as the ability to appear larger, either in size or geographic scope. This is especially important for businesses looking to represent themselves across various cities and states, but also for the smallest businesses who want to appear larger and more established. That combined with the advances in technology that allow for call forwarding with the aid of a virtual assistant make it an essential business tool even in today’s mobile world.

What’s next?

Some have even speculated that we may see 1-800 data in the future, where customers will avoid costly data usage to glean customer support via the web. We will have a front row seat to that debate, which is sure to continue. One thing is for sure, there is no replacement for talking to a live human being, whether that dialogue kicks off with a web search or not, you will want to make sure you have all the bases covered. Customers expect to be able to contact you in their preferred mode of communication and for some that still means picking up a phone and calling someone. For many businesses, offering 800 phone numbers means projecting a professional, larger appearance while also giving them the ability to pair it with many modern conveniences to route calls.

So yes, they are still relevant today, for many reasons. Wondering if you need a toll free number? Visit our recent post to learn more, 4 Ways to Gauge Whether You Need a Toll Free Number.

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Topics: Industry Trends, Cloud Phone, Mobility, Toll Free Number

How a Virtual Phone System Could Give Your Etsy Business a Professional Presence

Posted by Erica Berry

May 10, 2018 10:29:08 AM

ou're thinking about starting an Etsy business and one of the things you will need is a phone system. But, your team works from home− knitting scarves, making necklaces, crafting anything and everything− or you are a one person operation. For you, it just doesn't make sense to buy a traditional phone system so instead you’re considering getting a virtual phone system.

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What is a virtual phone system and what does it mean for you? A virtual phone system is a phone system that's entirely in the cloud - you get a dedicated business number and many powerful business-grade telephony features that are associated with it, but no hardware. All you need is your own existing mobile phone (or any phone, really!) − no special skills, or other equipment necessary! All calls to your virtual number (a.k.a. your dedicated business phone line) are directed to your mobile phone, and/or any other phone(s) of your choice, and can help your business convey a professional image, while staying connected and organized. 

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Here are some features you’ll love: 

One central number that routes to different departments (customer service, sales, billing, etc.). Even if you don't actually have different departments, but your store carries multiple products, or you have multiple stores on Etsy, or several employees who handle different aspects of the business, it is convenient for you and your customers to have a central and clearly organized hub for communication. When your Etsy customers call about anything associated with your products, not only will they be directed to the correct line, allowing you and your team to address the inquiry quickly, but they will also get the impression you are a professional, booming business!  

Voicemail transcription helps you keep customer messages organized. If you’re a musician or a potter (or perhaps someone who manages an Etsy store as a side business to a day job) you know that answering the phone isn’t always possible – plus who wants clay all over their device?! So, rather than going through all your messages and listening for specific requests and call back numbers, voicemail transcription automatically creates text and email messages that you can easily read and reference.

Professional greetings give your business legitimacy. No matter what kind of store you own or how long you have been in business, customers receiving your professional voicemail message will have more trust in your operation. Customization also lets you change the message whenever you’d like, allowing you to brand your business and keep your customers up to date on important information – holidays, when you’re on vacation, if certain products are out of stock, etc.

Instant set-up means that once you decide you want a virtual phone system, you can set it up in minutes. There’s no need for professional help or maintenance, so your phone line will never be down, and your customers will never be without support. 

Scalability allows you to add lines or remove lines as your team changes − paying for only what you need and keeping your overhead low. This is the perfect solution for seasonal Etsy business like a Christmas décor store or a jewelry maker that brings extra team members on to help handle skyrocketing sales for Valentine’s Day.

Mobility lets you and your team to work from anywhere while still staying connected. If you want to go on vacation, relocate your business or hire a team member on the other side of the country, a virtual phone system has the functionality to accommodate all your moves without a hitch.

With all the professional perks and cost savings that come with a virtual phone system, your business (and wallet) can’t afford not to try it out. Give your Etsy home business a big business image with a virtual phone system and be sure to let us know how much you love it!  

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Topics: iPhone, Industry Trends, Mobility, Improve Your Business, Cloud Phone Mobile App

5 Answers About the Technical Jargon of VoIP

Posted by Ron Kinkade

May 10, 2018 10:27:44 AM

Recently, Voxox Director of Marketing, Ron Kinkade, was quoted in a report by telecom comparison team Software Advice on how technical language could influence VoIP adoption and utilization.

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Software Advice sat down with Ron for an in-depth interview on this subject. Some of the key points discussed were:

  • If you're in the market for a service and feel like you don’t understand the tech language for the solution it provides, it might not be the right fit for your business. 
  • The size of your business matters when determing whether you need to be more familiar with the jagon of service level requirements. The larger your business, the higher your understanding and knowledge will have to be as well.
  • Technology services have improved to provide better tools for small businesses without dedicated experts of technical lanuage.
  • In order to get the most ROI, you have to understand all the costs involved in VoIP. SIP trunking could save you money, if it's properly managed. 
  • The language of Unified Communications becomes more simplified as it gets widespread. The message to reach more markets successfully. 

Here's the full Q&A:

1. How much of the technical language of VoIP do businesses need to understand to make an informed decision when purchasing an IP telephony solution?

For the mass market (<20 seats) I think it’s less about the language and more about why a business is looking for a solution in the first place. Is it lower cost? Features? Mobility? Most of these consumers are focused on cost & reliability first, features and functionality second. I think companies in this space should focus on finding a partner with a strong reputation for simplicity, excellent support, and straight-forward pricing.

When you get into the larger markets, where you might be dealing with IT professionals, multiple locations,  or with additional service needs - the same reasons ‘why’ still apply. However, companies are putting more at risk in choosing a provider and as such, should educate themselves more before finding the partner that provides them with the service level requirements they need.

In short, as a customer if you feel you don’t understand what a company is selling you - then they might not be the right fit for your business. 

2. How much of the technical language of VoIP do businesses need to understand to administer their phone systems and manage their voice networks? What solutions are available for businesses that don't have the resources to perform these tasks themselves?

Again, it depends on the size of the business and what type of solution they are looking for. Most businesses with less than 10 seats aren’t going to need a high level of knowledge, while larger businesses will want to familiarize themselves with service related language. There are a wide variety of Hosted PBX options in this space that simplify the management of devices and numbers. VoIP providers offer a variety of options for small or large businesses when it comes to administration or customization, including dedicated support, onsite training/installation, and SLA’s for some businesses. There are 3rd party consultants in the space that are available as well.

3. How are technologies and services evolving to serve smaller businesses without dedicated IT staff to help with purchasing and administering solutions? How do app-based models like Voxox's help to address the needs of this market segment?

While technology can sometimes complicate an offering, when done right it automates and simplifies. Support is making a comeback and better tools are available to help customers. Online management portals are getter better UI’s, support is becoming more accessible with social/helpdesk/crm tools. The entire purchase process can now be done online without the need for a quote and timely. At Voxox, we offer a full range of telephony services including mobile/desktop apps for consumers, Cloud Phone and Hosted PBX for small business, as well as wholesale/carrier services.

4. What aspects of VoIP technology do businesses need to understand to maximize ROI with SIP trunking?

Now we’re wandering into acronym land… Anytime you talk about ROI, you need to understand all of the costs involved. Cost of hardware, cost of service, cost of support, cost of maintenance. At a high level, you save with SIP because you don’t have to over provision lines at your locations and reduce hardware costs. Fewer PRIs (primary rate interface) or T1s. SIP offers affordability and flexibility. However a poorly managed SIP setup can be just as costly. The real ROI comes from adopting a centralized architecture, improved security, and the benefits of a well managed SBC (session border controller)

5. How will the language of Unified Communications shift as providers expand their offerings in the SMB space? Will this expansion also involve technological innovations?

It becomes simplified and more widely understood. To reach more markets successfully, providers have to simplify the messaging. There will likely be technical innovations, more automation, more controls. Not long ago, the concept of “the cloud” didn’t exist - now it’s a mainstream term. Saas, Big Data.

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Topics: Voice Communication, Industry Trends, Unified Communications

4 Benefits of Voicemail Transcription for Small Businesses

Posted by Erica Berry

May 10, 2018 10:23:16 AM

Do you remember when all businesses were brick and mortar with smiling secretaries out front? Well, times have changed. Most of us, especially small business owners, don’t have physical offices, much less secretaries.

Without someone dedicated to assisting you and tracking important messages, keeping phone numbers, names and vital information in order can be a challenge—especially when it’s in the form of voice files. That’s why voicemail transcription has been a life-saver for entrepreneurs. Voicemail transcription automatically transcribes messages into text so can you read your messages directly from email. Yes, that's right, you can read your voicemail just like email.

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Why would you want to do this? Here are four benefits of voicemail transcription for small businesses…

1. Anytime availability

Voicemail transcription is particularly convenient for business owners and employees who are often in meetings or on the go and need to check voicemail without listening to the entire message.  With voicemail transcription, you can tell urgent calls from solicitations / telemarketers, and everything in between.

2. Streamlined experience

You don't have to worry about shifting through long voicemails to find names, numbers and addresses, or accidentally deleting a message by pressing 0 instead of 9 because it’s all written down right in front of you.  A visual interface also allows you to organize, delete and search all your voicemails in a way that would otherwise be impossible.

3. Access via multiple devices

Voicemail transcriptions are accessible on any smartphones equipped with email capabilities, allowing you to read your voicemails anywhere— on the train, waiting for your coffee, on a conference call, etc.  You can also access the transcribed voicemail message on your desktop computer or laptop and reply to the caller via email, if that's easier for you. It's your "call"!

4. Confidentiality

Voicemail transcriptions are fully automated, using voice recognition technology, so no live agents are involved in transcribing voicemail messages. By using automated technology, you can be assured there is confidentiality for your voice messages.

Not only will voicemail transcription help you effortlessly keep up with the ins and outs of your business, but it also provides the comfort of reading your voicemail with the speed, convenience and confidentiality of email. It really is the best of both worlds. 

What are some other perks of voicemail transcription? Share with us in the comments below or via our social media channels!

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Topics: Industry Trends, Cloud Phone, Cost-Effective Solution, Small Business Productivity, Improve Your Business