In this internet age it is easy to overlook the power of other types of Business Communications. There are many times when businesses turn on the answering machine to screen calls but most people still do not like to leave a message. They would rather talk to a real live human being.
So what are the options for handling your business calls?
There are currently well over 7 billion mobile and fixed-line subscribers worldwide which includes 1.5 billion fixed-line subscribers and 5.6 billion mobile subscribers. Worldwide mobile connections last year was up 11 percent from 5 billion connections the year before. Worldwide mobile connections will experience steady growth through the next two years when mobile connections are forecast to reach 7.4 billion, and mobile data revenue will reach $552 billion.
The analysts forecast the Global Unified Communication market to grow at a CAGR of 15.85% over the next three years. One of the key factors contributing to this market growth is the shift from on-premises to cloud-based unified communication. The Global Unified Communication market has also been witnessing the unified communication heading towards WebRTC. However, the initial high cost could pose a challenge to the growth of this market.
The key vendors dominating this market space are Avaya Inc., Alcatel-Lucent SA, Cisco Systems Inc., Microsoft Corp., and Siemens Enterprise Communications GmbH & Co. KG
The other vendors mentioned in the report are Aastra Technologies Ltd., IBM Corp., NEC Corp., Mitel Networks, Interactive Intelligence Inc., SAP AG, and Toshiba Corp.
A conference call is a telephone call in which the calling party wishes to have more than one called party listen in to the audio portion of the call. The conference calls may be designed to allow the called party to participate during the call, or the call may be set up so that the called party merely listens into the call and cannot speak. It is often referred to as an ATC (Audio Tele-Conference).
VOIP or Internet Protocol (IP) telephony is a technology that is rapidly gaining ground against traditional telephone network technologies. VoIP telephony uses an Internet connection and hardware IP Phones or soft-phones installed on personal computers to transmit conversations encoded as data packets. In addition to replacing POTS (plain old telephone service), VoIP telephony services are also competing with mobile phone services by offering free or lower cost connections via WiFi hotspots. VoIP is also used on private networks which may or may not have a connection to the global telephone network.
VOIP or Voice over Internet Protocol is probably one of the most revolutionary advances in the telecommunications industry. It allows you to talk to another person across the globe using digital network connection exactly the same as way you receive email or visit websites. Because you voice is converted into a digital signal it can be sent across the street, across the country, or across the globe for exactly the same cost. For VOIP calls the concept of long distance doesn’t exist.
VOIP calling packages come in two flavors, bulk rate pricing and unlimited calling. Bulk rate pricing allows you to have a monthly allotment of minutes to call who ever you want (just like your cell phone service). If you go over your monthly allotment you will have overage charges. Unlimited calling is exactly just like it sounds you have no limit on the amount of calls you can make. Unlimited calling plans range from $35 to $90 per month depending on the VOIP service provider and the additional features included with your plan. Unless you are making a lot of calls or the unlimited calling plan is very inexpensive bulk rate pricing is usually a better option.
Just like cellular phones VOIP service providers allow you to “port” or move switch your existing phone number into their service. This is really convenient as you won’t have to notify your friends and family you’ve changed your number. Currently there is no legislation that VOIP providers have to allow you to port your number out if you are unhappy or want to change providers. Some of them will, others will charge you a fee, and some will refuse to accommodate your request, be sure to check this before you sign any contracts.
If the VOIP company you are using “piggybacks” on your existing broadband cable connection your phone service is dependant on your cable connection. If your cable connection goes out or you drop your cable company your VOIP phone service won’t work. Additionally if you lose power in your house unless you have a backup generator your phone won’t work.
Lastly many VOIP service providers don’t interface well with emergency services (911). On traditional phone lines your address information is automatically sent when you make a call, this isn’t true for VOIP.
Businesses use conference calls daily to meet with remote parties, both internally and outside of their company. Common applications are client meetings or sales presentations, project meetings and updates, regular team meetings, training classes and communication to employees who work in different locations. Conference calling is viewed as a primary means of cutting travel costs and allowing workers to be more productive by not having to go out-of-office for meetings.
A teleconference or teleseminar is the live exchange and mass articulation of information among several persons and machines remote from one another but linked by a telecommunications system. Terms such as audio conferencing, telephone conferencing and phone conferencing are also sometimes used to refer to teleconferencing.
Internet teleconferencing includes internet telephone conferencing, videoconferencing, web conferencing, and Augmented Reality conferencing.
Internet telephony involves conducting a teleconference over the Internet or a Wide Area Network. One key technology in this area is Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Popular software for personal use includes Skype, Google Talk, Windows Live Messenger and Yahoo Messenger.
The concept of "Permission Marketing" is slowly but surely gaining popularity as the old idea of "Interruption Marketing" becomes less efficient and more wasteful. There are several reasons why cold calling in particular has become less effective as we move further into the Information Age. It destroys your status as a business equal. It forces you to spend time with unqualified prospects while the qualified ones are buying from your competition. It annoys people and is increasingly considered to be rude and disrespectful. Moreover, it may now be illegal (and in several states it's been illegal for quite some time). But, most importantly, it destroys sales peoples attitudes.
Where is the good news in all of this? Well, the great news is that if you begin using new, innovative, "Information Age" methods for prospecting, you'll be miles ahead of your competitors who are wasting their time annoying people with cold calls. In this age of the Internet and vast communication networks, why on earth would anyone knock on doors or make cold phone calls to look for business?
Think of the power at your fingertips: there are literally dozens of ways to use the Web and e-mail to let the idea of Permission Marketing do its magic. Allow customers to raise their hands and let you know they're interested. Begin finding, implementing and reaping the benefits of this bold, new Information Age we are in. Your competitors will be the ones standing in bankruptcy court and explaining their "do-not-call" violations to the government while you are happily taking orders.
Virtual Call Centers
Many Wahms find work at home opportunities with virtual call centers. These call centers marry two important needs: the needs for women to work out of the home and the need for companies to have polite and professional telephone customer service representatives. Virtual call centers help both the business and the work at home mom.
Wahms are hired as customer service agents to inbound callers. They use their own home phone and computer to do their work, and are networked into the company’s customer service system.
Virtual call centers are growing in popularity. Today there are roughly 300,000 people working at home in the United States, and many of them work for virtual call centers. Virtual call centers allow large companies to save money by hiring people to work out of their homes. There is also a low turnover rate for work at home jobs, which makes it beneficial for the company to hire Wahms.
Call center Wahms enjoy their jobs because there is a flexibility that they just don’t get when working outside of the home. Most call centers allow their customer service agents to schedule their own work hours. This can be a great convenience to a mother who needs to arrange her work times around their child’s naps and/or school hours.
Getting started as a virtual call center customer service representative is fairly easy. There are currently over 1,000 companies in the U.S. who hire people to work from home, and most of them are virtual call centers. You’ll need a computer with a high-speed Internet connection and reliable landline phone. You’ll also need a quiet place to work. Beyond those things, there is nothing else that you need to be a successful virtual call center worker.
Applying for a call center position normally follows the same method. You visit the company’s website and fill out their online application. If your application meets their standards, the company will e-mail you to arrange a phone interview. The phone interview is your chance to show them your assets as a telephone customer service rep. Schedule your phone interview for a time when you know your house will be quiet. Answer your phone in a professional manner and keep a light and friendly tone to your speaking. As a customer service rep, you’ll be challenged to sound helpful and agreeable on the phone at all times so this is your chance to display your communication skills.
You may also be required to pass a typing, writing and computer skills test on the company’s website. This will be used to test your ability to do the basic functions of the job. In some cases, you may also need to pass a drug and background screening as well before you are hired.
Once you are hired, the company will have you download a piece of software that will analyze your computer. This analysis will tell you what you need to do to your computer to make it usable in their network. Most of the time, you’ll just need to update a few programs and add the virtual call center’s website to favorites folder.
Typically, your calls will be scripted so you’ll never have to worry about what you have to say. The most successful customer service representatives take some time to practice their script so it sounds more conversational and less like they are reading. If you want to succeed in the long term, it’s well worth the effort to make your script sound conversational. Think about the worst experience you had with calling a company’s customer service department and then do the opposite.
Working for a virtual call center is not for everyone. However, the Wahms that are self-starters and have the requirements to work the job enjoy the steady paychecks and flexibility of working as a telephone customer service representative from out of the home.
Many people would agree that the best way to make a sale would be through a direct sale, say, from your shop, or on the Internet. Consequently, telemarketing is commonly overlooked, but in fact telemarketing is responsible for millions of sales each year. Telemarketing is currently going through a growth phase after many years of doubt and is being adopted by all businesses - small to large.
For those people that telemarketing is new to, it may take time to become a sales expert on the phone (just like it would for most tasks) but once you have mastered the technique, it can become a strong marketing tool.
Telemarketing is not solely used to make an instant sale, but also to make appointments that may lead to a sale. The area of telemarketing is extremely wide and so we aim to introduce you to the basics of the subject by pointing you in the right direction for a successful campaign.
What are you trying to achieve when you first make contact with a customer by telephone?
- A meeting?
- A commitment to buy?
- A sale?
In most instances you should only try to fix a meeting. All too often prospective customers are being lost not due to your product, but by the attempt to get the customer to buy something they have not seen, by someone they do not know. The pressure of trying to sell over the telephone is almost without parallel. How much simpler the whole process would be if you just concentrated on getting the appointment.
By concentrating on the appointment you can avoid the specifics of product/service performance and instead concentrate on:
‘We have something here that I know will excite you, and if you can give me 30 minutes (be honest with the time) I would love to show you how it will immediately improve your profitability’ and,
‘We have a new product/service that has a number of new/advanced/interesting/cutting edge/low cost advantages and I’m sure you would want to be one of the first to see them’
Be Natural - Use the Right Equipment
It has been proved in many businesses that customers respond better when the seller (telemarketer) is talking naturally i.e. not holding their hand to their head (holding the phone), or balancing the phone on their shoulders, etc.
To compensate, headsets are extremely useful for allowing you to talk more naturally on the phone - as if you were talking to them face-to-face being able to use your hands, etc.
Practice Makes Perfect
Practising before you begin your telemarketing campaign will pay off allowing you to build your confidence and rectify mistakes early on: role plays are ideal. Of course, your skills and confidence will develop more through experience, but practising will give you a head start. Listen to yourself on a tape recorder - would you develop an interest?
Don't Go Blank - Use Notes
Stick notes to your desk, phone or wall to help 'jog' your memory for persuasive words, phrases, discussion areas, etc. There is nothing worse than pausing to collect your thoughts and comments when trying to sell over the phone: be ready to reply to anything.
Avoid Insulting the Customer
Obvious, right? Well, people do it without even realizing by using comments like "did you understand that?" and "are you following what I'm saying?". This automatically shrinks the customers' intelligence and ability to catch on. It is down to your own ability to make the customer understand and therefore if you feel the customer is failing to do so, use comments such as "did I explain that clearly" and so on.
Give the Customer a Friend they can Trust
Make customers feel as if they are talking to a friend by making yourself come across as the person that everyone wants to know. Be friendly, be concerned, assure them, praise them - anything that makes them develop a sense of trust: trust goes a long way.
Increase Your Business With Easy Telephone Tips
Our goal here is to describe using the telephone in a perfect world, which is totally unrealistic. However, since we all know that victories are usually won by small incremental differences between competitors, we suggest you try a few of these points in your business to gain the competitive advantage. Implement one every month, and your success rate will increase.
- Call your company and ask for yourself. Or have someone do it for you where you can listen in. Do it at 8:55 in the morning, or at 5:10 in the afternoon, during normal business hours, lunch hour, first thing Monday morning. Do it a few times a week.
- Call your company, or have someone do it for you, as if you were a potential or active customer. Ask for information, ask for different departments, voice a complaint, leave a message asking for a callback, etc., all the reasons people call. Do it a few times a week.
- Implement a policy so that all incoming calls are answered before the third ring. When it's answered, say something meaningful and pleasant. Say it slowly so the caller can understand you. Do it every time the phone rings.
- Take messages completely and accurately. See that the message gets to the intended person. Make sure someone gets back to the caller if the intended person cannot respond in a reasonable timeframe, especially while they are on vacation. Return all your calls within one business day, if not the same day. Do it on all messages taken.
- If your company has a menu of options a caller goes through, listen very carefully to it. See if it makes sense, and is reasonable from their perspective. Listen to the greeting on your extension the way an incoming caller hears it. Make sure your message is reasonably accurate, especially when you are away from the office for an extended period. Do it whenever you call into your office.
- Do not use a speakerphone unless you really need more than one person in on the conversation at your end. Speakerphones give the impression that you are doing something other than concentrating on the call, and they also make the caller think his/her call is not private. Further, you sound like you are taking a bath to the caller. Do it only when you must.
- Call your new customer as soon as the first product is shipped, or service provided. Make sure they get some contact from you or someone you can count on. Call them when the first invoice goes out to make sure they, and their accounts payable department, can understand it. Do it for every new customer.
- Call all your regular customers on a periodic basis, just to say hello, maybe tell them about a new offering. Make sure they are still there, and if not, get in touch with the person that is now your customer before he/she goes to another supplier. Do it on a schedule commensurate with their value to you.
- When you leave a message on a voice machine, or with a person, speak slowly and clearly, including the purpose for the call, and a good time for them to call you back. Do it on all messages you leave.
- Ask if it is OK before you put someone on hold, get back to them every 30-45 seconds. And do not use a local radio stations as your 'music on hold' message. Consider getting a professional promotional message created for your business.
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