There’s an App for that (part 4) – Virtual Receptionist/FonGenie

Product Spotlight:  Virtual Receptionist/FonGenie

Do you remember that old television show “I Dream of Jeannie”?

Jeannie would cross her arms, blink her eyes and Presto! anything that Major Nelson needed, or wanted (or, sometimes, things he didn’t even know he needed or wanted), would pop right up.

What if your computer could cross its arms, blink its eyes and Presto! a window would pop up with all the pertinent information on an incoming call – who is calling and why, where they are calling from, and any/all previous purchase history – all before your phone even begins to ring?

There’s an app for that.

Here’s how it works:

Your virtual receptionist automatically greets your callers and provides information about your business hours, address, and daily specials. It can even provide directions to your business location.  You can easily update and customize your greeting and daily specials from your computer, iPhone or iPad.  You don’t need to worry about being in quiet location to make recordings – just type in the script and Virtual Receptionist will do the rest!

Meanwhile….back at your computer…

Virtual Receptionist has provided you with the following pop-up window.  Your phone hasn’t rung, but when it does, you will be prepared.  You will know who is calling and from where.  You will also have invaluable information regarding the nature of the call, and, if a regular customer is calling, you will have their order history immediately available.

Knowing your clients and their preferences is a powerful tool help you connect with them and build lasting relationships.  Imagine, a customer calls in and instead of saying “how can I help you?” you say “Mr. Jones!  How are you?  It’s been about 3 months since we last spoke – you must need an oil change.”  Mr. Jones will hang up and will feel a personal connection with you.  That is key to building a loyal client base.

Having customer’s purchase history readily available also helps you up-sell.  Perhaps you are a spa owner and Mrs. Smith regularly schedules just a mani-pedi, but occasionally treats herself to a massage.  Instead of just booking her appointment as usual, you will know exactly what product to entice her with:  “Mrs. Smith!  I know how much you love a mani-pedi…but, would you like to try our Pamper and Relax package?  It’s a mani-pedi with a 20 minute massage.”  Just that little suggestion could be all you need to get Mrs. Smith to upgrade her usual spa package.

This is just a small sampling of the many ways Virtual Receptionist can help your business.  Additionally, it replaces the telephone company, it has a built-in CRM, and it provides reports and analytics, as well as business intelligence.  It even predicts on which day and during which hours your highest call volume will occur.

Click here to learn more about Virtual Receptionist/FonGenie.

Cloud Cost Savings Basics

Many businesses have found themselves faced with making some hard choices due to the recent economic conditions.  It can be a struggle for small- to medium-sized businesses to keep current with the ever-changing face of technology.  In 2011, Gartner Executive Programs surveyed more than 2,000 CIOs worldwide and found that most CIO’s business’ priorities were striving to increase growth and reduce costs, and they were looking at cloud computing as a way to achieve their business goals.

Table 1
Top 10 Business and Technology Priorities in 2011

Top 10 Business Priorities
Ranking Top 10 Technology Priorities Ranking
Increasing enterprise growth

1

Cloud computing

1

Attracting and retaining new customers

2

Virtualization

2

Reducing enterprise costs

3

Mobile technologies

3

Creating new products and services (innovation)

4

IT management

4

Improving business processes

5

Business intelligence

5

Implementing and updating business applications

6

Networking, voice and data communications

6

Improving technical infrastructure

7

Enterprise applications

7

Improving enterprise efficiency

8

Collaboration technologies

8

Improve operations

9

Infrastructure

9

Improving business continuity, risk and security

10

Web 2.0

10

Source: Gartner EXP (January 2011)

97% of small- to medium-sized business (SMBs) that are utilizing cloud computing in some form report they got what they wanted in terms of cost savings.  According to Newtek’s SB Authority Market Sentiment Survey, only 20% of SMBs are embracing the benefits of cloud computing solutions.  Does that surprise you?  How can 97% organizations doing business in the cloud realize savings, yet only 20% of business owners believe doing business in the cloud can save them money?

Breaking it Down – Cloud Cost Savings Basics

1.  Servers – Corporate servers have utilization levels of around 15%.  A server has a life cycle of 3 years, and 50% depreciation right out of the box.  Operating at only 15%, it will take much longer than 3 years for you to see a return on your investment.  For many SMBs investing in servers is not a wise financial decision.  Cloud computing alleviates the need to invest in expense equipment, as well as, software licenses.

2.  Pay-as-you-go Model – Your subscription rates are based on your number of users accessing the hosted applications of your choice.  New users can be added with short notice, and its scalability is designed to fit your needs.  Users can be added one at a time as the need arises.

3.  Focus of IT Department – If all your IT resources are in-house, your IT department is spending all its time and resources on equipment maintenance, new software installs, software updates, etc.  Without these responsibilities weighing down your IT department they can shift their focus on innovation, on strategic initiatives, on projects that will positively impact your bottom-line.

The financial benefits of cloud computing are not restricted to strictly cost savings. Doing business in the cloud also frees up your talent to focus on making money for your organization.  Have you made the switch to the cloud?  If not, what is holding you back?

There’s an App for That (Part 3) – Remote Office

Product Spotlight:  Remote Office:  iPhone/Deskphone and Android/Deskphone

I recently ran into an old colleague who shared with me the following story:

She had taken a week off of work to attend her sister’s wedding.  She works in sales, and she had some big deals in her pipeline.  She went on vacation planning on doing a little work while she was at her parent’s home.  On Monday morning, when she checked her work voice mail, she had three new messages.  She returned the calls using her cell phone:  two calls to prospects and one call to a current client that was having problems and was very unhappy.

Welcome to your working vacation my friend:

Calling clients or prospects from your cell phone, when you are on vacation, sends the message that you are reachable and available.  In my friend’s case, her client had her number and they weren’t afraid to use it.

She went on to say how she had to walk out on brunch with her mom and her sister because the unhappy client called 3 times in just over a half hour.  “It was so distracting,” she explained.  “Each time my phone rang, I knew it was my client and each time I let it go to voice mail, I knew he was growing more frustrated.   I really regretted calling him with my cell phone.  In addition, I spent several days going back and forth with my two prospects.   I really wanted to keep my focus on my sister, but my cell was ringing off the hook.  I don’t mind doing business on vacation, but I wish there could have been a buffer between us.”

What if you could maintain your one number identity even when working remotely?

There’s an App for that.

Remote Office for Android or iPhone is a native Android/iPhone application that allows you to originate calls from your smart phone through your Telovations-powered desk phone.  It enables easy control of Remote Office, Do Not Disturb and Call Forwarding settings while on the move.

Remote Office comes with an intuitive look and feel. It offers convenient “click-to-dial” options from a keypad, from your deskphone’s Call History or from your Android or iPhone contact list.

Click here to learn more about the iPhone/Deskphone or click here to learn more about Android/Deskphone.

There’s an App for that (part 2) – Salesforce Connector

Product Spotlight:  Salesforce Connector

Salesforce Connector puts your desk phone to work by integrating your telephony capabilities with Salesforce.com.

My life before Salesforce Connector:

I used to work for a company that sold financial software to small- to medium-sized businesses.  We used Salesforce to manage our leads and our prospects, as well as, our communications with our accounts.  One morning, one of my accounts called in with an issue, which was resolved.  As soon as we hung up, I opened Salesforce, searched for her account record and started logging in her call.  I wanted to take note of her issue in order to make a follow up with her in a few days.  That’s when my phone started ringing.  After typing in a few quick notes, I answered my call.

I had every intention of returning to her information record and adding more details on our conversation, but it turned into a hectic day…one thing after the other, and I just didn’t get back to it.  I didn’t think to do it the next day, or over the weekend.  By Monday, I couldn’t remember exactly what her issue had been and I was preparing to make my follow-up call.  I logged into Salesforce hoping to find something of value in my notes.  It was just a series of words and incomplete phrases…

Phoned.  Probs with Softw Transport Step by step Resolved.

Wow.  Not the least bit helpful.  And transport?  What did that mean?  Did I mean to type export?  Was she trying to export to excel?

Luckily for me, this was something minor.  I was still able to make my call, ask a few vague questions, and her answers jogged my memory.  My account appreciated my follow-through and she had no indication I couldn’t remember what the problem was in the first place.

But what if I would have inaccurately notated details of a contract negotiation, or there was something very specific I needed to follow up on?  My goal is not only to bring my clients great products, but to also provide them with superior service and support.  If I had to call her back and ask “I’m really sorry, I got busy the other day…what was I supposed to do for you?”  I’m not doing my job.

My life with Salesforce Connector:

As you know, in the business world, life can be very fast paced.  In this instance, having a few additional seconds could have meant the difference between incomplete notes and an accurate record of an important call.

Salesforce Connector gives me what I need, even before I know I need it.  When an account or contact calls me, Salesforce Connector scans the database and their information record in Salesforce instantly pops up on my computer.  With one click, I answer their call and their call is logged in Salesforce.  With their information right in front of me, I can easily take notes right as the call is occurring.

Other features include click-to-call from the Salesforce interface, new contact notification, and the following call control features:  hold, transfer, conference, cancel and hang-up – all within the interface.

What is even more exciting is a new feature that is coming soon.  Speak to text translations will automatically store a transcript of my conversation in the notes section.  Can you imagine being able to recall, word-for-word, every point made during a contract negotiation?  That is a powerful tool.

Click here to learn more about Salesforce Connector.

Cloud Storage 101

Do you always back up your important work and personal docs?  What about all your photos?  Computers sometimes lull us into a false sense of security.  We hear about people’s computers crashing, but unless it has happened to us, we have a tendency to put it off until later.  Really, what could possibly happen?

There’s never been a better time to back up your information in the cloud.  With so many options, you can find the right storage solution to fit your data needs and your pocketbook.  If trying to make sense of all the different options out there has been overwhelming, here quick overview and comparison of 4 of the major cloud storage providers:

AMAZON CLOUD DRIVE:

  • Storage size: 5GB to 1,000GB
  • Price: First 5GB free, $1/GB a year additional
  • File support: All types
  • Mobile support: Amazon MP3 app for Android

Amazon Cloud Drive is Amazon.com’s offering for cloud storage.  It is very easy to sign up if you already have an Amazon.com account.  One of the great things about Amazon Cloud Drive is any MP3 files purchased through Amazon are automatically stored.  Even better, these files are stored for free and do not use any of your available storage space.  If you upgrade to 50GB, it will only cost you about $4.16/month, which is a bargain.  On the downside, it doesn’t offer the best solution for file sharing.  In order to share files with friends or family members, you have to provide them with your Amazon user name and password and you are limited to 8 devices associated with your account.  For more info or to get started, visit Amazon Cloud Drive.

APPLE iCLOUD:

  • Storage size: 5GB to 50GB
  • Price: 5GB for free, 15GB total space for $20/year, 25GB total space for $40/year, 55GB total space for $100/year
  • File support: MP3s, videos, photos, Apple-specific files
  • Mobile support: iPhone/iPad

iCloud delivers cloud-based storage and applications to compatible Mac, PC, and iOS devices.  It allows you to download all your past and present iTunes purchases on your registered devices, and automatically updates all devices when you make a purchase.  That saves you from having to individually sync every device each time you download a new song or app.  Only Apple specific files, for example those written in Apple’s Pages App, can be stored and edited via iCloud.  Also, adding an additional 50 GB of storage space will run you about $8.33/month.

To set up iCloud, visit Apple.

DROPBOX:

  • Storage size: 2GB to 100GB
  • Price: 2GB free, 50GB for $9.99/month, 100GB for $19.99/month
  • File support: All types
  • Mobile support: Android, iPhone/iPad, BlackBerry

Founded in 2007, Dropbox has been offering online storage in the cloud the longest compared to the others we are discussing today.  Dropbox offers cloud storage for all your file types.  It is a free computer download that is compatible with Mac, Windows, or Linux computers.  File sharing is very simple with Dropbox, you can invite friends, family or coworkers to have access to an entire folder, or you have the option of making certain files public, allowing anyone on the internet the ability to download them.  You start off with 2GB for free, but can add an additional 500MB/referral, up to 18GB at no extra cost.  Coming in at $9.99/month for 50GB, Dropbox is the most expensive of the 4 options.

For more information, visit Dropbox.

GOOGLE DRIVE:

  • Storage size: 5GB to 1TB
  • Price: First 5GB free; 25GB for $2.49/month, 100GB for $4.99/month, 1TB for $49.99/month
  • File support: All types
  • Mobile support: Android, iPhone/iPad (coming soon)

Google Drive gives you the most bang for your buck!  For $4.99/month you receive 100GB of storage in Drive and Picasa, which is an online place to store and share your photos in web albums.  Google Drive provides you with access to Google docs; with this tool you can share files with anyone.  You can also chose whether you will allow people to view, edit or comment on your files.  As long as you have a google email account, you can access google drive.

To get started, visit Google Drive’s homepage.

What is your favorite storage solution in the cloud and why?  Let us know below.

Weekly Blog Series: There’s an App for that (part 1)

It’s hard for me to imagine how I got by before my smart phone came into my life.  It gives me directions when I’m lost, it keeps my day on track by reminding where I need to be and what I need it be doing.  It even (and probably most importantly) can find me the nearest Starbucks when I need a skinny caramel macchiato fix.  Who could forget this Apple ad campaign?  “What’s great about the iPhone, is that if you want to check snow conditions on the mountain….there’s an app for that.”

But, what I love best about my smart phone is that I’m never out of reach…from my family….from my business.  I never miss an important event or business opportunity, because I am always connected.

My smart phone made me look at my business phone on my desk and think “what have YOU done for me lately?  You are big and bulky.  You know I like to organize things in piles and you are taking up a big chunk of real estate on the corner of my desk.  If I’m going to be completely honest, the only thing you make me feel connected to IS my desk.”

The only thing my desk phone can handle is making outbound, and accepting inbound calls, right.  Or is it?

What if your phone system could recognize who was calling and instantly displayed caller details and account information found in your CRM of choice?

Imagine your child is sick, you need to work from home and you don’t want your clients to have your personal phone number?  What if you could make calls from your android or iPhone using your work number?

What if your phone could analyze your client’s purchase history to help you up-sell the right products and services whenever a client calls you to place an order?

If you are working with a Telovations powered desk phone, there are apps for all that.

Please join us over the next few weeks as we showcase each product and provide real world scenarios and applications.