Evolve IP https://www.evolveip.net The Cloud Services Company Thu, 29 Oct 2020 22:47:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.5.2 https://www.evolveip.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/eipicon.png Evolve IP https://www.evolveip.net 32 32 Microsoft’s On Fire – My thoughts from Microsoft Ignite 2020 https://www.evolveip.net/blog/microsofts-on-fire-my-thoughts-from-microsoft-ignite-2020 Wed, 21 Oct 2020 13:36:58 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=35287 The post Microsoft’s On Fire – My thoughts from Microsoft Ignite 2020 appeared first on Evolve IP.

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Every year, about this time, the major tech companies have their launch events, and junior pundits and Wall Street market makers the Internet over have a field day analyzing (and scrutinizing) the announcements.   As usual, Apple produced a beautiful and heartfelt piece of art that somehow felt bigger than the actual announcements they made (no iPhone?).   Google’s Launch Night In shared more tech in 30 minutes than Apple did in an hour but somehow still felt like the B side to your favorite album.  Microsoft’s Surface Event?  Underwhelming by comparison.

That said, it was Microsoft’s sprawling 48-hour online tech conference, Ignite, that really fired up our imaginations (pun game on!).

Not surprisingly, Ignite was followed by the same questions we get every year (well, every 6 months when you add Microsoft Inspire to the junior analyst calendar). What does this mean to the market, and specifically what does it mean for Evolve IP? While I won’t cover 48 hours worth of announcements in a blog post, I will hit on 3 storylines affecting our customers and partners.

Microsoft TEAMS – the Zoom Killer?

The fortunes of Zoom and Microsoft Teams have been well documented throughout Coronavirus.  Both brands became verbs in March and April –  Zoom due to its superior meetings experience (meeting size and creative backgrounds most significant) and Microsoft Teams, due to its Workstream Collaboration features and deep integration into the Office 365 accounts that customers already had.  Since then, Microsoft has been feverishly working to close the meetings gap and, in many ways, they already have.

I have been quite vocal in my opinion that Microsoft would eventually win the meetings war, because they won the spreadsheet war in the 90s and the email/productivity war in the 2000s, and so on.   Frankly, no one company has the opportunity to make the meetings experience feel so “connected” to the rest of your work.

Ignite marks the tipping point in the meetings war.  Microsoft had already addressed its meeting size limitations with its large gallery and together mode and added a superior background feature which, in my opinion, has less artifact and ghosting around the speaker than other solutions.  But at Ignite they closed a big remaining gap with breakout rooms and lit our imaginations on fire with the custom layouts and additional together modes.   Yes – you can present in front of your PowerPoint like a newscast.  And they are adding the event registration capabilities that have kept Cisco Webex a favorite for Webinars.   In an era where Apple fanboys (guilty) wait for a slickly produced annual launch to show off a few new IOS features that feel like incrementalism, Microsoft has never moved faster.

Microsoft Teams Phone System – Your Next Phone System is the Collaboration Tool You Used During Coronavirus

The most remarkable announcements about Teams Phone System is that there just weren’t that many.   They are changing the calling screen with some much-needed optimization.   In addition, they are adding some new collaborative calling features that enable multiple Teams users to collaborate on external calls, not just internal voice and chats.

The largest feature of note here is upcoming support for SIP phones.  Details are still emerging but the simple idea is that businesses can use their legacy investments in SIP devices on the Microsoft Teams platform – a feature that we have supported in our Teams Enterprise Voice Product for some time (with the added benefit of DR and a host of traditional phone features).

Add the fact that there were basically no announcements about expanding call groups and queues, and it’s easy to see that Microsoft is letting the eco-system (partners, service providers, developers) do the dirty work of engaging in customer’s unique requirements while they focus on mass-market features against Zoom, Cisco, Slack, and others.

Recent announcements by UCaaS platforms 8×8 and Ring Central that they are jumping into the Direct Routing game to fully integrate with Microsoft Teams – despite their well-documented investments in their own meetings solutions, and lack of history with Microsoft – are further evidence of this trend.

Deploying Microsoft Teams with Phone Systems

This overview dives into the major considerations you’ll want to think through, as well as provides advice on implementing Microsoft Teams Direct Routing independently or with a 3rd party enterprise voice provider like Evolve IP.

Azure Communication Services – Getting Under the Hood

ACS understandably got the most buzz of the event.   And I immediately started fielding questions about what this means for Teams SaaS providers like Evolve IP.  Microsoft describes ACS as “a cloud-based communications service that lets you add voice, video, chat, and telephony to your apps.”  ACS opens up Teams further to the development community.  ACS is not competing with UCaaS providers, it’s an entry into the CPaaS market (think Twilio and Nexmo).  The fact that it’s marketed under the Azure brand and not the M365 brand demonstrates that this is a developer and tech-focused offering, not a mass-market subscription product.

ACS continues the trend of previous announcements from Inspire when Microsoft opened up presence and recording options to allow deeper third-party integrations for more complex contact center and speech analytics offerings.  ACS will allow software developers and cloud service providers like Evolve IP to build more tightly coupled IVR and SMS applications for our Teams’ customers.   It will enable the further creation of an eco-system around the Teams core that addresses the requirements of larger businesses in specific industries.   In short, Microsoft is empowering the community to fill the Teams edge cases.

For further evidence look no further than Microsoft’s announcement that the Power Platform can be used to build applications directly into the Meetings experience (not just the Teams client) enabling new work streams that we haven’t even thought of yet.

The Future is Team Collaboration

Do you Teams?  Yeah – most businesses today do.   And while Microsoft continues to push the envelope in Productivity, Collaboration, and Meetings (features that everyone can use), their announcements at Ignite (and previously at Inspire) show that they are looking to their ecosystem partners to build around the platform to service customer’s specific needs.    As a 12-year partner of Microsoft, Tier 1 Cloud Service Provider with them, and a SaaS developer in the Teams ecosystem, we’re happy to fill that role and we couldn’t be more excited about what’s next.

Evolve IP Delivers the World’s Most Advanced Teams with Integrated Voice Communications Solution (seriously, we do!)

This might sound like hyperbole but hear me out. Sure, there are several providers that enable Teams direct routing. Some use bots. Some (like us) do so at the platform level. BUT how many of them also deliver:

  • Cisco enterprise voice (the world’s #1 VoIP solution)
  • A fully-integrated, Gartner Magic Quadrant noted Omnichannel call center
  • AI-driven speech analytics with HIPAA/ HITRUST, GDPR, PCI compliant call recording
  • Integrated business messaging (SMS <> Texting) from your employees DID
  • And, there’s much more…

If you’re interested in learning about our Teams with Cisco voice solution please fill out our contact form or just start a chat here on the site. We’re looking forward to speaking with you!

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Microsoft Teams vs Slack for Better Collaboration https://www.evolveip.net/blog/microsoft-teams-vs-slack-for-better-collaboration Wed, 21 Oct 2020 01:51:25 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=35283 The post Microsoft Teams vs Slack for Better Collaboration appeared first on Evolve IP.

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Are you considering Microsoft Teams or Slack? To help make your decision about the suitability for your company, see our high-level overview comparing Microsoft Teams vs Slack collaboration solutions. Then read further to find out how Slack is different than Teams in a detailed Slack vs Teams comparison.

Both Microsoft Teams and Slack are collaboration platforms with free and paid versions and incorporate similar productivity features. This comparison focuses on the paid versions which are more suited for mid-sized and enterprise businesses.

Microsoft Teams vs Slack – Comparison Findings

  • Microsoft Teams is the most logical choice for organizations whose employees are already using Microsoft solutions such as Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365 / O365) or one-off Microsoft services such as Word, PowerPoint, Excel, or SharePoint / OneDrive.
  • Microsoft users don’t need to pay more for a Teams subscription if they already have a Microsoft 365 SaaS subscription plan or use Microsoft Dynamics ERP.
  • Slack charges for the SaaS subscription plans that are most comparable to Microsoft Teams.
  • Teams is a better solution for larger enterprises as it enables more users than Slack.
  • Slack is a solid solution for smaller businesses needing to incorporate many external guest participants for free or businesses or want more third-party app choices.
  • Slack is a good choice for businesses that aren’t concerned with directly integrating Microsoft solutions
  • Both Microsoft Teams and Slack provide excellent security, particularly in their enterprise versions.

Microsoft Teams Features and Benefits

Microsoft includes Teams in many of its subscription plans at no extra cost, including Microsoft 365 Business Essentials, Business Standard, and enterprise versions known as E1, E3, and E5. Microsoft Dynamics 365 can also be integrated with Teams through either the Basic or Enhanced Collaboration Experience. That means Microsoft Teams is easy to access at no additional cost except the upgrades that you need and want.

  • The Microsoft Teams collaboration platform natively includes:
  • Teams
  • Channels
  • Video and audio meetings and live events, with screen sharing
  • Chat messaging, including inline message translation
  • Calls
  • Files, including file-sharing and attachments to messages
  • Notifications
  • Bots for messaging and productivity
  • Workflow automation for productivity, project management, and exceptions notification without coding
  • Integrated Microsoft software and a choice of 600+ available third-party apps,
  • Help resources

The Evolve IP Microsoft Teams with Cisco voice platform is enhanced with major features like:

  • Cisco enterprise voice and communications services for phone systems
  • SMS business messaging / testing
  • AI voice recording and speech analytics
  • A Gartner Magic Quadrant noted omnichannel contact center
  • Much more

Microsoft Teams vs Slack

43-point comparative analysis on video conferencing, collaboration solution providers.

Microsoft Teams – A Deeper Dive

Teams are the people who work on projects within the organization or as guests from outside the organization.

Channels have message threads for particular projects or functional areas. Chat organizes conversations like a chat with messages that can include file attachments to share with others and the history of conversations related to the channel topic over time.

All team members in the channel can receive the communications for collaboration and editing, given their permission level for a particular file or electronic document. Files are available from seamlessly integrated Microsoft 365 software like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.

Microsoft just announced some major enhancements at Ignite 2020 that give it a major competitive edge for businesses including:

  • Breakout rooms
  • Presentation modes with custom layouts
  • More together mode backgrounds
  • Meeting recaps
  • Teams Webinar registration links

In the current Microsoft Teams Together Mode gallery view in video meetings joins remote video frames to make it look like attendees are in the same room. Remote and in-house teams, including sales teams, appear as part of a unified company. Students in a distance learning setting seem to be seated in a classroom to interact.

The MS Teams solution organizes work activities and provides tools to accomplish work. Features include streamlining and automating workflows with pre-planned messaging, managing project or work status with periodic inquiries requesting answers, and providing notifications when certain events occur.

Slack Features and Benefits

Slack lists and compares the features included in each pricing plan. This analysis focuses on the Plus plan which is a closer comparison to Microsoft Teams.

Slack offers teams, workspaces, channels, and Slackbot. Slack encourages large organizations to use numerous channels that include team channels, project channels, team sub-channels, and topic channels, with naming conventions.

Screen-sharing is available in all Slack paid plans, including Plus (but not in the free version).

The Slack Connect feature enables unlimited invited guests from external organizations to collaborate securely with employees using Slack.

Comparing Features and Benefits of Microsoft Teams vs Slack (The shortlist)

Feature Microsoft Teams Slack
Creating teams Yes Yes. Set up a workspace for teams in Slack.
Channels Yes Yes
Chat messaging with threads Yes Yes
Video meetings Yes Yes
Audio Yes Yes
Direct Routing PSTN Calls Yes Unknown
File-sharing, including message attachments Yes. Seamlessly integrated with Microsoft 365 Yes. 3rd party required to integrate with Microsoft applications (See below)
Limits Microsoft Teams limits: Per-user number of teams to create 250

Per-user membership on teams 1,000

Number of members per team 25,000

Number of teams a Microsoft 365 or Office 365 organization can have 500,000

Number of members in an org-wide team 5,000

Number of channels per team

200 (including deleted)

Number of Private channels per team 30

Number of members in a Private channel 250

Meeting & chat participants

300 (effective June 2020)

Chat messages and search – unlimited

Slack limits in Plus:

Number of channels- unlimited

Voice and video calls – up to 15 participants

External collaboration – unlimited

Workspaces – 1

Integrations with other apps – unlimited

Message history – unlimited

File storage – 20GB per team member

 

 

Bots for expert search, productivity, automated messaging and reminders, and project management

 

 

Multiple bots with different functions are available from Microsoft and 3rd parties through the Apps tab in Teams. The Microsoft Flow app in Teams is used as a chatbot for messaging, for approvals, and to automate and streamline workflows. The Microsoft Who app (a bot) is used to search for expertise within your organization. (Upgrades to Microsoft Power Virtual Agents and Microsoft Power Automate can also be used to create bots and use robotic process automation (RPA) with Teams.) SlackBot is available for all members and guests on all Slack plans, including free, in direct messages and channels, or to use yourself. Choose other third-party bots in Slack. Slack users can access templates for Microsoft Flow.
Collaboration with trusted external organizations Microsoft Teams doesn’t have a limit on outside guests, but more than 5 guests per user will cost more. The number of Microsoft Teams guests from outside organizations is up to 5 guests per licensed user included in Azure Directory (AD) license provided by certain Microsoft 365 and Office 365 software products, with upgrades for additional guest users through the purchase of a higher level Azure AD B2B collaboration license. Yes, with Slack Connect, using public or private shared channels. The current limit is 19 outside organizations.
Zoom third-party app integration Yes Yes
Office 365 (Microsoft 365) software and apps Integrated into Teams for use without leaving the collaboration platform. Microsoft products for Slack include: the Microsoft Teams Calls app, Outlook e-mail add-in, Outlook calendar app for Slack, OneDrive app (for sharing cloud-based OneDrive and SharePoint files in Slack), Azure Active Directory, Azure Boards, Azure Pipelines, and Azure Repos, and Slack templates for Microsoft Flow (templates can connect Slack to Office 365, email, SharePoint, etc.). The Microsoft Teams Calls app lets users start Microsoft Teams calls from within a Slack workspace. With the Microsoft Teams app, Slack users can “choose to set Microsoft Teams Calls as a default calling app so members can initiate Teams Calls from the phone icon in a channel or direct message (DM).”
Industry versions or features Healthcare, Firstline workers (retail, healthcare workers, etc.), and Education Financial Services and Healthcare and supports Distance learning for Education
Custom backgrounds and blurring images Both No. Offers light and dark modes.
Whiteboard Yes, Microsoft Whiteboard is integrated with Teams. A toggle on/off setting applies to all Whiteboard applications (not just Teams) No, but the choice of several third-party app integrations, including SketchTogether
Security High, including enterprise-level security and compliance

requirements.

High, including enterprise-level security and compliance requirements.

Conclusion – Best User Fit and Suitability

Is Teams better than Slack? Or is Slack better than Teams?

The overriding questions to ask your IT team in the Teams vs Slack analysis are:

  • Do your employees currently use Microsoft productivity services and would you like to integrate them into your employees collaboration?
  • Do you have a large number of users?
  • Do you want to integrate your communications system or contact center agents?
  • Does your organization need breakout rooms or Webinar registrations?

If you’ve answered yes to any of the above then Microsoft Teams is clear winner. If the answer is ‘no’ than both Slack and Teams will likely work for your business

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The Virtual Private Network (VPN) – Is it Dead? https://www.evolveip.net/blog/the-virtual-private-network-vpn-is-it-dead Fri, 09 Oct 2020 17:46:37 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=35260 At the start of 2020, many ‘industry insiders’ would have told you that the VPN is dead, but like, seemingly, everything this year, expectations could not have been further from reality.

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At the start of 2020, many ‘industry insiders’ would have told you that the VPN is dead, but like, seemingly, everything this year, expectations could not have been further from reality.  COVID-19 and the expedited need for work-from-home solutions across practically all industries and verticals has clearly proven that notion wrong, and it would be a fair assumption that there are more client VPNs in use for enabling work-from-home and remote work solutions than at any other time in IT history – many of these hastily put-in-place or quickly expanded in their usage by urgent necessity.  As more time passes, however, and we transition from solutions of ‘immediate need’ to ones of ‘long-term outlook,’ the new question may not be ‘Is VPN dead?’ but rather, ‘Should it be?’  In this post, we’ll review a few of the key concerns around a VPN-centric ‘work-from-home’ solution, and how Evolve IP’s Workspaces solution can help to address and alleviate these concerns.

Secure VPN

Let’s start by addressing the elephant in the room.  VPNs, by their very nature, present an inherent security risk for your network.  There are a number of mitigating technologies and practices which can help to manage the level of risk involved, but the risk of allowing external machines to become an extension of your internal network still carries with it a number of concerns.

One of the most obvious ways that organizations look to secure their VPN is to ensure that when client devices connect, they are placed into a ‘quarantine’ network which exists adjacent to (rather than as part of) the internal network.  The challenge, here, is that the whole purpose of the VPN is to enable access to those internal resources which reside on that internal network, so you still need to provide some form of crossover between those networks.  Why is this risky?  Simply, the biggest concern here is that any of those external devices that connect via VPN could be compromised; they could have viruses, malware, ransomware, or a range of other potential infections or issues that will attempt to propagate across whatever networks and devices they are connected to.  This begs the question, ‘Can’t I just make sure that the devices have antivirus?’  Sure… you could, but now you have just expanded your role to managing and securing all of these devices as well.  This comes with a cost, both financial and administrative.  You now have to supply the licensing for the security software you choose to leverage, you need to ensure that users have installed it, you need to maintain definitions for it to keep it updated as well as ensure patching of the device Operating Systems in order to ensure no vulnerabilities there may be exploited.  Many folks now turn to the idea of SDP, or a Software-Defined Perimeter solution, which provides Network Access Control and automates the process of ensuring the client devices meet certain minimum requirements like: running a supported OS, running approved antivirus/anti-malware, etc.  Unfortunately, this then further increases the cost and complexity of a traditional VPN solution, and frankly, many organizations don’t take these additional needs into consideration as a result.

Many organizations tend to focus their time, attention, and finances on ensuring that their network is most secure at its assumed weakest point, the firewall.  This makes a ton of logical sense because we can think of the firewall like the front door of your home.  Naturally, you feel safer if that door has more and better locks or maybe a thicker or more secure door and door frame, but many organizations make these significant investments in providing the best door and best locks possible, but then, in the interest of providing simple and fast remote access simply leave the door unlocked so that everyone can come and go as they need.

Why not embrace a solution in which there is no need to actually establish a connection between the end-users’ devices and the internal network, though?  This solves many of the aforementioned concerns because it effectively makes the user’s device simply a terminal to connect to published desktop sessions or applications, and internal company or organizational data never has to leave the datacenter and be processed locally on the client device.  This is the type of solution afforded by Evolve IP’s Workspaces solution which even goes a step further by securing access to those applications and desktop sessions behind an included Identity and Access Management platform that can utilize both Multifactor Authentication and Single Sign-On capabilities.

Comparing DaaS Solutions

This virtual desktop or DaaS comparison guide is designed for those who are looking into hosted virtual desktops or desktops as a service (DaaS). It also compares the technology to Evolve IP’s Workspaces solution.

VPN Reliability and Performance

As we established in the Security section, employing a VPN is, basically, extending your internal network to an external client device.  Historically, this has worked well for things like access to file shares, network printers, and other internal resources, but what about actually running an application across the VPN?  Some applications will perform fine and seem no different than when a user is in the office; however, many applications (especially some older apps) can be sensitive to latency.  Let’s first establish what latency is.

Imagine driving on a highway from New York to Los Angeles.  If you are the only car on that highway, then you can get back and forth as fast as your car will allow you.  That is latency: the amount of time that it takes to travel the distance back and forth.  Many people tend to confuse latency with bandwidth.  In the same scenario, think of bandwidth as the number of lanes that the highway has.  Once you introduce other traffic, beyond just your car, now, the more lanes there are, the faster you can make the trip, but you still can’t go any faster than your car can drive that road back and forth.

I bring this up because if you have a latency-sensitive application, the app performance will suffer simply because ‘the road’ between where your user is running the app and where the backend of that app is too long.  In some cases, those two things not being directly adjacent (or within the same network) may be enough to cause significant performance issues, unresponsiveness, unreliability, or application ‘slowness.’  When this occurs, we often see IT teams mistakenly think that adding more bandwidth can correct this issue, but the problem isn’t that there’s ‘too much traffic’ it is just that ‘the road is too long’ for that application to function as intended.

One of the best ways to solve these types of reliability and performance issues is to continue to actually run the application in the same location where its servers, data, and backend reside.  With Evolve IP’s Workspaces solution, the users’ applications are running within the same datacenter where their servers, databases, files, etc are located even though, from a look and feel perspective, it appears that the applications are running directly on the end-users’ devices.

Virtual Private Network Cost

A common misconception is that a client VPN solution is cheap and easy to integrate.  This might be true if you are only considering the costs associated with whatever VPN concentrator device or VPN-enabled firewall and the per-user licensing for the VPN solution.  Once you begin to add all of the additional costs around ensuring the security and integrity of your organization’s network, data, and devices, however, these costs quickly begin to mount.

Here are some of the ancillary cost considerations required when attempting to properly secure and manage a client VPN solution:

  • VPN Concentrator / Firewall
  • VPN client licenses
  • Network devices capable of and licensed to allow network segmentation (quarantine networks)
  • Reactive client antivirus
  • Proactive client threat protection
  • Client Firewall solution
  • Software Defined Perimeter solution / Network Access Control solution
  • Client OS Patching Solution
  • Remote Monitoring and Management Solution
  • Enhanced Intrusion Detection and Prevention on your company network

There are more solutions that can be added to this list and constant new technologies coming to market to counter new, emerging threats which can threaten your end-user devices but consider the above to be a good starting point for at least some of the things that you would need in order to ensure a client VPN solution that is as secure as possible.  With the threat of new zero-day attacks and additional threat vectors always being discovered, even with all of these solutions in place, there is still some risk in expanding your organization’s network to allow access to these external devices.

While I will never say ‘Client security doesn’t matter,’ I can say that with a solution like Evolve IP’s Workspaces, client security CAN significantly become less of a concern for your organization.  While you certainly want your users to protect themselves, their devices, and their personal information, most organizations don’t want to take on the burden and cost of ensuring these things.  By separating your organization’s data, applications, client information, etc, and ensuring that these things never actually leave the data center and do not end up being processed or stored on your users’ devices, you can let your users manage their own security needs while you ensure your data center and internal network are meeting your security needs and compliance standards.  Even in the event that a user’s device may be compromised, by putting access to BOTH your internal data and applications AS WELL AS your external applications behind the Evolve IP Workspace Identity Management platform, you are ensuring that a user’s compromised credentials without the Multifactor Authentication are, effectively, useless and ensure the security of your data and that of your clients.

[Desktop as a Service] – Workspaces by Evolve IP – a Better DaaS solution

Finally! A different virtual desktop solution that users love and is significantly more cost-effective than traditional cloud desktops. Workspaces, from Evolve IP, allows businesses to deliver the right tools for each user. HIPAA / HITRUST and PCI compliant, and ultra-secure with SSO and MFA.

Virtual Private Network Support

Obviously, the long list of additional considerations above suggests a complex interwoven mix of technologies.  Each of these disparate platforms and solutions will require configuration and administration from a knowledgeable IT team.  Couple this with the need to be prepared to support multiple different user devices, multiple Operating Systems, users of varying skill levels, and a myriad of potential issues on end-user devices, and it is easy to see the difficult nature of supporting a client VPN solution.

If an application isn’t performing well, is it because of latency?  Is it because of the end user’s hardware?  Does that user not have fast or reliable enough internet connectivity?  These are the types of challenges that IT teams come across on a daily basis when managing this type of Work-From-Home solution.   Couple this with the need for password resets for not only general access and internal applications but all of the different external applications that your users regularly use, and it isn’t difficult to imagine an IT team or helpdesk becoming quickly overburdened.  This has been the reality for many organizations that have adopted this type of solution due to the current pandemic.

Imagine, instead, a single user experience – that no matter what type of device a user is connecting from or where they are, everything looks, feels, and most importantly, behaves the same way.  Imagine enabling user self-service account administration for things like password resets and being able to only log in once in order to launch your desktop, your softphone, an internal application that lives on your servers/network, an external application like SalesForce.   Evolve IP’s Workspaces makes this a reality.  By providing a unified cross-platform user experience and leveraging the tools of our Identity Management solution, supporting Work-From-Home users has never been easier.  As an added bonus, even when your users return to the office, they will still access all of their resources the same way which makes user onboarding, training, and support and optimized and simplified experience.

So, no… the VPN is definitely not dead, but there are a lot of reasons that, for many organizations, it can and should be.  We would love to speak with you further about how Evolve IP’s Workspaces solution can better enable your organization to provide a highly-secure, reliable, predictable-cost-conscious, and easily-supportable Work-From-Home solution that will both solve your immediate needs and provide a strategic long-term solution that will take your productivity and mobility to the next level.

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The Contact Center Solution for Covid-19 Challenges https://www.evolveip.net/blog/the-contact-center-solution-for-covid-19-challenges Fri, 18 Sep 2020 14:37:39 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=35145 The recent health crisis has forced contact centers to quickly spin up patchwork, work-from-home solutions, or dramatically alter their physical contact center footprint.

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The recent health crisis has forced contact centers to quickly spin up patchwork, work-from-home solutions, or dramatically alter their physical contact center footprint. Now, with businesses evaluating a long-term strategic change toward work anywhere users, IT and contact center leaders are looking at better ways to connect agents not only to the contact center solution, but to the critical applications they need to do their jobs.

The Most Common Work From Home Challenges:

  • Agents could no longer request immediate help from their Supervisor and SMEs by raising hand or walking to desk
  • Supervisors lost ability to observe, coach, and evaluate Agents by sitting with them
  • WFH technology varied by user and IT drowned figuring out how to fix infinitely different configurations, home networks, and ISP issues

 Leading Contact Center Software Solution:

A Unified solution that seamlessly unites the Contact Center and the rest of the organization

Evolve Contact Suite

Evolve contact suite is a fully unified, omnichannel contact center that integrates with PBX, workspaces, and Microsoft Teams and is priced significantly lower (30-40%) than competing solutions.

Contact Center in the cloud is an essential part of a Work Anywhere solution. According to recent research, 71% of respondents consider a unified Contact Center and PBX important.

Benefits of this Approach:

  • Flexible WFH Deployment Options – Agents can operate via the best endpoint for their needs including a softphone (ECS or Teams or UC1), their mobile phone, a physical handset (SIP or Teams), etc.
  • Seamless Customer Experience – Agents can collaborate with anybody in the organization to get the answers they need plus they can instantly conference or transfer a Supervisor or SME.
  • Leadership Empowered – Supervisors can remotely listen to live interactions and “whisper” in their Agent’s ear to provide instant coaching.
  • Expanded Labor Pool – Leadership has the flexibility to hire staff that can Work Anywhere.

Contact Evolve IP to learn about Evolve Contact Suite, a fully unified omnichannel contact center solution that integrates with PBX & Microsoft Teams to deliver superior customer experience and enterprise-grade business continuity.

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Work From Home – An Application and Identity Management Guide | Part 2 https://www.evolveip.net/blog/work-from-home-an-application-and-identity-management-guide-part-2 Thu, 06 Aug 2020 17:04:54 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=34347 In part two of our three-part series on work from home - an application and identity management guide, we’re doing a deep dive into what SSO is, how it works, and the three big considerations for why to use SSO. For a thorough exploration into this work-from-home guide, follow the link above.

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In part two of our three-part series on work from home – an application and identity management guide, we’re doing a deep dive into what SSO is, how it works, and the three big considerations for why to use SSO. For a thorough exploration into this work-from-home guide, follow the link above.

What is SSO?

This is best described by example:

When using SSO, a user logs into a central portal at the beginning of their day.  From there, based on their identity, tiles will appear to their corporate SaaS applications.  They click on each application like Office 365, Salesforce, Concur, etc. and are granted access into those applications without having to log in again.

For these integrated applications, the portal is passing a token to the SaaS application and verifying that the user is allowed access. Think “Sign in with Facebook” as a consumer example.  Facebook says ‘you’re good,’ so whatever application you’re trying to get into trusts Facebook’s opinion of you.

How does SSO work?

Almost all the major players are using a technology called SAML to make this work.  We’re not going into a dissertation on what this is – that’s what Google is for if you’re curious to dive deeper.  Essentially there are two main components:

  1. For SaaS applications that are integrated using SAML, users have no idea what their actual password is because they don’t have a password anymore. Similar to the Facebook example above, the SSO provider has verified your identity, often with multiple factors, known as multi-factor authentication (MFA) and then decided that you should be granted access based upon your identity.
  2. Almost all SSO providers are on par since they’re all “speaking the same language”. So, if a SaaS Application is using SAML, everyone can integrate with the service. If the application isn’t using SAML, no provider will be able to integrate with it natively.  But all hope is not lost for applications that aren’t yet up to speed on SAML; there are some options to make things easier for IT and the users.

Why Use SSO?

From the user’s perspective – you’re providing them with one place to login and then allowing them to access other applications by authenticating to the initial site and being passed along as a trusted user.  There’s a tremendous benefit to the end-user and the efficiency they gain while reducing their exposure to forgetting passwords and having to perform multiple logins throughout the day. But it goes much deeper than just password management.

From the business’ perspective – There are three main areas to focus on:

  1. Security – Based on the LastPass data from Part 1 of the series, SaaS just expanded the threat vector, on average, 25-fold when it comes to credentials. This means 25 more ways for a user (the most vulnerable part of your defense mechanisms) to be compromised. SSO brings that back down to one set of credentials.  Additionally, Shadow IT, the use of unauthorized SaaS solutions, represents a significant Trojan horse threat to the organization as these applications are used without IT’s knowledge and the enforcement of best practices. By providing an extremely efficient and better user experience, IT is making it easy for users to abide by the solutions that have been blessed by IT and deterring them from going outside corporate standards to (in their eyes) just get their job done.
  2. Reduce Help Desk Tickets – Time and again, when surveying our customers, password resets are the #1 or #2 source of help desk tickets. It’s also been reported that every helpdesk ticket costs an organization $70 to complete! Every time a SaaS application is added to the mix, it’s one more reason to generate a password reset ticket. Some SSO providers provide the ability for the user to self-administer password resets, which virtually eliminates this source of tickets.
  3. De-provisioning – Two factors come into play when looking at the offboarding or de-provisioning process. First, from a security perspective, IT has to figure out what applications a user had access to when they were onboarded and disable them. Next, they have to figure out what applications the user gained access to throughout their tenure and disable those. This points back to identity management and what’s known as identity scope creep. As a user is moving from one functional area to another, are their rights from the prior area revoked, or are access rights just added to their identity? Hopefully, they find them all.  In an amicable parting of ways, this isn’t as big of an issue.  But in a negative or sensitive situation, it could represent a significant security risk. Secondary to the security considerations, the process of actually going to each SaaS application and de-provisioning the user individually is a resource-intensive process.

Part one of this three-part series was all about application and identity management; part two was primarily focused on SSO and SSO considerations. In part three of our three-part series on work from home – an application and identity management guide, we’re exploring questions on SAML, IAM orchestration, and finally, integrated remote workspaces – a better solution. For the full report, follow the link above.

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Virtual Desktop Infrastructure Providers – Comparing DIY to DaaS Providers https://www.evolveip.net/blog/virtual-desktop-infrastructure-providers Tue, 14 Jul 2020 18:09:01 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=34756 The post Virtual Desktop Infrastructure Providers – Comparing DIY to DaaS Providers appeared first on Evolve IP.

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D.I.Why? In-House VDI vs Hosted Virtual Desktops

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure providers / VDI providers are in high demand as businesses seek out Work Anywhere computing solutions. So, before we get into the in-house vs. provider comparison, here’s a list of the top global providers and a link to Gartner’s DaaS Market guide for additional insight. For the full, downloadable document, follow the link to Virtual Desktop Infrastructure Providers – Comparing DIY to DaaS Providers.

Top 7 Global Hosted Virtual Desktop Infrastructure Providers 2020:

Evolve IP – United States
Diso – Switzerland
Anunta – India
Tehama – Canada
Kivito – Germany
Cloudalize – Belgium
Tilon – South Korea

Now, on to the meat of the post. In the world of virtual desktop solutions, there are a lot of variables and decisions to be made, but none of these are as paramount or as journey-defining as whether to build your own in-house VDI as a self-managed solution or to partner with a hosted virtual desktop provider for a partially or fully-managed DaaS / hosted virtual desktop solution.

It should come as no surprise that, in the IT world, we don’t do ourselves any favors when it comes to terminology and acronyms, and things like virtual desktop (VD), hosted virtual desktop (HDV), remote desktop, virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) are often used interchangeably. I won’t even get started on Desktop(s)-as-a-Service … that little ‘S’ drives me nuts!

As a result, it can get a bit fuzzy when trying to understand exactly what solution you’re looking at. Given that, let’s take a quick moment to clarify terms so we can break things down into two categories.

First, we have VDI – short for Virtual Desktop Infrastructure. VDI, at its core, means that you are using some form of a central server/servers to house the virtual desktops you are making available to your users. For this post we will consider the term VDI to refer to a virtual desktop solution that you are building and managing within infrastructure that you manage – running either in an in-house datacenter or collocated with a provider.

Alternatively, we have DaaS – short for Desktop-as-a-Service. For all intents and purposes, DaaS is VDI; it uses the same components to deliver the same solution to achieve the same goals. The difference is that with DaaS, a provider is building, maintaining, and/or managing the platform that delivers the desktops to your users as a cloud-based service rather than doing it in-house… hence, the ‘as-a-Service.’

Now that we have defined them and understand the key difference between VDI and DaaS, how do you know which solution is right for you? Should you be looking to implement a VDI solution or contract for a DaaS solution? There are a few key things to take into consideration to aid in making the decision.

Considerations For Comparing In-house VDI vs. Hosted Virtual Desktops / DaaS:

  • IT Staffing
    • Expertise
    • Areas of Focus
    • Training
  • Infrastructure
    • Servers
    • Licensing
    • Storage
    • Networking
  • Management & Support
    • Budgeting
    • CAPEX vs OPEX
    • ‘The Bucket Problem’

Many traditional approaches to differentiating virtual desktop solutions begins with budget and infrastructure, but to me, the most important factor regarding the right fit begins with your IT team.

In-house VDI vs. DaaS: Staffing

This isn’t really a question of headcount as much as it is a combination of ability and current workload. Organizations often tend to have difficulty striking a balance between having a large enough team with enough specialized technical ability and having the capacity to take on new and complex projects.

For example, a large IT team may have more capacity to take on work but will likely have varying skill levels throughout the team; whereas, you may have a small and technically-capable IT team which will already be at-or-near their capacity, working on other operational and administrative efforts.

This becomes extremely important because the process of designing, implementing, and managing an in-house VDI solution can be very complex and time-consuming work that will last as long as the solution is in-place.

Alternatively, engaging in a Desktop-as-a-Service solution model moves the complexity up-front as part of the discovery process, but you can then free your IT team for other priorities by shifting the responsibility of platform management of your virtual desktop solution to the provider.

It becomes a matter of whether your organization wants to make a long-term commitment to increasing IT personnel and /or providing additional training or, leveraging the resources, knowledge, and personnel of a provider.

In-house VDI vs. DaaS: Infrastructure

Similar to personnel resources, we need to account for infrastructure resources. Running an in-house virtual desktop infrastructure platform will require significant server hardware resources, licensing, shared storage, and additional network capacity, along with devices for both the internal LAN and the WAN to ensure sufficient external connectivity to accommodate your users.

While it is not uncommon for organizations running their own datacenter to have some overhead capacity available, it typically isn’t enough to build and operate an in-house VDI solution. This, then, requires making a significant investment in increasing your datacenter footprint, not only in terms of adding the required infrastructure, but also in accounting for any increased space, HVAC, and power requirements.

For organizations currently performing their own Disaster Recovery and/or Business Continuity solutions, they must also account for how they will protect any in-house VDI. Where many IT teams tend to go wrong here is in the practice of repurposing ‘old’ equipment or recently retired infrastructure that they may have just upgraded. While done with the best intentions, this can lead to significant future issues as the reliability and supportability of those devices will always be in question; otherwise, why upgrade it to begin with?

The takeaway is that an in-house VDI solution may be a great fit for your organization as long as you are willing to make the commitment for the required infrastructure and accompanying facilities concerns and can fit this solution into your strategic approach to business continuity.

On the other hand, the Desktop-as-a-Service solutions model can help alleviate the concerns around purchasing, configuring, maintaining, and supporting the additional infrastructure required, as well as blend more seamlessly into a continuity strategy given the more flexible nature of cloud-based solutions. (continued below!)

[Desktop as a Service] – Workspaces by Evolve IP – a Better DaaS solution

Finally! A different virtual desktop solution that users love and is significantly more cost-effective than traditional cloud desktops. Workspaces, from Evolve IP, allows businesses to deliver the right tools for each user. HIPAA / HITRUST and PCI compliant, and ultra-secure with SSO and MFA.

In-house VDI vs. DaaS: Management

For virtual desktop management and support, we’ve already covered the platform-side from a personnel and infrastructure perspective; however, when it comes to desktop management, in my opinion, the industry has historically made a mistake in that it tends to see both VDI and DaaS as solutions that will eliminate the administrative burden of managing desktops.

Frankly, that’s incorrect. Either solution can greatly reduce the administrative burden, but neither truly does away with it.

With both solutions, much of the administrative burden is shifted from managing desktops to managing images/templates, and many IT teams inadvertently make their jobs more complex by limiting their ability to utilize automation tools to assist with things like patching and antivirus management when deploying dynamic desktop environments (Note: we’ll address this more in a future blog post comparing and contrasting Static vs Dynamic DaaS solutions).

Having said all of this, there is a lot to be gained through streamlining either a VDI or DaaS solution to use as few images as possible; I like to refer to this as ‘simplification-through-standardization’ – the more you can provide a consistent user experience with fewer variables, the easier that solution is to support and manage.

In this case, VDI and DaaS are neck-and-neck with neither having much of a practical advantage over the other, but one of the ancillary benefits of a DaaS solution is in working with a provider who has a myriad of experience having worked with clients, designing these solutions. The right partner will share the lessons-learned and guide your business based on what they have seen clients do both successfully and unsuccessfully.

In-house VDI vs. DaaS: Costs

In terms of virtual desktop budgets, I have to caveat my thoughts by saying that, historically, I’m not a ‘financials’ guy any more than I have ever needed to be, so we’re probably not going to get into much nuance when it comes to tax deductions, organizational budgeting impacts, and expense amortization. You will have a far better idea of your organization’s preference for capital expenditure (CAPEX) vs operational expenditure (OPEX) and reasons therein.

The important thing to note for the purposes of our discussion is that CAPEX-leaning organizations, who are more open to making the significant investment in the required infrastructure, would seem to be a better fit for VDI, whereas OPEX-leaning organizations would be a much more natural fit for the subscription-based approach of DaaS.

What about when we look at the technology-side of CAPEX vs OPEX, though? Are there any differences there?

This is where I would like to introduce what I refer to as ‘The Bucket Problem.’ I have three buckets, each of which can hold twenty gallons. Any amount up to sixty gallons, total, I can easily accommodate within those buckets; whether that’s three buckets with ten gallons each, or two with fifteen each, and one with seven. I am completely fine as long as I stay within the sixty gallons that I have allotted to myself.

What happens when I get to gallon number 61, though? Now, I have a decision to make. Do I run out and buy another twenty-gallon bucket knowing that I’m not going to get close to that eighty-gallon-mark for a long time, so I’m buying a lot of extra capacity that I don’t immediately need, or do I just get a five-gallon bucket to kick the problem down the road a while but which leaves me with an asymmetrical and internally inconsistent solution?

This is the exact problem businesses face with an internal VDI, CAPEX-driven model. Once you start to get near the capacity of available desktops and begin to start planning for growth, you need to determine how you will grow the environment. This also makes locking-in an exact price per user difficult, because, to our earlier example, that 61st gallon of water is now costing you as much as gallons forty-one through sixty are as a whole.

One of the primary benefits of a DaaS platform with a subscription model is that every user has the same cost which remains consistent as the platform grows. This Predictable Cost Model makes growth, especially for Merger & Acquisition-driven companies, much easier than with an in-house VDI solution.

Another virtual desktop budget consideration is whether or not everyone in your company needs DaaS or VDI. New solutions, like Evolve IP’s Workspaces, can help furthrer reduce costs by providing a single virtual desktop platform that allows IT to deliver DaaS to only those users who need a cloud desktop, while the rest of the business’ employees can access SaaS and legacy line-of-business applications via SSO and MFA. One platform, completely secure, and everything runs the same way on laptops, desktops, tablets and mobile devices.

So, when it comes to VDI vs. DaaS, which is the right fit for your organization? Well… that’s not an answer that anyone else can give you. My personal suggestion would be to make sure that you give both equal consideration and be sure to run a Total Cost of Ownership comparison as part of your evaluation process. That will give a firm grasp of all of the financial considerations of both solutions.

When comparing TCO for a do-it-yourself VDI solution to a subscription-based cloud DaaS solution be sure to include easily neglected elements like personnel headcount, capacity, training, licensing, datacenter costs, additional external bandwidth, etc. If you don’t include these pieces upfront, those costs will end up surprising you later.

In-house VDI vs. DaaS: Providers

Also, try to find a way to quantify the intangibles such as the benefit of working with a provider who has experience (shameless plug – Evolve IP is VMware’s largest DaaS provider in the world and we’ve been in every DaaS Gartner Market Guide since inception) and whether your organization may be able to benefit from ancillary services like additional management or support from a provider which may have the added benefit of additional discounts or economy of scale savings.

Good health and best wishes, and best of luck navigating the waters of selecting and providing the most robust, secure, and scalable Work Anywhere solutions called for in our current times! We, at Evolve IP, are here to help however we can!

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Work From Home – An Application and Identity Management Guide | Part 1 https://www.evolveip.net/blog/work-from-home-an-application-and-identity-management-guide-part-1 Mon, 13 Jul 2020 14:34:42 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=34344 The post Work From Home – An Application and Identity Management Guide | Part 1 appeared first on Evolve IP.

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This is part one of our three-part series on work from home – an application and identity management guide. In this section, we’ll cover the ins and outs of identity and access management. Before we get into the meat of this write-up, we’ll start with a little baseline background.

Background

SaaS is exploding.  Unless you live on Mars, this is a pretty obvious statement!  But what isn’t perhaps as obvious is the gaping hole this explosion is causing in your IT security posture. In many organizations, Active Directory (AD), which used to control all access to company resources, now only governs 20% of applications while 80% of a user’s application load comes from a 3rd party like Salesforce.com or Concur.

That also means IT is no longer the linchpin to get applications up and running. If a user or group of users want to share files, they can have an app up and running in 5 minutes with a credit card. Similarly, when internal applications are not easy to use, the workforce is finding, they now have the power to go out and sign up for tools on their own.

IT is struggling to provide users with the flexibility to get tools the way they want them, while also trying to get their arms around provisioning, usage, and de-provisioning.

Identity and Access Management Defined (loosely)

It’s essential to define these terms before we dive into these two distinct functions within an IT security framework.

Identity Management – This refers to the process of assigning and then managing the attributes of a user.  Who are they, what groups they are a part of etc. For example, “This person is remote, part of the Marketing functional area,” and so on.

Access Management – This refers to the process of taking the above identities, or groups of identities and deciding what IT resources they have access to.

These terms are very closely related and often used interchangeably. This is likely because traditional IT environments where corporate assets have been housed internally have utilized Active Directory (AD) to address both of these dynamics.  Who you are and what you can access.

However, with the explosion of SaaS, AD isn’t able to perform these functions by itself any longer.

Identity Management

Solutions for identity management can be segmented into two buckets:

Here are a few of the options:

Traditional AD – Companies not yet “cloud-enabled” are using this tried and true structure, whether hosted on-premises or in some sort of private cloud environment.  It works great; it’s robust and very familiar and easy to manage.  But, it’s lacking when companies start venturing out to SaaS applications, and identities must be created and maintained at these providers individually; it’s extremely time-consuming for IT to create, manage, and audit.

Directory as a Service – Seriously … another DaaS??  In all seriousness, these are purpose-built solutions hosted by 3rd parties specifically for managing user identities.  They are often built to integrate with other cloud solutions like SaaS applications.  A great example of this would be Azure AD, which is very popular. Mostly due to the fact it’s given away for free in some instances.  These are great for companies that are entirely “cloud-enabled,” but they aren’t built upon full-blown AD.  So, companies that have any legacy infrastructure that requires full AD must maintain both.  And while these two can integrate with each other, it can only be managed using the full AD instance as opposed to the cloud directory instance since that’s the scaled-down version.

In part two of this series on work from home – an application and identity management guide, we’ll dig into what SSO is, how it works, and the three big considerations for why to use SSO. For a much more thorough dive into the work-from-home guide, follow the link above.

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DaaS and RTAV | Key Considerations for DaaS and Softphones https://www.evolveip.net/blog/daas-and-rtav-key-considerations-for-daas-and-softphones Tue, 07 Jul 2020 17:50:47 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=34700 With the Work Anywhere movement here to stay, companies need to deploy all of the technologies users need on their end devices. To make employees productive, and ensure they love (and use) the solution, IT departments need to make those technologies simple to use.

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With the Work Anywhere movement here to stay, companies need to deploy all of the technologies users need on their end devices. To make employees productive, and ensure they love (and use) the solution, IT departments need to make those technologies simple to use.

As a result, companies are looking for a singular, integrated way to provide collaboration, voice, and access to applications and data. This is achievable via virtual desktops with softphones that are delivered via the desktop, with voice embedded, to end-user devices.

Evolve IP has been providing virtual desktops or DaaS along with voice over IP or VOIP / UCaaS since 2008. With over a decade of experience, we’ve uncovered some do’s and dont’s that IT should take into consideration. We’ve tried to distill it down to 3 main concepts.

A Supported Voice Solution vs. The Minimum

The first thing you need to investigate is whether your PBX provider or the PBX you are currently maintaining yourself supports installing a softphone in a virtual desktop. Similar to trying to fill up your gasoline engine with diesel fuel, you need to ensure the vendor will support you if and when you call for help.

It’s also very important to note that while the vendor may say the solution is supported, there are also features they may or may not support. For example, IM and Presence are supported but audio and video calling are not.

[Desktop as a Service] – Workspaces by Evolve IP – a Better DaaS solution

Finally! A different virtual desktop solution that users love and is significantly more cost-effective than traditional cloud desktops. Workspaces, from Evolve IP, allows businesses to deliver the right tools for each user. HIPAA / HITRUST and PCI compliant, and ultra-secure with SSO and MFA.

Virtual Desktop Requirements and Specifications

Assuming you find that your vendor supports their softphone in a virtual desktop environment, there are also considerations for what type or size of desktop is required. If the vendor states 8G of RAM is required on the client device, then you need to use a virtual desktop that is given 8G of RAM. It may sound obvious, but there is no magic here whereby a virtual desktop can use fewer resources than what the vendor requires.

TIP! We have seen vendors requiring 4G of RAM but recommending 8G of RAM. This seems to be an attempt by the software provider to appeal or fit into lower RAM environments. However, if you call their support you are quickly told “well we recommend 8G of RAM”. Consider the vendors recommended spec as their requirement to avoid the eventual back and forth when a support issue arises.

Virtual Desktop User Experience

Some softphones, like Microsoft Teams, provide not only audio but video as well. This is known as Real-Time Audio and Video or RTAV. If your softphone is capable of these features, there are some resources on the client-side that are being utilized to make the experience that much better. If this is the case you’ll want to ensure you are using a Windows 10 device as opposed to a thin or zero client to get the best user experience.

Download the full Considerations for a Softphone in a Virtual Desktop data sheet and a comparison graph of the user experience when combining Microsoft Teams RTAV with Evolve IP’s virtual desktop offerings today.

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DaaS Providers – Compare DaaS Providers & Hosted Virtual Desktop Solutions https://www.evolveip.net/blog/daas-provider-comparison Tue, 07 Jul 2020 16:21:03 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=34688 The post DaaS Providers – Compare DaaS Providers & Hosted Virtual Desktop Solutions appeared first on Evolve IP.

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DaaS providers and DaaS solutions are in high demand with employees needing to Work Anywhere.

Also referred to as Hosted Virtual Desktops (HVD), Desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) technologies provide secure access to applications and files; driving productivity wherever associates are working and providing business continuity during emergencies.

Gartner’s latest DaaS Market Guide notes “DaaS has been successful for small organizations and is now being adopted by midsize and large enterprise organizations.”

Top 7 DaaS Providers (Globally) in 2020:

Evolve IP – United States
Diso – Switzerland
Anunta – India
Tehama – Canada
Kivito – Germany
Cloudalize – Belgium
Tilon – South Korea

Top 5 Hosted Virtual Desktop Platforms

Evolve IP – Workspaces (Proprietary IAM / SSO integrated with Citrix, VMware)
VMware – Horizon Cloud
Citrix – Managed Desktops
Amazon – Workspaces
Microsoft – Windows Virtual Desktop

A Better DaaS | Hosted Virtual Desktop Solution

The dirty little secret about traditional DaaS providers is that their solutions are pretty much the same … both in terms of underpinning tech, features, and costs. It’s kind of like getting offered, chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry ice cream. Or, go crazy with Neapolitan!

Workspaces, Evolve IP’s DaaS solution is a far superior option compared to the offerings of traditional virtual desktop providers – check out this video to see why.

Here are five key reasons you should contact Evolve IP for a DaaS demo today:

  • Better, More-Affordable DaaS Solution – deliver just the tools your users need reducing costs 40% compared to traditional virtual desktop solutions.
  • Consistent User Experience on Every Device – mobile, tablet, laptop, and desktop.
  • Secure Your Workforce – with Single Sign-On and Multi-Factor Authentication.
  • Fully Compliant – HIPAA/HITRUST, PCI, SOC2 + GDPR
  • Vendor Acclaimed – VMware’s #1 DaaS provider in the world and a Microsoft Gold CSP

With Evolve IP’s Workspaces, employees can work anywhere – securely accessing all of your company’s systems and applications. Best of all, it’s user-friendly. All of the technology they need to do their job works the same way, no matter what device associates choose, and there’s no need for cumbersome VPNs.

What is DaaS and Why Should My Business Consider It?

Why Implement DaaS?

As the world’s top VMware desktop-as-a-Service CSP, Evolve IP helps enterprise and midmarket clients migrate their servers and desktops to the cloud in almost every vertical market. Over the years, we have found that the virtual desktop projects that get funded typically involve one or more of these four business outcomes.

  1. Better DaaS Security – Quite simply, IT is looking to create a reliable, efficient, and secure hosted virtual desktop platform to mitigate the issues caused by increased threats, the proliferation of remote work, and BYOD. They also want an easy way to ensure that the OS instances and varying software applications are up-to-date and secure. By using DaaS, IT is able to protect and secure resources in the cloud and not necessarily worry about the devices being used to access the cloud. Whatever is happening locally isn’t being transmitted up to the cloud instances.
  2. Disaster Recovery / Business Continuity – With DaaS solutions, users are no longer dependent on physical devices to do their job. Therefore, if the office is no longer accessible due to fire, flood, even inclement weather like a snowstorm, users can grab any device and do their job.
  3. Virtual Desktop Management – Picture trying to manage and maintain hundreds or thousands of desktops across dozens of offices. What a nightmare. (Yes, this is what one of our recent customers was faced with!) By implementing DaaS solutions, IT is able to give thin client or zero client devices to their users and they simply log in to the cloud to start working anywhere, anytime. When updates and patches need to occur, and we all know that happens all of the time, IT simply makes a few clicks and updates the whole virtual desktop environment in one shot.
  4. Enabling Remote Workers / Mobility – Businesses know that remote work is on the rise and hiring the right talent, no matter where they live, is the best way to grow. For businesses that have a remote workforce, DaaS solutions improve productivity instantly while also allowing office-bound workers to become mobile and leverage BYOD. Businesses can now expand their hiring reach and attract better talent. And as noted in the first section, hosted virtual desktops support these needs securely!

Types of Virtual Desktop (VD) Technologies

Major Hosted Virtual Desktop Solutions in the Marketplace:

XenDesktop, now known as Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktop, and VMware Horizon DaaS

We have grouped these two together as they are both very robust solutions and, for the most part, their selection typically comes down to brand preference as opposed to having significant differences in performance. One important note is that both can be architected in a multi-tenant environment. When we say multi-tenant, that’s not to say you are sharing the same space with other clients, it’s more like an apartment complex.

To continue the analogy, typically each customer is living on their own floor (vlan) and the building supervisors (platform engineers), are caring for the entire building. This gives you a personal, secure, private space. To take it one step further, if Licenses and Inspections checks on the buildings, top providers, like Evolve IP, ensure their apartments are certified for major compliances like HIPAA / HITRUST, PCI-DSS, etc.

VMware Horizon View – This is the enterprise version of virtual desktop technology. We note it here because there are providers building solutions on this technology. For service providers with a low number of clients, this can work. However, as the providers’ customer counts grow, you can think of this as more of a single-family home community. The maintenance crew now has 100 homes to manage instead of 1 large building. Typically, at this point, the vendor’s economies of scale dry up and there are more things that can go wrong; there are more ways to break-in, more management portals to maintain, etc. VMware Horizon View was not designed to be multi-tenant.

Azure Virtual Desktops – To be honest, there isn’t a significant track record for this solution since Azure Virtual Desktops just became Generally Available (GA) at the beginning of 2020. It is, however, utilizing RDP as a protocol. While RDP has come a long way, it does not yet compare to the performance of ICA or PCoIP and still requires a double authentication potentially frustrating to users who want a simple and immediate experience.

Amazon Workspaces – Not to be confused with Evolve IP’s Workspaces product below. This is similar to Azure in that it’s a public cloud offering. It seems to be a bit more tried and test and is a decent solution. As with Azure, the consuming organization is left in a DIY state of mind whereby the customer needs to figure out how to be in all the ancillary pieces a desktop will need like RMM, Anti-virus, etc.

Evolve IP’s Hosted Virtual Desktops (HDV)

VMware’sTop DaaS Provider in the World. Noted in Every Gartner DaaS Market Guide Since Inception

Evolve IP is the world’s premier virtual desktop provider and Cloud Service Provider (CSP). In addition to being VMware’s largest DaaS provider globally, we have relationships with Citrix and enable a unique hosted virtual desktop (HVD) called Workspaces that delivers more features and drives down costs of traditional DaaS solutions by 30-40%

Desktop as a Service FAQs

1. What end-user DaaS devices would you recommend?

This is perhaps the most common question we get as customers are looking to either justify a project with a lower device price point, or possibly as a way of reducing the management overhead of local devices. Essentially there are 2 virtual desktop device options in this space. But before getting to that, we like to point out that the cheapest client is the one you already have.

All desktops and laptops are compatible with DaaS and Workspaces so using the existing infrastructure until it dies is always an option and then replace them with one of the options below.

Option 1 – A thin client which has a stripped-down OS and a browser of your choosing. These devices are great for using DaaS providers like VMware’s DaaS, Citrix XenApp, XenDesktop or Evolve IP’s Workspaces product.

Option 2 – A zero client. Zero clients are slightly different in that there is no OS and the devices boot directly to the login prompt of the virtual desktop provider. For a one size fits all approach, where you’re looking to lock devices down to only a virtual desktop, this is a great solution.

It’s important to note that zero clients sometimes do not support peripherals like check scanners, printers and other USB devices.

Note: Zero clients are not a solution for Evolve IP’s Workspaces product as it is built on the notion that users should start with a browser (due to having a majority of SaaS applications) instead of forcing them into a virtual desktop OS. Finally, there are different flavors of these clients and it can be VERY confusing. Some are VMware and Citrix certified, some aren’t.

If you are going the DaaS solution route make sure you know if the service supports PCoIP, ICA or RDP and buy the appropriate thin or zero client. Or, give us a ring and we’ll assist you with the selection.

2. How do you want to handle legacy applications on internal servers?

A decade ago, most, if not all, applications were hosted on internal servers. This architecture meant a desktop was needed as the client to get to legacy applications housed in the business’s data center. For a customer wanting to offload their infrastructure to the cloud, the obvious choice was to move their servers to a cloud service provider’s (CSP) data center. The CSP would host desktops back to the customer to solve for the latency that had just been created.

Technically, a SaaS-like experience was created in that the customer was able to get to their virtual desktop from any device. But they still had to jump into that virtual desktop to get to their legacy applications. Due to the explosion of SaaS, most workforces are now only using one or two legacy applications. Unfortunately, the DaaS provider industry is still trying to solve these applications by giving everyone a virtual desktop. Simply put, that’s a waste of money and resources, but most importantly what an annoying way to do your job!

Evolve IP is breaking the DaaS industry mold. With Workspaces, we are able to publish legacy applications to the user and provide them in a tile-based SSO fashion. This makes legacy applications look, act and feel like a SaaS application to the user on whichever device they are using.

3. How does your business handle security?

Security is a huge concern these days. Every week it seems a new malware or ransomware attack floods the chat rooms and airwaves. DaaS security greatly reduces your threat cross-section and allows IT to focus on protecting the hosted virtual desktop instances in the cloud while client devices cannot transmit infections into the environment.

With the explosion of SaaS, one particular area of concern however is an increase in users that are not accessing legacy applications and simply logging directly into SaaS applications. This does present security risks along with creating the arduous process for IT of trying to figure out what applications a user needs or has gained access to over their tenure and then disabling all those application one by one during onboarding.

With Workspaces, you can still provide a virtual desktop to those users that need them. But you can also provide a secure, centrally managed way for users that only need SaaS applications to just go directly to those applications. But, in an onboarding event, all access to SaaS applications that have been integrated into the Clearlogin portal is immediately zapped. This provides a much more encompassing way of managing user access to legacy as well as SaaS applications and securing the Enterprise

4. How dependent do you want to be on your provider for provisioning?

DaaS provisioning is very … let’s just say, manual. And that goes for Evolve IP and every other competitor in the market. Whether it’s actual provisioning or billing adjustments it’s a manual process. This is due to the fact that VMware and Citrix simply have not focused on orchestration in the multi-tenant space.

Luckily, in 2017 Evolve IP acquired a company that had perfected a backend provisioning system and that engine now drives the provisioning portal for Workspaces.

Here’s an illustration of adding 10 new desktops to DaaS solutions (the industry-wide practice) vs. 10 new Evolve IP Workspaces users

DaaS Solution: The customer tells their Account Manager (AM) they need 10 more desktops. The AM sends a quote for 10 more users. The customer signs the quote and the AM passes this on to provisioning and a couple days later, without escalations, the DaaS seats are there. Can it be done in a couple hours in a pinch? Sure, and we have many times. But the default process noted here is typical.

Workspaces: IT logs into their portal and creates 10 users, along with their security permissions and applications access, instantly. Resources for pushing out legacy applications or entire desktops are provisioned in minutes. The portal then reaches out to Office 365 and provisions their licenses … on the fly. Charges are automatically added to their monthly billing. Oh, and should you need to eliminate users, the same is true in reverse to deprovision.

Net-net IT can add users, on their own, in a matter of minutes not days. Larger changes may require account management but for the most part, capacity planning can be done at your leisure instead of while under the gun to make a small change.

5. What is the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)?

Of course, now that you’re seeing the value of Workspaces, we talk about price, right? Well in this comparison paper, it’s the equivalent of a mic drop! Why? It might have been some twisted joke from our Product team, but in this case better is significantly cheaper.

Looking at hosted virtual desktop providers, for almost every provider the pricing model is the same. You buy a seat, then you outfit the seat with the ancillary parts and pieces needed to actually make the desktop work. The typical seat itemization would include:

  1. RMM (Remote Monitoring and Management) – this is a tool used to manage desktops. In our case, we use N-Able. However, we also allow customers to bring their own solutions to the table and re-use them in our cloud.
  2. Anti-Virus – In today’s environment you had better protect those devices. We utilize Trend AV or allow our customers to bring their own solutions.
  3. Operating System – Pretty straight forward. Again, if customers have their own Office 365 OS they can bring that along.
  4. Patching – This is not a requirement, but more and more clients are asking us to apply Windows, 3rd party and AV patches/updates. We think this is great move because there is ZERO value to the business handling this exercise and you are paying an IT professional WAY too much for such a mundane chore. Not to mention we’ve never found anyone in IT that wakes up thinking, “I can’t wait to patch my desktops today.” (If this is you, put down the whitepaper and call someone for help!)
  5. So, how does a typical DaaS solution compare to Workspaces?
DaaS Providers Compared

Work from Home DaaS Comparison – Cost Considerations

If your business is considering enabling remote work, Bring Your Own Device, or looking to easily provision, update, and secure your users with DaaS or a virtual workspace you’re not alone.

Interested in a Demo?

Contact us today to schedule your demo and see for yourself why Evolve IP Workspaces is a far superior solution for Virtual Desktops.

Request Demo

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The Work Anywhere Device Conundrum Series | Part 1 https://www.evolveip.net/blog/the-work-anywhere-device-conundrum-series-part-1 Fri, 29 May 2020 13:39:45 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=34124 The post The Work Anywhere Device Conundrum Series | Part 1 appeared first on Evolve IP.

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The recent work-from-home surge is impacting end-users and IT professions in very different ways. This is a two-part series on what we’re terming, The Work Anywhere Device Conundrum. In part one of this series, we’ll discuss: Enablement of workers while maintaining sufficient security, end-user devices – dependent on unique software needs – and lastly, VPN connection dynamics related to the end-user device type.

Enabling Productive Employees While Maintaining A Rock-Solid Security Posture

Work from home (WFH) use cases have exploded as companies look to comply with stay at home mandates. For some, this change is amounting to nothing more than “business as usual” from a professional perspective. For others, this is presenting a real challenge to not only be able to work from home but to remain as productive as they were when working from the office.

This challenge is rooted in the fact that corporate environments are sterile by design in order to balance security and performance. However, employees working from home want to keep personal devices customized to them in ways that are often far less secure than what your corporate best practices allow.

IT must bridge these two extremes to allow users to be productive during this time. Below are a few scenarios IT is likely to run into and some options to enable workers while maintaining an acceptable security posture.

Already Implemented Virtual Desktops or Remote Application Delivery

For companies that have already implemented desktop or application virtualization, this should be an easier exercise. There will be some items to check into before pulling the trigger. We’ll assume for now that end users all have sufficient bandwidth at their home.

  1. End User Devices – IT is likely to run into a multitude of different end user devices in the home office. If the current solutions are browser-based then users should be fine. If a client is needed, IT will have to lay out the types of devices that users will need to use to connect to the infrastructure. IT will also need to provide documentation for how to access the environment for any users that will be doing so for the first time.
  2. Additional Infrastructure – The current solution may be designed to service 20% of the workforce for instance. So, IT may need to acquire additional data center hardware and software to facilitate all users. While writing a check is pretty easy, management needs to be cognizant that there may be hurdles to simply adding more hardware that could result in additional spending outside of the direct hardware and licensing costs. For example, to add the remaining 80% of the workforce, IT must acquire a new SAN as the current model will not support that much additional storage or horsepower.

Users on Laptops Today

For users that are on laptops today, their experience should be roughly the same assuming they are using a VPN to connect to the corporate network today. However, the business will still need to address their corporate voice solution, an issue which Evolve IP discusses in great detail on the business collaboration section of our site.

 

In part two of this series, on The Work Anywhere Device Conundrum, we’ll dive into the three dynamics with VPN design that need to be address, as well as options to consider while deciding whether to bring the corporate desktops home for work, or to use existing personal devices. Stay tuned.

The post The Work Anywhere Device Conundrum Series | Part 1 appeared first on Evolve IP.

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Top 15 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Choosing a Work Anywhere Unified Communications and Collaboration Solution https://www.evolveip.net/blog/top-15-questions-to-ask-yourself-before-choosing-a-work-anywhere-unified-communications-and-collaboration-solution Tue, 19 May 2020 20:36:59 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=34161 The post Top 15 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Choosing a Work Anywhere Unified Communications and Collaboration Solution appeared first on Evolve IP.

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Users expect to communicate as they do with consumer applications – anywhere, anytime, on any device, with a single click. According to Gartner, by 2022, 70% of businesses will rely primarily on business collaboration tools to get work done. This number is likely to increase given the current health crisis and the increasing number of remote workers.

While there are many video-conferencing / collaboration solutions out there, there are very few providers that are able to deliver true collaboration solutions. A true collaboration solution not only delivers world-class collaboration features such as video conferencing, persistent chat, desktop sharing, file sharing, group editing, multi-party audio-video calling, remote/mobile/guest conferencing, etc. but also seamlessly integrates with a voice solution to deliver enterprise-grade PBX features, business continuity, and high-availability (99.999% uptime) all while maintaining the team’s end-user experience.

Like most businesses, if your enterprise is looking for an all-in-one, secure, scalable, voice-enabled collaboration solution, then here are the top 15 questions that you need to consider before choosing a true business collaboration platform:

Strategic Questions to Consider

1. What is your Collaboration Strategy (meeting, video, mobile)? Do you have single/multiple communications & collaboration solutions in place? Have you considered transitioning to a single collaboration solution such as voice-enabled Microsoft Teams or Cisco UC?

2. What is your Hiring / Recruiting Strategy? Are you hiring a more mobile/younger workforce?

3. Do you have a Work From Home (WFH) Strategy in place for your employees? What kind of applications do your employees access while they are mobile? How will they access applications, hosted on-premises, or collaborate when remote?

4. What is your Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy? If your employees don’t have a work laptop to bring home, this is a great time to investigate an ‘any device’ strategy.

5. Do you have a Business Continuity Plan in place to carry out business as usual during a health crisis, natural disaster, or geopolitical issue?

6. Does your enterprise need to meet any Compliance requirements? Can you host your solutions in HIPAA/HITRUST, PCI, SOC compliant datacenters? Have you considered an Identity & Access Management / Single Sign-On solution to easily secure, access, and manage your applications?

Technical Questions to Consider

7. What groups, other than IT, may have deployed a solution? How will you integrate their solutions and projects with other teams?

8. What are the ‘must-have’ requirements for your collaboration solution?

9. What are the core needs and features that you absolutely must have from your phone system?

10.  Do you want your phone system integrated with your collaboration software?

11. What kind of phones do you have? Does the current collaboration solution support your existing handsets?

12. Will you want your call center integrated with your collaboration solution?

13. Are you a Microsoft business? Are you already using Office365? How do your associates leverage O365 today? Have you deployed Microsoft Teams or plan to adopt Microsoft Teams in the next 12 months?

14. Are you using Cisco Webex? How important are video meetings for your organization? Do you need your meetings recorded? Do you have Cisco-specific hardware?

15. Does your existing collaboration, phone system, and contact center solution support a long-term collaboration strategy? How secure and scalable is your current collaboration solution?

Once you’ve had the above-mentioned discussion internally with your team, Evolve IP can help you with the next steps. With remote working becoming the new normal and business continuity becoming a necessity, Evolve IP has been consulting, supporting, and transitioning an increased number of organizations to a ‘work anywhere’ platform.

Evolve IP combines the world’s most stable voice platform, Cisco, with the world’s leading collaboration solution, Microsoft Teams, to deliver advanced PBX features, contact center functionalities, and 24x7x365 U.S.-based support that enables businesses to work securely, from anywhere, on any device. This powerful combination enables us to deploy flexible, purpose-built business collaboration experiences that are designed to meet the unique needs of your business’ environment and dramatically improve your associates’ productivity.

About Evolve IP

Evolve IP enables people to Work Anywhere™, more productively and more securely. We design Purpose-Built® solutions, tailored just for your business, that unify workspaces, collaboration and communications, and contact centers. Integrating blue-chip technology partners like Microsoft, Cisco, Citrix and VMware, with our intellectual property, Evolve IP’s analyst-acclaimed solutions have been deployed globally to 500,000+ users and into the world’s most well-known brands. All Evolve IP associates are focused on driving successful client outcomes and that has resulted in our scoring at the top of verified analyst and client satisfaction rankings.

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6 Types of Remote Workers and how to support them https://www.evolveip.net/blog/6-types-of-remote-workers-and-how-to-support-them Thu, 23 Apr 2020 17:08:44 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=33613 The post 6 Types of Remote Workers and how to support them appeared first on Evolve IP.

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It’s always been true that a great team is what makes your company successful, but how a team operates and where it operates from has changed over the years.

Gallup found that in 2016, 43 percent of employees worked remotely at least some of the time. Being able to accommodate both workers who are out of range and those who are always on the go will help improve your company’s productivity and quality of work.

How do you know you’re making the best use of technology to keep your employees and business as efficient as possible?

In this blog post, we’ll explore the six types of remote workers who impact your team, evaluate their technical needs, and assess how Office 365 Business Premium can enhance and simplify their remote work styles across all their devices, bringing new levels of productivity to your business.

Key remote workers challenges

Although there are many types of remote workers, recognizing their common issues is key to making your remote workforce successful.

Access 

Cloud storage makes it possible for any team member to access the information they need, no matter where they are.

Flexibility 

In today’s world, the ability to use a preferred device means greater productivity, especially for employees in transit.

Connectivity 

The ability to communicate with coworkers and receive seamless updates online significantly improves a remote team member’s workflow.

Built-in-security

Keep work secure by providing your remote team with the safest tools and setting best practices for file access and sharing.

Meet the six types of remote workers

The night owl

Most productive, after office hours, but still needs network access.

With hours of meetings and other distractions, the workplace is sometimes the last place where you can actually get work done. That’s why night owls crave long stretches of uninterrupted time in the evenings to do their best work.

  • Microsoft Teams helps night owls maintain crucial contact with coworkers during business hours and beyond since working out of sight can potentially put them out of mind.
  • SharePoint and OneDrive, seamlessly integrated across the whole Office 365 suite, give night owls all-hours access to the files and data necessary to get the job done.

The road warrior

Often out of range but stays in sync with mobile productivity tools.

For salespeople and marketers who are constantly on the road, there are often limited times and places to access the internet. When they do get back online, these road warriors need to be able to sync with their teams and company database.

  • Microsoft Teams offers road warriors the flexibility to use any mobile device to get updates quickly in their spare seconds between meetings and conferences with their team in real life.
  • OneNote lets them review and add notes to files on the fly and share from their mobile devices.
  • OneDrive works even when road warriors are out of range. Productivity doesn’t have to stop when they’re offline- they can share files once they reconnect, keeping the team and work moving, just like them.

Work From Home Checklist for Business Professionals

The way people work has evolved. Employees expect businesses to provide access to the right tools to be able to work remotely, at any time, on just about every device that you can imagine.

The jet setter

Relies on mobile access and security, online or offline, on any device.

Imagine you have a presentation in the morning, but you’re in an airport with weak Wi-Fi and a dead laptop battery. Welcome to the life of the jet setter. The best tools for the jet setters are those that enable accessibility and security as these workers hop from one city to the next.

  • SharePoint, along with the entire Office 365 suite, works across any device, so jet setters can use a tablet or phone to access the documents they need if their laptops are out of juice.
  • OneDrive enables them to work on files offline if the Wi-Fi is spotty. Changes will automatically sync once they’re back online.
  • Microsoft Teams lets them view notifications and conversation tags on mobile devices, and even join a meeting in high definition to view the presentation with animations the same way they would on a desktop.

The commuter

Always connected, whether on the way to work or working from home.

Commuters are usually partially remote, living just far enough from the office for the drive to be a challenge and opting to work from home a few days each week or month.

Whether at home, on a bus, or picking up the kids from soccer practice, commuters can use Office 365 to securely access files and communicate with everyone at the office as though they were in the same room.

  • Microsoft Teams enables commuters and their colleagues to touch base, message a quick question, or video call for a conference.
  • SharePoint ensures commuters have access to the latest company files.
  • OneDrive gives commuters the power to coauthor in real time with team members anywhere, anytime – across all devices.

The migrator

Borders aren’t barriers to instant communication and collaboration.

If your lead strategist who works on your biggest account lives in a different country, how do you overcome access and communication problems that can lead to unnecessary and unproductive downtime?

  • OneDrive and SharePoint enable migrators in different time zones – or even on other continents – to coordinate with company headquarters and get server access anytime, anywhere.
  • Microsoft Teams provides instant communication and collaboration to make migrators feel like they’re always part of a team.
  • Mobile Device Manager gives your IT team the power to remotely wipe devices with just one click if your migrators move on or misplace a piece of equipment.

The industry expert

Needs autonomy and flexibility while staying connected and supported.

Even remotely hired industry experts don’t want to be left to fend for themselves. So why let things like time zones get in the way their valuable expertise?

  • SharePoint enables your company to share only the files, data, and apps necessary for experts to do their jobs while keeping your sensitive data under wraps.
  • OneDrive enables experts to feel in control and connected – never micromanaged- allowing them to share and collaborate with team members on their own time.

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Remote Work Considerations – Illicit Applications and Shadow IT https://www.evolveip.net/blog/remote-work-considerations-illicit-applications-and-shadow-it Mon, 20 Apr 2020 15:10:31 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=33471 The post Remote Work Considerations – Illicit Applications and Shadow IT appeared first on Evolve IP.

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Having provided virtual desktop and infrastructure solutions for over 11 years Evolve IP has seen a massive shift take place in the way IT is providing applications to end users.  11 years ago, customers were utilizing 90% client-server based software.  Meaning companies would acquire a server, whether physical or virtual, install the application and then install the client on each user’s desktop.   

Now, fast forward to today and I would argue that the number is down to around 25%. So, where are all those applications moving?  It should be no surprise when I write Software as a Service (SaaS).  Companies like Salesforce.com, ADP, Concur, Outreach are all delivered via a browser with no software to install. 

For the purposes of this post, I’ll be using the term “before” to describe how applications were delivered to end users in the “old days” and “after” to describe how applications are delivered now.  Our first post looked at the changing role of Active Directory, the second showed how SaaS has caused IT to play Defense in the Wild West, and last we looked at BYOD and Remote Work. 

Today, is the granddaddy of IT subterfuge … Illicit applications and Shadow IT 

Just a few years ago, when it came to application implementationIT held all the power.  If Marketing wanted a new CRM, IT would need to technically bless the app, deploy it and then finally provide credentials to each user.  Obviously, this is a very inefficient process and one of several reasons for the explosion of SaaS-based applications.   

Application provisioning has dramatically changed with the explosion of SaaS. Today, that same Marketing team can deploy an entire tech stack in an afternoon with a credit card. Because there is little if any dependence on IT, organizations are finding more and more instances of “shadow IT”.  In essence, functional areas are going out and utilizing applications without oversight from IT which leaves the organization extremely vulnerable.   

Organizations have begun writing policies to try and curb this adoption but increased pressure from the business is causing employees to resort to what they think is best to achieve their specific needs losing sight of the overall impact to the business. Training and education workshops help, but IT leaders are left scratching their heads on the best way to deter this behavior. 

Remote Work Considerations – Securing the New Corporate Network

Evolve IP has developed a comprehensive solution that addresses the needs of the IT and the business. Workspaces enable mobility and security and give employees the tools they need to do their jobs in ways that make them more productive than ever.

Enter Workspaces

Evolve IP has been working diligently to address the security defenses needed for businesses dealing with SaaS and Legacy line-of-business applications.  

Evolve IP Workspaces include: 

  • Active Directory Integration – Control access to legacy and SaaS applications through AD 
  • Multi-factor Authentication – Increase security posture by requiring a second form of authentication 
  • BYOD Friendly – Allow employees to use any device while maintaining security controls 
  • Custom Toolbelt – Users get just the tools they need, the way they want them, increasing efficiency 
  • SSO and Self-Service Password Resets – Users adopt, and adhere to technologies that make their lives easier 
  • Full DaaS capabilities for power users 

 

Enjoyed this post? Download all four sections of the Remote Work Considerations – Securing the New Corporate Network brief here. For more information about Workspaces please visit www.evolveip.net/workspaces or give us a call at 855-481-3798 for a demo. 

The post Remote Work Considerations – Illicit Applications and Shadow IT appeared first on Evolve IP.

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Remote Work Considerations – Remote Work is Hell for IT https://www.evolveip.net/blog/remote-work-considerations-remote-work-is-hell-for-it Mon, 13 Apr 2020 15:00:39 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=33470 The post Remote Work Considerations – Remote Work is Hell for IT appeared first on Evolve IP.

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Having provided virtual desktop and infrastructure solutions for over 11 years Evolve IP has seen a massive shift take place in the way IT is providing applications to end users.  11 years ago, customers were utilizing 90% client-server based software.  Meaning companies would acquire a server, whether physical or virtual, install the application and then install the client on each user’s desktop.   

Now, fast forward to today and I would argue that the number is down to around 25%. So, where are all those applications moving?  It should be no surprise when I write Software as a Service (SaaS).  Companies like Salesforce.com, ADP, Concur, Outreach are all delivered via a browser with no software to install. 

For the purpose of this post, I’ll be using the term “before” to describe how applications were delivered to end users in the “old days” and “after” to describe how applications are delivered now.  Our first post looked at the changing role of Active Directory, the second showed how SaaS has caused IT to play Defense in the Wild West. Today’s topic is BYOD and Remote Work. 

For years, the business ruled the device decision.  IT would provide a spec to purchasing who would go out to Dell, HP and Lenovo in search of 2 things.  The best price and the most standardization.  This was done to make IT’s life easier.  The fewer drivers the better.  Everyone gets the same device … office worker or road warrior, accountant or marketer, you were getting the same exact device.  Which made sense back then. 

But the explosion of SaaS, and therefore much lower dependence on IT provided resources, has shifted the power of choosing which device a user will utilize to accomplish their job function.  What was forecasted for years in the making is now finally here and mainstream – the BYOD revolution.  Users are demanding to be able to do their jobs from their favorite devices whether iPad, desktop or personal laptops.  And what’s shocking is that, according to Gartner, this choice is increasingly affecting whether top candidates take or stay in a position within a given organization.  Thus, forcing the business to push even more for a BYOD stance.  

For the last few years, virtual desktops (VDI) or desktops as a service (DaaS) have been somewhat of a band-aid in this department.  IT figured out a way to give users access to a desktop OS from pretty much any device that has an internet connection while still being able to enforce some of those corporate controls mentioned above. This was a great step in the right direction but it still didn’t provide the native experience users desired for Mac devices, tablets etc. 

Remote Work Considerations – Securing the New Corporate Network

Evolve IP has developed a comprehensive solution that addresses the needs of the IT and the business. Workspaces enable mobility and security and give employees the tools they need to do their jobs in ways that make them more productive than ever.

Enter Workspaces

Evolve IP has been working diligently to address the security defenses needed for businesses dealing with SaaS and Legacy line-of-business applications.  

Evolve IP Workspaces include: 

  • Active Directory Integration – Control access to legacy and SaaS applications through AD 
  • Multi-factor Authentication – Increase security posture by requiring a second form of authentication 
  • BYOD Friendly – Allow employees to use any device while maintaining security controls 
  • Custom Toolbelt – Users get just the tools they need, the way they want them, increasing efficiency 
  • SSO and Self-Service Password Resets – Users adopt, and adhere to technologies that make their lives easier 
  • Full DaaS capabilities for power users 

 

Enjoyed this post? Download all four sections of the Remote Work Considerations – Securing the New Corporate Network brief here. For more information about Workspaces please visit www.evolveip.net/workspaces or give us a call at 855-481-3798 for a demo. 

The post Remote Work Considerations – Remote Work is Hell for IT appeared first on Evolve IP.

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Is your temporary Work From Home solution letting you down? https://www.evolveip.net/blog/is-your-temporary-work-from-home-solution-letting-you-down Mon, 06 Apr 2020 19:34:06 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=33726 The post Is your temporary Work From Home solution letting you down? appeared first on Evolve IP.

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On Friday, April 3rd, Zoom reported an outage due to strains reported on the cloud video conferencing platform. Because of this outage, clients were reporting error messages after attempting to log into Zoom’s web client. According to Zoom’s status page on Friday, their web client is currently under maintenance and they are trying to get the Zoom web client and web SDK back online.

Additionally, on Wednesday, April 1st, Zoom’s CEO, Eric Yuan, enacted a freeze on all feature development for 90 days due to security and privacy issues such as information leaks reported by users (a.k.a “Zoombombing”).

While Zoom gained popularity during the start of the COVID-19 crisis, the limitation of offering video conferencing capabilities alone coupled with the recent incidents have got businesses wondering if Zoom is a reliable and long-term solution.

Is this the rise or fall of Zoom? Is it indicative of a larger issue with a piecemeal approach to your work from home strategy (or lack thereof)?

What businesses need today – an integrated strategy

Most businesses, employees and customers that we’re interacting with today are looking for an integrated solution that strategically meets these three requirements:

  1. Enables everyone to work from anywhere on any device
  2. All-in-one voice-enabled platform-level collaboration solution
  3. Secure, scalable and long-term

Introducing Microsoft Teams

In a span of two years, Microsoft Teams has become the leading collaboration platform world-wide. It is used by 93 of the Fortune 100 companies and 44 million users daily. Microsoft Teams delivers world-class collaboration features such as collaborative, persistent chats, desktop sharing, file sharing, group editing, multi-party audio/video calling, remote/mobile/guest conferencing and more – all in one place, on one platform, with one click. But what about voice?

Introducing Voice-Enabled Microsoft Teams

That’s where Evolve IP comes in. Evolve IP combines the world’s most stable Cisco hosted PBX platform, with Microsoft Teams to deliver advanced PBX features and contact center functionalities that enable businesses to work securely from anywhere on any device. Evolve IP’s Microsoft Teams solution has helped our associates and customers successfully carry out business and work remote during this pandemic. And whether it’s the Zoom outage that was reported on Friday, April 3rd or a collaboration provider’s outage, Evolve IP has you covered.

Mobile Workspaces –  a better solution than ‘just’ Desktop as a Service

Ditch the VPN with Evolve IP’s Workspaces and give your associates easy identity management and access to all of their SaaS applications, as well delivers data center applications to any device, wherever your users are and whatever devices they are on. IT also features full cloud desktops for power users with heavy OS needs.

Integrated with Evolve IP’s collaboration and voice solutions we deliver a seamless, strategic Work Anywhere approach that keeps businesses productive, secure and mobile.

Business Continuity

With Evolve IP’s award-winning OSSmosis portal, clients can quickly and efficiently reroute incoming voice traffic to an alternate phone number. So during a crisis, an event of a natural disaster or a Microsoft Teams outage, your associates can enable the business continuity feature on OSSmosis and stay connected.

In addition to the call forwarding and remote office option available for voice via Evolve IP’s OSSmosis portal, our Microsoft Teams Direct Routing solution differentiates itself by delivering advanced PBX features, contact center functionalities, call recording, receptionist applications, 24x7x365 US based support and dedicated project management all via a platform level integration (and not a 3rd party software like most vendors out there). And because our solution is built on the world’s leading and most stable VoIP platform, Cisco, we can ensure reliability, security and uptime that no other voice-enabled Teams provider can.

We can help

Do you have a complete Work From Home strategy yet? Are you planning to adopt Zoom and add multiple vendors/solutions for PBX and contact center capabilities? Do you plan on providing virtual desktop options for your associates or deliver one-off access or are you planning to migrate to Evolve Teams Enterprise Voice, the only platform-level solution that integrates with the best technologies world-wide, Microsoft & Cisco?

Click here to learn more about Evolve IP’s integrated, strategic approach to Work Anywhere.

The post Is your temporary Work From Home solution letting you down? appeared first on Evolve IP.

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Remote Work Considerations – SaaS Defense in the Wild West https://www.evolveip.net/blog/remote-work-considerations-saas-defense-in-the-wild-west Sun, 05 Apr 2020 15:00:10 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=33455 The post Remote Work Considerations – SaaS Defense in the Wild West appeared first on Evolve IP.

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Having provided virtual desktop and infrastructure solutions for over 11 years Evolve IP has seen a massive shift take place in the way IT provides applications to end users.  11 years ago, customers were utilizing 90% client-server based software. Meaning companies would acquire a server, whether physical or virtual, install the application and then install the client on each user’s desktop.   

Now, fast forward to today and I would argue that the number is down to around 25%. So, where are all those applications moving? It should be no surprise when I write Software as a Service (SaaS).  Companies like Salesforce.com, ADP, Concur, Outreach are all delivered via a browser with no software to install. 

For the purposes of this post, I’ll be using the term “before” to describe how applications were delivered to end users in the “old days” and “after” to describe how applications are delivered now.  Our first post looked at the changing role of Active Directory and today we’re going to see how SaaS has caused IT to play Defense in the Wild West. 

Up until the explosion of SaaS, the industry best practice was what IT referred to as “defense in depth”.  At its most basic level, this meant a firewall at the edge of the network, then some sort of monitoring at the network level for traffic that may not appear legitimate, and then finally all sorts of different security tools at the server or desktop level. Basically, build big castle walls and keep the bad guys out. 

 Today, the new corporate network doesn’t stop at HQ’s walls.  It also doesn’t stop at the VPN connections.  It’s everywhere.  Users need to access resources from different SaaS providers around the globe and those connections are all public.   

 For corporate assets, IT still maintains anti-virus (AV) and other protections on those devices which certainly helps.  Some companies have turned to Cloud Access Security Brokers (CASB) in an effort put a man in the middle act as a relay to protect the enterprise while enabling a more flexible environment for their employees. Unfortunately, to date, these solutions have proved very costly and complicated to implement. 

Remote Work Considerations – Securing the New Corporate Network

Evolve IP has developed a comprehensive solution that addresses the needs of the IT and the business. Workspaces enable mobility and security and give employees the tools they need to do their jobs in ways that make them more productive than ever.

Enter Workspaces

Evolve IP has been working diligently to address the security defenses needed for businesses dealing with SaaS and Legacy line-of-business applications.  

Evolve IP Workspaces include: 

  • Active Directory Integration – Control access to legacy and SaaS applications through AD 
  • Multi-factor Authentication – Increase security posture by requiring a second form of authentication 
  • BYOD Friendly – Allow employees to use any device while maintaining security controls 
  • Custom Toolbelt – Users get just the tools they need, the way they want them, increasing efficiency 
  • SSO and Self-Service Password Resets – Users adopt, and adhere to technologies that make their lives easier 
  • Full DaaS capabilities for power users 

 

Enjoyed this post? Download all four sections of the Remote Work Considerations – Securing the New Corporate Network brief here. For more information about Workspaces please visit www.evolveip.net/workspaces or give us a call at 855-481-3798 for a demo. 

The post Remote Work Considerations – SaaS Defense in the Wild West appeared first on Evolve IP.

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Work from Home DaaS Comparison – Common Objections and Rebuttals https://www.evolveip.net/blog/desktop-as-a-service-comparison-common-objections-and-rebuttals Mon, 30 Mar 2020 15:00:34 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=33093 The post Work from Home DaaS Comparison – Common Objections and Rebuttals appeared first on Evolve IP.

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If your business is considering enabling remote work, Bring Your Own Device or looking to easily provision, update and secure your users with DaaS or a virtual workspace you’re not alone. In fact, according to Gartner, DaaS momentum continues to build – especially in the midmarket. 

To help businesses think through some of the major considerations we developed a comparison guide that outlines: 

  • How projects get funded 
  • Major solution types 
  • Key questions to consider
  • A cost evaluation process
  • Thoughts on overcoming objections 

So, why would should listen to us? Well, Evolve IP… 

  • Has been providing DaaS solutions for over 11 years 
  • Is the largest multi-tenant VMware DaaS provider in the United States.  
  • Our solution has been named in every Gartner DaaS Market Guide since inception.  
  • We also work with Citrix and have deployed virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) for clients. 
  • We have tens of thousands of users 

Bottom line, we have a lot of experience to pull from for this comparison. 

Today we will look at Common Desktop-as-a-Service / DaaS Objections and Rebuttals or “How do I deal with a Doubting Thomas?” 

Occasionally, as the IT advocate, you may run into a ‘road blocking’ individual peppering you with questions like “How are they doing it, why do I need virtual desktops, etc?”  Fair enough.  Here are a few questions we’ve heard along the way and a few thoughts on these valid questions:

 

Q: Couldn’t I just do this with Citrix on my own and publish some desktops and some applications?   

A: You could, but that only addresses the delivery of 20% of your applications.  The other 80% are being delivered directly to your users, outside of your control mechanisms like Active Directory (AD).  By front-ending this solution with Clearlogin, our Identity and Access tool, we’re throwing a lasso around those users and their access as well and creating one central choke point for all users that IT can manage. 

 

Q: Why can’t I just have everyone use a DaaS seat and then use that as my choke point? 

A: First, why would you? It’s way more expensive. Second, you could, but we’re trying to make your business MORE agile and your users happier and more productive; not make them jump into a virtual desktop just to go elsewhere for a majority of their application needs.  

 

Q: Can’t I just buy OKTA and do this myself?   

A: Technologies like OKTA will address SSO and MFA.  They are also VERY expensive to implement and pay for on a monthly basis.  They also don’t address the 20% of your applications that are legacy whereas Workspaces puts these applications behind the SSO/MFA portal and serves them up from our data centers to your end users in a SaaS-like experience. 

Comparing DaaS Solutions

This virtual desktop or DaaS comparison guide is designed for those who are looking into hosted virtual desktops or desktops as a service (DaaS). It also compares the technology to Evolve IP’s Workspaces solution.

When Do I Still Use DaaS? 

Here are some use cases that might still point you in the DaaS direction: 

  • Zero client dominates your organization – If you have all zero clients today you can’t have users going to a browser to login first. DaaS would be a better fit. 
  • You’re already on DaaS today – We move a healthy dose of customers from other DaaS providers to our platform. At times, it’s easier or better to keep them on a like-for-like platform from a user adoption or training perspective.  However, we’d argue that it’s worth the effort to show your users a better way and that the adoption changes will pay dividends for you (and them) later.   
  • You’re a BYOT – Bring your own tools – business – From time-to-time a customer brings their own tools to the party like RMM, AV or desktop OS.  In these scenarios, and in combination of a one size fits all environment, the DaaS solution may end up being less expensive.  

 

Summary  

Bottom line, Evolve IP Workspaces is the new way to make your users more productive, secure and mobile. It also makes them, and their devices, easier to manage while saving significant money over a 100% DaaS solution. Workspaces will also move your legacy application boat anchors to the cloud freeing up your business to be more agile, more secure and more end-user friendly.  Ultimately, if you do fall into one of the tertiary cases above where DaaS is still a better fit, no one has been doing it longer or has more clients on a DaaS platform than Evolve IP.  Give us a call to talk about your business objectives so we can purpose-build a solution that’s exactly what you need. 

The post Work from Home DaaS Comparison – Common Objections and Rebuttals appeared first on Evolve IP.

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Remote Work Considerations – Access Control and the Changing Role of Active Directory https://www.evolveip.net/blog/remote-work-considerations-access-control-and-the-changing-role-of-active-directory Fri, 27 Mar 2020 15:00:41 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=33443 The post Remote Work Considerations – Access Control and the Changing Role of Active Directory appeared first on Evolve IP.

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Having provided virtual desktop and infrastructure solutions for over 11 years Evolve IP has seen a massive shift take place in the way IT provides applications to end users.  11 years ago, customers were utilizing 90% client-server based software. Meaning companies would acquire a server, whether physical or virtual, install the application and then install the client on each user’s desktop.   

Now, fast forward to today and I would argue that the number is down to around 25%. So, where are all those applications moving? It should be no surprise when I write Software as a Service (SaaS).  Companies like Salesforce.com, ADP, Concur, Outreach are all delivered via a browser with no software to install. 

For the purposes of these posts, I’ll be using the term “before” to describe how applications were delivered to end users in the “old days” and “after” to describe how applications are delivered today.  We will cover the four main differences and what IT has to be cognizant of regarding these dynamics. This first post looks at Access Control.  

As networks matured over time, IT realized they needed some “rules of the road”.  Active Directory (AD) was put in place to control which network resources users could access.  So, by creating user groups with permissions, IT could enable a user with one set of credentials and off they went.   

Unfortunately, SaaS providers are all independent of each other.  Therefore, there is no common framework IT can enable in order to control access to SaaS providers.  In theory, you could control access from the corporate network to decide which SaaS providers your users could get to, but as with many ideas on how to lock down security, that would prove to be completely inflexible in practice. 

The result? IT is forced to not only provide AD credentials for corporate legacy access, but then enable, manage and finally disable access to all SaaS providers individually.   

For enabling and managing access, this equates to a massive commitment of time from IT.  However, the larger consideration here is when employees are offboarded.  IT must first figure out which applications users were given access to when they started, then what access they may have gained throughout their tenure and finally what other applications do they have access to that IT may not even know of – also known as Shadow IT. When this is an amicable parting of ways, it’s more of an annoyance, but when it’s a sensitive or negative offboarding, this can present huge business risk if not done quickly and accurately. 

Remote Work Considerations – Securing the New Corporate Network

Evolve IP has developed a comprehensive solution that addresses the needs of the IT and the business. Workspaces enable mobility and security and give employees the tools they need to do their jobs in ways that make them more productive than ever.

Enter Workspaces

Evolve IP has been working diligently to address the access management needs of businesses while enabling mobility, security. Evolve IP Workspaces include: 

  • Active Directory Integration – Control access to legacy and SaaS applications through AD 
  • Multi-factor Authentication – Increase security posture requiring a second form of authentication 
  • BYOD Friendly – Allow employees to use any device while maintaining security controls 
  • Custom Toolbelt – Users get just the tools they need, the way they want them, increasing efficiency 
  • SSO and Self-Service Password Resets – Users adopt, and adhere to technologies that make their lives easier 
  • Full DaaS capabilities for power users 

 

Enjoyed this post? Download all four sections of the Remote Work Considerations – Securing the New Corporate Network brief here. For more information about Workspaces please visit www.evolveip.net/workspaces or give us a call at 855-481-3798 for a demo. 

The post Remote Work Considerations – Access Control and the Changing Role of Active Directory appeared first on Evolve IP.

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Work from Home DaaS Comparison – Cost Considerations https://www.evolveip.net/blog/desktop-as-a-service-comparison-cost-considerations Thu, 26 Mar 2020 15:00:55 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=33089 The post Work from Home DaaS Comparison – Cost Considerations appeared first on Evolve IP.

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If your business is considering enabling remote work, Bring Your Own Device or looking to easily provision, update and secure your users with DaaS or a virtual workspace you’re not alone. In fact, according to Gartner, DaaS momentum continues to build – especially in the midmarket. 

To help businesses think through some of the major considerations we developed a comparison guide that outlines: 

  • How projects get funded 
  • Major solution types 
  • Key questions to consider
  • A cost evaluation process
  • Thoughts on overcoming objections 

So, why would should listen to us? Well, Evolve IP… 

  • Has been providing DaaS solutions for over 11 years 
  • Is the largest multi-tenant VMware DaaS provider in the United States.  
  • Our solution has been named in every Gartner DaaS Market Guide since inception.  
  • We also work with Citrix and have deployed virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) for clients. 
  • We have tens of thousands of users 

Bottom line, we have a lot of experience to pull from for this comparison. 

Today we will look at the number one question / consideration we hear … What is the Total Cost of Ownership of Desktop-as-a-Service / DaaS 

If you’ve read any of our previous posts you’ll understand why this question / consideration is the equivalent of an online mic drop! Why? It might have been some twisted joke from our Product team, but in this case better is significantly cheaper.  

Looking at DaaS, for almost every provider the pricing model is the same.  You buy a seat, then you outfit the seat with the ancillary parts and pieces needed to actually make the desktop work.  The typical seat itemization would include: 

  1. RMM (Remote Monitoring and Management) – this is a tool used to manage desktops.  In our case, we use N-Able.  However, we also allow customers to bring their own solutions to the table and re-use them in our cloud. 
  2. Anti-Virus – In today’s environment you had better protect those devices.  We utilize Trend AV or allow our customers to bring their own solutions. 
  3. Operating System – Pretty straight forward.  Again, if customers have their own Office 365 OS they can bring that along. 
  4. Patching – This is not a requirement, but more and more clients are asking us to apply Windows, 3rd party and AV patches/updates.  We think this is great move because there is ZERO value to the business handling this exercise and you are paying an IT professional WAY too much for such a mundane chore.  Not to mention we’ve never found anyone in IT that wakes up thinking, “I can’t wait to patch my desktops today.” (If this is you, put down the whitepaper and call someone for help!) 

Comparing DaaS Solutions

This virtual desktop or DaaS comparison guide is designed for those who are looking into hosted virtual desktops or desktops as a service (DaaS). It also compares the technology to Evolve IP’s Workspaces solution.

So, how does a typical DaaS solution compare to Workspaces? Here’s a list price comparison. 

  DaaS    SaaS Only  SaaS & Apps  SaaS & DaaS 
Desktop – 8G RAM  $62  $6  $60  $75 
RMM Tool  $6  Included 
Anti-Virus  $2  Included 
Operating System  $7  Included 
Patching  $12  Included 
Total  $89  $6  $60  $75 

Remember when we talked about the 3 user types?  This is when it really hits home.  In the DaaS world, every user is $89.  However, with Workspaces, users are matched with just the tools they need; drastically reducing your overall TCO!   

Here is an example of what Evolve IP Workspaces looks like with 450 users compared to a 100% DaaS solution. 

  DaaS    Workspaces 
Seat Type  DaaS    SaaS Only  SaaS & Apps  SaaS & DaaS 
User Count  450    50  200  200 
Per Seat Cost  $89    $6  $60  $75 
  $40,050    $27,300 

The post Work from Home DaaS Comparison – Cost Considerations appeared first on Evolve IP.

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Work from Home DaaS Comparison – Key Questions and Considerations https://www.evolveip.net/blog/desktop-as-a-service-comparison-key-questions-and-considerations Mon, 23 Mar 2020 15:00:04 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=33082 The post Work from Home DaaS Comparison – Key Questions and Considerations appeared first on Evolve IP.

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If your business is considering enabling remote work, Bring Your Own Device or looking to easily provision, update and secure your users with DaaS or a virtual workspace you’re not alone. In fact, according to Gartner, DaaS momentum continues to build – especially in the midmarket. 

To help businesses think through some of the major considerations we developed a comparison guide that outlines: 

  • How projects get funded 
  • Major solution types 
  • Key questions to consider
  • A cost evaluation process
  • Thoughts on overcoming objections 

So, why would should listen to us? Well, Evolve IP… 

  • Has been providing DaaS solutions for over 11 years 
  • Is the largest multi-tenant VMware DaaS provider in the United States.  
  • Our solution has been named in every Gartner DaaS Market Guide since inception.  
  • We also work with Citrix and have deployed virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) for clients. 
  • We have tens of thousands of users 

Bottom line, we have a lot of experience to pull from for this comparison. 

Today we will look at the major questions we are asked and considerations we suggest to businesses around Desktop-as-a-Service  

Questions to Consider When Looking at Desktop-as-a-Service / DaaS and Workspaces

1.What end-user devices would you recommend? 

This is perhaps the most common question we get as customers are looking to either justify a project with a lower device price point, or possibly as a way of reducing the management overhead of local devices. Essentially there are 2 options in this space.  But before getting to that, we like to point out that the cheapest client is the one you already have.  All desktops and laptops are compatible with DaaS and Workspaces so using the existing infrastructure until it dies is always an option and then replace them with one of the options below. 

  • Option 1 – A thin client which has a stripped-down OS and a browser of your choosing.  These devices are great for using either VMware’s DaaS, Citrix XenApp, XenDesktop or Evolve IP’s Workspaces product. 
  • Option 2 – A zero client. Zero clients are slightly different in that there is no OS and the devices boot directly to the login prompt of the virtual desktop provider. For a one size fits all approach, where you’re looking to lock devices down to only a virtual desktop, this is a great solution.  It’s important to note that zero clients sometimes do not support peripherals like check scanners, printers and other USB devices. 

Note: Zero clients are not a solution for Evolve IP’s Workspaces product as it is built on the notion that users should start with a browser (due to having a majority of SaaS applications) instead of forcing them into a virtual desktop OS.  

Finally, there are different flavors of these clients and it can be VERY confusing.  Some are VMware and Citrix certified, some aren’t. If you are going the DaaS route make sure you know if the service supports PCoIP, ICA or RDP and buy the appropriate thin or zero client.  Or, give us a ring and we’ll assist you with the selection.  

 

2. How do you want to handle legacy applications on internal servers? 

11 years ago, most, if not all, applications were hosted on internal servers. This architecture meant a desktop was needed as the client to get to legacy applications housed in the business’s data center.   

For a customer wanting to offload their infrastructure to the cloud, the obvious choice was to move their servers to a cloud service provider’s (CSP) data center. The CSP would host desktops back to the customer to solve for the latency that had just been created.  Technically, SaaS-like experience was created in that the customer was able to get to their virtual desktop from any device.  But they still had to jump into that virtual desktop to get to their legacy applications.   

Due to the explosion of SaaS, most workforces are now only using  one or two legacy applications.  Unfortunately, the DaaS provider industry is still trying to solve these applications by giving everyone a virtual desktop. Simply put, that’s a waste of money and resources, but most importantly what an annoying way to do your job!   

Evolve IP is breaking the DaaS industry mold. With Workspaces, we are able to publish legacy applications to the user and provide them in a tile-based SSO fashion.  This makes legacy applications look, act and feel like a SaaS application to the user on whichever device they are using.   

 

 3. How does your business handle security? 

Security is a huge concern these days.  Every week it seems a new malware or ransomware attack floods the chat rooms and airwaves.  DaaS greatly reduces your threat cross-section and allows IT to focus on protecting the DaaS instances in the cloud while client devices cannot transmit infections into the environment. With the explosion of SaaS, one particular area of concern however is an increase in users that are not accessing legacy applications and simply logging directly into SaaS applications. This does present security risks along with creating the arduous process for IT of trying to figure out what applications a user needs or has gained access to over their tenure and then disabling all those application one by one during offboarding.   

With Workspaces, you can still provide a virtual desktop to those users that need them.  But you can also provide a secure, centrally managed way for users that only need SaaS applications to just go directly to those applications.  But, in an offboarding event, all access to SaaS applications that have been integrated into the Clearlogin portal is immediately zapped.   This provides a much more encompassing way of managing user access to legacy as well as SaaS applications and securing the Enterprise. 

 

Comparing DaaS Solutions

This virtual desktop or DaaS comparison guide is designed for those who are looking into hosted virtual desktops or desktops as a service (DaaS). It also compares the technology to Evolve IP’s Workspaces solution.

4. How dependent do you want to be on your provider for provisioning? 

DaaS provisioning is very … let’s just say, manual.  And that goes for Evolve IP and every other competitor in the market.  Whether it’s actual provisioning or billing adjustments it’s a manual process.  This is due to the fact that VMware and Citrix simply have not focused on orchestration in the multi-tenant space.   

Luckily, in 2017 Evolve IP acquired a company that had perfected a backend provisioning system and that engine now drives the provisioning portal for Workspaces.  

Here’s an illustration of adding 10 new desktops to DaaS (the industry-wide practice) vs. 10 new Evolve IP Workspaces users  

DaaS: The customer tells their Account Manager (AM) they need 10 more desktops.  The AM sends a quote for 10 more users.  The customer signs the quote and the AM passes this on to provisioning and a couple days later, without escalations, the DaaS seats are there.  Can it be done in a couple hours in a pinch? Sure, and we have many times.  But the default process noted here is typical.  

Workspaces: IT logs into their portal and creates 10 users, along with their security permissions and applications access, instantly. Resources for pushing out legacy applications or entire desktops are provisioned in minutes.  The portal then reaches out to Office 365 and provisions their licenses … on the fly.  Charges are automatically added to their monthly billing.  Oh, and should you need to eliminate users, the same is true in reverse to deprovision.  Net-net IT can add users, on their own, in a matter of minutes not days.  Larger changes may require account management but for the most part, capacity planning can be done at your leisure instead of while under the gun to make a small change. 

The post Work from Home DaaS Comparison – Key Questions and Considerations appeared first on Evolve IP.

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Work from Home DaaS Comparison – Major DaaS Options in the Market https://www.evolveip.net/blog/desktop-as-a-service-comparison-major-daas-options-in-the-market Fri, 20 Mar 2020 15:00:14 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=33080 The post Work from Home DaaS Comparison – Major DaaS Options in the Market appeared first on Evolve IP.

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If your business is considering enabling remote work, Bring Your Own Device or looking to easily provision, update and secure your users with DaaS or a virtual workspace you’re not alone. In fact, according to Gartner, DaaS momentum continues to build – especially in the midmarket. 

To help businesses think through some of the major considerations we developed a comparison guide that outlines: 

  • How projects get funded 
  • Major solution types 
  • Key questions to consider
  • A cost evaluation process
  • Thoughts on overcoming objections 

So, why would should listen to us? Well, Evolve IP… 

  • Has been providing DaaS solutions for over 11 years 
  • Is the largest multi-tenant VMware DaaS provider in the United States.  
  • Our solution has been named in every Gartner DaaS Market Guide since inception.  
  • We also work with Citrix and have deployed virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) for clients. 
  • We have tens of thousands of users 

Bottom line, we have a lot of experience to pull from for this comparison. 

Today we will look at the major DaaS solutions in the market. 

Major Desktop-as-a-Service / DaaS Solutions in the Market 

XenDesktop, now known as Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktop, and VMware Horizon DaaS –  We have grouped these two together as they are both very robust solutions and, for the most part, their selection typically comes down to brand preference as opposed to having significant differences in performance.   

One important note is that both can be architected in a multi-tenant environment.   

When we say multi-tenant, that’s not to say you are sharing the same space with other clients, it’s more like an apartment complex.  To continue the analogy, typically each customer is living on their own floor (vlan) and the building supervisors (platform engineers), are caring for the entire building. This gives you a personal, secure, private space.  To take it one step further, if Licenses and Inspections checks on the buildings, top providers, like Evolve IP, ensure their apartments are certified for major compliances like HIPAA / HITRUST, PCI-DSS, etc.  

VMware Horizon View – This is the enterprise version of virtual desktop technology.  We note it here because there are providers building solutions on this technology. For service providers  with a low number of clients, this can work.  However, as the providers’ customer counts grow, you can think of this as more of a single-family home community. The maintenance crew now has 100 homes to manage instead of 1 large building. Typically, at this point, the vendors economies of scale dry up and there are more things that can go wrong; there are more ways to break in, more management portals to maintain, etc.  VMware Horizon View was not designed to be multi-tenant. 

Azure Virtual Desktops – To be honest, there isn’t a significant track record for this solution since Azure Virtual Desktops just became Generally Available (GA) at the beginning of the year.  It is, however, utilizing RDP as a protocol. While RDP has come a long way, it does not yet compare to the performance of ICA or PCoIP and still requires a double authentication potentially frustrating to users who want a simple and immediate experience. 

Comparing DaaS Solutions

This virtual desktop or DaaS comparison guide is designed for those who are looking into hosted virtual desktops or desktops as a service (DaaS). It also compares the technology to Evolve IP’s Workspaces solution.

Amazon Workspaces – Not to be confused with Evolve IP’s Workspaces product below.  This is similar to Azure in that it’s a public cloud offering.  It seems to be a bit more tried and test and is a decent solution.  As with Azure, the consuming organization is left in a DIY state of mind whereby the customer needs to figure out how to tie in all the ancillary pieces a desktop will need like RMM, Anti-virus, etc. 

Evolve IP Workspaces – We developed Workspaces because most of our clients no longer require every employee to have a full virtual desktop / DaaS seat.  Why? Quite simply SaaS exploded. Research shows that typically over 50% of an organization’s applications are SaaS and 2020 brings with it an adoption rate that is more likely 75-80%.   

SaaS is great for flexibility and business continuity and allowing users to work the way they want, where they want, on the devices they want.  But it’s creating 2 major issues. 

  1. How do you control access to SaaS applications and keep data secure? 
  2. How do you untether and deliver the 20-25% of applications that are based on legacy technologies and residing on servers in the enterprise? How do you make this seamless and easy for your employees to access and for IT to manage? 

Workspaces from Evolve IP solves these issues by: 

  • All users start by logging into a Single Sign On (SSO) Web portal that includes Multi-factor Authentication (MFA).   
    • This portal gives IT a centralized point for enabling or disabling user access to SaaS and legacy applications.   
  • Once in their portal, users see their personal application tiles and simply click to be passed into the SaaS applications without needing to login again.   
    • With self-service password resets for users, say ‘Goodbye’ to 50% of your helpdesk requests! 
  • If users need access to legacy applications e.g. Encompass, Fiserv, those applications also appear as a tile for the user to click and launch from the Evolve IP data center.  
    • This makes those hosted, line-of-business applications look, act and feel like a SaaS app.   
  • If the user needs an entire virtual desktop experience, they simply click a tile to launch their desktop, all within their user Web browser.   

Can these 2 issues above be solved with DaaS?  Sure.  But Workspaces is a much better solution.  

Here’s why, Workspaces alIows IT to define user types and deliver just the services and applications they need. 

  • The first user type just needs SaaS applications 
  • The second user type needs SaaS and legacy, line-of-business hosted applications 
  • The third user type would be a power user that needs a full desktop and OS 

 

Evolve IP Workspaces breaks the “one size fits all” DaaS mold and gives users just the right tools for their job while reducing overspending by the company. 

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Work from Home DaaS Comparison – Why Businesses are Choosing (and actually funding) DaaS https://www.evolveip.net/blog/desktop-as-a-service-comparison-why-businesses-are-choosing-and-actually-funding-daas Wed, 18 Mar 2020 16:54:56 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=33086 The post Work from Home DaaS Comparison – Why Businesses are Choosing (and actually funding) DaaS appeared first on Evolve IP.

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If your business is considering enabling remote work, Bring Your Own Device or looking to easily provision, update and secure your users with DaaS or a virtual workspace you’re not alone. In fact, according to Gartner, DaaS momentum continues to build – especially in the midmarket. 

To help businesses think through some of the major considerations we developed a comparison guide that outlines: 

  • How projects get funded 
  • Major solution types 
  • Key questions to consider
  • A cost evaluation process
  • Thoughts on overcoming objections 

So, why would should listen to us? Well, Evolve IP… 

  • Has been providing DaaS solutions for over 11 years 
  • Is the largest multi-tenant VMware DaaS provider in the United States.  
  • Our solution has been named in every Gartner DaaS Market Guide since inception.  
  • We also work with Citrix and have deployed virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) for clients. 
  • We have tens of thousands of users 

Bottom line, we have a lot of experience to pull from for this comparison. 

Comparing DaaS Solutions

This virtual desktop or DaaS comparison guide is designed for those who are looking into hosted virtual desktops or desktops as a service (DaaS). It also compares the technology to Evolve IP’s Workspaces solution.

Why Implement Desktop-as-a-Service / DaaS? 

Evolve IP has helped hundreds of enterprise and midmarket clients migrate their servers and desktops to the cloud in almost every vertical market.  Over the years, we have found that the projects that get funded and are deployed successfully typically involve one or more of these four business outcomes.   

  1. Security – Quite simply, IT is looking to create a reliable, efficient and most of all secure platform due to the issues caused by increased threats and the proliferation of remote work and BYOD. They also want an easy way to ensure that the OS instances and varying software applications are up-to-date and secure. By using DaaS, IT is able to protect and secure resources in the cloud and not necessarily worry about the devices being used to access the cloud.  Whatever is happening locally isn’t being transmitted up to the cloud instances. 
  2. Disaster Recovery / Business Continuity – With DaaS, users are no longer dependent on physical devices to do their job.  Therefore, if the office is no longer accessible due to fire, flood, even inclement weather like a snowstorm, users can grab any device and do their job.
  3. Management – Picture trying to manage and maintain hundreds or thousands of desktops across dozens of offices.  What a nightmare. Yes, this is what one of our recent customers was faced with!  By implementing DaaS, IT is able to give thin client or zero client devices to their users and they simply log in to the cloud to start working anywhere, anytime.  When updates and patches need to occur, and we all know that happens all of the time, IT simply makes a few clicks and the whole environment is updated in one shot.  
  4. Enabling Remote Workers / Mobility – Businesses know that remote work is on the rise and hiring talent that’s within driving distance is nearly impossible and very expensive. For businesses that have a remote workforce, DaaS improves productivity instantly while also allowing office-bound workers to become mobile and leverage BYOD. Businesses can now expand their hiring reach and attract better talent. And as noted in the first section, DaaS supports these needs securely!  

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The Changing Landscape: Unified Communications to Workstream Collaboration and What it Means https://www.evolveip.net/blog/the-changing-landscape-unified-communications-to-workstream-collaboration-and-what-it-means Tue, 10 Mar 2020 15:04:03 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=33184 The post The Changing Landscape: Unified Communications to Workstream Collaboration and What it Means appeared first on Evolve IP.

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Few years ago, the unified communications market was dominated by proprietary platforms that were based on underlying open source SIP libraries or soft switches. As these platforms emerged, these vendors added instant messaging, presence, voice and video conferencing, and screen sharing. Fast forward to today, the market dynamics have evolved from a feature/functionality and handset discussion to collaboration strategy development.  Workstream Collaboration tools have taken the market by storm as younger workers are demanding topic-based meeting spaces, choosing bluetooth headsets over handsets, and expecting video when talking to co-workers.  According to Gartner, the workstream collaboration market is growing at a 96% CAGR. And without a doubt, Microsoft is the leading workstream collaboration solution followed by Cisco Webex, Slack, Jive and Altassian. According to the Wall Street Journal, 91 of the Fortune 100 are now using Microsoft Teams. And after fewer than two years in the market, Teams is used by more than 500,000 organizations worldwide.

What is Workstream Collaboration?

Workstream Collaboration tools enable employees to be more productive and work better together by collaborating digitally on projects including:

  • Collaborative, persistent chat
  • File sharing and group editing
  • Multi-party audio & video calling
  • Remote, mobile and guest conferencing
  • All in one place, on one platform with one click

Why Workstream Collaboration and what can it do for you?

Whether employees are working at home or from a different continent, they need the right tools to be able to make a call, join a meeting, share/edit files or video conference from anywhere, at any time, on any device. By providing leading business collaboration solutions from Microsoft or Cisco that seamlessly integrate with enterprise-quality voice services from Evolve IP, businesses can drive productivity to new levels.

According to HBR, by adopting workstream collaboration, businesses can increase productivity by 76% and improve efficiency by 79%.

Have you picked your collaboration platform yet? If not, Evolve IP can help. Click here to learn more.

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Work from Home Preparedness for COVID-19 (Coronavirus) https://www.evolveip.net/blog/remote-working-preparedness-for-covid-19-coronavirus Mon, 09 Mar 2020 15:04:23 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=33187 The post Work from Home Preparedness for COVID-19 (Coronavirus) appeared first on Evolve IP.

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The way people work has evolved. Employees expect businesses to provide access to the right tools to be able to work remotely, at any time, on just about every device that you can imagine. According to IDC, 72% of employees will be working remotely by 2020.

And with the outbreak of Coronavirus, it’s become more critical than ever for businesses to be able to support remote working for their employees along with the ability to seamlessly and instantly collaborate with their teams and customers.

Like most businesses, if you have remote employees or plan to implement a Work from Home (WFH) program, Evolve IP has put a Work From Home Checklist together to enable business continuity.

In the meantime, in this blog post series, we’ll discuss the top things that you need to start thinking about to implement a remote working plan:

Implement A Robust Work From Home Platform

The key items to address from a technology perspective are the ability for employees to collaborate with their teams and customers using a single platform along with the ability to access all the tools and business applications that they would need to get their work done. Here are some specific suggestions to consider when determining the right technology platform for your employees:

Virtual Workspaces – Identity and Access Management, Desktop as a Service and More

Control SaaS Applications – Enable an IAM solution with a SSO portal so users will need only one set of credentials. Ide- ally, multi-factor authentication can be added into this offering to enhance security even further. Check if your solution will be hosted in HIPAA / HITRUST, PCI and SOC compliant data centers as necessary.

Help your helpdesk – Some estimates have a single password reset costing upwards of $70 per incident. Lots of remote workers in new environments may tax your help desk more than ever. An IAM / SSO solution will be a big help here.

Legacy Applications and Virtual Desktops – Depending on your users you may have individuals that need access to ap- plications that are hosted on premises. Others may need a full desktop experience to do their jobs. Get a list of user types together and determine needs for hardware such as thin / zero clients.

Team Collaboration

  • Do your employees use multiple/different collaboration systems today? If yes, have you considered adopting a single collaboration solution such as Microsoft Teams, Cisco UC etc.?
  • What are the ‘must-have’ features for your collaboration solution? Here are the top few that we’ve seen customers typically choose to support their remote workforce:
    • Collaborative, persistent chat with your team members
    • File sharing and group editing simultaneously from anywhere in the world
    • Multi party audio and video calling for a more personalized meeting experience
    • Remote, mobile and guest conferencing with internal and external workforce
    • Presence to learn if your remote associates are available for a quick conversation
    • Workstreams comprising of direct messaging channels to collaborate with Teams
  • Does your phone / communications system integrate with your collaboration software for a seamless experience? If not, then that’s where the market is headed.
  • What are the ‘must-have’ features for your phone system? Here are the top few that we’ve seen customers typically choose to support their remote workforce:
    • Call recording
    • Receptionist Applications
    • Contact Center Features such as wallboard/dashboard, IVR, Callbacks, Surveys, Speech Analytics, etc.
    • CRM Integrations
    • Calling, number porting, global presence
    • Supporting Handsets
    • Miscellaneous UCaaS features
    • Administration portal to configure and manage telephony, voicemail, call center & conferencing functions O Are your employees phone calls / agents customer calls being recorded?
  • Do you have a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy? If not, and employees don’t have a work laptop to bring home, it’s a great time to investigate one.
  • How will your employees access applications hosted on-premises?
  • Will you remotely support the at-home equipment? Will your existing Support hours suffice?
  • Where are the support boundaries drawn for personal equipment? Is this solely the employee’s responsibility?

Click here to download our entire Work From Home Checklist to ensure business continuity during the Coronavirus outbreak.

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Prepare Your Business and Employees for Coronavirus Now – CDC Guidelines Issued https://www.evolveip.net/blog/prepare-your-business-and-employees-for-coronavirus-now-cdc-guidelines-issued Mon, 02 Mar 2020 15:33:22 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=33039 The post Prepare Your Business and Employees for Coronavirus Now – CDC Guidelines Issued appeared first on Evolve IP.

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Every year Milan finds itself at the epicenter of couture. Prada, Gucci, Dolce and Gabbana and the world’s fashion stars dazzle attendees under the dancing flashes of a hundred Nikon strobe lights. Packed shoulder-to-shoulder for hours on end, guests at Fashion Week share smiles, laughter … and germs.

This year, those germs may have included Coronavirus aka. Covid-19

Shortly after Armani’s vacant runway event, stressed-out attendees boarded their planes at the Milan Malpensa airport, put on their sleeping masks, and departed for home. And in the high stakes, high-pressure world of fashion, they are already back in the office.

In the United States, the heart and soul of fashion is the Garment District in New York City. To get there, fashion house employees walk down 42nd street. They have lunch in Bryant Park. They take subways home. And with about 1 in 38 people in the United States living in NYC they come in contact with more people in one day than many of us will in a month.

Hopefully, no one picked up the Coronavirus in Milan but it’s already here in the United States and it will spread from behaviors like this.

Because of that, CDC guidelines for businesses have been issued and include a range of recommendations including asking at-risk employees to stay home, disinfecting workspaces, and to “ensure that you have the information technology and infrastructure needed to support multiple employees who may be able to work from home.”

I can tell you from personal experience that these three recommendations work. Several weeks ago the flu tore through our client technology area. In the space of 48 hours, 3/4 of the team went from sitting at their desks to lying in their beds with fevers, chills and aching limbs. Meanwhile, other associates in surrounding work areas started falling ill as well.

24 hours later during a global collaboration meeting Sue McCurley, Evolve IP’s SVP of Organizational Development, informed senior management that if associates appeared sick they were to go home. Sick associates were not to come back until they were 100% Influenza free. We also disinfected the office.

It worked. The illness stopped spreading essentially overnight. And, because everyone at Evolve IP can collaborate with teammates anywhere on the globe, and also access all of their files and applications on whatever device they wantthere was virtually no loss in productivity. When associates felt better but were still potentially contagious, they were 100% active and engaged with the business.

What’s more, considering how much productivity would have been lost had the virus spread throughout the rest of the company, we were likely saved from an extremely difficult February on many levels!

If you’re a business executive you have a responsibility to ensure the growth of your business and the well-being of your associates. Remote work / telework not only helps protect your business from the next outbreak, it has been proven to make employees more productive and happier. Check out some interesting stats on remote work from Frost and Sullivan (and others) along with how one of our associates uses the tech every day in this quick video.

The attendees of Fashion Week didn’t have a real choice about attending the event. You have a choice about how you handle the pending Coronavirus outbreak in the US. If you have more than 100 employees and are interested in learning how Evolve IP can support your business with the IT recommendations from the CDC please visit our Website at www.evolveip.net and contact us for a demo.

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Collaboration Killed the Handset https://www.evolveip.net/blog/collaboration-killed-the-handset Wed, 05 Feb 2020 22:20:17 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=32740 I have worked my entire adult life – more than a quarter-century – in tech. Specifically, 26 years in what used to be dubbed “telecommunications.” I started with what was originally a competitive long-distance provider […]

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I have worked my entire adult life – more than a quarter-century – in tech. Specifically, 26 years in what used to be dubbed “telecommunications.” I started with what was originally a competitive long-distance provider who later got into local telephony, then data networking (remember Frame Relay?) and then what was the beginning of the Internet as we know it today, and more. It was there that, in 2003-ish we got into Voice over IP (VoIP).

Then in 2007 I took a leap of faith along with some coworkers and launched a start-up cloud service provider, a couple of years before it was even called “the cloud”. In the 13 years since we began, we’ve grown from a few of us huddled in a tiny make-shift office to a multinational company with about 400 associates. Not only have we experienced tremendous growth, we have also seen our business, products, and industry morph to the market demands.

I consider myself a networking guy with experience in numerous different technologies, but my career has mostly focused on real-time communications — telephony, VoIP,  video, Unified Communications (UC), Contact Center, and nowadays Collaboration. And that’s why I never thought I would do what I did this week.

I permanently removed the phone from my desk.

What? A phone-guy removed his handset? Yes, I did. And guess what, it’s pretty liberating!

Now, I realize this is not exactly groundbreaking. People have been using softphones and apps for quite some time. But until recently I needed that desk phone, and the quality of soft-phones were, frankly, iffy. But no more. Now I regularly hold video conference calls with people around the globe using a Collab client.

You see, we’ve jumped in on Collaboration. All in. And while we believe Collab is the future of communications, we also know that not every user needs the full monty, some just need dial tone. But the major players in Collaboration — Microsoft and Cisco — only fill part of the communications need so we’ve tightly integrated Collab with our cloud PBX and are working on doing the same with Contact Center.

There are physical (“hard”) phones that work with the Collab offers, and I did trial it that way, but I found myself using the soft-client 95% of the time, and the mobility of that, coupled with my virtual desktop, made it just too easy to be able to work that way anywhere.

Yep, I’m a GenX, old-school phone guy without a phone. Welcome to the brave new world.

 

Check out the full blog here: Somewhat Cloudy

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Is Everyone In Your Business Collaborating? Only The Shadow Knows! https://www.evolveip.net/blog/is-everyone-in-your-business-collaborating-only-the-shadow-knows Thu, 05 Dec 2019 04:45:57 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=32196 If you had to take a guess, how many collaboration services is your business running, 1, 2, 5? Depending on your organization’s size it’s likely 2-3 solutions and that represents some serious potential issues for […]

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If you had to take a guess, how many collaboration services is your business running, 1, 2, 5? Depending on your organization’s size it’s likely 2-3 solutions and that represents some serious potential issues for your business.

Our survey of 247 information technology, executive and operations professionals revealed that on average businesses are running 2.4 collaboration tools. To make matters trickier, 25% of those solutions were put in place by shadow IT; aka. tech-savvy employees looking to solve for a departmental need.

Uh Oh #1 – When we asked these organizations if they preferred having a single solution 56% said ‘yes’ and just 14% noted they preferred having multiple collaboration solutions. How will these businesses unify their systems and enforce adoption?

Uh Oh #2 – About ½ of businesses (47.5%) told us that their preferred collaboration system must integrate with their communications solution and 30% have yet to decide. What will those businesses do with the thousands of files, convos, and meetings that simply cannot be ported to the new unified solution?

Uh Oh #3 (stay with me here …) – The fight for supremacy in this space is over. Microsoft just announced that they have 20 million active daily users and we’ve known for a while that Teams is the fastest adopted service in Microsoft’s history. Sorry everyone else, it’s fighting for scraps time. With that said, according to our survey:

  • 41.5% of organizations are using Microsoft Teams today and 36.5% plan to deploy Microsoft Teams in the next couple of years.
  • Assuming half of the undecided businesses in ‘Uh Oh #2’ decide they want a unified collaboration and communications solution that’s now 62% … the overwhelming majority of which will be using Microsoft Teams.
  • Here’s the rub. Microsoft Teams doesn’t support all of the enterprise voice features required by mid-market and enterprise businesses! Learn more about those gaps and missing features here.

 

Here are some other interesting findings from the survey:

 

It’s the wild west for communications providers and there’s going to be lots of turmoil. Organizations are looking at this as an opportunity to re-evaluate not only their current solutions, but their providers as well.

  • 36.5% definitely plan to re-evaluate their provider when they deploy a collaboration solution and 33.5% haven’t decided.
  • Meanwhile, only 17% are sure they will use their current communications provider to deploy their collaboration suite!

 

The top 5 collaboration services being used are:

  1. Skype – by 43.5%
  2. Microsoft Teams – 41.5%
  3. Cisco WebEx – 34.5%
  4. Zoom – 28%
  5. Slack – 26.5%

 

The top three reasons for investing in new collaboration/communications tools are:

  1. Operational efficiencies
  2. Greater employee productivity
  3. Improving customer experience

 

The top three features businesses are looking for in their collaboration tools are:

  1. Group sharing of files
  2. Instant messaging and presence
  3. On-demand video meetings/video conferencing

 

A bit about the survey

The online, unbranded survey was conducted by Evolve IP in the fall of 2019. 84% of respondents were from North America while 16% responded from the EU / UK. 80% of survey respondents worked in IT while 11% were non IT C-Suite executives and 9% worked in finance or ops. The majority of businesses responding (57.5%) were mid-sized business with employee sizes from 100 – 4,999. 31% were smaller businesses with 1 – 99 associates, while 11.5% had over 5,000 employees.

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How to Strike a Balance Within your Contact Center https://www.evolveip.net/blog/how-to-strike-a-balance-within-your-contact-center Tue, 01 Oct 2019 14:30:36 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=30626 Your contact center needs to strike a tricky balance. On one side, you need to provide excellent customer service to drive more revenue and retain current customers. On the other, you must ensure your team is servicing as many customers as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. Most businesses are adopting Intelligent Automation, IVR & Self-Service applications to maintain this tricky balance.

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Your contact center needs to strike a tricky balance. On one side, you need to provide excellent customer service to drive more revenue and retain current customers. On the other, you must ensure your team is servicing as many customers as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. Most businesses are adopting Intelligent Automation, IVR & Self-Service applications to maintain this tricky balance.

Did you know?

30% of a customers' interactions with a company's contact center is with an I.V.R. Yet only about 7% of the companies surveyed offer customer solutions through the IVR experience than an agent can provide.
(Source J.D. Power)

The price of resolving a customer need on a call via the IVR versus an agent is a difference.
(source: Al Cook)

Almost one-third of a customer's time is spent in the IVR.
(Source: Al Cook)

Many organizations want the flexibility to let their customers choose the level of self-service they want to address their inquiry or whether they purely want to speak with an agent. This becomes especially useful when the contact center is closed and customers can still get answers to their questions via automation. Not only will voice automation free up your agents to handle more complex cases, but customers can quickly solve basic issues like bill pay, account inquiries, and the many high-volume / low value transactions typically handled by an agent.

Evolve IP’s customers typically see a 20-30% completion rate in these low-value self-service transactions which frees up agents to handle higher level or more sophisticated functions.

For customers that do engage with self-service capabilities during business hours, many customers find that the customer still wants to speak with an agent but their question is more focused in nature reducing in shorter handle times. Typically, they’ve received some information from the automation and now have a follow-up question that requires the skillset of an agent to address.

Integrations Power Automation

Integration is the key to creating an IVR experience that leaves your customers feeling like the service was created just for them. When your IVR knows the entire customer journey, the products they’ve purchased, their financial status, etc. it can make a huge positive impact on the customer experience.

 Common scenarios include:

  • Self Service applications that empower customers
  • Intelligent / data-driven routing provides personalized routing and relevant prompts
  • Agents can be presented with key customer information along with the interaction
  • An integrated contact history at the agent’s fingertips
  • Last agent routing allows organizations to build rapport

Challenges & Considerations

  • Consider the “openness” of key business applications / CRM for integration: Integrations can be very easy or very tough depending on how open the underlying platform is to building such an integration. Most modern day applications have robust APIs that enable this type of integration. You will definitely need to take a look “under the covers” to confirm that your application is ready to integrate.
  • Ensure the availability of technical resources to participate: Of course, you are going to need help from the technology folks getting access to these functions and everybody has a large pile of technology wishlist items that needs to be sorted through to determine which projects actually see the light of day.
  • Start with high-volume / low-value requests for self-service: It’s always great to start with these high-volume interactions like a status request that consumes up valuable agent resources answering simple questions that just need access to the data to answer
  • Create a simplified personalized experience with minimal prompts that are relevant to the caller: We’ve had great success simplifying the customer experience by personalizing it. Why ask the caller questions to which you already know the answer? Why offer prompts that aren’t relevant to that customer? Move away from the one-size fits all routing that we all dread.
  • Early in the process, design your consolidated reporting across the entire CX: You really want to think about the reporting up-front and not leave that for an after thought. Many times the design of the automation needs to be adjusted to meet the reporting needs. You’d rather get the reporting right the first time than having to go back to the technology well again.
  • Recognize the on-going need to optimize automation based upon results: The IVR is a critical moment of customer engagement, and yet it’s frequently left untouched by companies for years. How often have you heard, “Please listen carefully because the menu options have recently changed” and known that the menu actually hasn’t changed in a very long time? That’s because many organizations don’t take the time and energy to experiment, iterate, and improve the IVR.
  • Deliver multiple, smaller victories over a phased rollout: My personal philosophy is to have many, small victories instead of the big-bang approach which is always high risk. Iterating through multiple phases of deployments usually results in a better product that builds and learns from the earlier phases.

Evolve IP’s Cloud IVR provides call centers with a higher level of customer interactivity and data driven decision making. This enables call centers to deploy a wide range of self-service and outbound dialing features ultimately freeing up your agents to focus on more complex requests and customers requiring a higher touch.

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White Label Pros Why Bother with DIY? https://www.evolveip.net/blog/white-label-pros-why-bother-with-diy Wed, 18 Sep 2019 15:12:36 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=31361 Planning to develop your own new technology offering? While doing it yourself may be rewarding at home, for your business it can make more sense to take advantage of these white label pros.

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Planning to develop your own new technology offering? While doing it yourself may be rewarding at home, for your business it can make more sense to take advantage of these white label pros.

White labeling lets your business purchase a ready-made product or service. You don’t have to do the heavy lifting of design or development. Instead, you buy something your business only has to brand and market. When it comes to software, your organization can add to its service offerings via white labeling too.

So what are the specific white label pros that might lead you to opt for white-labeling? Put simply, white labeling lets you:

  • Increase your distribution more quickly, reliably
  • Reduce the resources expended in design and development
  • Expand brand and boost visibility
  • Strengthen customer relationship by becoming the go-to one-stop solution
  • Enjoy profit opportunities from setting price on white label offering
  • Bundle white label product or service with your own offerings
  • Optimizes product line more immediately
  • React more quickly to market trends
  • Lessen commercial risk by piggybacking on vendor’s expertise and experience

There are many good reasons to go with a white labeled solution. Designing and developing mobile apps, software, or cloud-based services is time-consuming. And, if you haven’t worked in that product sphere previously, you could be facing a steep learning curve along the way.

Sure, there is satisfaction from creating an original product. But without experience in that particular area, you can’t reliably predict all that will be involved. Just how long will it take? What will the impact be of your people focusing their efforts on finding solutions to issues that someone else has already fixed? What kind of costs will your research and development accrue?

Avoid the unknowns by partnering with a white label pro. Get to market more quickly. Trust that you are bringing a product or service to your customer base that will improve their overall experience. That’s how you better your brand relationship and build upon brand loyalty.

What to Watch Out for with White Labeling

We’ve addressed the many white label advantages, but it isn’t always smooth sailing. If you’re going to embark on the white label journey, it helps to be aware of these potential pitfalls.

Your business is turning to experts in that product or services area to provide a high-quality offering. Depending on your level of expertise in the area, there could be some areas of confusion. After all, you are going to the vendor to avoid having to learn everything about say Desktops as a Service or a Contact Center Solution.

Solution: Clearly outline your vision and goals for functionality. Build in a feedback loop to ensure that what your team is articulating is understood by the vendor’s people. Be on the lookout for a changing project agenda or distorted communication so that you can stop and correct course quickly.

Working with a strategic partner also means that you are reliant on an external vendor to stay on budget and keep to your deadline. That can be frustrating. Particularly when miscommunications slow the development process. Don’t risk losing money or being too late to take advantage of the window of opportunity for your new offering.

Solution: Work with a strategic partner who will involve you in the process of creation. Also select a white label pro who has experience with getting client’s vision to market accurately and expeditiously.

Considering your business goals and your customers’ requirements, you and a white label partner can determine the best fit for your next new service or software offering. White labeling is a chance to show your customers that you care about solving their problems while opening up a new potential profit stream.

Evolve IP has developed cost-effective, high-quality, and reliable white label offerings. Avoid wasting time and money on the research and development and work with a vendor that already understands the challenges of bringing a new product or service offering to market. Learn more about our white label program today!

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What is a White Label VoIP? https://www.evolveip.net/blog/what-is-a-white-label-voip Fri, 13 Sep 2019 14:31:09 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=31330 Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is pervasive today. If you’ve been on Skype, you’ve experienced VoIP. Even if your business is still using traditional landlines, odds are good you’re talking to someone who is using VoIP. It offers many advantages. Then, there’s white label VoIP and its benefits. This article will give you the know-how you need.

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Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is pervasive today. If you’ve been on Skype, you’ve experienced VoIP. Even if your business is still using traditional landlines, odds are good you’re talking to someone who is using VoIP. It offers many advantages. Then, there’s white label VoIP and its benefits. This article will give you the know-how you need.

With VoIP you use your broadband Internet connection to make and receive calls. VoIP turns voice conversation into data packets sent between the two network points. Bypassing traditional or mobile phones, VoIP users avoid long-distance or extra minute charges.

VoIP setups can offer features such as voicemail and call forwarding, at no extra charge. You might also enjoy the benefits of voicemail transcription and call recording.

Going with a VoIP solution also nets cost savings from reducing and consolidating communications infrastructure. Further, streamlining voice, data, and broadband services with one provider can cut costs. With VoIP, you can also reduce your investment in setting up and maintaining traditional communications.

All that addresses the advantages businesses are enjoying with VoIP. So, where does white label VoIP come in? That’s up next.

White Label VoIP Solutions

White Label VoIP provides your business with the opportunity to offer all the benefits of VoIP to your customers. Instead of investing time and money in designing and developing this new service, you’d purchase a white label product to sell as your own.

Your VoIP partner will have built a generic VoIP solution that your company can brand as its own. Your business expands its revenue stream and reaches growth goals efficiently by rolling out the pre-developed solution to its loyal audience. This also helps keep your customers happy. By giving them access to white label VoIP, you’re addressing their pain points and helping them to achieve their goals more efficiently.

Now is a good time to get into the VoIP marketplace. The VoIP market is projected to surpass $55 billion by 2025, according to Market Study Report LLC. The company attributes the growth to factors such as:

  • Increased demand for cost-effective communication solutions to support enterprise mobility
  • Favorable government initiatives for the development of the wireless telecommunications infrastructure
  • Rapid expansion of businesses across domestic and international regions
  • Business need to improve communication and collaboration
  • Heavy investment in wireless telecommunication technologies supporting VoIP (such as 4G/LTE and upcoming 5G networks)
  • Appeal of eliminating the need to invest in any hardware equipment and being able to offer cloud-based communications regardless of device preference

Another reason white label VoIP is so attractive? Cloud-based VoIP solutions enable businesses to scale up or down as needed, cost-effectively. As there’s no physical hardware to set up, VoIP is easy to install. The business doesn’t have to wait for the telephone company to come out and add additional lines. With VoIP it can quickly expand the number of users with little to no added cost.

Managed VoIP is in demand. In fact, the segment is expected to grow at a CAGR of 12% through 2025 as organizations seek to minimize initial setup and hardware maintenance costs. Meeting that need is where your business steps in with white label VoIP.

You might also look into launching your own VoIP call center or VoIP contact center using white labeling. The service provider you work with could offer a prepackaged solution that you can make your own. Meanwhile, you’ve jumped over the R&D stage, avoided beta testing, and can count on your solution to have been fine-tuned already.

6 Critical Reasons for Office 365 Backup

Do you have control of your Office 365 data? Do you have access to all the items you need? The knee-jerk reaction is typically, “Of course I do,” or “Microsoft takes care of it all.”

White Label VoIP Considerations

Call quality is a common concern about VoIP. VoIP phone business systems do need a strong Internet connection to work well. Yet high bandwidth is more readily available today. Also, when you don’t have to worry about competing traffic, the quality of a VoIP call can surpass an analog one.

Security is another concern. Remember, though, landline or cell phone aren’t that secure to start. Most VoIP service providers encrypt calls. Plus, when the customer runs the VoIP solution over their private network, the data is as secure as any other application running on that business system.

Seen the old boxy cellphones that are as big as the person’s head? We look at those and laugh. Traditional landline communications are on their way to being that old school. Get into the VoIP market today with white label VoIP.

When looking to add white label VoIP offerings to your product portfolio, work with a vendor who has an established reputation with the technology. Evolve IP’s Gartner-noted communications solutions provide crystal clear voice services, award-winning business collaboration tools like video, chat, web conferencing, and screen sharing, and more. Contact us today!

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5 Key Advantages of BYOD https://www.evolveip.net/blog/5-key-advantages-of-byod Wed, 04 Sep 2019 12:38:15 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=27913 The post 5 Key Advantages of BYOD appeared first on Evolve IP.

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Are you one of the people that take your mobile phone to bed? If so, you’re in the vast majority. With our great reliance on our smartphones today, it’s no surprise that many businesses are turning into bring your own device workplaces. These five key advantages of BYOD also help explain the trend.

 

What is a BYOD workplace?

The BYOD and enterprise mobility market size is estimated to grow from USD 35.10 Billion in 2016 to USD 73.30 Billion by 2021, at a CAGR of 15.87%. Markets and Markets also reports, North America is expected to hold the largest market share in the BYOD market.

In a BYOD workplace, the business lets its employees bring in their own smartphones or laptops to use in the office. This approach supports mobile and cloud-centric IT strategy. With your business embracing cloud processing and storage, you are able to offer greater device independence while your employees can continue to be collaborative and increasingly mobile.

Why business is embracing BYOD

Why are businesses implementing BYOD policies? Here are some of the top reasons:

Cost savings.

Why does business do anything? Saving money is the number one answer on the Family Feud-style board. When employees bring their own devices to the workplace, it can reduce the need to provide devices and equipment. The BYOD workplace can eliminate the need for desk handsets their employees don’t want to use anyway. The business may have to pay a service reimbursement fee to employees, but this still represents cost savings on the communications budget line.

 

Happier employees.

How eager are you to update your device to a new one and have to learn the new fiddly little things about it? Some people love this. Others prefer to stick with what they know. Allowing employees to BYOD appeals to those who are satisfied with their current equipment and confident in their ability to do what they want and need to with the devices they have already.

The Inner Circle Guide to Omnichannel

This survey report of over 1,000+ contact center professionals includes some interesting findings & trends around the omnichannel contact center market.

Improve productivity.

Satisfied employees are more likely to work productively. Additionally, those who are using the devices they are already familiar with are not slowed down by needing to learn or adapt to new equipment.

 

Greater mobility.

The BYOD culture also makes it possible for your employees to “always be on.” After all, they are now able to access company information via the devices they travel with all of the time. Of course, you don’t want to burn them out with extreme outside of office hours, but you can expect increased engagement and responsiveness as your employees are better able to answer emails and complete other tasks outside of the office.


More than one-third of survey respondents saw a positive effect of BYOD on work-life balance in a Frost & Sullivan study.


Stay current.

You need to be aware of the risks that come with employees using older devices that may require security patches and other additional precautions. Yet, the flip side is that for every one of those employees holding loyally to an old school device, you are also going to have the people who are consistently upgrading to keep their technology up-to-date. When your employees get the latest and greatest, it’s a boon for your business too.

There are risks associated with BYOD. It’s important to educate employees about the potential problems and ensure your IT team is managing software and firewall security to support and secure these devices.

Partnering with a cloud-services expert can also help secure your BYOD workplace. Evolve IP offers virtual desktops, remote monitoring and management, mobile device management and unified communications services and support. Contact us today!

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Cloud Elasticity vs Cloud Scalability https://www.evolveip.net/blog/cloud-elasticity-vs-cloud-scalability Tue, 03 Sep 2019 11:47:48 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=28038 The post Cloud Elasticity vs Cloud Scalability appeared first on Evolve IP.

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We all make hundreds of decisions every day — personally and professionally. No wonder the big decision about doing business with a cloud service provider can feel so overwhelming. There are many factors to weigh and understand. One important one is the distinction between cloud elasticity v cloud scalability. This article offers help.

 

Cloud Migration Trend

When you are considering migrating to the cloud, you’re talking about accessing a pool of computing resources (servers, storage, applications, and voice services) provided as-needed to businesses from a provider’s network, eliminating the need for on-site equipment, maintenance, and management.

Businesses are turning to the cloud in increasing numbers to take advantage of increased speed, agility, stability, and security. Additionally, the business saves on IT infrastructure and sees other capital and space savings from turning to an external service provider.

A Forbes roundup of cloud forecasts suggested research demonstrates, “a maturing global market for cloud services, with proven scale, speed and security to support new business models.” Gartner’s research, for example, suggests:

  • The Worldwide Public Cloud Services Market will grow by 17.3 3% in 2019 to total $206.2B, up from $175.8B in 2018.
  • The fastest-growing segment of the market is cloud system infrastructure services, which is forecast to grow 27.6 percent in 2019 to reach $39.5 billion, up from $31 billion in 2018.
  • Software as a service (SaaS) remains the largest segment of the cloud market, with revenue expected to grow 17.8 percent to reach $85.1 billion in 2019.

 

Cloud Services Considerations

CIO strategists and IT managers must consider many factors in deciding whether or not to add cloud services to their infrastructure. The key areas include:

  • Cost
  • Security
  • Performance
  • Availability
  • Reliability

Another consideration for gaining more attention is cloud scalability and cloud elasticity. Understanding the differences between these two can help the business determine which cloud option best suits its needs.

 

Cloud Elasticity vs Scalability

To help you think about the differences between these two, let’s try two images. First, visualize an elastic band stretching out or back into its original size. Now, imagine someone scaling up the side of a cliff — going up or down the cliff as their path dictates, without the cliff ever changing shape.

Cloud elasticity v scalability is comparable. Elasticity, after all, refers to the ability to grow or shrink infrastructure resources dynamically. As workload changes, cloud elasticity sees the resources allocated at any given point in time changing to meet that demand. Cloud elasticity works well in e-commerce and retail, SaaS, mobile, Dev Ops, and other environments with ever-changing demands on infrastructure services.

Key Findings of the Evolve IP 2018 Cloud Adoption Survey

Take a short expedition through these key findings, intertwined with unique comics, to bring a smile to your face as you learn about the latest cloud adoption trends.

With scalability, on the other hand, the cloud infrastructure remains the same while resources are added or removed to meet demand. This upsizing or downsizing can be more targeted and is often seen in environments where there are a predictable workload and stable capacity planning and performance.

As cloud elasticity allows resources to be built out dynamically, this is a common feature of pay-per-use or pay-as-you-go services. It can be a more affordable option for startups as the business is not paying for more IT infrastructure than it needs to begin. Or, in another scenario, elasticity can prove valuable to an organization that has spikes in demand such as an e-retailer handling seasonal sales or Black Friday shoppers.

With scalability, the business has an infrastructure with a certain amount of room to expand built-in from the outset. This lets the organization increase or decrease its workload size using the existing cloud infrastructure (hardware, software), without negatively impacting performance.

 

Cloud Solutions with EvolveIP

Evolve IP is The Cloud Strategy Company.™ If you haven’t already read some of our other helpful articles on this topic be sure to check out:

Evolve IP has built world-class data centers on best-of-breed technologies from Cisco, EMC, VMWare, and Broadsoft, and connected various tier-one carriers to create our Private Cloud.

Contact one of our experts to learn more today!

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7 Strategies to Improve CX of Contact Center Chat https://www.evolveip.net/blog/7-strategies-to-improve-cx-of-contact-center-chat Wed, 28 Aug 2019 12:39:42 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=28362 The post 7 Strategies to Improve CX of Contact Center Chat appeared first on Evolve IP.

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The best contact center chat does more than answer questions and resolve concerns. When it’s friendly, helpful, and professional, the customer logs off more satisfied with your business. A positive customer experience with contact center chat can enhance brand loyalty, increase revenue, and bring other benefits. Here are the top strategies to try.

 

#1 Inform Agents

Make sure that contact center agents have the necessary information at their fingertips. With the right call center software, they can efficiently:

  • Search the company knowledge base
  • Access customer profile and history
  • Identify whether subject matter experts are available for transfer
  • Provide the latest offers and detailed information.

 

#2 Train Agents

Along with providing the best tools to your contact service agents, take the time to effectively onboard these individuals. Provide training on how to:

  • Focus on problem-solving
  • Listen actively
  • Avoid jargon
  • Employ scripts effectively
  • Defuse conflict politely
  • Communicate clearly and honestly
  • Recognize limitations and know when to enlist other agents, experts.

Customers enjoy live chat, saying this channel provided a higher level of satisfaction than email or voice, in a Zendesk Benchmark Report.


#3 Be Prompt

An advantage to live chat is the agent’s ability to handle multiple customers simultaneously. Nevertheless, this should not happen at the expense of quality customer service. Part of live chat’s popularity is its expedience. Make sure that your agents are handling only the number of chat sessions that they can manage without sacrificing responsiveness, professionalism.

Additionally, it’s important they these agents stay on topic. Of course, these individuals are human and want to interact with customers in a courteous way, but they want to do this while keeping the conversation moving on track.

The Inner Circle Guide to Omnichannel

This survey report of over 1,000+ contact center professionals includes some interesting findings & trends around the omnichannel contact center market.

#4 Emphasize Transparency

The customer can’t see what the contact center chat agent is doing. Yes, they get the little message telling them the agent is typing or reading, but when it takes “forever” still for the agent to respond, the customer will get frustrated. Encourage agents to:

  • Introduce themselves as soon as a chat is added to their queue
  • Explain what they will be doing if they are going to take a few minutes
  • Check in with customers regularly if an answer is taking a while
  • Use automated responses to expedite contact chat
  • Stay in contact with the customer, avoiding leaving them waiting in the chat room for something to happen.

Part of this practice of transparency includes avoiding jargon and technical terms, long and uncommon words, or abbreviations the customer may not know.

 

#5 Personalize Communications

Treating each customer as an individual brings people back to your business. Shortcuts and scripts can help streamline the contact center chat, but if agents rely too heavily on these tools the customer can feel their specific concerns are being ignored. The agent needs to pay attention to customer tone/mood. If they are fielding multiple chats, they may be contending with an angry customer A and a jovial customer B. Mixing these two up and making a joke with A might only exacerbate the problem.

 

#6 Prioritize

Working with multiple people at once is challenging. Contact center agents in this context need to be able to prioritize customers and actions. Additionally, they need to be encouraged to focus on first-contact resolution. Yes, an amazing average resolution rate is a great statistic to have. However, if your agents aren’t meeting the customers’ needs on first contact, they’ll be dissatisfied. Them reaching out again, perhaps on chat or another channel, is the best case scenario. Otherwise, they may simply take their business elsewhere.

 

#7 Monitor and measure

Use contact center software to monitor and measure live chat success. Screen recording and measuring performance metrics associated with the handling of customer concerns, sales, upsells, contact duration, customer satisfaction (gauged by post-contact surveys) and more, can help drive optimized performance.

As with any aspect of contact center management, there is always room for improvement. With ongoing effort, your business can stand out from the rest in a competitive marketplace.

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Take it down a notch: 4 Key Strategies to Cut Call Escalation https://www.evolveip.net/blog/take-it-down-a-notch-4-key-strategies-to-cut-call-escalation Mon, 26 Aug 2019 14:25:27 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=27908 The post Take it down a notch: 4 Key Strategies to Cut Call Escalation appeared first on Evolve IP.

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“Please hold, while I transfer you” or “can I speak to your supervisor?” Whether it is the agent or the customer initiating the transfer up the chain of command, call escalation is often something you want to manage to avoid. Try these strategies to cut back on call escalations.

 

What is Call Escalation?

When the initial person answering a customer’s call is unable to address the issue or answer the questions and transfers the customer to another agent, manager, or supervisor — that’s call escalation.

What’s wrong with escalating? Well, unless your customers like spending all of their time on the phone, putting them on hold and transferring them is likely to frustrate. On the managers’ side, customers often believe that action will happen faster if they just go directly to the supervisor. Yet, this is not always the case and when managers are overwhelmed with customer call escalations, they have less available time to do other, perhaps more valuable, tasks in the center.

Of course, call escalation can be useful. If it is going to save a customer from getting an incorrect answer or ineffective solution, obviously escalation is the better route to take. Additionally, properly managed call escalation can take advantage of information gathered about the caller (perhaps through the IVR) to send a call directly to a manager or supervisor, which can also reduce the risk of someone waiting on hold for an extremely long time.

 

Cut Back on Call Escalation

Nevertheless, there are several strategies that can help avoid the unnecessary call escalations that undermine center efficiency:

Empower Agents.

The most obvious way to avoid calls getting passed from one agent to the next, or on to leadership, is to sufficiently train customer agents. Along with educating them about policies, products, services, and procedures, also spend time on the customer interaction skills that can help them to deescalate the conflict.

Common strategies to minimize customer-driven escalations include:

  • Active listening, demonstrating to the customer that the agent is hearing what is being said and respects his or her experiences.
  • Empathy rather than sympathy. Just saying an insincere “sorry” is unlikely to go very far. Yet if the individual feels that the agent actually understands and is acting out a genuine desire to help, it will help lower their frustration levels.
  • Explore solutions. Involving customers in determining an acceptable solution will help them to feel valued and can provide them with a better understanding of why the resolutions options are x, y, and z rather than the ABC one they had in mind.

 

Use Supervisor Tools.

Real-time monitoring provides management with immediate access to customer and agent interactions. Using call analytics, dashboards, and alerts can help maintain a consistent level of customer service and ensure compliance. With a supervisor barge or supervisor coach feature, call center leadership can improve outcomes by instantly participating in the contact or by providing real-time feedback to the agent during the interaction.

Significantly improve service levels, increase productivity, & deliver a
fast ROI.

Call Centers can optimize all aspects of their workforce by adding Monet Live Workforce Management (WFM) to Evolve IP’s award-winning contact center solution.

Encourage Good Escalations.

That’s right, as mentioned above, not all escalations are bad ones. It’s especially important for call center agents to understand that an escalation to the proper party or simply asking for help from a peer, boss, or subject matter expert is preferable to trying to solve the issue without assistance and actually making the issue worse. Avoiding a necessary escalation takes up the customers’ valuable time and makes others wait in the call queue while the resolution of this interaction becomes more difficult.

Clearly Map Out Escalation Paths.

You know call escalation is going to happen. That’s a given. So, the important thing is to make it clear to employees how best to handle the need to escalate. Document processes such as if X happens, then your first contact is Manager Sue. If Y happens, the next contact is Manager Phil. Delineating clear paths can also help avoid skip level escalations where a leader doesn’t get an opportunity to address an issue before it is taken even higher up to the boss’s boss.

These strategies can help cut back on call escalation and make your contact center function more efficiently. Implementing these tips may give your managers more time to actually, well, manage. Evolve IP’s cloud contact center as a service solution also offers many features that can improve the lives of all your employees while positively impacting customer experience too!

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An Overview of Contact Center Reporting Metrics — Outbound https://www.evolveip.net/blog/overview-contact-center-reporting-metrics-outbound Mon, 26 Aug 2019 13:49:00 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=26384 The post An Overview of Contact Center Reporting Metrics — Outbound appeared first on Evolve IP.

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Competitive contact centers regularly measure their effectiveness. Using the best contact center reporting metrics, leadership can identify the areas of strength and where improvements can be made. When it comes to outbound calling success, there are several metrics that make a real difference. Here are eight to consider.

 

#1 Call Rates

The strength of your outbound sales calling can’t be judged by eye alone. Sure your team of agents may all look engaged and productive, but the only way to truly gauge efficiency is by tracking the number of call attempts made. Benchmarking the number of outbound calls per agent, campaign, and team can provide useful insights into agent or team productivity. At the same time, if one campaign is taking up much more of the agents’ time, the call script might require revision.

 

#2 Lead Processing

The number of calls out can indicate that your sales team is keeping busy. But are they actually being effective? That’s where the number of leads processed is a better indicator. Effectively processing a lead will give your contact center actionable information in determining:

• Value of leads
• The effectiveness of sales script
• What is and isn’t working

 

#3 Conversion Rate

What you really want to see is your agents converting the leads into successful sales, so this one is an obvious metric to measure. Typically measured as a percentage (# of calls/# of sales), the goal is to get a higher conversion rate. A lower percentage means your cost per lead is higher, which negatively impacts contact center revenue.

 

#4 Calls Per Lead

Trying to gauge the quality of your lead list, this metric takes into consideration the difficulty of making a sale on the first call (First Call Close, is another potential metric). Not every first contact is going to get a sale, but if the leads need many calls to make the sale or they never convert, your organization can revisit its lead list and agent reporting for areas of improvement.

Comparing Contact Center Solutions?

Evaluating contact center providers? We’ve pulled together a detailed comparison of the top 18 contact center software providers. Find out which is the best fit for you.

#5 Average Hold Time

With many contact centers now employing automated dialing, there may be instances when a potential customer picks up the call and is put on hold to wait for an available agent. That’s a recipe for disaster as it leads to call abandonment and reduced overall profitability.

 

#6 Off-Call Time

You want your agents to spend the bulk of their time on the phone with potential leads, asking questions and offering the right solution. That’s where the sales revenue is generated. So, it makes sense to measure the amount of time your people have to spend on other tasks — prepping for a call, documenting after a call, calling disconnected numbers, talking to dead-end leads, even dialing out.

 

#7 Forecasting Accuracy

Your resource budgeting depends on accurate forecasting of several factors, including:

• Calls per hour
• Contacts per hour
• Amount of time spent on call
• Leads processed
• Off-call time
• Peak times
• Staff shrinkage

The better your understanding of all of these, the better able you’ll be to truly determine the revenue value of your campaigns.

 

#8 Revenue Per Call 

Revenue Per Call (RPC) calculates the agent’s effort in increasing sales by dividing the total amount of sale by the total number of calls. Cost Per Call, on the other hand, measures cost incurred for each minute of handling the call workload. This may be focused only on the labor cost, but might also factor in telecommunications, facilities, and other service costs.

 

Don’t only look for shortcomings with your attention to metrics. If a particular agent has higher call rate averages, for instance, try to determine why. Perhaps there is something that individual is doing differently that you can share with other agents and incorporate into team training.

With contact center software today enabling leadership to react quickly and make live changes, it’s even easier to react in real-time to these metrics. Let Evolve IP set you up for success.

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Disaster Recovery Planning Process https://www.evolveip.net/blog/disaster-recovery-planning-process Tue, 13 Aug 2019 12:26:41 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=25459 From broken water pipes and electrical fires to infrastructure issues and cyber-attacks, businesses of all sizes and in all industries are vulnerable to disasters and disruptions.

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From broken water pipes and electrical fires to infrastructure issues and cyber-attacks, businesses of all sizes and in all industries are vulnerable to disasters and disruptions. While big businesses typically plan for the worst, small businesses often do not have a formal disaster recovery plan in place.

This is unfortunate because many small businesses are forced to close their doors after disaster strikes. In fact, according to our most recent survey, 93% of companies that lost their data for 10 days or more, filed for bankruptcy within one year of the disaster.

Is your company prepared for a disaster? If not, the following guideline can help you take the right steps to develop a comprehensive disaster recovery plan that will ensure your doors can stay open.

1. Identify Risks

It’s not possible to prepare for every single risk, and that’s okay. The risks you are most likely to face will be determined on your industry, technology, geographic location, and other specific factors to your business. When outlining your plan, only spend time developing solutions for the disruptions you’re most likely to face.

2. Determine Priorities

To determine your DR priorities, think about the impact a disruption will have on your business operations. A disaster will affect finances, safety, regulatory and legal, and potentially your reputation, among other business aspects.

By assessing your major IT systems and determining IT priorities and dependencies, you will be able to develop recovery strategies that will minimize loss and encourage the continuity of your most important operations.

3. Assign a Recovery Team

When disaster strikes, it’s not only your technology that will need help, your team members will as well. To get your entire organization up and running as quickly as possible, establish a team of employees with essential skills and expertise to assist where needed. These, for example, could be key players in your operations, IT and Human Resources departments.

4. Facilitate Clear Communication

In order to uphold the trust and keep your good reputation, it’s important to have clear communication with employees, customers, and the media. Establish one point of contact for your employees, suppliers, and customers, and consider seeking the help of a crisis communications firm if necessary.

5. Manage Customer Expectations

Beyond providing them with clear communication and transparency, your customers may have outstanding orders that need to be filled. Determine how you’ll meet their needs. You may want to find alternative companies who can help fill these orders should catastrophe strike.

Disaster Recovery Planning?

Hardware fails, hackers attack, and disasters happen. Use this template to create your DR plan to prepare your organization from common IT-based business disruptions.

6. Establish Emergency Accounting and Payroll

While you may be in recovery mode, there are still suppliers and employees who need and expect to be paid. Consider leveraging a cloud-based accounting system or third-party payroll provider to ensure financial continuity no matter what may occur.

 

7. Practice

Having a DR plan is not enough to ensure your recovery. You need to practice your procedures just as organizations practice fire drills. Only by testing your tactics and strategies will you feel confident in your DR plan’s ability to be executed upon.

 

8. Continually Update

You’ll need to consistently update your DR plan to account for any internal IT systems or applications changes. If you currently have a DR plan in place but it was developed years ago, go through these steps and make any necessary updates and adjustments.

 

9. Consider DRaaS

Disaster Recovery as a service (DRaaS) allows enterprises to store their critical applications and infrastructure in the cloud. So, no matter what location a team may be working from, they have access to the data they need. DRaaS providers test and validate the recovery of your data and workflows, so you can always be sure you’re prepared.

 

Evolve IP’s DRaaS suite protects your critical data and allows you to recover your IT based on how your infrastructure is designed today. From fully managed DR to self-service, to essential cloud backups, we offer services that fit all RTO & RPO, budget and compliance needs. It’s never pleasant to think about disasters, but careful planning can be the difference between bankruptcy and moving your business forward. Create a plan today and let Evolve IP help you prepare and put your mind at ease.

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Best Practices for Omnichannel https://www.evolveip.net/blog/best-omnichannel-practices Sat, 03 Aug 2019 17:32:12 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=30463 According to Forrester, 95% of clients use more than one channel to communicate with companies. Our contact center experts have put together 8 best practices to maximize omnichannel experience for your customers.

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best omnichannel practices

According to Forrester, 95% of clients use more than one channel to communicate with companies. Our contact center experts have put together 8 best practices to maximize omnichannel experience for your customers.

Build one brand and consistent voice across all channels

Your business has its own brand. In order to continue building this brand you seek consistency coupled with exceptional client experience. With an Omnichannel Contact Center, you can arrange to have the same message spoken to a client that is also written in an online chat or via an email. This gives clients the same interaction and messaging across all of your integrated channels.

Routing for a personalized experience

Maximize omnichannel by providing each client with a personalized experience. Clients get frustrated when they talk to multiple agents and have to explain an issue multiple times. With an omnichannel contact center, customers can be routed for individualized client experiences. Because your system knows which agent a client worked with last time he or she called, that client can be routed to talk to that same agent each time. Furthermore, if a client calls and works with a specific agent, the client can also be routed to work with that agent on other channels, too, such as chat and email. This allows clients to build a relationship with that agent and feel connected to your business.

Talk to clients using their preferred methods

According to Forrester, 95% of clients use more than one channel to communicate with companies. Each customer has a specific idea of what channel would improve his or her experience. Personalize each experience by building a relationship with that client and offering a standardized experience regardless of channel preference.

Seamless integration with CRM

Your Omnichannel Contact Center and CRM can work hand-in-hand to provide clients with the best experience possible. Evolve IP’s Omnichannel Solution allows you to integrate your Contact Center with your CRM to get a holistic view into your client relationships. Moreover, you can route callers based upon their value or the status of their transaction. You can provide differentiated service for your best customers and automatically pull up the appropriate customer record for your agent.

Save costs

Salesforce claims that 72% of people think self-service support is a fast and easy way to handle support issues. This isn’t to say that you should make your entire Call Center self-service, but it shows that clients don’t necessarily want to call and talk to an agent, and they want quick, simple answers….many of which can be automated through technology. Of course many people still want the high-touch feel of an agent yet still want to be able to help each client as efficiently as possible. An Omnichannel Contact Center allows you to build up your FAQs and have template responses so that your agents can respond to those chats, emails, or social media interactions with a single click so your clients are getting fast, accurate answers.

The Inner Circle Guide to Omnichannel

This survey report of over 1,000+ contact center professionals includes some interesting findings & trends around the omnichannel contact center market.

Train agents on one tool

Instead of having to train agents to learn multiple tools and channels, train agents to learn one tool that integrates all of your channels. Typically, Multi-Channel Call Centers require associates to learn how to use each channel individually. Omnichannel takes your multiple channels and seamlessly integrates them into a single application used by your agents. Thus, associates only have to learn how to use one tool so you spend less time training and more time focused on improving customer satisfaction.

Simplified comprehensive reporting

By integrating all of your channels, you can offer your senior management one simple, cohesive report. It’s simpler and it’s easier than gathering information on all of your channels separately like you do with a Multi-Channel Call Center. Rather than wasting time consolidating multiple reports on each channel’s performance, Evolve IP’s Omnichannel Contact Center provides you with one comprehensive reporting engine that provides holistic insights across all customer interactions.

Not all channels are equal

Not all channels are created equally; which means that for your business, some channels may generate more profit than other channels. In addition to overarching management KPI reports, an Omnichannel Contact Center will tell you how each channel is doing. Using the tools that come with Evolve IP’s Omnichannel Contact Center you can accurately measure conversation rates and which interactions are the most profitable. Your business is unique, so in order to maximize an Omnichannel Call Center, you need to treat it that way. Understanding which channels are most profitable for your company will allow you to thrive and hold a competitive advantage.

Click here to download our best omnichannel practices.

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The #1 Investment Priority: Omnichannel https://www.evolveip.net/blog/the-1-investment-priority-omnichannel Fri, 02 Aug 2019 18:36:34 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=30479 Today, majority of the contact centers are highly focused on creating, maintaining and updating their strategy to optimize customer interactions and increase customer satisfaction. In our most recent contact center survey, we found the answer to the #1 investment priority that contact center professionals feel can make that happen: Omnichannel.

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Today, majority of the contact centers are highly focused on creating, maintaining and updating their strategy to optimize customer interactions and increase customer satisfaction. In our most recent contact center survey, we found the answer to the #1 investment priority that contact center professionals feel can make that happen: Omnichannel.

As part of this blog post, we will share some insight on:

  • The Need & Drivers for an Omnichannel Contact Center
  • Multichannel vs. Omnichannel
  • Tips & Strategies to Maximize the Omnichannel Experience

The Need & Drivers for an Omnichannel Contact Center 

95% of clients use more than one channel to communicate with companies

As consumer technology has changed, so have expectations around how customers interact with companies. Today’s customers expect the ability to interact over multiple communication channels including email, text, web chat, social media, and phone calls seamlessly.

65% are frustrated by inconsistent experiences

We all choose the channels where we are most comfortable and believe we can get the quickest response in the least amount of effort or aggravation.

8/10 walk away because of poor customer service

It’s also common sense…keep customers happy and they stay. Make them unhappy and they walk away….and typically tell all of their friends via social media. What do these numbers tell us? Businesses that actively engage in customer communication via multiple channels and provide customers the flexibility to contact them via their preferred method are likely to attract & retain more customers, improve customer satisfaction and increase their bottom line faster.

Online Support Center

Customers want self-service options in addition to the various agent channels.

Multichannel vs. Omnichannel Contact Center

Multichannel vs. Omnichannel Contact Center

By definition, the prefix ‘multi’ means ‘many’ which is not very different from the prefix ‘omni’, which means ‘all’. This has led contact center solution providers to use these words interchangeable. However, functionality wise, multichannel and omnichannel communication are very different especially when you look under the hood at how these solutions are architected.

In a multichannel contact center solution, businesses have the flexibility to choose from several channels of communications such as calls, text/SMS, web chat, web call back, fax, social media etc. However, these channels operate in silos that hinder customer satisfaction, management visibility, and the overall effectiveness of the contact center. One of the key reasons these solutions operate independently is that they are different technology solutions. Either the contact center has chosen multiple vendors to provide these services OR the contact center technology vendor has purchased disparate solutions and tried to make them LOOK like a single solution. It’s easy to spot multichannel when you start looking at the underlying technology, how its administered, and how reports are generated. In a multichannel solution, there are multiple places to perform administration and multiple places to generate reports….it becomes clear there are disparate technologies in play.

In an omnichannel contact center solution, businesses are offered the flexibility to pick their preferred channel of communication such as a multichannel solution, but it offers an additional benefit of these channels being integrated i.e. all channels are available to the customer and are connected at the same time, thereby enhancing customer experience, improving agent efficiency, and increasing overall satisfaction. In these solutions, a single technology is being used to manage ALL of these communication channels which greatly simplifies every aspect of the system.

Why Omnichannel?

Why Omnichannel?

So Why Omnichannel? In the past, customer service inquiries, concerns and requests could be handled via only one channel: phone calls. Today however, customers choose from multiple channels to communicate. This makes it critical for organizations to not only quickly attend to their customers via phone, but to be available via all their preferred communication channels.

  • Provide a seamless customer experience
  • Enhance customer service & satisfaction
  • Competitive differentiation
  • Improve agent productivity & overall efficiency

What does Omnichannel Mean At Evolve IP?

What Omnichannel Means At Evolve IP?

Evolve IP’s Contact Suite provides a true omnichannel solution that includes:

  • A single set of routing logic across all interaction channels and a single place to administer the entire system
  • All interaction channels managed by a single routing engine that enables a seamless customer experience across channels
  • A personalized interaction for each customer regardless of how they interact.
  • An integrated contact history across channels at the agent’s fingertips that empowers the agent to deliver great customer service
  • Consolidated reporting out of a single database means that leaders have a complete view of their contact center without the painful and time-consuming process of combining multiple reports from multiple systems

Click here to learn more about Evolve IP’s Omnichannel Contact Center

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Benefits of Customer Feedback at the Agent Level https://www.evolveip.net/blog/benefits-customer-feedback-agent-level Tue, 30 Jul 2019 13:39:39 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=27702 The post Benefits of Customer Feedback at the Agent Level appeared first on Evolve IP.

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It’s difficult today to find a company that doesn’t recognize the value in soliciting customer feedback. Yet, for contact centers, the benefits of customer feedback can be seen not only at the company level but also at the agent level. Scrutinizing customer feedback for each individual center representative can improve performance and drive greater efficiency.

Customer Feedback & Agent Performance

“Are you talking about me?” People tend to pay more attention when the answer to that question is “yes.” Providing feedback or setting goals based on general trends gleaned from organizational level responses won’t have the same impact. Instead, discuss specific insights drawn from customer survey responses specific to that particular agent. This makes it personal.

Sharing customer feedback helps give agents a real sense of the impact they have on customers and their brand experiences. Plus, sharing concrete comments and ratings from customers provides both qualitative and quantitative measures that the agent can use to develop personal goals. Providing agents with access to the feedback also creates transparency making it clear that leadership benchmarks and objectives are not set arbitrarily.

Additionally, real-time feedback from a customer can be a powerful, motivational tool. Satisfied customers’ comments and ratings can boost employee morale and engagement (key to countering the attrition problem). Positive feedback can foster more brand loyalty as well, along with pride in the business and the job each individual agent is doing for the company.

Negative specific feedback can be motivational too. The advantage in this scenario is that the manager, mentor, or team leader is only reporting the customer opinion. This distances the supervisor who is suggesting improvements from the poor assessments. Instead, he or she is able to focus on being constructive and working with the agent to develop a customized, personal action plan to make sure customers don’t feel this way about the agent again in the future.

Customer Feedback & Center Efficiency

Agent-level customer feedback is gathered via a post-contact survey when the experience with the contact center is still fresh in the caller’s mind. This immediacy provides much more reliable feedback than a tool that follows up with customers by mail a week later or by e-mail (which can net immediate responses but may also get lost in the respondent’s inbox).

Making the effort to identify common threads and trends at the agent level can help managers provide more focused one-on-one coaching or team leaders to offer more individualized mentoring. At the same time, having mentors or managers looking at the agent-level feedback can help free up quality assurance teams. Rather than having to monitor calls, they can instead use analysis of feedback to tailor development programs and tweak on-boarding practices.

Significantly improve service levels, increase productivity, & deliver a
fast ROI.

Call Centers can optimize all aspects of their workforce by adding Monet Live Workforce Management (WFM) to Evolve IP’s award-winning contact center solution.

Analyzing agent level customer feedback can help your center to identify top performers. Using this information to identify commonalities among these individuals, you can determine:

  • What technology everyone needs access to,
  • Information gaps among under-performers,
  • Traits that you might look for in future hires.

You might even use agent feedback — star ratings for instance — in a gamification effort to engage and reward agents. They might compete against others in their team or compete office-wide to top the customer feedback leaderboard.

Finally, soliciting customer feedback at the agent level can also convey to your customers that you value their opinions. You are communicating the importance your organization places on positive customer experiences, while simultaneously encouraging a strong relationship between your business and its customers by asking them what they think.

With a Contact Center Solution from Evolve IP, your business can empower its agents and provide quality, customer feedback for agents.

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Top 6 Reasons to Use a Call Back Solution https://www.evolveip.net/blog/6-reasons-need-use-call-back-solutions Mon, 15 Jul 2019 15:43:23 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=27859 The post Top 6 Reasons to Use a Call Back Solution appeared first on Evolve IP.

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There’s a reason the word “hold” shares 50% of its letters in common with that hot place with the Devil. Both are H-words we’d prefer to avoid. Call back solutions provide an effective way to save your customers from the fiery frustrations of sitting on hold. There are many benefits to this service which improves efficiency for both your business and your callers.

About Call Back Solutions

We’ve all heard the message “your call is important to us.” It’s often paired with the automated voice telling us that the business we are trying to reach is experiencing unusual call volumes at this time. Utilizing a communications platform that offers queue management informing callers of their estimated wait time can help. Yet today an even greater number of callers want to enjoy the convenience of entering their phone numbers for a call back instead of remaining on hold interminably.

First introduced in the mid-1990s, call back solutions provide customers with the option to leave their number and name for a return contact, without losing their place in queue. It’s a simple way of saying to the customer you value their time and want to provide them with the best customer service possible in a streamlined way. Here are the many advantages of this call center technology feature.

Advantages of Call Back Services

Time is on their side.

By providing the queue callback option you are giving your customer back one of their most important and highly limited resources — time. In 2012, a survey of 2,500 customers found that nearly 60 percent of respondents believed “one-minute is too long to be on hold.” We can only imagine how many seconds have been lopped off that tolerance in the intervening six years of on-demand digital responsiveness.

The appeal of choice.

Call back solutions also empower customer choice. They can elect to stay on hold if they’d like to, but now there is another option. Either way, your agents are going to work hard to meet the customers’ needs. Yet now the customer regains control of the communication and doesn’t feel as if they have been taken hostage by Zamfir music fans.

Better moods = better interactions.

With call back services the customer gets a return call when an agent is available to address the concern or question. This gives your agents a better starting point as they no longer start the call trying to placate people angry about the hold delay or the aural assault of hold music or repeated brand messaging. The technology, too, can use the call back number to link into other customer history records to have the agent begin from a more knowledgeable position from the get-go.

Level out call volume.

Call back solutions help your business defer calls until volumes are more manageable. With this technology helping you better manage call spikes, you can improve call center productivity and optimize call handling to ensure the customers get the best experience possible while agents are buffered more effectively from the onslaught of overwhelming traffic loads.

Handling calls gets easier.

When an agent does finally get on the line with someone who has been on hold “too long” they will often get an earful. The customer needs the release of complaining about their negative experience. This not only makes the interaction more challenging but also hurts your agents’ call handling times. Your agents can be more efficient when customers feel heard and empowered.

World-Class, Fully Featured Contact Center for 25% Less

Evolve IP has been recognized in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Contact Center as a Service, North America. If you’re looking for 3rd party feedback on our award-winning solution read what Gartner has to say about us on pages 6-7 and see what our clients had to say about us with Gartner here. Read what customers have to say about us here.

Lower call abandonment rates.

Finally, call back solutions also lower the number of callers hanging up in frustration. A long wait time can cause someone to end the call and then try again later. Those recalls can negatively impact call volume handling all over again. Worse still, the customers may simply take their business elsewhere, without your customer agents even getting a chance to make a positive impression and provide excellent customer service.

Learn more about the benefits of call back solution with our Queue Callback Savings Calculator. Evolve IP’s experts are available to help you optimize your customer experience by offering callers the ability to request a callback based on your call center conditions. Learn more today!

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Why Outsource your IT Help Desk? https://www.evolveip.net/blog/why-outsource-your-it-help-desk Sun, 14 Jul 2019 20:03:29 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=27904 The post Why Outsource your IT Help Desk? appeared first on Evolve IP.

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IT support is resource-intensive. Your end-users want prompt, efficient incident response. Your IT team wants to do the more interesting, innovative work they trained for. An external help desk solution can be the answer both desire. Why outsource your IT help desk? This article addresses several of the advantages.

 

Outsourced IT Support

The outsourced IT help desk can do all of the same things as an internal help desk. The responsibilities include:

  • Providing end-user support
  • Handling operating system and standard application updates
  • Managing anti-virus/anti-malware.

Additionally, by outsourcing your IT help team, you gain access to experienced system engineers who can help your internal employees diagnose and resolve critical system and infrastructure issues to keep your business systems online and optimized for maximum availability.

 

Why Outsource your IT Help Desk

Outsourcing IT allows a business to focus on its true priority — growing and supporting the organization — rather than troubleshooting software, hardware, and user issues. But this is just one of the many benefits from handing IT support to an external partner.

 

Reduced operating costs.

There is a skills shortage today in many areas of IT. By turning to an IT support services provider, you are letting them take over the effort of recruiting, hiring, training, and retraining this type of IT worker.

 

Responsiveness.

Letting specialized personnel tackle support issues can also reduce response time. The outsourced IT support is always there, ready to respond, even when there is a sudden spike in demand for help. The supplier is also more likely to have the resources needed to scale up or down rapidly as demand requires.

 

Currency.

With outsourced IT help, you gain external experts who can monitor and manage patches for your operating systems and software. They ensure your organization is up-to-date, by taking over management of the updates and upgrades. Benefit from the latest industry knowledge, while also being able to access expert advice about ways to improve processes and develop business.

Comparing Phone Systems?

We’ve put together the most comprehensive cost calculator, including over 30 different factors, to help you measure the true total cost of ownership between an on-premise phone system and a cloud-based solution.

Cost consistency.

Often outsourcing your IT help desk centralizing your technical support services for a low, fixed monthly fee. This provides a consistent budget line for effective financial planning.

 

Security.

Outsourced IT support takes a proactive approach to monitoring and protecting your cyber assets. Your own team would do the same, but they are also juggling many other business-related tasks as they try to do so. The external IT help desk is focused on this task for your organization and knows it risks losing your business if the service is lax.

 

Shared risk.

By offloading some of your IT to third-party support, you push some of the infrastructural risks to your service provider. This can lead your organization to become more flexible, agile and dynamic, which allows you to deliver a better product in the long-run.

 

Refocus resources.

In these days of big data management and rapid technological innovation, internal IT experts will enjoy the opportunity to turn their attention to streamlining processes and generating systems that can expand your business.

 

Outsource to Evolve IP

Evolve IP’s Help Desk solution provides remote support allowing your IT team to focus on critical management activities. We provide normal business hours Help Desk support, 24x7x365 proactive monitoring and response to critical issues, comprehensive support for server-side applications, license and warranty management, routine system and infrastructure wellness checks, managed backups and vendor management. Let us help you today!

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Always Learning: 6 Tips to Keep Agent Training Ongoing https://www.evolveip.net/blog/always-learning-6-tips-to-keep-agent-training-ongoing Tue, 25 Jun 2019 15:24:25 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=27292 The post Always Learning: 6 Tips to Keep Agent Training Ongoing appeared first on Evolve IP.

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Don’t stop at one and done training for new agents only. Keep your contact center agents on the top of their game with ongoing training. Try these six tips.

Let’s consider Kobe Bryant or Tom Brady. These athletes at the top of their games, but they still train with their teams. Their coaches didn’t just recruit them, introduce them to how the team plays, and leave it at that. Ongoing training is essential to contact center success too.

It’s safe to say your call center provides some sort of onboarding to new hires. This typically includes, but is not limited to:

  • New employee paperwork
  • Distributing the employee handbook
  • Informing the employee about employee behavior, pay, promotions, benefits
  • Assigning the new hire a mentor
  • Introducing the agents to the team
  • Transitioning the hire to the phone floor
  • Scheduling a check-in with manager

Effective onboarding can positively influence agent engagement and employee retention. But agents need to consistently learn about new business goals, changing customers needs/wants, new call center software, and product launches or modifications to deliver better performance results. Help your employees continuously learn to provide the top service experience your customers expect.

 

#1 Vary your training approach

Your contact center may already be providing regular training, but are you doing it the same way every time? Always relying on a Powerpoint presentation, for instance, to get the message across makes the training less effective. Encourage the person offering training to think outside of the box to come up with ways to make training both informative and engaging.

 

#2 Always look for hands-on opportunities

Put the training message you’re trying to convey in a practical context. Use recordings of calls to emphasize the real-life ramifications of the learning. Role-playing will work to some degree, but be sure to take the training out to real-time call handling too. You might:

  • Add a question to post-call paperwork asking employees to reflect on how effectively (or not) they implemented the lessons learned
  • Survey customers post-call with questions that would indicate if the agent is using lessons learned from training
  • Have the peer mentor listen in to a call with that particular learning objective in mind.

 

#3 Use analytics to identify new training areas

With contact center software offering analytics and call recording it’s much easier for your leadership team to identify areas that need work. By analyzing large volumes of agent/customer interactions you can identify trends across the whole agent population. With this information in hand about specific customer service issues, you can give coaching staff guidance about what to focus on in department training and find effective real-life, recorded examples to improve standards.

 

#4 Encourage mentorship to continue

You might have assigned a peer mentor at the outset, but if your company doesn’t continue to value this relationship, the connection can easily fizzle. This should be much more than providing an introduction and letting the experienced employee and new hire take it from there.

  • Provide mentoring tools to the right, experienced agents. Don’t assume that every experienced employee is going to be a great mentor.
  • Create opportunities for mentor and mentee to discuss observed skills and weaknesses. Make 30-day check-ins a part of the relationship at 60 days, 3 months, 6 months.
  • Encourage both mentor and mentee to attend focused discussion (lunch and learns?) with other peer pairs to share experiences and issues and learn from one another.

Significantly improve service levels, increase productivity, & deliver a
fast ROI.

Call Centers can optimize all aspects of their workforce by adding Monet Live Workforce Management (WFM) to Evolve IP’s award-winning contact center solution.

#5 Customize development plans

Many centers look at employee attrition rates to see who retains at six months or a year. But what do your first 90 days look like? Three months? These losses can get shrugged off as “not the right fit.” But you might stem these exits with more involvement upfront such as meeting at 60 days to customize training efforts to that individual’s development goals.

View making this plan as a collaboration between agent and supervisor to identify any existing skills and knowledge gaps. This can also be an opportunity to determine individual agent strengths and interests that can benefit the business as a whole. If the agent is particularly interested in a certain area, develop a plan listing steps to take and goals to meet that would help the agent grow in that area.

 

#6 Make praise part of training

We all learn better when we think we’re making progress and our work is appreciated. Recognizing agents who get positive feedback from customers or having supervisors publicly praise those who are doing well helps engagement, but also provides added weight to training efforts. In identifying someone who has done a good job, be specific about what skill or attribute you’ve focused on in training that person was demonstrating.

 

Contact center agent success requires effective training, but the right tools help too. EvolveIP’s award-winning omnichannel cloud contact center dramatically improves customer experience and optimizes agents. Request a demo today!

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4 Ways Virtual Call Center Solutions Keep You Competitive https://www.evolveip.net/blog/4-ways-virtual-call-center-solutions-keep-you-competitive Mon, 24 Jun 2019 14:43:09 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=27407 Call centers compete for top agents and clients while also seeking to provide the very best customer experience. Virtual Call Center Solutions can help.

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Call centers compete for top agents and clients while also seeking to provide the very best customer experience. Virtual Call Center Solutions can help.

Call centers face many challenges. Agent attrition, tight budgets, and competition for market share are just the first few that come to mind. Yet, there are many ways virtual call center solutions can help keep your organization at the front of the pack.

Cloud-based contact center infrastructure is becoming increasingly common. Between 2016 and 2017, the number of seats “grew by a very strong 20.9%.” Further, according to DMG Consulting, this trend was “expected to continue for the next five years.” This trend reflects companies of all sizes embracing virtual call center solutions, which are today offering “increased reliability, flexibility, scalability and security.”

But what is driving this widespread embrace of cloud-based call center technology? In a general sense, businesses are adopting the new infrastructure to keep up with an ever-evolving industry. Yet, specifically, these forward-thinking call center managers are appreciating the several competitive differentiators virtual call center solutions offer. Let’s discuss four in more detail.

 

Competitive Advantage with Virtual Call Centers

 

#1 Workforce Optimization Tools.

The top agents want to work when and where it is convenient for them. With virtual infrastructure, your contact center can have onsite staff as well as employees in different geographical areas — with virtual desktop capabilities, all your team members need is an Internet connection and a VoIP-enabled phone.

In addition to the ability to boost mobility, virtual call center software enables:

  • Prioritizing calls
  • Monitoring agents in real-time
  • Call routing by time of day or IVR menu selection
  • Queue callback.

Additionally, by deploying Evolve IP’s analyst-recognized contact center solution with Workforce Management (WFM), your business can experience an average savings of 5-10% of your staffing hours.

More than 60% of call centers employ at-home agents — Customer Contact Strategies

 

#2 Analytic Capabilities.

Dimension Data in 2015 suggested that analytics is the future of call centers, yet found that 40% of them have no analytics tools. The issues abound. For many call centers, disjointed data is often distributed across the enterprise. The addition of digital and social channels has only made the lack of integration more apparent.

With cloud technology today, the contact center can consolidate information from social media, calls, web chats, etc. in a single customer history, which is easily available to center agents to provide the best, personalized customer experience.

At the same time, virtual call centers are evolving, and it isn’t difficult to imagine a time when they will offer speech pattern analytics to help analyze customer emotional state and provide better support or reduce churn rates.

The Global CRM analytics market, which includes contact center analytics, is expected to grow from $4.18 billion in 2014 to 47.65 billion by 2019. — Research and Markets

 

#3 Outbound Enablement.

Proactive customer care and outbound capabilities are essential to meeting the customers’ needs at all steps of their journey. Among the many features offered with the virtual call center solution, many are well-suited to reaching out to customers for greater success. These functionalities include:

  • Auto-dialing to expedite customer contact
  • Post-call surveys to gauge customer experience
  • Caller tracking to accurately measure ROI.

World-Class, Fully Featured Contact Center for 25% Less

Evolve IP has been recognized in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Contact Center as a Service, North America. If you’re looking for 3rd party feedback on our award-winning solution read what Gartner has to say about us on pages 6-7 and see what our clients had to say about us with Gartner here. Read what customers have to say about us here.

#4 Business Continuity.

With virtual call center software, your organization gains a reliable data center with extensive backup management. Your solution provider will be responsible for securing, upgrading, and maintaining your sophisticated network.

At the same time, should something disastrous happen at your particular place of business (or even a simple outage), you can continue with business as usual. Virtual call center technology ensures that your communications are available regardless of onsite conditions and that key data and services are easily regained via multiple points of entry to the cloud. Queued calls can be sent to alternative locations, queues, or agents until you’re back up and running onsite.

It’s difficult to improve — let alone take the lead in a competitive market — without the full technological advantages offered by virtual call center solutions. Partner with Evolve IP today to foster better agent-customer relationships and drive greater profits and revenues.

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What is Unified Communications? UC and other Acronyms to Know https://www.evolveip.net/blog/what-is-unified-communications-uc-and-other-acronyms-to-know Tue, 04 Jun 2019 12:50:39 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=27515 In researching business phone systems, you probably come across the phrase “Unified Communications” a lot. But what is unified communications (UC)? Why is everyone talking about it? It doesn’t help any that UC is only one of the many acronyms that get bandied about. This primer will help you get in the know — ASAP.

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In researching business phone systems, you probably come across the phrase “Unified Communications” a lot. But what is unified communications (UC)? Why is everyone talking about it? It doesn’t help any that UC is only one of the many acronyms that get bandied about. This primer will help you get in the know — ASAP.

 

What is UC?

Just as the days of communicating with full words instead of abbreviations and acronyms are a thing of the past (JK, lol), the idea of communicating via voice only is old school too. Unified Communications or UC refers to a streamlined, often cloud-based, solution that brings video, chat, conferencing and more together in a single platform along with voice services.

How? By bringing the voice communications to the Internet via VoIP – Voice over Internet Protocol. With VoIP (commonly pronounced ‘voyp’) the human voice becomes an analog data packet that can be transmitted via the Internet.

Thus, UC takes all of the tools the business uses on a given day and deploys them in a single service for easy user adoption. For example, employees can link their own cell phones (if you’re a BYOD, bring your own device office) to work phones and transfer calls seamlessly, to wherever they are, via UC, which also includes IM (instant messaging). At the same time, workers can work out of a single, unified inbox that collects email, fax, voicemail transcriptions and more — in one place.

 

UCaaS and other important acronyms

So, now that you know the meaning of UC, you may be able to guess the meaning of UCaaS. But, just in case, it refers to Unified Communications as a Service, much as SaaS applications (Gmail, Office 365, or Skype) are Software as a Service applications.

With UCaaS you partner with a vendor who can help customize your UC solution to your needs, integrating the platform with your existing applications and unique networking solutions. Btw, a CRM, or Customer Relationship Management tool, is one of the many acronyms you may want to integrate with your UC.

Other acronymic features include:

IM& P — with Instant Messaging and Presence (IM&P) you can find out if associates are available, on a call, or away from their desks. Additionally, the feature supports multi-party chats and enables information exchange and file sharing while maintaining security and compliance.

ACD — Automatic Call Distribution lets you set up sophisticated routing rules to determine the most appropriate agent for each call to reduce call response time and enhance caller experience.

IVR Interactive Voice Response is an enhanced version of an automated attendant. This technology can use voice recognition as well as advanced routing scripts to get the caller to the right person at the right time. Some IVRs also handle payments, retrieving or receiving information, and more.

QoS – In the world of UC, Quality of Service gauges the service performance of the internet connection and establishes network settings to prioritize the many forms of UC data transfer to suit your needs.

Key Findings of the Evolve IP 2018 Cloud Adoption Survey

Take a short expedition through these key findings, intertwined with unique comics, to bring a smile to your face as you learn about the latest cloud adoption trends.

Plus, a UC phone system makes Moves, Adds and Changes (MACS) easier and less costly. Since the system is managed through a web-based portal, authorized managers can quickly add users, set schedules, and send notifications with just a few clicks.

The web-based portal is useful too in the event of a weather-, power- or technology-related disaster. Business Continuity (BC) and Disaster Recovery (DR) are both more efficient and effective as software-defined networking (SDN) combines the bandwidth of multiple public connections (from nearly any carrier) into a single, faster, more reliable virtual connection that can be used for secure access to business communications wherever there is Internet.

Evolve IP has been noted in Gartner’s Midmarket Guide for Unified Communications and labeled “a best-of-breed UCaaS offering” by Gartner. Consult with us today!

The post What is Unified Communications? UC and other Acronyms to Know appeared first on Evolve IP.

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5 Reasons to Switch to a Hosted Business Phone System https://www.evolveip.net/blog/5-reasons-to-switch-to-a-hosted-business-phone-system Mon, 03 Jun 2019 12:30:25 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=27398 The post 5 Reasons to Switch to a Hosted Business Phone System appeared first on Evolve IP.

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Dealing with things we don’t understand can feel uncomfortable. The first time eating sushi, for instance, can be downright awkward and overwhelming to people used to burgers and fries. But if we’re open-minded and give that raw fish a try, we discover it is delicious and far healthier for us than many fast foods.

Why do I mention sushi in a blog post about hosted phone systems?

Because many business owners would rather stick with something familiar, either an on-premise private branch exchange (PBX) system or traditional landline telephone than try something new, like a hosted PBX phone system. But if you’re open-minded, you may end up reaping many benefits with a hosted phone system.

In case you’re wondering what exactly a hosted PBX phone system is, it’s a cloud-based phone system where the vendor houses the equipment and technology necessary for the voice communications. This lessens the workload of an organization’s team members because setup, maintenance, and upgrades are all handled by the vendor.

Now let’s take a look at some of the other benefits:

 

1. Cost Savings

Research has shown that an organization can save an average of 40% on local calls alone. A small business with 30 phone lines could end up saving $1,200 per month. Do a lot of international calling? You’re apt to save up to 90%. Not too shabby.

 

2. Flexibility and Scalability

Here’s a common analog phone scenario:

You need to add a couple more phone lines to accommodate some new hires. Should be quick and easy, right? Nope. You usually have to spend time on the phone with customer service first, then wait for an available appointment to schedule an installation. It could be days or even weeks before your new phone lines are up and running.

Talk about frustrating.

With a hosted phone system you can add phone lines easily and within minutes. The flexibility and scalability of hosted VoIP are particularly ideal for organizations with seasonal fluctuations in staffing or companies experiencing fast growth.

Comparing Phone Systems?

We’ve put together the most comprehensive cost calculator, including over 30 different factors, to help you measure the true total cost of ownership between an on-premise phone system and a cloud-based solution.

3. Robust Add-on Features

Add-on features also tend to be flexible with hosted phone systems. This is really convenient, because a startup may need only minimum features while a larger, more-established enterprise may need more features for more integrated communications.

Some hosted phone system add-on features include:

  • Interactive Voice Recognition
  • Remote Management
  • Chat
  • Video Chat and Teleconferencing

 

4. Contact Center Benefits

Does your business conduct customer service over the phone? Hosted VoIP is perfect for the needs of any call center, no matter the size. Your reps will appreciate:

  • Unified communications (UC): Communicate with customers how they want, either phone, chat, email, video and more…
  • Reporting and monitoring: Get access to the insights and metrics that will help you make more informed decisions.
  • Interactive voice recognition (IVR): Push-button phone trees are frustrating to customers who need help NOW. IVR lets customers speak their needs so can they get to the right person in a timely fashion.
  • Smarter call routing: Hosted systems allow for greater flexibility when it comes to routing so you can optimize the number of calls a rep receives based on skills and training.

 

5. Mobility

One of the biggest benefits organizations gain by switching to a hosted VoIP system is mobility. Depending on your vendor and configuration, you can have phone calls ring simultaneously to both desk and mobile phones. You can also unlock mobile call transferring, or enable mobile failover in the rare case your internet goes down.

 

Is a Hosted Phone System Right for Your Business?

You just read some of the numerous benefits of a hosted VoIP phone system, including cost savings, scalability and mobility. Are you wondering if this technology would be a good fit for your business?

To help you make the best decision, here are some things to consider:

1. Do you Use Public Internet Connectivity?

Hosted communication requires robust infrastructure. If you are currently communicating over public internet connectivity, also known as “over the top” connections, you will not get the same quality of service. This can result in drops in call quality during periods of peak demand. You may also experience service outages from time to time.

If you’re considering a hosted phone system, understand that you will benefit greatly by upgrading to fiber-optic internet connectivity. So you will have to determine if this upgrade is currently in your budget.

 

2. How Much Long-Distance and/or International Calling Do You Do?

The more long-distance or international calling your business does, the more it makes sense to switch to a hosted VoIP system. Remember the bit of data we mentioned up top: most businesses with international calling needs can save as much as 90% with a hosted system. While some traditional phone vendors appear to offer good deals, they typically don’t stand up to the flat, transparent fees offered by cloud-hosted vendors.

 

3. How Many Employees Do You Have?

In almost all cases, organizations with 50 or less employees will experience immediate cost savings switching from an on-premises system to a hosted VoIP system.

 

4. How is Your In-House Tech/VoIP Expertise?

If you’re thinking about switching to an on-premise VoIP system instead of hosted VoIP system, ask yourself if your IT department can handle the extra workload. Does your IT person (people) know enough about the technology and equipment? Will they be able to monitor call quality and information security factors on weekends? If you go the on-premise route, will you create a talent shortage in your IT department and be forced to pull people away from other important tasks and projects?

If you can’t afford to spread your IT department too thin, a hosted solution may be the better way to go.

 

 5. How Much Customization Do You Require?

When it comes to business communication needs, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. But some organizations require more customization than others.

Do you have intensive contact center needs? Do you require sophisticated call routing options? Do some of your reps work remotely? Is your CRM system a bit outdated but you still need it to fit into your VoIP solution seamlessly?

If you answered yes to any of these questions but recognize your in-house IT department may not be equipped to handle these customizations, consider a hosted system instead. The right vendor will be able to offer complete customization to fit your particular communication needs.

Do you still have questions about whether a hosted phone system is right for your business? Give us a call. Evolve IP’s Gartner-noted unified communications solution provides enterprises with crystal clear voice services, award-winning business collaboration tools like video, chat, web conferencing, and screen sharing, and best-of-breed handsets and softphones. But best of all, these features work seamlessly with the business applications your business already uses today.

Get in touch with us and start saving money.

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Moving to the Cloud – Show me the Money https://www.evolveip.net/blog/moving-to-the-cloud-show-me-the-money Wed, 22 May 2019 13:06:12 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=26898 More and more businesses today are taking advantage of cloud computing to grow their technological capabilities without significant expense. Combining IP telephony, messaging, instant messaging, presence, and conferencing with other collaborative applications and services, cloud communications also enable streamlined real-time collaboration anytime, anywhere, and on any device.

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To help explain the value of migrating your business technology to the cloud, we’ve rounded up several cost savings you can gain from making this move.

In 1996’s Jerry Maguire, the title character often said, “Show me the money.” Business leaders say it even more regularly to employees looking to institute changes at the organization. To help explain the value of migrating your business technology to the cloud, we’ve rounded up several cost savings you can gain from this evolution.

 

What the cloud offers

More and more businesses today are taking advantage of cloud computing to grow their technological capabilities without significant expense. Combining IP telephony, messaging, instant messaging, presence, and conferencing with other collaborative applications and services, cloud communications also enable streamlined real-time collaboration anytime, anywhere, and on any device.

Companies that migrate to the cloud typically benefit from:

  • Capital and space savings
  • Flexibility and agility
  • Ability to access apps where and when they need (on- or off-premises)
  • Ease of scaling up or down
  • Higher productivity
  • Improved security

 

How the cloud offers cost savings

Setting up new communication or computing system for your business typically requires a substantial upfront investment. You may need to foot the bill for:

  • PBX equipment
  • Software licenses
  • Routers
  • Networking
  • SIP setup
  • Number porting

Yet a cloud-based solution has a low implementation cost as it doesn’t have the same hardware and software needs. At the same time, your company can reap cost savings from the unified aspect of the cloud-based solution. Instead of paying many fees to different service providers, you’re bringing all your communication and collaboration technology into one platform you need only pay for once.

Key Findings of the Evolve IP 2018 Cloud Adoption Survey

Take a short expedition through these key findings, intertwined with unique comics, to bring a smile to your face as you learn about the latest cloud adoption trends.

With a PBX or SIP trunking option, after implementation, your business would typically continue to pay for license upgrades, maintaining hardware, technical support, and troubleshooting. These costs are seldom consistent month to month, which can make budget planning more difficult too. On the other hand, a hosted cloud-based solution sees you paying a single, set fee for all maintenance and support on a predetermined (usually monthly basis).

Also, without having to sign on for multi-year contracts, you can see cost savings in your ability to scale up and down as needed. Without having to purchase new hardware when more workers join the firm, you can pay only for the seats or licenses you need as needed. Plus, cloud-based communications solutions typically come with call control, call management, call training, and analytics features bundled in the monthly fee.

Further cost savings can be found in the reduction of costs associated with supporting, maintaining, and securing the network. Your in-demand IT experts will be able to focus their efforts on innovation and revenue-generating activities while your cloud solution partner keeps your company current and secure as part of their roles and responsibilities.

The simplification of cloud solution cost tracking can provide further cost savings too as your finance people are freed up for other tasks.

 

Key Takeaway

Put simply, your cost savings opportunities include:

  • Consistent cost tracking
  • Pay only for the capacity your business needs
  • Scale up or down to accommodate seasonal or growth spikes
  • Free employees up for more business-generating tasks

Transition to the cloud to gain cost savings and a more efficient and effective communication and collaboration environment. Evolve IP provides a unified option for cloud services. Migrate all or select IT technologies to our award-winning cloud platform. Learn more today!

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Virtual Desktop Software: The Pros and Cons https://www.evolveip.net/blog/virtual-desktop-software-the-pros-and-cons Tue, 14 May 2019 14:48:24 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=29012 Research decision making online and your search engine will shoot back pages of articles on how to reduce the number of choices we make, why we struggle with decisions, and decision fatigue. To save you some of the brain power you might expend considering a virtual desktop software solution, this article provides an overview with pros and cons too.

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Research decision making online and your search engine will shoot back pages of articles on how to reduce the number of choices we make, why we struggle with decisions, and decision fatigue. To save you some of the brain power you might expend considering a virtual desktop software solution, this article provides an overview with pros and cons too.

 

What is Virtual Desktop Software?

Desktop virtualization, and workspaces, are on the rise globally. Secure and affordable, virtual desktop software provides users access to their individual desktops separate from the actual personal computer. Users no longer need to be at their physical desktop computers to access their applications, folders, widgets, and toolbars. The software virtualizes the user’s unique desktop environment at any workstation or computing device while all the data and applications are stored on a central server.

Virtual desktop software is seen in virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) or solutions Desktop as a Service (DaaS) solutions. While the VDI is deployed on-premises, the DaaS solution is fully outsourced. Before comparing the two, let’s first outline the benefits of virtualization overall.

 

Advantages to Virtual Desktop Software

Mobility is a big advantage that virtual desktops offer the current business environment. The virtual workforce is expanding, and even your office denizens want to be able to access their desktops when away from their desks. With virtualization, all users can experience business as usual with their desktop at the ready, whenever they want, wherever they are, as long as there is an Internet connection. Mobile workers will comprise nearly three-quarters of the total U.S. workforce by 2020. — IDC

A virtual solution easily supports a business with a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) culture. Your users can access a secure, consistent computer infrastructure from their smartphones, tablets, laptops and other mobile devices.

Virtual desktop software makes upgrading operating systems easier. If you’re a Windows 7 user looking at end of support in January 2020, you’re going to have to migrate your data to ensure cybersecurity. As virtualization is a software-based solution, your organization can upgrade more easily and also quickly scale up or down for seasonal peaks and valleys in your staffing or other business needs.

The financial advantages of virtual desktop software can’t be overlooked either. Rather than relying on maintenance-heavy and costly physical desktop computers, the business can support its users with virtual desktops. In the face of tighter IT budgets, this solution also provides a consistent budget line item to plan around.

There’s also greater peace of mind with cloud-based virtual desktops. This solution offers improved data security as remote or contract workers are accessing their desktops via centrally managed cloud-hosted desktops. Thus, they are granted access to the corporate network but the business needn’t worry about the loss or theft of sensitive data (as it is not stored locally).

Additionally, your organization gains access to a disaster recovery solution. Cloud-based virtual desktops can be implemented easily and rapidly outside of the disaster area to mitigate impacts on end users and your business.

Comparing DaaS Solutions

This virtual desktop or DaaS comparison guide is designed for those who are looking into hosted virtual desktops or desktops as a service (DaaS). It also compares the technology to Evolve IP’s Workspaces solution.

Possible Pitfalls

A virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is a promising alternative for many businesses. At the same time, as it is implemented on-premises, your business continues to bear the brunt of the costs. Your IT team is also in charge of the complexity of the infrastructure and must continue to monitor, maintain, and upgrade the VDI (in addition to all their other tasks).

That’s why, ultimately, we recommend cloud-based virtual desktop software. A DaaS offers you all of the advantages of virtualization, but lets you hand over the hard work to your external partner. You’ll be signing a Service Level Agreement (SLA) with your provider to secure your network and support your users.

Research shows that having more choices hurts our motivation to decide. This article does you the favor of pointing your business in a specific direction. You’re welcome!

Turn to an expert to smoothly integrate virtual desktop software into your business environment. Evolve IP’s combination of security, stability, and scalability have exceeded the expectations of clients across industries. Contact our experts today to schedule a consultation.

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Why You Need an Auto Attendant https://www.evolveip.net/blog/why-you-need-an-auto-attendant Mon, 13 May 2019 15:06:19 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=27697 The post Why You Need an Auto Attendant appeared first on Evolve IP.

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Whether your company is big or small, you know the importance of answering all calls promptly, courteously. That’s where an auto attendant can help.

Your business probably started from day one with a telephone number. But the time eventually comes when just one number isn’t enough to handle all of your callers. You’re growing internally, and the number of people trying to reach your people is rising too. That means it’s time to think about using an auto attendant.

 

What is Auto Attendant?

A typical feature of many business phone system solutions today, auto attendant is the equivalent of a digital receptionist. Your business can use pre-scripted menus or customize its own phone trees to help callers navigate to the right party in your business with the press of a button.

Before one of your human employees is distracted from the work they are doing, the call is answered first by the auto attendant which can screen calls to connect them to the correct extension. For callers, this streamlines the experience and can enhance satisfaction. For your employees, it encourages continued productivity by efficiently letting the caller navigate services without human help. While that probably already sounds good, consider these added advantages of the auto attendant feature.

5 Benefits of Auto Attendant Feature

 

Immediacy.

Humans hate to wait. They want their questions answered or issues addressed right away. But your business is busy, right? Your people are regularly juggling a queue of callers. If they had to answer every call immediately, no one could actually finish a conversation! Auto attendant guarantees quick, efficient, courteous answers to every caller.

Cost savings.

Instead of hiring a full-time receptionist, you’re using an automated feature that comes as part of the phone system solution you are already paying for. Plus, without the need to hire, train, and retain a receptionist you are saving on the cost of benefits and the time expended recruiting and onboarding the right individual to represent your brand.

Always available.

In our increasingly globalized society, businesses can’t afford to only be available from 9-5 in their own time zone. Rather than having to hire round-the-clock human representation for your brand, the auto attendant is always available. Even when you’re out of the office, it can be programmed to cater to prospects and clients when they want, wherever they are. Uninhibited by borders on a map or time zones, the auto attendant can properly route calls at any time of the day (or night) 7 days a week.

 


67% of customers have hung up the phone out of frustration they could not talk to a real person. — American Express


 

Consistently professional.

Your business typically controls all elements of its auto attendant. Your team can decide the welcome message, the outgoing greetings, the attendant’s voice style, the options available to callers, and even customize these for particular times of year or disaster situations. No matter what, your auto attendant isn’t going to suffer from a bad day or get distracted by the recent news of its sister’s divorce.

 

Integrates with other applications.

Since your business has developed to a point at which it has more than one phone line and email and may even be dealing with global clientele, we can bet you’re also relying on business-related third-party apps. For instance, your sales team might rely on customer relationship management (CRM) system to consolidate its data about customers, leads, and prospects. Most auto attendant technology will integrate securely with a CRM to further enhance your customer relationship building from the first contact.

Comparing Contact Center Solutions?

Evaluating contact center providers? We’ve pulled together a detailed comparison of the top 18 contact center software providers. Find out which is the best fit for you.

We recommend reading our recent blog about the differences between Auto Attendant and Interactive Voice Response before making your final decision. Evolve IP’s Unified Communications as a Service solutions can dramatically increase your productivity and enhance your customers’ experiences. Talk with one of our business phone system experts today!

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Strategies to Recognize Contact Center Agents https://www.evolveip.net/blog/strategies-to-recognize-contact-center-agents Mon, 29 Apr 2019 14:26:18 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=27412 The post Strategies to Recognize Contact Center Agents appeared first on Evolve IP.

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Bonuses can provide positive reinforcement but aren’t a budget reality for all. Several other strategies can recognize contact center agent accomplishments.

Remember the “Show me the money” catchphrase from the Tom Cruise sports agent movie Jerry Maguire? Reading this article’s headline, you might have thought of money as an easy way to recognize your agents. But bonuses and raises aren’t your only options. Here are several other strategies to help you recognize contact center agent accomplishments.

 

Why Recognition is Necessary

Employees across industries have several consistent reasons for leaving their existing jobs, according to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report. The top explanations are:

  • career growth opportunities
  • pay and benefits
  • manager or management
  • company culture
  • job fit

Consider the high attrition rates at contact centers. Then, note that two of these common complaints can be addressed with the help of agent recognition programs. After all, when a manager or management appreciates agent success and your company culture takes the time to acknowledge the effort, you can have a positive impact on employee engagement.

 

Seven Ways to Recognize Agents

1. Offer the high achieving agent preferential scheduling. This leverages the idea that “time is money” to provide recognition that rewards the individual with another valuable resource. You might offer the opportunity to submit a paid time off request first. Or the chance to select an ideal work shift for a few weeks.

2. Provide office-related perks. Perhaps the reward for exceeding a target is a month of parking in a spot close to the building or getting to sit at a contact center desktop in a prime location (secluded? best view?). Or perhaps this individual gets to select the snacks for the break room or make the choice of coffee flavors available? These little ways of making the workday more pleasant can show individual agents appreciation.

 

“Employees who are engaged are more likely to stay with their organization…feel a stronger bond to their organization’s mission and purpose…[and] build stronger relationships with customers.” — Gallup 2017 State of the American Workplace report

 

3. Invite the agent for an informal chat over a cup of coffee or tea. This face-to-face time with a supervisor, away from the contact center dashboard, can help build relationships. Plus, it helps contact center leadership demonstrate an interest in getting to know agents as individuals.

4. Personalize the recognition. Instead of handing over a company T-shirt or coffee mug, invest a small amount in making your gift to this employee unique. Email other team members asking them to provide words describing the individual and then make a word cloud online which you can frame. Or order something customized with that person’s name on it from the affordable crafting site etsy.com.

5. Give out raffle tickets throughout the year as recognition. Then, at the end of the quarter, or the end of the year (perhaps at a holiday party) the people who have earned more tickets will have greater chances of winning your cool prizes.

 

Engaged teams show dramatically higher job retention rates and lower absenteeism, 17% higher productivity, and contribute 21% greater profitability. — Gallup 2017 State of the American Workplace report

 

6. Create an agent recognition wall. However, instead of making this a collection of familiar employee photos, have a caricature artist do a rendering of that month’s top agents. These can also become keepsakes for the individual when someone else earns fresh recognition.

7. Send individualized, hand-written letters of appreciation to agents at their home address. So few of us actually get mail that makes us smile. It’s all fliers and bills. Brighten an agent’s day, and show how much your leadership values employee hard work, by taking the time to pen an individual note saying thanks with specific reference to what is appreciated about that person.

All of these strategies to show agents you appreciate their hard work can help improve agent engagement and increase morale. It’s worth making the effort. After all, Gallup tells us that of the more than 100 million full-time employees in the U.S., only 33% are engaged. That’s a far cry from the 70% who are engaged at the world’s best organizations.

Significantly improve service levels, increase productivity, & deliver a
fast ROI.

Call Centers can optimize all aspects of their workforce by adding Monet Live Workforce Management (WFM) to Evolve IP’s award-winning contact center solution.

Nevertheless, pay close attention to what behaviors you are recognizing. Focus on rewarding the accomplishments or attributes that are important in your organization. This could be hitting targets, contributing new ideas, fostering a team-building environment, or taking advantage of opportunities for self-development…the list goes on. Still, with some creativity and a little extra effort, it’s not too difficult to show you appreciate all that your agents are doing for your business.

EvolveIP’s contact center as a software solution offers many ways to streamline agent work processes. This too can help improve productivity and increase morale. Contact us today.

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2019 Cloud Adoption Survey Infographic https://www.evolveip.net/blog/2019-cloud-adoption-survey-infographic Thu, 25 Apr 2019 15:13:41 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=29069 The post 2019 Cloud Adoption Survey Infographic appeared first on Evolve IP.

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Check out some key stats from our 2019 Cloud Adoption Survey results! The survey is part of ongoing research into Cloud adoption trends by Evolve IP.

Cloud Adoption Infographic

Interested in reading the full survey results? Find them here.

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Business Phone Systems Buyer’s Guide: 5 Things You Need to Know Before Buying a Business Phone System https://www.evolveip.net/blog/business-phone-systems-buyers-guide-5-things-you-need-to-know-before-buying-a-business-phone-system Mon, 22 Apr 2019 14:06:32 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=26794 The post Business Phone Systems Buyer’s Guide: 5 Things You Need to Know Before Buying a Business Phone System appeared first on Evolve IP.

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Buying a business phone system should be simple. Yet there are many things you need to know to select the best business phone system for your organization.

In business, there isn’t much that is as simple as it should be. With the right business phone system provider, the process can be relatively easy.

Here are 5 things you need to know before you make your choice.

 

1. There are many different types of systems

The kind of business phone system that will work best for you can depend on several factors:

  • Budget
  • Size of office
  • Features you can use
  • Amount of control you want
  • Level of technical know-how

You’re mainly going to be selecting between Private Branch Exchange (PBX) or Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) systems. A third option, Key Services Unit (KSU) is an option for smaller office environments as it positions ordinary phones to handle multiple lines and make calls to other in-office extensions.

PBX phone systems are often seen at larger companies that want to communicate internally and externally, with greater access and improved calling rates. A PBX system is not as bulky as in the past, but it still means a physical system needs to be installed, configured and maintained in the office. PBX systems offer access to additional features such as call transfer, voicemail, call recording, and call queues.

VoIP services use your existing computer network and work with your broadband Internet services. Whether you choose on-premises or cloud-based VoIP, your business can more easily scale up or down business phone system services to meet demand and enjoy greater mobility as the entire phone system can be accessed for mobile or remote operations via the Internet.

 

2. Features make you work smarter and faster

Business phone systems today are for much more than placing and receiving phone calls. You can safely expect that your system will come with several system features. It makes sense to give some thought to which of these touted advantages will bring productivity benefits to your business. Options abound to include:

  • Voicemail
  • Voicemail-to-email, voicemail-to-text, voicemail transcription
  • Call forwarding
  • Call queues
  • Call recording
  • Conference calling
  • Call transferring
  • Interactive voice response (IVR)
  • Automated attendants
  • Ring groups
  • Extension dialing
  • Internet faxing

 

3. It pays to plan ahead

In doing the legwork to find the right business phone system solution for your organization, don’t forget to consider worst case scenarios. No one wants to think that they might be hit by a hurricane or other natural disaster, or that their online systems might be hacked, but losing your business communications could prove costly. Before you find yourself facing a damaged brand reputation or lost sales, research your business continuity options. With VoIP, for instance, your communications can be automatically redirected to additional locations and extensions without your callers noticing any difference.

Comparing Phone Systems?

Not sure which phone system is right for you? We’ve created this comprehensive comparison tool to help you decide the right phone systems provider based on the business needs and features that you need most.

4. The data will help too

You may already have a customer relationship management (CRM) tool that is doing wonders for your retention and conversion. If so, find a solution that integrates smoothly with your CRM to gain access to even more data. With VoIP phone systems, your business gains another avenue for data analysis. Call reports can be easily accessed proving insights into who your callers are, what actions they take, and more.

 

5. You can be as hands-on or hands-off as you want to be

With the various options available to you, it’s easy to find a business phone solution that lets you have as much or as little control as you require. When you elect to buy an on-premise phone system, you are taking on the day-to-day management of that solution. This gives you total control of the details but also puts the burden on your people to secure, maintain, and update the system. With a hosted solution, you let your provider handle all security measures, software updates, and maintenance processes.

In comparing phone system solution prices, verify that you have asked about hidden costs, service fees, and installation costs. Also, find out about system and hardware warranties and identify who would be responsible for equipment repair. Additionally, consider reputation and quality of customer service and support to make sure you’re embarking on a partnership that makes sense for you beyond the bottom line.

Let Evolve IP customize a business phone system solution for you today. Contact one of our experts to learn more.

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What’s the Difference between Auto Attendant and IVR? https://www.evolveip.net/blog/whats-the-difference-between-auto-attendant-and-ivr Fri, 19 Apr 2019 14:19:21 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=27509 The post What’s the Difference between Auto Attendant and IVR? appeared first on Evolve IP.

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Remember that song: “One of these things is not like the other? One of these things is just not the same!” We could say this of Interactive Voice Response (IVR) and Auto Attendant. Although sometimes confused for the same thing, there are important differences between Auto Attendant and IVR.

You have by this point in your life called into many an auto attendant, we can be sure of that. It’s when you call into a business or organization and, instead of talking to a live human, you are greeted by an automated voice which provides you with a full menu of options. The automated attendant — also known as a phone tree or auto receptionist — routes calls to a queue or voicemail box. Although to be fair, it can play hold music while it makes the connection.

How does that differ from the IVR? You might think of it as auto attendant 4.0. For one thing, when you reach a business with an IVR, the automated voice quite often sounds better, more true to life. Additionally, you can typically interact with the IVR using either the numbers on your keypad or your voice. You know you’re working with an IVR when it says “press or say 1.” That “say 1” is your cue that there’s voice recognition software at work.

Now, we recognize that those distinctions don’t seem like such a big deal when you’re calling in. You’d probably rather be talking to a human in the first place, so being able to speak instead of press numbers isn’t that big of a step up. OK, but the real difference between auto attendant and IVR isn’t directly experienced so much by the caller as it is by the recipient of the call.

The Inner Circle Guide to Omnichannel

This survey report of over 1,000+ contact center professionals includes some interesting findings & trends around the omnichannel contact center market.

Auto Attendant vs IVR for the Agent

Think of auto attendant as an automated switchboard operator. This feature does help your customer get more efficiently to the individual or department they want to reach. But they don’t provide additional information. The attendant sorts them to the right place based on their keyed responses.

With IVR, the caller may never need to interact with a human. After all, this solution feature can provide information and collect details from the caller, such as case numbers, addresses, birthdates, credit card numbers for over-the-phone payments, and much more. For example, paying by phone at your utility company by entering the numbers of your checking account or credit card. Since the IVR can easily handle automated tasks, your business can free up human agents for more complicated processes.

Another advantage is that the IVR can be scripted to provide information to the caller based upon their responses or particular circumstances at your business. For instance, the messaging a customer might hear while on hold could be customized to reflect the details gained from their menu sequence. Since they are calling in response to X campaign, they would hear messaging related to that campaign while in queue.

IVR solutions can also feature additional add-ons such as:

  • Data-Driven Routing: deliver prioritized calls to the proper destination based upon the customer’s transaction status or account information
  • Post-Call Survey: provide inbound or outbound call surveys to understand the satisfaction of your customers once their call or business transaction is complete.
  • Appointment Reminder/Notify: deliver an automated outbound call to notify the customer about a change in their transaction status change or confirm an upcoming appointment.

Evolve IP’s IVR is delivered through easily customized pre-built scripts that deliver the exact call flows and features you need. Evolve IP’s IVR service also retains the flexibility to be customized for your exact needs. Find out more today!

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What You Need to Implement a VoIP Phone Business System https://www.evolveip.net/blog/what-you-need-to-implement-a-voip-phone-business-system Tue, 16 Apr 2019 15:04:26 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=27244 A VoIP phone business system brings many benefits. For the features to work seamlessly with existing applications review this article on what you need.

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A VoIP phone business system brings many benefits. For the features to work seamlessly with existing applications review this article on what you need.

We’ve all experienced the hassle of buying something only to discover we also need a certain cord, adapter, or type of battery. It’s frustrating. When planning to embrace the benefits of a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone business system, it can help to know what you need to implement the system smoothly.

When you’re moving to VoIP, you convert your phone system to software. With the right service provider, you’ll gain crystal clear voice services as well as business collaboration tools such as video, chat, web conferencing, and screen sharing. At the same time, the VoIP phone business software integrates with your existing application, including Gmail, Salesforce.com, and Skype.

 

Why VoIP Phone Business Systems?

By converting to a VoIP business phone system, businesses of any size gain several enterprise-level features. These include:

  • Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems, “Press 1 if your call is urgent, press 2 when your call is really, really urgent…”
  • Call queuing to distribute incoming calls based on what the caller wants, extension dialed, or other criteria.
  • Call recording to gauge training efficacy, track compliance, enhance sales scripts, and gain marketing intelligence.
  • Web-based portal allowing authorized managers to configure users, schedules, and notifications with a few clicks (from anywhere in the world).
  • In-country unlimited usage, local phone numbers, free in-network calling, and a cost-effective, consistent international rate plan across all locations.

VoIP costs less than getting set up with a standard phone provider. Also, with VoIP phone business systems, finances become more predictable as massive CAPEX and maintenance contracts are eliminated. Your VoIP service provider typically takes over maintaining, securing, and updating the technology.

 

What Your Business Needs for VoIP Setup

Local phone system solutions are not meshing well with modern business needs. The emerging need to integrate mobile devices, enterprise social networking, texting, web video conferencing and more is better met with VoIP systems. But, what do you need to get VoIP up and running at your business?

The answer depends on your current infrastructure. A broadband connection is essential to VoIP. After all, you’re moving all of your communications to Internet protocol. Even home broadband connections can handle several VoIP calls simultaneously. But the ability to place those calls and run other applications at the same time will depend on your bandwidth. So, home office workers or small businesses will want to see if their Internet service provider has a bandwidth cap.

Comparing Phone Systems?

We’ve put together the most comprehensive cost calculator, including over 30 different factors, to help you measure the true total cost of ownership between an on-premise phone system and a cloud-based solution.

Along with determining broadband bandwidth, you’ll want to ensure that your network’s routers and switches can handle the load. We suggest using routers with configurable Quality of Service settings and assigning VoIP traffic high priority to maximize quality. A stable Internet connection is fundamental. Inconsistent Internet can mean sound breaks up or cuts out entirely.

Plus, once you’ve got the VoIP service set up (whether on-premise or cloud-based), you’ll need VoIP-enabled devices to communicate. VoIP systems usually use session-initiated protocol (SIP) technology to assign addresses to each phone or VoIP software. Your old analog touch-tone phones or fax machines may work on the network through an adapter, but with limited access to the many features accessed via SIP-based VoIP phones.

Depending on the size of your network, you may also want to deploy network monitoring tools to effectively monitor the added VoIP traffic.

Yet, if any of this sounds intimidating, know that your VoIP provider’s engineers are available to gauge your VoIP readiness, help tweak your infrastructure to best suit VoIP, and ensure you enjoy the best possible overall service.

 

Key Takeaway

Giving businesses of all size access to enterprise-grade functions and features, VoIP phone business systems streamline processes, promote collaboration, and accelerate growth. Partner with Evolve IP today to upgrade to a VoIP experience.

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Benefits of Unified Communications Technology https://www.evolveip.net/blog/benefits-of-unified-communications-technology Tue, 16 Apr 2019 14:56:12 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=26895 Unified communications technology improves productivity, reduces costs, enhances customer service and increases revenue. Learn more about the benefits of UC.

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Unified communications technology improves productivity, reduces costs, enhances customer service and increases revenue. Learn more about the benefits of UC.

Making life simpler and more convenient is always appealing. When you can do this in a business setting, in particular, there can be many benefits for efficiency, earnings, and employee engagement too. Here are several things you should know about the many ways unified communications technology helps streamline processes.

 

What is Unified Communications?

Unified Communications (UC), or unified communications and collaboration (UCC), brings together all of the communications tools your business may be using today in a single platform. More than simply replacing one phone system with a new solution, the move to UC offers your organization improved access to:

  • Voice and telephony, including mobility support
  • Meeting solutions – audio conferencing, video conferencing and web conferencing
  • Messaging – email with voice mail and unified messaging
  • Clients – including desktop clients and thin browser clients
  • Communications-enabled applications – For example, integrated contact centers, communications platform as a service and work stream collaboration

Briefly, a UC solution is a single integrated platform allowing your users to collaborate more effectively in a multichannel environment. Streamlining communications among devices and people, UC enables efficient communication in whatever matter works at that moment, but with everyone on the same platform.

One more distinction to consider: UC typically refers to on-premise solutions while Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) sees your business selecting a cloud-delivered solution.

Gartner predicts UCaaS user spending, which reached $1.5 billion in 2017, will continue to increase and reach $2.8 billion by 2021.

 

Why Unified Communications?

A UC solution offers several core benefits:

  • Improved productivity
  • Reduced costs
  • Enhanced customer service
  • Increased revenue

Those sound good right? Let’s look at them in more detail to help you make your case.

Productivity — Communication is the lifeblood of your organization. With UC allowing employees to see the status of their co-workers in real time, using presence, the technology helps cut down on wasted time. Also, the UC solution can help team members see on which channels the individual is available for collaboration in order to choose the best one for the task at hand. For instance, this might be IM or video conferencing, and the same UC solution can handle the best choice.

Additionally, UC is consistently accessible from office desks, other locations at your business where work gets done, and from mobile locations. Thus, your team members can seamlessly communicate and collaborate wherever they may be at a given time of day. No matter when your users need to meet, the platform is available.

Cost Savings — Combining multiple communication functionalities in a single integrated platform can see businesses decrease spending on premises-based telephony and messaging, and eliminate the need for chat and video services too. At the same time, a cloud-based UC solution can put enterprise-level efficiency and professionalism within reach of the smallest business budget — and the technology can be easily scaled up and down to meet business need.

Let’s consider also the advantages for your IT department. Yes, they will be the ones responsible for deploying the platform, but with just one common environment to roll out they can save time and effort. At the same time, a cloud-based UC provider can take over responsibility for monitoring network usage and managing security.

Comparing Phone Systems?

Not sure which phone system is right for you? We’ve created this comprehensive comparison tool to help you decide the right phone systems provider based on the business needs and features that you need most.

Enhanced Customer Service — We mentioned already an advantage of presence — that your internal employees can quickly see who is available at a given moment. This can also help your communications with external users. After all, if someone wants to forward a call to another department, they can do so knowing that an individual is there and available, which reduces the customers’ wait time and saves them from having to leave messages. Or, more simply, with UC it becomes easier for an individual to reach out to a fellow team member on a separate channel — while still on the call with the customer — for the needed answer or information.

The efficiency of shared calendar access, instant messaging, and specific call routing tools are just the beginning of the benefits of UC. It’s also easy for employees to move throughout the organization (and off-site) without their customers detecting any difference. Extensions might be temporarily reassigned from a Seattle office to a Sedona one, with any desk phone (or even mobile phone) appearing to be the same direct line the customer usually calls.

Increased Revenue — UC is a technology that speeds up response time, boosts employee productivity, and improves customer loyalty — all of which are key to increased revenues.

Further, with the ability to save messages, contact center recordings, and conference calls, your business gains the ability to improve processes and better protect itself from legal or compliance concerns. With the insights gained from UC dashboard reporting, your leaders can also identify trends, opportunities for training, and possible pitfalls to avoid.

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7 Causes of Call Center Attrition https://www.evolveip.net/blog/7-causes-of-call-center-attrition Thu, 04 Apr 2019 18:42:54 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=27693 Call Center Attrition remains a top challenge for contact center leadership. Everyone knows it’s a problem, but understanding why can help you turn the tide.

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Call Center Attrition remains a top challenge for contact center leadership. Everyone knows it’s a problem, but understanding why, can help you turn the tide.

The labor market today is tight. One of the last things contact center leadership wants to deal with is losing its quality hires and having to recruit all over again. Yet call center attrition is an ongoing issue. Understanding why agents leave can help slow the losses.

 

The Disadvantages of Attrition

Losing people is a problem for any industry, but the staff is often the primary cost for contact centers. Losing employees is painful to the bottom line and undermines productivity.

When people leave your company, they take knowledge with them as they leave. Plus, they take away the time and money you invested in recruiting, training, developing, and retaining. At the same time staff attrition hurts contact center management by:

  • Lowering average call handling quality
  • Prolonging queue times due to inexperienced staff
  • Diminishing staff morale.

Of course, some staff attrition is to be expected and can even be advantageous (bringing new life and perspectives to a team). Yet, high attrition rates adds pressure on your existing staff who may have to take on more work or spend more time training new people, and it also takes team leaders’ time away from identifying new opportunities to develop current staff as they have to do more to support the new staff.

According to the 2016 U.S. Contact Center Decision Makers’ Guide, the average term for a customer service representative is 3.3 years. Sixty percent of the turnover rate was from agents quitting.3The mean annual agent attrition rate for 2017 was at 30%, not as awful as 2008’s record 42%, but still keeping up with the steady increases since the rate fell to 27% in 2011. The question, though, is why is call center attrition happening in the first place?

 

Causes of Agent Attrition

 

#1 High call volumes.

Putting agents on high-pressure outbound campaigns with unrealistic expectations is often overwhelming. The company is so eager to maximize calls that they undermine the agents’ efforts to develop a rapport with customers. This can dehumanize their role, lower interaction quality, and seriously damage employee morale.

 

#2 Boredom.

Contact centers putting agents in a single dedicated channel of customer contact tend to have greater attrition rates. Asking agents to move between voice and text interactions, providing them with a digital dashboard to enable effective omnichannel transitions, can give their day more variety and improve their engagement.

 

#3 Frustration.

Sticking your agents with boring, repetitive work where they spend all their days addressing the exact same issues can be tedious. Instead, use IVR call routing and presence tools to empower agents. This will see calls routed to the appropriate agent that can best handle them (leading to a sense of satisfaction) and make it easier to transfer calls appropriately when necessary.

 

#4 Lack of Flexibility.

Taking advantage of the cloud communications technology available today, companies can more often offer remote and home working opportunities. These help reduce the stress, cost, and time of commuting and enable agents to personalize a less stressful work environment.

Significantly improve service levels, increase productivity, & deliver a
fast ROI.

Call Centers can optimize all aspects of their workforce by adding Monet Live Workforce Management (WFM) to Evolve IP’s award-winning contact center solution.

#5 Lost in the Pack.

Did you know that smaller contact centers typically have lower attrition rates? That’s what the 2017 Contact Center Decision-Makers Guide determined. This supports the idea that individual agents benefit from individualized attention and customized feedback.

 

#6 Poor scheduling.

Work-life balance is important to agents, particularly the millennial employee population that expects to be able to do much more outside of work. Drawing on the data available to identify staffing needs across shifts and make more efficient scheduling choices lets a company better plan for when agents are working or not.

 

#7 Ineffective leadership.

Whether your agents are working on-premises or remotely, their quality of work life will depend heavily on their relationships with leadership. Encourage your contact center managers to recognize success and reward hard work and initiative. At the same time, leaders need to effectively communicate objectives, important metrics, and strategies for success.

While Evolve IP can’t make your leadership better bosses, our cloud-based contact center solutions make life easier for both agents and managers. Check out the platform recognized by Gartner as an industry leader. Contact us today.

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8 Customer Service Tips from Contact Center Experts https://www.evolveip.net/blog/8-customer-service-tips-from-contact-center-experts Fri, 29 Mar 2019 20:57:59 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=27200 The post 8 Customer Service Tips from Contact Center Experts appeared first on Evolve IP.

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Customer service is a big competitive differentiators for your brand. Make sure your contact center offers the best customer experience it can. Here are 8 tips.

With technological advances, globalization, and fierce competition in almost every industry, customer experience is fast becoming one of the few remaining brand differentiators. Make sure your business is putting its best foot forward in every customer interaction with these customer service tips from contact center experts.

 

Importance of Quality Customer Service

The importance of quality customer service through the contact center can’t be underestimated. According to Deloitte’s most recent Global Contact Center Survey, 85 percent of organizations surveyed viewed customer experience provided through the contact centers as a competitive differentiator. Additionally, 50 percent of organizations surveyed believed that the contact center plays a primary role in customer retention.

Expanding on the same idea, according to a Walker study, by the year 2020 customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.

Yet even beyond differentiation, there are many reasons why businesses invest in customer experience (CX). Per Genesys the top three motivators are:

  • Improving customer retention (42%)
  • Improving customer satisfaction (33%)
  • Increasing cross-selling and up-selling (32%)

Clearly then, it’s important that contact centers make an ongoing effort to offer the best customer service experiences. These tips from contact center experts can help.

 

Customer Service Tips

#1 Be consistent.

Not that your customers want to be in touch with your contact center representatives daily, but whenever they do reach out they want to experience consistent, quality service. No matter whether they are calling, emailing, or chatting they will expect a certain level of professional etiquette each time across all channels.

 

#2 Start on a positive note.

A positive customer experience begins immediately. Set the tone of what your customers can expect by responding promptly with a professional, polite greeting that gets to the point quickly.

 

#3 Emphasize courtesy.

Although the customer can’t see the smile through the phone lines, this conscious choice will make a difference in what the customer hears.

Plus, the smile can help boost morale for your call center employees too. After all, smiling increases serotonin in the brain, which helps us feel happier and less stressed.

Saying “please” and “thank you” is a nice courtesy for customers, but can also prompt them to show your agents the same kindness as well, which again can help them feel better about meeting other people’s needs all day long.

 

#4 Avoid interrupting.

Experienced contact center agents are going to see some issues repeat. Nevertheless, interrupting a complaining customer is not going to make a positive impression. The customer wants to feel heard, and that your agents care about their concerns, so encourage patience even as you emphasize the importance of efficiently addressing customer needs.

 

#5 Announce intentions.

If an agent needs to place a customer on hold, review documents, check with a manager or anything else that interrupts the flow of the customer interaction, they should tell the customer they will be doing so. Ask first, and listen to whether or not they are willing to wait. Some may not be and the agent should instead schedule a follow-up call, transfer the communication, or take a message.

 

#6 Make call transfers competently.

Keep in mind, also, that in telephone conversations customers have limited tolerance of being transferred again and again. They hate having to repeat themselves and dislike feeling as if they’re being shuffled among unhelpful agents. When transferring a call:

  • Let the person know.
  • Ask if they are OK with being transferred.
  • Make sure to get someone on the other end before hanging up.
  • Introduce the caller and the reason for the call to expedite the other agent’s offering a solution.
  • Don’t accidentally disconnect the caller — little torpedoes customer satisfaction faster.

Significantly improve service levels, increase productivity, & deliver a
fast ROI.

Call Centers can optimize all aspects of their workforce by adding Monet Live Workforce Management (WFM) to Evolve IP’s award-winning contact center solution.

#7 Know how to handle the angry or upset.

It’s inevitable that contact center agents will have to interact with unpleasant customers who are already angry or upset at the outset of the call. Telling someone to “calm down” is unlikely to help the situation. Instead:

  • Try to remain calm
  • Aim to be reassuring
  • Let the customer feel heard
  • Outline actions taken to address their concerns.

 

#8 Close the call efficiently.

Agents should never be rushing someone off the phone or out of the chat room. Instead, offer a quick summary of what was accomplished and/or action plans, and ask if there are any further questions. This wrap-up should be brief, courteous, and conclusive.

Contact center success rests on a solid foundation of positive customer experiences.

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Improve Response to Your Post Call Surveys — 8 Tips https://www.evolveip.net/blog/improve-response-to-your-post-call-surveys-8-tips Wed, 27 Mar 2019 17:10:56 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=28451 Part of your business success relies on understanding what your customers and clients think of you and your services.

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Part of your business success relies on understanding what your customers and clients think of you and your services. Post call surveys also help gauge of customer service agents effectiveness. Yet these surveys are only worthwhile if people respond. These eight tips can help drive responses to your post call surveys.

Post call surveys are a popular tool companies use to question callers about their interaction or transaction with a customer service agent. Contact center as a solution (CCaaS) tools today make it even easier to push out IVR surveys which automate the survey process by getting contacts to respond via keypad or speech to pre-recorded voice prompts. As an included feature, the IVR post-call survey is an easy-to-implement, low-cost tool to gather data that can prove very useful.

Post call surveys can provide data insights into:

  • Customer satisfaction
  • Customer needs, product/service information
  • Agents’ professionalism / knowledge
  • Opportunities for improvement
  • Likelihood of customer loyalty

Yet an obstacle companies need to address is the low response rate to customer surveys. These strategies can help to increase post call survey responsiveness and completion.

 

Improving Post Call Survey Responsiveness

 

#1 Have a Clear Goal

Notice that this was a recommendation to have “a clear goal.” That’s singular. If you are trying to do too many things in the post-transaction survey you’re more likely to overwhelm the respondent and see them drop out of the survey. The greater your focus on a specific goal, the easier it will be for you to design a survey that accomplishes what you want it to do.

 

#2 Ask Quick Questions

Your caller may already have been on the phone with customer service much longer than they planned. Don’t drive them away from your survey with long, multi-part questions. Keeping questions concise will also help the listener better understand what information you are looking for, which can improve the odds of the resulting data, therefore accurately reflecting the issue you were asking about.

 

#3 Keep Surveys Short

Time is one of our most limited resources. Don’t waste your customers’ valuable time by expecting them to participate in long-winded surveys asking for input on an exhaustive list of items.

 

#4 Provide a Time Estimate Up Front

It’s difficult to get customers to start surveys, let alone finish them. Make them more likely to begin the survey by stating at the outset how long the survey should take or specify the number of questions (not more than 10). Most importantly, if you promise a three-minute survey, don’t make it 10 minutes. That’s going to annoy your customers and damage their impression of your brand’s integrity.

Comparing Contact Center Solutions?

Evaluating contact center providers? We’ve pulled together a detailed comparison of the top 18 contact center software providers. Find out which is the best fit for you.

#5 Keep it Simple

In a voice-based post call survey, the respondent is listening to the options and must hold onto them in their head to determine the correct response. For this reason, stick to a simple rating scale (typically under 4 options), and always remind them which is the highest or best on your point scale.

 

#6 Be Prompt

Either invite callers to stay on the line to take a post call survey and transfer them immediately or follow up with a second call shortly afterward. If you wait too long, the customer is unlikely to remember what kind of service they received, which will hurt their willingness to participate and the usefulness of the data they provide.

 

#7 Know your Audience

If you are surveying every single caller, you’ll have a different survey design than if you are focusing your survey on people who called for a specific purpose, called back several times, or employed multiple channels to interact with your agents. Identifying potential survey participants in advance to tailor questions accordingly can drive greater responsiveness as the respondent will better understand how their answers could be useful.

 

#8 Test Your Survey

Before launching a survey widely, test it out first in a pilot environment. This can help you identify in advance any stumbling blocks, weed out weak questions, reshape survey order to make the survey easier to understand and check for any technical mistakes.

One more way to make the most of your post call surveys? Partner with a CCaaS solution provider that allows you to customize the survey based on your requirements.

Evolve IP’s CCaaS offers many valuable features, including post call surveys, IVR, callbacks etc. We’re proud to have been named in Gartner’s 2018 Magic Quadrant for the 2nd consecutive year as one of the top contact center providers.

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Supporting a BYOD Workplace from the Cloud — You Can Do It https://www.evolveip.net/blog/supporting-a-byod-workplace-from-the-cloud-you-can-do-it Wed, 27 Mar 2019 16:41:43 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=28016 The post Supporting a BYOD Workplace from the Cloud — You Can Do It appeared first on Evolve IP.

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A major concern around implementing a bring your own device (BYOD) program revolves around security – data loss, theft, and virus issues. Yet supporting a BYOD workplace from the cloud is not only doable but a choice that can enhance mobility and ensure security as well.

 

The BYOD Workplace

More and more businesses are allowing employees to BYOD. In a 2016 TechPro Research report, BYOD was in use at 59% of organizations with another 13% planning to allow it. BYOD was most common in the manufacturing and education sectors, with more small companies (50 or fewer employees) allowing it when compared to larger organizations.

In a BYOD workplace, people are able to use their own device to work how they want to. This can mean a PC-based company has people bringing in Apple laptops, or those employees who are in many meetings or on the road preferring a tablet device.

We recently addressed several benefits of being a BYOD workplace. These included:

  • Reduced costs
  • Improved productivity
  • Happier employees
  • Greater mobility
  • Access to cutting-edge technology.

Note: Using personal devices for work activities saves employees 58 minutes each day, providing a 34% increase in productivity. — Samsung

Yet a primary concern when it comes to a BYOD workplace is security. The risks include:

  • Lost or stolen devices
  • People leaving the company
  • Lack of firewall or anti-virus protections
  • Access using unsecured WiFi.

Yet with employee education and smart mobile management policies, your business can retain security while giving your employees the greater satisfaction of choosing what devices they use at work.

 

Supporting a BYOD Workplace

The BYOD movement enables mobility, but also requires businesses to develop policies to protect critical data and resolve security concerns. For IT, BYOD workplaces represent a big jump in the number of devices to secure and make sure are compliant. Many cloud services can be easily configured to accommodate BYOD programs.

With Desktop as a Service (DaaS) for instance, users can easily access their work desktops on any device, even an iPad. DaaS offers a consistent user experience, regardless of device format or brand, and standardizes deployment, security, and support to deliver a secure strategy for BYOD and geographically dispersed workforces.

Remote Monitoring & Management (RMM) and Mobile Device Management (MDM) is another handy tool for IT staff confronted with employees bringing in many individual devices. With RMM, IT staff can manage configurations and patches while still accessing performance reporting regardless of the location and type of end-user environment.

VMware DaaS For Dummies Guide

Physical desktop computers with locally installed operating systems and applications no longer make sense for the modern business world.

MDM similarly allows your IT team to secure, configure, locate, or even erase any mobile device used for business. MDM extends the company’s security policies to all devices from a centralized cloud environment. This enables the business to protect what matters most even in the event of device loss or theft.

With cloud services supporting your BYOD workplace, you can enjoy many key benefits:

  • More robust power, cooling, and battery backup
  • Less risk of failed power supply, hard drive, missing data
  • Greater data storage capabilities
  • Continued administrative access, alerting, and reporting
  • Improved disaster recovery and business continuity.

Additionally, with cloud-based solutions, it’s easier to scale up and evolve with technology. When businesses are relying on a local storage system, for instance, they may run into the problem of data left behind when an old device is replaced. Yet, with the cloud, it’s easy to transition and update with ongoing access to the pre-existing operational and compliance data.

Finally, IT pros relying on cloud-based support of the BYOD workplace can benefit from more efficient management of the wide range of devices as managing, monitoring, and securing are all centralized.

Turn to a cloud service provider with respected infrastructure and management capabilities. Evolve IP is one of several vendors highlighted in Gartner’s 2018 Market Guide for Desktop as a Service. Let Evolve IP help you make sure your BYOD workplace is easily enabled and managed, and your data is secure.

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Managing Contact Center Compliance in the Cloud https://www.evolveip.net/blog/managing-contact-center-compliance Wed, 20 Mar 2019 13:58:49 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=28400 The post Managing Contact Center Compliance in the Cloud appeared first on Evolve IP.

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Cloud contact center solutions are no longer the wave of the future. They are the wave of today.

Widespread adoption is well underway, and cloud contact centers are revolutionizing the customer service capabilities of companies of all sizes. Smaller organization especially now have access to full contact center functionality just like large enterprises, and at a price point they can afford.

Regardless of the size of your contact center or whether you are using a premise or cloud contact center solution, compliance requirements remain the same, and so does the risk associated with violating these regulations. When your contact center agents, sales reps, collectors or support representatives speak with customers, prospects or payers on the telephone, they are subject to a variety of rules which must be followed, or your organization can face substantial fines and penalties. With Europe’s GDPR and MiFID II privacy regulations, for example, one violation can cost your organization 4% and 10% of worldwide annual revenue, respectively. A single violation of PCI-DSS in the U.S. can result in lost credit card merchant capabilities, which can easily cripple an organization.

Key Findings of the Evolve IP 2018 Cloud Adoption Survey

Take a short expedition through these key findings, intertwined with unique comics, to bring a smile to your face as you learn about the latest cloud adoption trends.

Here is a quick rundown of many of the regulations contact centers can fall under:

GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation)

European governmental regulation which stipulates when an organization can and cannot record a call. For instance, you may record during the fulfillment of a contract; imposed by the European Commission.

 

MiFID II (Markets in Financial Instruments Directive II)

European governmental regulation which stipulates when you must record, such as during all reception, transmission, and execution of client orders; imposed by the European Securities and Markets Authority

 

PCI-DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard)

United States industry regulation which mandates what can and cannot be stored in a telephone recording. For example, a customer’s credit card or pin number cannot be captured in a call recording; imposed by leading U.S. credit card companies.

 

HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)

United States governmental regulation which mandates which private health information must be left out of a call recording and cannot be stored; imposed by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

 

Telemarketing Sales Rule

United States regulation which stipulates what information must be disclosed by the agent, such as the identity of the seller and that the call is a sales call; imposed by U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

 

Truth in Lending Act

Unites States regulation which regulates which pieces of information a mortgage broker or credit union must disclose to prospects and customers, such as the full terms of the proposed loan and all the specifics surrounding the interest rate; imposed by U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

 

Contact Centers which fall under one or more of these regulations can benefit greatly from deploying robust call recording functionality within their cloud contact center environment. Compliance call recording helps managers monitor what is and is not being said on the telephone and allows quality supervisors to review calls with agents to ensure proper compliance. Compliance call recording (aka Total Recording) captures every single call the contact center makes and stores these interactions securely for later recall and replay when necessary to resolve a dispute or prove compliance.

Kevin Levi

Kevin Levi, VP of Marketing for OrecX

Kevin has been working in the contact center field for 15 years, helping companies like OrecX address the growing and diverse needs of customers across all industries.

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Top Benefits of a Digital Workplace Strategy https://www.evolveip.net/blog/top-benefits-digital-workplace-strategy Sun, 03 Feb 2019 22:06:13 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=27717 The post Top Benefits of a Digital Workplace Strategy appeared first on Evolve IP.

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In real estate, we hear about it being a “buyer’s” or “seller’s” market. Well, right now in employment, it is more of an “employee’s” market. Unemployment is low. There are skills shortages in many industries. Plus, the next generation entering the workforce expects to be engaged and appreciated at higher levels than ever before. Developing a digital workplace strategy brings many benefits in this environment.

 

Current Context at Work

Employees and potential hires are the ones with leverage in the current job market. Low unemployment rates in many countries have given global workers greater confidence. In December 2017, more U.S. workers quit their jobs than at any time in the past 16 years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 3.259 million workers voluntarily quit their jobs. The last time that many workers quit was in January 2001, during the dot-com bubble.

These empowered employees have greater expectations of their work life. Plentiful research driving retention efforts suggest that these individuals expect to be:

  • Valued by their organization
  • Recognized for their contributions
  • Provided flexibility for work-life balance
  • Given plentiful opportunities for development and advancement
  • Asked for their feedback and opinions
  • Involved in change initiatives.

For companies competing to recruit or retain for top talent, an effective digital workplace strategy can help to address many of these expectations.

 

Benefits of a Digital Workplace Strategy

Companies taking the bold step to develop digital workplace strategies “are increasing their organization’s overall performance—and competitive differentiation,” according to a Forbes Insight survey of 2,000+ CIOs and frontline employees.

The research suggested “boosting individual access to the business apps employees need, when they need them,” helped:

  • ease experimentation and drive faster innovation
  • leverage self-service as the progressive engagement model for employees
  • deliver outstanding consumer-like experiences.

Digitally-empowered employees report increased team collaboration and quicker decision making. — Forbes Insights


Suggesting that three types of companies are emerging — the traditional (29%), the transitional (59%), and the digital (18%) — the researchers suggested the digital-driven organizations were empowering employees to use emerging technologies to innovate, improve productivity, and identify performance improvements to enhance agility and drive revenues higher.


Digitally-empowered employees report spending 17 percent less time on manual processes. — Forbes Insights


Employees in the digital workplaces, compared to employees at traditional organizations, were:

  • 5x more likely to report increased personal productivity
  • Almost 4x more likely to say their companies are more desirable places to work
  • Nearly 2x more likely to report that apps are very important in accelerating decision-making.

The digital workspace improves employee experience by providing simple, secure access to a unified, consistent experience. Technology centralizes apps, services, data, and interactions across devices, networks, locations, and operating systems seamlessly for employees, to meet workers’ needs wherever they are, whenever they are working.

VMware DaaS For Dummies Guide

Physical desktop computers with locally installed operating systems and applications no longer make sense for the modern business world.

Enabling a digital workplace strategy can also cut on-boarding time (as employees can choose to use apps and devices they are already familiar with) and can help reduce risk and data loss.

Additionally, the digitally empowered employee can offer better customer experience as they have ready access to account details in integrated applications that they can access in the office, on the road, or wherever they may be working.

 

Evolve IP Powers Digital Workplaces

Provide a secure setting for collaboration, experimentation, innovation and streamline workplace processes. Develop a digital workplace strategy with the experts at Evolve IP. We work with clients on their unique requirements, developing custom integrations and understanding and deploying flawless solutions in unique situations.

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Omnichannel Part 14: Checklist for an Omnichannel Contact Center https://www.evolveip.net/blog/omnichannel-part-14-checklist-omnichannel-contact-center Fri, 01 Feb 2019 20:53:54 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=26947 The post Omnichannel Part 14: Checklist for an Omnichannel Contact Center appeared first on Evolve IP.

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CHECKLIST: KEY ELEMENTS TO ACHIEVING YOUR OMNICHANNEL STRATEGY

→ The overall omnichannel strategy should be clearly explained, and broken down into achievable aims and goals

→ Anything that does not lead directly to implementing the strategy should be sidelined

→ Align KPIs with what you want to achieve. If some traditional customer metrics don’t support the strategy, don’t be afraid to lose them

→ The executive sponsor should have authority across departments and have the ability to break down silos

→ Talk to customers and understand what is broken, what works well and what they value most

→ Customer journey analytics can identify processes that can be redesigned if they are wasteful, broken or inefficient. Remember to include back-office processes, fulfillment, and third-parties if the customer journey uses these

→ Have visibility and measurement along the customer journey, not just for individual channels

→ Use analytics tools for text and desktop applications, as well as voice

→ Identify the agent skills needed and those which are currently present: train and recruit accordingly

→ Use an interaction platform capable of routing and handling multiple channels and cross-channel interactions with a single set of business and routing rules

→ The platform should preserve context and history across channels, with no need for the customer to repeat their issue

→ Connect the customer with the right agent: workforce management should be for all channels, not just voice, and have the capability to include knowledge workers and the back office if necessary

→ Agents should have access to a single up-to-date knowledge base and a unified desktop application with all relevant applications and data

→ Consistency across databases should happen automatically in real-time without the need for manual intervention or duplication

 

→ Use closed-loop performance management – use regular assessments, measure process improvements, skills gaps etc.: omnichannel is an ongoing

The Inner Circle Guide to Omnichannel

This survey report of over 1,000+ contact center professionals includes some interesting findings & trends around the omnichannel contact center market.

About Evolve IP’s Contact Center: Your contact center is the lifeblood of your enterprise, so anything that you can do to improve agent results and customer experience is a major win for your business. Evolve IP’s Gartner recognized omnichannel contact center provides all of the features you need to run a world-class omnichannel contact center.

For more information on Evolve Contact Suite, please email us at info@evolveip.net or call us at 877.459.4347

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Latest Contact Center Trends https://www.evolveip.net/blog/latest-contact-center-trends https://www.evolveip.net/blog/latest-contact-center-trends#respond Wed, 23 Jan 2019 16:48:44 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=27934 As we enter the new year, most businesses have a new strategy in place to accomplish their 2019 contact center goals. We recently conducted a survey of 163 contact center professionals to gather data on the top trends […]

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As we enter the new year, most businesses have a new strategy in place to accomplish their 2019 contact center goals. We recently conducted a survey of 163 contact center professionals to gather data on the top trends & market landscape. The survey results revealed some fascinating statistics that might help you understand most contact center’s investment priorities, challenges, top technologies, etc. This video provides a sneak peek into the highlights that came out from the survey results such as:

  • 9 in 10 contact centers have already moved to the cloud or are planning to move to the cloud this year
  • 40% of contact centers wish they had an omnichannel technology
  • 60% of contact centers reported downtime in the last 12 months
  • The main concern of 34% of respondents was the inability to properly monitor agent activity
  • 33% of contact center professionals noted CRM integrations as their top investment priority

Click here to download the full 2018 Contact Center Survey Report (complimentary for the first 100 users)!

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Omnichannel Part 13: Omnichannel Analytics https://www.evolveip.net/blog/omnichannel-part-13-omnichannel-analytics Mon, 10 Dec 2018 15:41:00 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=26944 There is an increasing requirement for omnichannel analytics, including email, text chat, IVR and web browsing sessions, to get the full picture of the customer’s real journey in a single interaction, in order to identify and improve any channels that failed to fulfill their requirements.

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OMNICHANNEL ANALYTICS

There is an increasing requirement for omnichannel analytics, including email, text chat, IVR and web browsing sessions, to get the full picture of the customer’s real journey in a single interaction, in order to identify and improve any channels that failed to fulfill their requirements. Improving self-service optimization is often a quick win that can provide immediate economic benefit to businesses: in the US, a mean average of 26% of calls that go into an IVR system are ‘zeroed-out’ – rejected by the customer in favor of an operator, which is a huge opportunity missed.

Using customer interaction analytics to review these failed self-service sessions will be able to categorize many of them in order to improve the processes at a macro-level. Common findings from the analysis of these calls is that the IVR system was poorly worded, menu choices were not intuitive, or did not match current service choices. Other failures occur through mistakes in IVR routing, and there may also be problems with a lack of customer awareness that various activities can be carried out by self-service.

Integrating desktop data analytics into speech analytics allows businesses to tag valuable data automatically – such as account ID, product name and order value – from CRM, helpdesk and other servicing applications to recorded interactions. This additional desktop data can be used to enhance automated classification, which allows more targeted and efficient analysis centered on key business issues, such as customer churn, differences in call handling patterns between employees, the frequency of holds/transfers associated with order cancellations and upselling and cross-selling success rates. The use of desktop data analytics also allows the business to view the agent’s desktop activity (for example, are they spending too much time in particular applications, are they navigating the screens efficiently, etc.), and to understand how much time is being spent in each section of the call.

The next step is to get rid of the silos between channels, allowing the customer to be identified at the beginning of their ‘journey’, and for the business to be able to analyze the efficiency and effectiveness at each stage, whether a mobile app, website, self-service application or live call. The end goal is for businesses to understand where customers make their choice, where they drop out, and where the profit is within the multiple processes along the customer journey.

Longer-term, future customer contact is likely to become along polarized lines: for everyday, mundane tasks, the customer will choose the website or mobile app for self-service, leaving the contact center to deal with those interactions which are complex or emotive for the customer (as well as there being demographics for whom the contact center will continue to be primary). With the website becoming the first port-of-call for many customers, the analysis and understanding of the success (or otherwise) of pre-call web activity is a valuable source of knowledge about how effective the main portal to the business is being, as well as being able to give businesses greater insight into why people are calling.

The Inner Circle Guide to Omnichannel

This survey report of over 1,000+ contact center professionals includes some interesting findings & trends around the omnichannel contact center market.

Manually analyzing thousands of web sessions and linking them with specific customers and their phone calls is impossible, so there is a great potential for omnichannel analysis. Adding in relatively minor channels such as social media, web chat, SMS and email will make the mix more complex, and more potentially suitable for analysis. It is also certainly worth mentioning that some solutions also analyze the customer’s pre-call use of self-service via IVR, providing the agent with a background on the caller’s recent experience and offering the chance to improve self-service process failures.

Including social media, email and text chat into the analytics equation is increasingly important, and while many vendors have multichannel/omnichannel analytics within their overall customer contact analytics solution, this functionality is not yet used to anywhere near the same extent as speech analytics. This lack of uptake may have many reasons:

  • the social media channel is often the responsibility of the marketing function within a business, whereas customer contact analytics – being focused on speech at the moment – is usually under the remit of the customer contact operation, meaning that harmonious, integrated analysis across channels is that much more difficult
  • for most businesses, interaction volumes for email, chat, social media, and other non-voice channels are far lower than for speech, so consequently there has been less urgency in analyzing these
  • there may not be a single unified view of the customers’ interactions across channels, as is the case in a siloed operation
  • it can be more difficult to identify the customer in non-voice channels such as text chat or casual web browsing, so the depth of insight available may be that much

Having said that, most solution providers seem quite definite that multichannel/omnichannel analytics will grow in importance. While being able to optimize customer contact within each siloed channel, or being able to monitor the quality of an email or chat agent in the same way that businesses are now using analytics to improve the performance of a phone-based agent is useful, the real key is to include all of the stages along the customer journey. For example, understanding where potential customers drop out; the overall effort that the customer has to put in; the point at which buying decisions are made; bottlenecks in processes; the suboptimal points where customers get confused and have to place a call into the business – these are the promises that customer journey analysis makes.

There will come a time when all data generated within a business will be able to be cross-correlated to provide insights not only to the customer contact department but also to parties such as marketing, operations, and finance, so they have greater insight about issues such as price elasticity and revenue maximization. The ability to prove to senior management that the actions and insight held within the contact center have a distinct and measurable impact on the entire company – and as such is not simply a cost center – is likely to improve its visibility and credibility which should help to create a long-term holistic view and assist further investment.

The ‘tell-me-why’ and discovery modes of customer contact analytics will improve over time as better accuracy and more powerful processing provide richer and more joined-up data for analysis, and the inclusion of non-voice channels show the full picture of customer contact and its intent. There will also be major efforts to link analytics to proving profitability, including identifying “moments of truth” (points at which buying decisions are made, and long-term loyalty can be won or lost), and being able to predict and manage customer churn.

About Evolve IP’s Contact Center: Your contact center is the lifeblood of your enterprise, so anything that you can do to improve agent results and customer experience is a major win for your business. Evolve IP’s Gartner recognized omnichannel contact center provides all of the features you need to run a world-class omnichannel contact center.

For more information on Evolve Contact Suite, please email us at info@evolveip.net or call us at 877.459.4347

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Omnichannel Part 12: Nine Omnichannel Challenges to be Aware of https://www.evolveip.net/blog/omnichannel-part-12-nine-omnichannel-challenges Mon, 10 Dec 2018 14:34:09 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=26939 The post Omnichannel Part 12: Nine Omnichannel Challenges to be Aware of appeared first on Evolve IP.

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APPROACHING THE OMNICHANNEL CHALLENGE

1. Gather as much information as possible from customers, through analytics, customer surveys or preferably both: many businesses are doing this through a voice of the customer program. The aim is to understand which business processes are working, which are suboptimal and perhaps most importantly, which are most valued by the Omnichannel is a journey, so focusing upon those areas which are most obviously broken will make sense, both from the customer’s perspective and also in proving the concept to stakeholders within the business

 

2. While the vision and strategy should be distinct and all-encompassing, the implementation can be done in phases that immediately impact upon the customer experience and prove ROI

 

3. Set measurable objectives, using metrics that are directly related to the desired outcome. For example, if one of the aims of the omnichannel project is to reduce customer effort, it would make sense to consider first contact resolution rates, rather than agent occupancy rates, for example. Metrics that are able to demonstrate ROI should be chosen wherever possible, in order to demonstrate to and reassure stakeholders elsewhere in the business that the project is achieving financial success. As elements of the omnichannel journey go live, behaviors and outcomes that support these metrics should be tangibly rewarded

 

4. As with any large, cross-departmental project that may need to alter the culture of the organization, omnichannel will require a project champion at a senior level, with the authority and vision to influence and create change wherever required, backed by and reporting to a sponsor at the highest level of the Create a cross-functional organizational overlay that represents the interests of each interested party

 

5. Identify as many of the customer journeys as possible (and their business owners), tracking them across channel, into the back office, financial and distribution systems, and back out towards the customer. If some channels are owned by different departments (e.g. social media is often run by marketing), pitch the benefits of having the contact center deal with customer interactions, allowing the marketing department to concentrate on their core job

The Inner Circle Guide to Omnichannel

This survey report of over 1,000+ contact center professionals includes some interesting findings & trends around the omnichannel contact center market.

6. Using a tool such as the 2x2x2 cube matrix shown earlier, identify volumes and uses associated with each customer channel, segmented by variables such as customer demographics and intent if possible. Identify the potential moments of truth and the knowledge and data required at each stage in the journey to identify gaps

 

7. Make a point of learning from the people who have actually been handling interactions over different channels, and have the contact center agents work alongside them to understand what’s different in these channels

 

8. A platform or hub will be required that allows every channel to access and update the customer’s master record as and when required, with real-time synchronization being of vital importance. Within each individual channel, consider the potential use of further automation: for many businesses, non-voice channels still rely upon a manual input and there are considerable opportunities to reduce cost and improve data consistency

 

9. Accept that omnichannel customer contact is an ongoing process, to be revisited and continually improved as the nature of the business, customer preferences and new channels further evolve.

About Evolve IP’s Contact Center: Your contact center is the lifeblood of your enterprise, so anything that you can do to improve agent results and customer experience is a major win for your business. Evolve IP’s Gartner recognized omnichannel contact center provides all of the features you need to run a world-class omnichannel contact center.

For more information on Evolve Contact Suite, please email us at info@evolveip.net or call us at 877.459.4347

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How to Calculate your Contact Center Service Level & Why this Metric Matters https://www.evolveip.net/blog/calculate-contact-center-service-level-metric-matters Tue, 20 Nov 2018 20:00:50 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=26892 The post How to Calculate your Contact Center Service Level & Why this Metric Matters appeared first on Evolve IP.

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There are many possible metrics call or contact centers may use to set performance level benchmarks. Calculating service level is an important one. Here’s why.

You probably didn’t become a contact center manager thinking you were going to have to know formulas. But, if you’re in leadership for a center, by now you know there is math to be done. One of the pivotal calculations you may rely upon is service level. Here’s some help with calculating service level and why it matters so much.

 

What do we mean by service level?

Your contact center is all about customer service. Or, if it isn’t, it probably should be. So, of course, in these days of metrics and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), you need to measure service level.

In a nutshell, service level reflects your company’s accessibility to customers. But more specifically it reflects the effectiveness of your contact center staffing strategy and how well your company is planning for inbound contact volume. Without this metric, your contact center managers are going on gut instinct and habit, which aren’t always the most reliable measures for success.

 

How do you calculate service level?

Different organizations are going to look to calculate service level in distinct ways. Service level can be measured at many levels:

  • Period of time
  • By agent
  • Per team
  • By department
  • For the entire company.

Whatever your predefined boundaries, you will be measuring the percentage of contacts answered within that time frame, by that individual or group. The calculation considers inbound contacts answered within the threshold plus contacts missed within that time frame divided by total answered contacts added to total missed contacts.

Service Level = (inbound answered + inbound missed within time frame) / (total answered calls + total missed contacts)

A common service level in the call center industry is the 80-20. This typically sets a target of 80% calls answered with an average speed of answer (ASA) of 20 seconds or less. The remaining 20% of calls are taking longer to be answered, perhaps due to the nature of the contact or the average handle time.

Omni-channel centers should set different service level goals for each channel of contact. For instance, you might aim to answer 80% of emails within four hours or 80% of chats within 90 seconds.

The Inner Circle Guide to Omnichannel

This survey report of over 1,000+ contact center professionals includes some interesting findings & trends around the omnichannel contact center market.

Yet there is no single, standardized level of service that will work for every contact center and all channels. It’s up to your leadership to calculate service levels at your company and set benchmarks for improvement. You may or may not include abandoned calls (or not those that are abandoned before a certain amount of time has elapsed), or you might set your service level timeline to begin when the customer has made their interactive voice response (IVR) selection. This is where your organization’s own needs and goals will come into play.

 

Why does calculating service level matter?

A low service level is not good. A low level could indicate:

  • Your agents need further training or better access to information to handle contacts efficiently
  • Your staff scheduling requires optimization and greater flexibility to handle fluctuations
  • Your employees are spending too much time on after call reporting and documentation.

How much your contact center values its service level metric is up to you. A 2015 study, What Contact Centres Are Doing Right Now found the percentage of contact center professionals who saw this as a “very important” metric had decreased from 70.0% to 62.7% in just twelve months.

At Evolve IP we value the many ways our efforts make a difference to your call or contact center’s success. Our call center software solution helps you to automatically analyze service level. Track and display results to help agents and managers make more data-driven decisions and act in real-time on the results. Learn more today!

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4 Factors to Consider Choosing between On-Premises and Hosted VoIP https://www.evolveip.net/blog/4-factors-consider-choosing-premises-hosted-voip Thu, 15 Nov 2018 16:54:12 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=25740 The post 4 Factors to Consider Choosing between On-Premises and Hosted VoIP appeared first on Evolve IP.

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Knowing how to choose between on-premises and hosted VoIP rests on understanding the pros and cons of each. This article outlines the top factors to consider.

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone systems are increasingly popular. Yet when a business is making the move to a VoIP solution, you must weigh the pros and cons of two basic options — on-premises and hosted VoIP. This article highlights four key factors that could drive your decision.

 

1. Cost

Let’s be realistic. Cost is a factor in every business decision. Affordability is a key reason many businesses turn to VoIP phone systems in the first place.

Since using VoIP transports voice and data packets via the Internet, the business can reduce and consolidate its infrastructure. Additionally, streamlining voice, data, and broadband services with one provider can save on bills and long-distance costs.

Selecting an on-premise VoIP system is a lot like having a traditional phone system on-site. You will house hardware, IP phones, and other necessary equipment on site. This offers the same flexibility, scalability, and ease-of-use of hosted VoIP services, but your business is taking on responsibility for the hardware, technological maintenance, and keeping the system up-to-date and secure.

Hosted VoIP is a cloud-based solution, which means that a business can reduce resources invested in hardware and setting up and maintaining a traditional communications infrastructure. The service partner takes on upkeep, maintenance, and security. This will be accounted for in their fees, but at the same time, they are able to spread the costs out across several clients to benefit your business. Typically, you will be charged a monthly flat fee for unlimited use or a metered amount based on the actual number of lines and how much the service is used.

 

Comparing Phone Systems?

Not sure which phone system is right for you? We’ve created this comprehensive comparison tool to help you decide the right phone systems provider based on the business needs and features that you need most.

2. Consistency

On-premise solutions are preferred by businesses with low expectations for change in the near future. While both types of VoIP are easily scalable, the on-premise version requires the bigger upfront investment. This can save money in the long run, but the ROI is likely better for a company with relatively stable communications needs. Yet, some companies do prefer on-premise VoIP to ensure their communications needs are met with the stability of service from on-site dedicated equipment.

 

3. Scalability

Both VoIP solutions offer greater flexibility to scale up and down since it is only a matter of adding lines as needed. Yet hosted VoIP services also offer greater mobility. Since hosted VoIP systems are cloud-based, they offer end users access to their phone services anywhere from any VoIP-enabled device. There is no longer a need to purchase, install, and maintain expensive hardware on site — the entire phone system is hosted on a server that can be accessed for mobile or remote operations via the Internet.

At the same time, both VoIP phone systems offer the ability to scale up your phone system offerings to users as well. They typically come equipped with call control, call management, call training, and analytics features.

 

4. Service

One main reason some businesses prefer hosted VoIP? They can skip the headache of installing, maintaining, and securing their own phone system. Without the capital to purchase a new phone system, or the resources to monitor and upgrade the technology, they look to a VoIP service provider to shoulder that burden for them. The hosting service provider may also have greater resources to implement flexibility features than your individual business budget would allow.

With a hosted VoIP solution, the provider takes on all of the risk, work, and complexity, therefore providing a service that is always up-to-date and secure. This can free up IT-related resources for other revenue generating tasks.

Of course, some businesses prefer to retain control of their systems. The on-premise solution then lets the business carefully manage its system to best match its needs. Yet it needs to service its own software updates and maintenance processes (or pay to outsource them).

 

Any size of business wanting to save money can benefit from a business VoIP phone solution. Review our comprehensive calculator to weigh the true total cost of ownership of an on-premise or hosted solution. Contact Evolve IP’s experts to ramp up your phone solutions today.

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What is a Virtual Desktop? https://www.evolveip.net/blog/what-is-a-virtual-desktop Mon, 12 Nov 2018 17:00:43 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=25446 Increased digitization of processes, growing need for data security and applications availability, greater competition in the IT space, and pressure from a mobile workforce are driving interest in virtual desktops.

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Increased digitization of processes, growing need for data security and applications availability, greater competition in the IT space, and pressure from a mobile workforce are driving interest in virtual desktops. According to Research and Markets, the “global desktop virtualization market is projected to reach US$28.345 billion in 2022 increasing from US$6.276 billion in 2016 at a CAGR of 28.57%.” But what is a virtual desktop, and why is this technology gaining momentum?

What a Virtual Desktop Entails

A virtual desktop provides anywhere access to the user’s individual desktop environment (the icons, wallpaper, windows, folders, toolbars, widgets, etc.). Yet the actual data and applications are stored remotely on a central server, rather than the specific desktop workspace or computing device.

Separating the desktop operating system, applications, and data from the hardware, Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) offers a robust, secure, and affordable solution. The software creates the desktop images, stores them on servers, and transmits them to client devices over a network.  Many vendors, both large and small, provide virtual desktop solutions; many businesses also partner with a managed service provider to provide virtual desktops as part of a hosted solution.

With a VDI solution, the IT department can efficiently deliver a consistent, individualized desktop solution while maintaining control, through the cloud, and improving end-user support. Many companies turn to virtual desktops to save on IT labor and cut PC hardware and software account costs.

At the same time, desktop virtualization can help your employees to be more productive. With on-demand desktops available anytime, anywhere, and on any device, people can work whenever and wherever they want — all they need is an Internet connection and a VDI-enabled device.

Although the underlying physical hardware (such as CPU, memory, networking, and storage) is shared, each enterprise user is isolated and protected from application crashes and operation system faults caused by other users’ activities.

Why Virtual Desktop is a Popular Solution

Adequately deploying and managing the VDI and network does require expertise. Some users may also express concerns about losing their autonomy and privacy via shared resources. However, there are several advantages to using a Virtual Desktop. These include:

  • Consistent access — Users can access virtual desktops on their existing PCs, tablets, laptops, and mobile devices.
  • Scalability — Adding resources to existing desktops, or getting a new desktop up and running, is quick and easy.
  • Mobile agility — Effectively support employees working remotely or on a mobile basis.
  • Focused troubleshooting — IT managers are freed from needing to “touch” each desktop when adding or removing users, fixing problems or delivering new applications.
  • Centralized security — Security is enforceable across all users, regardless of their device, as the company apps and data are confined to the centralized data center.
  • Business continuity — Employees continue to have access anywhere as the VDI’s geographically redundant data centers ensure services remain available regardless of conditions at your particular location.

VMware DaaS For Dummies Guide

Physical desktop computers with locally installed operating systems and applications no longer make sense for the modern business world.

Per Market and Research, the SMEs segment is poised to grow the most in the VDI market. For many startups, the adoption of desktop virtual technologies can be more cost prohibitive. Yet Evolve IP can help any size organization access cost-effective and energy-efficient desktop virtualization solutions.

Evolve IP’s hosted Virtual Desktop Infrastructure delivers full control over the virtual desktop environment to the customer, while the infrastructure (hardware and virtualization) is managed by Evolve IP. VDI delivered as a service provides the best of both worlds, 24×7 monitoring and management with 100% customer control and licensing.

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Omnichannel Part 11: Politics & Governance of Omnichannel https://www.evolveip.net/blog/omnichannel-part-11-politics-governance-omnichannel Wed, 17 Oct 2018 14:22:01 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=26934 The post Omnichannel Part 11: Politics & Governance of Omnichannel appeared first on Evolve IP.

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PULLING TOGETHER: THE POLITICS OF OMNICHANNEL

One of the major omnichannel issues to overcome is this: who actually owns the space? Telephony is established as a contact center function, and some other non-voice customer channels also fall under its auspices, but social media is often still owned by marketing (who may also lay claim to mobile strategy), and the wider self-service functionality may be a remit of the IT function. This fragmented and inconsistent ownership of multichannel customer contact functions means that maintaining the same high and reliable standard of information and service across channels has become an even more considerable challenge, and the path to true omnichannel even more fraught.

It may not be possible or even desirable for a single unified group to take charge of all such functions. However, because the customer neither knows nor cares about the internal structure of the organization, a bridge between the channels must be created to ensure that a customer experience does not break down if the initial channel cannot handle all the customer’s requirements effectively, and the growth in cross-functional customer experience teams is a response to this issue.

A question was asked to survey respondents about who in their organization was responsible for customer experience. Governance shows how seriously CX is being taken, and how capable organizations will be of driving radical CX programs which are likely to impact many existing fiefdoms. Small organizations are far less likely to have a dedicated customer experience professional working within them. Even in the very largest organizations surveyed, only 15% had a CX professional at board level, although there is often representation for CX at very senior management level.

Survey respondents were asked their opinion on how important various customer experience developments would be to their organization in the next two years.

Perhaps the most striking finding was that the most important factor determining the future success of the customer experience program was not technology-related, but rather a requirement for the continuing and strengthening executive commitment to improving customer experience, without which the multi-departmental CX initiatives could not hope to succeed.

The Inner Circle Guide to Omnichannel

This survey report of over 1,000+ contact center professionals includes some interesting findings & trends around the omnichannel contact center market.

About Evolve IP’s Contact Center: Your contact center is the lifeblood of your enterprise, so anything that you can do to improve agent results and customer experience is a major win for your business. Evolve IP’s Gartner recognized omnichannel contact center provides all of the features you need to run a world-class omnichannel contact center.

For more information on Evolve Contact Suite, please email us at info@evolveip.net or call us at 877.459.4347

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Omnichannel Part 10: Omnichannel and Customer Experience Investment https://www.evolveip.net/blog/omnichannel-part-10-omnichannel-customer-experience-investment Wed, 17 Oct 2018 11:13:41 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=26927 The post Omnichannel Part 10: Omnichannel and Customer Experience Investment appeared first on Evolve IP.

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OMNICHANNEL AND CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE INVESTMENT

Although the availability of budget and resource is often stated by contact centers as being the main reason for sub-optimal systems and processes, digital channels are receiving considerably more investment than the traditional telephony channel, so this concern should less affect those implementing omnichannel.

The chart below shows that smaller businesses are embracing the digital channel as a way to give themselves a level playing field when competing against much larger organizations. Respondents with less than $1 million in revenue state that 80% of their CX investment is going into digital channels, compared to only 42% of organizations with revenues in excess of $1 billion.

It is also noticeable that larger organizations are spending proportionally more on their telephony, as well as alternate channels such as outsourcing.

The following chart shows investment in CX channels segmented by contact center size. Unsurprisingly, those with no contact center spend a very small proportion of their CX investment on the telephony channel, with outsourcers and field service & sales staff receiving considerable amounts of investment.

As might be expected, the proportion of CX investment spent on the telephony channel increases as a contact center size goes up, peaking at 40% in the case of organizations with over 1,000 agent positions.

While these findings can be seen as being generally positive for the future of omnichannel, businesses should remember that telephony accounts for around two-thirds of inbound interactions, and should not be neglected.

The following table gives a close analysis of US contact centers’ IT investment priorities over the past two years.

Omnichannel – which is defined within this part of the survey as getting the various channels to work together – is placed as the top priority in 2016 and 2017. The various supporting applications, such as web chat, self-service, email management systems, and social media have either maintained their position or grown in importance.

PROVING ROI

While differing from business to business, moving from multichannel to omnichannel is likely to require significant investment in platforms and business process reorganization. As with any investment or restructuring, the business has to be convinced by the financial improvements that will follow.

In order to quantify the business case for omnichannel, businesses should consider how the following potential improvements could affect them:

  • analyzing and forecasting how many of each interaction there are can provide a baseline for measuring ROI and cost
  • increasing cross-selling and upselling rates by making sure that the customer does not abandon the interaction through frustration caused by channel switching, and by responding to queries in an informed and timely manner
  • increasing customer satisfaction and potentially reducing the cost of service by personalization and offering service through the customer’s preferred channel
  • increasing customer loyalty and lifetime value through providing superior and proactive service at the moment of truth
  • decreasing unnecessary calls by handling queries correctly early in the customer journey and using proactive outbound customer service to avoid unnecessary calls
  • taking advantage of many customers’ preference for self-service by offering a powerful and consistent experience across all channels which will reduce inbound call volumes
  • implementing a cross-channel knowledge base which will provide consistent information to customers and agents regardless of channel
  • if using a single vendor, consider the reduction in the cost of managing multiple vendors, point solution maintenance and upgrades that a single unified solution can bring
  • a movement from self-service to live service in an omnichannel environment offers the opportunity for customer identity authentication to take place before the agent is involved, reducing cost and call length and improving service levels
  • having the context and customer history on the agent’s screen will reduce call lengths and decrease customer frustration
  • having a single workforce management solution that can handle multiskilled resourcing in an omnichannel environment will improve service levels across all channels, and reduce time spent on manual scheduling. Intraday changes based on actual volumes within each channel will further optimize resources
  • if a one-off issue (for example, related to a specific marketing campaign) suddenly becomes a major topic of customer interactions, templatized and consistent answers can be shared quickly across channels
  • automatically moving agents quickly between channels based upon real-time interaction volumes improve service levels, removes the time taken to assign resource manually and a unified omnichannel desktop environment means that agents do not have to log onto multiple applications manually
  • a consistent and up-to-date knowledge base shared across channels means that it is more likely that a query will be successfully answered early in the customer journey, improving customer satisfaction and decreasing the duplication of effort and unnecessary cost as customers will no longer have to seek an answer through an alternate channel
  • improving first contact resolution rates on non-voice channels will decrease inbound call volumes and improve the customer

Businesses may wish to quantify volume of interactions that they received by type, perhaps using the 2x2x2 cube matrix shown earlier in the report. This will allow the identification of the types and volumes of interaction that are suitable for self-service or non-voice interaction, which will allow them to focus on the areas of greatest potential.

The Inner Circle Guide to Omnichannel

This survey report of over 1,000+ contact center professionals includes some interesting findings & trends around the omnichannel contact center market.

The measurement of omnichannel success is likely to be significantly different from the typical efficiency metrics associated with the contact center. There is likely to be increased focus upon customer-related metrics, such as NPS, customer effort and customer satisfaction, but it is vitally important to understand the more traditional measurements such as wait time, first contact resolution and interaction transfer rates also impact directly upon the customer experience, and consequently, customer satisfaction scores.

As time progresses, businesses are also more likely to include metrics such as the number of channels used and % of calls deflected by self-service in order to appreciate and quantify the effect of the omnichannel experience upon the customer.

 

About Evolve IP’s Contact Center: Your contact center is the lifeblood of your enterprise, so anything that you can do to improve agent results and customer experience is a major win for your business. Evolve IP’s Gartner recognized omnichannel contact center provides all of the features you need to run a world-class omnichannel contact center.

For more information on Evolve Contact Suite, please email us at info@evolveip.net or call us at 877.459.4347

The post Omnichannel Part 10: Omnichannel and Customer Experience Investment appeared first on Evolve IP.

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Omnichannel Part 9: Omnichannel VS Multichannel https://www.evolveip.net/blog/omnichannel-part-9-omnichannel-vs-multichannel Mon, 15 Oct 2018 13:32:59 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=26917 The post Omnichannel Part 9: Omnichannel VS Multichannel appeared first on Evolve IP.

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GETTING OMNICHANNEL RIGHT

FROM MULTICHANNEL TO OMNICHANNEL

Without a single platform or customer interaction hub, the complexity of handling multiple channels increases greatly each time a new channel, device or medium is added to the customer service mix. The only constant is that – regardless of the method they choose to communicate with the business – customers want accurate, timely information delivered in a form with which they are happy. The challenges for the business are to provide a high quality of service which is consistent across the channels and to do so in a cost-effective manner. To do this, and break down the boundaries between contact channels that has been stifling the potential of non-telephony contact, a platform is required which automatically captures, processes, routes, and reports on customer interactions and related activities based on a company’s specific business criteria, providing a view of each and every customer interaction. Customer interactions through channels such as voice, e-mail, fax, instant messaging and activities such as work items must be handled according to business-defined processes and strategies, avoiding the problem of rogue interactions that are left outside normal workflows, or favoring one channel (often, voice) to the permanent detriment of others.

The universal queue approach – which has been around for many years – can set priority levels to incoming calls, e-mails, and chats, and offers the functionality to blend inbound and outbound calls into a single queue to allow agents to move between media as required. This approach also facilitates a single view of the customer across all channels, which is one of the key ways to improve the quality of service offered, as well as improving the agent’s confidence and morale.

Such is the theory. The reality for most businesses is that the requirements of their customer base, along with the opportunity to cut service costs have thrust numerous new channels into the customer service mix, leaving them with the headache of deciding how to implement and integrate new technology, recruit and train agents appropriately, and forecast and schedule the right staff to handle these new types of interaction. The easiest and quickest option has been to treat each channel separately, having agent silos and treating each interaction as being independent rather than part of a wider customer journey. If the customer changes a channel or contacts the business later about the same issue, they tend to have to start again from the beginning.

The Inner Circle Guide to Omnichannel

This survey report of over 1,000+ contact center professionals includes some interesting findings & trends around the omnichannel contact center market.

The “omni” element to omnichannel (meaning “all”) can be understood as reflecting the customer’s experience of interacting with the business: to them, an organization’s separate internal workflow and siloed systems are not just irrelevant, they are unseen. Omnichannel requires the breaking down of boundaries, not only between channels but also the ownership and management of the various relevant business processes and departments affected by customer interactions. This is why successful omnichannel implementations will require a senior management sponsor, with the authority and remit to make changes in any and all appropriate business units.

It is important to realize that omnichannel is not simply about implementing the right technology. While omnichannel obviously involves supporting multiple channels consistently along the customer journey, it is vital to understand and create the business process workflows that occur within each interaction type, not simply across customer service channels, but also reaching into the back office, financial and order management systems, the distribution process and any other business activity that is affected by the initial customer contact.

‘Consistency’ is a concept that should be at the forefront of any discussion of omnichannel, as it is perhaps the key to a successful customer interaction, and applies to many of the elements within this strategy:

  • Look-and-feel / branding across channels
  • Unified knowledge base, both for the self-service and live agent environment
  • Consistent pricing and stock levels available across all channels
  • Single customer history, including the current customer journey and context of where they have been, updated across channels in real-time. This is particularly important at the boundary between self-service and live agent interaction: currently, the context and experience of the customer is usually lost once the move into the live agent environment – breaking down this boundary is vital to a successful omnichannel experience
  • The functionality offered should be consistent where possible: for example, while it is not suitable to fill in a loan application on public social media, it is possible to carry out a web chat about a specific question on the loan application form while on the

 

About Evolve IP’s Contact Center: Your contact center is the lifeblood of your enterprise, so anything that you can do to improve agent results and customer experience is a major win for your business. Evolve IP’s Gartner recognized omnichannel contact center provides all of the features you need to run a world-class omnichannel contact center.

For more information on Evolve Contact Suite, please email us at info@evolveip.net or call us at 877.459.4347

The post Omnichannel Part 9: Omnichannel VS Multichannel appeared first on Evolve IP.

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The Untold Story of Notpetya, the Most Devastating Cyberattack in History https://www.evolveip.net/blog/untold-story-of-notpetya-the-most-devastating-cyberattack-in-history Tue, 02 Oct 2018 17:37:54 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=26913 Reading like an airport thriller, this Wired story of the infamous NotPetya cyber attack recounts the panic spreading through Maersk’s HQ in Copenhagen that summer morning when its IT system became infected. “The weapon’s target was Ukraine. But its […]

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Reading like an airport thriller, this Wired story of the infamous NotPetya cyber attack recounts the panic spreading through Maersk’s HQ in Copenhagen that summer morning when its IT system became infected.

“The weapon’s target was Ukraine. But its blast radius was the entire world. ‘It was the equivalent of using a nuclear bomb to achieve a small tactical victory.’ The malware’s goal was purely destructive. It irreversibly encrypted computers’ master boot records, the deep-seated part of a machine that tells it where to find its own operating system. Any ransom payment that victims tried to make was futile. No key even existed to reorder the scrambled noise of their computer’s contents.”

This in-depth account of the hows and whys of NotPetya is the most definitive yet. Read the full story on Wired here.

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Omnichannel Part 8: Constraints on Omnichannel https://www.evolveip.net/blog/omnichannel-part-8-constraints-omnichannel Tue, 02 Oct 2018 14:55:42 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=26848 The post Omnichannel Part 8: Constraints on Omnichannel appeared first on Evolve IP.

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CONSTRAINTS ON OMNICHANNEL

Respondents were asked how well their organization currently supported their customer experience programs. In the main, the results were not particularly positive, with the majority of organizations stating that their CX technology and the organization’s readiness for change was either poor or average.

On the positive side, half of the respondents stated that the organizational culture was already customer-centric, so it appears as though it is the execution of CX improvement rather than the acceptance of the concept itself which needs to be improved. Having said that, the poor rating for the organization’s readiness for change suggests that having a CX culture does not easily or necessarily translate into actual action to improve CX.

It is worth investigating organizations’ support of their CX programs in a little more depth within the next two charts, which look at the availability of budget and resources when segmented by revenue, and the impact of contact center size on CX technology.

Looking first at the availability of budget and resources for CX programs when considering the revenues of the organization, we might expect to see that smaller organizations with less revenue would have greater problems in allocating budget and resource to support their CX program.

While it is the case that 40% of respondents reporting revenues of under $1 million rate their CX budget as only poor or average, 20% are extremely happy with their allocation. In the revenue range directly above this ($1 million-$10 million), 29% of respondents report that their CX budgets are excellent.

While there is a slight positive correlation between the size of the organization’s revenues and the availability of budget and resource for CX purposes, there are still a significant proportion of respondents in the largest organizations who report that they are not receiving enough resources to carry out their CX programs effectively.

When considering the capability of customer experience technology by the size of the contact center, there are very significant proportions of respondents at every level who ranked their CX technology as being poor or average. As you might expect, those that do not have a contact center are least likely to be dissatisfied with the level of CX technology, but even those within the largest contact centers (1,000+ agent positions) cannot be said to be uniformly delighted with the technology that they have in place.

The Inner Circle Guide to Omnichannel

This survey report of over 1,000+ contact center professionals includes some interesting findings & trends around the omnichannel contact center market.

 

About Evolve IP’s Contact Center: Your contact center is the lifeblood of your enterprise, so anything that you can do to improve agent results and customer experience is a major win for your business. Evolve IP’s Gartner recognized omnichannel contact center provides all of the features you need to run a world-class omnichannel contact center.

For more information on Evolve Contact Suite, please email us at info@evolveip.net or call us at 877.459.4347

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Omnichannel Part 7: Barriers to Omnichannel https://www.evolveip.net/blog/omnichannel-part-7-barriers-omnichannel Fri, 28 Sep 2018 14:47:06 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=26840 The post Omnichannel Part 7: Barriers to Omnichannel appeared first on Evolve IP.

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THE SINGLE VIEW OF THE CUSTOMER

Recent years have seen the word ‘omnichannel’ introduced as describing the goal of customers being able to contact (and be contacted) through any channel – switching between them during the interaction as appropriate, while taking any relevant data and history along with them – with a single, unified view of the customer’s journey being available to the agent.

For the purposes of describing how far along the omnichannel process our survey respondents are, those who offer multiple communication channels to customers were asked to place themselves into one of three categories:

  • Multichannel: “We offer a choice of channels to customers (i.e. several of voice, email, social media, web chat), from which they can use one in a single interaction. If they change channel, the context and history is lost”
  • Multimodal: “We offer a choice of channels, and customers can use more than one in the same interaction (e.g. an agent can send an email or SMS to a customer while they are talking on the phone)”
  • Omnichannel: “We offer a choice of channels, and can use more than one over multiple interactions while retaining the history and context of the original inquiry. Relevant information follows the customer across channels and interactions”.

In 2017’s survey, 15% of respondents described themselves as omnichannel, with 18% assessing themselves as multimodal and 67% multichannel, with only a small increase in omnichannel since 2015. Clearly, the industry acknowledges it still has quite some way to go.

A factor based on contact center size seems to be emerging – smaller, sub-50 seat operations were more likely to identify as either multichannel or multimodal than larger operations – as the investment and process optimization involved in moving to a true omnichannel environment is significant, with the platform, infrastructure, applications and resources available to identify, route and switch interactions between agents and channels seamlessly while keeping all relevant data gathered in the course of the interaction requires major effort and investment. Additionally, the relatively low volumes of digital interaction in smaller operations will make major investment less likely.

Respondents believe that there are three main barriers to omnichannel, any of which in isolation would be hard enough to overcome, but together appear to be quite daunting:

  • the technology platform does not support a single view of the customer
  • there is an insufficient budget to carry out the required changes
  • business processes are siloed and

While these inhibitors to omnichannel are formidable, they are not insurmountable. From a technical viewpoint, the starting point is to have a single integrated platform that is capable of identifying a customer regardless of the channel which they choose to use. This will involve mean evolving from the siloed, channel-focused point solutions that were put in place to handle a specific need, and using a services architecture that is extendable to different channels in the future. It is also important to have a master dataset for product and customer data which is a single source of information that can be drawn upon in real-time by any customer, agent or self-service application through any channel.

On a positive note, the concern that agents lack the skills and capabilities to handle multiple channels is not seen as one of the major inhibitors to omnichannel: the vast majority of respondents do not feel that this holds them back from offering customers a full omnichannel experience.

A key aim of omnichannel is to provide a consistency of customer experience, and this requires access not only to the same master dataset but also that the same knowledge bases and business logic must be applied equally. There must be real-time data flow and updates between channels and databases, as, without this, consistency is impossible. Putting such systems and processes in place will not only allow the seamless escalation of service requests within channels but also gives the business a chance to use their automated systems to react to an escalation before it reaches a live agent, deflecting the cost while fulfilling the service request more quickly. For example, analysis of past interactions may indicate that if a particular customer has placed an online order, they are likely to ring the contact center within 2 days to check on its progress. Making the IVR aware of the customer’s history means that this call can be intercepted before it reaches an agent, and a personalized IVR experience (with the option to “Check your order status”) will reduce customer effort and the time and cost of the agent who would otherwise handle this.

The Inner Circle Guide to Omnichannel

This survey report of over 1,000+ contact center professionals includes some interesting findings & trends around the omnichannel contact center market.

For businesses which are currently handling multichannel interactions successfully, there will be little appetite for starting over with an entirely new customer contact infrastructure. The industry is now talking about customer engagement hubs/centers, defined by Gartner as:

“…referring to a logical set of technologies and business applications that are engineered to provide customer service and support, regardless of the interaction (or engagement) channel. The goal of the CEC (Customer Engagement Center) is not only to provide service to customers as they move among communications channels — including social media and community forums — while retaining the customers’ context, but also to deliver the appropriate business rule to determine the next best action, information or process with which to engage the customers.”

This approach allows businesses to leave their working databases, CRM and multichannel contact applications and infrastructure alone while being able to update and view an individual’s customer record at any appropriate point in the customer journey.

For most businesses, applying an omnichannel strategy to existing customers may be easier than offering the same capabilities to new prospects who are not on the customer database. In order to pass through any relevant interaction history and context between channels, the customer must first be identified, and this is far easier to do the customer has logged in, allowing the system to verify them and access past information.

The siloed nature of channels can be shown in the chart below, which shows just how far many contact centers have to go: a large proportion of respondents do not even update customer records with details of non-voice interactions such as web chat, letters or social media interactions. Without this relatively basic information, omnichannel is impossible to achieve.

However, one positive finding is that most respondents make sure that customer emails are linked to the master customer record: the challenge is to make sure that all interactions are.

 

About Evolve IP’s Contact Center: Your contact center is the lifeblood of your enterprise, so anything that you can do to improve agent results and customer experience is a major win for your business. Evolve IP’s Gartner recognized omnichannel contact center provides all of the features you need to run a world-class omnichannel contact center.

For more information on Evolve Contact Suite, please email us at info@evolveip.net or call us at 877.459.4347

The post Omnichannel Part 7: Barriers to Omnichannel appeared first on Evolve IP.

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Omnichannel Part 6: The Role of Social Media in Omnichannel https://www.evolveip.net/blog/omnichannel-part-6-role-of-social-media-in-omnichannel Wed, 26 Sep 2018 19:12:23 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=26827 The rise of social media as a customer service channel has often been de facto, in that customers have actively sought out the company’s Facebook page or Twitter account to communicate with it, even if the company originally had a social media presence only to disseminate information.

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THE SOCIAL CUSTOMER

The rise of social media as a customer service channel has often been de facto, in that customers have actively sought out the company’s Facebook page or Twitter account to communicate with it, even if the company originally had a social media presence only to disseminate information. For the foreseeable future, ContactBabel expects social media to remain a relatively minor channel in terms of overall number of interactions compared to telephony, but one with the potential to be strongly negative – to punch well above its weight – and many senior executives within most companies are treating the channel with a great deal of respect.

Despite the relatively low levels of customer interactions via social media, the high-profile nature of this channel and the possible magnifying effects of negative comments means that social media is viewed as being far more important than baseline interaction statistics would suggest. Some savvy customers, knowing that their public complaint or issue will be dealt with quickly, prefer to go straight to a social media channel rather than wait in a telephone queue. Others might choose the social channel after they’ve had a bad experience on another channel, such as waiting on hold for a phone agent.

Uniquely, social media has taken off as a customer service channel as a result of customer demand, rather than businesses’ enthusiasm for promoting a cheaper service channel. For some customers, social media can provide a very positive experience with a very low pain point, and at virtually no cost of time or money: the customer complains, loudly and in public, so the business reacts quickly and effectively.

For the customer, this is great: it is the business for whom the popular methods of social media handling are not optimal: not only do they have to carry out their business in public, reacting quickly and without being able to authenticate the customer’s identity, but they often cannot handle the query without resorting to another channel such as phone or email, which provide more privacy and functionality. In such cases, they are not even seen by the outside world to be reacting quickly and effectively or to have solved the problem. Both customers and companies are finding out what works with social media and what does not. Crucially, as with any channel, success will only come when a channel delivers a successful experience for both sides of the equation.

SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGEMENT AND OWNERSHIP

The role of social media, and how it is managed, is heavily influenced by who holds the budget. For the majority of respondents, it has been the marketing department that held the money for social media, with the customer contact department only responsible for this channel’s investment and finances in a small minority of cases. As social media continues its move away from being primarily a marketing channel towards being a key part of the customer contact mix, it makes sense for the contact center and customer support operation to take more responsibility for the strategy and budget of this channel, and there is some evidence of this now happening.

The evidence that the social media channel was originally set-up as a marketing route rather than as customer service support can be seen in this section. Despite the increasing numbers of customers choosing to use social media for customer support, 37% of respondents report that social media is handled by an in-house team based outside the contact center, usually marketing, PR or corporate communications, with 2% letting an outsourcer handle it.

46% of respondents reported that they have a dedicated social media team working within the contact center, and a minority have a dedicated multichannel team working within the contact center location, may or may not answer telephone calls as well (NB multiple choices were allowed, so totals may add up to more than 100%).

However, these figures show a movement away from the original marketing-led nature of social media, as this is the first year that more respondents have stated that the contact center ‘owns’ social media, rather than the marketing department.

The propensity for customers to complain on social media is actually seen by many businesses to be helpful: 69% of respondents that offer social media as a customer service channel consider it to be extremely useful for acting directly on negative comments and complaints picked up from customers.

Of concern for both businesses and customers, there seems to be very mixed opinions on whether social media is actually providing customers with a fully-supported customer service channel. While 29% feel strongly that they are doing so, 17% feel that they are not.

Social media is not felt to be supporting the business to learn more about its competitors: it may be that businesses are focusing their efforts upon learning what their customers are saying about their own products and services, rather than worrying too much about the competition.

There is some debate about the best way to handle social media inquiries. While it is possible for requests via social media to be analyzed (often by keyword spotting), prioritized and then routed to the agent team most capable of dealing with these specific inquiries, it is not just the same as a phone call or web chat. A quick response is expected, with the attendant pressure that such a service level places upon the organization, but social media does not exist within the same one-to-one paradigm as other customer service channels.

Target response times for handling a social media customer service request are somewhere between a phone call/web chat on the one hand and an email on the other.

44% of respondents try to answer within the hour, but 30% state that they will probably take longer than an hour and 14% don’t have any target at all. While there is room for improvement, these targets are certainly improving each year.

Looking at how social media plays a part in the omnichannel customer experience, 41% of respondents offering service via social media will put the interaction into the customer’s file as if they’d made a phone call, with analysis of the interaction being undertaken by 27% of respondents to ascertain whether the insight can be fed into the wider business processes.

27% of respondents state that they can escalate this to a phone call if required (note as well the high level of email escalations, suggesting that phone calls are still the ‘go-to’ channel). Only 9% of respondents state that they take customers through security (probably via direct messages).

This low figure for security checking should be viewed in context with the higher figures for those who say they add social media interactions to customer records: it would be imagined that before the customer record is opened and amended, security and identification processes would have been completed, so these findings are a little contradictory as they stand.

Tips on providing customer service via social media

  • Despite the pressure that social media puts into a business, younger generations are the most likely to express a preference for communicating with businesses in this way. They are also more likely to complain about problems on social media, so supporting a social media customer care plan is vital to winning and keeping this section of your customer
  • Social media does not have to refer only to the likes of Twitter and Facebook. Customers are growing increasingly more sophisticated at seeking out help themselves, with many preferring to attempt to find their own solution via customer communities before contacting a business, although this can be a very hit-or-miss
  • Be aware that age has a particularly strong role in the choice of customer communication channels. Generally speaking, older generations are more likely to choose the phone as their primary channel, whereas younger customers will look at digital
  • 80% of customers trust recommendations from other The downside to this, of course, is that customers will also take a negative criticism of a product or company very seriously.
  • By keeping a Twitter feed or Facebook page up-to-date, an organization can reduce inbound call traffic at a time when a particular issue is causing a spike of calls, for example, if bad weather threatens to close
  • Blending social media with other forms of customer communication can mean that agents get a more well-rounded view of what customers are actually thinking. Knowledge sharing between agents, especially where new information is put in a timely fashion into the knowledge base, will assist both agents and self-service
  • Just because the customer has initiated a social media interaction does not mean that a business has to stay on that channel to resolve it successfully. Customers may like to receive an outbound call from the agent, as this may provide the opportunity to go into further detail, and to resolve the issue

The Inner Circle Guide to Omnichannel

This survey report of over 1,000+ contact center professionals includes some interesting findings & trends around the omnichannel contact center market.

FACEBOOK MESSENGER, WHATSAPP AND INSTAGRAM

With Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp both having well over 1bn active users and Instagram over 800m, organizations should at least have a watching brief over these tools where customer contact is concerned.

The applications have the benefit of familiarity with customers, and businesses may wish to investigate including these types of interaction within their agents’ web chat screen. As many users live their lives permanently logged into these applications, there is an ease-of-use and ubiquity associated with them.

The applications allow historic records of interactions to be kept (which is not the case with all users of web chat), and there is a great advantage over social media such as Twitter and Facebook: messages are private, which not only allows customer identity verification but also will reduce the damage to a business through public negative messages. Unlike most web chat, these applications allow the sharing of images.

The familiarity of these applications will work in favor of agents as well as customers, which will reduce training time and cost. Businesses will also need to consider what is an acceptable service level for these channels: as detailed elsewhere the report, web chat is perhaps closest to the telephony channel’s service level target, whereas social media is more akin to email. Although Messenger/WhatsApp/Instagram are types of social media, they will be used as a web chat from the customer’s perspective and should be resourced according to similar expectations.

WhatsApp, especially, is often used as a closed, group-based application, and there may be pushback from segments of the customer community that do not currently associate the use of these applications with business communication. The challenge to businesses will be to persuade customers that letting them into their social circle is worth the effort.

Regardless of the familiarity that customers and agents have with new communication tools, channel hopping and the need for these various channels to work together (not siloed) in a unified omnichannel experience will continue to remain a large concern. Organizations must be aware of the customer’s intent and journey as more channels continue to become available.

About Evolve IP’s Contact Center: Your contact center is the lifeblood of your enterprise, so anything that you can do to improve agent results and customer experience is a major win for your business. Evolve IP’s Gartner recognized omnichannel contact center provides all of the features you need to run a world-class omnichannel contact center.

For more information on Evolve Contact Suite, please email us at info@evolveip.net or call us at 877.459.4347

The post Omnichannel Part 6: The Role of Social Media in Omnichannel appeared first on Evolve IP.

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5 Things You Should Know Before Migrating To The Cloud https://www.evolveip.net/blog/5-things-know-migrating-cloud Wed, 26 Sep 2018 12:03:45 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=25894 Most businesses are considering moving to a cloud-based call center to improve customer experience, reduce expenses and optimize employee productivity. Often times, organizations aren’t sure of the challenges and changes to expect when moving to […]

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Most businesses are considering moving to a cloud-based call center to improve customer experience, reduce expenses and optimize employee productivity. Often times, organizations aren’t sure of the challenges and changes to expect when moving to a cloud call center. Check out my webinar recording for insights on:

  • The challenges to be addressed to ensure a smooth transition to the cloud
  • Quality of Service (QoS) and why it’s critical to understand
  • Change Management i.e. impact of this technology on the organization
  • How to prepare for the big cutover day
  • Game-changing doors that will open up for your cloud call center

In addition to this webinar recording, we have put together a moving technology checklist to help you migrate your technology. Click here to view our Moving Technology Checklist.

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Omnichannel Part 5: Trends on Adopting Web Chat & Chat Bots as a Channel Of Communication https://www.evolveip.net/blog/omnichannel-part-5-trends-on-adopting-web-chat-chat-bots Tue, 25 Sep 2018 14:34:34 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=26425 The post Omnichannel Part 5: Trends on Adopting Web Chat & Chat Bots as a Channel Of Communication appeared first on Evolve IP.

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WEB CHAT

Most web chat (or instant messaging / IM) sessions act by offering a live assistance option to the process of web browsing. Like email, it has been around for many years, but only very recently has started to grow volumes to the extent where it has become a mainstream channel.

Web chat offers an organization a chance to cut costs through running more than one chat session at a time with customers, using the time that a customer spends reading and replying to an agent’s response to deal with other customers concurrently. Some solution providers have stated that an agent can deal with 4 or more web chat sessions at the same time, but whether this is a sustainable model for the agent or provides an acceptable quality of service for the customer is quite another question (and one that is answered later). Agents can respond to frequently-asked questions by using ‘hot-keys’, which provide templatized answers and can escalate queries if required, but current levels of automation are low.

Web chat has often been used as a ‘point of crisis’ channel, for example, to convert an online shopping basket into a sale by providing timely service, or if a browser is paused on a webpage too long, perhaps as they can’t find what they are looking for. In such cases, there are two main benefits to the business of providing webchat: revenue maximization, and the avoidance of unnecessary calls.

Web chat can also act as a safety net for the customer if an online self-service attempt fails. An analogy can be made with voice self-service, where a failed session is often ended with the customer ‘zeroing- out’ – pressing zero to get in touch with an agent. Failed web self-service sessions may end with a phone call being made, but web chat can avoid a number of these, which is a cost saving for the business, and better for the customer as well.

Many customers – and not just the younger generation – are often accomplished Instant Messengers, and will be keen to use the web chat option with the businesses they work with. However, web chat is in reality most useful for general information and sales purposes, as many users aren’t taken through security processes, meaning the agent can’t help with specific account queries; the same usually applying to email. Putting some form of a trusted biometric device on a PC or mobile device (such as a thumbprint reader) which then assures the businesses’ system of the user’s identity could possibly overcome this issue. Alternatively, and more simply, there doesn’t seem to be any reason why the web chat agent can’t ask the standard security questions to the customer via chat, but this is still rarely done today, perhaps as some customers are wary of giving out personal details online.

VIRTUAL AGENTS / CHATBOTS

One form of value-added web chat functionality is a Virtual Agent, which may appear to a browsing website visitor to be a human agent, offering web chat. However, it is an automated piece of software which looks at keywords or natural language and attempts to answer the customer’s request based on these, including sending relevant links, directing them to the correct part of the website or accessing the correct part of the knowledge base. If the virtual agent cannot answer the request successfully, it may then seamlessly route the interaction to a live web chat agent who will take over. It is possible that the browser will not even realize that any switch has been made between automated and live agent, particularly if the web chat application is sophisticated enough to pass the context and the history to the agent, although some businesses believe it is best practice to identify clearly between virtual and real agents.

Most virtual agents encourage the visitor to engage with them using natural language, rather than keywords. The virtual agent will parse, analyze and search for the answer which is deemed to be most suitable, returning this to the customer instantly. Many virtual agent applications will allow customers to give all sorts of information in any order, and either work with what it has been given or ask the user for more detail about what they actually meant. Having been unconsciously trained over the years to provide their queries in a way which standard search functionality is more likely to be able to handle (for example, a couple of quite specific keywords), customers must be encouraged and educated to use natural language queries in order for virtual agents to be able to deliver to their full potential.

The virtual agent application is different from standard search functionality, ignoring bad punctuation or grammar, and using longer phrases rather than just searching on keywords. Sophisticated applications attempt to look for the actual intent behind the customer’s question, trying to deliver a single correct answer (or at least a relatively small number of possible answers), rather than a list of dozens of potential answers contained in documents which may happen to contain some of the keywords that the customer has used. The virtual agent application may also try to exceed its brief by providing a list of related questions and answers to the original question, as it is well known that one question can lead to another. Solution providers and users train the system to pattern-match the right words or association of words with the correct result: the application, unlike older forms of web search techniques, does not simply guess what the customer wants, or how they will express themselves. Through ‘listening’ to what the customers actually say – perhaps through a mixture of large quantities of audio and text – the initial set-up configuration can achieve a good accuracy rate, which benefits over time as a positive feedback loop is established. Solutions that gather and differentiate customer requests and results from multiple channels, noting the difference between them, have an even better success rate.

Virtual agent functionality ’understands’ the context of what the customer is asking, with the result being more akin to that of an empathetic human who also has had access to what the customer has been trying to do. For example, if asked “When can I expect my delivery?”, the context and the required answer will be different depending on whether the customer has placed an order and is enquiring about its status, or has only a hypothetical interest in turnaround times in case they decide to place an order.

When the virtual agent application has low confidence that it has returned the correct result, it is able to escalate the customers’ query seamlessly to a live chat agent, who then has access to the self-service session history, enabling a greater chance of a successful resolution without repetition. (It is generally considered a best practice that escalations to real agents are not hidden from customers). The eventual correct response can be fed back to the automated virtual agent (and the knowledge base underlying it), which will make it more likely that future similar requests can be handled successfully through automated agents.

Proactive and reactive chat: originally, web chat was reactive, relying upon the browser to initiate a conversation. Businesses then decided to go on the offensive, popping up chat boxes and encouraging customers to start conversations. Some more sophisticated customers are unfazed by this, but overly- insistent use of web chat can put some customers off entirely.

There are various levels of intelligence that can be used to support proactive chat more effectively. If the customer has logged in, it is possible to identify them, and take into account past channel preferences, purchase history and other relevant information in order to personalize the experience, (for example including details of relevant offers to that customer).

As an aside, some contact centers report that those experienced in playing online games – are particularly suited to the fast-paced, text-oriented nature of web chat, and some businesses are actively recruiting such people to work as web chat agents. It is also worth commenting that although offshore customer contact has received a mixed press, many of the negative issues surrounding offshore are not applicable to the multimedia channel, such as the possible mutual incomprehensibility of accents.

Web chat is experiencing strong growth in its availability in the US, although volumes on average are still only around 5% of all customer/business interactions. There is no reason why the user uptake of web chat will not continue: it works well for customers as providing an immediate response, and with multiple concurrent chat sessions per agent, it can be a lower cost channel than voice for the business to support, although cost differential between phone and web chat are not dramatically different, as so much of the web chat work carried out is still non-automated. Solution providers report that web chat is currently being trialed by numerous businesses, often at a limited, or departmental level so they can assess the suitability of the channel for a company-wide rollout, and understand what needs to be done to ensure full implementation is a success.

Web chat is estimated to cost less than a phone call or email, being perhaps the cheapest form of live customer channel, but the differential is not as significant as might be expected from a channel that can be at least partially-automated, and which offers the opportunity for multiple concurrent sessions.

Estimated cost per web chat

41% of respondents using web chat offer the option immediately to all website visitors, with 59% only doing so at some specifically-triggered point in the interaction.

Of this 59 %, the most frequently used trigger for web chat was when a visitor went to a specific page, with other popular triggers being when a customer was on a page for a certain amount of time, or if they have been identified as a specific type of customer.

Stage in the website visit where web chat is offered (multiple selections allowed)

Stage in the website visit where web chat is offered

Respondents from small and medium contact centers tend to take phone agents out of the queue to handle web chats on an ad-hoc basis, or as part of a mixed voice/digital queue.

Respondents from large operations are more likely to use dedicated chat agents or multi-channel digital agents (e.g. handling social media or email too).

This year, small operations report much more likelihood of having a single dynamic queue which handles voice as well as text customer interactions.

Web chat agent blending, by contact center size

One of web chat’s traditional strengths is seen as the ability to have agents handle multiple chats concurrently (of course, it only seems this way to a customer, as the web chat agent uses the time that the customer is typing their response to handle other chats).

Some solution providers have stated in the past that agents could run five or six concurrent chat sessions: the reality seems to be that two sessions are a reasonable consistent average, with a peak of three or four if required, but which is not possible on a long-term basis.

Concurrent web chats per agent

45% of respondents indicate that web chats are mainly carried out with existing customers, and 20% said they deal with mainly new prospects.

The preponderance of web chats being with existing customers throws up some issues around customer identity verification over web chat, as a proportion of these are likely to require account-specific information to resolve the issue. While identity verification over web chat is certainly possible using the traditional challenge-response method (involving information theoretically known only to the customer), some are likely to be unenthusiastic about typing in personal data despite being happy to do so when using the phone.

Web chat: new prospects or existing customers?

The previous finding is supported by the nature of most text chat: 44% of respondents state that their web chats are mainly about service of existing products and services, with only 21% of respondents stating that they dealt with more sales queries than service requests.

Web chat: sales advice or service requests?

While web chat is seen in the report’s findings to offer the lowest cost of the live service options (voice, email, web chat), there is still considerable room for increase efficiencies and lower costs. Only 14% of web chat involves any automation, and this is an area ripe for improvement.

Chatbots handle only 2% of all web chats, although there is a definite growth in the use of chatbots to handle the introduction and initial identification of an issue, before handing it onto an agent

Level of automation used in web chat, by contact center size

17% of respondents have a wait time for web chat of lower than 10 seconds, with a further 42% stating that the average wait time is less than 30 seconds, which is around the average speed to answer for telephony.

Little research has yet been carried out into the expectations of customers around web chat service levels, but it is reasonable to expect a channel being presented as an alternative to a phone to have similar service level expectations and reality. If only 12% of web chats take longer than 1 minute before the customer is ‘talking’ with an agent, then we can expect customers to flock to this channel enthusiastically, as these service levels are generally superior to that of voice, and this year’s reported jump in web chat volumes bears this out.

However, the average length of a web chat can often be longer than the same phone call would take, as multiple chats may be being carried out, and typing takes longer than talking

Average wait time to interact with web chat agent, by contact center size

Tips for using chat and cobrowsing successfully

Understand the role that you want web chat to have within the customer contact mix. Do you see it as a replacement for email? Or is it more of a call avoidance strategy? Or is it perhaps a way to close the sale? Without understanding this, it’ll be difficult to measure its success. Some businesses will offer web chat and cobrowsing only to their premium customers, or to those who are in the final stages of purchasing but who have stalled.

Choose the most suitable metrics for what you’re trying to achieve. If web chat is about revenue, then perhaps focus on sales conversion rates, rather than average handle time, in order to encourage agents to make the most of cross-selling and up-selling opportunities.

Some customers may use web chat as an initial method to ask tentatively about products and services. The solution should provide the option to continue the conversation via a phone, or send relevant documents and videos.

Work with the solution provider to determine what a reasonable and realistic number of concurrent web chat sessions might be. While it is theoretically possible for an agent to cope with four or more conversations at once, the reality is that this is unsustainable over long periods or with complex issues. It is far more realistic to expect a well-trained agent to deal with perhaps two or three conversations concurrently, and this should be fed into your workforce planning system. However, it may be that agents who deal with both telephony and web chat find it too difficult to deal with multiple chat sessions as well, and will deal with only one chat at a time.

As with any real-time interaction channel, monitoring traffic is vital to success. Plans need to be made to handle web chat spikes and providing estimated wait times to those in a web chat queue will allow them to choose a self-service, phone or email option instead.

Plan how web chat will integrate with existing customer service channels. It is possible to run web chat as an entirely separate, siloed channel, but customers expect to be able to move between channels seamlessly. Being able to treat web chat interactions in the same way as other communication channels means that resources can be spread across channels as and when needed.

Sophisticated web chat solutions allow for 3-way chat, so that an agent can bring subject experts into the conversation as required.

Consider using a trial, in a discrete department, product or service area. This will allow you to understand what works and what doesn’t, in a relatively low-risk environment. Changing a small number of variables will also provide a more accurate understanding of how web chat affects customer service levels, customer satisfaction and revenue. It will also provide information about the types of customer and queries that web chat is likely to be used by and for.

Make customers aware that you’re offering web chat, by promoting it through existing, higher-cost channels such as within the telephone queue’s recorded announcement.

BEYOND WEB CHAT

While web chat is an increasingly popular channel to offer to customers, the current reality is that it is being used as a direct replacement for live telephone calls, with very limited use of automation or value-added features. Although customers are increasingly comfortable with initiating chat sessions, the visual nature of this channel and the increasing use of smartphones means that opportunities exist for businesses to leverage customers’ increasing acceptance of web-based communication to provide deep functionality, a richer customer experience and improve their own profitability.

Co-browsing (or web collaboration), which sometimes includes form-filling and page-pushing as a subset of functionality, is a very intensive, one-to-one channel, often used for high-value customers or in those cases where it is quicker and more effective for an agent to take over the reins than to talk the customer through the process. While it has been useful for certain businesses, processes, and customers, it is difficult to make a case for it on a cost-saving basis alone, although it will encourage the completion rate of sales, and as such, improve profitability.

Co-browsing may be used to help customers fill out forms, or to complete online transactions, and may be done in conjunction with a concurrent telephone call or web chat. Unlike page-pushing – which is a one-way movement of information from the agent to customer – and screen sharing – where the agent takes control of the customer’s desktop – co-browsing is a true two-way collaboration tool. Either the agent or the customer can control the cursor or enter data into fields, and business rules can be set up so that the agent does not see or enter sensitive information.

While it is not a cheap option, cobrowsing, particularly in association with a telephone call or web chat, can be an effective way of closing a high-value sale. It is, however, currently used in few UK organizations.

The Inner Circle Guide to Omnichannel

This survey report of over 1,000+ contact center professionals includes some interesting findings & trends around the omnichannel contact center market.

Web RTC & Video

While not a channel in itself, WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communications) is an API definition that supports browser-to-browser applications for voice calling, video chat, and P2P file sharing without the need of either internal or external plugins2.

The announcement3 that Apple would support WebRTC within its WebKit engine that runs the Safari browser was a major step forward for next-generation customer support, enabling voice, video and collaborative communications directly from a website without the need for additional software. Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Edge also support Web RTC.

While the mainstream use of click-to-video has been a very long time coming, WebRTC offers the opportunity to businesses to engage customers face-to-face where appropriate, offering the browsing customer a route straight into the contact center without any breaking of channel or extra effort.

WebRTC allows customers to start a video or voice call from the web browser (which may be via a desktop computer or smartphone, perhaps as an escalation from an existing web chat session), which means the organization’s website can then offer video or voice contact center functionality in a seamless manner, with customers able to request live communication with the business without the need to download specific software or seek out the phone number and break off from what they are doing on the website. Two-way video communication is likely to be of more interest to mobile users, as their smartphone device already comes enabled with a camera and microphone, unlike many desktop computers which may not have this functionality or whose users have it disabled. One-way video, to protect users’ privacy, is perhaps a more likely option in many instances, as is click-to-call.

Video agents as a step towards more personalized, high-quality customer contact. The customer will be able to see to whom they are talking, through a multimedia PC or mobile device, assuming the broadband requirements are met.

There are a number of cultural and business issues to consider:

  • Customers may prefer the impersonality of non-visual contact and may be uncomfortable with the agent seeing them in a domestic environment, which would suggest one-way video may be more popular
  • Eye contact is critical for establishing trust and 60% of the communication process is actually visual. For sensitive purchases such as financial services, being able to see the financial advisor can help to establish trust and put the customer at ease. The entire contact may be captured and distributed electronically for further reference
  • Verbal abuse, a major problem for some agents, may decrease in a virtual face-to-face setting, however, agents may feel their privacy is decreased if they are on camera, especially one-way, and the incidence of disturbing crank calls may increase
  • The contact center environment will need to be altered to impress the customer, and voice agents will need to be trained in visual

This application has potential, especially in a sales environment, and with technical support, where the agent shows the customer what they mean. Various businesses – usually banks – are already using video kiosks to offer virtual branch banking services in areas where physical branches have closed. Currently, customers are more likely to find that video is not being used to show a company’s agents in a live environment, but as part of a supported multimedia service experience, with the agent sending relevant recorded video clips either via chat or email.

About Evolve IP’s Contact Center: Your contact center is the lifeblood of your enterprise, so anything that you can do to improve agent results and customer experience is a major win for your business. Evolve IP’s Gartner recognized omnichannel contact center provides all of the features you need to run a world-class omnichannel contact center.

For more information on Evolve Contact Suite, please email us at info@evolveip.net or call us at 877.459.4347

The post Omnichannel Part 5: Trends on Adopting Web Chat & Chat Bots as a Channel Of Communication appeared first on Evolve IP.

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Omnichannel Part 4: Trends on Adopting Email as a Channel of Communication https://www.evolveip.net/blog/omnichannel-part-4-trends-adopting-email-channel-communication Tue, 04 Sep 2018 12:20:11 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=26072 The post Omnichannel Part 4: Trends on Adopting Email as a Channel of Communication appeared first on Evolve IP.

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CHANNEL FOCUS – EMAIL

Email was the first of the non-voice digital channels to be used, and is still by far the most well-used, having been mainstream for well over 10 years.

Email should stand as a salutary lesson that it is not businesses that make new channels a success, but customers. Put bluntly, email in its first incarnation failed almost entirely. Too many businesses rushed to push customers to this new channel – commonly supposed to be cheaper than voice – without having the processes, solutions or staff to manage this properly. What happened next can be understood as a ‘herd inoculation’: enough customers had enough bad experiences from enough organizations that the entire channel was discredited, even for those businesses which were providing a reasonable service through email or just keeping a watching brief.

With email response times stretching into many days, if not weeks, the companies failed to understand that any communication with the business has a degree of urgency to it, else why would they be trying to speak with the business at all? Of course, even when a response was eventually provided, the issue might have gone away or been dealt with by calling the contact center, meaning that customers’ existing confidence in the voice channel was further reinforced at the expense of the email channel. It is also the case that email does not fit the type of enquiries that people make in some cases, such as the need for quick, simple and confidential information (such as an account balance), and the increasing requirements for identity checking places a cap on the usefulness of email as a channel for some types of business.

It took many years, much investment and the coaxing of customers to try new channels again for email to emerge as being credible. Of course, businesses and customers now both realize that email is more suitable for some interaction types than others (the rise of web self-service has meant email is no longer the only online communication method available), and complex issues such as complaints, or other inquiries requiring a formal paper trail are well-suited to email. In fact, much of the demise in the letter and fax as channels can be traced to a direct replacement by email. Email is also an excellent outbound channel, providing reassurance, great levels of detail and attachments, and is able to link to other specific areas of information via hyperlinks. As an inbound channel, it has inherent weaknesses: an inability to carry out customer authentication and to carry out a real-time 2-way conversation being amongst them, as well as the lengthy wait to get a response. In the longer term, it is likely to be superseded to some extent by more immediate online channels such as web chat and social media. It does, however, have the advantage over virtually every channel that there is no queue time at all – the customer writes the email and presses ‘Send’ immediately – a ‘fire and forget’ interaction.

Usually, it is the retail respondents which report the greatest proportion of inbound traffic as email, with the B2B manufacturing sector also reporting high levels of email, as in past years. The former’s email volume is often driven by sales via a website, with TMT/IT’s more about technical support.

The insurance sector again shows higher levels of email after many years of very little activity, and this may be due to a change in working practices which allows customers and intermediaries to send through documents via email rather than by the more traditional fax and letter.

Inbound interactions that are email, by vertical market

As with previous years, emails are proportionally much less important for large contact centers, with similar differences between size band seen year on year.

Inbound interactions that are email, by contact center size

The cost of email seems quite reasonable, being generally somewhat less than live telephony (which tends to be around $5-6), but more expensive than a self-service session. The cost of web chat is usually a little less than email.

Estimated cost per email

Do you need an email response management system?

An organization that has relatively small volumes of email will tend to handle it initially on an ad-hoc basis, often using Microsoft Outlook to do so. At some point, the contact center will realize that costs are going up and quality going down, and that they need to implement the more sophisticated email response management system. What signs are there that show this is the right time to do so?

  • While there is no fixed figure for email volume, as it will depend on the complexity and time required to handle each one, organizations receiving greater than 100 emails per day are likely to have issues handling and tracking them
  • There are a significant number of customer telephone calls that refer to emails that were sent, but which never received a response
  • Prioritization and routing of emails to agents with specific skills sets is no longer a matter of a few minutes of management time
  • Email handling times are not going down, despite most being about a small number of topics
  • Complex emails may take days or even weeks to resolve, and different agents may be working on similar types of issue without even realizing it, thus duplicating the effort
  • There is a lack of flexibility in dealing with spikes in email traffic, as it is too difficult to bring secondary email agents to bear without damaging the voice channel’s service level
  • Visibility and accuracy of service levels for email channel is worse than that for the voice channel
  • It is difficult to report on the content of the emails received, as this has to be done

For businesses that handle substantial volumes of email, while it is not suggested that they should aim to answer an email in the same amount of time that it takes to complete a phone call, it is desirable to manage all interactions closely to consistent business rules, and to act quickly if service levels slip. Too often it seems, contact centers have become so used to managing the telephony queue that they neglect digital interactions. The result is that digital response times (mostly email) have historically been sacrificed to meet telephony service levels, although there have been steady if unspectacular improvements in the response rates in recent years.

Email response handling times have fallen back somewhat in the past three years, with the proportion answered within one hour going back to 18% after peaking at 30% in 2014, although the proportion answering between one hour and one day has steadied. We believe this may be a factor of simple interactions being more likely to take place over self-service, social media and web chat, leaving longer and more complex issues to be handled via email and phone.

Taking longer than one day to answer an email runs the risk of the customer losing patience, and going elsewhere or phoning the contact center, placing a greater cost burden on the business than if they had just called in the first place. This figure has increased somewhat from 16% in 2014 to 21% in 2017.

What proportion of emails are answered successfully and completely within these timescales?

The most popular method of answering inbound email is to use agents, who start with templatized, editable responses and change them accordingly, thus not having to compose every email from scratch, but also being able to draw from a common pool of knowledge.

The second most popular method of answering emails is to start with a blank email, and let agents completed themselves. This is not only likely to take longer, but also leads to an increased risk of poor grammar, spelling, and punctuation, as well as a less consistent response.

The Inner Circle Guide to Omnichannel

This survey report of over 1,000+ contact center professionals includes some interesting findings & trends around the omnichannel contact center market.

Only 9% of emails have automated responses, (these statistics do not include simple automated acknowledgments), and of those, the majority have to be checked by agents before sending.

Level of automation used in email management

Respondents state that 49% of their inbound emails are queries about products or services that have already been bought, with only 17% being from prospective new customers, who have queries about products or services which they are considering buying, who may prefer to use web chat.

Complaints represent around 15% of inbound email traffic for our respondents, a similar figure to telephony.

Content of inbound emails

About Evolve IP’s Contact Center: Your contact center is the lifeblood of your enterprise, so anything that you can do to improve agent results and customer experience is a major win for your business. Evolve IP’s Gartner recognized omnichannel contact center provides all of the features you need to run a world-class omnichannel contact center.

For more information on Evolve Contact Suite, please email us at info@evolveip.net or call us at 877.459.4347

The post Omnichannel Part 4: Trends on Adopting Email as a Channel of Communication appeared first on Evolve IP.

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6 Critical Reasons for Office 365 Backup https://www.evolveip.net/blog/6-critical-reasons-for-office-365-backup Thu, 30 Aug 2018 17:25:27 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=26283 The post 6 Critical Reasons for Office 365 Backup appeared first on Evolve IP.

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Introduction

Do you have control of your Office 365 data? Do you have access to all the items you need? The knee-jerk reaction is typically, “Of course I do,” or “Microsoft takes care of it all.”

But if you really think about it — are you sure?

Microsoft takes care of quite a bit, and provides a great service for their customers. However, Microsoft’s primary focus is on managing the Office 365 infrastructure and maintaining uptime to your users. They are empowering YOU with the responsibility of your data. The misconception that Microsoft fully backs up your data on your behalf is quite common, and without a shift in mindset, could have damaging repercussions when this responsibility is left unattended.

Ultimately, you need to ensure you have access to, and control over, your Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business data.

This report explores the hazards of not having an Office 365 backup in your arsenal, and why backup solutions for Microsoft Office 365 fill the gap of long-term retention and data protection.

“We worried about the backup and retention policies in Office 365. Microsoft takes care of our data, and protecting historical email data is important. That’s why we decided to ensure we have a backup of our data residing in Office 365.”

— Karen St.Clair, IT Manager, Columbia Power & Water Systems

The Big Office 365 Misconception

The misunderstanding falls between Microsoft’s perceived responsibility and the user’s actual responsibility for protection and long-term retention of their Office 365 data. The backup and recoverability that Microsoft provides and what users assume they are getting are often different. Meaning, aside from the standard precautions Office 365 has in place, you may need to re-assess the level of control you have of your data and how much access you truly have to it. Microsoft Office 365 offers geo-redundancy, which is often mistaken for backup. Backup takes place when a historical copy of data is made and then stored in another location. However, it is even more important that you have direct access to and control over that backup. So if data is lost, accidentally deleted or maliciously attacked, for example — you can quickly recover. Geo-redundancy, on the other hand, protects against site or hardware failure, so if there is an infrastructure crash or outage, your users will remain productive and often oblivious to these underlying issues.

“With Office 365, it’s your data. You own it. You control it.”

— The Office 365 Trust Center

6 Reasons Why Backing Up Office 365 is Critical

As a robust and highly capable Software as a Service (SaaS) platform, Microsoft Office 365 fits the needs of many organizations perfectly. Office 365 provides application Availability and uptime to ensure your users never skip a beat, but an Office 365 backup can protect you against many other security threats.

You or your boss might be thinking, “The recycle bin is probably good enough.” This is where many people get it wrong. The average length of time from data compromise to discovery is over 140 days¹. A shockingly large gap. The likelihood is high that you won’t notice something is missing or gone until it’s too late for the recycle bin.

By talking with hundreds of IT professionals across the globe who have migrated to Office 365, six vulnerabilities in data protection rise to the top:

¹ https://discover.office.com/6-steps-to-holistic-security/chapter1/

6 Critical Reasons for Office 365 Backup

Do you have control of your Office 365 data? Do you have access to all the items you need?

If you delete a user, whether you meant to or not, that deletion is replicated across the network, along with the deletion of their personal SharePoint site and their OneDrive data.

Native recycle bins and version histories included in Office 365 can only protect you from data loss in a limited way, which can turn a simple recovery from a proper backup into a big problem after Office 365 has geo-redundantly deleted the data forever, or it has fallen out of the retention period.

There are two types of deletions in the Office 365 platform, soft delete, and hard delete. An example of soft delete is emptying the Deleted Items folder. It is also referred to as “Permanently Deleted.” In this case, permanent is not completely permanent, as the item can still be found in the Recoverable Items mailbox.

A hard delete is when an item is tagged to be purged from the mailbox database completely. Once this happens, it is unrecoverable, period.

The fast pace of business in the digital age lends itself to continuously evolving policies, including retention policies that are difficult to keep up with, let alone manage. Just like hard and soft delete, Office 365 has limited backup and retention policies that can only fend off situational data loss, and is not intended to be an all-encompassing backup solution.

Another type of recovery, a point-in-time restoration of mailbox items, is not in scope with Microsoft. In the case of a catastrophic issue, a backup solution can provide the ability to roll back to a previous point-in-time prior to this issue and saving the day.

With an Office 365 backup solution, there are no retention policy gaps or restore inflexibility. Short term backups or long-term archives, granular or point-in-time restores, everything is at your fingertips making data recovery fast, easy and reliable.

The idea of a security threat brings to mind hackers and viruses. However, businesses experience threats from the inside, and they are happening more often than you think. Organizations fall victim to threats posed by their very own employees, both intentionally and unintentionally.

Access to files and contacts changes so quickly, it can be hard to keep an eye on those in which you’ve installed the most trust. Microsoft has no way of knowing the difference between a regular user and a terminated employee attempting to delete critical company data before they depart. In addition, some users unknowingly create serious threats by downloading infected files or accidentally leaking usernames and passwords to sites they thought they could trust.

Another example is evidence tampering. Imagine an employee strategically deleting incriminating emails or files — keeping these objects out of the reach of the legal, compliance or HR departments.

Malware and viruses, like ransomware, have done serious damage to organizations across the globe. Not only is company reputation at risk, but the privacy and security of internal and customer data as well.

External threats can sneak in through emails and attachments, and it isn’t always enough to educate users on what to look out for — especially when the infected messages seem so compelling. Exchange Online’s limited backup/recovery functions are inadequate to handle serious attacks. Regular backups will help ensure a separate copy of your data is uninfected and that you can recover quickly.

Sometimes you need to unexpectedly retrieve emails, files or other types of data amid legal action. Something you never think it is going to happen to you until it does. Microsoft has built in a couple safety nets, (Litigation Hold) but again, these are not a robust backup solution capable of keeping your company out of legal trouble. For example, if you accidentally delete a user, their on- hold mailbox, personal SharePoint site, and OneDrive account is also deleted.

Legal requirements, compliance requirements and access regulations vary between industries and countries, but fines, penalties, and legal disputes are three things you don’t have room for on your to-do list.

Organizations that adopt Office 365 typically need a window of time to serve as a transition window between on-premises Exchange and Office 365 Exchange Online. Some even leave a small portion of their legacy system in place to have added flexibility and additional control. These hybrid email deployments are common, yet pose additional management challenges.

The right Office 365 backup solution should be able to handle hybrid email deployments, and treat exchange data the same, making the source location irrelevant.

Conclusion

Go ahead and take a closer look. There are security gaps you may not have been aware of before.

You already made a smart business decision by deploying Microsoft Office 365, now find a backup solution that offers you both complete access and complete control of your Office 365 data and avoid the unnecessary risks of data loss.

Learn more about Office 365 backup: https://www.evolveip.net/draas-suite/veeam

Source: Veeam

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Omnichannel Part 3: Business Drivers for Omnichannel https://www.evolveip.net/blog/omnichannel-part-3-business-drivers-omnichannel Thu, 30 Aug 2018 14:44:31 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=25962 The post Omnichannel Part 3: Business Drivers for Omnichannel appeared first on Evolve IP.

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There are two main factors that influence contact centers within any vertical market: the need to provide profitable (or at least, cost-managed) service, and customers’ requirements and preferences for contacting organizations.

It is not only the nature of the specific business vertical market that needs to be considered. The urgency, complexity and emotional importance of the interaction is perhaps at least as important as the nature of the business that is being called: for a customer calling a bank, a simple balance request and an urgent call about the progress of the mortgage application are very different types of call, and should be treated as such.

CHEAPER COST OF SERVICE?

Businesses want to balance quality with cost. Profitability is always at the forefront of any decision for commercial organizations, and the uptake of automation and digital channels promised high-quality service at a fraction of the cost of a phone call.

While digital channels have a reported cost advantage over telephony, the differential is not as large as it could be. Based on the findings in the “US Contact Center Decision-Makers’ Guide”, relatively low levels of automation are being used to answer either emails or web chat, and this is a significant opportunity for businesses and solution providers.

Cost per inbound interaction (phone, email & web chat)

The low levels of automation being used to handle many digital channels certainly impacts upon cost. This is exacerbated when the initial digital interaction is insufficient to answer the customer’s issue, leading to an alternate channel being used. If an organization is operating in a siloed multichannel fashion, rather than as an integrated omnichannel environment, this movement between channels may require the customer to repeat their issue and the context and history to be lost, damaging the customer experience and inflating the cost of the interaction to the business.

Survey respondents were asked to estimate the proportion of digital interactions that required the use of another channel to be answered fully. 43% of respondents stated that fewer than 10% of their emails could be answered fully without recourse to alternative channels, with 11% stating that more than half of their emails needed supplementary channel assistance.

45% of respondents report that fewer than 10% of web chats require another channel to answer the query fully, with only 5% stating that more than half of web chats require movement to another channel.

30% of respondents state that more than half of social media requests have to be completed via another channel, perhaps because of the public nature of the channel, and that customer identity verification is not as straightforward as with voice.

Proportion of inbound digital interactions requiring the use of another channel to be answered fully

A follow-up question was asked about the reasons for using another channel. While this question specified the email channel, it is likely to apply to other digital channels as well as they face many of the same challenges.

Two interlinked responses came out clearly ahead: the multiple, back-and-forth nature of the queries are quicker to answer on a call; and complex issues are better handled with a phone call rather than an email.

The ability to take a customer through security checks more easily in a different channel was also considered important by 43% of respondents, and 48% considered that email agents do not always have access to the sources of information that they need to answer the question fully.

Reasons for using another channel to answer emails fully

THE OUTBOUND OPPORTUNITY

It is important to note that omnichannel isn’t simply about managing inbound interactions. Identifying opportunities for proactive outbound customer contact allows businesses to avoid unnecessary inbound calls while improving the customer experience, in that they are presented with useful information without having to make any effort.

Survey respondents were asked what proportion of inbound calls could be avoided by engaging the customer before they felt the need to call the business.

The Inner Circle Guide to Omnichannel

This survey report of over 1,000+ contact center professionals includes some interesting findings & trends around the omnichannel contact center market.

27% of contact centers reported that more than a quarter of their inbound calls could be avoided if more proactivity was used, which would make a huge difference to costs (especially through automated outbound communication), as well as having a positive effect on customer experience.

Businesses should analyze the type of interactions that they receive into their contact center, and to see if there is a cost-effective way of proactively handling these. The opportunity is certainly there for the industry as a whole to manage the inbound demand more effectively than is being done so at the moment. On average, respondents believe that 22% of inbound calls could be avoided through proactive outbound customer contact, which would save the US contact center industry $31.5bn each year.

Proportion of calls that could be avoided by proactive customer engagement

While the majority of targeted outbound contact is carried out by agents, the opportunity exists for automated outbound service to expand – such as sending reminders and notifications to customers through an automated process – thus significantly reducing the cost to the business while improving the overall customer experience. Many customers will choose to seek clarification or a status update at some point in the buying process by making an inbound interaction. By sending a pre-emptive outbound message, the business is proactively assisting the customer to manage their interaction.

Customer journey analytics can identify which customers are most likely to require information, and when. Business processes can be realigned so that these customers are presented with information at a time appropriate to them, thus avoiding a likely inbound call.

However, 74% of respondents do not use recorded messages for any purpose, whereas SMS messages are used by only 20% of respondents, mainly for notifications and reminders. 61% of respondents do not send automated emails at all, despite a very low potential variable cost.

Customer satisfaction surveys are more likely to be carried out by email than by other digital means, as this will give the customer the opportunity to complete the survey at a time convenient for them, as well as offering a longer and more detailed opportunity to understand the customer’s experience.

Use of automated outbound communication for proactive customer service

OMNICHANNEL AND THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE: THE VIEW FROM THE BUSINESS

Businesses were asked about the effect that the technology that they used had on their customers’ experience.

Web chat was seen as having the most positive effect, in that it provides an immediate opportunity for a customer to contact the business without picking up the phone. Closely linked with this, web self-service is also seen as positive for customer experience by 80% of survey respondents.

While IVR and automated speech recognition were viewed as being generally positive by more than half of respondents that used these solutions, they were the most likely to be seen as providing a neutral or negative customer experience.

What effect does technology have on your customers’ experience?

Respondents were also asked about the extent to which technology challenges were affecting their ability to improve their customers’ experience.

For B2C respondents (i.e. businesses which sell to the consumer), technology challenges affect customer experience significantly more than is the case with B2B respondents.

In particular, two-thirds of respondents state that it is a major problem for them that their existing legacy technology is holding them back. Well over half of these respondents also state that not having a single view of the customer across channels or enough IT resources or budget are also major problems for them.

To what extent are these technology challenges affecting CX? (B2C respondents)

B2B respondents were less likely than their B2C counterparts to flag up major technology challenges, although it is noticeable that 43% of B2B respondents stated that not having a single view of the customer across channels was a major problem for them. The second greatest issue is closely connected with this, in that the digital and voice channels are still not fully integrated, which causes a major problem for 35% of these respondents. Issues around HR (such as the availability of suitably qualified and experienced IT resource) and a lack of support from senior management for customer experience initiatives are seen as being much less of an issue.

To what extent are these technology challenges affecting CX? (B2B respondents)

Looking at CX-related technology challenges from the perspective of company size, it is the largest organizations with the highest revenues that are most likely to be having trouble integrating the digital and voice channels and also having a single view of the customer, and these operations are also most likely to be restricted by their existing legacy systems. Few respondents of any size reported any major concerns with IT human resources, although budgetary issues reported being a problem for all except the very largest organizations. Small and medium-size organizations were most likely to report a lack of support for customer experience initiatives from their senior management.

The lesson that can be learned from these findings is that while individual channels (such as web chat) are seen to work well for customers, making them work together and having a single view of the customer across channels is still a major problem for many businesses.

About Evolve IP’s Contact Center: Your contact center is the lifeblood of your enterprise, so anything that you can do to improve agent results and customer experience is a major win for your business. Evolve IP’s Gartner recognized omnichannel contact center provides all of the features you need to run a world-class omnichannel contact center.

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Omnichannel Part 2: Customer Drivers for Omnichannel https://www.evolveip.net/blog/omnichannel-part-2-customer-drivers-omnichannel Tue, 28 Aug 2018 15:38:27 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=25948 The post Omnichannel Part 2: Customer Drivers for Omnichannel appeared first on Evolve IP.

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There are two main factors that influence contact centers within any vertical market: the need to provide profitable (or at least, cost-managed) service, and customers’ requirements and preferences for contacting organizations.

It is not only the nature of the specific business vertical market that needs to be considered. The urgency, complexity and emotional importance of the interaction is perhaps at least as important as the nature of the business that is being called: for a customer calling a bank, a simple balance request and an urgent call about the progress of the mortgage application are very different types of call, and should be treated as such.

The Channel of Choice

The Customer Interaction Cube (below) is a structure developed to categorize the different types of customer interactions that businesses have to handle, considering the urgency, complexity and emotional input of the interaction from the customer’s perspective. Businesses could use this to analyze their volumes of each type of interaction, cross-referencing it with other variables such as the time of day these types of interaction are received, and the customer demographic preferences seen elsewhere in this report in order to support the relevant channels through the promotion of alternatives to live calls, and the correct levels of resourcing. Doing this will not only improve the customer experience, but also reduce the cost of service through anticipating the likely resourcing required and even proactively engaging with the customer on lower cost channels first.

Using this 2x2x2 cube as a structure, there are eight types of interaction: combinations of either low or high urgency, complexity, and emotional input. Our hypothesis is that each of these eight interaction types may best be suited to specific channels, and that both business and customer could benefit from matching channel with interaction type.

The examples shown below of various scenarios and the channels most suitable for these are suggestions, and will differ between customer types, businesses, and vertical markets, but may offer a tentative framework for readers to build their own scenarios. It should be noted that the results of the customer survey that follow this section suggest that different age groups and socioeconomic segments have their own views on how they prefer to contact a business in each of these cases. Primary and secondary channels are suggested but will differ between organizations and customer types.

The Customer Interaction Cube and suggested associated channels

There are many other variables that could be considered alongside these that will impact upon the suitability of channels:

  • Demographics
  • Ownership of smartphone/broadband impacts upon channel availability
  • Time of day (i.e. is this an out-of-hours inquiry? Is the customer at home, at work, or traveling?)
  • Whether the request is specific to an account, or a generic issue (i.e. is it necessary to pass through security first?)

While the 2x2x2 cube can help businesses to estimate the current and potential volumes and resourcing required to serve the customer base, it is important to remember that similar types of customer interaction may require very different handling depending on circumstances. For example, a query about product delivery may be a small part of a wide-ranging research process carried out by a particularly thorough prospective customer or may be asked by a customer who has just realized they’ve forgotten about an important birthday and needs immediate, accurate information.

McKinsey talks about the ‘moment of truth’ in customer interactions1, often occurring when the customer has an unexpected problem or has a high emotional stake when long-term loyalty and customer advocacy can be won or lost depending on the outcome and the way in which it is handled. Businesses and their representatives should be aware that these relatively rare occurrences offer great opportunities. Recognizing and handling these moments of truth appropriately – moments which are defined as such by the customer, not the business – will have a far greater long-term impact on customer satisfaction and loyalty than the dozens of competently-handled, forgettable interactions that may have happened previously.

Although the 2x2x2 cube gives some indication of the types of interaction that are more likely to be ‘moments of truth’, which businesses may choose to be handled by their more experienced and empathetic agents, they are by their nature difficult to predict. Current real-time speech analytics solutions can indicate a measure of stress in the customer’s voice, flagging this up to the agent within the call, but agents should be in any case capable of recognizing this without technology. In any case, if the customer has already tried two or three other channels without success, even the most competent and empathetic agent will find it difficult to turn the moment of truth around positively.

For this reason, it is vital to take a true omnichannel approach, which offers a high and consistent level of service and knowledge across each channel. Equally important is the freedom for agents to act in way appropriate to the situation – for example, if a ‘high-emotion’ interaction happens on social media, which can’t be handled on that channel (e.g. it needs to go through security, or is too complex and lengthy for a non-voice channel), the agent should be given the license to place an outbound call to that customer in real-time, rather than advise them to call the contact center. While this will impact upon the social media channel’s service levels while the agent is away from it, the moment of truth offers the opportunity to lock-in that customer’s loyalty. For contact center operations traditionally run on a structured command-and-control basis, this may sound chaotic, but businesses have to decide if the occasional relaxation of their own procedures is an acceptable trade-off for providing the customer with something that they truly value. Agents need to be given carte blanche to deliver in ‘moments of truth’, and the training and support to recognize when this is happening.

The Inner Circle Guide to Omnichannel

This survey report of over 1,000+ contact center professionals includes some interesting findings & trends around the omnichannel contact center market.

This is not to say that ‘moments of truth’ necessarily have to be handled by a live agent. The popularity of self-service runs deep in the customer base, and the only reason that many customers abandon self- service at the point of crisis in order to ring the contact center is only because self-service cannot deliver what they need. If companies focused their efforts on providing more sophisticated and reliable self- service applications, there is no reason why these could not deliver at least as much customer benefit at these moments of truth.

For example, if a passenger misses their plane, they are then likely to engage in a long and complicated discussion with a live agent (either at the airport or in a contact center), involving alternatives, connections, and payments. If on missing the last call for the plane, the customer were immediately provided with an SMS or email detailing the various options available to them, which they could then select and rebook at once, this would be more convenient for the customer and significantly reduce the cost of service to the business. Perhaps more importantly, the customer would feel that the airline is looking out for them, creating long-term loyalty out of the negative experience of missing a plane.

The survey of 1,000 US consumers carried out for this report attempted to understand which the channels of preference would be in cases of high emotion, urgency, and complexity through presenting survey respondents with three hypothetical scenarios:

High emotion: notifying a company that an incorrect item has been sent to them. This was chosen as a high emotion interaction, as being sent an incorrect item is often frustrating: not only has the desired product not arrived, but the customer is then left with the problem and effort of returning the item. This is not a particularly complex interaction, and in many cases will not be particularly urgent.

High urgency: checking the arrival time of a flight that the customer is meeting. This is likely to be an urgent interaction as it is very time-sensitive. Complexity is very low – as the required information is simply a time – and in the majority of cases, should have a fairly low emotional impact.

High complexity: receiving guidance on completing a mortgage application or tax form. This is likely to be a complex and long interaction but is unlikely to have especially high levels of urgency or emotional response.

High Emotion Interactions

Consumers taking the survey were asked to imagine that a product they had ordered from a company had arrived but was incorrect. In this circumstance, they were asked which would be their preferred method for contacting the company to notify them that this was the case.

The most popular option was to phone the contact center, with 37% of respondents choosing this method. The second most popular, at 28%, was email.

There was a strong pattern based on the age of the survey respondent and their preferred channel: the younger demographic was far more likely to send an email, whereas the older generations would pick up the phone. Amongst the under 45-year-olds, there was slightly more preference for using web chat.

Preferred method for contacting a company (high emotion interaction), by age range

High Urgency Interactions

Survey respondents were asked which would be their preferred channel of choice in a situation where they were meeting somebody from a plane and needed to confirm the time at which to be at the airport.

By far the most popular channel was that of web self-service/mobile app, with little pattern being shown depending on the survey respondents’ age range in the case of this channel.

Amongst older demographics, calling the contact center was seen as a preferred option by a considerable minority, with email generally being restricted to younger demographics.

Despite the immediacy offered by web chat and social media channels, few respondents stated that these would be their preferred method of interaction even in high urgency cases.

Preferred method for contacting a company (high urgency interaction), by age range

High Complexity Interactions

For highly complex interactions, such as getting expert guidance with a tax form or mortgage application, the most popular contact choice was a physical visit to an office or branch, which was slightly more popular with the older demographic.

This is very closely followed by calling the contact center for advice, which has a similar popularity across most age groups.

It is noticeable that web self-service was a much less popular option for complex interactions than it had been for urgent or emotional inquiries.

Web chat was also seen as an appropriate primary channel for complex interactions by a small proportion of under 65’s, whereas email is much less popular than it had been for high emotion interactions, possibly due to the probable requirement for back-and-forth communication.

Preferred method for contacting a company (high complexity interaction), by age range

Omnichannel and the Customer Experience: The View From the Customer

ContactBabel commissioned the research firm ORC International to carry out a survey of 1,000 US consumers. One of the purposes was to identify any differences in opinion between organizations and customers about what were the most important customer experience factors when contacting an organization.

Figures below are expressed as the percentage of each age group that expressed an opinion.

What are the top 3 most important factors to you when contacting an organization by phone or digital channel? (by age range)

The previous chart shows the importance of various customer experience factors as an aggregated bar chart, segmented by age so as to show the factors that were of most importance to customers in each age range. Aggregating the results allows an understanding of which factors were placed in the top three overall, while also providing insight on age-related opinion.

For example, 54% of the youngest age group (18 to 34 years old) stated that first contact resolution was one of their top three most important factors, whereas 83% of the oldest age group (over 65 years old) placed this in their top three.

This consumer research has some interesting findings when comparing consumer attitudes to businesses’ beliefs:

  • both businesses and consumers agree that first contact resolution is the most important single factor impacting upon customer experience when contacting a business
  • polite and friendly employees are also seen as being an important part of the customer experience
  • businesses place a greater emphasis than customers on a short queue/wait time for response
  • having US-based employees is seen as far more important to customers than businesses believe
  • having long opening hours is seen as extremely important to customers, whereas businesses place this amongst the least important customer experience

When considering these findings from the perspective of the various age ranges, the importance of first contact resolution is considerably higher in the older age ranges, as is having US-based employees.

There is also a pattern that older age groups are less likely to be happy with being passed between agents.

Younger customers place very significant importance on 24/7 availability (or longer opening hours in general), with this factor being voted as one of the top 3 factors by 61% of this age group, making it even more important to them than first contact resolution. Younger customers are also far more likely to value having a choice of ways to communicate with the organization, and further evidence for this age group’s valuing of its time can be seen in relatively high importance being placed upon short call/web chat duration and short queue/wait time. However, the younger age group are not willing to sacrifice courteous service for time saved, as they are also the group that most frequently places ‘polite and friendly employees’ in the top three factors.

At first glance, omnichannel/multichannel does not seem to place particularly highly – ‘having a choice of ways to communicate’ is only placed in the top 3 CX factors by around 25% of consumers. However, omnichannel is vital to the most important factor of all – having the issue resolved first-time – as true omnichannel provides a single view of the customer across channels, allowing seamless movement between channels without changing agents, losing context or making the customer repeat themselves.

Some might think that omnichannel is only a step along the way to the real end-goal: full AI-enabled automated service. However, even if this were possible today or in the near future, the customer base does not view this as their ideal outcome.

In order to gauge the level of acceptance and expectation around fully-automated customer contact, 1,000 US consumers were asked whether automation or human assistance would be preferable to the customer base in circumstances where the customer effort, time and outcome were exactly the same. Bearing in mind the rapid advance and uptake in digital self-service, the findings were quite surprising.

Looking at the age group of the customer base, older demographics feel more strongly about human contact, with younger customers most likely to have no preference or to choose to use automation. This fits in with the previous findings that the younger section of the customer base places more value on their time, whereas the older demographic prefers to have their issue resolved first-time by a single employee.

Bearing in mind that this question emphasized that the outcome and customer effort/time would be identical in each case, the results show that the customer base at present is not yet at a stage where automation is generally seen as being even on equal terms with human contact, let alone the preferred method of contact with a business.

Would you prefer to speak with an agent or use automation, if the outcome and time were identical? (by age range)

About Evolve IP’s Contact Center: Your contact center is the lifeblood of your enterprise, so anything that you can do to improve agent results and customer experience is a major win for your business. Evolve IP’s Gartner recognized omnichannel contact center provides all of the features you need to run a world-class omnichannel contact center.

For more information on Evolve Contact Suite, please email us at info@evolveip.net or call us at 877.459.4347

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DR 101: RTO and RPO https://www.evolveip.net/blog/dr-101-rto-rpo Fri, 24 Aug 2018 13:38:49 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=25748 The post DR 101: RTO and RPO appeared first on Evolve IP.

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In planning for disaster recovery (DR) make sure you’ve defined your recovery time objective and recovery point objectives (RTO and RPO). This DR 101 helps to get you started.

IT downtime can interfere with customer service, taking orders, completing transactions, treating patients, and more. Most organizations can roll with a short, planned downtime, but unexpected disruptions from human error, device or power failure, malevolent attack, or natural disaster can prove to crush. Disaster recovery planning is essential. Lay out your RTO and RPO to get back up and running as efficiently as possible.

1 in 3 organizations have already experienced an incident that required disaster recovery — Evolve IP’s 2018 survey of more than 1,000 IT professionals and C-level executives

 

What are RTO and RPO?

Recovery time objectives (RTO) and recovery point objectives (RPO) help your organization plan ahead for possible data or technological disruptions to maintain business continuity.

Recovery time objective weighs the amount of time it will take to recover data and get systems functioning as usual after a disaster. Of course, your immediate thought is — “I want my business back up again as soon as possible.” That sounds smart. After all, downtime can prove costly, as you can only afford to be down so long before your business suffers. Still, disaster recovery (DR) requires an investment too. To shorten the timeframe of your recovery, you’ll likely need to put more resources into your DR strategy upfront.

The recovery point objective reflects the point at which the amount of data lost in an event exceeds the business’s tolerance for downtime. Your DR team will try to predict in advance how long the business can continue without IT restored. So, for example, if your company can function effectively on data from the last 24 hours, but after 30 hours the volume of data loss is too great to rebound from, your RPO would be under 30 hours.

Now, you should be able to see how both of these factor into business continuity and disaster recovery planning.

 

Planning Optimal RTO and RPO

To optimize RPO, you’re going to need to make some decisions in advance. Taking into consideration the frequency of important data changes at your organization, you’ll need to decide how often to backup your data. The amount of space you have for these back-ups may be a factor. Typically, an organization might back up every 24 hours, but depending on when the incident happens, this could mean the business loses an entire day’s worth of data.

Businesses with less real-time sensitive data could absorb that punch more easily than say a financial institution. For the latter, even losing ten minutes of data could prove costly.

When it comes to RTO, you’ll need to consider:

  • How much downtime can your business absorb?
  • How much revenue may be lost?
  • What will you need to spend to rebuild your IT?
  • What kind of brand reputation damage could you suffer from being down?
  • How much do customers, vendors, and other business partners rely on your organization to keep data, networks, hardware, and software secure and compliant?
  • How many copies of the backup will we keep?

Additionally, you’ll need to weigh which is the right back-up tool for you. Definitely make a plan for offsite storage of the back-ups to provide a secure recovery point in the event of a disaster.

Your actual recovery time and recovery period will vary based on the extent of the disaster, the combination of manual and automated steps you use, the access to backup, data profile, and more.

Some 40% of businesses don’t bounce back from a disaster — FEMA

Business continuity can be easier with a cloud-based system. After all, hosting your network services in the cloud can give your employees continued access anywhere as the virtual desktop interface is supported by geographically redundant data centers, ensuring services remain available regardless of conditions at your particular location.

Disaster Recovery Planning?

Hardware fails, hackers attack, and disasters happen. Use this template to create your DR plan to prepare your organization from common IT-based business disruptions.

DR 101: RTO and RPO

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Omnichannel Part 1: Trends Around Channel Usage https://www.evolveip.net/blog/omnichannel-part-1-trends-around-channel-usage Wed, 22 Aug 2018 17:11:58 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=25922 The post Omnichannel Part 1: Trends Around Channel Usage appeared first on Evolve IP.

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Channel Usage: Past, Present, and Future

The following chart shows the proportion of inbound interactions by channel since 2006, with predictions shown until the end of 2021. The most obvious thing to note is that telephony has declined from 90%, and that email has risen to around 20%. Non-telephony communication accounts for over one third of inbound interactions in UK contact centers, showing that the capability to handle both voice and non-voice communication effectively is vital for the industry: hence, omnichannel.

Contact center inbound interactions by channel, 2007-2021 (projection)

Live agent telephony will continue its slow decline in terms of the proportion of interactions handled, and in absolute terms, there will be a very slight decline in the next four years, although there is likely to be a move towards using alternative devices, such as Amazon Echo and Google Home for example. As older demographics become more comfortable with using it, email will increase slightly to 13-14% of inbound interactions by the end of 2021.

Web chat will become more mainstream, led by the retail sector, where the opportunity to ask a quick question in real time can dramatically improve the conversion rate of online baskets, something that the US leads others in. Telephony self-service will maintain its volumes, with implementations of visual IVR, which allow businesses to put a visual front-end on existing systems, improving the customer experience, especially through smartphones.

Another big change is the rise of social media as a customer service channel – even one that is de facto (this is, customer choose to use the company’s Facebook page or Twitter account to communicate with it, even if the company had a social media presence only to disseminate information). The rise of Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp will strengthen this. Companies often struggle with how to manage social as a customer service channel because in many cases, marketing departments continue to own the outbound social and sometimes get caught up on the inbound side of it.

The number of inbound interactions that agents handle will increase by 0.7% year-on-year in the next four years: while the easier, more transactional contacts will be increasingly handled through web self- service (with the average voice interaction becoming a more complex process, requiring longer to handle successfully), the increasing customer expectations, growth in multifunctional smartphones and other devices and the burgeoning support of new channels will serve the pent-up customer demand for knowledge.

There will continue to be strong growth in social media and web chat interactions, supporting the online browsing sessions which require assistance, with email becoming a trusted solution for non-urgent and more complex requests that might historically have required a letter to be sent.

 

Relative changes in inbound channels, 2017-2021

A question was asked to survey respondents about how each inbound channel will change, allowing us to judge if any alterations in the use of channels is due to real changes at a contact center-level, or is more of a statistical blip caused by a different set of respondents providing data each year.

How do you think inbound channels will change in your contact center in the next 12 months?

As usual, the traditional media of letters and fax will have a net decline in our respondents’ eyes, although still have their place in the likes of the insurance, medical and manufacturing industries. Interestingly, more respondents this year once again believed the live telephony channel volumes would drop (48%) than thought they would rise (23%), a finding that growing each year, and which signals a trend in the industry.

The Inner Circle Guide to Omnichannel

This survey report of over 1,000+ contact center professionals includes some interesting findings & trends around the omnichannel contact center market.

Strong growth is expected in web chat and social media customer service interactions (and SMS, from a very low base), with email volumes still predicted to grow although at a much lower rate than previous years. After some years of relative decline, telephony self-service is expected to grow once again this year, with its twin benefits of customer convenience and low cost still very much relevant. New approaches, such as visual IVR, are likely to encourage further use of self-service. Although not shown on this chart, around half of respondents offer an app or mobile service option for customer service.

The rise of non-telephony channels suggests that these are becoming increasingly popular with customers. However, individual channels may work well in isolation, but to provide consistently good customer experience, they must be seamlessly linked as part of an omnichannel strategy.

About Evolve IP’s Contact Center: Your contact center is the lifeblood of your enterprise, so anything that you can do to improve agent results and customer experience is a major win for your business. Evolve IP’s Gartner recognized omnichannel contact center provides all of the features you need to run a world-class omnichannel contact center.

For more information on Evolve Contact Suite, please email us at info@evolveip.net or call us at 877.459.4347

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What Is A Runbook? https://www.evolveip.net/blog/what-is-a-runbook Mon, 20 Aug 2018 20:54:20 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=26001 Don’t have a Runbook? Run, don’t walk to get one. A runbook can help ensure your organization is prepared for a service disruption. The runbook establishes disaster recovery testing, planning, and processes. Humans don’t like […]

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Don’t have a Runbook? Run, don’t walk to get one.

A runbook can help ensure your organization is prepared for a service disruption. The runbook establishes disaster recovery testing, planning, and processes.

Humans don’t like to dwell on the disasters that may befall them. So, it’s no surprise that businesses (run by those same humans) can be inclined to avoid thinking too much about things that could go wrong at the organization. However, not being prepared makes disaster recovery all the more difficult. Your business needs a runbook.

After all, Evolve IP’s 2018 survey of more than 1,000 IT professionals and C-level executives showed that 1 in 3 organizations have already experienced an incident that required disaster recovery. No matter how likely you think it is that you’ll be in that 33%, a runbook is essential to your IT resilience.

 

What is a runbook?

A runbook is basically an instruction manual for your business of what to do in the event of an emergency situation.

An effective disaster recovery runbook will consolidate all of your organization’s advance planning to address the technology, people, and process complexities your business may encounter in case of a system failure, network breach, or another form of disaster. The runbook outlines many elements, including:

  • What essential steps to take to recover systems and data
  • Who will be responsible for what actions in the event of a real-life disaster scenario
  • How change will be managed
  • Where backup systems and data will be held
  • When reporting to the necessary authorities or relevant stakeholders will be required.

93% of companies, that lost their data for 10 days or more, filed for bankruptcy within one year of disaster.

 

Readying a runbook

Disaster recovery (DR) recognizes the worst might happen, and that IT downtime interferes with customer service, taking orders, completing transactions, treating patients and more. No matter your industry, you need to be ready for technological or data disruptions, be they due to human error, device or power failure, malevolent attack, or man-made or natural disaster.

The runbook doesn’t have to be set in stone. In fact, it shouldn’t be, as it needs to be regularly updated to reflect changes in your infrastructure, personnel, and new threats. Yet, the runbook should be developed before a crisis occurs. After all, we all think much more clearly when trying to plan ahead as opposed to when we are racing against the clock to get computers and networks back up and running and to regain access to data.

There are many factors to consider in preparing a runbook:

  1. Roles and responsibilities (internally, and also who has ownership of what if you are working with service providers)
  2. Recovery priorities for business IT assets
  3. Definition of a disaster, event thresholds
  4. Disaster scenarios and causes of outage that might affect your business
  5. Infrastructure overview
  6. System configuration
  7. Alert response procedures
  8. Escalation procedures
  9. Restoration processes
  10. Backup configuration

 

Make the Runbook Readable

The more comprehensive the runbook, the clearer your organization’s thinking is likely to be in the event of a true situation. At the same time, make sure that the runbook is written in a logical, easy-to-read style. This is not the time to pen the technological equivalent of War and Peace. Keep it simple and direct. When possible, consider using decision trees and charts to help system administrators more immediately identify what they need to know.

Also, make sure that the relevant stakeholders know exactly where to access the runbook (is it on a shared drive or company portal or a hard copy document?) when under duress. Having multiple copies of a runbook is advisable. Ensuring one of those is offsite (so that it can actually be accessed in a disaster situation) is essential.

As we’ve noted in the past, “if testing a disaster recovery plan is a rehearsal, a DR runbook is the script….This script is not only important for the actors on stage in front of the audience, but also for the technology guys who are keeping the show running behind the scenes.”

While your particular runbook will be distinct to your organization, there are certain commonalities you can work from as a starting point. Evolve IP’s Disaster Recovery Runbook Template can jumpstart your preparations. Download the template today!

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What is SIP Trunking? https://www.evolveip.net/blog/what-is-sip-trunking Fri, 10 Aug 2018 15:00:40 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=25730 The post What is SIP Trunking? appeared first on Evolve IP.

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Instead of the conventional telephone trunk, SIP trunking connects via the Internet.

The words “SIP Trunk” may put you in mind of the food truck trend. Perhaps a purveyor of lemonades, craft beers, or wines travels with a trunk from which people can order a sip? But really SIP trunking refers to a telecommunications innovation with several advantages for businesses of all sizes.

 

What is SIP Trunk?

First, what is a trunk? Think of it as a line or link that can carry simultaneous signals at once. In Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunking, instead of using the conventional telephone trunk, the connections are made via the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) over the Internet. This next generation technology is an internationally standardized way to facilitate interactive multimedia user sessions at once.

The SIP solutions market is a strong, growing one. Demand will drive the market to $20.7 billion by 2024, per Transparency Market Research. That’s an expansion rate of 18.6%. North America was the leader for SIP trunking adoption in 2015, but Asia Pacific is the fastest growing regional segment.

 

Advantages of SIP Trunk

SIP trunking helps small businesses appear both large and professional. Meanwhile, large businesses can benefit from the enhanced ease of maintaining a local presence.

 

Flexiblity.

Since the communication sessions use Internet Protocol (IP), SIP trunking provides multimedia convergence of voice, data, and video on a common connection. With the Internet replacing the telephone trunk, your business can provide the same consistent user experience to those with fixed or mobile telephones, throughout the world.

Comparing Phone Systems?

Not sure which phone system is right for you? We’ve created this comprehensive comparison tool to help you decide the right phone systems provider based on the business needs and features that you need most.

Scalability.

Moving telecommunications handling to the cloud with SIP trunking, can benefit small businesses as it cuts expensive upfront equipment costs and can be easily up- or down-sized to match the need.

SIP Trunking is also great for companies with multiple sites. This solution gives your business flexible call control — employees have their own phone number or direct extension — without the large capital expense or investment in on-premise infrastructure. At the same time, a SIP trunk gives companies local points of presence in multiple cities without having to rely on 1-800 numbers. Plus, the ease of adding lines can reduce over-subscription to voice channels.

 

Savings.

Combining all your voice, data, and videos on a single line also lets your organization handle local, long distance and broadband Internet on one line. Your business can see significant cost savings with a SIP trunk solution eliminating the need for expensive gateway (Basic Rate or Primary Rate interface) subscriptions or desktop equipment. This approach also reduces hardware support and maintenance costs.

 

Security.

SIP trunks are becoming an increasingly common solution for businesses to enable communication services, yet some remain concerned about the security of using Internet Protocol. Nevertheless, SIP trunking is a controlled, two-way gateway, only transmitting the information you want to send and receive.

Keep in mind, also, that your SIP Trunk host provider’s credibility rests on providing secure communications. So, they will work with you to secure your SIP connections, keep SIP credentials safe, and prevent other sensitive information from getting into the wrong hands.

 

Continuity.

Additionally, SIP trunking is useful for business continuity as your communications can be automatically redirected to additional locations and extensions. So, in the event of a power outage at your home office, calls would be sent to a satellite office. When Hurricane Sandy caused one of Evolve IP’s clients to close four of its offices for almost two weeks, they “didn’t miss a beat,” with emergency routing sending the calls to backup sites.

 

Evolve IP’s SIP trunk technology offers several productivity-enhancing features giving fresh meaning to real-time communications. Speak to one of our experts about customizing a solution to your needs.

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The Zero Client v Thin Client Difference https://www.evolveip.net/blog/zero-client-v-thin-client-difference Fri, 10 Aug 2018 13:23:33 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=25588 The post The Zero Client v Thin Client Difference appeared first on Evolve IP.

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Zero Clients and Thin Clients have several similarities, but there are important distinguishing characteristics too. Here’s help understanding the difference.

When it comes to considering the differences between Zero Clients and Thin Clients, the “you say to-mah-toe, I say to-mae-toh” song emphasizing small differences might come to mind. After all, the two clients also have many similarities. Yet, there remain several important distinguishing characteristics. This blog compares and contrasts the essentials.

 

We’re Not So Different After All

The demand for workforce mobility and the ability to collaborate remotely has prompted a massive migration to the cloud. Yet organizations still want to offer quality user experiences while ensuring the security of data, network, and systems. This led to the move to Thin and Zero Clients, lightweight computers replacing desktop hardware.

So, let’s start on a conciliatory note, focusing on the ways the Zero Client and Thin Client are alike. Main similarities include:

  • Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), workspaces, and computing power residing on networked servers
  • Consistent, standardized computing experience on any desktop, laptop, tablet or other mobile device as long as the user has network access
  • Enhanced security with vulnerability to virus/malware lessened
  • Reduced power usage.

 

Then Again, Maybe We Are

The Thin Client is built as a remote computer terminal. They have no hard drive and fewer moving parts than traditional PCs or re-purposed PCs. Yet the Zero Client has no local operating systems, no hard drive, and no moving parts. Instead, dedicated hardware decodes and digitally processes for PCoIP, HDX or RemoteFX VDI protocols. This leads to greater efficiencies than at Thin Clients. Zero Clients boot up more quickly, which can increase end-user productivity.

Thin and Zero Clients also have different connection types. Whereas the Thin Client will contain multiple VDI connection types, managed with a central utility, the Zero Client runs with one or two connection types (VMware or Citrix typically) which can be centrally managed (although this isn’t necessary). So, this can mean greater flexibility on the Thin Client side, but Zero Clients can enjoy a more robust graphics and video experience with a specific protocol.

While Thin Clients can boast small and less frequent software updates than clients with memory, storage, and computer power run on desktop personal computers, they still require updates more often and on a larger scale than Zero Clients. Configuration is short and relatively simple for the Zero Client, and software updates and maintenance requirements are minimal.

Designing the Thin Client to meet the individual end-user’s needs only requires the IT manager or host to install the proper applications. Thus, the Thin Client offers a well-rounded desktop experience with browsers, email clients, office/PDF viewers and connectivity to legacy client-server applications. On the other hand, the Zero Clients only have access to applications available to them from the data center server.

Zero Client devices are more secure. After all, there is no operating system to infect, and there is no data stored on the individual client. Also, the end users can’t pose the same threat with a Zero client as they are unable to install unauthorized or potentially infected software, can’t accidentally delete system files, or copy sensitive data to flash drives. By dramatically reducing the risk of virus or malware attack, the Zero Client can also decrease overall downtime.

 

Finding the Best Solution

Choosing between Thin and Zero Clients doesn’t have to be difficult. Contact an Evolve IP expert to discuss your business needs. We can assess your business goals and recommend the best devices to fit your organization’s objectives.

VMware DaaS For Dummies Guide

Physical desktop computers with locally installed operating systems and applications no longer make sense for the modern business world.

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Omnichannel Communications – The Next Big Thing in Healthcare https://www.evolveip.net/blog/omnichannel-communications-next-big-thing-healthcare Fri, 10 Aug 2018 12:38:54 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=25724 These days business owners are focused as much on customer satisfaction as they are on generating revenue. This is particularly true in the healthcare industry, where the patient-centric model means a shift in how care is perceived. Patients are not only concerned with what happens during their visit but also what happens before and after.

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These days business owners are focused as much on customer satisfaction as they are on generating revenue. This is particularly true in the healthcare industry, where the patient-centric model means a shift in how care is perceived. Patients are not only concerned with what happens during their visit but also what happens before and after.

Thanks to ever-evolving communication technologies, patients have become more hands-on when it comes to the quality of care they receive. This demand for more engagement by patients from their care providers presents specific challenges for the contact center environment.

 

The Need for Omni-Channel in Healthcare

Since the definition of the patient “experience” has now shifted, healthcare contact centers must now adopt an omnichannel approach to engagement. The days of purely telephone-based communication have come and gone. Today’s centers must integrate other channels such as email, web chat and SMS.

But what exactly has caused such a demand for these additional channels? In a word – Millennials.

Millennials, also known as the “trillion-dollar generation,” were born not with silver spoons in their mouths, but with a smartphone in one hand and a tablet in the other. This is the generation that finds it incredibly easy to hop from one channel to the next while walking, talking or watching TV.

It is this effortless channel surfing that has caused the shift in consumer (patient) expectations when it comes to engagement. No matter where a consumer is, and no matter what their preferred method of interaction, touchpoints must seamlessly integrate. And now, thanks to advanced technology, this integration is possible and the omnichannel revolution has been born.

 

What Exactly is Omnichannel?

Some people might define omnichannel simply as an integrated, multichannel approach to sales and marketing with the intention of providing consumers with a better experience. But that’s not going far enough, because omni- and multi-channel don’t mean the same thing exactly.

When you think multi-channels, you generally think of providing more channels of engagement. But omnichannel engagement is about more than offering a variety of channels with which a consumer can interact with your brand.

Omnichannel is as much about quality of engagement as it is about the quantity of touchpoints offered. At the end of the day, the goal of omnichannel engagement is to create a business model that weaves preferred and robust channels together, and that also shares data between them. This enables consumers to conduct business with brands however they want and whenever they want while receiving only relevant communications.

From the consumer’s point of view, it doesn’t get any better than this. And THAT is an exceptional customer experience.

 

3 Steps to Transform Your Call Center into An Omnichannel Powerhouse

Many call centers are unsure of how to get onboard the omnichannel revolution. If you would like to take your call center to the next level but feel confused and overwhelmed by the sheer number of digital options available, the following 3 steps will take the guesswork out of how to adopt an omnichannel approach.

 

Step 1: Implement the Channels Your Customers are Already Using

If you are confused as to which channels you should be leveraging, think about which channels will bring the most value to the patient. Don’t try to be everywhere at once, you’ll drop the ball. To meet patient expectations and provide a positive interaction, figure out which channels patients prefer and already use. To do so, answer these questions:

• Who are your customers?
• What do they want to achieve?
• What’s the best channel that will meet their needs?

Next, you’ll want to map out the patient journey to pinpoint what leads them to contact you in various ways. When you clearly understand their thought process, find data on what channels they prefer, then map out what you’ll need to put in place to meet their needs.

 

Step 2: Invest in Digital Channels

According to a recent survey by ICMI, 53% of consumers say that they prefer online chat before calling a company on the phone. While voice and phone will still be fundamental to how you deliver your services, in order to evolve and meet new customer demands, you’ll need to leverage the cloud and digital trends to stay competitive.

 

Step 3: Have Agents Utilize One Tool

You’ll be better able to deliver exceptional patient outcomes and NOT pull your own hair out if you use one tool that seamlessly integrates all of your channels. You’ll spend less time having to train your agents on numerous tools and channels and will then have more time to devote to improving customer satisfaction.

 

Where is Omnichannel Headed?

We are already beginning to see some omnichannel trends in the healthcare space. Healthcare systems have begun to transition from treatment to proactive wellness. This has and will continue to have an impact on the omnichannel experience. Call centers may soon take on other tasks such as reaching out to patients with healthcare tips or setting up and managing wellness programs.

As wearables become more commonplace, healthcare systems may track consumer’s fitness levels. This tracked data can be used to offer relevant information.

We can definitely expect to see more and more call centers use web chat, SMS/MMS, email, social media, live video, virtual reality and any other emerging channels that come onto the scene. It will become absolutely necessary for call centers to become agile to stay ahead of the curve as new technologies emerge.

 

Final Thoughts

Call centers will become more like engagement centers in the very near future. There is no need to fear this trend and every reason to embrace it. Call centers that use an omnichannel approach to improve customer support will thrive and Evolve IP can absolutely help in that department.

Evolve IP’s Gartner-acclaimed cloud call center is already a robust solution. But when you combine that solution with our award-winning Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) suite, that fully integrates voice, video, instant messaging & presence (IM&P), desktop sharing, and audio/web conferencing (oh, and we integrate with your CRM for a consistent desktop, tablet and mobile experience), you have a seamless and fully-supported way to step into the future and become an omnichannel powerhouse.

Give us a call today and let’s get started.

Comparing Contact Center Solutions?

Evaluating contact center providers? We’ve pulled together a detailed comparison of the top 18 contact center software providers. Find out which is the best fit for you.

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The Most Overlooked Component of Business Continuity https://www.evolveip.net/blog/overlooked-component-business-continuity Tue, 31 Jul 2018 13:57:22 +0000 https://www.evolveip.net/?p=24725 The post The Most Overlooked Component of Business Continuity appeared first on Evolve IP.

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Business leaders meticulously plan for future growth and expansion but are often caught off-guard by disasters. Local storms, fires, power, and network outages continuously wreak havoc on organizations, meanwhile, large-scale disasters seem to be increasing in intensity and quantity. 2017 was a perfect example of the top three costliest weather-related disasters to hit the U.S. and its territories, at $125 billion, $50 billion, and $90 billion, respectively.

Unfortunately, survey data shows that business leaders tend to believe they’re better prepared than they actually are, as they typically don’t have a granular view of their technical capabilities to resume business after an incident. This misunderstanding can greatly harm a business’s ability to resume operations quickly. In fact, 25 percent of businesses do not reopen following a major disaster according to The Institute for Business and Home Safety.

While IT leaders are generally prepared with solutions to get servers and data centers up-and-running quickly, business continuity for communications capabilities is often overlooked. That oversight can cause significant financial damage as customers that are unable to contact a business is likely to look or purchase elsewhere. Additionally, the reputational damage caused by the inability to communicate with a business can sometimes play a heavier role in the organization’s failure than any other factor. Further, lost communication services also disrupt the ability of staff members to collaborate and for partners to meet supply chain deliverables.

Preparing for the Worst: Developing a Business Continuity Plan for Communications Systems

For all organizations, the first step in business continuity planning for communications systems is to better understand your financial exposure. Calculate the cost of downtime for your organization from every perspective. While every business is different, Gartner estimates that for some businesses downtime can cost $5,600 per minute and as much as $540,000 per hour in more extreme scenarios.

 

Business Continuity for On-Premises Communications Systems

For businesses with phone systems that reside on-premises, a local disaster can effectively disconnect that site from the rest of the world. Therefore, it is critical that a business decides which functions to restore first. Consider key business operations – from customer-facing units to human resources – and understand how IT and telecommunications systems are needed to support each function. It can be helpful to visually map continuity priorities, lines of jurisdiction, areas of primary business concern, and the order in which systems will be restored in the event of a disruption.

Additionally, ensure the following are completed:

  • Prepare a checklist of key telephony vendors to manually re-route calls to enable alternative ring-to locations and numbers (if possible) and designate emergency personnel to take and triage inbound calls.
  • Create a written recovery plan that is stored remotely. Make sure you have written methods of procedure to support the plan so that someone unfamiliar with the tasks can step in to handle it in the time of need. Make sure this information is available remotely and does not exist solely at the location, in case it is unreachable.
  • Build a list of key employee contacts for each department that includes mobile and home numbers along with alternate email addresses.
  • Identify vulnerabilities in your physical facilities, IT infrastructure and communication systems. This might include single points of failure in systems for:

    • Internal networking & connectivity
    • Service providers
    • Power
    • Hardware/systems, service providers, etc.
    • Consider what would happen if any one of these things failed!

  • Manage and test physical safety systems for fire, smoke, and flooding. Maintain your fire suppression systems and have them inspected on schedule.
  • Plan and build extensive cooling and ventilation systems. All the system redundancy in the world doesn’t matter if the equipment overheats; have these systems regularly maintained.