A confluence of technological innovations has transformed the workplace and the way we connect with customers and co-workers.
Thanks to the internet, mobile technology and cloud hosting, “the office” is now wherever employees are located – at home, at a customer’s business site, in the car or at the local coffee shop.
Small and medium-sized businesses that leverage communications and collaboration technology can find themselves successfully competing with companies many times their size.
Technology Helps to Level the Playing Field
Consider the case of Consuela Shorter, a learning systems consultant who opened Blue Skies Performance Solutions in downtown Kansas City, Mo. in 2013. Today she helps employers of all sizes nationwide to select and implement learning management systems to provide their employees with training that ranges from industry-specific skills to management and compliance training.
Shorter is one of those tech-savvy business people who have harnessed technology in a way that enables her small company to compete with major players in her industry.
“Although our headquarters is in Kansas City, I can virtually attend a meeting in Nashville or Chicago or Orange County as if I am right there in the board room with my client,” says Shorter. “The technology I use in my small business is no different than that used in much larger or global companies.
“The way we connect depends on the need,” she continues. “If it’s a conversation, we’ll have a conference call. If we need to share a PowerPoint we’ll use a webinar. If the issue is related to administrator navigation or use of a functionality or feature and I need to see things from the user point of view we’ll use screen sharing. If there’s a reason for us to come together in the office, then we’ll meet.”
Business Features Sealed the Deal
As you might imagine, when Shorter went shopping for a business phone system there was no question in her mind that she wanted an internet phone system. Ever been in Kansas City in the winter?
“With old-school phones, if a storm comes, you could be wiped out for days. With internet phones you’re backed up,” Shorter says, referring to the data centers with redundant power that cloud-hosted phone systems like Vonage operate. These phone systems can remain in operation even when the customer’s location is out of commission.
But, what sealed the deal was a host of features offered by Vonage Business that work particularly well – because Shorter and her employees rarely work from the office. Mobile phones are their key method of connecting with each other and with clients.1
Integrated Mobility – Another Level of Mobile
With traditional systems, mobile phones aren’t integrated within the office phone system as they are with cloud-hosted systems. As a result, Caller ID reveals that a personal mobile number is being used when making business calls. That forces some to use a separate office and mobile line to work remotely, racking up additional costs for a company or forcing an employer to limit the number of workers assigned a mobile account.
In the business VoIP environment, mobile devices can be made to be just another end point within the same phone system, integrating with many of the same system calling features. Workers can access their company’s phone system on their mobile devices while on the go and they can keep their business and personal accounts separate on the same device.
Also, calls are recognized on Caller ID as calls from the company, extending a professional business presence for those making the calls outside of their office. An additional advantage is that Mobile Apps often come free with the system, as they do with Vonage Business.
A Sampling of Favorite Features
Shorter had a hard time paring down Vonage Business phone system features to a few favorites but here’s her short list:
- Call Continuity: Blue Skies selects backup numbers for automatic call rerouting in the event it loses power or internet at the business
- Virtual Receptionist: This customizable feature allows the company to create custom call pathways and even set specific routing for holidays, lunchtime and after-hour calls.
- Voicemail Transcription (VMT): This feature helps employees stay in touch with incoming calls, even if they’re in meetings or away from the office. VMT transcribes the voicemail and delivers the text, as well as an MP3 audio file, to the employee’s email inbox.
The features that Shorter’s company utilizes today are important, she says. But the ones she intends to add as her business expands will be a critical part of her growth strategy: “Best of all, it’s scalable so that as my company grows the technology will grow with me.”
1Calls made from mobiles use airtime and may incur surcharges, depending on your mobile plan.