How Voiceware’s New Functionalities Will Improve Your Hotel

The hotel industry is always changing. As a hotelier, you may be at the forefront of new technology that enhances the guest experience and improves efficiency (and we know a thing or two about that), but things don’t stay static for long. That’s why it’s so essential that products and services that are designed for the industry are able to keep up with the changes without causing hiccups along the way.

Enter Phonesuite. We make it our mission to anticipate hoteliers’ needs, develop new tech, and ensure our products are completely future-proof. Our new-and-improved Voiceware functionalities are game changers. Here’s what’s new:

New Voiceware Functionalities

At the forefront of the advancements made by Phonesuite, we have our Voiceware software available to hotels of every shape and size. Just recently, we’ve made some upgrades to this already robust software, and we thought it would be a good idea to break down a few of the biggest changes, all of which were designed with ease and functionality in mind. Here is a taste of the new features you can expect:

  • No-Hassle Replacement of Vtech SNOM Brand Phones — If your hotel currently uses Vtech SNOM phones for its communications system, all Phonesuite needs is the new MAC address to complete the replacement. Then, simply plug in the phone and you’re all set.
  • Polycom Speed Dial Display Improvement — Park keys on your phone will now only display if a call has been “parked.” This will free up your screen so that it can fit in more speed dials at any given time.
  • Faster, More Accurate Installation — Phonesuite’s installation process is now even better than before. Back-end features have been added that assist with the system’s overall setup, enabling installation to be done more quickly and accurately.
  • Rare Bug Fixes for Specific Situations — Like all systems, bugs can crop up from time to time, and Phonesuite is always working tirelessly to remedy them. For this upgrade, we fixed a few rare bugs that had appeared in very large installations or in some extreme cases.

Tried-and-True Features You Can Count On

The functionalities listed above fit in quite nicely with the tried-and-true Voiceware features that hoteliers have come to expect over the years. For instance, our software has always provided a customized experience for a hotel’s guests, enabling lobby personnel to quickly identify a guest’s specific and unique needs, and then act on those needs accordingly. This time around, we made changes to complement existing Voiceware features with those that make the user experience that much easier, and the response has been phenomenal.

Never Satisfied with the Status Quo

Phonesuite will never be satisfied with maintaining the status quo because our techs realize the importance of staying one step ahead whenever possible. As the years go by, we will continue to improve not only our Voiceware software functionalities, but also the specifics of our servicing options, which cover everything from installation to our incredible Hosted Solution. If there’s one thing hoteliers can count on, it’s that our software and services will continue to advance right along with the industry.

Regardless of the size of your hotel or what your specific needs for your facility are, Phonesuite can help streamline and improve your communications system through the use of VoIP, Voiceware, Hosted Solution, and much more. Reach out to our experts today and we’ll get you started on the road to success.

Are Chatbots True AI? Understanding the Difference

There are so many incredible ways that artificial intelligence (AI) can be applied across the enterprise: conversational intelligence, smart routing, agent augmentation, interaction insights. Yet there’s one form of AI that many companies choose to focus on, and it’s a coin toss as to whether their strategies are effective.

Research from Vanson Bourne shows that chatbot technology is the predominant form of AI for nearly 60% of companies today. While most agree on the importance of AI expansion, the research suggests an inability to effectively do so. Consider the contact center, where 94% of companies agree that effective AI helps improve performance but 70% feel they’re missing the mark.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with prioritizing chatbots, so long as you do it right. Some organizations need to fundamentally shift their perception of the technology to clear a path to truly effective AI. Let’s break this down further…

There’s a general misperception that scripted bots (those programmed by humans to interact and behave in certain ways) are true AI. Scripted bots are the earliest iteration of an intelligence system, having been around for almost a decade, which leads many to mistakenly believe they are the first (and therefore genuine) form of AI. These scripted bots are also widely considered AI because they are the best that many companies can do (Vanson Bourne’s data shows that these kinds of chatbots are the only “form” of AI that most businesses use effectively). Scripted bots are easier to implement with less barrier to entry, while AI-enabled bots require ample time and investment in resources.

True AI is not just a computer programmed to think like humans; the technology has abilities to autonomously solve problems and drive new efficiency gains. Companies can use a scripted bot to streamline customer service, but that solution won’t know how to analyze customer interactions to better understand next-level drivers of satisfaction like sentiment, personality, emotion and relatability. Scripted bots may be able to quickly resolve issues or have full conversations around an inquiry, but that doesn’t make them a true form of AI. Rather than being built on augmentation, these bots are built on automation. They generate data based on continuous conversations, whereas AI takes that data and analyzes it to generate actionable insights.

The good news is that chatbot technology is one of the easiest ways to begin the planned expansion of AI across the enterprise. Consider partnerships you can leverage as part of an ecosystem approach to begin doing work in spaces like voice analytics, sentiment, and customer journey analytics. For example, you could apply machine learning around chatbot conversations to better understand the types of experiences customers are having in that specific communication channel. That can help you pinpoint the top things customers are saying or top issues being reached out about.

Identify one or two relatively simple actions you can take (applications of AI that represent low-hanging fruit for your organization) to augment your chatbot strategy. Master these simpler applications of AI, then start considering how you can leverage the same kind of technology (conversation analysis, pattern recognition, etc.) across other areas of business.

Effective AI isn’t a race; it’s about moving one step at a time. For many organizations that prioritize chatbots, leveraging AI to improve chatbot conversation strategy is a great next step for success.    

The State of Hotel Technology

As is true in many industries, hotel technology news and seminars seem to be circling around hot new tech trends and buzzwords like AI (Artificial Intelligence), blockchain, and 5G.

While some of this in-vogue tech holds promise for hospitality, aside from AI, it is future tech, not currently available. We aren’t ready for it yet – there is no vendor offering some practical application to today’s hotel. So let’s separate the practical from the trendy, the work from the fun, the meal from the dessert.

Practical Technology

In a recent Hotel News Now article, leading hotel IT leaders claim to be spending most of their IT budgets for 2019 on back-of-the-house software that will help streamline operations (for efficiency, i.e. savings), minimize disparate systems (for more efficiency and savings), and reduce staff (ditto).

Savings is important, but don’t overlook the increased guest satisfaction that should come from more efficiently knowing and then meeting their needs.

Probably the most overlooked yet noteworthy aspect of hotel technology today is the lack of disruption, or even simple innovation, in the PMS arena. As the core of the hotel’s overall technology systems, the PMS has the most potential for evolving and improving. Yet the biggest national brands remain attached to clunky systems whose core remains stone-aged (1980s) in terms of software technology base.

A single independent (from a specific brand) PMS provider dominates the rest of the industry. There seems to be no pressure on them to innovate, yet they are and remain “ahead of” the aforementioned clunkers in terms of features and capabilities. Hoteliers are thankful for simple feature adds and enhancements. Perhaps safety over innovation is key with this core technology.

The PMS remains the hub of the hotel’s data world. All hotel tech systems, both guest facing and back of the house, interact with it. It’s understandable that from one of the largest hotel chains in the world to the simple independent boutique hotel, hoteliers discover quickly how painful it is to transition from an out of date system to something more modern. Most decide it just isn’t worth it.

There is potential for disruption of this paradigm: no doubt there is a young company out there thinking about how to usurp that iron throne. They’ll need a dragon or two and some real magic. (Please, no leeches.)

No surprise here, but the single most important guest-facing technology in terms of cost (regular refresh required) and guest expectation is the WiFi. If the guest HSIA solution is slow or in any way difficult to access and use, that will produce a series of complaints on TripAdvisor or Yelp, and the hotel WILL suffer from it. Kind of sad, isn’t it, to know that the ever-increasing technology refresh budget goes to a service that nobody will ever rave about in their online feedback, but will quickly roast the hotel about if it isn’t up to their expectations.

Hoteliers must keep this guest technology amenity operating at least close to the current state of the art for home and office use. Stringent brands require a full HSIA/WiFi refresh every 3 years. Imagine the cost.

In terms of guest-facing technology, the current challenge involves just how guests want to use all that bandwidth they are demanding. Online streaming of entertainment continues to climb as a percentage of guest HSIA use, with more than 65% of hotel guests hoping to stream their own content to the in-room TV. Simplicity of use is key, and a solid, dependable, works-for-everyone solution is on its way no doubt – but not here yet.

Technology Provider Consolidation

Overall, there is a trend toward consolidation of systems. Hotel technology executives are faced with an ever expanding array of needed tech, so vendors who offer multiple, integrated or at least streamlined installation and operation of systems are often favored over single-solution providers.

This kind of consolidation should theoretically lower, not raise, the costs, since companies are able to piggyback installation teams and core backbone (network and cabling) work on multiple systems.

Seven Reasons to Say Yes to Cloud Communications

Many IT and business leaders believe that shifting communications to the cloud is risky. The reality is that not moving can be far riskier (as in, “your company could be nonexistent five years from now” riskier). In today’s fast-paced digital business era, seeing changes in the market and responding quickly is the key to success.

Having the agility to do this requires a highly dynamic and agile IT foundation. And communications is at the heart of any digital transformation initiative. Here are seven irrefutable reasons to say “yes” to cloud communications:

  • The top two drivers of digital transformation are enhancing customer service and improving employee productivity—communications is core to both.
  • The more advanced the capabilities of a contact center, the more likely customers will have a positive experience that increases brand loyalty (legacy solutions built only on voice can’t hold a candle).
  • Long upgrade cycles were fine in an era of lengthy market transitions. Today, innovation can and must happen faster. A cloud model is designed for rapid innovation to meet new and highly dynamic business needs.
  • Roll out new services and add new features as fast as you feel comfortable (as in right now, today).
  • Streamline operations: deploy what you want, when you want for any reason necessary.
  • Address compliance and security mandates: a few years ago, businesses were reluctant to adopt cloud communications because they lacked the reliability and/or security of traditional systems (we get it). But this is no longer true. Today’s modernized cloud solutions can be designed with high reliability, security, and compliance for meeting specific business and industry needs.
  • Empower every worker as a change agent: help employees collaborate more quickly to make the best possible decisions in the shortest amount of time, regardless of location or what tools are being used.

The time for cloud communications is now. But it’s imperative that decision makers choose the best delivery model for their business. Learn more about your options (and which is best for you) in my upcoming webinar with Zeus Karravala of ZK Research. Or download ZK’s latest report, “A Buyer’s Guide to Cloud Communications.”

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How Phonesuite Partners With Hotels

Over the decades, Phonesuite has consistently produced outstanding products and services for hotels that improve hotel communications functionalities and their ability to satisfy their guests’ needs. Working with these hotels means so much more to us than simple transactional business, though. It’s hard to overstate how much we value the relationships with various hotels and hoteliers that we’ve cultivated over the years.

Our team dedicates itself to forming true partnerships with hotels, and we have dozens of real-life scenarios and stories that we could tell. What we’d like to do today is call on a few of our most memorable situations, which will give you a good idea of what we truly bring to the table.

Real-Life Scenario #1: Complete System Shutdown

It’s a hotelier’s worst nightmare: a complete shutdown. No matter when they occur, they’re always bad news, and they can have far-reaching consequences. In some scenarios, though, there can be additional issues that aren’t initially clear. One of our clients reached out to us because they found themselves in an panic-inducing situation when their non-Phonesuite phone system went down. There’s a regulation stating that each room must have an operable phone capable of dialing 911 in case of an emergency, so a system outage is unacceptable on many levels. Upon receiving the call, our team went to work immediately and was able to have a brand new Phonesuite system in place and operational in less than 48 hours.

Real-Life Scenario #2: Rebuilding Efforts Following a Hurricane

When a powerful hurricane struck Puerto Rico, it caused devastating damage to both residential and commercial structures. A large hotel property spanning many acres and multiple buildings was having extreme difficulty getting everything back up and running. Phonesuite’s solution was to institute a phased approach to assist them with their reconstruction process. We started by installing admin phones that were operational immediately so that they could conduct business properly. Then, once a portion of the property was ready to be re-opened, the hotel only paid for the installation and use of our communications system for those rooms. They continue to be in the reconstruction phase and our experts are closely monitoring the situation. As more rooms are re-opened, we will expand our services.

Real-Life Scenario #3: Non-Hospitality Phone System Is a Lemon

In a situation that is actually quite common (more than it should be), a hotel had purchased a non-hospitality phone system that turned out to be a lemon. The fact that it didn’t fit their needs was bad enough, but it also wasn’t operational. Since they had already spent money on the system, they were on a tight budget and couldn’t spend more cash on yet another brand-new system. Phonesuite was able to utilize the hardware they already had and then provided our Hosted Solution service to save them money and get them back up and running only two days after they contacted us.

Real-Life Scenario #4: Advance Work on New Construction

From time to time, Phonesuite tackles jobs where a physical structure doesn’t even exist yet. In one particular scenario, all we had was a build site for an upcoming hotel. Our team of communications experts dove right into the task and was able to get the property’s phone numbers in place, deploy a cloud solution, and route incoming calls so that the hotelier could begin conducting business prior to the full deployment of the communications system — or even a fully opened hotel! Then, once the hotel opened up for business, the transition went off without a hitch.

As you can see, Phonesuite truly values its partnerships, and we can tackle any problems that come up when dealing with a hotel’s communications needs. If you’re ready to get started or would like to learn more, contact our communications professionals today. We’ll assess your needs and find the right solution for your hotel.

A Look into Full-Service and Resort Hotels

What do family vacationers, business travelers, and honeymooners have in common? Well, they might all be enjoying the amenities in your full-service or resort hotel. These guests, different though they may be, all expect a certain (high) level of service during their stay at your full-service or resort hotel. For this reason, it’s important for hoteliers to partner with companies that recognize the particular needs of these guests and will follow through with providing exemplary products and services.

Phonesuite has been providing future-proof products and services to full-service and resort hotels for many years. Not only are hoteliers extremely happy with what we offer, but guests enjoy an even more relaxing time with help from our technology. Here’s how:

Easy Transition to VoIP

Since full-service and resort hotels must maintain a high level of service quality at all times for their guests, some may be reluctant to risk downtime by switching to a new communications infrastructure. But fear not: Phonesuite has painstakingly created installation and implementation procedures for VoIP that ensure a smooth transition throughout the entire process, regardless of your hotel’s size or its current communication system.

Crystal-Clear VoIP Communications

When VoIP was first developed, it was seen as a somewhat second-rate communications system because the technology was still in its infancy. But those days are long since passed, and now VoIP delivers crystal clear communication that any size of hotel can rely on. Not only does this benefit your guests, but will also ensure better service encounters between guests and your staff.

Hosted Solution Opportunity

When you enlist the services of Phonesuite, you receive years of experience and know-how. Your partnership with us can end as soon as your installation is over and everything is running smoothly, but many hoteliers decide to utilize our Hosted Solution. With this service, our technology experts will monitor your system 24/7 to ensure that it remains operational at all times, and that any threats or problems are dealt with immediately.

Improved Data Security

Data security has become an extremely hot topic in recent years, in large part due to multiple breaches that have resulted in compromised personal info of clients and customers. Since the reputation of your full-service or resort hotel can be harmed if a data security issue were to occur, Phonesuite’s technology has the ability to monitor for breaches, and it uses sophisticated encryption to protect your guests’ data.

Outage/Downtime Protection

Any system outage, no matter how brief, could not only greatly inconvenience your current guests, but it could also lead to negative reviews and bad word-of-mouth communication once guests have left. Phonesuite’s ability to constantly monitor your VoIP system and its connected network through the use of our Hosted Solution enables our technicians to anticipate potential outage issues and tackle those problems before any downtime occurs.

Future Technologies Development

Despite Phonesuite’s success in developing partnerships with multiple full-service and resort hotels, we never rest on our laurels. Our dedicated technicians are always improving products and services, and will continue to enhance the technology at our disposal such as our Voiceware software so that you are always one step ahead of the competition.

If you own or manage a full-service or resort hotel, you deserve nothing but the very best. When you’re ready to give your communications an overhaul or to simply tweak your existing system, reach out to the experts at Phonesuite.

VoIP Solutions for the Hotel Industry

Hotels have so many technological advances available to them these days that it’s safe to say at this point that we are now living in the future that has been prophesied by technology experts all around the world for years and, in some cases, decades. The best part, though, is that we’ve barely scratched the surface of what is available and we’ll definitely be seeing more advancements in the near future.

Phonesuite has demonstrated in recent years that our experts are always on the forefront of technology. This has been proven by our dedication to Voice over Internet Protocol as the best choice for hotel phone system communications options. What we’ve done to promote this technology to the hotel industry is tailor our VoIP services so that hoteliers can take full advantage of it. Let’s take a look at the VoIP solutions that we currently offer.

Ease of Scalability

One of the best features of any type of hotel phone system is its ability to scale as the needs of your hotel changes. With traditional phone systems, scaling the size of the system because your hotel has grown or plans to grow basically means rebuilding it from the ground up. With VoIP, no matter how big your hotel gets, it can be accommodated with hardly any effort at all.

Guest Info at Your Fingertips

The easier your staff can gain access to guest info, the more efficiently and effectively they’ll be able to handle their requests and satisfy their needs. The Voiceware software developed by Phonesuite provides a browser-based interface where information about any guest can be obtained quickly and easily. Plus, tasks that used to require that an employee be tethered to his or her desk can now be done through a mobile device such as a tablet, thereby increasing the efficiency even more.

Easy Check-Out

These days, guests aren’t really big on coming to the front counter in order to check out of the hotel at the end of their stay. They would much rather pack their bags, load up their vehicle, and be on their merry way without the need to take a detour into the front lobby. Thanks to VoIP and Voiceware technology, guests can check out from the convenience of their room just before they leave.

Unlimited Voice Tree System

When a potential or existing guest calls the hotel for assistance, they are very often looking for information or requesting a simple task. With today’s VoIP solutions, not only can you create an unlimited number of options on your hotel’s voice tree, but those options can be customized to practically any functionality you desire. This allows you to free up your staff while servicing your guests more effectively.

Enhanced Wake-up Calls

You’d think that with everyone having an alarm on their phone, that wake-up calls would be a thing of the past. But, that is proven to absolutely not be true as guests still often find wake-up calls to be an effective way to get started in the morning. And now, these wake-up calls can be customized to include a snooze option, the local weather forecast, or even an automatic transfer to room services just in case they want to order breakfast right away or make a similar request.

All In-House

No matter how great your hotel phone system’s functionalities are, dealing with multiple companies can become an issue. Therefore, perhaps the greatest VoIP solution of all is the fact that Phonesuite handles everything in-house. We don’t deal with any third-party vendors whether you opt for our Hosted Solution or any technology options, so you always know that the buck stops with us.

VoIP solutions aimed at the hospitality industry can help take your hotel to the next level. You can learn more by reaching out to the experts at Phonesuite, who will discuss your installation options and help you achieve the next level of technology.

Lessons to Learn from Marriott’s 2018 Security Breach

It seems as if we’ve reached the point where security breaches will simply be a fact of life for all businesses going forward. Hotel communications systems are absolutely no exception, which is why we have covered such breaches in the past and provided tips on how to prevent them.

Last year, Marriott International, one of the largest hotel corporations, and its subsidiary Starwood experienced a security breach that affected approximately 500 million customers. In this case, hackers stole encrypted data that included personal information, banking records, passport information, and credit card details. What can hoteliers learn from this breach? Here are five takeaways:Access Keys Must Be Separated from Encrypted Data Most companies utilize encryption with their digital information so that if hackers do break into a system, then what they retrieve will often be worthless. However, decryption of these files is enabled by the use of access keys. One flaw in Marriott’s situation was that their access keys were kept in the same digital location as the encrypted files, which made it much easier for the hackers to retrieve everything they needed all in one place. Previous Breaches Increase the Likelihood of Being Breached Again They say that lightning never strikes twice in the same place, but just the opposite is true as it relates to security breaches. Once a location has been hacked into, these criminals will often target them it because they assume that most companies will not improve their security, even after a breach has occurred. In the case of Marriott, this is exactly what happened. The company had experienced a breach in the past but had not taken the proper precautions to prevent it from happening again. This is a prime example of where you must learn from your mistakes.
Mergers and Acquisitions Come with Huge Data Security Risks Mergers and acquisitions always come with a certain amount of risk, but data security risks are often overlooked. In the case of Marriott, they represent what may be the perfect cautionary tale in this regard. In 2016, the company acquired Starwood and had to integrate disparate systems and immediately had technical difficulties because of this. One reason for the problem was that Starwood’s own systems had been cobbled together from the systems of other companies that they had previously acquired. This means that Marriott had absorbed a ton of risk due to multiple systems from various companies that clearly did not have proper security measures in place, and then Marriott didn’t really have a great plan to secure them. 24/7 Network Monitoring Is No Longer a Choice – It’s a Must Digital data that is stored within your hotel’s network cannot simply be locked up at the end of the day as you would the doors to a department store. Hackers do not operate on any kind of time schedule, which means that 24/7 network monitoring is absolutely essential if you want to protect your hotel against a cyber attack. This includes the use of automatic protection tools, in addition to highly trained security personnel. This one-two punch is your best bet in keeping your data secure. Hoteliers Must Assume That a Breach Will Occur When a company the size of Marriott gets hit by hackers, it’s a reminder that any hotel can become the victim of cyber attacks. No longer can companies simply sit idly by and hope that a breach will not happen to them. In fact, the most effective approach is to assume that a breach will occur, especially if your system might be attractive to the most sophisticated hackers as in the case of Marriott. So, what you must do is that in addition to taking proper security precautions, you must also have a plan in place that will allow you to react to a breach accordingly if or when one does occur. Security breaches are here to stay, but if you have a robust system that is monitored by consummate professionals, then the chances of having a breach are severely lowered. Reach out to the experts at Phonesuite today and learn about how upgrading to VoIP and utilizing our Hosted Solution can put your mind at ease.

Hotel Tech Offerings That Appeal to The Modern Guest

In today’s technology-obsessed world, guests have come to expect quick service, readily available information, and seamless check-in processes.

Exactly what types of tech offerings should your hotel utilize in order to appeal to the modern guest? You’re probably already aware by now of the amazing benefits of Phonesuite’s VoIP offerings, along with our advanced Voiceware software and Hosted Solution. We’re proud to bring business- and guest-experience-enhancing communications technology to hotels everywhere. And like anyone else in our industry, we’re always keeping an eye on what’s next, even if it’s not something we directly offer. Today, we’d like to focus on a few up-and-coming hotel technologies that may shape and enhance the guest experience in the coming decade. Step into the future with us and explore some of these exciting tech developments on the horizon!

Customized Experience

When you can customize a guest’s experience at your hotel, they’ll feel like they are truly special and you’ll be more likely to earn their business again. Phonesuite’s Voiceware software, for instance, puts a variety of a guest’s personal details at your staff’s fingertips. They’ll be able to not only identify a guest’s specific needs but also be able to make suggestions based on their profile. This is where technology and the “human touch” collide – and it’s spectacular.

Fingerprint Access

Due to the proliferation of hackers and the amount of personal data that is stored in the cloud and in networks, it’s imperative that hotels protect guests’ data. Fingerprint access can be utilized for any services within your hotel that require some kind of identification. In addition to providing better security, this also makes processes like check-in and check-out much easier and faster than before.

Improved Communications

“Communication is key” doesn’t just apply to personal relationships. It also applies to many types of businesses, including those in the hotel industry. If communication isn’t perfect, today’s modern guests will absolutely let you know – and they won’t be happy. Improving communications within your staff between both guests and other employees through solutions such as VoIP technology will go a long way to keeping guests content. Add in VoIP with its Find Me / Follow Me functionality and guests will remain content throughout their stay.

24/7 Live Chat

Gone are the days when customers only expected businesses to be available during daylight hours. Today’s modern guests expect to have their questions about your hotel answered twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. This is why many hotels are beginning to learn to incorporate a 24/7 live chat functionality that enables guests to be connected with someone familiar with the hotel at all times. No leaving messages. No callbacks. Just answers when the guest wants them.

Intelligent Menus

In the past, hotel guests were limited by whatever the hotel decided to put on their menu. But, due to an increasing desire to eat healthier items or have a variety of different choices, many hotels are implementing “intelligent” menus. This is basically a menu that uses a customer’s personal data and specific selections to design a menu that is more to their liking.

These technology offerings should give you a good idea of what’s on the horizon for hoteliers in their quest to appeal to the modern guest. Phonesuite is an industry leader in delivering communications solutions for hotels of every type and size, so we can help with that part of the equation. Reach out to our experts today and we’ll take you to the next level of success.

10 BUSINESS VOIP TERMS YOU HEAR ALL THE TIME – AND WHAT THEY MEAN

The global business VoIP (UCaaS) market is expected to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 11 percent between 2018 and 2025, so chances are your organization has either already adopted the technology or made plans to do so in the near future.

As you start the process, you’ll be amazed at all of features and functionality this technology offers. We’ve been in many a meeting in which we’ve seen customers get excited about how business VoIP solutions such as MiCloud Connect and Mitel Teamwork could transform their work.

That’s part of the fun. The technology is so new, though, it’s spawned its own language. You hear these words all the time, but we thought it would be helpful to have the definitions in front of you as you evaluate business VoIP solutions. So, we’ve created this handy list of 10 hosted VoIP-related terms for you to keep nearby.

Our definitions will help you understand not only what they mean, but why they’re important to a reliable and powerful business VoIP system. Before you know it, you’ll be impressing—and maybe even intimidating—business VoIP sales reps with your expert knowledge.

Private Branch Exchange

A private branch exchange – more commonly known as a PBX – is a system that connects all of the phones in a building. Basically, it allows users to make both internal and external calls on shared phone lines. Think of a PBX as your old-school switch operator, but automated. The major benefit of a PBX is that it allows organizations to have a ratio of internal to external lines.

Let’s say you run a brewery with 75 employees. Not all of them need to be talking on the public network at one time. In all likelihood, only about 10 of them will. With a PBX, you pay only for 10 lines rather than 75. Internal calls go through the PBX and are free – yes, free – so you can start adding other capabilities, like paging.

Then let’s say you open a second brewery. PBX still has you covered with a private connection between each location’s system. Thanks to the PBX, employees at both breweries can internally dial each other. Sounds pretty good, right?

Hosted PBX

Now that you have a better understanding of what a PBX does, let’s move on to a hosted PBX. At the brewing company, you own the privately managed call controller or server on which the PBX operates. A hosted PBX resides in the cloud. It’s a virtual PBX system delivered through your internet connection.

What’s great about a hosted PBX is that you don’t need to house or maintain any hardware or equipment. Everything is stored in the cloud, and the PBX provider handles maintenance. You get all of the benefits of a PBX system without any of the worry or headache. Your business also becomes adaptive, easily evolving and scaling as needs change.

Typically, a hosted system’s subscription cost includes updates and new functionality, though you should always be sure to ask prospective providers about this. A hosted PBX allows your business to take advantage of advances in technology right away.

IP Desk Phone

Now let’s dig into some of the devices your employees may use on a daily basis with a business VoIP system. An IP desk phone looks a lot like a traditional desktop phone, but it uses VoIP technology (the internet) to make calls. There’s a huge range of options available when it comes to IP phone selection. You want superior voice quality, obviously, but you also need to decide what other features you need.

For example, how important is support for Bluetooth or USB handsets? Given the array of options, we typically recommend you review all options with your vendor to accurately determine which type of desk phone best meets your employees’ needs.

Softphone

A softphone is a piece of software that allows you to make calls over the internet through any device that has a supported speaker and microphone. What exactly does this mean for your business? For one thing, your employees can make phone calls without using a physical telephone. Translation: You’ll have less equipment to purchase.

Softphones require a headset and microphone and will typically include business phone system features such as call transfers, call waiting and call routing. 

Because VoIP calls are usually less expensive than traditional landline calls, the cost savings of softphones go beyond physical equipment. In addition, if you choose a robust business VoIP system, your team gets access to additional features such as video conferencing, call center integration, instant chat and SMS messaging.

Virtual Phone Numbers For Business

Numbers that aren’t anchored to a specific phone are called virtual phone numbers. They’re used to forward calls to other phone numbers. Virtual numbers can be used on any communications device, including smartphones and desktops.

From a business perspective, virtual phone numbers deliver cost savings. Since they can be used across several phones, you have fewer phones to purchase. These virtual numbers can also be set to any area code, reducing long distance expenses and creating a local presence in the country where the call originated. Toll-free virtual numbers enable customers to call your business free of charge.

Another benefit is the option to create a unique virtual phone number for each department or business unit. Calls can be routed by set rules or via an IVR to improve the overall flow and organization of your communications.

Single Sign-On

While you probably know what this one means, you may not have a clear understanding of why it’s important. Single sign-on (SSO) is an authentication process that gives users access to a host of proprietary business applications and systems with one set of credentials. That means your employees don’t have to juggle multiple usernames and passwords. (We can hear the cheering now.)

IT departments also benefit from SSO. The drastic reduction in requests to locate or reset login credentials allows your technology staff to focus on more value-added tasks. As a whole your organization becomes more secure since there are fewer credentials that can be compromised.

Single Pane Of Glass

As the name implies, this is all about visibility. “Single pane of glass” relates to a management tool that unifies data and interfaces across several sources and presents them in a single view. You get a better perspective on what information is valuable, and that information is more readily available for your employees to act on.

When uniting disparate data sources into a single pane of glass view, users usually work with a dashboard that has a graphic interface so users can interact with the data and even generate custom reports.

But remember, we also mentioned interfaces in this definition. With communications systems, businesses often use multiple tools. A single pane of glass gives employees access to all of their communications and collaboration tools in one view. For example, MiCloud Connect Contact Center integrates chat, multiple customer interactions, call profile information and more.

Persistent Workspace

Persistent workspaces are ongoing virtual rooms where teams can collaborate via messaging, tasks, file sharing and more. If a user leaves the room, the conversation continues on. When they return, they will be alerted of missed chats and as well as messages, tasks and files specific to them.

A persistent workspace, such as the ones available in Mitel Teamwork, gives employees and team members access to all of the information they need in a single solution. Users save time, and productivity increases.

Automatic Call Distributor

If you operate an inbound call center, you need virtual queuing. Call centers use an automatic call distributor (ACD) – a device that answers and distributes incoming calls to specific groups within the center. With a virtual queue, callers have the option to hang up and have the system call them back when their turn comes up. While they wait, they can go about their day, without the hassle of sitting on hold. This can make your customer’s day.

Workforce Management

When we talk about workforce management (WFM) in relation to UCaaS, we’re referring to software solutions that improve the overall customer experience. This starts in the contact center. A WFM solution puts the most appropriate person in the right place at the right time.

For a better understanding of how this works, check out MiCloud Connect CX, a cloud-based contact center tool that’s easy to set up and is intuitive to use. Plan and manage your contact center with ease and end the all-too-often nightmare that is scheduling.

Now that you’ve read our list, consider yourself well-armed to search for the right UCaaS solution provider. Hopefully, you have a better understanding of what you need versus what you want, and what you may need in the future. You can make a well-informed decision – one that will deliver all of the efficiency, productivity and reliability you expect