Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Day

On this day we remember the great fighter for justice, Dr Martin Luther King Jr. We pray that his dream would continue to be fulfilled for a more kind, equitable, and peaceful world.

CSM South is a Tampa based company providing both VoIP and traditional telephone systems for businesses in Florida and Texas

CSM Installs Cloud VoIP Telephone System for ELC Florida’s Heartland

The Early Learning Coalition of Florida’s Heartland is an agency tasked with the important job of connecting children and families with a range of services to assist with accessing high quality early care, education, and health. The organization operates in four Florida counties- Charlotte, Desoto, Hardee and Highlands in both urban and rural areas.  

As a not-for-profit organization supported by grants from the State of Florida, the Early Learning Coalition (ELC) is constantly looking for ways to streamline expenses, improve business functions, and make the most of their time and treasure. In 2018, they thought that they had found this in an AT&T cloud telecom solution with Grandstream SIP telephones as it offered the functions and features that they needed, at a reasonable price. However, come late 2020, they were informed that AT&T would no longer be supporting their product and they would need to upgrade- at a significant and unexpected expense.

CSM South worked with the ELC to provide a cloud-based telecom solution from LogMeIn- their flagship GoTo Connect software using their roughly 50 existing Grandstream VoIP telephones which had been purchased from AT&T.

“The ability to reuse our existing Grandstream phones was crucial, and the fact that we saved nearly 60% off our AT&T product was a real plus!
 Anna Brookbank, Associate Director of Contracts & Compliance 

The provided GoTo Connect platform provides all the necessary functions required by businesses today, and a whole host of no-cost addon’s such as Conferencing (ad-hoc, scheduled, video, etc.), remote users, cradle to grave call reporting, and an easy-to-use user interface for all employees.

Happy New Year

2021 is finally here (and not a moment too soon!). We here at CSM South wish each and every on of our clients, friends, and families a happy and prosperous new year, we can’t wait to see what it brings! Our corporate goal is to continue providing world class service on telecom projects while continuing to grow our cloud based offerings and deployments.

All our best!

Grandstream VoIP

CSM South installs new VoIP phone system for Assisted Living Facility

Recently, CSM South was contacted by a large assisted living facility located here on the west coast of Florida. Their old phone system had suddenly died and was not going to be able to be brought back on line. Manufactured by Tadiran, a company who had left the US market over a decade ago, the vintage 1980’s Coral PBX telephone system was not going to be resurrected.

CSM brought to the table a VoIP solution that could handle the 800+ room extensions which were all analog devices provided by the residents. By integrating a Grandstream VoIP PBX, CSM South quickly got the residents up and running, able to once again call their loved ones or receive needed assistance from the onsite health, dining, and leisure services. Call accounting software was also deployed so the management could bill for long distance calling.

Grandstream VoIP

Additionally, the cable infrastructure was unlabelled and rather… messy. Using 3 employees, CSM South was successfully able to identify, tone, and connect all 800 cables in about 3 weeks time, working weekdays and weekends.

Staff were very accommodating and the daunting project was successfully completed. CSM South greatly appreciates the faith placed in us by management and the ability to showcase our strengths in hardware, software, and onsite cable infrastructure.

Read This Before you switch to Spectrum for your Hotel Phone System

CSM South has provided quality and affordable telephone systems to businesses and the hospitality industry since 1984. In that time, we have seen the industry change from analog telephones, to digital, to premise based VoIP and then branching off to hosted or cloud- based VoIP. Differing from our competition, CSM South offers a range of products to suit each business vertical and model perfectly.

For general business, we represent Mitel (both cloud and premise), NEC (premise), and LogMein/ Jive (cloud), among other legacy and cloud products. In the hospitality industry, we have found the best products to be a hybrid VoIP, premise- based system from either PhoneSuite or NEC. Why is this, with so much hype about the cloud? Let’s look at the details.

Why the cloud pricing model doesn’t work for hotels

The way that cloud based VoIP phone systems are priced is a recurring price per user, or “seat”, that is paid monthly. Benefits of this is that the amount paid typically covers phone service, ongoing maintenance, and the hardware as well. This works well for businesses such as law firms or doctor offices who have a large volume of calls to almost every phone in the office and a wide range of features and functions are required for business. However, in the hospitality industry, there are typically only a handful or business or office type telephones and many room and courtesy telephones which only make a small quantity of calls per month, besides calls to the front desk. So, in effect, hotels are paying for phones, or “seats”, that don’t really make any money for the property. As an example, take a typical 96 room hotel:

92 Analog room phones
4 Courtesy phones (pool, conference room, etc)
5 Business phones including Front Desk

On a cloud telecom pricing model, there is a fee associated with each phone. Here are some estimated, but typical rates:

92 Analog room phones $12 per phone $1,104.00
4 Courtesy phones (pool, conference room, etc) $12 per phone $ 48.00
5 Business phones including Front Desk $22 per phone $ 110.00
Total Telecom Bill (before tax) $1,262.00

As you can see, the lions share of the monthly cost is for the room phones. So, what is to be done to avoid this? The answer is surprisingly simple. Instead of a cloud product, hotels should install hybrid VoIP systems such as PhoneSuite or NEC. Here is an example, for our same fictional hotel, utilizing this technology:

92 Analog room phones
4 Courtesy phones (pool, conference room, etc)
5 Business phones including Front Desk

Total Telephone System on 60-month lease (before tax) $329.00
PRI (or Sip trunks) for line Service $300.00
Total monthly telecom bill (before tax) $629.00

Shocking, isn’t it, a full half the cost of the cloud system! And, at the end of the lease term of 60 months, the property will own the equipment, so the $329 monthly payment is satisfied, bringing down the cost to less than a third that of the cloud product.

Basically, price is the primary reason that hotels and other hospitality properties should consider ditching the cloud or upgrading their aging PBX to a hybrid PhoneSuite or NEC. Call CSM South today to learn more!

CSM South

Mitel, Avaya Merger on Tap?

During Avaya’s third-quarter 2019 earnings call last week, Avaya CEO Jim Chirico shared that the company expects to finalize its next-step strategic plan “within the next 30 days.” Now a week later, word has resurfaced that Mitel is an interested buyer.”
Speculation regarding Mitel’s interest first came up four months ago, in a report published in The Wall Street Journal that Avaya and Mitel were discussing a merger. At the time, which followed Chirico’s earlier acknowledgment that Avaya had engaged J.P. Morgan to evaluate options for how to best maximize shareholder value, he proposal had the potential transaction — a stock deal — valued at about $2 billion, or about $20 to $22 a share.
Bloomberg yesterday reported, citing information gleaned from “people with knowledge of the matter,” that Mitel has submitted an offer for Avaya that “it believes would value the combined business at more than $20 per share.” The purchase, should it become a reality, could create a single entity worth more than $5 billion, including debt, Bloomberg reported.
According to Bloomberg’s sources, the deal Mitel has carved out would place one-third ownership in the hands of its investors. The combined company would be publicly traded, one source told Bloomberg, and Mitel’s private equity owner Searchlight Capital “expects synergies of at least $250 million a year from the deal.”
Watch this space for additional coverage on what an Avaya-Mitel merger would mean for the industry, including the contact center market.

SD-WAN Adoption Poised for Liftoff, Says Aryaka

SD-WAN adoption has reached an inflection point, according to Aryaka’s 2019 State of the WAN report, which found more than half of enterprises were poised to make the switch from tradition WAN networks to SD-WAN in the next few years.

The SD-WAN vendor’s third annual report surveyed 795 IT and network practitioners working for companiesranging in size from less than 1,000 employees to more than 10,000.

According to the report, enterprises are demanding more of their WANs than ever before with nearly a third operating more than 20 branch offices around the globe and roughly half leveraging five or more cloud providers or software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications. Of those surveyed, 15% had more than 1,000 applications deployed.

“Many of these [applications] are moving, over time, into the cloud,” said David Ginsberg, VP of product and solutions marketing at Aryaka, in an interview with SDxCentral.

Aryaka found that enterprises faced a wide array of challenges associated with their WAN deployments including 40% reporting cost, 35% maintenance and management complexity, and 24% access speeds to cloud services and SaaS applications.

The survey found slow application performance was responsible for poor user experiences for 45% of branch offices and 36% of remote and mobile users.

However, the report found little consensus as to where these performance issues stemmed from with those surveyed roughly split between the last mile, middle mile, and the cloud. According to Aryaka, the takeaway is the need for better visibility across the entire network.

Ginsburg said 29% of those respondents identified managing multiple service providers as part of their WAN offering as difficult. He said this lends itself to what Aryaka sees an increasing need for a managed SD-WAN solution that eliminates the need to work with multiple service providers to solve a problem or implement a change.

Performance challenges also extended to universal communication as a service (UCaaS). The survey found 41% of respondents experienced challenges with poor voice and video quality, 31% reported trouble with laggy connections, and 28% experienced set up and maintenance issues. Overall Aryaka found that UCaaS remains highly intolerant of poorly optimized WANs.

“UCaaS is becoming increasingly critical for global organizations,” Ginsburg said.“They have a lot of problems in the performance of UCaaS over the WAN and that has to be at the top of mind and addressed with any WAN transformation.”

SD-WAN Deployment

According to the report, SD-WAN adoption continues to build. The survey found 48% of respondents were in the process of gathering information in preparation for a deployment while 17% were actively evaluating vendors.

Just 12% of those surveyed were in the process of deploying an SD-WAN while 19% reported having completed their deployment.

Of those evaluating SD-WAN solutions, Aryaka found cloud and SaaS connectivity, advanced security, WAN optimization and application acceleration, and the ability to replace MPLS were among the highest-ranked features.

Meanwhile, respondents said the high cost of deployment, complexity, and a skills gap were among the biggest barriers to SD-WAN adoption.

A Divided Philosophy

The report did find some geographic divisions across the metrics.

Ginsburg said in particular, the report found that enterprises in North America preferred a do-it-yourself approach while in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) enterprises were more open to a managed approach.

The same divide was evident when it came to security. Aryaka found North American companies preferred a single-vendor approach to security while in EMEA companies tended to choose multi-vendor security services.

A Manageable Solution?

What Aryaka, a managed SD-WAN vendor, sees as the solution comes as little surprise — managed SD-WAN.

Ginsburg said the data shows that many enterprises going down this path of digital transformation don’t want to spend their effort creating this dedicated cloud connectivity or understanding where the handoffs are.

“SD-WAN is really moving into a more productive phase with large scale deployments,” he said.

No Surprises Here

Aryaka’s State of the WAN report comes hot on the heels of IDC’s SD-WAN infrastructure forecast in July and IHS Markit’s SD-WAN ranking.

Aryaka’s report reinforces many of the trends in the SD-WAN space including an emphasis on security and managed SD-WAN products.

However, unlike IDC or IHS, which offered independent reports alongside industry rankings, Aryaka, which ranked third in the latter’s report refrained from comparing itself to its peers.

Image of LIghtening Strike

What to do when Lightening Strikes your Phone System

Lightning Safety for Phone System

Living in either Florida or Texas, residents will be very familiar with extreme weather. Besides ruining a day at the beach or a softball game, thunderstorms and weather related events can cause power interruptions and surges that wreck havoc on telecom, data equipment, and related devices. So what should a business do when a phone system is down or damaged by power issues of weather?

  • Power Cycle your phone system– to begin with, you should turn the phone system off and then back on. Depending on what type of system you are using in your business, that may be accomplished several ways. If you have a Nortel/ Norstar/Meridian, consult this page for instructions.  For other systems, there is sometimes a power switch which can be flipped off, left for a moment, and then flipped back on. If that is not evident, then you can unplug your system at the wall outlet, leave for a minute or two, and then plug it back in. Sometimes these operations reset the system properly and it will come back up; however, if there is physical damage from the power interruption, this will not solve the issue.
  • Call CSM South– After cycling your phone system, either give CSM South a call (813-961-9351) or email our Service Department, service@csmsouth.com. Our phone is monitored 24/7 and our email from 8-5 M-F.  A tech will be dispatched to access the situation and can advise what should be done next. It may be as simple as replacing some lightening protectors on your lines, which is very inexpensive, it could be replacing some parts on the telephone system such as line cards, station cards, or appliances. If more extensive damage is done, the system itself may need to be replaced. A technician can determine the best steps so that you can make an informed decision.
  • Insurance– It should be noted at this point that most business insurance policies cover damage sustained from lightening or power surges. Organizations should consult their policies or insurance agents for additional information. If it is indeed determined that power or weather was related to your service issues, CSM is happy to write a letter or speak with insurance companies as required for your claim.

CSM South has been in business since 1984, assisting clients who have been affected by weather or power issues with service calls on their phone systems.  Please contact us if you are experiencing problems with your telephone system and you suspect that they may be damaged by lightening, power issues, or weather.

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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.