Movember is upon us again, and half grown mustaches are everywhere.
This month, we are supporting this noble cause by growing mustaches in our office.
We’re also making a donation for each and every extension that we light up on our network this month.
So that’s all well and good, but it brings up the idea that maybe, just maybe, there’s a way that we can all be a part of something bigger simply by working with organizations that are committed to giving back.
I’m not suggesting that we should all quit our jobs and rush out to change the world - what I AM suggesting is that perhaps taking a moment to consider what you’re buying, and who you’re buying it from is a good idea. If these are everyday items that you need and use anyway, why not support a vendor that does something with your support?
To use our office as an example……. We buy water for the office, because we like nice, fresh, cold water - who doesn’t, right?
Well, not too long ago, I was introduced to the Earth Group (www.earthgroup.org)- who are the purveyors of (amongst other useful products) Earth Water.
For each and every bottle of water that Earth Group sells, they use the net proceeds to help children in impoverished areas get clean drinking water, and proper nutrition.
Now, (without getting all preachy) having known this, it became pretty clear to us that this was an initiative that we could EASILY get behind.
We were going to buy water from someone, because we wanted to drink water. Why not buy from a supplier that is doing something positive?
Whether it’s phones, water, or other day to day essentials, wouldn’t you like to know that simply by working with a company that supplies a product or service that you need anyway, you’re doing something to help better the world that we live in?
It could be something as simple as growing a mustache and supporting men’s health, and it could be as complicated as changing the lives of children in impoverished areas - but it’s something and your support helps companies do great things.
If giving is the new getting, why not get the satisfaction of knowing that you’re a part of the solution.
You can do this simply by making choices and supporting vendors that are committed to change.
This week, I pitched a project to a client that went beyond traditional voice services, but allowed us to keep a more human element in a marketing campaign.
The client - A builder who is looking to work with a specific (and forward minded) demographic has agreed to a pilot that would see the integration of voice and QR codes into their signage that would allow a user to scan one of their signs (or call the number listed below the QR code), and get site specific information via an interactive voice recording (IVR).
This solution is an excellent example of companies looking to move into the next wave of voice services that are offered by emerging communications companies (like Planet Telecom). Beyond just sending a client to a website, each recording is tailored to the specific site that the information is posted in front of - enabling a client to simply listen to the details - while taking in the beauty of the structure in person.
Part marketing play, part user-requested advertising, and part engagement strategy, the solution enables the client to deliver real-time information to an interested buyer who is sitting in front of a property, and will allow the prospective client to not only get the information they desire, but at their discretion (and through some neato telecom magic) they are also able to select an option that will connect them with a representative from the company directly - enabling a much higher level of engagement from both sides of the equation.
Should the prospective client want to listen to the information again, or even further the conversation at a later date - all that they have to do is hit redial on their mobile phone - essentially, ensuring that the builder is top of mind, and has a little piece of the prospective client’s mindshare long after they’ve left the site.
From the Builder’s perspective, their brand is being exposed in a unique and interesting way to more and more people, and, (should the prospective client wish to pursue a conversation), the builder is in contact with prospective clients much easier than ever before. As an added bonus (via the aforementioned telecom magic), they’re not required to be chained to a desk in order to do so.
This solution is completely scalable and allows the builder to track the success of the campaign in order to better understand what specific properties are attracting the most views, what time of day, and how long the typical client engagement session is. From this data, the client can better determine where to add additional services, what to promote about specific properties, and what geographical areas they should focus on to drive more traffic, or build more structures.
At Planet Telecom, we’re constantly looking at new and interesting ways to apply voice based technologies into a myriad of services that add value for clients, and solve unique problems.
As the landscape around all technology continues to evolve, there is more of a disconnect between people than ever before.
Maintaining the element of the human voice not only has the ability to connect us to each other in a powerful, dynamic way, it allows us to maintain a human element in an increasingly text based world.
We all run into the same type of story from time to time….The one about the person who “packed it all up and moved to (insert awesome, sunny, trpoical place here) and never had to deal with winter again by using the internet as their portal back to their home base….”
It’s easy to be skeptical about this kind of story, but in reality - it’s not that far off the mark.
Today’s technologies really allow us to do what we do from virtually anywhere, and as real estate (specifically office space) continues to become more of a hinderance than a help, we will really see a major shift toward this kind of thinking.
Now, to be clear, I’m not sitting here saying that everyone is going to be practicing law from a hammock while sipping delicious beverages from a coconut - but I am saying that the technology exists to allow you to think about the word “office” a LOT differently, and that you won’t see “going to work” continue to be the commuter’s sport it used to be.
Given the option, people will emphatically say that they would WAY rather not have to “report to the office” for work, and having worked from home myself for a good chunk of time - I must say, the pros surrounding it are as bountiful as the coconut beverages in those stories we’ve heard.
Employees that work from home frequently put in more hours, are far less likely to exploit a sick day policy, report significantly better work/life balance, are less of a drag on the group benefits plan, are proven to be far more effective in their jobs, and are less likely to leave their current employer.
If nothing else, because they work from home, they aren’t pissed off by the other commuternauts that they have to deal with before they even get to work, allowing them to keep a productive headspace from minute one.
It’s been proven time and time again that happy employees are more productive employees.
Companies that offer employees the ability to work remotely can expect to save on costs for things like office space, hardware refreshes, parking, and are also able to do their part for the environment - simply because there aren’t people commuting to the office. (See our post “Feeling guilty about the environment - telecommute”)
With simple, and readily available VPN and remote desktop technologies, as well as communications strategies like Planet Telecom’s Compello IP Centrex services, almost any organization can quickly, easily, and cost effectively deploy a remote worker strategy. These solutions offer the employee the ability to have virtual office presence - they’re on the same network for data via the VPN, and their phones (actual phones, by the way - not just software based phones) carry their local numbers, extensions and features no matter where they are.
For example, we have users who have local Edmonton numbers, but are living (and working) in Panama. They’re able to manage their work days, communicate with their clients (who are here in Edmonton) and to those clients it’s no different than if they were sitting here in Edmonton chained to a desk.
While you might not be deploying a program to get your workforce to the beach, you can certainly examine the benefits of allowing them to work remotely on a semi regular basis.
They’ll be happier, healthier, more productive, and if nothing else your organization could easily save enough to spring for some coconut beverages on your next corporate retreat.
If this all sounds great to you - why not drop us a line? We can most certainly help you out with a remote worker strategy, and can walk you through deploying an IP based communications solution that will allow you to start saving in no time.
Our toll free number is 1-866-296-7771 - we hope to hear from you soon!
Planet Telecom - It’s just BETTER.
An article came through my inbox today about a lawyer’s office in the United States that had over $20,000.00 in charges from their phone systems being hacked and pirated for voice traffic.
While I’ve heard of this before (even locally), this article really stuck, and brought up a great point that few organizations really consider (mainly because a lot of them don’t know that this is possible!)
Older, legacy hardware isn’t just hard to find replacements for, or expensive to fix when it inevitably breaks, it’s potentially a security risk.
And in today’s day and age, this is pretty understandable. We have moved light years forward in all technology in the last 10 years - for everything from computers, network infrastructure, mobile devices and cloud based technology. Is it really any wonder that older, outdated legacy hardware is an easy target for tech savvy criminals?
Moving to a hosted solution can not only mitigate these potential security risks by taking your communications off site and placing it in a secure, managed area, it also moves the liability away from your infrastructure, having the provider become responsible to maintain security on the network - by people who are experts in network design and maintenance.
As well, the feature set, scalability and maneuverability of a modern platform can improve the end user experience dramatically, and allow for an organization to best leverage their human assets in a more modern way.
Here’s a link to the article if you’d like to read it.
Here’s the thing that pretty much will sum up everything that I’m about to write (and one of the mantras that we live by here at Planet Telecom):
Unless you’re looking to amortize hardware or price, If you do your job and take care of your clients the way that you should, as an organization, you shouldn’t EVER need to have a long term contract.
We firmly believe that doing our job, and delivering a peerless level of service is what keeps our clients as our clients.
You wouldn’t believe the amount of long term contracts that we run into in our line of work - it’s really silly…. These long term contracts are written when the client has their own hardware that the service provider doesn’t maintain, support, or help with in any way. (Yep - that’s extra - and if your hardware dies on you -oh well, you’re still in contract, so you have to buy new stuff on your own)
I certainly haven’t come across a long term contract that was in favour of the client, in fact, for the most part - it’s quite the opposite.
The long term contracts are written most of the time with a 5 year term that may gain the client a “loyalty” incentive of less than 5%….. Seriously. For every $100.00 a client spends, they get $5.00 or less? Wow - way to make it worth everyone’s time (I realize that the written word doesn’t communicate tone very well - so to be clear -that last statement is dripping in sarcasm….)
Then, their rep gets the option of disappearing - so if they’re experiencing less than adequate service, or are looking to move to a solution that is better suited for their needs, they are told that they have to pay a penalty (which more often than not is simply paying your monthly service for the remaining months in one lump sum……sounds fair to me considering their “loyalty” got them $5.00 or less for every $100.00 spent….Uhm, nooooo…..) Oh, and by the way, if you don’t cancel, some of these contracts will auto-renew for a term of up to 3 years! Seriously.
At the end of the day, scare tactics, threats and penalties don’t keep clients, service does. If you corner a client with this kind of tactic, eventually, they’re just going to leave eventually. And then they’re going to tell everyone they can about what a terrible experience they’ve just had.
We believe that delivering on your promises, and offering a peerless level of client service is what keeps clients. And if they aren’t satisfied with our offering, and feel like they can find better service with another provider - they’re not shackled to us as a vendor….Because really, we want happy clients that want to work with us, not clients who have to work with us because of a contract.
Does your communications provider give you that option?
If not, when your contract is up - maybe you should consider working with someone who does.
This week we met with a prospective client and did some work on their site that was outside of what would be considered “the norm”.
In our business, we have to jump through a LOT of hoops, and get around a proverbial mountain of potential technical issues - which a lot of clients can take for granted.
For every “WOW - you can actually do that?” that we get - there’s always 5 people who don’t really “get it” and “just want dialtone for less”.
The organization has some relatively standard needs, and has been a real treat to work with (No, seriously - they’re awesome) - but what really stuck out for me this week was how they were impressed that we would spend the time on their site working with their network in order to ensure that they could test (yes, we are allowing them to test too - also outside the norm!) in a proper environment.
A lot of other companies wouldn’t spend the time to ensure that the client’s network was set up correctly - they’d just expect (or worse- demand) it, and the client alluded to as much.
So - back to the revolution reference here. It’s not only about a revolution in the way that companies support their clients or try to bring them on as clients - it’s also about time that we all got to see clients like the one I’m referring to.
It’s a revolution from a service perspective, both given and received. This client gave us the space and support to work so that we have the ability to do perform to our full potential, and as a result, they are going to be able to perform the tests in a proper environment - and give it a real push.
While we always strive to offer revolutionary service - especially for a communications company - this week’s experience with our prospective client showed us that the revolution is possibly starting to be reciprocated - and there are organizations out there that realize that if you work with your vendor - we ALL get more accomplished.
Yeah, we all wanna change the world - but in our little sphere of influence, this is how we start.
This week we had a LOT of meetings.
Far more than normal actually - and I must say - meeting with the clients and prospective clients has been a real blast!
I love getting out and meeting with our market - what an interesting world we live in. The business world is chalk full of unique needs and concerns - and yet these are the things that are generally go on quietly behind the scenes, while commerce chugs along.
Even more interesting are the stories that these businesses have - the ones that you’d never hear about unless you were there - their triumphs against all odds, their tenacity, and their commitment to winning with hard work and commitment. Ask any business owner - They’ll surprise you with what they’ve been through!
I met a client at an organization that has been through some really serious ups and downs, the type that was completely beyond their control, and yet - they have never had a gap in the service that they provide their client base (Admirable!), a retailer that has weathered multiple recessions and has continued to be really profitable, even amongst economic downturns - (Their secret? Offer peerless customer service and a well chosen selection of superior products….Alas -The Boutique Model), and a very lucrative financial services organization that was happy to have us on board as a vendor, and just let us do what we do best - because we solved issues for them and delivered on what we said we would…..(Imagine that - from a communications company!)
This week we were faced with getting really creative to develop some solutions that solved some pretty unique problems -some married yesterday’s hardware with today’s technology, some required some creative problem solving and hoop-jumping, while some were just all about making the numbers work.
We do this happily -because we believe that as a company, we’re building our own stories.
Stories that we’ll look forward to sitting down and sharing with our clients in the future - comparing notes (and battle wounds) and maybe even having a laugh over a coffee.
Every time one of our people walk through the door of a client both new, old, and prospective - we hope that we’re going to hear a new story, and we look forward to hearing yours.
I was recently asked by one of my team how a gigantic company cannot manage to provide even satisfactory customer service?
I didn’t have an answer for him…… I can speculate that it could be a function of size - that the people who are calling the shots end up having to make broad, sweeping decisions that affect each client differently, or perhaps it could be that it’s really hard to keep their fingers on the pulse of the ever changing client experience landscape - maybe they flat out just don’t care because clients will continue to pay anyway?
Regardless of the reason, as consumers become more and more savvy (and we’re already pretty darned sharp) there will be less and less room for complacency within the market. As we begin to “vote with our dollars” more and more, companies need to look at “adjusting” their service model.
To examine a model that I am very fond of - let’s look at Boutiques:
Boutiques are focused on differentiators in the market, have a far greater commitment to ensuring that the client has a second to none experience, and while they are may even be a little more expensive than a larger retailer, they succeed.
Why? It’s in the service model. Boutiques look to differentiate themselves in the market - and realistically, if you take away the various products and services - there are common denominators in how they ALL do it….Commitment to the Client Experience in all facets - the level of experience and product knowledge, the presentation, the way that they do business, the customer service levels, etc. - It’s ALL related to the Client Experience.
Sure, the product may be a little different, or it is proposed that it is harder to find, or better quality, but at the end of the day - it’s about the experience. I’m sure I won’t hear too many arguments when I say that regardless of product, not too many people buy when faced with a negative experience from an unfriendly, un-knowledgable person. They DO, however, buy (and sometimes regardless of the cost) when faced with an extremely knowledgeable person committed to offering a positive experience.
What if everything could be like that? What if you were treated the way you are in a good boutique everywhere? You could go to your local grocers, and someone took the time to find out what you need and recommend products based on that? What if your phone company tailored a plan for your business’ specific needs and ensured that you had a second to none experience both leading up to and after the service transition? How about getting your vehicle fixed at the garage that focused on an unparalleled client experience as opposed to offering you (really) terrible coffee while you read old wrinkled magazines and wait for the bill that causes you to clutch at your chest?
Wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t that be even be worth paying a little more for?
Too often do I come across a client that talks negatively about their telecom experience - how the customer service is terrible, how there’s never anyone available to answer even a simple question or even to help with an issue. And yet, they find themselves feeling like there are no alternate options available…… There are - and your dollars are your vote. Every time you spend with a vendor that offers kind of treatment, you, well, flat out allow them to get away with it.
We strive to offer a “Boutique” experience here at Planet Telecom, because we recognize that it’s what our clients want, and it’s how they want to be treated, even if it’s not what they expect from a communications company. It’s how we operate, and it’s how we build Brand Evangelists too!
So vote with your dollar, and next time you make a buying decision, why not stop for a second and ask yourself - am I getting the Boutique Experience I deserve?
If it’s not - look for a vendor that will offer you the level of service you deserve.
It’s a sad truth of today’s world, but most old phones are no longer meeting the requirements of today’s business.
Without a proper retirement plan, your old phones can rapidly spiral out of control, ending up in a vicious cycle that could result in a loss of purpose, a general disregard for society, and quite possibly homelessness.
Planet Telecom cares, and we understand that after many years of loyal service, it can be hard to say goodbye to old phones, even though they’re no longer meeting your needs.
When you become a Planet Telecom customer, not only can we can help your business improve your voice communications strategy, but we can help to ease the transition for your old, obsolete phone system into retirement.
At the Planet Telecom post service care facility, we can offer your old phones a home to call their own – where they can settle into retirement, and live out their days in a dignified fashion, among their peers.
Stop the cycle - Call Planet Telecom today, and schedule an appointment with one of our Client Care Specialists.
Our caring and capable team will come to your site, and work with you on a transition plan that fits your budget, and meets your needs - so that you can give your old phones the dignified retirement they deserve, and keep them off the streets.
Tuesday June 1st was this country’s first “Unofficial” Work From Home Day.
A fantastic idea, and organizations like Workopolis are even helping to drive the initiatives to make this a nationally recognized day.
While we’d like to stay out of the law-making business (We’ll stick to what we’re awesome at, thank you….) We’d most certainly agree with Workopolis on the values of telecommuting for employees for a number of reasons. (We also applaud Workopolis for spearheading this initiative – it’s about time industry stepped up….Bravo!)
While there have been posts here before that talk about the ability to reduce the carbon footprint of your organization simply by allowing a portion of your office workers to telecommute once a week, (See “Feeling Guilty about the Environment – Telecommute!), there are numerous reasons to deploy a telecommuting strategy within your organization.
Let’s address a big one here – it’s a MASSIVE VALUE ADD for both existing and prospective employees…..(and it can cost you next to nothing to implement….)
Make your recruitment initiatives go a little further by offering this perk to prospective employees.
As the job market tightens and we see the exodus of the boomer generation from the work force, we’re going to see a serious gap between available roles and available candidates. As the race for these qualified candidates heats up - how will you differentiate your organization and attract the best qualified and most critical candidates?
There’s always money, but studies have shown that these days – money isn’t everything…… One of the most valued items a company can offer to the 30-45 year old market is work life balance.
One of the easiest ways to deploy this is through a telecommuting strategy. Allow your workers to work from home, even if it’s only one day a week!
You’ll find that translates into better employee engagement, a reduction in churn, and higher recruitment numbers.
Retain your employees and keep high value workers where they are – and happy with the organization that they work with – simply by giving them a little bit of freedom. It will pay off in spades – as most work from home employees are actually more productive when they work from home (Yes, I said more!!!)
Really – when you consider the fact that there is no water cooler talk, no excess socializing, no long breaks to go to the store, lunches are typically shorter, and breaks more rejuvenating – let alone the fact that they have the ability to schedule themselves more efficiently throughout the day.
The real icing on the cake for this is that deploying a telecommuting strategy into your business is already built into Planet Telecom’s technology.
A user can take the same phone – their phone number, voicemail, extension, and evn presence – and plug it in wherever there is power and high speed internet – effectively making the way that their phone functions no different than how it would function if they were physically in the office.
Couple that with either a VPN client, or a laptop, or one of the zillion programs that offer remote access to their desktop and files, and you’ve got a winning strategy, that costs very little, and delivers a LOT.
So really….If you could recruit more effectively, improve overall morale, and more easily retain your employees – how much is that worth to your organization?
If you’re starting to see the light on this, drop us a line and we’ll work it out with you.
If you are still skeptical, why not start with next year’s “Work From Home Day” as a test?
I’m sure you’ll soon find that one day a year could turn into one day a month, and potentially, one day a week or more.