Product Review: SafeSoft’s Hosted Call Center Solutions 

I’ve been reading a book titled “Call Center Management on Fast Forward.” It is one of those “must read” books that’s been recognized by just about everyone who’s ever taken on the managing a call center. As the foreword says, “To successfully lead and manage, you need a good understanding of today’s unique customer contact environment and an effective planning and management framework.”

If your SMB is looking for a way to generate more sales leads, a call center is a viable option. Inbound call centers react to prospects who respond to your marketing campaigns. Outbound call centers are charged with finding new prospects.

Woman Calling Call CenterOf the two, an inbound call center is a bit easier to setup. You’ll need to find the right cloud based phone solution, hire the right people, train them, get them up to speed on each of your marketing campaigns, and write scripts they can use to respond to inbound phone calls. But don’t under-estimate the work involved in getting an inbound call center up and running. It’s a serious piece of work.

The outbound call center is a different animal all together. You have to be aware of and abide by the Do Not Call rules if you plan to contact consumers. Failure to do so could cost you tens of thousands of dollars in fines. And, you’ll need to write scripts for your telemarketers to use. You’ll probably want to do some A/B testing to see which script delivers the greatest number of new prospects. You’ll need to train your outbound callers. This, too, is a major piece of work.

Enter the turn key call center. SafeSoft Solutions, was founded in 2006. Headquartered in Woodland Hills, CA, they offer a same-day-deployment call center that helps SMB’s cost effectively increase sales, provide more personalized service, and deliver effective targeted marketing campaigns. In other words, SafeSoft offers both inbound and outbound call center operations.

Safesoft provides outbound calling as outlined in the video below, claiming up to 400 percent greater opportunity to generate new leads. Their cloud-based application, MarketDialer, provides an API that lets you connect leading ERP and CRM packages to the Safesoft product.

Their inbound call center product delivers automatic call distribution (ACD) that intelligently routes incoming calls to the best agent, a specific agent queue, an overflow queue, the interactive voice response menu, to a voice mail box or even to a specific agent’s extension.

Inbound caller data can be presented in a “screen pop” to the inbound agent’s desktop directly from the caller’s IVR selections or the caller ID.  Such personal contact and order information follows the call if it is transferred to another agent. If you’d like to learn more about the best way to set up a call center, a visit to SafeSoft’s website is a good place to begin. Feel free to contact me to learn more about Safesoft and other alternatives that can put you online with a cloud-based call center.

Why Build a Secure, Business-Grade Multilocation 4G Wireless Network?

I’ve been hearing for a while that the benefits of keeping a distributed enterprise connected wirelessly, could provide one of those rare occasions where CFOs and CTOs can actually agree on something.

As 4G networks from the major carriers like Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile continue to grow in coverage, speed and reliability, I began to consider whether I could tie multipleGetting Free From POTS locations together via 4G rather than using the public WAN or a dedicated, managed service from one of the major providers. Then, if it were possible, could it be done so that I also got the quality of service my applications required at a cost lower than conventional MPLS solutions using VPN? Furthermore, would it make sense to build a multi-location 4G wireless network to serve as a backup in the event of catastrophic failure of hard-wired solutions?

I had a lot of questions and my first step in getting answers involved looking at speed and coverage the various 4G providers deliver, as I had no dreams of approaching the FCC to setup my own 4G infrastructure.

I found the interactive graph at OpenSignal.com (hover your mouse over the flag of the country you’re interested in). That gave me an overview of download speeds and coverage from the major providers, although I quickly realized I needed to look at speed and coverage at each of my locations. Fortunately, a free app from OpenSignal.com, which describes itself as “the global authority on wireless networks,”  offered all the data I needed. Their 3G 4G WiFi Maps & Speed Test app showed me which carriers offer the best service at each location, including download, upload and latency statistics.



Armed with information on the carrier that delivered the best overall coverage and speed in my area, I asked our IT people at each remote location to measure speed and latency inside each room.  In doing that, we found that some locations needed a signal booster and/or a high gain antenna on the roof to overcome the attenuation caused by the brick and mortar certain buildings interposed between the cell tower and the computer room.

Finally, I looked at various appliances that provide an interface between the 4G signal and the local area network. I considered several important issues, including remote management of the appliance; monitoring (and automatic reporting alarms) when latency or speed fell below acceptable values; load balancing and fail-over capabilities; and the ability to route traffic via conventional terrestrial networks.

Data Transfer Through 4GThis last issue is critical. Having a 4G network doesn’t mean it should be used for all traffic because 4G is metered and can be expensive. There’s no reason to pay for data transfer via 4G that can be handled more economically over non-metered terrestrial means.

If you’re considering a 4G network as an alternate path for your data as a backup for terrestrial traffic during an outage or to connect services like VoiP between you business locations, feel free to reach out. We would be glad to assist or point you to a trustworthy, local solution provider.

Additional Resources:

Whitepaper on building a 4G WAN

4G WAN Glossary

How To Find An Inexpensive Cloud Based Phone Solution For Your Small Office

For around 15 years, hosted VOIP providers have been telling business owners that they can save money by abandoning their high priced phone service for a cloud based solution.  Initially, that idea was great in theory while real life played a different tune, as features (like hold music, intercoms and wireless handsets)  that everyone was accustomed to weren’t available through VOIP phone systems.

Cheap VOIP Phone GraphicThankfully, steady improvements to the technology have dissipated the usability concerns.  In my most recent conversations with small and mid-sized businesses about phone service, most of them have great things to say about their hosted VoIP systems. They’re sold on the convenience of having services off site with one low monthly fee, as well as saving the time and cost of server maintenance, upgrades, backups and other busywork. Some also talk about feeling in control of their telecom budget as opposed to dealing with the costly monopoly phone company.

Those who are still evaluating a move to VoIP running in the cloud often ask about the phone handsets and accessories they’ll need. What features do they have? Does a certain phone system offer cordless handsets? Intercom? Speakerphone?

Then too, even though broadband is ubiquitous, others raise concerns about the bandwidth they’ll need to accommodate all their usual WAN traffic and still obtain good quality VoIP calls. Fortunately, there are a number of calculators that quickly show the bandwidth VoIP requires.

The Erlang B Calculator is online and free to use if you’re analyzing how much bandwidth “x” simultaneous voice calls require. For small and mid-sized businesses with 5 to twenty lines, the calculator advises you’ll use 400 kbps for 5 calls and 1,600 kbps for twenty using the G.711 codec.

What Are My Options?

You can find inexpensive VoIP phones in a number of form factors.  Here are some examples:

Desktop Phones

Desktop Phone Example
Desktop phones look much like a conventional multi-line office phone. Many, like the Grandstream GPX 2130, include a color LCD screen, 3 line capacity and conference calling with up to 4 participants

Integrated Handset Phones
Integrated Handset Example
Integrated handset phones like the Grandstream GS-DP715 sit in a base unit that provides power and a connection to your router. The handset can be used as a cordless phone and includes speakerphone functionality

USB Phones
USB Phone Example
USB phones plug directly into the USB port on a PC and are single line phones, such as the Plantronics Calisto P240

VoIP phones range in price from under $60 like those mentioned above, or can run up to a few hundred dollars for premium phones with 12 line capacity from Cisco, Panasonic and others.

However, choosing, installing and configuring a cloud-based VoIP phone system reveals an alphabet soup of acronyms—DHCP, VLANs, PoE, SPCP, SIP, G.722—to name a few. If you’re not experienced with the many tech considerations involved, you’ll be better off contacting an experienced VoIP phone expert.

 


With all the configuration options and technical requirements, buying a phone and trying to install it yourself is likely to be difficult and time-consuming, at best.

Perhaps last, quality of service (QoS) is a feature of your routers and other network devices between your phone and your broadband connection. QoS as it pertains to VoIP requires support through your entire network, including NIC cards, switches, bridges and routers. If any device along the data path does not support QoS, your VoIP traffic is handled on a first-come, first-served basis. Without QoS, achieving acceptable call quality is unlikely.

Product Review: Verizon’s “Premium Technical Support” Service Solves IT Problems For Remote Workers

Remote Tech Support Is A No BrainerWith the recent, tectonic shift toward remote working, businesses have had an unforeseen challenge arise: providing IT support for those users.  With the astronomical cost of headcount, training and infrastructure for in-house help desk centers, small and medium sized businesses often find that the smartest move is leveraging a turn key, third party solution.

Verizon, with its outstanding FIOS service, has taken steps to fulfill that need.  Its Premium Technical Support plan gives any FIOS business (or residential) customer 24/7/365 tech support that includes:

• Configuration troubleshooting for your computer or device (including tablets) to address issues like slow performance, browser configuration, networking connections, data backup and more
• Evaluation of and attempts to correct software, operating systems and networking issues
• Virus, malware and spyware support
• Software and peripherals support for network, video and sound cards, memory, hard drives, CD and DVD readers and writers, printers, scanners and networking equipment

The company says it premium service “…is intended to address networking and other technical support issues outside the supported scope of Verizon’s standard technical support.”  You can find the entire agreement here. Your employee must be a Verizon customer for HSI or FiOS, TV or Voice to purchase Premium Technical Support. It’s currently priced at $14.99 per month, cancelable at any time.



I tested the service when I spent time in New York and found the technicians friendly and competent. They’re all based here in the U.S., and they provide service for Apple, Android and Windows OS.

Once your employee signs up he or she will get a password to Verizon’s expert site at expert.verizon.com. Take note, though. This service is for residential customers. Don’t try to sign up your entire remote workforce under your company’s name because the program doesn’t extend to businesses. Each employee needs to enroll individually.

Is Outsourcing the Help Desk Your Best Choice?

For small and mid-sized businesses, Verizon’s $17.99 per month plan offers a lot of value.

Happy Remote WorkerHowever, if you have concerns about confidential or proprietary information stored on your employee’s device, take time to review the agreement to understand how the Verizon technician treats such material.

Also note that it’s sometimes necessary to change settings on the computer, some of which could cause custom software made for your business to stop working. If there are specific settings that must not be changed, you’ll need to make your remote employees aware of them. A short document spelling out any such issues would help your employee communicate those matters to Verizon before the technician begins making adjustments.

Too, when settings are changed, you may want to get a report on what was changed. Registry changes, for example, can fix problems as well as introduce new ones.

I hope you find this helpful. I feel it’s important to share information on IT issues; it’s part of what we do.

Finally, I am not suggesting that Verizon is the very best solution. You can find dozens of other “managed service providers” (MSP’s) that offer similar services via a simple web search. Many of them also handle break/fix problems with hardware. However, if you want to look further into details of the Verizon plan, you can reach their team at 866-785-8145, or on the online form here.

Addition Resources

Terms of Service