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Call Queues vs. Ring Groups – Hosted VoIP Delivers Both Options

Posted by Mark Greim on Aug 12, 2019 3:19:51 PM

You do not need an expensive phone system to enjoy the benefits of call management via a call queue or ring group.  Securing your service with the right Hosted VoIP provider who can effectively consult with you and program your call flow to balance customer needs and employee capacity will deliver the benefits you are looking for with your hosted system.

For high inbound call volume companies, a hot debate is whether to utilize call queues or ring groups.  There are benefits to each, but let’s start with a general description:

Ring Group – Inbound calls are directed to a set of employees and they ring all phones at the same time.  If no one is available to answer, it can be programmed to roll to a back-up group or move into an auto attendant.

Call Queue – Inbound calls are directed into a queue, where the caller is on hold for an available attendant.  Employees need to log in and log out of the queue to accept calls.  Programming and system capability differ widely at this point, but typically there are either opt out processes or time out process that direct callers to an automated attendant.

The beauty of the call queue is the equitable distribution of calls to employees in the queue.  Callers typically will hear hold music and messages while they wait.  Depending upon preferences of the company and their customers, the length of time in queue is a programmable variable.  The challenge with call queues is the management of the employees from a log in/log out perspective.  If someone forgets to log out, calls could be directed to an unattended station.  Again, there are some programming variables to solve for such an issue, but it could lead to some longer hold times for a caller or two until the programming kicks in.

Ring groups are more of a static program with a fixed number of rings between groups and ultimately to an auto attendant as a back-up.  Callers can either hear ringing or hold music while ringing.  The automated attendants serve as back-ups and can provide for routing to people or departments or for message delivery.  The benefit of this approach is that employees in the group are free to move about without worrying about logging in and out of the queue.  Additionally, the fixed amount of time before back up groups or attendants are engaged is seen as a benefit.  The downside is potential inequity of call disbursement between members of the group.

Ultimately, the decision comes down to striking the right balance between customer preference and employee management.  Companies that bring a solid understanding of customer preferences to the table are a step ahead in programming the right solution. 

 

About the author:  Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVine, a provider of Hosted VoIP Phone Service. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and has a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments. 

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Tags: Hosted VoIP, Configuring digital phone service

sipVine Blog | Add Coolness to Your Hosted VoIP System

Posted by Mark Greim on Nov 14, 2013 11:45:00 AM

One of the great advantages of implementing a Hosted VoIP Phone Service is that it can be customized to match the needs of the business.  There are a variety of standard items that should be customizable in any VoIP phone solution.  The right hosted VoIP provider can serve in a consultative manner to discern how those items should be programmed to meet the business requirements.  Great providers can take customization to another level and have your system do things to delight your associates and customers.

As you compare providers, be mindful that some provide “do-it-yourself” web portals.  These are great for routine administration, but higher level customization requires a provider that is willing to create the program and able to understand the business application.  At sipVine, a mid-western based national hosted VoIP provider, we made a strategic decision to provide as much customization as possible.  Robert Conner, sipVine’s CEO, states:  “Frankly, custom programming to specific customer needs doesn’t fit well in a mass-volume, high-margin approach.  However, we believe that customers will become long-term, loyal fans if you position yourself as their personal phone department.  We have the technological talent to be able to do some great things with the software, so our customer should be able to reap the benefits!”

There are some customizable aspects of VoIP systems that are table stakes for any hosted VoIP service company, whether it is from a provider like sipVine or from someone who provides a web portal for option setting.  These should include the following:

  • Call flow direction – ring groups
  • Time of day routing
  • Automated attendant options

However, there can be some cool things your system can do if you choose the right provider.  Here are a few examples of custom programming in which sipVine has provided to their customers:

    • Dynamic on-call programming – there have been several customers who deploy a varied on-call schedule through a selection on their after-hours auto attendant.  They are simply able to punch in some codes on their phones that select the specific person or ring group they want to be on-call for the day or period.
    • Multiple caller ID delivery – some companies have multiple subsidiaries or brands they represent.  sipVine can fix a specific caller ID being delivered by various associates, and provide the ability to deliver different caller IDs depending certain outside line access selections. 
    • E911 notification – one of sipVine’s customers requested a central notification process if a phone in their context dials 911.  This is unique and important to their application.  If a 911 is dialed from phone on their network, a central phone is immediately notified with an audible message and email notice is delivered to designated parties.

Colin Wells, sipVine’s CTO expands, “We have built quite a number of custom applications for customers that we have since rolled out as standard options.  The best ideas for new capabilities definitely are born out of real world applications.  We haven’t figured out how to get the phones to empty the trash, but we can certainly automate a notification to a phone that it is time to empty the trash!  In all seriousness, there are even more custom programs that occur behind the scenes that most people don’t know about, like security scripts and automated setting back-ups.  We think they are cool, but our customers are not aware of them.  They just know that they are in good hands.”

There are a number of choices out there for a hosted phone service provider.  As you conduct your research, see which providers are “quote driven” and which ones want to know about your business and how you utilize the phones.  That will give you a pretty good idea as to how they will service you going forward.   

About the author:  Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVine, a provider of a variety of digital phone solutions and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and has a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments. 

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Tags: voip service provider selection, Configuring digital phone service

5 Ways to Enhance Customer Communication with Hosted VoIP

Posted by Mark Greim on Feb 26, 2013 11:49:00 AM

Switching to a VoIP phone solution can provide your business with a host of features and advantages.  We are reviewing five of the ways your customer communications can be enhanced by with a Hosted VoIP Solution.  Granted, all businesses are built differently, which can present more or less opportunities than the ones identified below.  A key takeaway is that, upon selecting the right hosted VoIP provider, you can explore many improvements in communication processes for the betterment of your customer experience.  The technology is powerful, affordable, and within reach!

Efficiently handle inbound calls – Many businesses handle this differently.  Some preach the benefits of having a “live” person answering calls, while others prefer to have an automated attendant route calls.  The question should focus on what the customer’s demand.  The good news is that hosted VoIP solutions can provide the ability to blend the methodology to effectively manage the calls.  Say the goal is to have calls answered live.  You can build in a ring group process to ring a primary and secondary ring group prior to resorting to an auto attendant process. 

If customers will work with automated routing, an auto attendant can be at the front of the process.  Your auto attendant should be built around why customers call, making sure you have easy to understand options that address the majority of issues.  Examples would be departmental routing such as “customer service” or “to place an order”.  To maximize satisfaction with an auto attendant process, you should keep options to a minimum and avoid multi layer processes.

Improve satisfaction with departmental ring groups – As mentioned above, creating ring groups surrounding employees in a department allows for the quick handling of calls.  Note that ring groups differ from call queues in that the phone call rings a group of people for a select number of rings before a ring group voicemail takes over.  A call queue involves the team logging into a queue and callers being dropped into that queue for the first available caller.  Companies can deploy either or both strategies depending upon the customer requirements.

Customers can be routed to the ring group or queue from an automated attendant or from any associate answering a call.  The queue or ring group simply needs to be assigned an extension for calls to be manually dropped in.

Every queue or ring group process needs to have an efficient “end” stage.  This can be a simple voicemail option with the voicemail converting to an email to route to whoever will be responsible for handling the requests for the department.  It also may include an “opt” out feature, discussed below.

Allow callers to escape from voicemail – Whether your callers hit your personal voicemail, are in a call queue, or hit a voicemail for one of your departments (ring groups), it is always a best practice to provide a zero out option.  Such options can be custom programmed, but most have the option to ring back to the primary ring group or a designated person.  Depending upon the nature of your business and the needs of your callers, some may be fine with leaving messages and getting a prompt return call.  However, others may require getting to a live person.  Hosted VoIP services can even provide for emergency routing to a designated answering service or a cell phone ring group consisting of your company’s designated on-call employees.

Increase accessibility for associates with high customer touch requirements – Another great benefit of hosted VoIP solutions is to be able to provide for accessibility of your key contact personnel with your customers.  Using features such as find me / follow me or other forward options gives your employees to be found wherever they may be.  If they are on a ring group, the phone will forward to the number designated.  Another option would be to have a simultaneous ring to the associate’s desk phone and cell phone.  For sales and support personnel, this provides a great way to be available for customer calls.

Because the service is hosted, associates can take their phones home or wherever they can connect to high speed internet.  Their phones will register and operate as if they were in the office, including any ring group involvement.  This will provide great flexibility for associates who need to work remotely.

There are a few cautions with this option.  You will need to make sure that ring groups ring less than 20 seconds or folks with simultaneous rings or follow me options set for cell phones will not have their cell phone voicemail pick up.  Additionally, if cell phone users hit ignore or are out of service, the cell phone voicemail will pick up instead of the office voicemail.

Implementing on-call schedules for support personnel – For businesses that have selected a hosted VoIP service provider who can customize programming, there are some higher level actions that will allow for the selection of employees who are active on call.  Such applications come into play when an after hours auto attendant or during hours emergency attendant can ring to designated on-call associates.  You can create a menu of who will be on call and include desk phone extensions and cell phones in the mix.  Management can select which group is on-call with pre-programmed dial selection or web interfaces where available.

I hope this list has been informative and look forward to any comments.

 

About the author:  Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVine, a provider of a variety of digital phone solutions and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and has a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments. 

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Tags: Configuring digital phone service, voip business phone system, VoIP Phone Service

Unlocking the Power of a Hosted Digital Phone Solution

Posted by Mark Greim on Apr 16, 2012 4:13:00 PM

Secure the services of a Hosted VoIP Provider; check.  Select new phones and replace your antiquated phone system; check.  Transfer your phone number to your new service; check.  Now, how do you make your new service and system really pay dividends for you and your company?  Every company is different, but there are some big time benefits that can be delivered by this new technology.

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Tags: Configuring digital phone service, Benefits of VoIP

Hosted VoIP and Call Flow for your Business

Posted by Mark Greim on Jan 26, 2012 9:16:00 AM

One of the first decisions businesses make when implementing their Hosted VoIP system regards the call flow for their incoming calls.  Good hosted VoIP providers will guide you through the many options and customization now available to your business with the technology.  Where it is possible to match your current call flow, taking advantage of the options afforded to your business through an auto attendant, direct inward dial numbers, and ring groups can help create an edge for your business in a competitive climate.

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Tags: voip service provider selection, Hosted VoIP, Configuring digital phone service

Best Practices for Configuring Your Hosted Digital Phone Service

Posted by Mark Greim on Oct 11, 2011 10:10:00 AM

One of the greatest benefits of a Hosted Digital Phone Service is the flexibility it offers to match the unique communication flow found in every business.  Many businesses are surprised and even intimidated by such flexibility in their phone system, so starting with a list of best practices can get the ideas flowing.

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Tags: Configuring digital phone service

VoIP Phone Solutions | sipVine Blog | Customize Your VoIP Service

Posted by Mark Greim on Nov 24, 2010 9:57:00 AM

VoIP phone service offers your business many features that can improve your communications experience.  If your hosted VoIP phone service provider suggests that all you need to do is plug your phones in and you’re in business, you are missing out on the opportunity to customize the service to advance your communications with your customers and employees.

Certainly, one of the great benefits of voice over the internet comes from the fact that your phones will register and download their configuration wherever your employees office, whether it be at the home or within the four walls of the office.  Many VoIP service providers offer the opportunity to save money on phone service and tout “plug and play” installation.  However, digitizing your phone service platform also provides your business the chance to program the set up.

  • Customized Call Flow – Incoming calls to your business can be directed to multiple people, a single receptionist, a sequential series of people, or a combination of the above.  Automated attendants can be in place as a primary or backup service that can aid the incoming call efforts.
  • Centralized Reception for all Branches – If your business operates at multiple locations, whether it be in the same town or across the country, you can centralize your reception efforts for incoming call activity and save resources.  Time of day routing can be in place if your business covers multiple time zones.  VoIP phones can have multiple main line appearances, so your reception function will know how to answer the call.
  • Mobile or Virtual Employees – Your VoIP phone service can enable your remote or mobile employees to be more in touch with internal or external calls.  Phones can be deployed at the home or office, and every employee can be on an extension dial pattern regardless of location.  Employees can also have direct inward dial numbers (DIDs) and bypass the reception function as well.  Finally, their office phone can be forwarded or programmed with simultaneous ring to their cell phone so they can always be reachable when they are called.

These are just a few of the ways a VoIP service can be custom configured to enhance your business communication or be molded to conform to how you do business.  So, don’t settle for drop shippers wanting you to plug and play.  Make sure your potential VoIP provider can customize your service to meet your needs!

About the author:  Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVinea provider of a variety of digital phone solutions and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments.   

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Tags: Hosted VoIP, Configuring digital phone service

Call Holding on Line 1...Wait, no More Lines with VoIP!

Posted by Mark Greim on Sep 17, 2010 10:21:00 AM

One of the great advantages of a digital phone system is that your business is no longer limited by the number of analog lines you have provisioned by the phone company.  The only limitation to call volume is the amount of bandwidth you have available, and VoIP calls do not take much bandwidth.  This has allowed businesses to no longer worry about “over-provisioning” their phone service in fear of not having a line available for the next incoming or outgoing call.  However, it does present a challenge for companies used to paging employees with instructions to pick up a call on whatever line.

Why is this?  Again, in a digital phone world, calls aren’t coming in via phone lines.  Calls terminate to the actual phone where the call is picked up or placed.  If a company has a main incoming number that rings multiple phones, the person who actually answers the call now has that call connected to their phone via a sip trunk.  So, it is not tying up a line in the traditional sense.  That employee can juggle additional incoming calls, let other calls roll to others in the ring group, or let calls to their direct inward dial number roll to their voicemail.

This can take some getting used to for companies used to the traditional line approach, especially if they need to page others to pick up a call holding.  The simple work around is transferring the call to the intended party.  That call is then “terminated” to a new phone.  But, what alternatives are available for businesses needing to place a call on hold and be picked up by another party from any phone?

At sipVine, we have these customers place callers in “park” by transferring them to a park extension.  They then page the office over the phones or overhead speakers with the message that there is a call holding for a certain party on “park 1”.  The intended party can pick up that call by dialing a code.  We have simplified this with some features on Cisco phones, where some of the buttons are used for various “parking lots”.  This provides for visibility of calls in park and for a one button pick-up for the intended party.  The button basically enters the code and “transfers” it to the extension of the party automatically.

This allows for the business to take advantage of the new technology with no restrictions on incoming and outgoing calls, but also have their new phones work like they did in the past.  Make sure your digital phone provider has the capability of customizing a solution to meet your call flow requirements, or you may have to conform to how their solution works. 

Granted, this is a bit confusing to write about, but the solution is easy to get used to.  To discuss this further for your particular business application, feel free to contact sipVine!

 

About the author:  Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVinea provider of a variety of digital phone solutions and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments.   

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Tags: Configuring digital phone service

VoIP Business Phone Service | Don’t Settle for Drop Shipping

Posted by Mark Greim on Aug 26, 2010 9:27:00 AM

There are countless benefits available for businesses when they switch to a hosted VoIP phone service.  Price is a big driver that has certainly been delivered by national VoIP providers as well as smaller, regional or local carriers.  However, when choosing a provider, don’t just settle for the price benefit received from providers who merely drop ship the phones with basic configurations for your business.

The beauty behind hosted VoIP phone service is that there can be many programmatic features and custom configuration options for your business, assuming the provider has a robust and flexible platform.  Every business has a flow of how they would like their calls routed and handled, and there are many ways to customize this delivery.  Your first test of a provider’s willingness to customize a call flow is whether they conduct a configuration meeting with you in advance of the delivery of the phones.  If it is merely setting up direct dial numbers for every phone and driving calls to your main number to one individual or to an auto attendant, there is a chance that you’re missing out on options to make the phone service work exactly how you would like it to.

In addition, one very important decision point is who is taking the responsibility for your voice quality.  You should be alerted to potential issues if a selling point from a drop shipper is “just plug the phones into your office LAN and they work.”  Hosted VoIP phones do in fact “work” when you do this, but call quality has not been addressed.  If this is addressed merely by internet bandwidth sizing and capacity, you still may face call quality issues.  Make sure your provider is delivering a new router or edge device for your LAN that has Quality of Service software built in.  This will ensure that your voice packets over the internet are prioritized and are not interrupted by data traffic. 

With careful selection of your VoIP provider based upon their desire and ability to configure your phones and call flow to how you do business and how they address call quality, you will enjoy BOTH economic benefits and the many benefits of the advanced calling features of a VoIP phone system!

About the author:  Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVinea provider of a variety of digital phone solutions and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments. 

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Tags: voip service provider selection, Configuring digital phone service, Benefits of VoIP

How can Digital Phone Service Technology Manage your Call Flow?

Posted by Mark Greim on Jun 7, 2010 11:54:00 AM

The right digital phone service provider can configure your business phone traffic patterns for how you do business, thus improving your efficiency and customer communications. There are several options a business can deploy:

·       Incoming Line Options – The first variable in custom programming is determining how incoming calls to a company’s main line are handled.  If an automated attendant is not utilized, phone calls can be directed to a receptionist, ring a group of people simultaneously, or be programmed to roll from selected individuals as desired.

·       Time of Day Call Schedules – Businesses can choose to program call routing schedules based upon the time of day.  The best example is before and after hours of operation.  Businesses can have their calls directed to alternative phone numbers (answering services, cell phones, etc.) or to an after-hours auto attendant. Businesses with branch locations in multiple time zones can direct incoming calls based upon staff availability for that time of day.

·       Hunt/Ring Groups and ACD Queues – You can also designate groups of people to be eligible to take a specific type of call.  For example, you may have a customer service department with multiple representatives. Your receptionist or auto attendant can send new calls into this group list, which can be programmed for simultaneous ring, hunting for the next available attendant, or in an actual queue. These can be as numerous as your business has categories for customer contact and each can be uniquely programmed for the right ring pattern for the situation.

·       Automated Attendant – Customers can be routed directly to the right group of people to meet their needs through an automated attendant.  This eliminates the need for a reception or call screening resource. There are some good guidelines to follow for effectively utilizing an auto attendant, as if it is implemented correctly, it can enhance your customer satisfaction and drive efficiency.

These are just a few of the ways a digital phone service provider can streamline your communication patterns.  As you evaluate providers, ensure that as a part of their installation and service that you receive this type of programming customized to how you do business!

 

About the author:  Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at  sipVine a provider of a variety of  digital phone solutions  and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments. 

 

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Tags: Configuring digital phone service, hosted digital phone service, Business Digital Phone Service

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