Companies of all sizes are enjoying the benefits of Unified Communications platforms delivered from the cloud. The tools are fantastic for improving collaboration, integrating databases, providing Instant Messaging and much more. Unfortunately, these tools have limited application in a multi-site retail environment where call groups, parked keys, low cost solutions and simplicity still rule the day. This gap in vision has left many of our clients stuck on unreliable aging systems, with limited support and none of the UC features that could be useful, like SMS and large conference calls. In this article, we explore how Retail can take advantage of the new technology without breaking the bank.
1) Unlimited Calling with Cloud Phones
Let's face it our businesses don't receive consistent amounts of calls from our clients. Depending on our business, the demands placed on the phone system vary based on the holidays, seasons, weather, special events, sales and many other reasons specific to your business. With traditional systems we are required to guess how many calls we will need to handle. If we guess too low, our customers get busy signals in those critical moments opening the door to better prepared competitors that instead pay additionally each month for more dial-tone. Cloud phone systems offer unlimited connections to the outside world, when the phone gets flooded, customers reach your staff and get the service they deserve every time.
2) Adding New Retail Locations
Opening a new location is already an exercise in planning and persistence. With all the details to take into account, a simple roll out of phones can reduce stress and costs. Cloud based phone systems are designed to make this easy, templatizing sites, providing local numbers quickly and requiring only internet access or a cell phone. Setting up a new site is as simple as ordering phones from your existing provider, duplicating your settings and adding a new site with a local address. From there you simply plug-in your phones as they arrive and you are up and running at your new location. A cloud phone system makes phone system roll outs at new locations truly easy.
3) Cloud Phones Improve the Customer Experience
Moving to a cloud based phone system can have an immediate impact on the experience of those calling you. It is simple to roll out standardized auto-attendant menus and music on hold, updated by season to announce promos or give a special greeting. The menus can easily lead to employees at the store level or to a centralized location if that improves processes. Using SMS, customers can receive updates about appointments, arrival of product, specials or even just to ask a question. Contact center in the cloud is easily enabled providing new visibility into your customer’s habits, allowing you to engage them in email, voice, chat or even social channels. Using a centralized call center enables you to provide expertise unavailable in store fronts, whether that is loan officers, product specialists or billing experts. There are many ways to improve the experience for your customers using tools enabled by cloud based phone systems.
Clo0ud Phone Comparison Guide
Comparing Industry Leaders in Cloud Phone Systems: RingCentral, 8x8, and ShoreTel
4) There are a Variety of Physical Handsets
Most Cloud phone systems embrace the use of 3rd party SIP based phones. These phones are offered by companies like Polycom, Aastra and Yealink, providing many more options than are typically available for a premise based system. Many retail storefronts require a cordless phone, available in a SIP based IP phone or allowing use of the existing handset with an analog telephone adapter. The ability to select handsets that fit for the position and needs of the business is far more important for retail than for a typical office setting where most phones can by identical.
5) Cloud Phones Improve Reliability
Building redundant solutions in a traditional phone system is challenging, especially for dispersed systems like those used for retail environments. Redundancy is accomplished easily in a variety of ways with cloud phone solutions. The providers themselves build redundant images of your phone system in geographically diverse data centers, preventing an outage on their end. Cloud phone systems use your internet connection, another possible point of failure like the dial-tone connections you traditionally depend on. This can be resolved by bringing in two different internet connections and using a SD-WAN type solution or if some local downtime is tolerable and additional cost is a large concern, calls can be routed to neighboring locations, headquarters or to your voicemail system. No busy tones, no downtime, callers get to their destination every time they try.
6) Simplify Management
Managing telephone systems across many sites can be complex and confusing. There are contracts and support with local carriers and/or MPLS providers, local PBX systems that need service and little centralized control. With cloud offerings, the support and contractual obligation is centralized to the chosen provider for both the connection to the outside world and phone system support. Administrators can quickly and easily modify the system at any location through a web based portal. The cost of managing your phone solution decreases while allowing for more granular control and local decision making.
7) Key System Emulation
"Bob, you have a call on line 1, please pick up call on line 1, Bob." Does this sound familiar? The ability to park calls and pick them up from any other phone is critical for the workflow in a retail environment, but sadly forgotten by most modern phone systems. Using solutions like 8x8 and Star2Star, our clients can emulate their existing processes without having to learn complicated transferring procedures or memorizing pickup codes, just press a button. The systems will identify a caller that has waited too long using a timer, and then sends the call back to its original destination if no one picks it up. Giving up this type of functionality shouldn't be something your phone system forces you into, it works best for you, just like thousands of other businesses out there.
8) Lastly, Cloud Phones Reduce the Cost of Managing a Phone System!
A reality of retail business is the need to keep costs down to improve margins and expand market share. Cloud phone systems can help make this a reality by growing your revenue and customer retention with better service. The challenge for many retail businesses has been the increase in operating costs associated with a new cloud voice solution. Working with an expert, leveraging volume discounts, expertise in pricing structures and choosing the right solution can provide a different outcome. There is a wide variety of cloud solutions available including some that allow you to pool trunks across all sites and purchase low cost user licensing like Star2Star or metered lines for those that make few calls to the outside world from their storefront phones. At Matrix Networks we focus on each client's unique processes and choose a solution that leads to the desired outcome while considering the pressure to keep costs low.
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Author: Kyle Holmes