History of VoIP and What’s Changed Now

Like so many modern advances in information technology (IT), VoIP is one of those technologies that everybody has heard of but very few know what it is, how it works, or why they might need it. Regardless, VoIP is pervasive and is part of just about every communications system and every call that we make.

Below we take a brief look at what VoIP is, its illustrious journey over the last two decades, and what new advances in VoIP technology we can expect to see.

What is VoIP?

VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. In a nutshell, it is the transmission of voice and multimedia content over Internet Protocol (IP) networks.  VoIP historically referred to using IP to connect private branch exchanges (PBXs), but the term is now used interchangeably with IP telephony.

Although VoIP is the technology that lets us use the Internet to make and receive telephone calls, it is more than just that.  It allows us to communicate over a wide range of IP based networks including corporate Local and Wide Area Networks and global carrier networks

How Long Has VoIP Been Around?

Technically, the first successful VoIP transmission occurred in 1973. However, the first mass-use software on the market emerged in 1995 via the company, VocalTec, the same company that developed Magic Jack. At the time, Magic Jack was so ahead of its time, that most people believed that it was a scam. However, Magic Jack operated on the VoIP concept of converting phone calls to IP packets and using an Internet connectioninstead of a standard landline.

In 1996, VocalTec developed the first software that created the template for VoIP technology and launched an entire industry. By 1998 1% of all voice communication was VoIP-based including phone-to-phone and computer-to-phone software and devices. Once industry leaders recognized VoIP’s viability as both a marketable product and game-changing communication technology, it wasn’t long before tech giants such as Cisco, Lucent, and Microsoft began adopting VoIP. By 2000 nearly 3% of all voice traffic was VoIP.

As Ethernet expanded throughout corporate and carrier networks, it gave VoIP the engine it needed for fast and reliable performance.. Mass marketing efforts started as early as 2004 for VoIP technology. VoIP-based phone systems began to compete with digital PBX systems and hosted voice solutions based on VoIP began to emerge as alternatives to premise-based solutions.

VoIP Technology Today: What Has Changed?

VoIP technology has consistently shown both expansion and improvement over the last 20 years. Any issues that you would expect such as dependability, quality of sound, cost, or latency have all but disappeared, making way for more improvements.

Some of the latest advances in VoIP include:

  • Drastic reduction in cost:  Calling costs have become insignificant with the expansion of VoIP technology.  And as hosted VoIP phone system pricing has dropped, it eliminates the capital expenditures required to maintain, update and/or replace old digital PBX’s.More powerful: Cloud-based technology and better equipment have given VoIP the kick it needs to perform in less-than-desirable environments with slower bandwidth. They have also reduced or eliminated the need for dedicated and expenses circuits for voice.
  • Mobility: VoIP has become increasingly valuable, as businesses have more employees working remotely. Corporate communications systems can now be accessed from anywhere in the world across multiple devices such as phones, computers, and tablets.
  • VoIP and AI: When combined with AI, VoIP now offers features such as smart messaging, smart attendants, and greater capabilities in call forwarding, trunking, and dozens of other customer-centric functions.
  • VoIP and 5G: Thanks to 5G technology, VoIP users can expect faster call speeds, higher-quality signals, fewer dropped calls, fewer echoes, and almost no packet loss. This is a benefit for both remote and on-site callers.

Voice and Data Technology and Services in New England

If you are looking for a complete VoIP service provider for your business in the greater New England area, then contact Barry Communications. We offer a wide range of VoIP solutions and applications to fit any business requirement.

To find out more or to schedule a consultation, call us at 888-853-7120. You can also send a message on our contact page.

SD-WAN: What Is It and What are the Differences Between a Cloud Service & a Hardware-Based Solution?

What is SD-WAN?

The software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN or SDWAN) is a specific application of software-defined networking (SDN) technology applied to WAN connections such as broadband internet, 4G, LTE, or MPLS. It connects enterprise networks – including branch offices and data centers – over large geographic distances.

All SD-WAN solutions today should include the following features:

  • A central controller that establishes network-wide policies and determines roles for each network device under management.
  • Commodity vanilla hardware runs the networking function.

Hardware vs. Cloud-Based Solutions

Cloud-Based SD-WAN Solution:

SD-WAN As A Service (Cloudbase) is a subscription- based service delivered to customers as a managed service using software orchestration and is called SD-WAN as a Service.

Many different networking vendors and service providers are working on SD-WAN platforms and services. Some of the operators of SD-WAN services include AT&T, CenturyLink, Colt, Masergy, Singtel, Sprint, and Verizon. Leading providers of SD-WAN platforms and orchestration software include Ciena, Cisco, VeloCloud, Silver Peak, Versa, and Viptela — among many others.

SD-WAN as a Service can be appealing to end users and enterprises that don’t want to manage the WAN network or applications and would prefer to outsource these services to a service provider.

SD-WAN Orchestration – In order to deliver SD-WAN as a service using orchestration, a service provider needs an SD-WAN orchestration platform to control and manage the service. This typically involves some combination of SDN controller and network virtualization software that can automate the provisioning and operation of the software and elements required, many of which would be based in the cloud.

One of the main goals of SD-WAN orchestration in the cloud is to enable customer provisioning, whereby a customer could go to a Web portal and order services that can be automatically configured and delivered with the SD-WAN platform, without requiring human intervention.

Pros and Cons of a Cloud-Based Solution:

Pros

  • Adapts both site-to-site VPN and public-cloud traffic to changing network performance
  • Compliments existing firewall/security
  • Optimizes application performance and quality
  • Encrypts all network traffic and maximizes bandwidth
  • Enables greater simplicity with a single portal interface to manage multiple connected services
  • Leverages built-in reliability via routing protocols that allow your network to adjust to traffic demands
  • Gateways SD-WAN Cloud Connect for direct connectivity to leading Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) and Network Ecosystem

Cons

  • Not ideal for Companies looking for Network Control
  • Monthly recurring Subscription fee
  • Interop limitation with certain Premise based FW/UTM

SD WAN – Premise-based:

SD-WAN premise-based is essentially a virtual appliance, it bolts onto existing product offerings sucg as routers, firewalls, etc. Premises-based SD-WANs can be cost-effective solutions for smaller, localized businesses. These solutions create a virtual IP network between the vendor-proprietary appliances, giving them control of network packets from end to end.

Pros and Cons of a Hardware/Premise-Based Solution:

Pros

  • Low Cost
  • Familiar Vendor
  • Bolt-on
  • Usually lower cost than MPLS
  • Adapts site-to-site traffic to changing network performance (but generally not public cloud applications)
  • Strong QoS for site-to-site (not cloud) traffic, as long as network bandwidth is 100% stable (generally only SLA-backed fiber or T1s)
  • All-in-one box for firewalling, VPNs, DHCP, NAT and other network edge needs

Cons

  • No real-time adaption to ISP issue to Cloud Services
  • Ineffective (upload-only, fixed rate) QoS
  • Ineffective QoS for cloud traffic like VoIP, VDI/DaaS, and SaaS
  • Non-seamless or no network performance adaptation for real-time public cloud traffic
  • Yearly maintenance/support fees
  • Typically, highly complex, requiring lots of configuration and fine-tuning

Voice and Data Technology and Services in New England

If you are looking for a complete VoIP service provider for your small or medium business in the greater New England area, then contact Barry Voice and Data Communication. We offer desktop and mobile communications, internet and carrier telephone services, and managed cloud services.

To find out more or to schedule a consultation call us at 888-853-7120. You can also send a message on our contact page.

The Impact of the Mitel/ShoreTel Acquisition

Back in 2017, Mitel Networks Corporation acquired ShoreTel for $530 million. The new partnership was welcome news for Barry Communications. ShoreTel, our flagship Unified Communications (UC) manufacturer had now become part of a global communication magnate that supplied cloud-based services for over two billion businesses connections worldwide.

Mitel Networks currently serves 70 million users in nearly 100 countries. They provide innovative, next-gen cloud technology such as infrastructure, communication platforms, applications, call center solutions, on-site strategies, and site-to-cloud strategies.

While change always garners concern – especially in the world of communication and security – heritage ShoreTel customers can feel confident that the Mitel acquisition will significantly enhance all areas of service including:

  • Cloud-based platform development
  • Customer service efficiency
  • Internal and external security through all channels
  • Innovative, forward-thinking unified communications technology

In other words, all shareholders – specifically customers – have everything to gain from the recent Mitel/ShoreTel M&A.

Mitel Now Looks to the Future

This latest in a string of high-profile acquisitions have positioned Mitel as the number two UC provider in the world. ShoreTel is now part of a mega-conglomerate that includes PrairieFyre Software (2013), Inc., Aastra Technologies (2013), OAISYS (2014), and MavenirSystems (2015).

Each partnership helped Mitel create a healthy corporate infrastructure, firm economic footing, and an exceptional team of technology experts that are innovators in their respective fields.

Together with ShoreTel, Mitel Network Corporation now looks to the future. What can we expect to see from this latest M&A?

Improved Customer Experience

Many of Mitel’s customers are also customer-driven small businesses, large businesses, and enterprises. So, they understand the company-customer relationship. Therefore, new and current clients can expect to see advancements in technology that allows them to engage with their customers on various devices and platforms, analytics tools that measure employee productivity, and ideas for increasing customer satisfaction and improving user experience (UX) online.

Greater Industry Insights

Mitel works with companies across a broad spectrum of industries including education, field services, government, healthcare, hospitality, manufacturing, retail, and sports & entertainment. By enlisting ShoreTel to join in the work, Mitel now has additional means for gathering Big Data and analysis to fine-tune their services and products within each industry.

Enhanced Services

Mitel will be able to provide unlimited support and options for clients through maintenance plans, remote monitoring, warranty and repair, communications, connection optimization, and even individualized training to ensure that companies can successfully utilize their products and services.

For this reason, Barry Communications fully supports the ShoreTel acquisition and looks forward to partnering with Mitel in the future.

Managed Cloud Communication Services in Boston, Massachusetts

If you are looking for a complete VoIP service provider for your small or medium business in the greater New England area, then contact Barry Communications. We offer desktop and mobile communications, internet and carrier telephone services, and managed cloud services.

To find out more or to schedule a consultation call us at 888-853-7120. You can also send a message on our contact page.

The Difference Between a Managed Cloud and a Public Cloud

Companies in almost every industry across the U.S. are continuing to transition their IT infrastructure into the cloud. The cloud platform offers flexibility, scalability, and a significant reduction in costs – all features that are attractive to tech-driven corporations who value optimal digitization wherever they can find it.

So, the only question that users need to explore is which cloud service provides the greatest benefit to their company: a managed cloud service or commodity cloud service?

Managed Private Cloud Solutions
The main feature of privately managed cloud solutions that most businesses find attractive is security and exclusivity. Working with a local PM and engineers, a company can set the parameters of the cloud framework to establish accessibility, business continuity, security, and what flexible features are built-in to the platform.

This is important because a private cloud service offers a single instance experience, where every customer enjoys a customized and individualized segment of the system. It differs from a commodity or public cloud service where all users are sharing the same platform.

Individuals or groups can share and access communication, databases, digital tools, and other components across a secure network that is managed by a reputable cloud service. When using advanced business communication systems such as VoIP, the ability to store secure data while granting instant access to the cloud is a key focus of any company. Accordingly, managed hosting services must able to provide both of these features in a way that is affordable, user-centered, and flexible.

There are several advantages to utilizing managed cloud services:

  • The cloud infrastructure is consistently available and secure.
  • Managed cloud services provide quick solutions when a company experiences a problem.
  • Cloud servers are scalable according to the company’s needs at any stage of growth.
  • Cloud servers can utilize virtual local area networks (VLAN), firewalls, intrusion detection systems (IDS), and intrusion prevention systems (IPS) to create a fully guarded communication network.
  • Virtual and physical servers can be integrated into the same system.
  • Managed cloud services are just as affordable and provide as many options as commodity cloud services.

Commodity Cloud Services
Commodity cloud services open the cloud to a more open or public platform where users come in and out. The infrastructure is designed to take on higher risks service and support while granting access to a larger number of users.

A company may prefer a cloud service if the need for consistent quality performance is not a concern. While commodity cloud services are often provided at a lower cost, a company may incur other costs such as application development and management to maintain any type of quality service. Commodity services do not provide cloud engineers or specialists, guidance, security audits or reports, monitoring, or alerts.

An important question that companies also need to ask before choosing a commodity cloud service is who is going to take care of troubleshooting and repairs or bugs? Commodity providers do not offer this type of service. The result is that a public premium service has no more quality than an entry-level, private service. There is no comparison.

The biggest concern with commodity services is that UX (user experience) such as call quality issues and support issues is disappointing. In most cases, responsibility for high-level customer service ends after the call exits the cloud. Support calls inevitably turn into interactions between callers and automated lines which can be frustrating and time-consuming.

Unified Communications
Unified Communications (UCaaS) features include business messaging, presence technology, online meetings, team collaboration, telephone, and video conferencing.

UCaaS offers flexible and scalable options that assist businesses with primary processes. UCaaS services offer call-center features such as auto-attendant, interactive voice response, and call routing, as well as database collection and programming and testing. UCaaS works well within the managed cloud solutions platform.

Not All Cloud Services Are the Same
It is important to note that there is a stark contrast between managed cloud services and commodity cloud services. One might argue that the only difference between the two is in the actual level of service that a server might provide. While this is true to some extent, there’s no denying that, from an infrastructure standpoint, a managed cloud provides far greater security and stability than a commodity cloud.

Managed Cloud Communication Services

If you are looking for a complete VoIP service provider for your small or medium business, then contact Barry Communications. We offer desktop and mobile communications, internet and carrier telephone services, and managed cloud services.

To find out more or to schedule a consultation call us at 888-853-7120. You can also send a message on our contact page.

Mitel Buys ShoreTel

For those of you who may not have heard: Mitel recently completed its acquisition of ShoreTel for $530 million.

Since this was first announced at the end of July, I’ve been asked repeatedly what I think about this deal.  What does it mean for Barry Communications as a partner?  And what does it mean for both existing and potentially future customers?

Although I knew there was a high likelihood that ShoreTel would be sold, it was still a shock to hear the news. And I must admit that my first reaction was not positive. Like most people, I can be uncomfortable with change, especially big change. Having the manufacturer of our premier product line and a core technology of our cloud strategy be purchased qualifies as a big change!

However, as I read about it and had some time to think, I quickly realized that this is a completely positive change.

Over the past 15+ years, ShoreTel was a disruptive player in the business communications market.  Their original premise-based product brought enterprise-grade unified communications (UC) to the general marketplace. They delivered “Brilliantly Simple” products and software that were easy for all parties to understand and adopt. It was easy to understand, easy to implement, easy to use, and easy to maintain.  And all of that made it (relatively) easy for us to sell.

As the cloud phenomenon began to emerge, ShoreTel virtualized their software, allowing us to migrate customers to cloud data centers. With the migration of ShoreTel to the “Connect” platform, they became the first in the industry to have a single application that could run in a premise, cloud or hybrid implementation. ShoreTel continued to grow, both in market share and financial results.

All their success, however, made them a target for acquisition. In an industry that is continuing to consolidate, it became inevitable that ultimately, they would be acquired. Two years ago, Mitel made an unfriendly bid to buy ShoreTel. At the time, the Board of Directors rejected the offer, but set up a committee to review their strategic alternatives. Ultimately, the decision was made to accept an offer from Mitel.

For those who have been in the industry for a long time, Mitel is a well-known and well-regarded entity.  They have been a major global player in the telecommunications world since the 1970s. Barry Communications had significant experience with Mitel back in the 80s and 90s, and I personally worked with them into the 2000’s. Their products were always of the highest quality and reliability. They have always been a dominant force in the hospitality and education sectors, and among the top five in the general business marketplace.

From my standpoint, however, they fell behind as the UC market evolved.  This is why we adopted ShoreTel, which was a pure UC product.  ShoreTel was not burdened with having to maintain legacy phone systems and migrate old technology to new, which made them far more agile and gave them the ability to start with a “clean sheet of paper”.  In side-by-side comparisons, ShoreTel was always a better fit for business customers — compared not only to Mitel, but to any of the competitors — which is how they achieved such significant market share starting from zero.

Clearly, Mitel (privately) understood this, which is why they made such a strong effort to purchase ShoreTel.

When I look at the alternative potential acquirers – data networking companies, carriers, other cloud companies or private equity – I see no other company that would immediately understand the true value of ShoreTel, have such a deep knowledge of the UC marketplace, and have the manufacturing capability and historical commitment to quality that Mitel brings to the table. Any other acquirer would have had a long learning curve, which would have made all of us extremely uncomfortable.

Instead, Mitel has made it clear that they have a plan and a place for ShoreTel in their product line and that it is highly synergistic. They have a history of acquisitions that have been very successful — for them, and more importantly for the customers of the companies that they have acquired. They have made significant efforts to reassure us that our investments and our customers’ investments are not only secure, but that the long-term return on these investments will be improved.

With this acquisition, Mitel is now the number two company globally in the UC business and they have set their targets on being number one!

At the end of the day, businesses are truly made up of people. I have always been impressed by Mitel’s people. I have now been through several presentations and have met directly with executives and local representatives from Mitel. I have not only been impressed by their depth of knowledge and professionalism, but as importantly, by their longevity with the company. This gives me a sense of stability; the people who are making promises today are most likely going to be the people who will be around to deliver on those promises tomorrow, next year, and in the years to come.

As I have told the customers who have reached out to me directly: this is all good. For those who were concerned that Mitel might “phase out” ShoreTel’s technology, my reply is: “Why would a company spend more than half of a billion dollars to destroy what they purchased?” And if they were not going to develop the Connect platform, why would they put their name on the platform within 24 hours of purchasing the company?  It is now “Mitel Connect”.

Which leads to my only real problem with all of this. After 10 years of talking about ShoreTel, I now have to retrain myself and start saying Mitel! And that’s a problem I can handle.

Please feel free to reach out to me directly if you would like to discuss any of this.

Andy Mehlman
amehlman@barrycommunications.com
508-926-7142

4 Reasons You Need BrightMetrics to Maximize Your ShoreTel Investment

Your ShoreTel system collects data about your communications usage. But without an easy and powerful tool for organizing, tracking and reporting all that data, it can be difficult to make informed business decisions and maximize your ShoreTel system’s potential. This is why we have begun installing BrightMetrics on the backend of all our clients’ ShoreTel systems.

BrightMetrics is the most powerful web-based reporting and analytics tool built specifically for Shoretel VoiP. It pulls and organizes your phone data in any format you need, and allows you to drill down to access as much detail as you want. It functions as a plug-in to the ShoreTel interface, and makes current and historical data easily accessible.

So, BrightMetrics’ analytics and reporting functionality is likely already running in the background on your system, helping us to track down and resolve problems on your system and deliver you even better customer service.

So, what exactly does this mean for you? Let’s look at four ways BrightMetrics can benefit ShoreTel customers…

1. Expand ShoreTel’s Limited Reporting Options

Standard ShoreTel reports allow you to choose times, users and groups but offer little else in terms of customization. If you want to know how long it takes to answer calls, how much time your staff spend on each call, how many calls go unanswered, and what the most common topics are on calls, you will need an analytics tool like BrightMetrics to access this data in a useful way.  BrightMetrics’ reports can be scheduled to run daily, weekly or monthly and can be automatically sent to defined email addresses.

2. Better Troubleshooting

Track your systems’ capacity and get a notification when you’re running out of resources. Map call flow so you can understand how calls are routed through ShoreTel and identify ongoing issues. Make changes without interrupting your call routing practices. BrightMetrics uses your ShoreTel data to help you quickly and accurately identify problems like these, and more. The tool provides data on jitter, latency, and what times the servers are reporting to help you prevent or reduce down-time, improve customer service, and quickly resolve problems.

3. Improve Staff Productivity

To help your staff become more productive, you need to understand the current productivity level and identify opportunities for improvement. This will likely involve analytics on call volume, staffing levels, call duration, and number of call transfers. This kind of information can help keep labor costs down by preventing overstaffing, while ensuring your staff have the tools necessary to efficiently and effectively assist customers.

4. Increase Customer Satisfaction

Do you know what your customers experience when they call your company? Data analytics can provide insight into how long your customers wait on hold, how many times they are transferred, and how long they speak with a staff person to resolve their need. Improvements in these critical interactions can make a significant difference in customer satisfaction.

For our customers who use BrightMetrics, I have seen them gain valuable insight into their productivity and better understand how to make improvements that align with their business goals.

Find out how Bright Metrics could work for you. Register for our webinar:  5 Metrics Every Contact Center Manager Should Know

If your business can benefit from BrightMetric’s analytics and reporting tools, please contact  us to discuss fees and how this tool can support your business decision-making process.

Are Cloud Voice Services Really Right for You?

It may seem like everything related to communications is moving to the cloud. So of course, your business should be in the cloud too, right? Maybe not.

While cloud voice services offer a lot in the way of exciting functionality, and it can be appealing not to have to own or manage your company’s communications systems, the cloud isn’t necessarily the right solution for everyone.

In fact, in my personal experience, about half of the people who purchase a cloud solution aren’t really the best fit for it. Let me explain why.

Cloud voice services were built to provide highly functional, interactive suites of services. These unified communications solutions deliver instant messaging, web conferencing, video messaging, and other advanced communications capabilities all within a single application. This functionality can be fantastic for companies that use and need it – those with multiple locations, many remote workers, and high call volumes.

However, if your company is a more static business model, all of that functionality may actually slow you down. For businesses that have used the same phone system for the past 15 years and are now looking into new options because your old system is no longer serviceable, the cloud is likely not the right solution.

Cloud voice services were not built to function like traditional phone systems. That is one thing they do not do as well.

Your Business May Be Better Off with a Traditional Phone System If…

Are you trying to decide whether your company can benefit from a cloud-based communications system? Consider the following factors. You may be better off with a traditional phone system if you:

  • Have no (or few) mobile/remote workers
  • Have minimal phone usage
  • Still use pagers or fax machines
  • Do not have a customer service department
  • Use key system appearances to answer calls (put a call on ‘line 1’ and use an intercom to tell someone that their call is holding on line 1)
  • Could be considered a traditional, low-tech business

If you answered yes to more than one of the above points, your business will likely benefit more from a new phone system rather than cloud voice services.

Cost Comparison: Traditional Phone System vs. Cloud Voice Services

What about the cost differences? The cloud systems look comparatively inexpensive when you look at the monthly fee versus an investment in purchasing an entirely new phone system. So, let me break down the cost considerations:

  1. Call Volume: Most hosted cloud solutions include unlimited calling. That is ideal for companies with high call volume, like call centers and customer service departments. But for a company with minimal phone usage, you’re paying for those unlimited calls. And consider a company that had 50 phones with their old system, but only five lines on all of them. In the past, they only paid for the five lines. But with a new cloud service, they would be paying for 50 cloud users – one for each phone — each with unlimited calling. It is likely less expensive to have monthly service costs rather than burying those costs in an unlimited solution.
  2. Up-Front Investment: The minimal up-front cost and low monthly fees of cloud products can be appealing. However, it’s worth considering how long you expect to use the solution. For companies that used their last phone system for 10-12-15 years (or more!), the long-term cost benefit lies with purchasing a system outright. However, if you don’t want to invest the upfront capital, or don’t want the responsibility for managing a phone system, you have the option to lease (or lease-to-own) a phone system as well.
  3. Service Responsibility: Unfortunately, many cloud providers have immature customer service organizations. So, while you may spend less up front on a product that you don’t have to own or manage, you’ll likely spend a significant amount of time and effort managing your vendor’s customer service team. The person in your business who is charged with managing the vendor relationship will require time to track down the appropriate customer service contact, struggle with how to resolve issues that arise, and deal with potential down-time.

At first glance, cloud voice services appear to be the simple choice. But it needs to be the right choice for your business. If you want help deciding what communications solution – and which provider – would be the best fit for your business, we’d like to help. Barry is committed to an agnostic view of the market: we know all the players and their products, and help our customers identify what will work best for their needs. We understand small and medium sized businesses, and have solutions that include simple, basic telephony as well as cloud-based communications, and everything in between. Then we can help you implement and manage your new systems – all for the same (or lower) cost than you would have paid on your own.

Barry-whitepaper

Learn more about cloud-based communications with: “Clouds, VoIP, and Unified Communications”.
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Where’s the “Customer Service” in Phone Service?

When Small Businesses Struggle to Get Good Service from Big Voice and Data Network Providers, They Need an Advocate

voice_and_data_networkHave you ever had the experience of working with a salesperson and, once the purchase order was signed, you never heard from them again? Your account was moved over to someone else in account management, who may not even have a conversation with your salesperson. All of the background information, conversations about customization, and concerns you had throughout the sales process – do you really need to repeat all of that with an entirely new person?

Unfortunately, many big companies simply aren’t structured to care for customers from start to finish. Each department or role focused on their specific tasks, which makes it incredibly difficult to deliver great customer service. That’s not a reason avoid the big guys – because there are a lot of benefits they can offer. For example, the large cable companies have built out great enterprise fiber infrastructure and have a strong implementation team, but they typically don’t do well with ongoing support – they’re simply too big.

This can be incredibly frustrating for small business customers, which typically don’t have enough staff or the right knowledge and background to easily manage their utilities.

The Secret to Better Customer Service? Get an Advocate.

Businesses can partner with an advocate to get help managing their utility providers. The benefit of this kind of relationship is that advocates like Barry Communications have deep technical expertise, so they can ensure highly efficient and tailored implementation to meet your specific needs. They are also able to leverage their knowledge to get customer service staff to address issues faster, more directly, and in a more complete manner. Basically, they know how to squeeze the absolute best service out of a machine that isn’t designed to automatically deliver good service.

To give this whole idea a bit more color, I wanted to share a few examples with you:

#1  You Want to Cut Over to New Service on Friday Night

A lot of customers want to start their new service cut-over at the end of the day on Friday. That gives them the weekend to address any issues before everyone returns to work on Monday. However, we at Barry know the big problem with this timing: the implementation team that you’re working with are in a rush to get home on Friday night. They may rush your cut-over, which can create problems. When you call to get service to address the problems, now you’re working with a weekend crew who don’t know anything about your project.

Advocate Tip: Schedule a cut-over on a Thursday. That gives us time on Friday to clean things up if needed.

#2 The Hidden Costs in a Multi-Location Network Delivery

Let’s say your business has five locations, and you’re setting up a multi-location network.

When you’re installing fiber in five locations, there’s construction involved. The carriers will deliver each circuit as soon as its ready – any they’ll start billing you as soon as they’re delivered. Except you can’t start using any individual circuit until the entire network is up and running. That could cost you thousands of dollars for circuits you can’t use, meanwhile you’re still paying for your old network.

Advocate Tip: Require the carrier to delay delivery until all of the circuits are ready.

#3 Skip the Customer Service Hoops

Have you ever called a customer service number, only to be run through the most basic questions as a standard formality? Because you’re an end user, the technician assumes you know nothing about the product or technology and starts out by asking something so utterly basic, like whether you’ve plugged it in. *eye roll *

And after you answer the questions and wait on hold a few times, carriers will often say “everything on our end looks fine, the problem must be your internal equipment.”

Right.

Advocate Tip: What you need is someone who can cut through all of that standardized initial customer service activity. Someone who speaks the technical jargon, and knows when to push for shorter, faster, less costly resolutions.

#4 The Right Provider for You, at the Best Price

Every service provider has strengths and weaknesses. But you don’t have the time to research all of them to understand which one is best for your specific needs. We already know all of the carriers, inside and out, and can advise you on the best fit for your needs.

We have wholesale agreements with some providers, which creates more competitive pricing for customers, and with other providers we negotiate and customize services to get you the best fit at the best price. The end result is that a customer will never pay more going through us than if they had gone direct to the provider.

Advocate Tip: Independent sales agents may help customers get a better deal, but they don’t have the technical knowledge to provide an end-to-end relationship that will help you manage ongoing service issues. Look for a true partner who can support your business through the lifetime of your service.

The Benefits of Continuous Support

When you work with an advocate like Barry, you get ongoing expert guidance and resources from presale to sale to implementation to ongoing technical service. Whether you need help with coordinating carrier services, managing phone or data, or working with your firewall, router, etc. (even if we didn’t provide it) – we have the technical experience to support every aspect of your phone and data needs. We’re your partner, and your first call.

Learn more about how Barry can help with your voice and data network.

 

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The Telecom Industry in Transition from Premise-Based to Cloud Voice Systems How Does Today’s Active M&A Environment Impact the Customer?

cloud voice systemsYet another industry giant has stumbled, as Avaya filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last month. Although many of us saw this one coming from a long way off, it represents yet another in a wave of mergers, acquisitions and financial missteps as the telecom industry struggles to transition from premise-based hardware to hosted cloud voice systems.

The Fall of VC-Backed Telecoms

I’ve seen a lot of venture capital and investment money go into cloud voice system providers. Many of them continue running on VC funding and aren’t making a profit – they’re instead building a business with the goal of selling it to another company.  And this pattern isn’t limited to phone equipment manufacturers; it’s a consistent pattern across the industry including carriers as well.

One of the earliest examples of this trend was Whaleback, a cloud solution that built up a large customer base before running out of money and being sold. The customers I’ve spoken to are experiencing a completely different model now that Whaleback has been swallowed up by another provider, and seem to be dissatisfied with the service they’re receiving.

We’ve seen similar stories with Windstream’s purchase of Earthlink, Verizon’s buyout of XO Communications, and others.

What’s the Impact for Customers?

I’ve been asking for a while now: when companies focus primarily on gaining customers and subscribers, but don’t care about whether they’re making a profit, what eventually happens to their customers?

Mergers and acquisitions are financial decisions. They are typically in the best interest of the stockholders, with little regard for the needs of the customers. While many companies that undergo an M&A transaction or wade through chapter 11 bankruptcy will emerge, there are often extensive changes for the customer and long-term impact on research and development and the company’s ability to maintain competitive innovation.

While VCs expect this level of risk when they invest in a company, customers cannot. Every change of management and direction creates problems for the customer, and unfortunately the customers come out on the losing end.

How Can Companies Prevent the Upheaval that Telecom M&A Activity Creates?

While many people’s instincts may be to establish a direct relationship with their telecom provider, this is a situation for which an intermediary can be valuable and important. At Barry, we carefully vet and select the providers we choose to work with. We also personally oversee our customers’ experiences, and if changes do occur with any of our providers, we take on the role of navigating those changes and minimizing the impact for our customers. We have the ability to prevent major disruptions, and deliver more personalized services than any of the major providers.

So whether your company is an uncertain Avaya customer looking to investigate your cloud voice system options, or simply looking to explore the industry for a new or better phone system, let’s talk. I’d love to tell you about how Barry Communications works for our customers, introduce you to some of our customers, and explain how we can help you make a confident decision for the long term.

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Jumping the S-Curve

(and other inspirations from the ShoreTel Global Partner Conference)

ShoreTel Global Partner Conference

Happy new year! It’s a great time for fresh starts, new strategies, exciting initiatives and planning for all that 2017 will bring. But before we jump into everything forward-looking, I want to take a brief look back at the ShoreTel conference that I attended last month. A lot of great information and inspiration came out of that event, and I think it’s valuable to share here.

Uncomfortable is Good

Shoretel CEO Don Joos kicked off the three-day conference with a keynote presentation that focused on the significant changes that the communications industry is undergoing, and how ShoreTel fits into that evolution.

He highlighted the transformations of:

  • Architecture: From TDM to IP
  • Software: From monolithic to modular
  • Delivery: From onsite to cloud
  • Consumption: From ownership (capex) to subscription (opex)

One of the most compelling things that Joos said during his keynote was that although change can make us uncomfortable, “The key is to be comfortable feeling uncomfortable.” He continued to explain that great companies continually reinvent themselves by being willing to think differently – to be uncomfortable – and thereby creating a new reality.

It was refreshing to hear Joos admit that he has had his moments of feeling “not very brave,” and listed his own fears of: “What if we were becoming just another application in a network? Becoming commoditized? Limited to just a phone company?” To address these fears head on, Joss has led ShoreTel to be more than just a phone company; to be a leader in the market.

To achieve this, Joss is ensuring that ShoreTel delivers on its mission of making interactions simple at every level. While most of these interactions have been between people, Joss also addressed the fast-growth of people-to-machine and machine-to-machine interactions as targets for future ShoreTel strategies.

Moving Up – and Jumping – the S-Curve

Using the concept of the technology evolution s-curve, Joss shared with the audience his strategies for how the company intends to move up the s-curve, while also looking for where the next trend and customer need in the marketplace will come from. By anticipating future needs, Joss hopes that ShoreTel can “jump the S-curve”, enabling the company to avoid the eventual maturity and decline at the end of a typical curve and “jump” to the next growth period.

I’ve been a long-time believer in ShoreTel and the direction that Joss is taking the company, and this conference was further support for my continued confidence in them.

The other treat that came out of hanging out in Florida for a few days (other than escaping the brutal cold of December in the northeast) was watching Guy Kawasaki speak. The former chief evangelist for Apple, Kawasaki is an entertaining speaker and powerful stage presence. He gave a great talk about the art of innovation, and outlined 11 attributes of successful innovators.

This article did a nice job of summarizing Kawasaki’s talk, but I will mention that I agree most strongly with his first point: Make Meaning. Most importantly, to create meaning for a company’s customers. This is a strength of ShoreTel, and a driving vision for Barry Communications as well. By dedicating ourselves to delivering excellent customer service, training, and reliable and innovative communications solutions, we strive to provide meaning for our customers every day.

Learn how we have helped many customers with their voice and data communications by reading some of our customer case studies.

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