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City of Lansing: Government communication strategy

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Up until 2018, the City of Lansing was utilizing copper phone lines for its phone service. Copper phone lines have limited bandwidth and are mostly best for POTS, or plain old telephone service. The out-of-date communication system resulted in many different de-centralized systems and ultimately a headache for City Staff to administer the phone system. 

That just wasn’t going to cut it for the City of Lansing. With nearly 12,000 residents and steady growth year over year, the city needed a system that could grow and adapt right alongside it. 

City Staff selected Towner as the consultant to install its new, modern, easily managed phone system utilizing fiber optic delivery of the phone lines. 

The VoIP, or Voice Over Internet Protocol, phone system offers phone service over the internet. It turns traditional, analog phone signals into digital ones that can be sent via the web. Using fiber optic cables, VoIP offers a tremendously higher capacity than copper cables, meaning a greater return on investment and a maximized budget.

Towner’s implementation team took great strides to provide excellent attention to detail and informed logical decisions. For a project of this size, the planning phase was extensive and involved multiple rounds of discussions and changes. Towner worked diligently to make sure every single need was met and that the communication system would be able to efficiently scale at the pace the city needed it to.

And after implementation, onsite end-user training sessions were held for city employees so they could see first-hand how the new system worked directly from a Towner trainer. This part was crucial to the overall success and adoption of the new system.

Matthew R. Schmitz, Director, Community & Economic Development of the City of Lansing, says that working with Towner has made their communication strategy easy to modify and adapt and has resulted in many compliments from City Staff.

“We couldn’t be happier with the provided system, or with Towner themselves. Towner has been very responsive and a great asset to the City during the deployment of this major system upgrade.”

PRODUCTS USED

Towner installed a MiVoice Connect system for the City of Lansing providing them with a solution to meet their unique environment.  To meet the needs of the city, the new system was installed in five separate locations networked together through VPN’s between each site and two Mitel ST100DA switches where installed at two main sites to provide failover and local survivability.

And to help users manage their status and see the presence of others in real-time without traversing the city, Towner fully integrated unified communications using the Mitel Connect Client integrated with Skype for Business.  And to allow users to take full advantage of the increased WiFi and mobile calling capabilities of the new system, the city now utilizes a Mitel Mobility Router.

Benefits of upgrading your business phone system

The new system is centrally managed, easy to modify and adapt, and has resulted in many compliments from City Staff about the operation and ease of use of the phone system. Not only is the new system more streamlined in its functions, but its capabilities are also greater, which allows the city to be more productive and effective in its everyday job functions.

Improved communication

Towner’s business phone systems are built for making better connections with teams and customers. With innovative features and seamless communication options, teams can collaborate anytime, anywhere.

Simplified technology

Cloud phone systems and integrated communication tools simplify technology with more centralized, accessible, and easy-to-manage solutions that get the job done easier and more efficiently.

Business growth

Better communication creates more opportunities for growth. Towner Communications offers the most technology-forward business communication solutions that help businesses scale at faster speeds.

Increased savings

Towner’s cloud-based phone systems help businesses save money by cutting operating expenses for hardware, maintenance, and IT headcount, ultimately creating a better return on investment. 

Learn more about our business communication solutions or contact us today for a complimentary consultation!

mobile workforce

5 Effective Ways to Maximize Collaboration in a Remote Workforce

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In today’s workforce, the number of remote workers continues to grow. According to the New York Times, 43% of Americans spend at least some of their time working remotely. Remote workers tend to be more productive and can save your company money—upwards of $10,000 per year per employee.

Unfortunately, employing virtual employees can also be a mess of mismanagement and lackluster performance. To mitigate the risk factors associated with remote workers, employers must establish systems that effectively connect a widely distributed workforce and allow for powerful collaboration.

Below are guiding principles that employers should use in order to optimize their virtual workspace.

Simplify, simplify, simplify

Managing multiple communications technologies is clunky and outdated. To streamline processes and systems, your team should invest in unified communications to allow for faster decisions and transactions between team members. Unified communications combine everything employees need in order to communicate, both internally and externally, into one cloud-based system.

Unified communications systems typically combine:
• Email
• Video and web conferencing
• Desk and mobile phones
• Instant messaging
• Workflow
• Scheduling

Using a single environment to manage multiple devices and modes of communication helps simplify daily activities and enables your team to be more centralized and efficient in their output. Plus, it takes away confusion and reduces the risk of your message getting lost in translation. Our unified cloud capabilities allow companies to skip the hardware and servers altogether, using the cloud to bring together employees near and far.

No matter what systems you decide to use, always go back to that one question: How can I make this process less complicated?

Set expectations early and often

Many companies do not have formal policies in place for teleworkers, leaving many gray areas. In an office setting, expectations can be inferred through interactions between other employees—but this is simply not the case with remote workers.

Make the effort to set general guidelines for remote employees, such as office hours, email deadlines, communication standards, and more. This way, no one will waste their time trying to interpret messages or standards through email or instant messages.

We highly recommend doing this in written form to give everyone a straightforward resource they can refer to in case there are any questions. This can include a document of standards such as communication guidelines or short- and long-term goals for each employee. By sharing a written document, there will be no room for question when it comes to expectations.

Host weekly—or daily—team meetings

Just because you can’t meet in person doesn’t mean you shouldn’t meet. Just like on-site teams, you should regularly schedule virtual meetings with off-site employees to allow for semi face-to-face communications.

There are many benefits to video conferencing. Not only will the visual aid help your virtual employees feel like part of the team, but it will also give you the opportunity to speak more organically and openly. The MiVoice Video Phone system has a variety of advanced features, including the seamless sharing of files and the ability to collaborate through its web browser functions, that make a virtual meeting feel more like face-to-face reality.

During your check-ins, ask both personal and work-related questions. Some of our recommended questions include:
• “How can I help you?”
• “What are your priorities this week?”
• “How is life outside of work?”
• “Do I give you enough or too much feedback and guidance?”

These types of open-ended questions help open the door to where you may need to improve upon while making it clear that you’re not there to micromanage their work.

Build trust with remote workers

Studies have shown that companies that function with higher levels of trust have more opportunities for personal growth, empathy, and collaboration. Employees also report lower levels of stress, greater productivity, and more satisfaction in their lives.

Trust starts with open lines of communication, meaning honest conversations about expectations and workflow. But it also means actively working to get to know your virtual employees and giving them the space needed to effectively do their work without micromanagement.

Bosses who micromanage their remote workers foster a sense of unease in the virtual workplace. But under-management of employees is equally as problematic. Each employee will require a specific level and type of management style and it’s up to each manager to figure out that sweet spot in terms of trust for every virtual employee.

Maintain a positive virtual social environment

It is crucial that your off-site workers feel like they are part of a larger team. While it can seem nearly impossible to include them on things such as lunch outings or corporate events, there are other creative ways to make virtual workers feel included.

Something as simple as sending a birthday or holiday card reminds them that you’re thinking of them. Some companies also deploy what they call “Coffee meetings,” where they pay for their virtual worker to get a coffee at their favorite coffee shop. Whatever you decide, make it personal to your brand and its mission.

And remember: this virtual working relationship is probably new for both sides of the aisle, so be humble and vulnerable to feedback from your remote workers. If something isn’t working, be willing to examine the issue to find solutions that better fit your team members. Collaboration looks different within every team, and with virtual workers, it’s imperative that you take the time to figure out what it looks like for you.