Insights from Communication Professionals

Emergency Communication

Sever Weather Mass Notification Plan

By | Blog | No Comments

Mass Notification

Originally published on syn-apps.com

If the extreme weather conditions of recent years―historic droughts, devastating hurricanes and catastrophic wildfires, among others―have taught us anything, it’s that severe weather can strike at any moment, and every second counts. That’s why all organizations should have a strategic, well-tested emergency communication plan in place.

This article provides tips on how you can improve your emergency weather strategy by leveraging mass notification technology to optimize your communications processes to protect your people and assets.

Know the Terminology

To begin, make sure your team understands the different types of alerts issued by weather-related government agencies in your country. Typically, they include:

  • A watch: Sent when weather conditions are favorable for a specific type of event, such as a tornado or flooding. For example, a tornado watch would mean that a severe thunderstorm and tornadoes are possible. It does not mean a tornado will occur.
  • An advisory: Generally means a weather event is imminent, but not severe. For example, a winter weather advisory would be issued for several inches of snow in most areas. This is a notable occurrence, but not likely to cause long-term issues for most businesses and organizations.
  • A warning: Issued when a severe weather event is imminent. For example, a blizzard warning means a severe snowstorm is expected within the next 12 to 18 hours.

 

We recommend familiarizing your teams with the terminology, as well as relevant sirens or tones so they’re not alarmed should the forecast take a turn.

 
Determine Who Should Receive Severe Weather Notifications

If you haven’t already, determine who has decision-making authority within your organization, who needs to be informed of each weather condition and how they should proceed.

For example, you may decide that watches should go to executive team members and the facilities crew so they’re prepared to make contingency plans. You may choose to send advisories to all supervisors on premises because the weather event may require people to leave earlier than usual. You may choose to send warnings to all personnel because they may require people to seek shelter. Some situations, such as hurricanes and severe winter weather, often require management to determine if and when to close the facility or make arrangements for people to stay home.

Leverage Technology to Optimize Your Communications Plan

Next, determine how your organization will monitor and distribute information to the appropriate stakeholders. Most distributed recipient mass notification systems can send secondary notifications like e-mails or texts, but only advanced emergency mass notification systems are equipped to provide immediate and intrusive audio/visual alerts.

Advanced systems typically allow users to customize alerts so stakeholders receive a cohesive message from your organization. This helps establish trust and credibility with your recipients because they know the information they’re receiving is truly coming from your organization.

Providing ample notice can save lives, and automating weather alerts can provide the timely, effective information people need, without requiring one-off communications. Look for an emergency notification system that complies with all relevant regulations and integrates with trusted sources. As weather events develop, of course, you may want to add more personal and specific information based on your communications plan.

Test Your Systems & Conduct Drills

Conducting routine drills familiarizes personnel with existing procedures and acquaints them with new ones to ensure everyone understands what to do in a real weather emergency. They’re also helpful to identify process and system inefficiencies, arming leadership with valuable insight to fix issues right away.

Leverage a robust mass notification system with a scheduling solution like Mitel Revolution to plan drills in advance, so you can spend more time practicing and perfecting your emergency processes.

 

SYN-APPS

Syn-Apps is a leader in paging and mass notification solutions designed to improve business processes, increase safety and streamline communication. Since 2001, thousands of organizations across 35+ countries and a range of verticals – K-12, higher education, government, enterprises, retail, healthcare and more –have integrated Syn-Apps’ notification solutions with phones, paging systems, IP speakers and hundreds of other systems and services. Syn-Apps is also an OEM manufacturer of mass notification software for Fortune 500 global companies in the fire / life Safety and VoIP communications industry. For more information, visit syn-apps.com or call 1-866-664-6071.

Cloud Contact Center

2020 Cloud Contact Center Trends

By | Blog, News | No Comments

Cloud contact center isn’t just a clever buzz phrase for big businesses anymore. Small Business Trends reports that Seventy percent of businesses either are planning to migrate their contact center to the cloud within the next year, or already have a cloud based contact center in place. This isn’t just a fancy fad: Market watch predicts that by 2024, that the $8.9 billion cloud contact center market will grow to more than $33 billion.

As cloud contact centers continue to become the way to do business, critical trends are surfacing that are promising a strong year in 2020.

2020 Cloud Contact Center Trends

  1. A Legitimate Omnichannel Experience Offers More Robust Ways To Communicate.

The omnichannel experience is old hat in the contact center world, however many times not utilized to its fullest capabilities. A legitimate omnichannel experience enables customers to navigate effortlessly from one method of communications to another. When fully integrated and utilized as designed, omnichannel offerings ensure organizations can meet hyper evolving customer expectations.

As an example, MiCloud Connect Contact Center, enables your clients to easily interact with your agents, no matter what their channel of choice, without having to repeat their troubles or lose their information.

  1. Training And Assistance Performed By A.I.

Gartner survey recently came out that Fifty-nine percent of organizations have already deployed AI, with many more organizations planning to implement AI projects during 2020. Gartner also forecasts that by 2021, AI interactions will handle 15 percent of all customer interactions. We’re just scratching the surface of how AI will transform cloud contact centers, and the customer experience. Major planned investments will enable AI to have an even bigger and badder role in how we interact with our customers over the next year.

This will include real-time training and coaching through virtual agent assist, or chatbots.

MiCloud Connect CX already handles this type of training. Speech analytics transcribes recorded conversations and uses AI to analyze key moments for coaching so your team can deliver better interactions. AI virtual agents also monitor conversations and present agents with relevant information that help them resolve customer questions more quickly and effectively.

The result? A more pleasant customer experience and a more effective interaction that’s on-brand and on-message. New agents handle calls like seasoned veterans in no time, and supervisors spend less time on training.

  1. Impactful Analytics.

AI ensures more impactful and meaningful data analytics. Contact centers have been collecting data on customers since their inception, but the information’s useless if it’s not accurate, or properly analyzed and applied.

Natural language processing (NLP) interpret data and provide analysis around the “why” of customers contacting your company, ways you can improve your products and services and how you make information available to customers. This data enables you to move beyond contact center efficiency and focus on improving the overall customer experience. Since these insights are created in real-time, you can respond and adapt to customers’ preferences quickly, increasing loyalty while staying ahead of the competition.

  1. Self-Service Is A Big Deal.

Customers often prefer to help themselves. They don’t want to get stuck in a queue or wait for a human agent – especially when they have a simple question about a product or service. Chatbots are the primary means of self-service, so it should be no surprise that the global chatbot market is expected to hit $5.63 billion by 2023, demonstrating a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 34 percent over the 2018-2023 period.

Chatbots allow customers to get answers to basic questions and FAQs. They also free up human agents to focus on more complex queries and keep wait times down for those who really do need to speak to a live agent.

A key differentiator in 2020 will be the provision of chatbots that create a smooth transition when a customer needs live support. Smartbots route customers to an agent with the appropriate level of expertise and provide agents with a full history of the customer engagement. This saves customers from having to repeat themselves and enables agents to pick up exactly where the chatbot left off.

Expanded FAQs and video tutorials are other ways in which cloud contact centers will offer self-service in 2020, so businesses need to be sure they’re prepared to meet those demands, as well.

  1. Contact Center Agents Move From Reactive To Proactive.

Integration with CRM systems provides cloud contact center agents with detailed customer data in real time. When customers call with an issue, agents have instant access to purchase histories and other relevant details. That allows them to take a more proactive role in addressing the customer’s issue.

MiCloud Connect CX is an example of a cloud contact center solution that integrates with your CRM so you can immediately assess customer information and create a more personalized interaction. Agents can even note the customer’s mood, which can trigger automated actions and help your business better prepare for future interactions. Personalization and customer sentiment help your business improve customer satisfaction levels and monitor them over time.

  1. The Rise Of The Remote Contact Center Workforce.

The days of large rooms full of agents answering calls are disappearing. Cloud contact centers have ushered in the ability to maintain a remote contact center workforce, without the need to offshore calls to a third-party vendor. With a cloud contact center, agents can be dispersed throughout the country, putting them closer to your customers. The money saved on office space and other overhead can be applied toward hiring local talent that can provide localized service. “Homeshoring” improves customer satisfaction, and we expect this trend to continue in 2020.

There’s no doubt that 2020 will be an exciting time. Innovations in cloud contact center solutions will give your business the advantage it needs to remain competitive in a customer-driven world. And by putting these cloud trends at the center of your contact center plans, you’ll be sure to meet your customers’ expectations for a stellar experience.

 

Woman using office phone with blue blazer

City of Lansing: Government communication strategy

By | News | No Comments

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

By | Blog | No Comments

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.