If your company is looking to expand its workforce to include virtual teams and remote workers or already has employees who telecommute, there must be different tools and features in place in your telecommunications to help these staff members succeed.
Remote work can not only benefit your company by increasing employee productivity and decreasing overhead costs, it can open up your talent pool and provide certain incentives for existing employees.
Here are the top five business phone features to keep your virtual workforce connected.
- IP Telephony
IP telephony usually includes a softphone client which is typically proprietary to your corporate telephone system. It allows a remote user to connect back to the office with their corporate extension and make and receive calls as though they are in the office. Essentially, no matter where you are, you can access the main office phone network. To outside callers or clients reaching these remote workers, the numbers all appear under one unified network.
Troy McIsaac, sales manager at Total Communication Services Inc., says one of their existing clients is a local charity where people would handle inbound and outbound telephone calls on a volunteer basis. These volunteers would often have to drive to the site and handle calls on location.
“We implemented the remote softphones allowing the users to stay at home, log in from home when they could make and receive calls,” he says. The connection was made via a cell phone apps or a desktop client that connects back to the main phone system. “The number was no different for the person calling the organization but the person taking the call would do so from their house, from a desktop client or on their mobile,” says McIsaac.
“It was really good for the organization because it opened the doors to more volunteers that were tech savvy that wanted to give back but found it challenging to make time or faced challenges accessing a vehicle, to connect remotely,” he adds.
- Unified Messaging
We’re all familiar with conventional voice mailbox systems where you check it when you get back to your telephone at your desk in the office. Now, through unified messaging, the telephone system is connected to your email and in your inbox, you can view your email, voicemail and fax messages.
Depending on your business network setup and infrastructure, it can even be synchronized with the desk telephone mailbox to move and delete—similar to deleting an email message in you rinbox. For remote workers, this type of telecommunications feature allows for faster response to customers and other team members.
McIsaac points to real estate clients that work with Total Communication Services that still do a lot of their business with fax machines for paperwork like orders and offers on homes. Agents were out of the office 90 per cent of the time and they would wait to get or send faxes only when they were in the office.
“The realtors were out of office most of time and they have floating desks. They come in, sit at a desk make some phone calls and check paperwork, get faxes, and then head out of the office again,” he says. “They would be in the office at most an hour a day.”
“We implemented Unified Messaging to allow agents to receive their voicemail and faxes in their inbox (cell phone) and forward and respond immediately, dropping hours off response times.”
- Desktop videoconferencing/ web conferencing
For dispersed remote workers who work across multiple locations or even for in-office workers to connect to clients internationally, video and web conferencing lets you collaborate and host virtual meetings. Users can stay connected with team members personally through webcams and have more personal conversations with their customers. Combined with web conferencing, your remote workers even have the ability to share their screens and tools, refer to presentation materials on their devices and this is a very productive tool for team collaboration.
- Online chat
Considering that we already use this in some way or another in our personal communications, online chat is now quite pervasive in business settings. Look at the explosion of programs like Skype for Business and Slack. Online chat is a great remote tool which can be used on a cell or desktop that allows your team members to have instant and quick communication with each other. In some cases, VoIP phone systems have presence features too that allow you to see which coworkers are busy, on hold and available in real time.
- Mobile apps
Remote workers can stay connected to the main office through mobile apps and as the case for softphone clients, calls from the office show the corporate number as opposed to the cell phone number. Calls to a user’s extension, through the app, is routed to the cell phone using a find me/follow me sequence, or on a cell client which is an extension of the corporate system.
For the at-home or remote worker, this frees them from being limited to only one location to receive calls, helping them stay effective and productive from anywhere.