Gary D's Take

Six simple steps to get control of your email address!

Six simple steps to get control of your email address!

Jun 18, 2016

What if you woke up tomorrow and your email address was suddenly yourname@bs.com?

If you use an email address that is controlled by your carrier it could happen. The operative word here being CONTROLLED. Entrepreneurs and self-employed people are well known for wanting to be the masters of their own destiny and the captain of their ship. There are tons of books and articles about how these kind of people struggle with being good managers because they have a hard time delegating because they can’t relinquish control. Yet every day, I see hundreds of these people putting one of the most critical communications and marketing tools of their business in the hands of a big corporation when their email address is something@yourcarrier.com. Why would you want to promote the telecommunications company you happen to be using every time you send or receive an email?

Three Reasons To Make This Change?

  1. Email may be the most important business communications tool of the 21st Century.

How many emails do you send or receive every day? How many important documents do you receive or send each and every business day? How many new customers do you start to interact with VIA EMAIL? How important are those emails going back and forth between you and your customer base to keeping them happy AND KEEPING THEM AS CUSTOMERS? COME ON PEOPLE, THIS IS A BIG DEAL! Why in heaven’s name would you want to entrust that to a company that it takes you 45 minutes to get on the phone?

  1. Sometimes YOU need to make a change!

    Nothing in our modern society stays the same for very long. Change is the only constant. All kinds of companies are merging and changing their focus. After being one of the first companies in the world in the PC business IBM decided that they needed to be OUT OF the PC business. IBM started the PC business and helped change the way we do everything but now THEY DON’T WANT TO DO IT ANYMORE! The email at bs.com is an example I used to use during the old Bellsouth days. Lots of folks had bellsouth.net email addresses, heck I had one. What if they had decided to shorten it? Shorter is better, right? Hence bs.com. The point is, companies you deal with sometimes do things that are not necessarily in your best interest. When this happens, you may have to look elsewhere for that product or service. If your email is @yourcarrier.com IT BELONGS TO THEM! The Number Portability Act federally mandated that you be able to take your telephone numbers with you to whatever carrier you chose, EMAIL ADDRESSES ARE NOT COVERED! The carrier OWNS that dot whatever domain and owns YOUR EMAIL. If you need to change carriers, you can’t take that with you. Even if you are not planning on going anywhere, why not go ahead and get this taken care of for all the reasons I have already mentioned above.

  1. You probably already have it.

Just about every company and organization today has a presence on the internet. You probably have some kind of a website at a descriptive domain name. yourcompany.com or ifixyourfaucetts.net or something else that helps promote what you do. Almost every web hosting company on the planet INCLUDES email at your domain in their packages at no extra cost. You probably have this and you are not using it. You are wasting money that you have already spent.

Hopefully you are on board with this idea now and are ready to make it happen. :)

Here are the 6 simple steps to changing your email:

  1. Get your new email up and running

Contact your hosting provider and get your new email set up. One of the benefits of email at your domain is you get to get rid of all the crazy extra stuff that you have to add because you aren’t the only John Smith on the system. Instead of being johnsmith154mz8911@whatever.com now you can be johnsmith@ifixyourfaucett.net or just john!

  1. START USING IT NOW!

Forward your old email to your new one so that when you respond to email, they get your new email address. Change your printed materials and all your other advertising to reflect your new email address. Remember the old one is forwarded so you still get those.

  1. Set up an autoresponder on your old email.

Auto responder is something every email has. It just basically sends an email to everyone that sends you an email an important message like “I will be on vacation all week.” Or “We got your message and will respond to it promptly” Just set this up on your old email to tell people that your address is changing.

  1. Send an email to everyone you normally market to via email and let them know you are changing.

If you don’t have a list of emails that you regularly send information to you should. Most folks do. Send those people a message that your emails are changing. BTW send it from the NEW one and the old one.

  1. Talk about the change.

Put it in your newsletter Post it on social media. TALK to your customers about it during your normal conversations with them. “Oh by the way Mr. Customer, we are changing our email addresses to whatever@yourcompany.com . “How hard is that?

  1. Put up a sign in your office that notifies people about your new email address.

If you have foot traffic to your business put up a sign in the lobby or on the door or at the checkout counter or all the above.

If you follow these simple steps you will be surprised at how easy the change will be.

Your Legacy Phone System

Your Legacy Phone System

Dec 23, 2015

Abandoning a legacy system altogether simply isn’t feasible for some businesses.

After investing thousands of dollars into equipment,from handsets to the system itself, retiring the system might be out of the question. If you are reading this , however, it has become evident that your business has outgrown its current system, your legacy system is lacking modern features that could help you gain competitive advantage, and/or your business is expanding rapidly. Obviously, simply retaining your legacy system and hoping that it will continue to meet future demand is much like an ostrich hiding its head in the sand.

Businesses that are well-served by their existing system and looking to avoid the cost of new equipment may opt for legacy system integration. Integration solutions allow an enterprise to keep its existing system and free up the capital expense for other expanding business needs. According to PC World’s Zack Stern, “Your biggest savings could come from cutting your current Analog/ISDN PRI/BRI cord—the phone ‘trunk’ into your business,” Stern says. With IP trunking in its place, you instead connect through the internet, sharing phone traffic with your Internet service. “The switch can streamline your monthly fees. But you’ll have to add hardware to make this transition. Many  systems can work with your currently installed system hardware. You’ll connect from the  phone system into  controller hardware, which in turn connects to your Internet Telephony Service Provider (ITSP). The ITSP finally taps into the public phone network, reaching anyone on any phone.”

However, integration is a poor choice for enterprises where:
*Business growth has exceeded system limits
*The business requires remote office integration
*The business requires telephony features not supported by existing system

According to TechDay, the rising costs of keeping a legacy system reliable under increasing demand—not to mention a more competitive business environment—is simply not viable for some modern businesses.

As Jon Arnold, principal at J Arnold & Associates explains it: “Businesses have never had so much choice … when making decisions around telephone systems.”

 

Is the desk phone dead?

Is the desk phone dead?

Dec 23, 2015

I recently read a blog article entitled “The Phone Is Dead”. It was written by a friend of mine who I respect a lot. (Read the article here.)There is a lot of truth in what he says but I am afraid that I have to respectfully disagree with the concept. I must say that the old girl is on her last legs and fading fast but that condition is mostly caused by the industries decision to go in exactly the wrong direction. To those of us who have spent most of our lives in the phone business , watching us shoot ourselves in the foot comes as no big surprise……we do it all the time!

So what is killing the desk phone? Some might say that the cell phone is the culprit. Replacing landlines in business with cell phones sounds like the perfect idea……there are just a couple of issues to work out……. what’s the cell phone number of accounts receivable? Who’s cell phone do I call to order HBO? Cell phones are designed for one person to communicate directly with one other person. It’s a very PERSONAL communications tool. Calling someone at home is a personal ONE TO ONE kind of communication so its easy to see why cell phones are quickly replacing the HOME PHONE.It’s not designed for groups of people to share calls and collaborate. Businesses need this……you don’t need this at home. Having watched a few companies try to go “all  cellphone” and fail miserably , I can safely say that the cellphone has a strong alibi for the death of the desk phone.

Email is another thing that has been fingered in the desk phone homicide case. This is really interesting to me since I also hear that email is on its way out and being replaced by text and chat. (I wonder if its just really cool to declare things that we use all the time as being dead?) Its true that email has replaced traditional or snail mail in many cases but can it replace the telephone? Think about this shared experience everybody has had….you are emailing someone and trying to explain something. You have been going back and forth for a while trying to work out some details but you are stuck on some point. Finally one of you picks up the phone and calls the other one….the hour long impasse is resolved in a two minute conversation. We have all experienced this situation. Email is good…..but it’s not THAT GOOD!

The biggest problem with the desk phone is the new generation of VOIP phones that are based on the traditional PBX model. Phone systems traditionally come in two flavors…. PBX ( Private Branch Exchange ) and something called a key system or squared. Here’s the difference….a traditional PBX is based on the concept that you have one person who answers all the calls and transfers them to the extension of the person the call is for. Later we added Voice Mail and something called Interactive Voice Response (the press 1 for this and 2 for that thing) or IVR ( IVRs don’t really respond to your voice so this is a misnomer). Sometimes called an Auto Attendant , this really clever addition got overused by some companies in their zeal to eliminate the receptionist. This led to the creation of what came to be called “Voice Mail Hell” where you can’t ever seem to talk to a real person anywhere at anytime EVER. How many times have you have called a company ,got frustrated with the Auto Attendant and hit “0 for the operator”?

The key system is mostly found in smaller companies with five or six lines and less than 50 employees. The concept is simple , all the lines are visible on all the phones and each one can be answered on any phone. All the extensions are visible on every phone set so that anyone can see who is on the phone. ( Obviously if you have 50 lines and 200 extensions each telephone set would be the size of a Buick but for 6 lines and ten phones it works pretty well) You can then put the answered line on hold and tell the person who the call is for to “pick up line 1” or if they are out of the office or on the phone ,take a message or send them to the appropriate voicemail. You can even say “Joe is on the phone, can someone else help you?”( I know that actually talking to someone and trying to assist them is a revolutionary concept but please stay with me here.) A key system also allows you to put the phone call on hold , move to another station and pick the call back up very easily. Basically every phone is an operator console. This allows the very necessary function of answering and routing calls to be done from ANY station in the building.

Since most new VOIP phone systems are built on the PBX model…..they can’t really do key system functionality. For some small businesses that don’t have a central receptionist and everyone basically answers the phone….A PBX can be a real problem requiring a  complete change in how they answer the telephone. I have watched businesses totally revamp how the organization uses the phone…….it’s usually painful and expensive. Many times in these situations you hear the phrase “Can we just go back to what we had ?”

The main reason that, to paraphrase Mark Twain “ The reports of the death of the phone are greatly exaggerated” is the current wave of consumer demand for better customer service. Savvy businesses have recognized that what their customers want is a more personalized experience. Particularly when they have a problem with your product or service. When the cable is out or the dryer quits working, everybody really wants to push more buttons or type more information in a chat box right?……….WRONG! They want a live person ON THE PHONE to fix the problem.

So what is the answer here? Cell phones and email can’t really get the job done alone but they should play a part in your overall communications strategy. The real promise of the new technology available today is the ability to bring all the communications tools at your disposal together and leverage everything so that you have the best possible solution. Forward thinking business communications companies can do that. Carriers like AT&T or single silo equipment manufacturers and vendors can’t really do that for you. If you look at the what the REAL job of these types of companies is….it’s easy to see why they can’t deliver that total integrated solution that you really need.  Carriers sell lines and bandwidth. Manufacturers and equipment vendors sell THEIR equipment. A business communications companies job is to provide a great solution customized for each customer. They work for you. If they are smart , the only agenda they have is making the client happy.

The technology available for business communications today is amazing. Businesses have more options than ever before. The trick is finding a partner whose job is to take the best of what is available and combine it into the best solution for you.

Who owns the channel?

I heard someone the other day ask…”The fiscal cliff…what is that? All I know about it is what people are saying on Facebook.” It would be easy to be dismissive about a comment like that and relegate that person to the ranks of the uninformed and ignorant but I know this to not be true. How many of my right wing conservative friends only know about the cliff from Rush Limbaugh or Todd Schnitt? What’s the difference between getting your info from Rush or Facebook? Rush has an obvious agenda and he makes a living by promoting that agenda. Facebook……not so much.

The fact is that people listen to things that are important to them. They listen in the places that they trust and to the people they trust. How do you get people to understand that something IS important? You tell them why in ways that are meaningful to them.

During the first Reagan campaign , the Democrats were pushing their philosophy for raising taxes on the wealthy or “soak the rich”. (This is not a new idea) Reagan explained why that was a bad idea very simply. He said, “Have you ever gotten a job from a poor person?” You don’t beat on the people who succeed because they are the ones who fuel the engine. If you beat them down and punish them, they quit  hiring people. If you beat on them enough they leave…ala Great Britain. Reagan was able to make a compelling case very simply…in a way that was meaningful to everybody. He did this in the place where the majority of people spent their time and got most of their information in the 80s , ON TELEVISION.

Today the channels have changed. Facebook is a place where lots of people spend their time and get information they trust. Twitter is where breaking news is released. The major television networks now report stories based on Tweets and blog posts!

During the recent campaign , I watched what both campaigns were doing in the social media arena. From the Republican side , it was lackluster at best with only sporadic messages . The Democrats had a much more comprehensive strategy. To paraphrase someone else , “Obama OWNED social media!”.

In 1980 , the average American watched about 6 hours of television per day. In 2012 that number is much smaller , around 4 with younger Americans watching even less.

If you are going to talk to me , you have to be where I am. If you don’t come to me , you obviously don’t care if I am listening.

Remember Romney’s 47 percent remark? Perhaps that really did sum up a philosophy. There is a saying in the business world , “I want to do business with someone who wants to do business with me. Someone who shows they really WANT my business.” Mitt Romney , the self proclaimed “businessman” may have forgotten a fundamental business principle.

Six Common Telecom BOOBOOS

In thirty plus years, I have seen lots of things when it comes to how telecom services get handled. These are the six things that seem to be repeated over and over on thousands of  plans.

1. Buying the inside wiring coverage
The inside wiring plan sounds like something that should be very beneficial to the consumer. IT’s NOT! If you read the fine print there are additional charges that will  be incurred for just about everything they might do INSIDE. Basically you are paying for nothing.This is true for telcos and cable companies.

2. Unlimited Long Distance
If you use 1000 plus minutes of long distance every month, this is a fairly good deal. Let’s face it, most folks don’t use that much. I recently told a client, "you  paid thirty five cents per minute for your long distance last month." The client replied . "No we have UNLIMITED long distance!" "Right", I said, "which costs ten ninety five a month and you used 31 minutes last month." I have also seen people put unlimited long distance on all lines, also not good.

3. Buying domains , email and web hosting from your service provider                                                                                       If you were never ever, ever going to change providers this would be ok, but the reality of today’s environment says that at some point you will want to change. Moving these services away from your provider is painful and time consuming. It’s designed to be that way. How can I say that? For example,AT&T uses a domain registrar in Melbourne Australia called Melbourne IT. The only way to communicate with Melbourne IT is via FAX to their local number in Australia. Could they make it any more difficult? Coming soon…… AT&T’s new domain registrar, LUNAR IT!!!

4. Having more than six analog lines.
This is another one of those basic math story problems from grade school. Six  business lines cost $50 each or $300 per month. The average T-1 now costs about $300 per month and can handle up to 23 voice channels. How many lines past six does it take to make a T-1 the better deal? This will be on the test later….:)

5. Packaging feature deals on all your lines.                    Packaging features is a great idea for businesses with one  or two lines and regular phones. It’s a terrible idea for anyone with a phone system and three or more lines. I have seen bills with six line plans that have features on all six lines. Do you really want three way calling and voice mail on your third rollover line?

6. Assuming that “customer service”doesn’t mean SALES.
Customer service calls are answered in the sales department. I am not saying that the people you talk to aren’t nice people or that they are out to get you.They are sales people with quotas to make , families to feed and products to push. Never forget that. What is good for them may not always be what you need.