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Evolutions in technology, the growth of online commerce, and the globalization that’s made an international pool of talent available to enterprises throughout the world have contributed to the development of multi-part and multi-location businesses. These may include branch offices, remote sites, home-based and mobile workers, as well as business locations and staff in different countries.
Keeping all of these aspects of an enterprise smoothly co-ordinated, operating in tandem, and in touch with each other requires planning, effective management, and reliable communications.
With information, transactions, and personnel physically remote from each other, the internet becomes the communication medium of choice – and cloud-based telecommunications systems such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephony and hosted PBX (Private Branch Exchange) solutions become the logical method of delivery. These technologies contribute several advantages to the operation of multi-location businesses.
Related: What Does VoIP Stand For?
Having a single virtual Private Branch Exchange (PBX) gives business users the ability to connect to their telecommunications system via a common platform, hosted on the internet.
It’s easy to transfer calls from one office location to another, and with the possibility of assigning a single virtual phone number to represent the entire organization or a particular department of it, the caller ID presented to the consumer remains the same – regardless of whether the person attending to their call is in the USA or Antarctica.
Administrators and coordinators can monitor the activity on every extension throughout the enterprise in real time, allowing decisions to be made as to which calls should be routed to which location. Activity monitoring makes it possible to allocate human resources to where they’re most needed. For example, “Rapid Response Teams” for customer service and technical support might be organized from groups of personnel who have been giving exemplary service at their various individual stations.
Presence panels are software windows displayed on the screen of a computer system or mobile device, showing the real-time status of other users on a telecommunications network. For multi-location businesses, these updates allow workers to know which of their colleagues in their own or other divisions of the enterprise are Available, Busy, On Site, or in a Do Not Disturb mode at any given time. This can be a great advantage in coordinating joint projects, or directing callers to the person in an organization who’s currently available and most qualified to handle their particular case.
Using SMS text messaging, push notifications, integration with existing on-site mechanisms like scheduling software and alarm systems, corporation-wide alerts and announcements can be easily issued to the entire workforce. Individual alerts and the paging of specific workers or teams may also be achieved in this manner.
Email, SMS text, live chat, video chat, and Instant Messaging can all be deployed to give workers across the globe real-time access to each other and the resources of their office, using the method most appropriate to the device they have at hand.
The conferencing tools available to users of VoIP and hosted PBX technologies are augmented by the power of the web to include audio, video, and text (Instant Messaging or chat) streams. Screen sharing and the setting up of virtual “rooms” enable workers in different locations around the world to meet and collaborate on various projects – or simply to socialize with each other.
The Unified Communications (UC) platform brings together voice, multimedia, documents and information-handling, office productivity software, and office systems like Customer Relationship Management (CRM) or Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), as digital streams on the same platform. This gives a mobile phone and enterprise phone system access to the resources of the company as a whole – and having all these resources on the internet makes them available to workers in every location.
Related: What is Unified Communications?
VoIP and hosted PBX services give multi-location businesses the tools to create and maintain a consistent corporate image across their entire scope of operations. Local phone numbers allow companies to establish a presence in specific locations by using local, regional, or international area codes for consumers in those places. They also allow for the adoption of vanity numbers (1-800-MARKETS, etc.) and toll-free access numbers for public display on billboards, directories, and websites. Configurable systems provide settings for customized greetings, case-by-case voicemail settings for different departments, and features like promotional messages and Music on Hold.
Individual controls enable managers and administrators to create settings for specific teams or divisions that don’t affect the configuration for the corporation as a whole. This allows for the creation of call and message-handling rules for different teams or work groups, and the optimization of particular data streams or business processes.
A hosted PBX system from a well-established service provider should allow for the addition or removal of as many lines or extensions as a business requires for its workforce – wherever they may be. Scaling an account up or down will typically take a matter of minutes, using a simple web-based administration console.
Extension monitoring, call transfers, mobile apps, and the ability to re-route calls to wherever they’ll be instantly attended to are features of VoIP and hosted PBX which ensure that a multi-location business remains available to its customers and stakeholders at all times. Redundancy and Disaster Recovery (DR) measures put in place by the service provider (such as the automatic transfer of calls to designated mobile devices in the event of a network outage) are a guarantee of business continuity, in the event of unforeseen circumstances that interrupt network connectivity.
Rather than having to purchase, install, manage, and maintain a separate PBX hardware set-up at each site of a multi-location business, a hosted PBX solution eliminates these costs entirely, by shifting the responsibility for infrastructure provision and management to the service provider. VoIP calls within the organization itself are typically free, and the routing of voice data over the internet attracts local tariffs for long-distance and international calls. So a hosted PBX service using VoIP technology provides significant cost savings for multi-location businesses.