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What is SD-WAN and Why Does Your Business Need It?

Are you the main decision maker for your business? Do you have to make technological decisions, but often feel lost in the sea of technical jargon? While there are many acronyms and terms thrown around regularly, we want to help you with one term that can make a big difference in your business.  That is SD-WAN. 

This technology is so important because it can increase employee productivity and customer satisfaction while increasing your margins and profitability. So, what is SD-WAN, you may ask? Well, read on to learn more.  

What is SD-WAN?

Software-Defined Wide Area Network, better known as SD-WAN, is an innovative network management and security solution. It allows you to take control of all the activities running on your company network. This includes your team’s email sends, phone calls and videoconferences, as well as their use of online databases or apps – even your guest Wi-Fi. SD-WAN ensures that the mission critical tools your staff relies on are always up and running at peak performance. No more downtime, dropped calls or waiting while an application loads. It also keeps all your company resources and data secured while your team is connected to the Internet.

A Better Way – The Business Benefits of SD-WAN 

With its built-in failover functionality, SD-WAN ensures that your team can continue their work uninterrupted even when there is an Internet outage at your office. When your primary connection goes down, all of your important network functions are transitioned automatically and seamlessly to a backup connection. Your team and customers won’t even notice when it happens.  

This technology also keeps your team productive and your clients happy. It ensures that all the important business functions that require an Internet connection are fast and efficient, including your customer communications. SD-WAN allows you to prioritize the traffic running on your network. It ensures that phone calls, databases and other important applications always get the bandwidth resources they need for high performance. At the same time, social media or video streaming can get leftover bandwidth only – or be blocked completely.

With its Unified Threat Management capabilities, SD-WAN also protects your company data, whether your team works from the office or remotely. Many solutions, such as S-NET’s, come with an application installed to your staff’s desktop device. This keeps your network safe, regardless of what Internet connection your team may have available.

A Few Highlights

  • Secure, Efficient Connection – SD-WAN connects all of your branch locations (including remote workers) with a secure and unified network. Not only can you connect your branch locations, but also all of the cloud-based resources within your locations are connected safely. 
  • Easy Management – When working with SD-WAN, you will have access to an admin portal, or interface, that allows you to mass-deploy commands that need to be implemented at all branch locations. You can also easily manage your network routing and security from this portal. Real-time analytics are also available through your admin portal.
  • Enhanced Security – SD-WAN has security features built in. Secure access, firewalls, and threat management.
  • Cost Effective – When you combine functions such as security, bandwidth allocation, remote access, and network management into one solution, you can reap the financial benefits of a streamlined system. Not only that, but SD-WAN also consolidates several network functions into a single hardware box, so that contributes to savings as well!

Why Use SD-WAN? 

So, why should businesses utilize SD-WAN? This technology lowers networking costs, increases bandwidth efficiency, and provides WAN simplification. It keeps your network running efficiently and your employees productive. It also increases security, data privacy, reducing business risk. 

Additionally, SD-WAN can be seamlessly integrated with your current WAN, used to augment your MPLS network or replace your MPLS. Once you deploy your new SD-WAN, it will route current applications and traffic according to the policies and protocols your company specifies. This makes it easier for you to monitor the network.  

Optimize Your Business Network

SD-WAN can help improve business productivity and customer satisfaction which can lead to higher profits. When you use S-NET’s SD-WAN, you will be using a solution backed by Versa Networks, recognized as a leading solution through Magic Quadrant for WAN Edge Infrastructure.

Our SD-WAN solution is simple to use and reliable, so you can rest easy knowing you have invested in a robust network for your business.

If you are still not sure and wondering if SD-WAN is right for you, give the professionals at S-NET a call. As experts in the field, we can give you all the information you need to make informed decisions for your business. Get started with a better SD-WAN from S-NET today!

 

 

 

 

What is omnichannel customer service and why you should care?

91% of Customers Will Spend More Because of Omnichannel Customer Service

According to a 2022 report by Zendesk, 91% of customers will spend more with companies that offer omnichannel customer service.  Why? Because companies that offer omnichannel support offer the support channels customers want, provide seamless transitions between those channels, and resolve tickets three times faster than those that don’t. And this level of efficiency and personalization leads to a more satisfied – and loyal – customer base.

With all these benefits and more up for grabs, omnichannel customer service seems like a no-brainer. But what exactly is omnichannel customer service?

Defining Omnichannel Customer Service

Before we get to the definition, it’s important to understand that there are three main types of customer service. These types are based on how many communication channels the company is using and how those channels are connected to one another. Let’s start with single-channel customer service.

Defining single-channel customer service is simple. It’s when a business can only be reached via one, single communication channel like a phone call or an email. You answer calls from your customers and partners, returning any you may have missed. Or you check your emails and respond to them. One channel, one source of customer service. In today’s digital world, this kind of approach to customer service is fading fast.

Multi-channel is slightly better. It’s when a company offers two or more ways a customer can reach out to them. This method provides more flexibility for your customers. Now they can reach out to your team the way they want when they want.  But the challenge of multi-channel service is information accessibility. Sure, you’ve got a support email, a support phone line, and maybe even a support chat. But your customer service agents will have to check the email, answer calls, check the voicemail, and check the chat using three different applications. This not only wastes your agents’ time but your customers’ time too as they wait longer for a response, leading to lower customer satisfaction rates.

A true omnichannel customer service experience not only offers multiple communication channels, but also connects them. Omnichannel customer service solutions allow your agents to access all channels from the same interface and the same queue. No more hunting through email inboxes and chat logs and phone records to resolve a customer’s trouble ticket. With omnichannel customer service, every interaction – from social media comments to form-based submissions – is kept in one, user-friendly location. This makes it easy for agents to start conversations on one channel and seamlessly continue them on any other channel the customer prefers.

Omnichannel Customer Service: Why You Should Care

Now that you know what omnichannel customer service is, it’s time to talk about how it can positively impact you, your business, and your employees.

It Increases Customer Satisfaction, Keeping You Competitive

Over 60 percent of consumers have higher customer service standards this year than last. Why? Because many big brands already offer omnichannel service. Customers are becoming accustomed to communicating with businesses in a way that’s most convenient for them – online chat, email, phone calls, social media, etc. Not only that, but they’re used to receiving the same speed and quality of service on all those channels.

If you don’t offer omnichannel service, you run the risk of losing customers to bigger brands that do.  

It Makes Your Agents’ Lives Easier

Thanks to omnichannel customer service solutions like S-NET Engage, your agents don’t need to monitor many disparate communication platforms 24/7/365. You can unify your support channels – social, chat, email, and even your ticketing system – on one user-friendly screen. This means your agents won’t waste time digging through multiple tabs or logging into various platforms to help customers. All relevant data is logged into one easily accessible location, making it easier for agents to provide highly efficient and highly personalized care.

It Allows You to Streamline Your Service Workflows

Creating workflows for each channel can be time-consuming, and often involves a frustrating number of spreadsheets. But not anymore! Omnichannel customer service solutions allow managers to design exceptional, personal workflows right from the platform – no coding or spreadsheets required! You can automate repetitive processes, set up advanced routing policies, and more without having to mess with complicated software or integrations.  This ensures your customers get to the right people through the right channels, boosting their satisfaction and your revenue.

Interested in a platform that has it all? Request a free demo here.

Give Your Customers an Omnichannel Experience with S-NET Engage

At S-NET, we know how crucial it is to unify your communications to provide an omnichannel experience for your customers. Which is why S-NET Engage comes with everything you need to manage client experiences across all channels – without having to hire more agents. It’s equipped with sentiment analysis and a robust AI, allowing you to create channel-specific service flowcharts, automated communications, and so much more. Oh, and did we mention you can do it all without touching a single line of code?

It also allows agents to keep track of information in multiple places without having to log into a separate application. Thanks to its flexible APIs, S-NET Engage can easily integrate with your current CRM and contact center platform.

And this is only the tip of the iceberg! Want to get seamless, omnichannel customer service without breaking the bank? Contact S-NET today and we’ll get you started!

 

 

 

S-NET Communications Launches AI-Powered Omnichannel Customer Experience Solution to Help Businesses Engage with Clients with Less Resources

S-NET Communications, a leader in cloud-based business communications and networking services, today announced the launch of S-NET Engage, a comprehensive, multi-flow contact center solution that helps companies deliver seamless, automated, and personalized customer experience journeys across channels including voice, SMS, email, web chat, fax, and Facebook, with additional channels planned to be introduced later this year.

In a market where customer service is the number one driver of brand loyalty, seamless, multichannel customer communications have gone from being appreciated to being largely expected. But as many businesses continue to struggle with talent shortages, meeting continuously increasing client expectations is more challenging than ever before. S-NET Engage Contact Center empowers businesses of all sizes to deliver streamlined and personalized customer experiences using best-in-class AI to create automated, scalable customer journeys and relieves the burden on customer service staff.

“Customer expectations have been significantly shaped by the advanced AI that large corporations use to optimize each client interaction,” said Alex Fayn, S-NET CEO. “Customers today expect the same personalization from every brand, and they expect business to meet them on their preferred channels of communication. An omnichannel contact center solution powered by leading-edge AI gives organizations large and small the tools to deliver the same enterprise-grade, solution-centered customer care, whether they have a large call center or just a couple of customer service reps on their team.”

S-NET Engage offers productivity solutions and conversational platforms that will greatly increase customer satisfaction for organizations by streamlining the customer experience through self-service solutions, live agent engagements, inter-agent collaboration tools, and business process automation. In addition, its advanced AI engine and sentiment analysis capabilities enable organizations to automate their customer’s journey and intelligently connect each client to the virtual or live agent with the best skills, experience, and capacity to handle their case. With a 360 view of each customer, S-NET Engage empowers customer service teams to personalize every customer touchpoint across all channels.

S-NET Engage also simplifies workload management within the customer service team through unified queues, customer history records and advanced reporting. With AI-powered self-serve solutions and automations, it shortens support times, increases agent productivity, and elevates the customer service team, empowering organizations to boost customer loyalty and reduce churn.

Learn more about S-NET Engage at https://www.snetconnect.com/services/s-net-engage/.

S-NET Engage: An AI-Powered Omnichannel Customer Experience Solution

An AI-Powered Omnichannel Customer Experience Solution to Help Businesses of All Sizes Engage their Clients

In today’s digital world, customer service is the number one driver of brand loyalty, and seamless customer engagement across multiple platforms has gone from being appreciated to being largely expected by your customers. But if your business has a very small customer service team or you struggle with talent shortages, you probably find meeting these continuously increasing client expectations challenging, to say the least.

That’s why we are excited to launch S-NET Engage, a comprehensive, multi-flow contact center solution that helps you automate the customer journey and deliver personalized interactions for your clients, whether you have a call center or just a couple of customer service reps on your team. S-NET Engage allows you to connect with your existing and prospective clients across channels including voice, SMS, email, web chat, fax and Facebook, with additional channels and integrations planned to be introduced later this year.

S-NET Engage Contact Center

As S-NET CEO, Alex Fayn explained, “customer expectations have been significantly shaped by the advanced AI that large corporations use to optimize each client interaction. Customers today expect the same streamlined, personalized communication from every brand, and they expect business to meet them on their preferred channels of communication, whether that’s email, web chat or social media. An omnichannel contact center solution powered by leading-edge AI gives organizations large and small the tools to deliver the same enterprise-grade, solution-centered customer care with a fraction of the resources.”

S-NET Engage offers productivity solutions and conversational platforms that will greatly increase customer satisfaction by streamlining your client’s experience with your company through self-service solutions, live engagements with your reps, and business process automation. In addition, its advanced AI engine and sentiment analysis capabilities automate the customer’s journey and intelligently connect each client to the virtual or live agent with the best skills, experience and capacity to handle their case. With a 360 view of each customer, S-NET Engage empowers customer service teams to easily personalize every touchpoint across all channels.

S-NET Engage also simplifies workload management within the customer service team through unified queues, customer history records and advanced reporting. With AI-powered self-serve solutions and automations, it shortens support times, increases agent productivity, and elevates the customer service team, empowering organizations to boost customer loyalty and reduce churn.

Learn how this AI-powered customer engagement solution increases your customer service team’s productivity, empowering you to boost customer loyalty and reduce churn.

S-NET Support is now powered by robust multi-flow cloud contact center software.

If you contacted S-NET Customer Support lately, you may have noticed subtle hints that we are upgrading our systems. S-NET Customer Support is now fully transitioned to using a multi-flow cloud contact center solution, powered by robust AI technology. This new service enables our team to respond to customer questions arriving from numerous channels using a single, user-friendly interface.

What does this change mean for our clients?

On the front end, you may not notice much. You will still be able to contact S-NET Customer Support through your preferred communication channel, whether that’s by phone, chat or email. And you will now be able to submit support tickets through text (SMS) messages from S-NET Connect or your cell phone.

But on the back end, this new multi-flow contact center solution brings significant upgrades to how our team will manage customer interactions, enabling us to provide you with better, faster, more attentive support.

  • With a unified interface for all customer communication channels, our team can now work faster and more efficiently as they manage all interactions they had with a client on a single account record. This enables our team to easily review a client’s support history in one place and speed up troubleshooting.
  • With a multi-flow platform and customizable capacity limits set and enforced automatically for each rep on our team, managing our staff’s workload is easier than ever. This ensures that each of our techs has the necessary bandwidth to provide you with the attentive support you deserve.
  • In this omnichannel setting, our Support reps are no longer limited to answering questions through one channel only. Each tech can now serve as backup for all other customer communication flows when the volume of calls, chat conversations or emails increases unexpectedly.
  • With its advanced monitoring tools, including call recordings, chat transcripts, emails and even recordings of a tech’s screen, quality assurance is simplified, so our managers can ensure that you receive the highest quality support every time.

How can you contact Support?

You can continue contacting Customer Support though the same channels you have used in the past, whether you prefer to call (866) 404-7638, Option 1, email [email protected], or start a chat conversation on www.snetconnect.com. You now also have the option to text us at (866) 404-7638.

If you prefer starting a chat conversation when you need help, please ensure that your browser cache is cleared by refreshing your browser window, deep refreshing with Ctrl+Shift+R or trying a different browser altogether. This will ensure that you can see the most up to date chat window on our website.

Are there going to be more changes?

This new multi-flow cloud contact center solution and its powerful automations and artificial intelligence (AI) offers exciting opportunities for turning customer service teams into well-oiled machines and providing quicker, higher quality support to each client. In the coming weeks, you can expect to see our Support systems evolve as we start taking full advantage of these technologies. From adding additional communication channels to our ecosystem to forms and skills-based routing that allows each client to speak to the agent best suited to answer their questions, we will be expanding our use of this omnichannel platform.

Is this service going to be available to our customers?

Yes! We are looking to expand our portfolio of cloud-based communications services with a robust multi-flow contact center platform. But to ensure that we always provide you with best-in-class technology, we are subjecting this contact center service to thorough testing first. Stay tuned for what we believe will be an exciting announcement!

Meet Bob Thoms, Field Network Engineer

When did you join the S-NET team?

My first day at S-NET was October 29th 2019. I remember this date well, because my birthday is on October 31st and I like to think that I got myself a new job for my birthday that year!

How did you choose this career path?

I have always had a passion for all things tech. My father was also in IT, and I attribute a lot of my success to his willingness to take the time to teach me what he did. When I was around 6, he started letting me take old PC towers apart with the goal of trying to put them back together. Each time I did it, there were less and less pieces left over, so he eventually started teaching me what each piece did. My family loves to tell the story of an old DOS machine I fixed to play Tom and Jerry on it. When I wasn’t jamming LEGO pieces or chocolate bars into floppy drives, I was a computer whiz kid apparently. [Laughs.]

But while I was always technical, IT wasn’t my first career choice actually. I started out as a GM at a local Chicago pizza place. I have a passion for the service industry, and I was studying Hospitality Management at the time with dreams of owning my own pizza place someday. But after a very severe injury leaving me unable to work, I was forced to choose a different path. With my background in computers and networking, I figured the most logical move was to IT. So, I got a job as a repair technician at a place called TechGator, a company that bought, refurbished and sold old computers. I worked there until I joined S-NET in 2019.

What are your primary responsibilities at S-NET?

Oh boy! I wear many hats at S-NET. My primary responsibilities revolve around configuring and installing networks for our clients. Most of my work is focused on customers in the Quick Service Restaurant industry, but I also do on-site and remote installations for other clients. I’m also responsible for training and mentoring all of the new techs we add to the team. And since I started at S-NET in Inventory and Shipping/Receiving, I still find myself assisting with that when needed.

How often do you interact with clients?

Everyday without fail and I love it! I really like meeting new people and learning about their stories. I make it a goal of mine to have fun with work and brighten people’s day whenever I can. In doing so, I find myself enjoying work even more, and I’ve gained some wonderful friends in the process.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

My favorite aspect has been training new team members. I find that my personality lends itself to training others. I enjoy building people up, watching them grow, and learning from them in the process.

I also love the culture at S-NET. I’ve never worked anywhere like it. To be the size we are, with the number of employees that we have, and to still maintain such a small business feel is amazing to me. The engineering team is such a tight knit group that I don’t think this camaraderie can be found elsewhere in business.

What have been some of your favorite S-NET projects so far?

Our Marco’s Pizza installations project has been my favorite. As an ex-General Manager of a pizza place myself, I can relate to a lot to the store owners I work with on a daily basis. Understanding the difficulties and challenges they face helps me a great deal in my work and allows me to tailor my approach to their needs. I love helping others and I feel that I’m uniquely qualified to offer my support to this community in a way that only I can.

Are there any accomplishments that you are particularly proud of?

I’d say that my biggest accomplishment is my successful advancement at S-NET. Moving up from Shipping/Receiving and Inventory to Field Engineering is a great achievement, not to mention how quickly I was able to do it. I’m blessed to have been given the opportunity to demonstrate my knowledge, work ethic, and thirst for knowledge.

What exciting projects are you most looking forward to at S-NET?

My sights are now set on projects with more complicated equipment. In the last few years, I’ve learned a lot about VoIP and certain implementations of SD-WAN, but I’m excited to start branching out into more complicated hardware like Firewalls and more complex applications of our amazing SD-WAN solution.

How do you like to spend your free time?

First thing I do when I get home after a long day of work is take care of my animals. I have a tabby cat and a Staffordshire Bull Terrier dog that I love dearly. Then, I plop down on the couch and turn on the TV to play some games. I mainly enjoy first-person shooters, but I like RPG games as well. Usually, the dog can barely wait for me to sit down before he hops into my lap. Apparently, sleeping on me while I play games is his favorite part of the day. [Laughs.]

I have also recently rediscovered my love of reading. I tend to gravitate toward non-fiction. I’m currently reading a book called CHAOS: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties which is an amazing read so far. I also enjoy watching TV shows, like the new series of Dr. Who that I’ve seen at least 20 times through. And I also like to learn new thing whenever I can, whether it be messing around with my own VPN network, creating a DNS blackhole using a Raspberry Pi, or trying my hand at coding a Python program. Right now, I’m in the middle of redoing my entire network at home. Leave it to a networking nerd to be excited about it, but I am! [Laughs.]

Are there any exciting personal events or plans you would like to share with us?

I started a drop shipping business that has been surprisingly successful so far, so I’d say that’s very exciting. I have also decided to go back to school and get a degree in networking. When I got injured, I had to interrupt my Hospitality Management studies and never had a chance to graduate. It will be nice to finally do it, albeit in a different field this time. Going back to school for the sake of learning and not just because it’s what you’re supposed to do changes everything about it – so I’m really excited!

 

2 Years Around the Country in a Mobile Home Office

It’s not hard to imagine what the landscape of Corporate America will look like in a few years following ‘The Great Resignation’. As more and more employees are demanding the remote and flexible working conditions that allow them to achieve a better work-life balance, companies are forced to adapt in order to retain top talent. Due to this phenomenon and more, office technologies are expected to evolve significantly.

On a corporate level, these types of transitions to a work-from-anywhere environment often take months to plan out, test and implement. But that wasn’t the case with the executive we would like to introduce to you. He took the bull by the horns and has fully committed to working from home for the next two years…. from his home on four wheels that is.

You heard that right, a top executive at one of S-NET’s clients (who wishes to remain anonymous) will be working from his RV home for the foreseeable future. Him and his wife have two young kids who are not in school yet, and they want to take this time to travel together as a family. They plan to settle down eventually, and traveling in an RV will allow them to see some of the places that they are considering for their ‘forever home’.

Working from Anywhere is Easier Said than Done

As if the pressure of having young kids in the house while working from home is not stressful enough (2020 parents will get it), this executive also had to worry about the quality of his videoconferences while presenting important reports from the road. The quality of his Internet access was of the utmost importance. He reached out to our technical team with his idea and asked for any suggestions on how it could get done.

It must come as no surprise to anyone that ensuring network stability is one of the biggest technical challenges in any home office setting, let alone in a mobile home office. Not only was it important to find the right Internet provider with excellent coverage to support all the cloud-based applications he relies on daily, like voice, video, collaboration and file sharing, the S-NET tech team also had to keep in mind that the executive’s kids would be on the network as well. Having a crying child because Baby Shark does not play past the third “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo” was not an option.

Making Work from Anywhere Work

The solution the S-NET team recommended included SD-WAN and 2 wireless SIM cards from different providers, selected based on the coverage they offer nationwide in the specific areas where the family will be traveling. SD-WAN enables the executive to use the two SIM cards simultaneously, maximizing available bandwidth for all his applications. And any network traffic from these applications will get automatically and dynamically moved to one of the two connection if the other doesn’t get any signal.

I know what you’re thinking… that’s fine, but what about all the bandwidth the kids’ apps will be consuming? Most video games and YouTube Kids consume a lot. Won’t that result in pixelated video calls for the executive? Not if you have SD-WAN. SD-WAN enables the prioritization of some applications over others on the network. This means that when the executive has a call, is uploading files to a cloud-based database or uses any other work applications, these workflows are prioritized over his kids’ online activity. YouTube, Netflix and games only get leftover bandwidth.

SD-WAN also has a built-in next generation firewall. This keeps all his personal and company data secured, regardless where the executive will be located.

Working In and Outside of the RV

With Ubiquity access points installed in strategic places in the RV, the executive will be able to work inside and outside the RV without missing a beat. And his family will have access to their games and videos in any area of the vehicle, always.

While the circumstances may be very unique, the technical setup is not all that different from what this executive would have in a normal home office setting: two, redundant Internet connections for constant uptime, an SD-WAN to prioritize work applications, and wireless access point for mobility. The only difference is that in a home on wheels the traditional broadband or fiber Internet connection is replaced by two wireless SIM cards. Otherwise, everything else is the same.

 

We would be lying if we said that we are not impressed and exited to follow along this executive’s journey in the next two years! It is rare to have the opportunity to pioneer new and innovative ideas that can change how companies operate. The fact that we were able to use S-NET services to make something like this possible is exciting to say the least.  We look forward to the days when the possibility to travel with the family during the summer and still have the ability to work becomes more commonplace, or an industry standard even.

Just imagine the endless possibilities in SD-WAN and all the ways in which remote and hybrid businesses can use it, especially if paired with unified collaboration solutions that make workplace transparency and inter-departmental communication easy. It opens the doors to recruiting top talent from any part of the world. It enables the creation of satellite home offices as a cost-effective way to expand a business by region. And these are just the first two ideas off the top of our minds. The real-world applications are endless.

It is safe to say that here at S-NET Communications we are looking forward to updates on this story. Subscribe to our newsletter to make sure that you don’t miss any new developments we may publish!

 

 

Navigating the Great Resignation

Whether we call it The Great Resignation or the Great Reshuffling, one thing is certain – much of the U.S. workforce continues to be on the move. It is hard to find a business that has not been affected by it to some degree. You may have lost some of your staff, found it challenging to fill open positions or have been forced to make significant changes to retain your existing team. If any of this sounds familiar, you are not alone.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 4.5 million people quit their jobs in November alone. This is a significant increase from 4.2 million in October and breaks September’s record of 4.4 million. Causes are still under debate, but after two challenging years of pandemic stress, burnout seems to play a significant role. This is particularly the case in fields that experienced increased demand, such as healthcare, hospitality, and tech. The pandemic also gave workers a pause to rethink what they really want out of their lives and careers. Some made more dramatic career shifts, while most simply looked for positions with more stability, better work-life balance or the continued availability of remote work. Regardless of the causes, the phenomenon forces organizations across the nation to rethink their entire employee retention and talent acquisition strategies.

But despite the challenges of a labor market that heavily favors candidates, the Great Resignation also provides employers with amazing opportunities to innovate and grow. Taking this time rethink your workforce and workplace models, culture or company values will not only enable you to weather the storm successfully. But it will allow you to build a more efficient, progressive, agile organization that can attract and keep top talent in the long run. Here are just a few strategies to do so.

Remote and Hybrid Work

The biggest shift of the last few years in employee expectations is the rise of remote and hybrid work. The Covid-19 pandemic has show us that when the need arises, significantly more jobs can be performed remotely than we previously thought. With the high number of technology tools at our disposal, from videoconferencing to VoIP desktop applications and file sharing, employees can stay productive, regardless where they are located.

Workers have also found that performing their job duties from home enabled them to better balance their work and family responsibilities. It empowered them to spend what would have been their commute time on more meaningful activities. And with the right practices in place, they could continue to be part of highly engaged teams.

So, it must come as no surprise that most employees want to keep this up, and many employers are also jumping on the bandwagon. From March 2020 to August 2021, LinkedIn has tracked an 8.5x increase in the number of remote jobs posted on its platform. Remote jobs also get 2.5 times the interest from job seekers. In the meantime, employers that demand their teams to be back at the office full time are seeing their staff dwindling. Many workers chose to find another position than be in the office every day. Strict in-office work policies also cause challenges in recruiting and make it difficult to attract new talent.

This preference for flexible working conditions is not expected to subside any time soon. So, investing in the right remote collaboration technologies and enabling your staff to work from home at least part time shouldn’t just be part of your pandemic survival plan. Giving your employees the flexibility they ask for is a good long-term investment in your employee retention and talent acquisition efforts. It enables you to hire from a much wider pool of candidates that have been previously excluded due to location. And it can even ensure business continuity when inclement weather, illness or personal emergencies prevent your team from traveling to an office.

Asynchronous Work

Scheduling flexibility and the option for asynchronous work is another factor that plays an increasingly important role in an employee’s decision to stay or leave. And for some people, it has even become a non-negotiable. As the pandemic rages on, many workers are dealing with a larger load of caretaking responsibilities outside of work. For example, parents often find it hard to find childcare, or need to support their young ones through yet another class over videoconference. Under these circumstances, being able to manage their work schedules around their families’ needs becomes important. Thus, many employees feel compelled to make career changes to keep up with the requirements of their personal lives.

We all know that in many workplaces, embracing the asynchronous work schedule is easier said than done. This is particularly true for employees dependent on client or partner schedules, as well as for teams that collaborate regularly throughout the day. But giving your staff even some level of flexibility in when their projects get completed can go a long way in retaining your workforce. Switching the focus from day-by-day work to project results, or allowing your team to plan a certain number of hours around their personal lives can go a long way in retaining talent. With modern communication and collaboration software, your team can communicate easily through chat, project boards or shared files, and they can stay abreast of their peer’s progress, even if they are not completing their tasks at the same time.

Introducing more flexibility in your scheduling can also open the door for positive innovations within your organization. Just because your team has been operating on a set schedule for years, it doesn’t mean that that is the best solution for your business. You may find that allowing some team members to complete some of their work outside of the 9-5 timeframe can give you better coverage for resolving arising technology or infrastructure issues. Or you may be able to extend customer support hours for your clients. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box when exploring the best solutions for your team and business.

Opportunities for Learning and Growth

A strong training program, whether for new employee onboarding or continued opportunities for learning and growth, is an important measure of job satisfaction. In this day and age, it has a significant impact on your organization’s ability to attract and retain talent. According to Lorman’s continuing education experts, employee retention can rise up to 50% with a strong onboarding process for new hires and rises by 30-50% for companies with strong learning cultures.

Training can also enable you to fill vacant positions internally by reskilling and upskilling your existing team. Allow your staff to take on or work toward higher-level responsibilities and hire for their formal roles instead. This will not only enable you to more easily fill positions that are difficult to recruit for, but provides your existing staff with stretch-goals and opportunities for advancement that they may have not otherwise had.

In the short run, investing time, energy and money in a strong training and career advancement program can help you weather the storm of the Great Resignation. But in the long term, it can go a long way in positioning your organization as an employer of choice for top talent. Employees who are given the ability to grow and take full advantage of their talents are happier, more productive, and more loyal to the employer who was willing to invest in their potential.

Reexamine the Management Style

If your organization has seen a number of resignations in the past few months, it may be time to reexamine management style. According to TinyPulse, poor management skills make employees 4x more likely to quit. While employers shouldn’t wait for wave of resignations before examining the effectiveness of their management strategies, it is never too late to change. And by showing the leadership team’s willingness to improve, even small changes to management style could help retain some of the workers who were ready to jump ship.

But what does good management look like? For most employees, simple things like transparency in leadership, rewarding staff for work well done, and open communication about the company’s goals and values all play a role. Involving your team in the important decisions that affect them fosters a sense of ownership over projects and outcomes and demonstrates that you value their input. Making employees feel appreciated and empowered are critical aspects of a strong staff retention strategy.

Setting company-wide management standards and ensuring that each supervisor gets the training they need to be successful leaders can go a long way in creating the positive work environment that retains employees long-term. As more and more workers read employee reviews before applying for a position, good management can also directly impact your organization’s employer brand and support your recruiting efforts.

Improve Communication

Improving management may also involve upgrades to communication, and especially during the Great Reshuffling, open communication channels can prove to be invaluable. Strong communication enables your staff to better coordinate their efforts and increase their efficiently while they learn how to work around vacancies. And communication also ensures that leadership can keep their hands on the pulse of the company, learning about employee challenges and issues before they result in a wave of mass resignations.

Opening communication channels can result in a number of long-term benefits as well. It can improve trust between leadership and employees – core to of a company’s success, and it can also open the door to innovation by bringing fresh ideas to the table. Don’t be afraid to explore new ways to open communication channels on your team, whether you invest in collaboration technology for improved efficiency, introduce an intranet for employees, or launch a series of employee surveys to better understand your team’s needs.

Prioritize Wellbeing

When teams are overwhelmed and find it challenging to cover the workload of recently lost members, it is easy to keep the focus on productivity and forget about employee wellbeing or mental health. But ignoring stress and putting even more pressure on an already struggling staff may just be the last straw that compels some of your employees to quit – especially after the two challenging years they have just endured.

Focusing on employee wellbeing on the other hand can do a lot to heal burnout and keep morale high. Prioritizing your team’s mental health also builds loyalty, as workers who feel appreciated and cared for like to reciprocate their employer’s good will. An emotionally balanced staff can continue to weather challenging conditions for significantly longer and are more likely to remain dedicated to the company. So, weather you learn how to manage workloads more effectively, enforce time off, or even decrease videoconference fatigue by reducing the number of meetings your staff attends, these steps can all make a great impact in your team’s health and morale.

Employee wellbeing programs can also improve your employer brand and support your recruiting efforts. Forbes reports that 89% of workers at companies with well-being initiatives are more likely to recommend their company to others – a positive word-of-mouth support for your new talent acquisition that might as well prove invaluable during the Great Resignation.

Automate Menial Tasks

When you are short staffed and your team finds it challenging to handle the increased load, you can engage technology to help. Automating menial tasks not only allows you to keep your head above the water while you hire, but will enable you to build efficient workflows for the future. In addition, your team will also appreciate the opportunity to hand their menial work to machines and grow into more meaningful, creative roles that capitalize on their true potential and talents.

Workflow automation can take many forms, from inventory software that takes manual labor out of tracking your stock to enabling your clients to reserve appointments online, or even a well written IVR (Interactive Voice Response) that liberates your front-desk team. In this day and age, with the multitude of options available, there are very few reasons not to automate.

 

The Great Resignation is not expected to end any time soon, and both employee retention and talent acquisition efforts may continue to be affected. But a few small changes to your practices cannot only support your employees and business through  this challenging time, but can also open the doors for innovation that transforms your business and helps position you as an employer of choice for top talent.

 

 

 

Meet Jade Gray, Strategic Alliance Manager

S-NET Strategic Alliance Manager, Jade Gray specializes in the franchise space and spends her workdays developing and nurturing brand relationships. Passionate about pairing people and businesses of all sizes with solutions designed to support their growth, Jade creates technology packages that solve her clients’ critical business needs and enjoys collaborating across multiple departments to ensure that each of her customers receives the best possible service. In her free time, she dabbles in plant propagations and cross hybrids. Can you guess what decorative plant species takes up the most space in her garden?

How long have you been with S-NET?

I joined the team in July of 2021.

Tell us a little about your background.

I have a Dual Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management and Marketing. I chose this career path because I am passionate about pairing people and businesses of all sizes with solutions designed to enhance their day to day lives.

I spent nearly a decade working for boutique marketing agencies in South Florida specializing in Digital Marketing and Franchise sales. The experience has enabled me to flourish in my niche and excel in sales and business development.

What are your primary responsibilities at S-NET?

My core duties involve creating and nurturing brand relationships and providing businesses large and small with comprehensive technology solutions designed to grow their brands.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I find that being able to solve a problem and meet a business need is very rewarding. Most clients aren’t aware of alternative solutions that are available to them simply because they don’t know that such technology exists. Where I come in, is I help them envision what a comprehensive solution looks like – all provided through S-NET. Easy, one-stop-shop for all their brand’s technology needs, both current needs and setting the foundation to solve tomorrow’s issues.

I also enjoy interacting with my colleagues across multiple departments and building relationships across multiple channels. I particularly love the support and continued education S-NET provides me in order to excel at my role. There’s never a dull moment and there are always new opportunities to uncover.

What are the most challenging aspects of your work?

The timing aspect can sometimes be a hindrance because lasting business relationships tend to take a while to fully blossom. But I’m learning how to lean into patience and continue to rely on the good, solid work that demonstrates our value to clients of all sizes.

What have been your favorite S-NET projects so far?

My favorite undertaking so far was the Marco’s Pizza franchise sales project that included the transition of numerous franchisees to S-NET’s VoIP and SD-WAN services and attending the brand’s most recent national convention. It provided me with great opportunities to collaborate with my team and I got to interface with many franchisees and members of the Marco’s corporate team.

Are there any accomplishments you are particularly proud of?

Being able to close three multi-location deals of 17, 15 and 13 stores for Marco’s Pizza is definitely a source of pride. [Smiles.]

How has S-NET helped you grow as a professional?

S-NET has always supported my continued thirst for knowledge, not just about the industry, but about the various technology solutions that help us stay competitive. From putting various tools and software at my disposal to providing a clear and structured vision of the company direction, I am never lost. I understand the market, my clients’ evolving needs, and I know what we can do to meet those changing needs.

Supporting me since Day One, S-NET has lived up to its core values and exemplifies true leadership across all aspects of the business. I love the genuine support both at a professional and personal level that I get to experience from my department. We have open lines of communication, and someone is always willing to lend a helping hand, whether it’s doing a joint training on a new tool or simply brainstorming on new ways to approach a problem. It great to feel supported through and through.

What exciting projects are you most looking forward to at S-NET?

I am looking forward to increasing our brand alliances across the franchise space and looking forward to growing the team. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

How do you like to spend your free time?

After hours, I enjoy tending my garden and I dabble in a bit of plant propagations and cross hybrids. You’ll usually find me at the garden center or botanical gardens on the weekends or researching new grafting techniques and pollination using various orchids.

I also love spending time with my son, and we usually frequent the beach or local parks. He means the world to me and there’s never a dull day in our house. Between soccer practice, homework, and playdates, this busy mom juggles a career and parenting, plus gardening and plant obsessions on the side. [Laughs.]

Are there any exciting plans that you look forward to?

I look forward to returning to a sense of normalcy and more in-person interactions. I recently had the opportunity to spend time with relatives that I haven’t seen in years due to the pandemic. It was great to be able to hang out – albeit with masks on.

I am also looking forward to attending national conventions again. I hope to be given the opportunity to do so and get to network in person again. I really miss it!

 

 

Could this meeting have been an email?

Infographic | This could have been an email.

A Year of Great Progress | by Alex Fayn, CEO

I can safely say that 2021 was a challenging year for individuals and businesses alike. We started the year mid-pandemic with a large percentage of American workers trying to manage their personal and professional responsibilities from the safety of their homes. We were hit by numerous supply-chain bottlenecks along the way. And we are ending the year with the phenomenon dubbed The Great Resignation, causing labor shortages across industries. And yet, amidst continuously shifting circumstances, we managed to find hope, we learned how to roll with the punches, move forward with our goals, and dare I say it, even thrive.

Here at S-NET, 2021 was challenging, but it was also a year of much progress as we continued adapting our processes and learned how we can better-serve our customers in this new landscape. From successfully navigating international supply-chain shortages and extending our live customer support hours to perfecting our remote installation process and upgrading our communications software, we took advantage of this year to grow. Here are just a few initiatives that represented important milestones for our company.

We upgraded our clients’ communications services.

In January 2021, we launched V6 of our cloud communications software, providing a set of new features and improved reliability for clients using the S-NET Connect Desktop and Mobile applications, as well as for Call Center Agent and Supervisor edition users. Throughout the year, all S-NET clients have been upgraded to the latest version, so you can now take advantage of all newly introduced functionalities.

Your S-NET Connect v6 now includes a unified chat interface that synchs conversations between devices, unified presence, as well as improved file sharing capabilities, enabling you to easily send and receive documents in group chats settings. The experience of call center users has been upgraded as well with functionalities such as automated outbound call center management, blended inbound-outbound modes, and a browser integration for CRM popups.

We now offer 24/7 live customer support.

Here at S-NET, ensuring that we are available to our clients in their time of need has always been a top priority. In addition to live Customer Support during business hours, we have made on-call techs available to you after hours. But with S-NET’s continuously expanding national footprint that encompasses several time zones and a growing number of clients that operate outside of the 9-to-5 office schedule, the need for 24/7 live coverage became more pressing in 2021. Thus, after thorough planning and a few Covid-related setbacks, our live Customer Support Team extended its hours to 24/7 coverage this fall. You can now receive immediate help from a live agent, regardless of the time of day or day of the week.

We continued to improve the quality of our Customer Service.

In 2021, the S-NET Customer Support Team was nearly doubled, enabling our reps to provide you with faster, better-quality service. In addition to the training team-members receive on a bi-weekly basis, we elevated a number of our agents to AREs (Advanced Resolution Experts) based on a rigorous, multi-module internal training and testing process. With more AREs on staff, the S-NET Customer Support Team is well-equipped to handle all service requests quickly and efficiently, regardless of their level of technical difficulty.

We made significant upgrades to our infrastructure.

Keeping our infrastructure up-to-date and protected from emerging cyber-threats remains one of our crucial responsibilities as a service provider. In 2021 we continued to invest in the security and reliability of our critical systems, increasing efforts even further after two of S-NET’s upstream telecommunications carriers were hit by DDoS attacks this fall. The S-NET Engineering Team has been working diligently with vendors such as Oracle and AT&T to audit the security, reliability, redundancy, and configuration of S-NET’s essential infrastructure and maximize its capability to withstand issues from software glitches to cyber-criminal activity.

2021 was also the year we put increased emphasis on developing and testing our outage communications protocols to ensure that every client receives timely information about service disruptions that may affect their business. In addition, we launched The S-NET Network Security Update – an informative series created keep our clients in the know about common issues in cyber security. Keep an eye out for Issue #2 in the next couple of weeks.

We perfected remote installations.

With the Covid-19 pandemic making in-person installations unsafe, the S-NET Project Management and Installations Teams focused their attention on remote onboarding, perfecting the process while they were at it. Using the pandemic as an opportunity for growth, they developed better processes for collecting customer information and guiding remote hands through the physical installation process, enabling for a much faster and smoother client experience.

We improved our customer hardware management.

The team also built and implemented a new inventory management software, designed to serve not only as a tool for managing S-NET’s hardware stock for a smoother installation process, but serving as a central repository of information on all hardware deployed at each customer location. This improved system provides S-NET’s Customer Service Team with much-needed information on client hardware and enables the team to provide faster, personalized support to each client.

We successfully navigated global equipment shortages.

Supply-chain issues are affecting businesses across the globe, particularly in the tech sector. But S-NET’s purchasing department has been able to successfully navigate these shortages by engaging numerous vendors, reserving stock ahead of time and ensuring that each client installation can proceed on time with the highest-quality equipment.

We cautiously reopened our offices.

We would be remiss to publish a list of S-NET’s most important milestones in 2021 without mentioning our return to the office. S-NET’s new suite was secured in 2019 and completely rebuilt for our growing team’s needs in 2020.  But during 2020, we were only able to admire it from afar. As vaccines became widely available in 2021 and the vast majority of the S-NET Team got immunized, we were able to gradually return to in-office work in 2021, and enjoy our fully redesigned new office space.

 

While 2021 was another unprecedented year, I am grateful for all the opportunities for growth that S-NET was presented with, all the milestones we managed to hit, and most importantly, for all the customers we continue to have by our side. I hope that 2022 will be just as successful, and we can continue to support every business in our care with leading cloud communications and networking services.

I wish you all a Happy New Year!

Alex Fayn, Co-Founder and CEO

Meet Jon Adams, Strategic Alliance Manager

Tell us a little about your background. How did you choose this career path?

I originally studied Business Administration at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT).  I stumbled onto telecommunications after college via an internship opportunity. This was right around the time of the divestiture of the Bell system and AT&T, which provided a great opportunity for companies to sell and install CPE equipment and lead to many employment options.

I later joined equipment manufacturer, Vodavi, and held various positions with them over a 12-year stint. That is where I got into sales and rode that thru some good years leading up to the year 2000, when telecom sales were crazy good.  Since, I held various Sales Engineering and Business Development Management positions with companies such as Intel and Tadiran Telecom.

When Tadiran failed to embrace hosted technology and, along with many other equipment manufacturers, started to see a steep decline in sales, I was happy to join SkyTalk Plus in 2017 and start selling a hosted voice solution.

When did you join S-NET Communications?

I came onboard when S-NET acquired SkyTalk Plus in October of 2019.  My role remained very similar to my position at SkyTalk – I continue to build relationships and sell our service through a partner community. But I see much greater opportunity for growth and development here at S-NET with a broader range of products and the ability to provide services to larger clients.

In terms of similarities, I like the client-focused approach of these companies and their commitment to delivering first class customer service and support. It made my post-merger transition smooth, and it definitely makes my job so much more enjoyable.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I love interacting with partners and helping them prepare a tailored solution based on the needs of the customer. Being able to listen to what our partners and their clients are asking for and putting together a solution that meets those needs is very rewarding. The best part is when we ultimately win the business.  [Laughs.]

How has S-NET supported you as a professional?

The breadth of product being offered at S-NET and the fairness in working with partners brings a great deal of respectability in the channel and makes my work much easier. It leads to stronger relationships, greater trust in what we do as a company and keeps the momentum growing with respect to partner engagement and activity.

What have been your favorite S-NET projects so far?

Closing some of the more complex deals and meeting the requirements of larger customers can be very challenging but also rewarding. I had the chance to support my partners through several nice opportunities, such as:

  • Fort McCLellan Credit Union, via Network Technologies
  • Ozark Pizza – Papa Johns, via Metro East Office Machines
  • TruCorp (SuperCuts/ProCuts), via A-L Telephone
  • London Eligibility Inc., via Landstar Voice & Data
  • Eatonville School District, via On-It Networks

Are there any accomplishments that you are particularly proud of?

The ability to be consistent in my work and bringing in new clients each month is definitely a source of pride for me. Some months are better than others of course, but I usually have a healthy pipeline that results in a steady stream of new customers.

How do you unwind after a long, challenging day at work?

Nothing beats a good glass of Bourbon and a Cigar!  [Laughs.]

I spend most of my free time taking care of the family homestead, the Adams Pioneer Farm, which has been in our family since 1804. This is my go-to enjoyment, weather I am cutting down trees, mowing, or performing other general maintenance tasks. I take great pride in taking care of the 125-acre property.

We also own a well restored 1955 Packard Patrician, so we enjoy taking it to local cruise nights and car shows.

I also like watching sports, such as NASCAR, football (Buffalo Bills), and hockey (Buffalo Sabers). And you can’t live in Wester NY and not have a winter activity, … so I am a recreational skier a well. I have been skiing since I was 10 years old.

Any exciting plans or recent events in your life?

My wife and I are looking forward to taking our next major vacation to Ireland. We have been wanting to take this trip for several years, but due to weddings, a pandemic, and other circumstances it has been delayed. We are now planning to take this trip next year.

As for exciting news, my daughter recently got married, and I am extremely happy for her. With this wedding, my wife and I have raised our two kids, got them thru college, into houses, and married. So, we can say our parenting duties are officially accomplished!  Bring on the Grand kids!!!

5 Ways SD-WAN Optimizes Your Network for a Hybrid Workforce

As a growing number of businesses operate with a remote or hybrid workforce, the job of managing and securing an increasingly distributed corporate network falls on IT departments. You may need to ensure solid performance for a growing number of bandwidth-intense applications. And securing all premise-based, cloud-based, or SaaS resources may also be on your shoulders, as end-users continue accessing them from a wide range of different devices and connections.

With legacy network architectures, meeting the security and performance demands of such distributed infrastructure is impossible. But modern solutions like Secure SD-WAN can extend your network perimeter to the end user and safely connect your distributed users to distributed resources, all without sacrificing application performance. Here is how.

1. SD-WAN Secures Your Network and Resources

Securing your network and resources even as end-users continue to access them remotely is imperative. Secure SD-WAN provides easily manageable solutions to do so, from enterprise-grade, multi-factor authentication to granular control over each application running on your network. You can manage strict rules for each person, group and application. And you can even integrate your SD-WAN service with various authentication servers and protocols, including Active Directory, SSO – OKTA, LDAP, and SAML2, making it easy to identify and authenticate your users. 

2. SD-WAN Secures Your Remote Users

With the network threat perimeter now extended to the end-user, it is important to enable your team to connect to company resources safely, whether they are stored in private data centers, the public cloud or SaaS locations. With Secure SD-WAN, you can enforce security policies directly on your users’ devices. SD-WAN also creates encrypted connections from end-user devices to cloud gateways and, once authenticated, from cloud gateways to public and private cloud resources, safeguarding your mission-critical infrastructure.

3. SD-WAN Keeps Applications Running at Peak Performance

When part of your team joins meetings remotely using conferencing and collaboration software, ensuring that your network can manage the load is imperative. SD-WAN gives you a wide variety of options for managing bandwidth on your network and ensure that your communications channels are running at peak performance.

You can load balance sessions across all or some of your ISPs. You can send business-essential traffic over dedicated, low-latency lines, while routing less sensitive traffic over your more affordable broadband lines. You can even configure SLA monitors to continuously measure and evaluate the traffic flowing through your network and dynamically shift sessions from low performing or failed links to higher performing connections based on your specific configurations.

 

S-NET Newsletter

4. SD-WAN Ensures Exceptional Application Performance for Remote Users

Backhauling traffic to high-performance security protocols at your headquarters or data center, or creating a series of VPN tunnels for remote employees can severely degrade application performance. But with its intelligent application-based multi-path steering, Secure SD-WAN allows you to protect your resources, users and network without compromising your team’s application experience.

Network optimization functionalities extensively deployed at branch locations are now available for your remote users as well, including SLA Monitoring, Traffic Engineering and Forward Error Correction. Driven by application performance from branch to cloud and remote user to cloud, Secure SD-WAN allows you to set user and app-specific SLAs and routes all your business-essential traffic on the best available connection and gateway based on real-time network data.

5. SD-WAN Simplifies Your Network and Security Management

Managing a growing, distributed network can become a gargantuan task even for the most experienced It teams. Secure SD-WAN offers a highly scalable solution to managing all your network endpoints, routing configurations and security policies using a single admin portal.

You can monitor and manage your network, users and applications, as well as review real-time analytics in one place. You can create templates, set up branches and new users in minutes, and mass-deploy policies to any number of locations and devices with just a few clicks.

Secure SD-WAN even allows you to consolidate your network functions into a single device at each location. It combines SD-WAN, Routing, Secure Web Gateway, Remote Access, Next Generation Firewall, LTE WAN backup and Analytics into a single cost-effective subscription.

 

Keeping up with the changing needs of a hybrid workforce can be challenging. But by enabling you to extend the network perimeter to the end-user, Secure SD-WAN provides you with a robust solution that keeps your infrastructure secure and your applications running at peak performance, no matter where your team is located.

Let Us Help

If you find it challenging to manage your distributed network, get in touch with our team. One of our Client Technology Advisors will be happy to show you what SD-WAN can do for your business and help you create a customized network design.

 

 

Customer Service Features Every Business Needs

When you hear ‘advanced customer service features’, you may think of technology used by a large-scale call center to manage multiple agents, supervisors and a complex call flow. But customer service functionalities can be equally effective in transforming how small to mid-sized businesses support their clients. With the right tools in place, your client-facing team can be empowered to offer the exceptional, enterprise-grade support that keeps your client base loyal and drives revenue for your business.

In small and mid-sized organizations, customer service can take many forms:

  • Your billing team may collect payment information and answer client questions.
  • Your production team may discuss project details with the customer directly.
  • Your front desk may answer customer questions and direct their calls to the appropriate department.
  • And if your business offers professional or consulting services, you may not have a single person on your team who doesn’t speak to customers directly.

 

Whether you have a single dedicated customer service team or tasks are shared between several departments, there are tools that you can use to improve your clients’ experience and, as a result, your bottom line. Here are a few ways technology traditionally used in call centers can give your customer service a boost.

1. Ensure High Availability with an Auto-Attendant and Remote Work

One of the most basic characteristics of good customer service is that it’s reliably available. If your clients call you during normal business hours and their call goes repeatedly unanswered, your reputation and their loyalty to your business will be on the line. Setting up an Auto Attendant that transfers clients to the appropriate department when your front desk team is unavailable can go a long way in getting their questions answered in a timely manner. When they call after hours, the simple ability to leave a voicemail and a friendly message that they will get a call back can reassure them that their needs are important to you.

Giving your team the opportunity to work remotely on occasion can also boost the quality of your customer service. While you shouldn’t underestimate the impact of a happy team on the service they provide to your clients, remote work isn’t only about employee satisfaction. When your team can take client calls from home during bouts of bad weather or minor illness, your customer’s needs are met significantly sooner. Leading telecom providers, like S-NET, offer VoIP desktop and mobile applications connected straight to your company phone system that allow your staff to place and receive calls as if they were sitting at the office, no matter the circumstances. By using their company extension and caller ID, your team is able to present a professional image at all times.

2. Train Your Team with Call Recording and Call Monitoring

Call Recording has long been used by call centers to train new employees. But it can be an equally useful tool for your business as well. Letting your new hires listen to examples of good and bad customer service gives them a clear idea of your expectations. It also enables them to learn the unique voice of your brand. Call Recording can be particularly useful when you don’t have the time or resources needed to give your staff extensive training. And it can also protect your business when disputes arise by keeping a record of all client conversations.

In addition to Call Recording, Call Monitoring and Whisper Coaching can go a long way in ensuring that every customer interaction is top-notch. By listening to your team’s calls to provide feedback (Call Monitoring) or guiding your staff through challenging conversations without the client hearing (Whisper Coaching), you can provide the more hands-on guidance that some of your employees need. With the Barge functionality, you can even jump in to save a conversation if needed.

S-NET Newsletter

3. Manage Your Client Data with CRM Integration

Putting relevant client information at your team’s disposal is another simple way of ensuring that they can address customer needs quickly and successfully. Information collected across various departments in your organization can be particularly useful when clients call about complex issues. In addition, the more your customer service team already knows about their case, the more impressed your customers will be with the competent, attentive care they get.

CRM Integration can easily pull such customer data from a variety of CRM applications including Salesforce, Zoho, Zendesk and many others, and display it on your staff’s screen for inbound or outbound calls. Combined with Caller ID technology, CRM Integration ensures that your employees have all the information they need to address customer calls successfully and efficiently.

4. Simplify Call Management with Ring Groups and Call Queues

Distributing incoming client calls effectively is also key to good customer service, particularly in a small organization. By setting up Ring Groups, you can customize where each client call will go, in what order, and for how long will it ring on each device. For example, instead of routing billing-related client calls to one specific person, you can set up a Ring Group and have calls ring each Billing Team member’s phone simultaneously. This ensures that client calls get answered even when some of your employees are away from their desks.

Call Queues can provide additional functionality, such as checking which team members are already mid-conversation and routing calls only to employees who are currently available. Call queues also give your clients the option to wait on hold when none of your staff members are momentarily available. And with ‘overflow’ call queue settings, you can even route calls to a different department or a higher-level manager if all employees are busy.

5. Staff More Efficiently with Advanced Call Reporting

Ensuring that you have enough staff members to answer all your client requests is also imperative for good customer service. When your team is overwhelmed with the sheer volume of calls, they may be less patient with your clients, calls may fall through the cracks, and you could be losing loyal customers.

Advanced Call Reporting provides critical insights into your operations and enables you to assess if your staffing levels are appropriate. When you notice indicators such as an increasing call volume, longer on-hold times or even abandoned client calls, you can stay ahead of the curve and augment your staff before they become overwhelmed. Real-Time and Historic Reports allow you to review statistics for each day of the week, week of the month and month of the year, so you can identify peak calling times, notice trends and staff appropriately.

 

Your business may not have a dedicated call center, but that is no reason to provide your customers with poor quality service. Introducing a few call center features can help ensure that your staff can handle each client call professionally and effectively, regardless of the size of your team.

Let Us Help

If your team could use a bit of support in working with your customers, get in touch with our team. One of our Client Technology Advisors will be happy to assess your current communication needs and show you how we can help.

 

How We Are Using Our Own Products at S-NET

Here at S-NET, we’re no strangers to eating our own dogfood. And before you raise your eyebrows at our strange dietary habits and conclude that we have all gone mad, let us explain: “dogfooding” refers to the business practice of using one’s own products and services. Relying on S-NET services in our day-to-day operations enables our team to better understand our customers’ perspective, thoroughly test new product releases and feature upgrades before they are introduced to clients, and not least, improve our efficiency as a company. Our communications technology is at the heart of how we work, whether individually, as teams or as an organization.

With years of experience connecting our in-office and remote staff using S-NET business communications technology, we have developed several collaboration practices that work well for our team. Below are just a few that continue to have a tremendous impact on our efficiency. We hope that this list will inspire you to find fresh ways to use your technology and give your team productivity a boost.

Managing Calls with S-NET Connect

As technology nerds, we obviously enjoy using leading edge IP phones with a high-end design and expansion modules as much as the next person. But when it comes to efficiency, nothing beats a user-friendly app that allows us to create a drag-and-drop conference in seconds or transfer a call to another person or department with just a few clicks. The S-NET team loves to use the S-NET Connect Desktop application, whether we are at the office or working remotely.

With its Presence feature, S-NET Connect Desktop allows us to see when our colleagues are available, on a call or away from their computer. This shaves hours of telephone tag off our schedules and makes collaboration significantly easier. We often set personalized status messages, such as “Busy”, “At Lunch”, “Working from Home” or “At Client Installation” so that the rest of the team knows when to best reach us. And when a colleague is busy, we schedule a notification for when they become available with the Call on Available function, so that we can catch them before they hop on their next call.

Getting Quick Answers Through Chat

Chat is another functionality that our team uses daily, especially if they need quick answers to short questions that would get lost in a busy email inbox. Unless a user’s S-NET Connect app is set to DND (Do Not Disturb), chat messages pop up on their screen right away, alerting them that someone needs their help. Available both on S-NET Connect Desktop and Mobile, chat makes it easy for our road warriors to communicate with the in-office team, whether our engineers share notes, images, videos and files during a client installation, or our Sales and Marketing teams communicate during a trade show.

To keep communication channels organized, the S-NET team uses numerous chat groups to coordinate with their peers. Some chat groups are project-specific and temporary, such as an installation project for a client, while others are departmental chat groups that allow team members to share information and coordinate their efforts. This quick and easy form of communication is present in every facet of our business and makes our team more efficient as a result.

Working Remotely

Remote work has been an intrinsic part of our pre-pandemic lives and turned out to be a true business-saver when Covid-19 hit. While it was quite common for our staff to join meetings remotely prior to the pandemic, in March of 2020 working from home full-time became the norm overnight.

During most of 2020 and part of 2021, S-NET Connect enabled us to continue communicating with our clients, partners and vendors as if we were sitting at the office, using our extension and caller ID for a professional appearance. The Presence functionality provided some accountability for our team during an uncertain time, and with S-NET Live videoconferencing and screen sharing, we were also able to create some semblance of normalcy in our meetings.

With most of our staff back at the office full-time since June 1st, S-NET remote collaboration services continue to play an important role in our professional lives. They allow our team to work from the safety of their homes during bad weather or minor illness and enable our road warriors in Installations and Sales to manage their workdays more efficiently before, between or after appointments. When part of the team meets in the conference room, our Yealink conference room system and expansion microphones help ensure that all attendees, whether physically present or remote, are able to participate equally in discussions.

Staying Connected On-the-Go

The S-NET staff has also been using S-NET Connect Mobile ever since it was first developed. Teams that are often on-the-go, like Sales and Installations, rely on mobile communications to stay connected to the in-office staff, get quick help when they need it most and use their driving time efficiently by participating in the occasional conference call.

When S-NET engineers are on call, S-NET Connect Mobile makes it easy to get notified of after-hours emergencies. It also enables our on-call team to connect with colleagues, vendors or upstream carriers involved in the emergency without having to provide their personal cell numbers.

 

As we add more members to the S-NET team, both in-office and remote employees, business communications technology will continue to be our best friend, connecting our staff and facilitating collaboration.

 

 

Meet Jim Kowalski, Strategic Alliance Manager

When did you join S-NET?

I’ve been part of the team since September, 2019.

Tell us a little about your background.

I attended Loyola University of Chicago majoring in Business and spent the first 19 years of my career in the wholesale mortgage banking arena. I worked for several financial institutions prior to making my switch to telecom.

When the market took a terrible turn in 2007, I decided that a career change was needed. I found a home in telecommunications with a local company called TDS Metrocom, a competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC). I also spent almost 10 years with Comcast Business before coming to S-NET.

What are your primary responsibilities at S-NET?

My responsibilities are twofold. First, I help small and mid-sized businesses meet their communications needs with our various cloud solutions. Secondly, I work with our Partner Channel of IT vendors, consultants, telecom professionals, and more. I help them present the S-NET product and service line to their respective clients.

How often do you interact with clients?

Working with clients and prospective clients is what I do on a daily basis. So, to answer your question: all day, every day. (Laughs.) The most rewarding aspect is listening to the client’s needs and coming up with a solution that will allow for them to meet those needs and accomplish their business goals. I like to be a difference maker.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I like to think outside the box and get creative when putting a total solution in place for a client. No two organizations are the same, they all have specific needs for their business. S-NET allows me to custom tailor solutions that fit those needs.

In this competitive environment, it is important to differentiate myself and my company from other service providers out there. Being able to go beyond cookie-cutter services by offering personalized solutions is a great way to do that.

What have been your favorite S-NET projects so far?

I would have to say the solution we finalized last December for a large company in McHenry, IL. What initially was a conversation about a VoIP Cloud Phone system turned into much more. We uncovered that the business needed help with their network, internet connectivity and redundancy. We proposed a total solution that would manage all of their network communications. It was a bullet proof solution for a business that can not afford to ever go down.

Are there any accomplishments you are particularly proud of?

In each of my 22 months with S-NET, I have managed to help a business find a communications solution that fits their needs.

How has S-NET helped you grow as a professional?

Coming from large corporations, S-NET has opened my eyes to many things. In particular, I’ve seen how small businesses like S-NET truly aim to make the customer experience their top priority. I respect that and am more confident in who I represent because of it.

How do you unwind after a long day of work?

Lately I’ve been learning to golf, so I often find myself getting a twilight tee time. I’m also an avid runner! In fact, I will be running my 14th full marathon on October 9th at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. It’s my favorite as I get to trek 26.2 miles through the amazing city.

Tell us something fun that most of your coworkers and clients don’t know about you.

In 2017, I founded a 501 c3 nonprofit organization called Busse Woods Running Club. The organization promotes walking and running as a contributor to a healthier lifestyle. Its membership is now 500+ strong and consists of people from all walks of life. Whether someone wants to walk a mile per day, train for their first 5k or run a marathon, the organization has a program for them. It’s such an inclusive community and my proudest accomplishment in life thus far. Like I said, making a difference is important to me!

A Day of Team Building

There are few things as fun as a team outing to signal that businesses are finally returning to normal. Since our last team building at the Brookfield Zoo in 2019, S-NET has grown significantly. So, with the overwhelming majority of our staff vaccinated and Covid restrictions lifted in Illinois, it was time to show our new team members how we do team buildings here at S-NET!

We started with a host of team building games and activities based on the DiSC Personality Profile and the High Performance Team Assessment to boost communication and collaboration on our team. We continued with a private Architecture Tour on the Chicago River enjoying the fabulous views and perfect summer weather. We ended the day with a delicious grilled outdoor dinner -including a roasted pig- at S-NET’s new offices.

Here are just a few photos from the day.

S-NET Team Building

S-NET Team Building

S-NET Team Building

S-NET Team Building

S-NET Team Building

S-NET Team Building

S-NET Team Building

S-NET Team Building

S-NET Team Building

S-NET Team Building

Boost Employee Engagement in a Work-from-Anywhere Environment

Employee engagement is one of the most important yet undervalued measures of business success. According to Gallup, highly engaged businesses have 59% less turnover and are also 21% more profitable. Engaged employees work more efficiently, stay longer with the company, and are more motivated to bring their best ideas to work.

But with many teams working in distributed offices, remotely or in a hybrid environment, maintaining engagement is tougher than ever before. Many of the in-person interactions that would happen naturally in an office setting are absent from a work-from-anywhere environment. As a result, many workers feel disconnected from their colleagues and company, miss out on important information, and find it challenging to synchronize their efforts with the rest of the team.

Maintaining employee engagement with a distributed workforce requires extra muscle, but it is not impossible to achieve. Technology can be your best tool for keeping your whole team connected. Learn how a few small changes in how your team interacts on a daily basis can significantly boost employee satisfaction, regardless of where your staff is working from.

Keep Your Team Informed

Strong communication is one of the main pillars of employee engagement. When your staff occupies the same office space, staying in the loop is not particularly challenging. They learn new information from meetings, informal interactions with colleagues, a company bulletin board, or even from involuntarily overhearing some of their team’s conversations. When they have questions, they can also easily “pop in” to someone’s office for a quick conversation.

But when some of your team works remotely with many of their usual communication channels unavailable, they can easily start to feel disconnected. Provide your staff with opportunities to connect with their colleagues and company digitally to ensure that their level of engagement doesn’t suffer.

  • Weekly inter-departmental calls can give your staff a good platform to discuss projects when the more spontaneous discussions of an office setting are unavailable. Use screen sharing software to ensure that everyone is on the same page during the conversation.
  • Ensure that your conferencing technology can successfully connect your in-office and remote staff, so that everyone can participate in discussions meaningfully.
  • A virtual open-door policy is also a great way to encourage conversations and allows your staff to get their questions answered through a quick phone call or chat message.
  • Don’t forget to check on some of your newer or introverted team members once in a while, as they may be too shy to start the conversation on their own. But ensure that the number of check-ins doesn’t go over the threshold that your staff perceives as micromanagement or continuous verification.

Provide a Clarity of Vision

According to Gallup, highly engaged organizations share a common vision, treating employees as stakeholders of the company’s future. A clarity of business objectives and values helps teams understand what they are working toward and why they are doing the work in the first place – both incredibly important for employee engagement and morale.

But in a distributed work environment, delivering these messages to employees may be more challenging. Rethink how you are communicating your goals and values to your team and use the technology at your disposal to help spread the message to remote employees.

  • Ensure that your team is regularly reminded of your Mission, Vision and Values. You can make them easily accessible on your website, give them prime real-estate on your employee portal, or you can even include them in the standardized company signature.
  • Regularly organized company-wide video conferences not only keep your staff informed but enable your leadership team to share and reiterate the company vision to your staff. Highlighting business goals, initiatives, and some of the main projects teams are working on can go a long way in helping remote workers understand the company direction, and feel that they are part of something larger.
  • Ensure that your team knows how to put your directions into action. When working toward a shared mission, providing clear and actionable instructions will help your team implement and work toward your business objectives in their daily work.

Create Space for Personal Connections

For most employees, positive interpersonal relationships are an important measure of job satisfaction and affect their level or engagement. Employees who feel connected to their peers, respected and emotionally secure are more likely to bring forward innovative ideas, and are also more comfortable raising alarms when needed.

But when you have a distributed workforce, interactions that foster these personal connections are among the first to go. Without the physical proximity provided by an office space or the opportunity for a spontaneous chat by the coffee machine, your staff may find it challenging or awkward to call their colleagues just to check in. Providing your team with opportunities to make up for these lost interactions digitally can go a long way in fostering the sense of camaraderie.

  • Make time for personal interactions, whether you allocate a few minutes to catching up before each call or organize recurring team happy hours over video conference.
  • Make interactions as similar to in-person conversations as possible. Video conferencing or emojis in a chat conversation can make up for some of the nonverbal cues lost in phone calls. Seeing your employees’ nonverbal language also allows you to assess your team’s emotional health and notice when engagement starts to decrease.
  • Company portals or team collaboration software such as Slack or Teams are also excellent tools for increasing team morale. Creating channels dedicated to your staff’s favorite sports, movies, games or TV shows is a great way to encourage the type of bonding that doesn’t happen as naturally in a work-from-anywhere setting.

Celebrate Achievements

Few things boost your employees’ morale like seeing their coworkers succeed. But while offices offer plenty of opportunities to share good news with the rest of the team, doing so in a distributed work environment is much more challenging. When good news doesn’t seem to directly impact anyone’s work, your staff may not prioritize sharing it, or they may be reluctant to discuss it out of fear that it could be perceived as bragging.

Create a culture in which successes are shared and celebrated. Ensure that these messages are available and visible to your whole team, regardless of where they are located.

  • Encourage your staff and supervisors to share their team’s achievements via company-wide emails or make time for mentioning them in team video conferences.
  • If your company has an employee portal, make sure that good news is always front-and-center. There is nothing more motivating than starting the day with a success story.

Provide Training and Development

Leading organizations know that when it comes to building a winning team, hiring good talent is only half the battle. Providing employees with the training and professional opportunities they need to thrive in their workplace is equally important. Employees who feel challenged and have opportunities to grow are more fulfilled in their positions and, hence, more engaged.

While training remote staff is never easy, the same technology that your team uses to communicate and collaborate can go a long way in supporting your professional development initiatives as well.

  • Take advantage of your team collaboration software when training your staff. Screen share capabilities allow all participants to see the same document or portal simultaneously and ensures that everyone is on the same page throughout the entire process.
  • Use your shared cloud storage or employee portal to share important training materials. When your staff can easily access the documents and videos they need, their learning curve can be significantly shortened.
  • Easily train your customer service team using Call Monitoring. Call monitoring can be made available on your desk phone and allows you to listen to calls in real-time regardless of where your team is located. You can even coach your staff through challenging conversations without the client hearing.

 

When your staff works out of distributed offices, remotely or in a hybrid environment, maintaining a high level of employee engagement is challenging to say the least. Many of the interactions that occur naturally in an office-setting are unavailable in a work-from-anywhere environment, forcing employers to get creative with their strategies.

Luckily, all the latest advances in technology that enable your staff to stay connected and productive from anywhere are also incredibly helpful in supporting your employee engagement strategies. Putting a little extra effort in utilizing these technologies when part of your staff is remote can go a long way in ensuring that your entire team is informed, engaged and motivated to do their best work.

Meet Nino Noriega, Network Engineer

When did you join S-NET Communications?

I started in March or April of 2018, so it’s been a while!

Tell us a bit about your educational background.

I have a degree in Networking Systems Administration (NSA) and Electrical Engineering Technology (EET). I’m also a certified by the Cable Technicians Association.

What made you choose this career path?

I have always been interested in the communications industry and wanted to find a field that allows me to work with both hardware and software. I found VoIP unexpectedly, and it fit the bill perfectly. I love it, it is a career choice that I am very comfortable with.

Where did you work before joining S-NET?

Right before joining S-NET, I worked at AT&T as a Technical Project Manager. But sitting at a desk wasn’t for me… (Laughs.)

What are your primary responsibilities at S-NET?

I am responsible for project installations small and large. I configure network equipment, such as routers and SD-WANs, and train clients on using their phones and the S-NET Connect application. I also activate new clients in our various monitoring software, keep track of system performance and respond to technical issues when they arise. When we have new Field Engineers or Inventory personnel joining our team, it is my responsibility to train them, and I have my share of after-hours on-call time as well.

It’s a dynamic job, where I get to learn how to configure new equipment daily. Keeping up with all the new client installs coming in can be challenging. But the most important aspect is always customer support.

How often do you interact with clients?

I work with clients on a daily basis. As Mersim Kosovrasti, our Field Engineering Team Lead would say, we are the face of the company. So, we should make sure that we don’t mess up! (Laughs.)

What do you like most about your job?

The people I work with, we have a great team. And it’s always interesting to learn about client needs as well. When it comes to network structure, projects can get complicated. But we always do our best to deliver what the client wants. Fulfilling their requests is rewarding. There is nothing like the satisfaction of a job well-done and a making a client smile.

How has S-NET helped you grow as an engineer?

S-NET has pushed my knowledge to the limits on different aspects of network structure and equipment. We learn every day and that never stops. Things change fast, especially in this industry.

How do you like to unwind after a long day of work?

I like to ride my mini-bike or enjoy a glass of whiskey. I also like to watch movies and play video games. When the weather allows, I enjoy camping, boating, snowboarding – anything outdoorsy, really. And I love to travel, I hope I can visit Cancun soon.

What is one thing most of your coworkers and clients don’t know about you?

That from time to time, I can be a serious person too. (Laughs.)

 

 

How to Develop a Tech Savvy Workforce

As COVID-19 once again rears its head and more and more executives begin to embrace permanent remote work, we’re bound to encounter more virtual mishaps. Calls cutting out, videos crashing, and screen share capabilities gone awry are not only a frustrating part of the day but can also be a real impediment to productivity and morale.

We’ve compiled the following strategies to help you assemble a tech-savvy workforce and overcome the obstacles remote work presents. Check out the rest of our blogs here to learn even more.

Why a tech-savvy workforce matters

It should go without saying, but a technologically literate staff is critical for any growing business, not just a tech agency. Regardless of the industry your company operates in, from time to time you will inevitably have to innovate. Something as simple as a new time reporting process, a new email server, or growth in general, will force your company and your staff to adopt some sort of new technology. Understanding basic tech principles and functions are critical to implementing change big and small.

Moreover, understanding the principles of technology can be an invaluable skill for your workforce and pay dividends in a number of different business functions. Problem-solving skills, adaptability, and the ability to work well under pressure, to name a few, are tenants of a tech-savvy workforce that can pay off.

A recent PwC report notes that 72% of office workers surveyed would prefer to work from home “at least twice a week.” Whichever way you slice it, remote work and a demand for a technologically literate workforce are here to stay.

Training for a tech-savvy workforce

If your business wants to develop a tech-savvy workforce, you must prioritize training programs that revolve around the latest trends within emerging tech. The training you used a few years ago won’t be relevant (or helpful) anymore and refusing to update will likely mean your services and solutions will fall flat compared to your competitors. Even your own staff will lose their edge. You’ll be forced to watch as your organization falls behind in profits, productivity, and value.

Following along with the latest trends can be tricky if you don’t know where to begin but is easier than you may think. First, find a reputable blog and subscribe to it so all of the latest news hits your inbox automatically. We tend to like CIO and TechCrunch, but find what works best for you! We might be a little biased, but we also highly recommend this email list (it’s ours).

S-NET Newsletter

Show the Benefits of a tech-savvy workforce

Oftentimes, particularly when it costs money, many people adopt the “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” mentality. In many cases, there is virtue to that phrase and it’s not worthwhile to go digging around in something that, until this point, has worked just fine. We’re here to tell you once and for all that that is not the case with technology. Abandon that thought right now. Leave it at the door.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, you might still need some help getting extra buy-in from executives or decision-makers in your organization. Or, you might just need help to encourage your entire team to become tech-oriented. In this case, demonstrating the clear benefits of a tech-savvy workforce can go a long way in helping you gather support.

Remind whoever is objecting of the cycle of technology. Technology obsolescence happens in the blink of an eye. Think of how often you’re asked to update the software on your phone or computer. The same stands for technology at work. After just a year or two, you’ll find that there is likely a newer, almost certainly better, or cheaper way of doing something.

If that doesn’t work, show them how much easier it will make their day-to-day life and job responsibilities. That is the point of technology, after all. Whatever changes you implement should be beneficial enough to your team that they speak for themselves. If not, consider the true value of your proposed change. Is it really worth it?

Any technology provider worth your business should make this step extremely easy for you. Ask your sales representative for assistance in securing buy-in from decision makers and they should provide you with plenty of resources to help. If they don’t.. you might want to look for a new partner.

Gamify Tech Literacy

Gamification is a highly effective way of implementing change management while fostering greater adoption or engagement from your intended audience. We’re wired to want to play along, even if we aren’t uber-competitive by nature. That’s why simple mobile games are so addicting. Think of the number of hours you or someone you know has spent swiping candy, smashing boxes, or flapping a bird’s wings. We all love to play.

Popular examples of gamification in education include services like Duolingo and trivia games like Quiz Up or Kahoot. However you choose to incorporate gamification in your organization is up to you!

Set technology literacy benchmarks for your team and track their progress. Celebrate milestones as they come. Check this list for some more specific examples of gamification in tech.

Invest in a tech-savvy workforce

In many cases, sometimes, you just have to put your money where your mouth is. If you are dedicated to developing a tech-savvy workforce, you may have to reallocate some of your budget to support those efforts.

Services like Khan Academy, CodeAcademy, and LinkedIn Learning are just a few options to consider when looking for an effective technical training program for your team. When deciding, be sure to weigh all of your options, and clearly define your goals.

A cost-effective alternative may be to reach out to your internal IT team. When in doubt, trust your own experts! Your IT team can likely help educate your staff on basic tech literacy, providing a valuable boost to their skills.

We’re Here to Help

S-Net is here to help. Whether you’re in need of a world class cloud-based phone system, a powerful and secure SD-WAN with built-in firewall capabilities, or just resources to guide you as you support the tech literacy of your team, S-Net is Chicago’s complete cloud solution provider.

Design your IVR for Success

Interactive voice response or IVR is an often utilized and often misunderstood feature of advanced call centers. As a caller yourself, you have certainly experienced both the good, and unfortunately the bad of an IVR. IVRs are also known as a “virtual assistant.”

IVR is an automated, pre-recorded menu of options, services, and information that can direct callers. An IVR can lead callers to a particular department or person, read company information like operating hours and address, share situational updates, like outage updates or event info.

IVR technology has been around since 1962, giving consumers plenty of experience navigating them. Despite their pervasiveness, how do customers really feel about IVR technology, and how can you configure yours for success?

IVR and Consumers

Think of the last time you had to call a company’s number. Maybe your internet just went out. One of your appliances isn’t working. Maybe you’re scheduling an appointment. Whatever it might be, you’re probably not in the best mood, and you’re reaching out hoping you can find a solution.

It’s important to understand the motivations and emotions of your consumers as they interact with your IVR. What might someone be calling your business for? What event might trigger a call? Understanding how your consumer feels and anticipating their needs is essential to setting up a successful IVR.

Consumer Perceptions of IVR

A recent study found that 61 percent of consumers find IVR technology to be frustrating. Thus, leading to a poor customer service experience. This same study found that this poor experience leads 51 percent of consumers to leave a business due to their IVR.

Even just one poor customer experience can be extremely costly for your business. Now multiply that by every single consumer who calls your phone. Your IVR is the gateway to your organization, but it just might be shutting your customers out. Configuring a successful, easy to use IVR for your customers cannot be understated.

Consumer Perceptions of IVR

Why do consumers dislike IVRs so much? Over two thirds of them state that “listening to irrelevant options” make IVRs hated, while 54% also claim that IVRs “stop them from speaking to a live person.” Other listed reasons are that menus are too long, and callers oftentimes have to repeat themselves to be understood.

It doesn’t look too promising for IVRs, but there is still value in properly setting them up. These are, of course, understandable. When you’re frustrated and looking for help, the last thing you want is to jump through hoops to find yourself still without a solution. When they work properly, IVRs can guide your customers to the solution they’re looking for, while saving them and your internal support team time. IVRs truly can be a win-win solution, when they work.

S-NET Newsletter

How to Get the Most Out of Your IVR

On average, consumers say they have abandoned 27% of calls they make to a business because they reached an IVR. If you feel like you can afford to lose more than 1 out of every 4 customers, your current IVR is just fine. If you would prefer to keep as many customers as you can, you may want to reconsider your setup.

As a business owner or manager, you must take a customer-centric approach to everything you do, and your IVR is no different. According to McKinsey, you should design your IVR around the three measures of customer satisfaction: fast resolution, personalization, and a consistent experience across channels.

Fast Call Resolution with IVRs

McKinsey research suggests that the one thing consumers want, more than anything else, is for support to resolve their issues quickly. With this in mind, you can set your IVR up in a way that empowers and delights your consumers, rather than frustrate them.

Think of how you can quickly share necessary information with your consumers via an IVR, and what information they might be seeking when they call. If you’re experiencing an outage of services and anticipate several customers calling to ask why their service went out, record a quick message detailing what you know, when consumers can expect a resolution, and what they can do in the meantime. This not only answers your customer’s questions, but could save you hundreds or even thousands of calls.

Similarly, if you have a large employee directory, or a complex organization with several departments, an IVR can quickly guide your customer exactly where they need to be. This saves them the frustration of searching for the right help, and allows your business to virtually navigate a process that would otherwise require the assistance of a live employee.

You virtual assistant should be fully customizable so be creative and explore a few options to best serve your customers.

IVRs for Customer Service

Personalizing your IVR

As a prerecorded message, personalizing an IVR looks a little different than including a consumer’s name and personal information. Doing so at scale would be almost impossible and certainly very expensive. You can breathe a sigh of relief that your consumers do not expect quite that level of personalization.

Instead, allowing users to rejoin a conversation or support ticket where they left off, as opposed to going through the IVR from the beginning, is one simple and appreciated way to incorporate personalization. You can even set your IVR menu up so it offers relevant recommendations to users. For example, for callers on hold after requesting a dealership’s service department, play messages relevant to service and maintenance, as opposed to the same message customers who selected “sales” or “finance” or “customer service”.

Consistency and Virtual Assistants

Your brand story should be clear and understood from all channels, including your IVR. Your customers expect consistency across all channels. As best as you can, keep the messaging and tone of your IVR messages as close to your website, emails copy, social media, etc.

In many cases, IVRs leave customers with a disjointed feeling. They’ve reached out to a company seeking help, and instead were met by an unhelpful robot. Be sure your IVR helps you achieve your company’s goals and ensure your brand is accurately represented.

Final Thoughts

As is the case with most technologies, IVRs have their own unique set of pros and cons. Unfortunately, IVRs tend to get a bad rap due to their misuse. They can be understandably frustrating and even turn customers away from your business. But, they can also save time and money, and even provide a more positive experience for your customers.

In order to implement a successful IVR you must determine the specifics that can be handled by IVR, then tailor their design to address your customers needs.

S-NET is Here to Help

At S-NET, we’ve helped thousands of customers with their IVR. We understand the intricacies behind the technology and how to implement it in a way that works for you and your customers. We offer combined industry expertise’ and white-glove customer service. We’re big enough to deliver, but small enough to care.

With our expert help, your IVR is sure to guide your customers where they hope to be, and help your business achieve its goals. Contact us to set your IVR up today.

 

 

The Real Cost of Poor Customer Service

According to a recent report by Forbes, poor customer service costs businesses just like yours around $75 billion each year. This is a sharp year-over-year incline that shows no sign of slowing down. That same report found that a staggering 67 percent of consumers are willing to switch brands based on a poor customer experience alone, up a whopping 37 percent from just two years prior. Poor customer service can bankrupt any business, large or small, especially one that relies so heavily on phone calls for orders.

Dubbed “serial switchers,” the same customers who keep your business going, just might be the nail in your coffin. With nearly every call feeling like a “make it or break it” situation for your business, it can be easy to get overwhelmed. As a business owner or operator, you should always strive to understand the motivations and values of your customers. Sometimes, however, that just isn’t enough.

Luckily, with a powerful and reliable cloud-based phone system, empower your team to provide the best customer experience possible.

What is “Bad Customer Service?”

A negative customer experience is detrimental to both customer retention and acquiring new ones. You’ve not only just lost that customer, but their negative online review, Facebook post, and story that they told to whoever would listen, could be keeping even more customers away. Word of mouth spreads fast, make sure you know what to be aware of.

 

Americans tell an average of 15 people about a poor customer service experience

Americans tell an average of 15 people about a poor service experience. – American Express Customer Service Barometer

Value Your Customer’s Time

According to Forrester, 66 percent of adults feel like valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide good customer service. It seems simple enough, but when facing a storefront full of customers, online orders and multiple phone orders, things can certainly get hectic quickly. Don’t lose business before you even get them in the door. Make sure every interaction and phone call reminds the customer how valued they are.

Show Appreciation for Your Customer

Another customer service red flag is when you leave your clients feeling unappreciated. Maybe you or your employee was a little too quick rushing them off the phone, forgot to say thank you, or didn’t follow up in a timely manner. These are each a relatively small faux pas, we’ve all done them before. However, as a customer, these small things can add up and send the message loud and clear that their business is not valued.

Of course, there can be a number of different events that might lead to “bad customer service,” but by and large, valuing a customer’s time and making sure they feel appreciated are sure fire ways to ensure a positive experience. A reliable VoIP phone system like S-Net’s Cloud Phone system, can help you coach your team in real-time, and make sure every call is a positive one.

How a Cloud Based Phone System Can Boost Customer Service

Moving your outdated phone system to the cloud gives your business the freedom of VoIP and leading call center features. With these advanced features you can easily train your team. Better serve your clients and see your customer satisfaction and revenue grow.

Call Monitoring

As a business owner or manager, call monitoring may just be one of the most utilized features of your cloud phone system. With call monitoring you can Listen to your team’s calls for quality

assurance and give them valuable feedback on their customer service skills. Not only that, but you can interject to coach your team through a challenging conversation, or fully hop into the call and speak with the customer directly.

Call monitoring is your secret weapon to ensuring high quality customer service and can help save more than a few sales.

Advanced Call Routing

Use advanced call routing to set up a virtual call center entirely with software. Direct callers to the appropriate agent or employee using numerical values, or IVR menus.

Cloud phone for customer service

Save your employee’s time by making sure they only answer calls relevant to them, and save your customers time by understanding their intentions immediately and avoid multiple frustrating call transfers.

Custom Ring Strategies

Similar to advanced routing, custom ring strategies ensure that your phones ring exactly how you want them. Is answering a call immediately critical to your business? Choose a ring strategy like ring all, giving everyone an opportunity to answer the call on its first ring. Looking to distribute the workload amongst your entire team? Select an option like ringing the least recently answered phone, or whomever has had the fewest calls.

Whatever your goals, S-Net has a ring strategy to support them. Rely on our Cloud Based Phone system to take care of your call strategy so you can focus on what matters: providing a positive customer experience.

S-Net Can Help

Clearly, providing stellar customer service is critical to keeping your business open. Your phone system, when equipped with leading call center features, like S-Net’s, can help you ensure that all experiences are handled with care and leave your customers satisfied.

If you’re losing customers to long wait times, frustrating conversations, or poor customer service, your phone system may be the key to turning those experiences around. Think about how many times you’ve wished you could have a moment back, if you could change just one thing, maybe you would have made the sale. With S-Net’s Cloud Based Phone system, you now have the freedom to get those moments right.

Contact us to update your phone system and give your customer service a boost.

Secure Your Distributed Network Without Sacrificing Application Performance

In today’s cloud-connected world, IT teams manage networks that are more distributed than ever before. Your organization probably uses cloud-hosted, SaaS or virtual desktop applications, and may rely on public cloud services, such as Azure or AWS as well. Add your remote users to the mix who need access to these resources from anywhere, and you have a complex, multi-cloud network that is challenging to secure and manage. Legacy architectures no longer adequately meet the security and performance demands of such a distributed infrastructure.

The cloud migration and mobility that your employees need increase your network’s attack surface. But protecting all your dispersed users and resources with traditional security practices degrades application performance and leads to a complex network that is time-consuming to manage and impossible to scale. You may find yourself caught in a bind between enabling the cloud-based capabilities your end users need and keeping your infrastructure secure – a choice that you should not have to make.

This is where distributed cloud-security solutions like SD-WAN can help. Secure SD-WAN extends your network’s security perimeter all the way to the user, delivers Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) and securely connects distributed users to distributed applications, all without compromising user experience. This allows you to eliminate the inefficiencies of a traditional Wide Area Network (WAN) architecture and easily enable a Work-from-Anywhere (WFA) workforce.  Here is how.

Zero Trust Network Access

Secure SD-WAN provides a wide range of easily manageable solutions for securing your network, applications and end-users, regardless of where your team is located. From enterprise-grade authentication to granular application segmentation and control, these services enable you to manage strict access rules for each person, group and application. Leading SD-WAN services integrate with several authentication servers and protocols, including Active Directory, SSO – OKTA, LDAP, and SAML2, making it easy to identify and authenticate your users.

As the network threat perimeter extends to the remote end-user, Secure SD-WAN allows you to enforce security policies directly on your team’s devices. These Secure Remote Access solutions offered by leading SD-WAN vendors create encrypted connections from end-user devices to cloud gateways and, once authenticated, from cloud gateways to public and private cloud resources. This enables your team to securely connect to company resources hosted in private data centers, the public cloud and SaaS locations.

Primary features include:

  • Application Segmentation
  • Strong Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
  • Granular Application and Role-Based Control
  • Application and Network Visibility
  • Stateful Firewall
  • DoS Protection
  • Next-Generation Firewall
  • Intrusion Protection System (IPS)
  • URL filtering

Improved Application Performance

If you have a distributed, multi-cloud network, backhauling traffic to high-performance security protocols at your headquarters or data center, or creating a series of VPN tunnels for remote employees can severely affect application performance. But with its intelligent application-based multi-path steering, Secure SD-WAN allows you to protect your resources, users and network without compromising your team’s application experience.

Driven by application performance from branch to cloud and remote user to cloud, Secure SD-WAN allows you to set app- and user-specific SLAs and routes all your mission-critical traffic on the best available connection at any given time. The Secure Remote Access client installed to the end-user’s device routes network traffic to the best available gateway based on real time network data.

Software-based network optimization functionalities that have been extensively deployed at branch locations are now available for your remote users as well, including SLA Monitoring, Traffic Engineering, and Forward Error Correction. These functions ensure exceptional application performance for your end-users even on low bandwidth home connections or a spotty WiFi.

Primary features include:

  • Intelligent Gateway Selection | Routes traffic to the gateway that provides the best user experience.
  • Hot Stand-by | Ensures that the Secure Remote Access client is simultaneously connected to multiple gateways and monitors the performance towards individual gateways. Flows are routed towards alternate gateways instantaneously upon detection of degraded performance.
  • Traffic Steering | Steers traffic based on Application, FQDN, and/or Routes. The traffic steering policy determines breakout of traffic, selection of gateway and whether encryption is needed for traffic tunneled towards the gateway.

Simplified Network and Security Management

As organizations like yours look to reduce the complexities of network and security management while supporting a remote or hybrid workforce, Secure SD-WAN offers a highly scalable solution to manage your distributed network.

Secure SD-WAN enables you monitor your network, users and cloud-based applications, easily manage all your routing and security policies and review real-time analytics through a simple admin interface. You can mass-deploy policies to any number of locations or users with a few clicks, set up new branches in minutes, and consolidate all your network functions into one device at each location.

Secure SD-WAN enables you to integrate multiple services into a single cost-effective subscription, simplifying management and reducing your licensing, hardware, hosting and management costs. Functions include SD-WAN, Routing, Secure Web Gateway, Remote Access, Next Generation Firewall, LTE WAN backup and Analytics.

 

Managing and securing a multi-cloud network and remote users doesn’t need to be a complex, time consuming endeavor. Secure SD-WAN enables you to extend your network’s security perimeter all the way to the end user and safeguard your traffic and resources without having to compromise application performance. SD-WAN enables you to leave the complexities of legacy WAN architectures behind and simplify your network operations, so that your IT team can focus on streamlining operations and driving agility at your organization.

 

 

Meet Emily Fischer, Accountant

How long have you been with S-NET?

I joined S-NET on July 13, 2020.

What is your educational background?

I received my Bachelor of Arts degree at Augustana College, double majoring in Accounting and Finance with a minor in Music.

What compelled you to choose this career path?

I chose accounting because I am a strategic thinker and love problem solving. I enjoy maintaining various business processes within the accounting cycle, especially for a growing company such as S-NET! Accounting also gives me the opportunity to work with a team, independently, or with clients which creates a fun, dynamic work environment.

Tell us a little about your career history.

I previously worked for Johnson Lambert as an Audit Associate for Insurance and Non-Profit financial audits nation-wide. The basic responsibilities involved analyzing the financial condition of a company as well as identifying key control issues and emerging risks. It was a fascinating line of work.

What are your primary responsibilities at S-NET?

My primary responsibilities include accounts payable and receivable, bank reconciliations, assisting in commission statements, expense reports, responding to customer billing calls and tickets, and other business administrative responsibilities. I work closely with my awesome Finance Team including Director of Finance, Kim Zacharkiewicz, and Michael Vicas, our Billing Manager.

How often do you work with S-NET clients?

I interact with customers daily by phone and email. I enjoy making connections with customers, helping them with their billing challenges and hearing that sigh of relief when their issue is resolved. In the process, I usually learn something new as well!

What do you enjoy most about your work?

The most rewarding aspect of my job is developing my skills and finding ways to improve my daily workflows with the Finance Team. I also enjoy the friendly, open work environment. There is truly a sense of family at S-NET that makes coming in to work pleasant. Our office is also full of up-beat, hard-working people.

What have been some of your favorite projects so far?

One of my favorite projects has been creating a new credit card reconciliation process. The project has significantly improved the categorizing of business purchases in their appropriate accounts in QuickBooks. I’ve also enjoyed assisting in launching our new accounts payable platform, Bill.com.

How has S-NET helped you grow as a professional?

Working in Accounting at S-NET has given me more hands-on experience in the accounting cycle. Each day is a learning experience that has allowed me to expand my accounting skillsets and expertise.

What exciting projects are you most looking forward to?

I am most looking forward to the streamlining and improvement of our internal processes, which has been an effort in my team since I have started. The recent switch over to Rev.io as our company’s customer payment processor is already saving us a significant amount of time in the month-end bank reconciliation process.

How do you like to spend your free time?

After a long day of work, I like to unwind by getting outside and running. I also love playing my violin. My current practice piece is Bach’s Chaconne.

Tell us a little more about that.

I’ve studied violin since age 3 through the Suzuki Method with my twin sister. About 13 years ago we formed a group called Violin Twinz, performing classical duets and our original arrangements of mainstream and classic rock covers. We have performed at the House of Blues in Chicago, outdoor festivals such as Art & Soul on the Fox, weddings, restaurants, and private events. I am also a violinist for an Indi-rock group called Yes Factory, out of Rockford, IL. Before the pandemic began, we were the opening act for a Cheap Trick concert. We are currently producing a record that will be coming out hopefully by the end of 2021 or 2022.

Are there any exciting plans you are looking forward to?

I am excited to get back to performing with my music groups again on the weekends and also attend CSO and Ravinia concerts once events begin opening up!

 

 

Why Call Forwarding is Not a Long-Term Telecommuting Solution

Why Call Forwarding Is Not a Long-Term Telecommuting Solution

Meet Mike Muar, Strategic Alliance Manager

What compelled you to chose a career in Telecommunications?

I joined the industry with the help of a mentor. He was serving as VP of Americas for a global telecommunications manufacturer at the time and I admired him for his business acumen. I really wanted to work for him, so I convinced him to give me a shot. Back then, I did not even know what a “Twisted Pair” meant.

His mentorship over the next 4 years really helped me gain tremendous insight into industry trends, up and coming technology, and what the proper channel approach was. I owe my 17-year career in Telecom directly to him.

How long have you been with S-NET?

I joined the team in late 2019, when my previous organization, SkyTalk Plus, was acquired by S-NET.

What was your role at SkyTalk?

I was one of the original members of SkyTalk. I initially served as a Channel Sales Manager, but I also participated in a wide range of other projects, from helping establish internal processes and procedures for order flow to developing Marketing collateral for end users and potential channel partners. In collaboration with founder and CEO, Wes Pace, we successfully built a partner channel and recruited over 200 resellers in just under two-years.

My role changed when SkyTalk acquired Fidelity Communications, a technology company that was very well known across the U.S. in the QSR business and had customers from some of the most recognized pizza brands. I became the Strategic Alliance Manager and focused solely on those accounts.

Helping to start a company from scratch and watching success come to fruition was one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. I am extremely grateful to Wes for providing me with that opportunity.

How did your role change once you joined S-NET?

I joined S-NET as Strategic Alliance Manager and I manage large QSR accounts, such a Marco’s Pizza. If given the opportunity, I would like to spearhead the S-NET QSR Division and be responsible for the direction and growth of that division as a whole.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I have been in and around the Telecom sector for 17 years now, so there is no doubt I love it. The evolution of the technology from when I started to now is absolutely incredible. The tools available to any size business now allows them to become more efficient than ever before.

I am extremely passionate about acquiring and supporting both new and existing customers. Organizations have many choices in the marketplace, so when they choose to do business with us, I always give them 100%, regardless of their company size.

What are the most challenging aspects of your work?

One of the most challenging aspects of my job is being able to communicate the benefits of the technology we provide in a way that is relatable to potential customers. I am always hyper-focused on helping to ensure that my customers not only understand the technology, but most importantly, they attain the comfort level they need in order to feel good about the decision they are making to move to the newer technology.

Are there any accomplishments that make you particularly proud?

I am extremely proud of my QSR Team and how we have been able to collectively grow and support this division. The people on my team are wonderful to work with and many of them have over 20 years of experience implementing and supporting businesses in the QSR space. They never cease to amaze me.

Moving forward, I expect that we will have the opportunity to help and support many more national brands with their voice and SD-WAN projects. The future is very bright for our QSR Division.

How has S-NET helped you grow as a professional?

Because S-NET’s existing portfolio is so diverse, and we are constantly adding new technology and services to it, it has allowed me to really expand my knowledge in the space. I genuinely love learning about new technology and seeing the benefits of that new technology play out when implemented.

How do you unwind after a long day at work?

LOL!!! Once my workday is over my next job starts… my kids. [Laughs.] With a high schooler and a middle schooler in the house, the car service usually begins shortly after work. Any free time I do get is almost exclusively dedicated to my family.  We love to camp and boat as often as we can.

This year for me is a big Birthday number and I have a cruise planned with about 40 people towards the end of the year. Of course, that all depends on the current climate.

Tell us one thing that most of your coworkers and clients don’t know about you?

Many years ago, I fished with a team in the Southern Kingfish Tournament series. My team traveled and participated in tournaments from North Carolina all the way to Biloxi, Mississippi. It was lot of fun, but it was grueling as well.

 

If you’d like to say hello, don’t hesitate to contact Mike at [email protected] or (727) 605-8063.

 

Connect Your Team With a Unified Communication and Collaboration Solution | by Alex Fayn, CEO

 

2020 was a great year for digital transformation, as organizations across the U.S. introduced new communication and collaboration solutions to keep their teams connected from home. But while these applications were critical to their survival in 2020, businesses that made purchases without a solid technology strategy are now dealing with the aftermath: a disjointed collection of tools that simply don’t work together.

At many companies, employees report experiencing application overload and some spend as long as an hour each day toggling between various accounts. When there is a separate tool for everything, or each department uses its own communication tools, workers can’t help but feel disconnected from their colleagues and find it challenging to collaborate. In addition, using too many disparate applications and vendors can be costly to the organization, not to mention a pain to manage.

Unifying all communication and collaboration functionalities into a cohesive ecosystem can go a long way in simplifying technology management and facilitates communication among team members. A cohesive system reduces the number of tools each person uses, making the entire organization more efficient and productive as a result.

If your business communication feels disjointed at times, here are 4 reasons why you should consider switching to a unified communication and collaboration solution:

Increase efficiency and productivity on your team.

A Unified Communication and Collaboration (UCC) solution can go a long way in reducing application overload. When functions such as voice, video, chat, file sharing and even text messaging are all included in the same system, your employees no longer waste time toggling between accounts. Leading UCC platforms provide a single sign-on for easy access and allow users to switch between communication channels with just a few clicks. Dragging and dropping contacts into a call window to create an instant conference or turning a voice call into a video call in a couple of clicks can significantly improve your team’s productivity.

Easily connect users with various hardware needs.

Few businesses are lucky enough to have a homogeneous hardware and software infrastructure for all of their employees. Most organizations manage a mixed bag of various end-user devices and software tools. It can range anywhere from in-office desk phones and videoconferencing tools to advanced call center software for Customer Service teams and even paging systems for warehouse locations.

A unified communication and collaboration solution connects all of your end-users into a cohesive system, regardless what hardware or communication channel they need to be successful in their work. With leading UCC solutions, call center teams can easily transfer calls to other departments, and remote employees can quickly connect with in-office colleagues using a desktop softphone, to name just a couple of examples.

Work from anywhere and any device.

With the Covid-19 vaccine in sight, your business may have already started its gradual transition back to the office. But as part of your team continues to work from home, bridging the communication gap between in-office staff and remote employees can be a challenge.

Unified communication and collaboration technology enables your users to connect with their teams from virtually any location and any device, making their transition back to the office a breeze. Using a single account and a ring-all strategy, your staff can easily answer calls and communicate with their colleagues, whether they are sitting at the office, using their desktop softphones from home or are relying on a mobile device on-the-go.

As a bonus, investing in a solid UCC solution will provide your business with long-term flexibility and business continuity when your office is inaccessible due to inclement weather or when an employee needs to work from home due to illness.

Manage a single, cost-effective subscription.

If your team is currently using various communication tools, you know that joggling multiple vendor contracts, subscriptions and technologies is no easy task, not to mention a costly endeavor. Unified communication solutions enable you to combine tools such as voice, video, chat, file sharing and text messaging into a single, cost-effective subscription. Managing a single service contract and a single tech support channel for all your team’s communication needs can significantly reduce your burden and free your time for more important strategic initiatives.

 

Digital transformation provides businesses with the channels they need to continue working during challenging circumstances. But without a clearly defined technology strategy, it can also lead to application overload and a disjointed communication system that is often difficult to navigate. Switching to a UC solution allows you to connect your entire team into a single communication system, and provides your staff with the easy-to-use tools they need to stay productive.

 

 

 

 

Meet Joe Cunanan, Senior Technical Support Engineer

Senior Technical Support Engineer, Joe Cunanan has been an integral part of S-NET’s Customer Support Team since he joined on April 1st, 2015. Joe has been fascinated by telecommunications ever since he can remember and is deeply motivated by finding resolutions to unusual and challenging issues. During weekends, he likes to hang out on the beach and prioritizes spending time with his family. Can you guess what musical genre Joe enjoys listening to?

Why did you choose this career path?

My long time interest in telephony played a huge role in my decision to pick this path. I’ve always been fascinated by how old school telephones worked back when switchboards were used to route calls from one end point to another, and how much technology has evolved since. I recognized the opportunities in this field during my college years, and I picked the path that opened the most possibilities for me.

I now have a Bachelor’s Degree in Information Technology and several years of work experience under my belt at various telecommunications providers.

What are your primary responsibilities at S-NET?

As a part of S-NET’s Technical Support Team, I provide Level 1 support to clients. But I am also involved in other projects and tasks, like phone system provisioning, DID management and porting. I interact with our clients every single day and I really enjoy this part of my work.

What is the most rewarding aspect of working with clients?

Being able to successfully resolve a client issue is the best feeling in the world! It is rewarding from a technical standpoint, of course, but it also feels very satisfying to be able to help people and teams, especially clients who are less tech-savvy. It’s up to us, the Support Team, to help clients use their technology successfully and make the most of what they are paying for.

What do you enjoy most about your work in general?

I really enjoy being able to provide support to clients and our internal teams in a way that directly contributes to the success of our entire business. I like to be challenged and enjoy working with unusual technical issues that require an extra dose of creativity and outside-the-box thinking. I also like to take on a wide range of responsibilities and implement a methodical approach in my work, so that we can be effective as a team.

What have been your favorite S-NET projects so far?

I can’t say that I have any favorite projects. I really enjoy working with our Engineering Team on complex networking problems, because these collaborations truly help me expand my technical knowledge and skills. Since working at S-NET, I have grown a lot as a professional. I have become more disciplined and I manage my time much more effectively. I have become much better at customer service as well. My communication skills have improved dramatically, I am a better listener now and have a very positive outlook and attitude in general.

How do you unwind after a long day of work?

I enjoy playing with my kids. Time with them is very precious and I try to be a strong presence and influence in their lives as often as I can.

How do you like to spend your weekends?

I prioritize my family during weekends as well. But I also enjoy listening to heavy metal and spending time on the beach. I look forward to having a few beers with my friends when the pandemic is over.

 

 

S-NET Connect 6.0 is here!

We are excited to announce that S-NET Connect 6.0 is here! Significantly improved over its predecessors, S-NET Connect 6.0 includes a wide range of new features and functionality upgrades for Desktop and Mobile, as well as for call center Agent and Supervisor editions.

This new edition of our phone system software also sets the stage for the S-NET Connect Meeting module, an exciting new launch coming up in 2021.

Learn what’s new in S-NET Connect 6.0

 

 

4 Trends in That Will Shape Business Communications in 2021 and Beyond

2020 disrupted our lives and business communications in ways that we couldn’t have predicted. With the need to move entire organizations to remote work almost overnight, the technology adoption trends slowly unfolding in the workplace were accelerated tenfold by the Covid-19 pandemic. According to Satya Nadell, CEO of Microsoft, “we’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months”.

While there is still a lot that we don’t know about how 2021 will unfold, there is no doubt that this digital workplace transformation will continue. As organizations plan a gradual return to the office, they will be faced with new challenges to keeping their teams connected. Below are the 4 workplace communication trends that we will see in 2021 and beyond.

1. Remote work is here to stay.

Many business leaders were skeptical about the viability of full-time remote work. But when a global pandemic forced their hand to switch to telework, they saw real benefits. In addition to the cost savings of a reduced office space and busines continuity during a time of crisis, many organizations also experienced a measurable uptick in productivity. With no strenuous commute and a reduced number of meetings, employees in some industries were simply able to get more done. The option to work remotely is becoming the new norm and plays an influential role in attracting and keeping good talent. As a result, businesses across the country plan to continue offering full-time or part-time telecommuting opportunities long after the pandemic is over.

To keep a distributed workforce connected, we can expect to see a continued investment in communication and collaboration solutions. If they haven’t done so already, many organizations will have to migrate to cloud-based communications platforms, such as hosted VoIP and Unified Communication and Collaboration solutions. Services hosted in the cloud provide the flexibility that an increasingly remote workforce needs and keeps teams connected, regardless where they are located.

As employees continue to access corporate resources from home, remote access technologies that deliver mission-critical applications securely and reliably will be equally influential in 2021. Leading SD-WAN solutions that offer edge security on an end-user level and ensure that important applications function at peak performance for remote workers will see more widespread implementation. Enterprise mobility management strategies are also expected to include the minimization of human-caused security incidents by fostering a cyber risk-aware culture within the organization.

2. Businesses will have to meet the needs of a hybrid workforce.

With vaccinations underway, organizations are already preparing to gradually return some of their staff to the office. But whether they plan to return part of the staff full-time or all of the staff part-time, businesses will have to bridge the communication gap between in-office and home-based workers. Teams will continue using the technologies that they have gotten accustomed to during the pandemic and will likely bring newly acquired communications patterns back to the office. This will help facilitate communication between remote and in-office users. But it will not be nearly enough to keep all members of a team fully connected, particularly during in-person meetings.

Conferencing technology that engages both in-office and remote staff equally during meetings will take center stage in this transition. Ensuring that all team members can see the presentation, hear each other clearly and are visually present at least through videoconference can go a long way in helping them participate meaningfully. Businesses should invest in solid conference phones, screen sharing solutions, high quality audio and video equipment to facilitate strong meeting participation in 2021 and beyond.

3.Communication systems will be increasingly integrated.

Between all the communications tools they introduced before and after the pandemic, businesses returning to the office may experience application overload. This not only creates confusion for employees over which tool they need to utilize once they are back, but it is also costing organizations significantly.

Many businesses that invested in a meeting application in addition to their office phone system will be looking for ways to integrate capabilities into a unified communication and collaboration platform. Disparate systems will be increasingly replaced with a single enterprise communications service stack that includes web, audio, and video conferencing, unified messaging (fax, voicemail), instant messaging, presence, team collaboration and more. This not only simplifies communications for end users, but helps organizations ease management and save significantly.

Businesses that found value in the project management capabilities of their meeting tools can also reduce application overload by integrating them into a UCaaS ecosystem. Solution such as a VoIP-Microsoft Teams integration allows staff members to continue utilizing the collaboration and project management functionalities they have gotten used to during the pandemic, while also being able to place and receive calls straight out of their Teams interface. Adding the calling, advanced call routing and call reporting features of a VoIP phone system to their collaboration software will provide them with the best of both worlds.

4. Communication technology will help build company culture.

Remote work is expected to long outlast the pandemic, with some organizations even moving entire teams to permanent telecommuting. But working in isolation can have a significant negative impact on team culture and morale, as many employees report feeling disconnected and lonely when they work entirely from home. Feelings of isolation within a team can affect collaboration, trust, and even innovation, as the best ideas are often born out of relaxed, informal interactions. Creating a sense of belonging among team members despite geographical distance will be one of the biggest challenges companies will have to face this year.

While 2020 was all about technology investments that maximized productivity, in 2021 we anticipate a shift in organizational focus to team engagement. Many businesses will continue to utilize the same cloud communications platforms that enabled them to collaborate last year, but there will be significantly more emphasis on building and maintaining team engagement through virtual events – from virtual happy hours to birthday celebrations and online team buildings. Video conferencing will continue to be one of the best-suited tools to replace in-person interactions and can provide employees with some semblance to interpersonal connections.

 

The digital transformation and cloud migration accelerated during the pandemic will continue this year, as remote work is expected to shape the business communications landscape long term. But learning from the experiences of the past year, in 2021 more organizations are expected to invest in connecting their newly hybrid workforce, securing remote users, integrating disparate systems into unified, cloud communication platforms, and ensuring that team culture and morale are staying strong.

 

 

Augment Your Microsoft Teams Collaboration Suite with Advanced VoIP Features

Microsoft Teams has enabled many businesses to continue their work from home and stay operational during challenging circumstances. With its wide range or collaboration tools, it helped streamline workflows and kept employees connected. But despite its many benefits, Teams continues to have a few critical shortcomings. From external calling and advanced call routing to call reporting and support for IP phones, Teams fails to deliver key functionalities that many organizations rely on daily. Read how a VoIP Integration augments your staff’s ability to communicate in Teams and provides them with the advanced Cloud PBX functionalities they need to be efficient.

Place and Receive External Business Calls from Teams

Microsoft Teams provides businesses with a wide range of collaboration tools, but external calling is not one of them. If your staff communicates with clients, vendors and partners on a regular basis, Teams will likely not meet all their needs. A VoIP integration augments your employees’ communications with the ability to easily place, receive, hold, park and transfer external PSTN calls straight from their Microsoft Teams interface.

Streamline Your Operations with Advanced Call Routing

Many organizations like yours are relying on advanced routing features to manage incoming calls. You may route client calls to a voicemail inbox after hours, use call queues to streamline customer service, or rely on a Round Robin ring sequence to distribute leads among your Sales reps. But Microsoft Teams doesn’t provide these capabilities natively. A Teams-VoIP integration gives your staff the customized call routing functionalities they need to work efficiently straight out of their Teams account.

Easily Connect Desktop, Mobile, Phone and Fax Users

With Microsoft Teams, your staff can communicate from any desktop or mobile device. But what if they need to use desk phones, faxing, paging or wireless phones in a store or warehouse location? Teams doesn’t support analog devices or IP phones natively. But with a Teams-VoIP integration, you can connect all your users into a unified communication system, regardless what device they use.

Gain More Insight into Your Team’s Performance

Organizations that rely on advanced call reporting to measure Customer Service or Sales success will likely not have all their needs met by Microsoft Teams. The application lacks the call reporting features needed to measure key KPIs and fine-tune efforts. A VoIP Integration, on the other hand, gives you valuable insights into your team’s efforts, even as they place calls from Teams. Know if you are losing customers to long wait times, see how many calls your Sales team placed and assess staffing needs accurately.

Connect Customer Service and Sales to the Rest of the Organization

Customer and Sales teams often depend on advanced call center functionality to serve clients efficiently. But due to the limitations of Microsoft Teams, they are often relegated to using a completely different system than the rest of the organization. If your customer-facing staff needs to work in close collaboration with other teams, a VoIP Integration is the answer. Give them the leading-edge call center features they want while keeping them connected to their Teams-using peers.

Get Immediate Support During Emergencies

Microsoft software is high quality and quite reliable. But when issues occur, it may be tough to get quick answers and immediate support. When your mission-critical communications are down, know that you have a VoIP vendor who will resolve your issues quickly and efficiently.

 

Microsoft Teams lacks many of the functionalities that modern businesses rely on. But augmenting its collaboration features with advanced VoIP functionalities can go a long way in giving your staff the robust, unified communications and collaboration platform they need.

 

 

5 Ideas for a Fun Holiday Party over Videoconference

After an unconventional year that challenged us in more ways than we thought possible, we could all use a joyful company party to celebrate our successes and lift our spirits. But with more employees working remotely than ever before, traditional holiday parties may be out of reach. Not to worry! You can still inject some fun into your holiday season with a virtual celebration. Finding creative ways to celebrate together can go a long way in boosting company morale and end the year on a high note. Here are 5 fun ideas for a virtual holiday party.

Host a Company Awards Ceremony over Videoconference

If you like to award your staff for outstanding work, this is an important year to continue that tradition and provide them with a much-needed sense of normalcy this holiday season. You can acknowledge employee successes and contributions over video conference, send out PDF or mailed diplomas, and reward exceptional performance with online gift cards to give everyone a morale boost.

For a bit of extra fun, hand out a few creative awards as well. Your ‘multi-task champion’ or the person ‘most likely to be the first to join a video call’ will surely appreciate the recognition.

Invite Your Team to an Online Cooking, Baking or Mixology Class

We all know that holiday parties are just as much about good food and drinks as they are about building connections. But with in-person parties postponed, most teams will not be able to share a nice meal or have drinks together this year. So give your team the opportunity to enjoy a holiday-themed culinary experience together by organizing a virtual cooking, baking or mixology class for them.

There are many local restaurants who are currently offering these types of online classes, or you can have a volunteer from your team lead the activity. Keep your recipes simple and ensure that everyone has easy access to ingredients, whether you provide a shopping list ahead of time or mail everyone all the components they’ll need.

Incorporate Games in your Holiday Videoconference

Holiday-themed games are a fun way to jazz up any virtual party. You can organize a virtual scavenger hunt and ask team members to find holiday items around their homes. You can also compile a list of holiday-themed trivia questions and let your staff compete against each other. Or you can even organize a holiday version of the ‘Never Have I Ever’ game to find out who has regifted presents or tried to get a sneak peek of their gifts ahead of time. Just make sure you keep it clean!

Don’t Give Up on Holiday Gifting

Gifting is one of the most cherished traditions of the holiday season and many companies incorporate some version of it in their December team-building repertoire. Keep the tradition going by shipping gifts and hosting a virtual gift opening party.

You can keep things simple by sending your team a small care package with cookies, candy, cocoa, or other treats they will like, and enjoy them together over a video call. Or, if you want to keep your Secret Santa tradition going, consider limiting the gift exchange to virtual presents, such as online event tickets or gift cards.

Invite Your Staff to a Live Virtual Performance

With in-person events cancelled, many performing artists are now finding creative, alternative ways to do their work. Consider hiring performers who can translate their craft to a great virtual experience, and entertain your team with music, dancing or a comedy performance. Including good old-fashioned entertainment in your virtual holiday party will help loosen your team and create a fun atmosphere.

Tips for Making the Most of Your Virtual Holiday Party

  • Set time aside for non-structured conversation. This helps make up for all the watercooler chat your team has been missing out on. Give them some time during the party to connect in a relaxed atmosphere.
  • Keep celebrations inclusive. Sticking to a winter theme for all your games and entertainment will be fun for everyone, regardless what holidays they celebrate this month.
  • If possible, organize your party during regular work hours to avoid interruptions by family members.
  • Avoid scheduling too many calls for the day of the event. Video conference fatigue is real and you don’t want your team to show up burned out.
  • Don’t forget to have fun and let loose a bit. We all had an incredibly challenging year and could use some nice social time to connect with colleagues!

 

A virtual party may not be your first choice, but it’s a great way to stay connected and celebrate with each other. With a little creativity, it’s possible to find ways to engage your staff, build bonds, maintain company culture and create a sense of normalcy around the holidays.

 

Meet Justin Jawor, Sales Team Lead

How long have you been with S-NET?

I joined S-NET’s Sales Team on December 26, 2018 – the day after Christmas.

How did you choose this career path?

I discovered my affinity for sales at Northern Illinois University while studying for my bachelor’s degree in Marketing. At the time, I was part of a student organization called AIESEC, the largest student-run organization in the world. Our faculty advisor, the Chairman of the Board of Advisors and members of our chapter saw my talents talking with people and recommended that I try out sales. Once I started, I never looked back. I became the top salesman in the United States for AIESEC and later got a certificate in business-to-business sales as well at NIU. I have been selling since I was 19 years old!

Where did you work before joining S-NET?

I held various Sales and Account Management roles in my career. My previous corporate sales position was with a software firm called BLUE Software, later acquired by Esko. BLUE Software is a platform that helps CPG businesses with the management of labeling and brand packaging. After BLUE, I took a sabbatical to focus on my acting, writing, and comedy pursuits while working at a high-end cocktail bar in the Gold Coast. But I quickly realized that the lifestyle was not for me and I decided to return to sales.

What are your primary responsibilities at S-NET?

I work with potential clients every day. I help businesses move to a solution that will allow them focus on their core business and not have to worry about their communications anymore.

I also serve as a Team Lead for the Enterprise Sales Team, so my responsibilities include not only prospecting, selling, and closing business myself, but I am also helping the rest of our sales team hit their goals through training and support. I am happy to have this opportunity.

What are the most rewarding aspects of your work?

I like helping people. Clients want their vendors to listen to them, ensure that things work and fix them quickly when needed. We do that at S-NET. Helping to be part of that process for people is rewarding. When I hear my clients come onboard and realize what a great team they have now to take care of them, it helps me feel motivated to keep going.

What are the most challenging aspects of your work?

Teaching clients about our products and services and helping them figure out a solution that will work best for them is sometimes challenging, because there are so many variables and factors involved. But when we find the one that makes the biggest impact on their business, it’s a great feeling.

Are there any accomplishments that you are particularly proud of?

Being promoted to Enterprise Sales Team Lead, which was quite unexpected. It left me with a great sense of appreciation that upper management and my team believed in me, and trusted that I could take on this level of responsibility. This new role has allowed me to learn more about managerial decisions and tasks. I hope to continue to learn in this role and advance my skills in the next few years.

What exciting projects are you most looking forward to at S-NET?

We are currently working on developing a sales training program here at S-NET which I am spearheading. This type of project is something that I really enjoy. I am excited to roll it out to our existing team and new hires.

What do you enjoy the most about working here, with this team?

Everyone at S-NET is professional, friendly, and skilled. Our team has the knowledge and wherewithal to complete projects quickly and efficiently and it is a pleasure to work with people who want to get things done the right way. In addition, our entire team is welcoming and very open. I have really enjoyed getting to know people and have been pleasantly surprised at how fun everyone is!

How do you unwind after a long day at the office?

Well, under COVID times, I am spending a lot of time at home. I read, watch movies, play computer games or chess online. I like to cook, so I enjoy making meals for myself and others when I can.

Before COVID hit, I was doing comedy, acting, writing and producing my own short films and comedy sketches. I ran a YouTube channel and a podcast, and I hope to do so again once things return to some sort of normalcy. I just moved into a new apartment and I am excited to build out my home studio for my show.

I am also a huge Chicago sports fan. I would prefer ‘DA BEARS’ to be doing better this year, but I stay loyal anyway.

What is one thing most of your coworkers and clients don’t know about you?

I played soccer in Brazil and was really quite good. I almost went beyond college soccer.

 

Thankful to Serve | by Alex Fayn, CEO

2020 has been a challenging year for all of us, as businesses across the U.S. struggled to adjust to new circumstances, keep their teams safe and stay operational. The battle against Covid-19 is still not over, and some predict that part of the economic fallout is yet to come. But even in the midst of a global pandemic, there is still so much that I am thankful for.

It has been incredibly rewarding to be able to serve our customers during this challenging time and empower their businesses to quickly adjust to volatile circumstances. As an essential service provider, S-NET was able to operate throughout the pandemic and support the transition of our clients to remote work. The infrastructure investments we made in the last few years paid off tremendously as we seamlessly transitioned and onboarded a record number of remote users. In a lot of ways, this year felt like the challenge we have all been training for at S-NET.

I am also incredibly thankful for our team. Keeping our staff safe and intact were my top priorities as the Covid-19 crisis hit, and I am thrilled that we haven’t had to let go or furlough a single person due to the pandemic. In fact, we have added to our team to ensure that we are keeping up with our clients’ needs and are providing them with the best possible care. The S-NET team’s years of remote work experience helped make onboarding new employees and bringing them up to speed a smooth process and kept everyone safe.

I know that the pandemic will not vanish any time soon, and neither will its human or economic impact. But through it all, I am thankful. Thankful for a business that can serve its customers without interruptions, a full team working under safe conditions, and a new office space that empowers us to grow. I am also grateful that my family is healthy and protected, and I look forward to spending some quality time at home this Thanksgiving.

I hope that you will have the opportunity to connect with your loved ones and enjoy some much needed moments of peace this unusual holiday season. I wish you all a very happy and safe Thanksgiving!

 

Video Conference Fatigue is Real. Learn How to Avoid It.

Infographic - Avoid Video Conferencing Fatigue

Meet Kimberly Zacharkiewicz, Director of Finance

Director of Finance, Kimberly Zacharkiewicz joined the S-NET Team in December, 2019. Kim enjoys streamlining procedures, implementing changes and is motivated by delivering accurate and timely results. In her first few months at S-NET, she has already transformed several of S-NET’s internal processes. In her free time, Kim loves hanging out with her family, traveling with her husband and discovering local breweries wherever they go. Can you guess which TV show she likes to binge-watch after a long day of work?

What motivated you to choose this career path?

I fell in love with this field in high school, when I took an accounting class and loved it. I had a great teacher, but it also just fit my personality. I received my Bachelor’s in Accounting from Roosevelt University in Chicago in 1991. It’s been a lot of years since that first class and I still love what I do.

Where did you work before joining S-NET?

I spent the prior 5 years as Vice President of Finance and Administration for MultiTaction, a Finnish developer of advanced collaboration and visualization solutions. I also served as Vice President of Finance and Administration for 7 years with Capital Building Services Group and for 17 years with Ciorba Group, Inc. The basic responsibilities remained the same throughout my career, but the industries were quite different.

Tell us a little about your work at S-NET.

I currently oversee S-NET’s finances, including our billing, cash-flow, budgeting, accounting, banking, taxes, human resources and insurance. Much of my work here has been project based. I’ve spent a lot of my time finding ways to improve processes and implementing changes. Being able to create better processes and more accurate and timely results is probably what motivates me the most in my work.

What do you enjoy the most about your work?

I enjoy having routines that I can depend on, such as a monthly accounting cycle ending with financial statements. But I also like that there is an aspect of variety in my work, because no two days are ever the same! Everyone at S-NET truly works as a team and is very helpful and respectful of each other, which makes my work more enjoyable.

What have been your biggest challenges?

Being new to Telecom, my biggest challenge at S-NET was learning the industry. There was a lot to take in as far as our products and services, taxation, customers and our systems. Already I feel that I have grown tremendously and I anticipate much more growth to come.

I have also brought on 2 new team members in the short time I have been here. Onboarding and training new team members during a pandemic came with its own unique challenges. But we were able to get them up to speed successfully in a short amount of time.

What have been some projects you are particularly proud of?

Initiating Bill.com as our AP processing tool has been one of my favorite projects so far. It saves us a considerable amount of time and money each month and ensures that our vendor invoices are properly reviewed and paid electronically.

We also just released our Partner Commissions Gateway. This project had been slated to be done long before I joined.  Although it took some time to get this accomplished, we have successfully launched it. It will give our channel partners insights into their customer installations and status of their commissions.

My next big project will be planning and developing our 2021 budget. This will be my first year going through this process for S-NET and I’m excited!

How do you unwind after a long day of work?

Lately, I have been binge watching old seasons of Survivor.

How do you like to spend your time off?

I love to read and travel. My husband and I love finding small local breweries to visit whenever we go.

I also prioritize family and spend as much of my free time as I can with my granddaughter. I enjoy reading to her, whether in person or over Zoom. I am really excited about meeting my second grand-child due to arrive in 2021!

I recently got to enjoy the marriage of my oldest son to my beautiful new daughter-in-law. Although the wedding was delayed and not quite the one originally planned, it turned out to be the perfect small, back-yard event.

 

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