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Technology can make SME’s the new super achievers

IP PBX technology enables sophisticated cost effective systems that give the SME the communications power of much larger organisations

There are over 18,000 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in T&T. They are a wellspring of economic activity, a critical source of employment and innovation and also account for 85 per cent of registered businesses.  As if that were not enough, when you are an owner of a SME you can find yourself being the captain, the cook and the bottle washer. Balancing the scales of running a business and keeping up productivity and efficiency on a tight budget with lots of competition is absolutely essential.  No two SME’s are alike. The industries they operate in are diverse and include finance; manufacturing, transport, consultancy, technology, retail and the list goes on. The staff comprises different types of employees, some who work from home, some at the office, in the field and so there is no one-size-fits all solution to meet the needs of each company. Fortunately technology can move an SME from underdog to “king of the hill” and they don’t have to bust the bank to do it.

Say Private Branch Exchange, or PBX as it is commonly known and people’s eyes roll back into their heads. That is, people who don’t realise how tremendously advanced today’s Internet Protocol – based systems (IP PBX) really are.   How advanced are they? Think of video calling, telecommuting, mobile and internet integration and more people connected. Now picture all of this costing less than traditional ways of putting these services together. The real game changer is that the systems are so much easier for an SME to operate but there is also back up support from vendors like TSTT.

Even the image of a PBX system being a series of physical phones in an office has changed. Now, SME’s need not rely on physical phones (although the new ones are very high tech). Soft-Phone software turns your laptop or desktop into your phone extension where you have all your contacts and can dial or answer video calls from right on your computer screen.  What about working from home? With more employees empowered to work from home and on the field, space acquired by renting or building for the SME can be greatly reduced. IP PBX connectivity can put secure, reliable access points right in the homes of employees. For field staff wireless, protected links give them office access from on the road. In both cases contacting these personnel is as simple as dialling their four or five digit extension and paying nothing for the calls! The same holds true if the SME wants physical offices in different locations in the country. The IP PBX and underlying network at TSTT connects them as though they were offices in the same building for voice or video calls that are also free.

There are lots of cool features that you couldn’t dream of doing on the old-school PBX but IP PBX’s make it possible. Believe it or not, you could be on a call on your IP PBX extension and the call can be seamlessly transferred to your mobile if you need to continue the call while going out. The same works in reverse if you got the call on your mobile on your way to work that you want to continue when you get to the office.

There is a contact centre application that allows the SME to track how many employees are on calls and stealthily join the call to add to the discussion or to just listen in but use Instant Messaging to share information privately with the staff member on the call. Missed calls are also a thing of the past with the One Number Access on this system. One Number Access puts all of the numbers you would like to be contacted on, into a prioritized calling chain. When a customer calls one number, if the call is not unanswered, the system automatically directs it to the office extension, then to a mobile phone and to a direct line (or any order the SME chooses)  until someone answers the call. If the call is still unanswered then it is sent to voicemail. The great thing is the system then creates an e-mail message that is sent to the phone’s owner with an audio file of the voicemail attached. How cool is that!

Another really great thing about IP PBX systems is that they can be integrated with the smartphones and tablets of today which make it even easier to integrate employees on the system. 

Recently, TSTT launched Session Initiated Protocol (SIP) trunking to allow customers the flexibility of adding and subtracting the digital equivalent of phone lines at a moment’s notice. SIP trunking customers no longer have the undesirable wait for the installation of extra lines as it can facilitate up to 100 lines on an IP PBX system. Even better still costs were shown to be reduced by thirty to forty percent. These cost benefits arise from the advantages of a secure private Ethernet network fully managed by TSTT and calls between geographic locations are free. Also, a special group can be created connecting the mobile phones of employees so that mobile calls among the SME owners and their staff are free.

So while changes in the economic climate means SME’s have to be more vigilant, technology can help them adapt to the times with extremely versatile connections for less, ensuring that in the end they do not have to compromise on the quality of service to their customers.