Archive for tips and advice

Dropped calls: Causes and Solutions

dropped callsIn my 30 + years in the telecommunication industry, one problem I have seen consistently are issues where the end of a phone call might be interpreted not as a drop, but as a deliberate act with one party becoming offended.

So let’s take a look at the causes and some solutions.

By and large the most common cause of dropped calls that my company has seen are due to problems with older phone systems that still are using copper  phone lines or similar. Such problems existed  in 1919 and still do in  2019.  In recent years problems with calls originating to or coming from cell phones have increasingly been contributing to problems with dropped calls.
One of the ironies of the dramatic improvement in cell phone service quality is that since one can rarely tell when another party is on cell phone or a  landline or VOIP line resulting landline or VOIP carriers getting the  blame for dropped calls that are in fact caused by cell phones.  The slight upside to this is that folks these days are less likely to assume  an abrupt end to a call is a deliberate act on the part of the caller.

Other causes of dropped calls include:

a) electrical power problems.

b) internet carrier or related IT problems.

c) user error, in which case it becomes an “accidental or deliberate disconnect” and not a dropped call.

d) on older non VOIP systems component issues.

e) user issues often related to persons new to the phone system.

On  VOIP systems however.., the problems most times are not due to phone carrier carrier  or issues or the equipment but  one of 4 things;

  1. inadequate internet bandwidth – in which case a simple upgrade in speed will often solve the problem.
  2. Issues related the your internet service provider. These issues can usually be corrected pretty easily by contacting the customer or technical support department of your internet service provider. When contacting them include asking them to make sure everything in your carrier provided modem is set to allow, give priority to and/or not bloc SIP signals. In the rare times we have seen such calls not completely solve the problem we have found that insisting the carrier replace their modem has solved the issue.
  3. Make sure your ethernet switch or ( if you have a private router) is upgraded to the latest gigabyte technology and speeds.
  4. Talk to an  IT professional about providing a thorough check of your IT system for viruses. Viruses can infect a computer and/or computer network at any time. Many virus can take up massive amounts of bandwidth on even the fastest of internet circuits and by doing so play havoc with your IP phones!

The best way to avoid dropped calls is through the use of the modern business telephone system.

On older phone systems, if a component is about to go bad  dropped calls would be one of the problems one could experience.  If it is not a problem with the systems components  things that will cause a call to drop on a modern “land-line” system include a loss of electrical power and carrier issues. Switching to a VOIP system improves greatly the chances of this not occurring – but does not eliminate completely the potential for this problem to occur

So, what to do when you experience a dropped call:

  • Immediately make a note of the phone number dropped, and the time of the dropped call
  • Call the dropped party back, apologize for the interruption and inform them that the drop was a technical problem, not a deliberate act.
  • If you have internet based (VOIP) phone service contact your  local internet  service carrier and create a service ticket.  In most cases your Internet provider can help  especially if provided the above information. As noted in this article earlier  in some cases you may need to insist they replace your/their modem.

If over  a period of several months you continue to experience dropped calls on a regular basis, consider changing local phone or internet service carriers.  Most often  however today’s carriers are very good at identifying  and fixing these issues.  As bothersome as these things are be  patient with your phone or internet carrier since it may take several reported incidents before they can clearly identify  and get a handle why this is happening.

If  ongoing  issues with dropped call  is getting especially frustrating – hang in there!  A solution can almost always be found! In the meantime consider taking a break and firing up a Jimmy Buffett tune on your computer or smartphone  until things finally get resolved!

Problems with dropped calls have been around the since the days of Alexander Bell. As good as our modern communications infrastructure is, I don’t expect them to go away anytime soon.  Take the advice I’ve given you here, and you’ll find the problem to be less pervasive, and frustrating.

How to Protect Your Phones & IT Equipment During a Hurricane

Especially during hurricanes and tropical storms, many companies spend unnecessary amounts of money recovering from lightning and other storm related power surges, any of which can fry equipment beyond repair, rather than a much smaller amount to avoid equipment damage altogether.

Harmful Spikes
To help ensure that your phones and other related equipment remain undamaged by hurricane-related surges, here are some tips that might help:

  1. Battery Backup/UPS everything. 
    This includes copiers, phones routers, internet modems, routers, switches; even the boxes provided by your internet and phone carriers need to be connected to a UPS battery backup unit. If you have TV’s in your office that go through the same cable equipment as your internet carrier, put UPS’s on those too. A POWER SURGE NEEDS ONLY TO FIND ONE WEAKNESS IN YOUR SURGE SUPPRESSION TO BLOW OUT ..,EVERYTHING.

  2. Surge suppress your old style phone lines for not just phones, but also alarms & faxes.
    And do this even if they are supplied by your internet carrier. There are fuse like devices that your phone lines can be routed through that – if they work properly – will take the power hit before the surge hits your phones, fax machines or alarm systems.

  3. Don’t depend on surge strips.
    Folks spend $10 – $15 each on 6 or 8 plug strips and think they are protected. Fact is in my 35+ years in this business, there was not one incident in which power surge strips actually stopped a surge.power strip
    Use a UPS battery backup instead. If you like you can plug the power strip into a UPS UPS unit and sue the power strip that way – depending on what your local fire code permits.

  4. Use the resources provided by your electric/power company.
    Many companies have some very affordable plans to put into place a system that will protect your whole office or building.  Or…
     
  5. Consult  a licensed electrician.
    Although your phone vendor, IT company and others can do a lot to help you minimize the risk of power surges damaging your electronic office equipment, a highly qualified electrician is the best resource for you to protect your entire office at once – including your air conditioner & other appliances

  6. Finally turn it off and unplug “everything from everything”…
    …including disconnecting devices from  internet power and phones lines. If you dont want to to lose it unplug it!  Especially during weekends, power outletvacations or holidays. Sure it’s a pain in the neck to turn on and reconnect everything when you have returned but put simply, electric surges can’t hit and damage something to which there is no connection.

Tips for Fixing VOIP Voice Quality Problems

While the majority of folks we speak to love the high quality, low cost and technological benefits of VOIP phone service,  we do run across folks that have some issues with the voice quality of it (although admittedly it happens rarely).
For those very few folks, here are some tips on how to address those issues:VOIP solutions

  1. Call your VOIP Service provider
    Less than 10% of sound quality issues we have seen with VOIP phone service are due to issues with the VOIP carrier itself, and we have found these carriers often have excellent tools to help you figure out where to look for the cause or causes of your sound quality issues;
  2. Try increasing your internet speed
    Because there are cases when either the listed internet speed in practice is not what you are getting or because you are using more bandwidth than you realize, trying  1 month at a higher internet speed might turn out to be a quick and easy fix.
  3. Make sure your office is set up to give internet priority to your VOIP
    The technical term for this is QOS. It simply means that any incoming or outgoing VOIP signals are given top priority over all other types of  emails, video etc. you might be sharing with your VOIP signal.  Start by checking with your Internet Service Provider to see if they can help you with this;
  4. Check your IP phones and computers cablescables
    If the building you are in is 5 or more years old, the cables may simply not be able to handle the higher amounts of traffic going over them (this is something JHB can help with);
  5. Have your Internet Service Provider replace your modem
    Older modems or ones with minor technical flaws in them can cause real problems with VOIP phone service. In most cases the carrier will  swap out your modem at no charge;
  6. Consider switching internet carriers
    Now and again for some reason a given internet service provider in spite of their best efforts simply can’t get the job done right at a specific location. Don’t fight it. Make the change and move on;IT tech
  7. Involve an IT Professional
    They can make sure all of the VOIP signals coming to and from the carrier are flowing as cleanly as possible. They can also give you good advice as to when its time to “give up the ghost” and switch internet service providers.

Finally VOIP technology is arguably the best thing to happen to business phone service since the advent of the multi-line business phone back in the 1930’s and 40’s.
Give it a clean and effective internet platform to work from and it will serve you well now, and for many years to come.

Is a Hosted System is Right for Your Business?

Hosted phone systems are the latest technology that, just like the newest IPhone/Smartphone, are designed to give you more features and capacity.  But still, would one be the right fit for your business?

To help you make a determination, I’ve outlined the basics of these systems from what they are to what they offer.

A hosted phone system has its processing components in the cloud vs. a traditional phone system where the main cloud-based-phone-systemintelligence for it is located on premise using a CPU, KSU or PBX.

The most prominent features of these systems:

  • A hosted phone system is more dependable than a traditional phone system; since it is cloud based, incoming calls can always be answered even if your office loses power or internet service
  • The phones used with this type of service have more in common with a laptop or smartphone than they do the older style standard office phone – with all the benefits (see next bullet)
  • Systems offer features not found in the older, traditional phones such as call-transfer to phones Polycom 600outside of the system, like staffs’ cell phones or other offices – standard phones do not have this capacity; phones have incoming caller ID, voicemail with auto-attendant, and message on hold capacity
  • This service has no expensive feature upgrades, so when that time comes for you, all upgrades are handled by the carrier and are at no extra cost
  • Most cloud-based phone service providers offer free phones when you sign up
  • Phone clarity with these systems is far superior to traditional phones: for example, when you’re on speaker with traditional phones it’s obvious, and annoying for the person on the line; hosted phones’ speakers are the same quality as holding the receiver to your ear
  • If the above sounds interesting but not compelling, this may just do it for you: services start as low as $60/mo for a three person office

The businesses that won’t benefit from this state-of-the-art system/phones are:

  • Warehouses
  • Any business with no high speed internet
  • Cell phone only based businesses

Finally, many established providers handle these cloud based systems, so you have a choice of service carriers.  But, when considering a switch to a hosted phone system, be wary of:

  • Landline carriers offering to bring in a separate box of their own; this is not a true switch but a stop-gap measure – say no thank you
  • Fly by night hosted carriers – of the 100 carriers I recently found in a google search, maybe 6 were really good ones.
    Contact me directly for a list of carrier my company has screened and can highly recommend.

Callers Who Can’t Reach Someone Go Elsewhere…

Occasionally I’ll be asked to name the single most important thing a business can do to improve their office’s external communications.

My reply to them is always the same:
Simple. Make sure your callers can easily get to a live person.”

This answer surprises people but – it shouldn’t. Here’s why:

  • In our experience up to 80% of folks who call a business or non-profit for the first time and encounter a busy signal or voice-mail call elsewhere
  • Over 90% of those same folks won’t leave a message in voice mail
  • Up to 70% of repeat callers won’t leave a voice mail message
  • Up to 75% feel they haven’t reached “a real business”
  • Busy signals especially indicate management doesn’t care about people calling their office.

Even more interesting – if you ask business owners or managers with offices that don’t answer phones with a live person, if they are looking to both grow their business and deliver excellent customer service, all will say yes….

And, the biggest handicap to fixing this problem is not money or resources but the simple mindset of denial. What I call the “yes but we’re different or special so this doesn’t apply to me or my company” syndrome

I also hear:

  • A lot of our customers communicate with us by email (because you’re compelling them to do so…)
  • Our customers are “used to” reaching us by leaving messages instead of speaking to us live…(because you leave them no other choice; not a good business practice…)
  • Our customers don’t really need to reach us by phone that often (you give customers a phone number for a reason, yes?)

Most importantly:

The best time to show a caller that yours is the type of quality business with which they can trust to invest their time and money is when the caller has the time to do so…which is when they call you! …And get a recording?!  Or are forced to send you an email?

The good news: any business that feels like “they are too busy” to answer their phones by a live person is probably a fairly successful business!

The bad news: they are missing easy opportunities to grow their business and improve their customer service.

Back to more good news: this is easily done by implementing procedures to ensure incoming calls are answered by a live person, such as:

  • call queuing
  • automatic call distribution
  • delayed ring to mobile phones
  • phone system call apps for mobile phones

These are just some of the many very affordable capabilities that are available to get businesses off desk/cell phone voice mails and other customer alienators so that they can enjoy the growth and excellent customer service that reaching a live person by phone can provide.

The solutions are there. A small amount of time taken to explore & implement those that best fit your business will reap you many happy returns.

If you want help finding and setting up phone answering options to fit your company’s needs, call me @813-276-1666/toll free 866-459-7266 – or, if you prefer, email me directly at johnb@jhbtele.com