Ellen Muraskin

Writer of high-tech stories in low-tech, punchy prose. I work on both sides of the technology press/content marketing divide, specializing in IT, Telecom, Retail/Hospitality Tech, Mobile, Cloud.

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The Death of Auto Attendant

"Please listen carefully to the following options, as our menu has recently changed."

Here's a phrase you've been hearing since soon after the auto attendant was invented, circa 1989. You certainly don't listen carefully, if at all, since the menu hasn't likely changed since the last office manager left. You just hope the phone navigation will be simple, the "next available" agent intelligible, and the hold time brief; less time than it takes you to turn on speakerphone, resume what you were doing previously, and hop on a train of thought going elsewhere.

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Topics: webphone, instaphone, SMB Leadership, instacall

SIP Video Calling: Ten Years Later

Ten years ago today, our telegenic CEO & Co-Founder, Mike Oeth, blogged about OnSIP's support for video calling. Then as now, any OnSIP customer with a video-capable VoIP phone could make video calls as easily as voice-only ones. Since then, this has become more accessible through better bandwidth and codecs, but most importantly, the increase in video-capable endpoints.

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Topics: Business Technology, Office Management, SMB Leadership

Great Moments in Video Conferencing: Healthcare Visitation

Olivia De Santos, visiting nurse with South Atlantic Health System, now has seven stops to make on her route through Boca Raton's Century Village on Thursdays. She's got vitals to take from seven 80-and 90-something seniors in three buildings, as shown on the map of the health system's dispatch and data collection app, running on her Surface Pro tablet.

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Topics: Business Technology, SMB Leadership

Great Moments in Video Conferencing: Real Estate Meetings & Tours

Paula Ravin, real estate agent, starts her Tuesday workday by clicking on a link she's populated into every 8:30 am Tuesday slot on her Google calendar: it's the weekly update she attends virtually with four colleagues at Winston-Kemmerman Realty. She can see them all, with their company-logoed coffee mugs, reporting from the office on Broad Street or from their home offices.

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Topics: Business Technology, SMB Leadership, Office Management

Great Moments in Video Conferencing: Parent-Teacher Meetings

Ms. Van Etten, sixth grade teacher at Intermediate School 102, sits down for her seventh parent-teacher conference of the evening -- via video call. It's not a technical stretch: the calls are initiated via a link sent out to the parents along with their timeslot. There's nothing to download; she's just logged into a web interface awaiting Ms. Brown's call.

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Topics: Business Technology

Offer Your Callers the Choice of Video... and Be Prepared to Answer Them

In the previous post, we outlined some of the best use cases for video-enabled customer service; applications that require a special level of trust and reassurance, like telehealth monitoring, financial services/tax prep, and tutoring.

We'd go a step further and note that even certain e-commerce scenarios -- those whose products or services are complex or costly -- are helped by look-me-in-the-eye customer service. This is something e-commerce merchants can test for themselves, using Google Analytics and correlating call-me or video-call-me button-click events with purchases and sales totals.

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Topics: Business Technology, SMB Leadership

The Case for Video Customer Service: When Should Your Agents Show Their Faces?

In 2018 we will start to see more businesses adopt video calling as part of their omni-channel customer service. Should yours be one of them?

Given that a) most laptops are equipped with cameras nowadays, b) even desktop computers typically sport add-on webcams, and c) most callers have video-ready bandwidth, this is not a decision that calls for capital investment. At least not for OnSIP queued-calling customers, for whom inbound video call distribution is a mere drop-down choice, along with voice-only. The right question is, is yours a business that should encourage callers to communicate with video as well as voice?

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Topics: SMB Leadership, Business Technology

Why It's Necessary to Update Your Phone's Firmware

Remember the twentieth-century business phone? It had light-up buttons for different lines, and you could transfer calls if you knew the right flash-hook-and-button sequence, but that phone was dumb. It had virtually no brains or memory. No screens, caller ID, directories or call logs.

Many years passed; the rotary dial went the way of Fischer-Price, and business phones got smart. Some features we learned to love: Bluetooth headsets, busy lights, speed dials, directories, call logs, and speaker settings, not to mention high-definition phone quality. Some were functions, like transfer, that LED screens finally made easy enough to use.

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Topics: Business Technology, SMB Leadership

Video conferencing Services, Part II: Free Options for Casual Meetings

If you're making a long-distance presentation to business prospects, doing a remote deposition or webinar, you should probably go for the crisper audio, sharper video and fancier controls of a business-grade, paid video conferencing service

But say you're a small business or a department looking for something more like casual-Friday conferencing: You want to meet with two or three dispersed coworkers to get real work done, huddling over a shared screen or document or recording a brainstorming session. While you have to hear clearly, pass the mike around and clearly see the document or demo, you don't need to accommodate a Brady Bunch matrix of talking heads or be able to tell whether Steven shaved that morning.

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Topics: Business Technology, video conference, video call

Video conferencing Services, Part I: When (and when not) to Pay, How to Choose

Video conferencing (VC) won its business case decades ago. Today working people of all stripes are more than willing to sit before cameras, talk to screens and remote-share desktops for the chance to stay off planes and out of airports.

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Topics: Business Technology, video conference