Technology

Updating your PABX system – promotes effective communication

A private automated business exchange phone system is the essential operational hub of any business but even more so for accommodation owners and managers.

Those of you at the forefront of the industry are well aware of just how important it is that your phone system has the features required to meet your guest’s expectations. We live in a very unforgiving customer service age where issues such as unanswered messages, confusing auto prompts, long wait times and poor call quality will not just leave a bad taste in your guests’ mouths but you know that they will go elsewhere in the blink of an eye and write a bad review on an Internet site for good measure!

To be blunt you have one chance to get this right – first impressions definitely count – especially in this industry. Research shows that 85% of customers would stop doing business with a company after experiencing poor customer service just once. When things go wrong, guests do not hesitate to take their business elsewhere because their time is valuable and they deserve to be treated with respect. If you are part of the accommodation industry you will know how important excellent customer service is; promoting fast and effective guest interactions increases customer satisfaction and keeps your guests coming back.

It is essential for all businesses to explore the current advances in communication to capture their attention, improve your customer service and attempt to reduce your operating costs. Most accommodation providers currently use a PABX system to make connections among the internal telephones (guest rooms or apartments) and to also connect to a public switched telephone network (PSTN, which is a standard telephone line) these systems also incorporate telephones, fax machines and modems.

Guests are able to use the telephone from their room to contact reception or to make external calls; guests are charged for these calls. Generally it has been the practice to charge the guest substantially more for these calls than it would cost for them to use their own mobile phone and so guest use of the PABX system has dropped dramatically.

Jim Keegan is the national dealer manager from Hybrex, a business telephone system specialists that for over twenty years has been designing and producing products that satisfy the communications needs of businesses throughout Australia. He notes that, “Due to the majority of guests now using their own mobile phones to make calls they have stopped using hospitality telephone systems.”

The decline in the use of guest room telephones has encouraged a number of accommodation providers to remove their in-room telephone systems altogether. Mr Keegan believes that this is a real shame and not only a missed opportunity for income but a short fall in customer service, believing that some guests still expect an in-room telephone to be provided. There is also a safety issue to consider an in-room telephone allows a guest to make emergency calls when a mobile is unavailable. He believes that if accommodation providers were able to charge smaller fees (match or undercut mobile phone charges) then guests would return to using the in-room telephone system.

One way of reducing the cost is for you to consider the rapidly evolving VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) technology. If you have never heard of VoIP, you are about to change the way you think about long-distance phone calls. VoIP is a method for taking analog audio signals and turning them into digital data that is subsequently transmitted over the Internet. VoIP turns a standard Internet connection into a way to place much cheaper phone calls. It is a revolutionary technology that has the potential to completely rework the way world’s phone systems are used. The practical upshot is that you are using VoIP software to make Internet phone calls and by doing this, bypassing the phone network and its charges.

Quality VoIP technology is now available for businesses and it is especially beneficial for hospitality venues as it can be used for income generation. VoIP calls are technically free but they can be re-sold to guests at a nominal rate – below mobile rates – this can offset accommodation provider’s telephone system/broadband charges. Mr Keegan does warn though that VoIP technology requires sufficient Internet bandwith to work well and his advice is, “always to trial the technology first.”

The National Broadband Network certainly needs to evolve further! That is a whole other article but you do need to ensure that your coverage is not only sufficient but you also must have enough data.

Using VoIP technology can be beneficial in many ways as it improves call forwarding and allows your guests to be quickly directed to the appropriate place. It has features that connect your employee’s desk phone to any web-enabled device, calls can be routed from the business line to your employees smart phones, tablets, laptops or desktop computers, ensuring that every call will reach its intended party the first time. This guarantees that you never miss a call from any guest – customer service at its best.

A powerful call management solution can be integrated into business VoIP and can help to identify calling patterns, pinpoint areas for improvement and develop strategies to better manage calls.

The technology also allows calls to be recorded and stored in the cloud for monitoring.

This could set the standard for the quality of service that guests receive from your business and ultimately help develop strategies to improve call management and therefore improve customer service. Incredibly, VoIP systems can also be programmed to transfer voicemails directly to your email. Implementing such a system could drastically reduce the chances of missed calls and misunderstandings. High definition audio will also improve voice clarity and other business features such as call recording will result in more accurate business calls and improve communication dramatically.

If you are considering an upgrade of your current PABX system you may want to look at smart technology IP-PABX, which is developing at a rapid pace. The hospitality industry seems to be working towards the integration of smart technology across the whole gamut. If you already have a property management system or are considering the installation of one you will know that all your systems need to be able to “talk” and so a broader overview of the technologies used in your business may need to be discussed with an expert provider. Most importantly it is essential that any telephone system upgrades you consider have the capability to use VoIP in the future.

It seems as though the adoption of VoIP technology promises seamless connectivity amongst your guests and certainly provides the service levels they deserve. It also has the potential to generate an income where income has been lost to the widespread use of mobile phones. The installation of VoIP technology should be seriously considered because its benefits are considerable but if this seems a like huge step to take and you are unsure of your broadband capabilities, Mr Keegan has a solution for you: “You can choose a system which only partially uses VoIP.”

This solution, it seems may give you the savings to your call charges that you want but also gives you the opportunity to trial the technology alongside the familiarity of your old system. Indeed the idea of maintaining the use of your existing phone sets, while moving to an IP-PABX system has many benefits. The software allows for the analog phones, new IP phones, existing voice mail, billing applications and IP applications all to work together. This allows the accommodation provider use of its existing data network alongside VoIP, creating a smooth transition.

Recent developments in technology have touched all aspects of life and the Internet has changed the way we think about and do business. The hospitality industry in particular is being drastically affected by the changes. Telephone services were once an industry revenue raiser and profit generator but now need to be seen as an investment in good customer service.

Traditional telephone systems will move toward an Internet based solution and as an industry we should embrace the new, be ahead of the game, put our best foot forward and ensure that our guests receive the best that we can give.

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