Montana businesses have invested thousands of dollars in new technology to keep up with competition and consumer demand for faster service. What frequently is missing in this investment is adequate training of personnel to take advantage of all the features of new equipment. The cost of workers not knowing how to fully use new equipment can be significant.
How many people are using all of the features available on the average cell phone? Most are using the phone for sending and receiving messages. They may know how to change the ringing tones. At best, they may use Caller ID and Voice Mail. Yet, even many of the most basic cell phones are rich in advanced features such as speed dial, last number redial, phone and email directory, speakerphone, 2-way web browser, calculator, alarm, radio, and voice recorders. Higher end phones duplicate PDA (personal digital assistant) features and include email, Microsoft software applications, and infrared ports, to name a few. Think of how much more effective outside sales reps, engineers, architects, real estate agents, insurance reps and many other business professionals could become just by using the technology that they have already invested in.
Neglecting to provide ongoing training and make appropriate programming changes for existing telephone systems is another costly mistake that many businesses tend to make. An average 20-station phone system will cost roughly $10,000.00 and yet employees frequently are trained only once when the phone system is installed and as new employees come on board, training is neglected entirely. Today's phone systems offer customized "Pick-Up" features and "Paging Zones" that make the system more user friendly and customer oriented. Many phone systems can be integrated with cordless user stations allowing workers to move about freely within their offices. Distinct ringing patterns can be established for offices that have several desks within a confined working area allowing easier detection for what extension is doing the ringing. One of the most neglected features on phone systems is the ability to conference multiple parties on one call. This feature alone can save a tremendous amount of time on what is otherwise spent getting information, and calling parties back. Without the proper programming in place and educating the users on the features, organizations are wasting their technology dollars.
Many times it is not only knowing how to use the features of today's business technology, but also knowing and observing some basic etiquette rules. Etiquette is not a term reserved for Emily Post. Etiquette and good manners are a necessity in today's highly competitive business arena. For example, how effective is voice mail, if the user does not change their announcement from time to time to let the caller know they are in the office and they do pay attention to their voice mail. The user needs to check messages, return phone calls and delete them from their voice mail box to make room for new messages. By following a few basic etiquette rules, you can save your customer's from the frustration of what is commonly referred to as "voice mail hell".
E-mail without etiquette is like cake without the frosting. You can get the message out, but you may not get the correct meaning associated with it. Think of email correspondence as any other form of business correspondence. Envision a letter to your top prospect or a memo to your boss with numerous typos and grammatical errors. Imagine a company-wide memo (you are the author) with slang or even worse, profanity in it. When using email, discretion is the key. If the message is confidential, do not use email. If the message is critical, use email as a duplicate method of communicating. It is extremely difficult to convey emotion and tone in an email, so read and re-read before sending your emails to assure no lost sales and no misunderstandings.
For employers looking to offer incentives and flexibility to employees and cut costs at the same time, telecommuting can be a fantastic option. Problems arise when employers do not have a clear understanding of the options available to make telecommuting a viable choice, and employees are not trained on the proper and most efficient way to use the technology. File attachments need to be readable; therefore software needs should be addressed in advance. Large files or video are bandwidth hogs; therefore the remote user should obtain a high speed Internet connection. High speed Internet is useful to anyone using the Internet for a considerable amount of their work day, and in most locations can be obtained for under $100.00 per month. A separate phone line for business is necessary for keeping business and personal calls separate as well as tracking long distance calls. Features obtained through the local exchange carrier can emulate many of the features on sophisticated phone systems such as call transfer, call hold and call forward as well as voice mail. If the features are used correctly at both the main office and the remote office, the end result should be seamless support to customers, vendors and co-workers. A PC can act as a fax machine, but for under $400.00 a combination fax, scanner, copier and printer can be purchased and used on one of the existing phone lines, making the home office complete.
How can you be assured that the technology dollars you are spending today will be of benefit tomorrow? By investing in training for personnel to understand and use technology to the fullest potential.
Karen Campbell is a consultant, trainer and owner of CommuniBiz, specializing in communications.