Categories
Call Handling Services Virtual Phone Numbers

How Can I Work From Home Effectively?

A lot of us have had to adjust to working from home recently and it can be a big change for some.

Your routine and schedule has likely completely changed and it’s thrown you completely out of sync.
We’ve compiled a list of things to try and make working from home a little easier for you.

Make sure you have set working times.

Since being at home, I’ve stuck to my usual hours so it gives some structure to the day and you have a set time to get things done which will also hopefully keep you focused on work as there are completely different distractions at home compared to in the office.

Have a dedicated workspace.

Don’t just sit in bed on your laptop – as much as you might want to!
The only space I could set up was in my bedroom, but I have a desk and a chair so that I am only working when I sit here, rather than wherever I like. You need to keep work and relax totally separate – this is more important than ever with us spending so much time at home at the moment.

Act like you’re actually going to work.

Set an alarm, have a shower, get dressed, have breakfast – keep to your normal morning routine. This then sets you up for the day and you’ll be more prepared to sit down and do work. I get up a little later than I would to go into the office, but I make sure I get dressed and have my breakfast before I start work.

Keep in touch with colleagues regularly.

Using video calling apps and programmes such as Google Hangouts is a great way to do this. You can use the instant messaging to ask questions and inform people of things quickly (quicker than an email that might get lost or forgotten) and there’s also the video chat option for team meetings which we have been using to catch up with each other every morning.

Ensure you take regular breaks.

This can be difficult when you’re at home as there’s not really anywhere to go, but make sure you get up from your desk regularly and take little walks round your home. Have a chat with another member of the household for a bit. Just take a break from work a few times a day.

Using virtual numbers can be really useful when working from home. The features that come with them enable you to receive work calls at home with ease.

  • Disaster recovery – fall back measures for your customer calls so you don’t miss them
  • Employee’s mobile becomes their work extension. Inbound customer calls routed to remote workforce to receive calls on mobiles. Routing can be set up in a variation of ways – hunt groups, multi out dial etc
  • Call queuing to handle long call answering times. Add announcement messages apologising for the longer hold times and advising of office closure
  • Call whispers on inbound customer calls to your staff so they know it’s a work call and therefore how to answer the call
  • Voicemail to email: Customer voicemails from missed or out of hours calls are emailed to the correct team so they can be listened to and called back
  • Call recording so management are able to monitor offsite calls
  • Audio conferencing so your workforce can communicate with the whole team through a conference call
  •  Call handling software means no kit or maintenance needed

There are also apps such as the one from NFON which makes your mobile act like your desk phone. You can make and receive calls using your extension/direct dial. You can also put it on ‘do not disturb’ for when you’re not working to make sure you’re getting those breaks!

Working from home and virtual offices are likely to become much more commonplace in the future. There are ways to make the transition much easier for yourself and/or your employees and the running of the business. Virtual phone systems can keep the office running like nothing has changed to ease that transition. Read more about our virtual number solutions here.

Categories
Direct Numbers Virtual Phone Numbers

Your Portal is Changing!

As of 1st February 2018 your number management portal is changing.

What are the key changes for the new look portal?

Menu navigation has changed: when you first login, the landing page is a basic dashboard of real-time statistics for your account.

Navigation has been split into 3 distinct areas, replacing the existing tabular options:

There are now 3 main menu options which are touch screen friendly:

Personal User menu – this is where you can manage your own user settings and log out of the portal:

Dashboard is where you will be able to view and manage your real-time statistic dashboards once the development is complete – for the interim, a default basic dashboard is available.

Home is where you can access the management functions for Numbers and Accounts along with the Pulse reporting engine and new direct access to the Service Manager call plan management interface, Payphone Barring, Voicemail and Service Number Groups screens – previously navigation to these areas was through the Numbers screen:

All these menus are touch screen friendly; drop-downs can be accessed either by a mouse click or finger press.

The process of updating/maintaining your number remains the same.

Please don’t hesitate to call us on 0330 333 8755 or email us at info@directnumbers.co.uk if you have any questions or need help navigating the new layout.

Categories
Virtual Phone Numbers

How you can track your marketing ROI using our virtual numbers.

Calling virtual numbers from mobilesYou would measure your web traffic in detail and analyse your click through rates through your different forms of digital traffic – pay per click search, banner display and organic because this data is important to any business if they want to track their marketing spend.

So why aren’t more organisations doing the same with their inbound phone traffic? Many companies are still using their one main phone number for their advertising, so it’s great when a customer calls but how do you know which piece of advertising is actually generating this call?

Here’s how you can track every call from all your marketing sources:

  • Print – Use a virtual number to allocate to your print advertising to see how different ads work for you. You may want to think about using local geographic numbers for ads targeting a local market, for example, a national gym chain may want to use a local 01273 telephone number on their ads when advertising to a Brighton audience.
  • TV/Radio – If you’re running TV or radio campaigns then this is probably taking up a sizeable sum of your marketing budget so tracking is very important. In these cases it is wise to look at using unique easy to remember ‘Golden’ numbers for your audience/listeners.
  • Digital – PPC, display and organic traffic is something most organisations should be tracking. Like tracking your web click through rates, using a unique phone number will allow you to track the source of your customer calls. It can be used with your landing page split testing to allow you to really drill down to which page is converting – for serious trackers you can allocate a different number to your organic, mobile, PPC and display landing pages.

These are just some of the ways a virtual number can help track calls – the same principle applies to your email and SMS broadcasts, apps and any other form of advertising where you would display a phone number.

With our virtual numbers from Direct Numbers you’ll get a lot more than just a number:

kcom-portal

  • Add your own audio and branded messages for your callers and make them site specific, for example, ‘Thanks for calling our Brighton gym members line..’
  • Every number comes with its own online portal allowing you to run call stats reports and change services on your number. Why not set up a scheduled email report daily, weekly or monthly detailing your call traffic to be emailed directly to your marketing team.
  • Add IVR menu options and call queuing facilities on every number. This gives businesses of any size a professional sounding front-end to their phone service. Sometimes this will be the first interaction a potential customer may have with your company so make it a good one.

To find out more about any of the above then please contact us today for a demonstration

Categories
Direct Numbers Virtual Phone Numbers

Big Changes to 08, 09 and 118 Numbers Happening on 1st July 2015

From the 1st of July 2015, OFCOM will be making changes to the way that service numbers charged. Service numbers are ones beginning 08, 09 or 118, so if you are using one of these numbers then the following information is very important.

UK calling info

The calls will now be charged to the caller in two parts:

Access Charge:

This part of the call is charged by the caller’s phone company, so for example Vodafone, EE, O2 etc. according to their contract rates.

Service Charge:

This part of the call is charged by the organisation offering the service, so for example if you have a number through Direct Numbers, our network provider is KCom and they will be charging this part of the call.

What This Means For You:

If you have any of these number prefixes with us, it means that you will now have to review all of your marketing materials and advertising where your number is shown to reflect the new charging in order to make it clear to the customers. You must ensure that your service charge is clearly displayed everywhere that you advertise or promote that number. The service charge should be prominent and in close proximity to the number itself. The recommended form of wording is as follows:

“Calls cost Xp (or Xp per minute) plus your company’s access charge”.

Our Numbers Starting: New Retail Service Charge Price Point (incl VAT) from 1st July 2015
Service charges

The good news for consumers –
Freephone number (0800 & 0808) will be FREE from mobiles as well as landlines from this date as well.

Full information on the changes, including what advertising needs to be reviewed, and well as a list of FAQ’s is available through this website: http://www.ukcalling.info/

There has never been a better time to start thinking about switching your 084 or 087 business number to a customer friendly 03, 01 or 02 number.

Speak to Direct Numbers to see how we can help you switch your number over.

Categories
Virtual Phone Numbers

Government cuts off costly calls to 087 and 084 numbers.

Department for business bans 084 numbers

If you’re a business running a helpline or customer service line on a 084 or 087 number then you’ll have to start thinking about an alternative number as the Government will be banning these numbers in 2014.

Head of campaigns for Which? Alex Neill dubbed the initial ban “a huge victory” for consumers:

“Actually, what we have heard from the Government is that they are going to tackle this. They have said it’s out of order. So we would expect them to lead by example and make sure they issue guidance to public bodies not to do this.”

If you’re a business currently using one of these numbers don’t despair totally yet – you can switch to the new 03 UK wide numbers which are customer friendly numbers that are charged the same as geographic 01/02 numbers.  For more information on our 03 numbers click here.

You can read the full Government press release below –

Customers calling helplines to complain about their faulty microwaves or incorrect train tickets will no longer have to pay more than the basic rate, putting a stop to costly calls faced by consumers, announced Consumer Minister Jo Swinson today (13 December 2013).

Following consultation with business associations and consumer bodies, the government will put an end to expensive premium, 084 and 087 numbers for customers calling airlines, train operators, and major high street and online retailers.

Whilst many firms already offer freephone or basic rate numbers, consumers can find that some traders provide an 0800 or free phone number for pre-contract calls to lure people in, but then only offer expensive premium rate numbers when the customer has paid for a product or service. Everyday examples, such as a security company offering a freephone number for new enquiries yet expecting existing customers to call an 0844 number to report a fault, would be stopped under the measures.

The government believes it is inappropriate for callers to pay high call charges for accessing vital public services and the Cabinet Office will be publishing guidance for departments’ use of number prefixes shortly.

Finally, the Financial Conduct Authority is also committed to considering whether it could introduce similar measures for those calling banks, insurance companies and investment brokers.

Consumer Minister Jo Swinson said:

It really is unfair that consumers are being stung in this way. For too long, some businesses have been trying to extract every extra penny from their loyal customers.

From next year (2014), if something goes wrong with a cooker, or commuters want a refund on their season ticket, they will now pay the same to phone a helpline as they do to call friends or family.

We want consumers to be confident to shop with a range of traders. The new rights announced today will mean consumers are entitled to the same level of protection whether they are purchasing goods or services online, at home or in a shop.

Richard Lloyd, Which? Executive Director said:

This is a victory for the 63,000 people who supported our Costly Calls campaign calling on all companies and public bodies to provide basic rate numbers for all customer service and complaint telephone lines. We’re pleased the government has extended the Consumer Rights Directive to include travel firms and that it has now agreed and clarified that basic rate does not include pricey 084 or 087 numbers.

We look forward to seeing the guidance to stop public bodies using high rate numbers and we expect the Financial Conduct Authority to introduce similar measures in financial services to ensure that there are no exceptions and put an end to costly calls across the board.

Tom Ironside, British Retail Consortium Director of Business and Regulation, said:

The British Retail Consortium has been fully supportive of the Consumer Rights Directive and has been closely involved at all stages including shaping the original proposal and working in the European parliament to secure a good outcome. It should make online retail in the UK and EU easier for business and consumers.

The measure is to be included in the Regulations implementing the Consumer Rights Directive, which is due to come into force in June 2014. It also includes:

  • increasing the time limit for returning goods purchased online or by phone from 7 days to 14 days after the goods have been received, should the consumer change their mind
  • banning pre-ticked tick boxes for extras that the consumer may not want or need and that could result in unexpected payment
  • setting out key information consumers should be given by traders before agreeing to purchase, like additional costs or cancellation rights

Businesses will also benefit from the new Consumer Rights Directive regulations, which will make it clearer that goods bought at a distance (e.g. online) must be returned or proof of posting must be provided to the trader before the consumer can get a refund. Traders will also be able to deduct money from refunds where there is evidence that a returned product has been used.

Notes to editors

1.The regulations on the Consumer Rights Directive are available at: www.gov.uk/government/policies/providing-better-information-and-protection-for-consumers

2.Basic rate means equivalent to standard geographic rates (e.g. 01/02/ 03 numbers) or mobile rates, or free to call.

Examples

  • a home appliance company uses 0844 numbers to arrange a service or repair, but offers an 0800 number for product enquiries
  • a large retailer provides an 0845 number for queries about website orders

3.At present, consumers can pay more than the standard rate to call a customer helpline. These costs can vary, depending on the number, the consumer’s telephone provider, the time of day, and whether the call is from a landline or a mobile. Certain numbers may also be included in call packages and inclusive minutes. The table below sets out typical call costs for a range of numbers:

Calling from a landlineCalling from a mobile
08451 to 11p per minute, plus a set up fee of up to 14p14 to 41p per minute
08441 to 13p per minute20 to 41p per minute
0870No more than a geographic rate call from some landline providers, plus a set up fee. Up to 11p per minute plus a set up fee from other landline providers14 to 41p per minute
0871/2/311 to 15p per minute plus a set up fee20 to 41p per minute
099p to £1.69 per minute from BT landline. Up to £2.16 per minute from other landline providers50p to £2.50 per minute
Calls between landlines are typically charged up to 10p per minute

4.All helplines relating to consumer contracts are covered by the Directive, with the exception of a number of sectors, which are better governed by sector-specific rules: gambling, package travel, timeshare, and financial services.

5.The Financial Conduct Authority is committed to considering whether they should introduce a similar measure on customer helplines for financial services shortly. A number of banks (Barclays, Barclaycard, NatWest and RBS) have already announced that they will be switching to basic rate customer helplines.

6.Examples of where the draft regulations will help consumers:

Purchasing something online:

You buy a dress from an online retailer and you don’t like the look of the fabric once you have seen it in person. You will now have 14 days after you receive it to change your mind and return the dress for a refund. Previously it was only 7 days.

Pre-ticked boxes:

You buy a washing machine online. When you get to the payment page, the trader offers a 5 year warranty for £110. The box is already ticked. If you do not want the warranty, and miss or forget to untick the box, you are not liable for the £110, which should be refunded to you.

7.Key facts:

  • according to the latest IMRG (Interactive Media in Retail Group) Capgemini eRetail Sales Index, British online shoppers spent £68 billion in 2011
  • Civil Aviation Authority survey of UK’s top 20 airlines showed most used an 084 number, and 3 used a premium rate number typically costing £1 to 1.28 per minute from a landline
  • recent Which? research found:
    • 15 of the biggest train operators use 0844 or 0845 numbers for their customer helplines.
    • 24 of the 38 airlines included in the study give high rate numbers for consumers to call for customer service or to complain, while 11 ferry companies give 0871, 0872, 0845 or 0843 numbers for customer inquiries
    • two-thirds of people (67%) believed firms used high-rate numbers to discourage people from calling them

8.Along with the draft Consumer Rights Bill announced in June 2013, the reforms to consumer law will enhance consumer rights and make them easier to understand and help businesses interpret and apply the law. The changes will boost the UK economy by over £4 billion over the next decade. For more information on the wider consumer changes please go to: www.gov.uk/government/policies/providing-better-information-and-protection-for-consumers

9.The government’s economic policy objective is to achieve ‘strong, sustainable and balanced growth that is more evenly shared across the country and between industries’. It set 4 ambitions in the ‘Plan for Growth’, published at Budget 2011:

  • to create the most competitive tax system in the G20
  • to make the UK the best place in Europe to start, finance and grow a business
  • to encourage investment and exports as a route to a more balanced economy
  • to create a more educated workforce that is the most flexible in Europe

Work is underway across government to achieve these ambitions, including progress on more than 250 measures as part of the Growth Review. Developing an Industrial Strategy gives new impetus to this work by providing businesses, investors and the public with more clarity about the long-term direction in which the government wants the economy to travel.

Categories
Direct Numbers Freephone Virtual Phone Numbers

Is your 0800 freephone number wasted on your mobile customers?

Freephone numbers are a great way of encouraging new sales and marketing calls and it gives companies the opportunity to pay for their customers to contact them. Nothing wrong there and it’s very commendable for companies using these numbers, but When I currently call a 0800 from my mobile which is on a pay monthly tariff, Vodafone kindly charges me 14 pence per minute to call these freephone numbers. The poor company advertising the freephone number wants me to call for free, I want to call for free and the mobile network gets to charge me a premium for my call so they are winning in this scenario. What the company needs to do is look at switching its freephone number to a 03 number. These new 03 numbers are a great alternative to any 08 number and they tend to be a more customer friendly option when you call them from a mobile. They are charged the same as a geographic number and the call will be included in your ‘free minutes’ package on your mobile tariff.

So, if I made the same call from my Vodafone mobile on an 03 number then the call will be free as its included in my free minutes quota, the company advertising the number will pay less for the incoming call as they are cheaper than freephone numbers. This makes me happy as I don’t end up paying for the call, this makes the company happy as they save money on their inbound calls and more importantly this makes their customers happy as they’re saving money!

That’s why if you are a company and you are advertising on any mobile platform – your mobile website, your mobile PPC campaigns, mobile display or any medium whereby its highly likely that your customers are going to use their mobiles to call you then I would strongly urge you to shift from using a freephone number and switch to a 03 number. You’ll start saving money the moment you switch and you’ll also save your customers a lot of money too.

So until OFCOM manages to change the pricing on the mobile networks to make freephone numbers actually free when you call them from your mobile I would seriously consider looking at your business numbers and how your customers contact you and make sure you have the right number in place for your customers. In this present economic climate where we’re all tightening out budgets any solution that saves you money and your customers has to be the right one.

At Direct Numbers we work with our clients to supply them with the best numbers and call handling services for their business. If you would like more information on our 03 numbers and services then please feel free to contact us.

 

 

Categories
Direct Numbers Freephone Virtual Phone Numbers

Should I get a 0800 freephone number for my business?

If you don’t already know, a 0800 number is a free to call number from landlines and is mainly used to encourage your customers to call you. For this reason they are perfect if you are running a marketing or sales campaign.

If you are a business and thinking about whether to change your contact phone number from a geographic number to a freephone number then you should look at your business model and assess if it’s the right move for you. As it’s a free number to call you will of course be paying for your customers to contact you so there is an added expense to your outgoings but surely if this leads to more sales then this can only be a good thing. Independent research carried out by the Institute of Direct Marketing found that 0800 freephone numbers can increase your sales andenquiries calls by up to 185%!

It’s important to know that calls to freephone numbers from mobile phones are charged – this charge varies and depends on your mobile network. Ongoing pressure from OFCOM to the mobile networks will see that calls to freephone numbers from mobiles will eventually be free. We’re hoping this change will be implemented very soon.

The fact that your company advertises a 0800 freephone number portrays an image that you actually care about your customers and encourage them to call in. This gives you an instant advantage over your competitors who don’t have a freephone number.

Setting up a 0800 number for your business couldn’t be easier and most creditable providers should also provide useful call handling services with every number. Gone are the days of having to have equipment installed and kit to route your calls to your staff. The 0800 just sits on your existing number and gives you an instant virtual switchboard that you control. This is perfect for both small and large businesses as set up is so easy.

A reputable provider should also give you control over your numbers and provide you with an online management tool to control and monitor your calls. By using this you have access to features such as call queuing, multi level IVR (Interactive Voice Response) e.g. – press 1 for sales, 2 for customer service, call whisper which allows you to identify yours calls, set up hunt groups and divert your calls to mobile or voicemail. This type of services make it a great tool for a small business, for example, a plumber is out of the office a lot and doesn’t want to miss his customer calls so he can set his 0800 number to try the office first and if this fails it forwards to his mobile. The call whisper tells him that the call is a customer call so he knows it’s not a personal call. He also gets missed call reports, voicemail to email and he can track all the calls that have been made to his 0800 number.

Communicating with your customers is one of the most important parts of running a successful business and any tool that aids this should be utilised.

For more information on 0800 freephone numbers, visit https://directnumbers.co.uk/numbers/0800