Entry Tones: Make ‘em laugh

As mentioned here in a previous blog, AccuConference provides Entry tones. This is a notification feature that announces when a new person has arrived on the call. This notification is a two-toned "bleep," which sounds a lot like a retro video game.

Did you know that you can personalize your entry tones? Every time a participant calls in, they are prompted to record their name. This name recording is then played into the conference call instead of the "bleep" sound.

So why not have some fun with this feature!? Next time the system prompts you to record, try playing a sound-bite from your computer. Perhaps you could play a trumpet processional for added pomp and circumstance; or record yourself saying " Leeeets get rrrready to rrrrumble" and play the Eye of the Tiger Rocky Theme song.

A little office humor never hurt anyone… so go-ahead and make'em laugh.

Internet + Web Camera + Phone = Best Friends

It's official. Our favorite technologies have now become best friends. It didn't happen overnight… in fact they've been working at this for a long time; but now they are attached at the hip and changing the world - one office at a time.

You may have experienced this collaborative trio already by watching podcasts and blogs; but have you tried it yet?  

Find out what it's like to have friends you can count on.

>> Experience face-to-face at its finest

The Five Minute Rule

What I'm about to say probably won't surprise you… are you ready?

People arrive late for meetings.  

The other night we were monitoring our call volume and it peaked at 7:05pm. With the hundreds of meetings that occurred last night, the majority had late arrivals. Specifically, we found that 12.1% arrived early and 87.9% arrived within five minutes of the start time. This isn't bad considering they could have arrived a lot later.

Judging by these statistics we've all arrived late one time or another.
So what can we learn from this? The next time you start your meeting, begin on time but don't give out the "meat" of your presentation until five minutes later. And your participants continue to be tardy, have them read Penelope Trunk's blog titled 5 ways to stop being late.

How to have fun at work

Here are some events that have occurred in our office that may spawn some fun ideas.

The Annoy-atron – Do a quick google search for annoy-atron and you'll discover a device that's not much bigger than a quarter.  This device is sure to be a crowed pleaser… except for the unsuspecting target(s) of course. It is designed to emit high-pitch beeps at random intervals ranging from 2 to 8 minutes, making it hard “time” and locate the device. And best of all, it is magnetic so it can be attached in a very inconspicuous location! We planted the device in an office down the hall and it wasn't discovered until the next day. Judging by the groans and desk pounding, we think it was effective.

Shock Tanks – The other day someone brought in a pair of remote controlled army tanks. Mounted on the top of each tank was an infrared sensor.  If the opposing tank successfully shot the infrared zone, it would send a volt of electricity to the controller. (Quick Tip – be sure and wear the wrist strap!)

Fish Tanks – We have a reef tank enthusiast who maintains two beautiful 150 gallon tanks. It’s fun when we buy new fish and add them to our collection. But watching the fish is the most enjoyable part, and it’s a great way to relax during a busy workday. For those of you who are interested, we will be posting streaming video of the fish. We’ll keep you posted.

TV Spoofing – We have a favorite TV show on NBC called The Office. After the weekly episode we usually re-enact a gag from the show. Most recently we printed “Schrudt Bucks” and handed them out as rewards for a job-well-done.

Next on the list: Turn our board room into an Xbox 360 media center.

You’re there, without being there

Video conferencing makes good business sense. If you were screening applicants for a job, wouldn't it be better to see them interact through video as opposed to looking at their resume on paper? In our experience, we’ve had much more success hiring through job fairs then mass-scale wanted ads. Video conferencing is like bringing the job fair to your office.

This technology is also helpful when negotiating a deal with clients. In the past you would have to meet with a client several times in-person before inking a deal. Now, with audio and video conferencing, meeting in-person is not as critical as it once was because you’re already interacting face-to-face.

Video conferencing provides a familiarity that can't be done over email or phone. Gone are days when you only recognize a person by their voice or their email spelling mistakes. Instead of saying "Wow, it’s great to finally put a face on a name."  you can now say "Wow… you look much better on camera."

Help, my computer is running slow!

You're sitting at your desk and your computer is painfully slow. Perhaps you were browsing the internet and your computer froze. Or maybe you had just finished a long day's work - and you really want to go home - but the computer wouldn't turn off. Or perhaps, more embarrassingly, you were on the phone with a customer when your computer decided not to cooperate.

Never fear, Super-Fast-Computer-Tips are here!

1. Reboot – Before you try anything else, shutdown and restart your computer. Wait about 30 seconds and then turn it back on. This always seems to help.

2. Defrag Your Hard Drive – Think of it like tidying up a bookshelf. This process reorganizes your data on your hard drive to optimize the way it retrieves your information. Go Start > Programs > Accessories > System tools and then click on DEFRAG.

3. Disk Clean-up: This tool is right below the defrag button and it does a similar (but slightly different) action.

4. Delete Internet Cache & Cookies – If you use internet explore than select Tools > Internet Options and review your browsing history. Different versions require different steps, so do a quick Google search to find out more.

5. Check for Spyware & Viruses – There are free resources online. My favorite for Spyware is called SpyBot Search and Destroy. For virus checking, I use AVG Antivirus.

6. Disable Virus Checker – Depending on what you use your computer for, this may or may not be for you. **Follow this tip at your own risk** but it will certainly speed up your computer. I personally disable the auto-check feature but I still use a virus checker to do a “sweep” of my system every other week. I also check suspicious files before I open them. If you work from home and your kids share the same computer, I would NOT suggestion disabling your virus checker.

7. MSCONFIG – Microsoft System Configuration Utility can ensure your computer boots faster and crashes less. In particular, it will show you if unnecessary programs are running in the background.  The “how to” steps are different for depending on the version of Windows you are operating. Again I’d suggest doing a quick Google search to find out more.

8. Delete Old Files / Uninstall Old Programs – If you don’t use it or don’t need it anymore than delete it. To remove programs you’ll have to go to the Control Panel and click on "Add or Remove Programs."

New Website Design

You may have noticed that we’ve changed our website a bit. To be honest, we’re trying to impress you. But more than that, we’re trying to make our website easy-to-use. Did you find the information you needed quickly?
What we’ve done:

  1. Limited the text on the homepage
  2. Removed the menu on the left hand side and created five main categories on top.
  3. Made a quick-link pricing button on the home page.
  4. Added some catchy phrases to give you the gist of what we do
  5. Added some color… to keep your attention.

Our revisions were based on suggestions from customers. If you have any ideas, please let us know.

Party Line

Conference calls are most commonly used by businesses, but they can also be used for social and entertainment purposes. This is sometimes referred to as a party line.  Many of our clients use our conference call service to host mini family reunions or to connect with long-time friends. There are other companies who use our lines as a telephone dating service.

The term “party line” dates back to the early / mid 1900’s when multiple residences would share a phone line to save on expense. As a result, people could listen to their neighbor’s telephone calls! The comedic movie classic Pillow Talk, with Rock Hudson and Doris Day, is about a man and woman who share a party line, but they despise each other.  Rock’s character decides to disguise his voice to romance her but when she discovers that she’s been tricked, she seeks payback.

Movie tangent aside… if you’re not able to see your family or friends this Memorial Day weekend, try hosting a conference call. And don’t worry, our call security is much better than it was in 1959 so you won’t have any Rock Hudson’s or Doris Day’s on the phone (though some of you might like that!)

Tricked by Time Zones

You’re not the only one to have been tricked by time zones. We receive multiple calls everyday from people who have either been told the wrong time, or were confused themselves.

It’s understandable, considering that there are nine time zones that span the United States and its territories. They include: Eastern, Central, Mountain, Pacific, Alaska, Hawaii-Aleutian, Samoa, Wake Island, and Guam. Of course, you don’t need to worry about all of them.
Featured in this picture are the most popular time zones. Click on the image to enlarge and then print a copy for future reference. Each color grid represents an hour. Notice that Arizona (AZ) and Indianapolis (IN) alternate time zones depending on the time of year.

[scroll down]
Time Zone

If you don’t think you need a time zone chart to reference, here is a test:

If you made a call on the fourth of July from Arizon at 2:00PM, what time would it be in New York?

Did you need to reference the above chart to find out the answer? If so, you should print this up for future reference! The answer is 5:00 PM New York (EST)

So the next time you’re planning a multi time zone conference call, send an email reminder. And if you host weekly meetings, be sure to plan them on the same day at the same time to prevent confusion.

“Homeshoring” - Home is the new office

There are numerous reasons to start building an at-home workforce.

First, consider the cost of an employee:

  1. Recruiting expenses
  2. Salary
  3. Benefits
  4. Taxes
  5. Office Space
  6. Equipment

You can see how these costs can add up. In times past, companies have traditionally out-sourced jobs to call centers overseas… this was called “offshoring.” But, after companies like DELL and other companies started receiving complaints, then they deciding to bring the call centers home. These companies discovered that it wasn’t just about saving costs, but savings customers.

Homeshoring is the next best thing to overseas call centers. It allows an employer to offer a lower wage in exchange for the privilege of working from home. This also allows very competent and employable people (such as stay-at-home moms or people with physical disabilities) to gain employment.

Rising gas prices are helping to convince employees to work from home whenever possible. In addition, many companies have discovered that you can’t always rely on the day-to-day commute, as seen with California commuters. Working from home has become a huge incentive for prospective employees and an attractive option for employers.

The biggest concern with at-home employees is accountability. How does an employer know if they are actually working? New technology has been developed to provide a similar level of accountability at home, as a person would receive at the office. For example, companies like oDesk, an at-home HR staffing agency, have developed software that takes random screen shots of what people are working on every 10 minutes. In addition, they provide a live Web cam that lets an employer physically see whether a person is sitting at their desk. An employer can also see a log that tracks keystrokes, mouse clicks, and phone calls.

And lastly, another advantage to working from home is that you get a lot more done with fewer distractions around.

To summarize:

  1. Lower Employee Cost
  2. Large Pool of Prospective Employees
  3. Work-at-home Perk – stay competitive and keep employees happy.
  4. Eliminate Commuting – be prepared in-case of commuting crisis
  5. Be more productive – no office distractions

We use Accu800 and our PBX when we need to work from home to provide a seamless experience for our customers.