School Districts Take to the Cloud over Snow Days

Bus Under SnowLocals are anxiously waiting for what could be the first city snowfall in 35 years in San Francisco. Fortunately the weekend weather isn’t forecast to disrupt commuters or school, but I thought I would share this post just in case the weather turns early.

Most parents east of the Mississippi can attest to the chaos involved in contingency planning for unexpected school closures – with nobody at the school to confirm/deny a snow day at 5am, what else can people do besides plan for the best and expect the worst?

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Quick Tips: Receptionists

Here are five tips you should give to your receptionist.

  1. Slow down. If someone asks you more than once what you just said, then you are speaking to fast.
  2. Receptionist Tips

  3. Enunciate. Because the person on the phone cannot see your lips, certain nuances in enunciation are lost.
  4. Ask for a Number. If you don’t know the answer, ask for the caller’s name and number and tell them that you find the answer and call them back.
  5. Don’t Be in a Rush. Always make the caller feel like you have a lot of time for them even if it means forwarding a call to a virtual receptionist.
  6. Smile While You Talk. As crazy as this sounds, the caller can hear it when you have a smile on your face even if you aren’t in a good mood.

These five tips will transform your receptionist from a good to great.

Hosted IVR Systems Finally Allow Small Businesses to Make Money From Their Phones

IVRAll growing business experiences the following scenario at some point:

  1. A new advertisement or marketing has started generating attention,
  2. Potential customers start calling to learn more, and
  3. The current business owner/staff start spending more time on the phone than on other critical business functions.

The deluge of phone calls can often overwhelm small- and mid-sized businesses as they try to qualify new leads, or answer general inquiries while still trying to maintain service quality elsewhere.  Some hire additional staff, while others rely on the phone company to provide additional lines to manage the workload – but these options carry significantly greater cost than automating inbound calls.

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Halloo Hints: Add a CallMe! button to Outlook

Adding a CallMe! button to your Outlook signature is similar to the other email programs. The key is to create a small file using a text editor like Notepad containing the HTML signature.

  1. Go to the CallMe Button Wizard at Support > Click-to-Call and enter your Account-ID and extension.
  2. Decide how you want your button to look and then copy the HTML from the box in Step-4 into a plain text file using an editor such as Notepad.
  3. Add any other personal information you want to the file, and save it with the name “signature.html”.
  4. In Outlook, go to Tools > Options > Mail Format > Signatures.
  5. Pressing the Signatures button will show you your current signatures (if any). Press [New…].
  6. Pick the option “Use this file as a template:”, and then open your saved “signature.html” file.
  7. Click [Next >] and make any additions needed to the file.
  8. Click [Finish], and when you return to the Options window, select the new signature in the “Signature for new messages:” and “Signature for replies and forwards:” options.
  9. Click [OK] to finish!

That should take care of using the CallMe! button in Outlook. Take a look at screenshots.

3 Optimization Musts for Any Small Business

Search Engine Optimization1.) Have the right website host and setup

I wish more discussions about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) would touch on the fundamentals of website hosting and IP addresses. Before getting into code or content, we often forget the basics of how our web pages are going to be structured and served up to the public.

Most small businesses, unless they are web-based or software-based services, will probably have a cheaper shared hosting setup. This means the website will be on a server which has other websites it hosts. This option is fine, but making sure the website does not share its IP address with other websites is critical. If Google bans an IP address because it detects, for instance, malware being served from that website, it will ‘blacklist’ all websites being served from that IP address.

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What is Your Hold Music?

What’s the worst hold music you have ever listened to?
I found some that people really dislike.

Some people theorize that companies use bad music to encourage customers to hang up before they have to talk to them.  I have a different theory.  I think companies use music that they think either fits the theme of “please hold” (Hold On, Jeopardy theme, Hold Me Now) or is “safe”.

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Halloo Hints: Transferring 800 Numbers to Halloo

Q: Can I port my number to Halloo?

A: Yes. If you’re porting a toll free, just follow the instructions here: Transfer Toll Free Numbers to Halloo.

Q: I’m thinking about a regular local number.

A: In that case, you’ll need to fill out the Local Number Portability (LNP) form here: Transfer Local Numbers to Halloo.

Why Some Small Business Owners Won’t Take American Express – and What to do About It If You Do

Let me start off by saying that I like the conveniences of being an American Express cardholder, but as a merchant, it can be frustrating at times. Here are the popular reasons I hear when other small business owners tell me they won’t take AMEX.

Reason #1 – Chargebacks

While it may not be fair to American Express, there are quite a number of folks who say that AMEX is “notorious” for siding with the customer in a charge-back dispute.

At a previous business, I once had a customer who used our AMEXsoftware for over a year and was paying us software licensing fees in excess of $1,000 per month. When the customer filed for bankruptcy and his business shut down, he called AMEX and claimed that all charges to his credit card from our company – going back months – were all fraudulent.

AMEX immediately reached into our bank account and froze the funds… nearly ten thousand dollars. For a small business, this was a significant amount of our working capital to be taken out of our account. We had to fight for weeks and show the AMEX arbitrator that these were legitimate charges.

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3 Myths of Small Business Financing

#1 – Small business loans are readily available through the local bank.

Small Business LendersI’ll start with this one because this can be very damaging for a business owner’s credit history if this process is not understood well.

In today’s credit climate, the qualifications from the major banks for a small business to get a loan or line of credit is directly related to the business owner’s personal credit, or the history of revenues related to the business, including any cash or real estate assets.

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