Have you ever called someone only to be told that, "Mr. Busyman is not available, would you like his voice mail?" Of course you have. In fact, Jeffery Mayer, in his informative book Time Management for Dummies, tells us that almost 80 percent of all business calls are not completed on the first attempt. If the vast majority of business calls require leaving a message, doesn’t it behoove us to know the best way to leave a voice mail message? Even more importantly shouldn’t we know the best way for us, and our staffs, to take messages?

In today’s competitive business environment we cannot afford to offend any customers by failing to return calls. We must be able to communicate with our clients and our vendors in the most efficient manner possible. Here are a few tips to use with voice mail:

( When leaving a message, or recording a greeting, always take a deep breath. This will give your voice more volume and will help slow down your speed of conversation. It is very important that you speak slowly, with a clear, strong voice.

( When leaving a message, always say your name and phone number at the beginning and at the end of your message. You should also spell your last name and any other words that may have an unfamiliar spelling, such as cities, streets, or company names.

( Always smile while talking on the phone. Believe it or not it really comes through the telephone.

( Tell the callee when you will be available for a return call. This helps eliminate telephone-tag.

( Leave as much detail as possible. For example, "This is Joe Prospect at Wannabuy Company, (352)378-7730. I am calling in reference to your proposal #780. We would like to know how much it would cost to add two more telephones to this quote. I will be in until 5:00 P.M. today. Joe Prospect, P-r-o-s-p-e-c-t at Wannabuy Company, (352)378-7730." This message would allow the callee to have the pertinent information at hand when the call is returned, saving both parties time.

( If at all possible, when setting up a voice mail system, leave the caller an easy way to speak to a person. "At any time you may press ‘0' to speak to an operator." This will avoid customers being trapped in your system, otherwise known as Voice Mail Jail. If customers get trapped in Voice Mail Jail too often, they tend to escape by going to your competitor.

( Use announcement boxes on your system. Always let the caller be able to choose an announcement box that has routine information such as mailing address, fax number, business hours, etc. . . . This saves the caller and your company time.

( Change your message often. If you are going to be out of the office until Thursday of next week, put that on your message. Let the caller know when he or she can best reach you. If possible, tell the caller to talk to your assistant if the message is urgent.

( Always call into your voice mail system to see how it sounds. Is the voice good and strong? Is the voice speaking at a good speed? Are the menu options logical?

( Most importantly--return your calls. Check your mailbox regularly and return the calls promptly. After all, how many times will you leave a voice mail message to someone who fails to return your call?)

Larry Nazworth

Many companies occasionally have a need to do a multi-party conference call. Most modern telephone systems will easily accommodate a three party conference, and some systems will even handle five parties. But what happens when you need to talk with ten or twenty people at a time? You can buy some fancy (i.e., expensive) conferencing equipment, or you can utilize a third-party conference system.

North Florida Communications is now providing a conference solution for small to medium businesses. For less than $10 a month, we will provide you with your own conference telephone number. This number can be local or toll-free. You’ll then be able to set up a conference at any time and simply pay a few cents per minute, per caller.

Want to go a little further? We can provide you with a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) conference phone that will allow you to connect your entire conference room to a phone call, while allowing everyone to hear and be heard.

Please contact me if you would like more information.

Larry Nazworth

Last week I was able to attend ITExpo (Internet Telephony Exposition) in Miami Beach. It truly is amazing to see the products being developed in our industry. Here are a few things that I think are very exciting:

SIP Trunking- In a nutshell, SIP is a connection to an ITSP (Internet Telephony Service Provider) that connects a phone system, or a simple gateway, to the PSTN (Public Switch Telephone Network), which is the traditional telephone network that we all think about when we discuss "The Phone Company".

SIP Trunks have become a very reliable way to make telephone calls that also can save you 50% (more or less) on your phone bills. SIP Trunks also provide more advanced features, such as Direct Inward Dial (DID) numbers, call pairing (have your cell phone ring with your desk phone) and faster setup/tear-down times.

Hosted PBX- Imagine a small company getting a powerful telephone system without having to buy any equipment, except the telephones. This can be done with a Hosted PBX. A company, such as North Florida Communications, rents a customer a server, or a portion of a server that is located at a remote location. Customer phones then connect via the internet to the hosted system.

The hosted solution gives all the standard features such as auto-attendant, voice-mail, etc., while allowing the customer to pay a monthly reoccurring fee, instead a big chunk of money up front. Since SIP Trunking is often used, those monthly fees can be equal to the cost you may pay to the local Telco just for the phone lines you would use with a traditional telephone system.

A hosted solution is also great for companies that have many remote users.

Unified Messaging- Imagine getting all of your voice-mails and faxes sent directly to your cell phone via email. That is what Unified Messaging can do. Personally, I love it because I’m on the road a lot. I no longer have to dial in to check messages, or ask to borrow someone’s fax machine so I can see an important document. Very nice!

Guess what, these are really not new technologies. They have all been around for a few years and are now mature technologies. Are you ready to start a new decade with some time AND money saving purchases? If so, please contact me!

Larry Nazworth

Happy New Year! In 2010 North Florida Communications celebrates 20 years in business. I started the company in August of 1990, and I’ve seen a lot of changes!

When I first started NFC, 1a2 systems were a dying breed, but still in use in many businesses. 1a2 systems were the big bulky phones with a red hold button and five or more clear lines keys that mechanically clicked each time you pressed one. Each phone required a 25-pair cable (50 wires). Loads of fun!

Analog telephone systems were the big things in the early 90's and they only required 2-4 pairs of wire. Digital systems started taking over in the mid 90's and continued to have dominance well into the early 2000's, or should that be 00's? Voice Over IP (VoIP) systems are now taking over the business telephone system market.

In 1990 computer network cable was serial based. Each wire had to be soldered onto a DB-25 connector. The pinout of the cables was different for each system. Today we have much clearer standards to follow.

It really is great to be in a business where things change! Change helps to keep us on our toes and helps us to grow emotionally and mentally!

NFC had about three customers in August of 1990. I started the business by subcontracting to other companies. Today we have more than 1,100 contacts in our database. It has been great to meet so many people over the years. I still find it humbling that people allow us to take care of there most critical communications needs. We really do appreciate our wonderful customer base.

On a personal note, in August 1990 I had just turned 21 and was single. Today I’m 40 (for a little while longer) and have been married to my wonderful wife, Leslie, for 15 years. We have three boys: 9, 11, and 13. We’ve been blessed as a family.

Last year was a hard year for most companies. We were fortunate to be within 4% of our 2008 sales, thanks in large to a big job that took us several months in the first quarter of ‘09. Spring and summer were bad, but things started picking up in the fall. I’m thankful that we have not had to lay anyone off.

2010 looks very promising for us. I really think the economy is starting to turn around. Small businesses that have persevered through these hard times will need to implement some much needed system upgrades that they have been putting off. The poor economy will produce more entrepreneurs that will be needing telephone systems and networking. Our new SIP Trunking product will help our clients reduce their phone bill. Business Owners will start to see the light at the end of a recession and will start to spend money again. New employees will be hired that will need telephones.

I hope you are as optimistic about 2010 as I am! As always, if there is anything I can help you with, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Happy New Year,

Larry Nazworth

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