4 Simple Ways to Deal With a Challenging Customer

JPEG image-F1B78757104C-1Service providers now have to compete globally for business, both in terms of their service pricing, and also in the quality they provide. Now and again, a challenging customer can disrupt your normal activities, and learning to deal with these disruptions is an essential acquired skill.

Rather than rising to the bait, it’s your job to keep your cool, even when a customer is angry. Additionally, the systems you use to carry out your work are a fundamental part of healing these broken relationships; there may be something you can improve that will stop the same thing happening again.

1. When something needs to be discussed, reach out by phone

Email is a great business tool, and it lets us communicate globally with unbelievable efficiency and speed. But when a relationship starts to falter, and a customer becomes more demanding, there’s no substitute for a phone call. Overseas call charges can be a barrier to effective communication, so consider a VoIP service to bring the cost of calling down.

2. Set clear customer service boundaries

Offering good service means being available to customers, but that doesn’t mean you should put your life on hold. Demanding customers may expect you to drop everything to help out of hours, or send emails at 10pm asking for an urgent call. A hosted desktop is a great way to make sure you can work from anywhere, but make sure you set some boundaries – don’t let customers have a monopoly on your time.

3. Improve visibility of their project

If you offer professional services on a remote or freelance basis, it’s easy to get out of sync with your client. Sometimes, tensions arise because there’s a mismatch between what’s been offered and what the client thinks has been accomplished. If you use cloud file sharing, you can quickly update them on progress, without the worry that a file will bounce back. Make sure you use version tracking, so the client always knows which revision of the document you’ve sent.

4. Bid them farewell

As your business matures, you’ll realise that there are some people you just can’t please. It might be down to a mismatch of personality, or it may be that their needs have shifted over the years. If you really can’t satisfy a customer, knowing when to close their account can save everybody a lot of time. You can get on with the work you’re best at, and they can choose a different provider who’s more able to give them what they need.

Learning to love difficult customers

Nobody likes arguing with fee-paying clients, but they can actually teach you a lot about business. A difficult client could help you develop your negotiation skills, or better define what you can and can’t offer.

Next time you come up against a difficult customer, think about ways you can improve your IT services to communicate more effectively with them. There are times when you’ll just have to part company with a difficult customer, but if you spot ways to get around the problem and improve the relationship, the outcome of that change will benefit everyone.

Is It Time Your Charity Embraced the Cloud?

ChaJPEG image-568A4BE6643C-1rities and small non-profits run to ridiculously tight budgets, and a climate of cuts has only served to make their work more challenging. In an ever more competitive market, charities need to spend money on marketing in order to reach their potential donators, and they need to run at optimum efficiency so that none of those donations are wasted.

Adopting new technology can seem like an extravagance, but there are lots of examples of cloud computing actually reducing business spend. There’s no reason why your charity can’t benefit from the same efficiency.

Making the most of your volunteers’ time

Cloud computing helps you to do more work quicker, and it lets you work at more convenient times. For example, if you give your volunteers a hosted desktop, they can log on from home to contribute their time. This can help you increase their contribution, without necessarily asking them to do more hours.

We also offer hosted Lync, a communications platform for teams. If you all work different hours, and you find it difficult to work efficiently, Lync gives you the power of instant messaging, video and audio chat so you can hold meetings literally anywhere.

Keep data secure

Charities that work with vulnerable people have a responsibility to care for their data. Cloud technology lets you store your data in our secure data centre, so you don’t need to store anything locally on your office or home PC. You can use MyOwnCloud to share it with the people who need to see it, and nobody else. The convenience of MyOwnCloud helps to prevent the non-compliant use of data, such as spreadsheets being shared on memory sticks, sent via email, or shared using public cloud services that you don’t control internally.

Cloud4 offers many charities entire hosted servers, which are ideal for managing cost while also reducing the amount of space they need for their IT. We can provide Windows or Linux hardware, with or without virtualisation, and you can access the very best specifications – exactly as you would in the business world.

Making the most of your budget

Cloud4 can offer significant discounts on software, with savings of up to 33% on the cloud services you decide to use. These discounts come from top brands like Microsoft, and they let you access business grade cloud technology at an appropriate price for your organisation.

We can also give you a Hosted Exchange email system, so that your email is held on our secure servers. That gives you all the functionality of business email – including tasks, contacts and calendars – but you only pay per mailbox, and you’re never over-committed.

Friendly, impartial advice

Don’t let this year be the year your charity goes under. By improving efficiency and performance, you can make the most of the time and resources you have. Speak to Cloud4’s friendly sales advisors, and describe your IT pain points. We’ll come up with a customisable and affordable solution that helps you to decrease your operating overheads.

Will Hosted Exchange Save You Money?

JPEG image-063D6255745C-1We usually think of email as a free method of communication, but it can actually be a huge drain on resources. If you currently run an Exchange server in-house, you might be surprised how much you could save with a hosted solution.

In a climate of cuts and efficiency measures, public and private sector organisations are looking for ways to reduce cost. Maybe it’s time to re-think your email strategy and redirect the wasted cash elsewhere?

The real cost of email

For a business, the main cost of email is running a server in-house, and providing all of the infrastructure that goes with it. You need a secure network, reliable power, storage devices, and possibly air conditioning to keep the room cool. Some businesses have a small on-site server room that has to be maintained and secured, with fire suppression and alarms to protect the data.

Additionally, there’s the cost of keeping all of your server software up to date. You’ll need software licenses for your servers and per-user licenses for software, and someone to monitor, upgrade and patch as required. If you have an external company providing backup services, this adds another layer of admin and cost.

So it’s not just a case of running a server. It’s the cost of running a secure, modern and up to date infrastructure, and making sure the data on the server is always available. It’s about preventing unauthorised access, paying for licences and coming up with a workable support framework.

Even for a small business, this can cost thousands of pounds every year.

The cloud alternative

Cloud computing gives small business access to business grade infrastructure, but at a fraction of the normal cost. If you’re currently running email servers in-house, outsourcing could be a more affordable and sensible way to run your email.

With hosted Exchange, we offer a simple pricing model. Just pay for every mailbox you need. There are no licenses to run, and no servers to maintain. All of that is included in the price.

You might be concerned about having your email hosted by another company, but there’s no need to worry: all of our servers are located in a secure data centre in the UK, backed by a robust cloud infrastructure. Your users won’t see any difference in the service they receive, but they might notice that we offer superb uptime and speed, so your email is always available, 24/7/365.

Managing the cost of IT

If your IT department is struggling to access the funds it needs, streamlining your email service could be a great way to make some savings. We can offer hosted Exchange for any business, from micro-businesses and startups through to large corporations. We’ll also migrate all of your old data, so your users don’t notice any downtime.

Cloud4 are experts in business cloud services. Talk to us today about Hosted Exchange. The days of running expensive servers are over. It’s time to make the move to the cloud.

4 Ways to Ensure Your Data is Secure in the Cloud

Cloud ComputingGoogle+ is Google’s social network, and anyone with a Gmail address has a profile.  Officially, Google+ has more than 2.5 billion users, although not all of them are active. But Google+ holds some form of user data about every one of those people, and many of them have never checked their settings.

Head to your account, and you’ll be able to review Google’s data sharing defaults. A few settings will surprise you. Did you know that Google can use your public photos as background images on someone else’s TV? Or that your geographical photo metadata is shared when you send a link to a photo, by default? Granted, they’re not sinister settings, but it offers a hint as to why some people are reluctant to trust their data with the cloud.

Here are 4 simple ways to ensure your data is secure.

1. Choose a reputable business cloud provider

Getting the right provider is key to a successful cloud rollout. Look for a company with a proven track record in serving business clients. While many employees will default to using consumer products like Dropbox, this should be discouraged, since they are not designed to offer the robust SLAs that businesses require, and expect.

2 Ensure your data stays in the UK

Corporate cloud users should ensure that their data is stored in the UK. Once the data crosses a geographical boundary, such as being mirrored in another continent, legal rights and security requirements are less clear than they are if you ‘play safe’. Even within the EU, it’s difficult to ascertain exactly which laws would apply if you wanted to hold the provider liable for something. If in doubt, don’t export your data – choose a provider that stores it all within your geographical boundary.

3 Check the encryption

Cloud4’s customers benefit from the same grade of encryption that is used by British banks. When your data is at rest in our cloud storage service, we use a 128-bit encryption key, which would take 1,440,000,000 years to crack in a brute force attempt. That’s just an example; we use different types of encryption to keep your data secure in transit and at rest.

4.  Train employees to work securely

No matter how good your encryption, and your local laws on privacy, your security is only ever as good as the policies you have in the workplace. If your employees are using weak passwords, or logging on with infected mobile devices, security issues are always going to be a lingering threat. Make sure employees know how to use two-factor authentication, and make password training part of each employee’s induction phase.

Proactive data security

Cloud technology can be compliant. It can ensure privacy and security of data. Often, cloud technology is more secure than on-premise solutions it replaces, because you have the invaluable backing of a third party provider who adheres to the latest security standards. To find out more about the ways we protect your data, call Cloud4 for a chat today.

We’re ready to take your call on 0161 850 1264.

How Cloud Computing Can Save Your Company From Downtime and Disaster

If there’s one thing that can cripple a business, it’s downtime. Web hosts sell their services with uptime guarantees for a reason. Every business critical service needs to be online when people are working; increasingly, that means it must be up 24/7/365.

Achieving 100 per cent uptime is extremely difficult; so called ‘Acts of God’ can take out racks of server in a flash. Yet despite its reliance on off-premise data centres, the cloud is your best bet for keeping essential services online, and ensuring constant access to the services and information you need.

Cloud redundancy

Cloud platforms are inherently robust. In fact, they were designed to withstand catastrophe. Instead of storing data in one place, software distributes cloned copies among a group, or farm, of servers. If one server goes down, the others are able to step in and cover for it, creating a seamless experience for your business.

There are rare examples of cloud downtime, but these are unusual enough to hit the headlines. All cloud providers invest in constant system monitoring to keep the chance of downtime to an absolute minimum. Cloud redundancy is still exceptionally good, particularly when you consider the cost of obtaining anywhere near the same uptime figures in the pre-cloud era.

Protecting your profits

Occasionally, your users will encounter issues with internal infrastructure. The power goes out, the phones go down, or the heating system fails completely. Prior to cloud migration, these kinds of catastrophes would have forced a complete business shutdown. Now, the cloud allows us to come up with workarounds.

If you have hosted desktops, your employees can work elsewhere, irrespective of whether their main PC is functional. If you use cloud backup for files, those files are synced to multiple devices, so you can access them from home in a pinch. In a disaster, you can keep working, avoid losing touch with customers, and keep the emails flowing using your reliable hosted Exchange service.

The Cost of Downtime and Disaster

Different businesses have different concepts of downtime, so it’s difficult to measure the cost of critical systems going offline. However, industry estimates give us some idea of the compounding effect of unavailable services.

The Ponemon institute estimates that unplanned downtime cost US businesses $5,600 per minute. For the world’s largest companies, it could be double that amount. While your business may be operating on a smaller scale, there is always a financial penalty when critical services are unavailable, and you will lose revenue if you don’t act fast.

Trust Cloud4

Cloud4 offers SLAs you can rely on, and we provide round the clock support so that your calls never go unanswered. Whatever the scale of your business, we’re here to assist you in keeping business critical services online. To find out more, contact our friendly team today, and have a chat about cloud migration. It could cost less than you think, and prevent huge unexpected cost if the worst does happen.

cloud-blog-contact-button

 

 

It’s Time Your Accountancy Practice Moved Into the Cloud

If you deal with personal and financial data, the internet can be a worrying place. High-profile hacks have hit brands like Sony and Apple, while regulatory compliance can place restrictions on what you can do. But you only have to look at the myriad cloud financial packages to see that accountancy works brilliantly in the cloud. Companies like Xero have gained tens of thousands of clients through it.

If you’re an accountant, the cloud offers huge opportunities to cut spend and improve productivity. Besides offering cloud tools to clients, you can also use cloud technology to streamline your day-to-day tasks.

Work on site with ease

Providers of professional services are often called to work on site with a client. Accountants usually have to lug a pile of papers with them, as well as notebooks, case files and reams of sensitive data.

Immediately we can see that the cloud offers better security than carrying client paperwork. Cloud4 offers a suite of services backed by the same security protocols that are used by our high street banks. Additionally, we’re here 24/7 should you have an issue with a service. If you do end up on a client site and you run into a problem with your cloud service, you just need to give us a quick call, and we’ll get you back up and running.

How to use the cloud

Accountants generally deal with several clients in the course of a working day. Efficiency is key to serving everyone quickly and minimising delays or mistakes.

You could begin by storing your client documents with MyOwnCloud secure file storage. MyOwnCloud lets you upload and share files easily and securely, so you can send copies electronically in minutes. No more post, no more expensive stamps, and no more delays with turnaround.

Your accountancy firm could also improve first impressions with its own dedicated phone number. A geographic or non-geographic phone contact carries more weight than a mobile number, and it’ll give your clients the impression that you’re secure and here to stay.

We’d also recommend that professional service providers look into hosted Exchange email for business. It allows you to get all the benefits of Microsoft Exchange, but without the massive cost of running an email server. Cloud4 can provide you with a huge mailbox, spam filtering, virus scanning, email archiving, and the helpful business features that Exchange offers.

Build your package

At Cloud4, we’re committed to offering affordable cloud services that scale along with your business. For accountancy firms, this means convenience and efficiency, backed with the security that our ISO 27001 certified data centre offers. If you’re unsure how to migrate to the cloud, or you’d like to discuss data security, we’re here to explain how everything works in simple, jargon-free terms.

For more information about moving your accountancy business to the cloud, don’t hesitate to call us today. We’re available now on 0800 802 1989 or manchester@cloud4computers.co.uk, we’ll help you demo our services completely free.

Are You Spending Too Much on IT Hardware?

UK SMEs will spend £22.8 billion on technology this year. That’s according to GE’s Capital Investment Barometer. The largest category for investment is IT hardware, which will increase by 64 per cent. SMEs say that they spend this money to upgrade their IT and enhance productivity.

In the UK, small businesses spent £10m on IT hardware in Q1 of 2014. That’s a massive amount of money that could be diverted to marketing or another essential function of the business.

Is it really worth chasing the latest and greatest IT hardware when your employees already have their own equipment? For many businesses, spending on hardware is a waste of money.

Try Bring Your Own Device

Many businesses are encouraging staff to use their personal IT hardware in the office, and are setting up formal Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies to govern their use. Bringing your own device to work used to be seen as a security risk, but when it’s done under a formal policy, the practice offers a number of benefits.

When employees bring their own devices to work, they can use the operating system they prefer to use, so there’s less struggle to switch to an unfamiliar system, or find training for users that struggle.

Using a hosted desktop for business tasks, your Android-loving project manager can work alongside his or her Apple-loving colleagues, or move seamlessly from one machine to the next. By providing a hosted desktop for every user, you can provide them with the Windows applications they need, even if they’re working on a Mac. If they choose to bring an iPad to work, they can log on to their desktop from their own tablet, and it gives you the opportunity to combine hot desking and remote working.

There’s a clear cost benefit to letting people bring their own devices, in terms of reduced investment. The company doesn’t have to keep upgrading its own machines, nor does it need a pool of tablets and laptops for occasional use.

Balancing the Risk

A Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy is a sensible way to leverage the power of the cloud, save on hardware spend, and give employees increased choice.

While some companies are nervous about having third party devices on their networks, a robust policy can ensure that data is safeguarded without restricting the use of any device. That means:

– Encrypting mobile devices

– Blocking websites that could spread malicious code

– Educating users about the risks of public WiFi networks

– Ensuring every device is locked automatically when not in use

– Using two factor authentication to safeguard company data

– Defining reasonable use of a personal device on company time, and any activities that are prohibited, such as downloading torrents, using social media, or gaming

– Listing any operating systems that are not allowed (such as very old versions of Android, which may be targets for hacking)

– Having a policy that allows company technical staff to wipe the device if it’s lost

Of course, the company may also choose to contribute to the cost of the device, or the cost of services that employees use. However, this should be structured and organised, so that only permitted devices are used.

However you approach BYOD, the hosted desktop is the cog that makes every device work together. All you need to do is draw up the policy, and cut back on your hardware spend next year.

 

How a Hosted Desktop Can Streamline Client Site Visits

Hosted DesktopMany businesses have remote sales teams, and those teams are generally kitted out to work effectively on the road. For a sole trader, it isn’t always as easy to get work done outside the office, nor is it cost effective to carry everything you might need in a pinch.

So how do you work on a client site? How are you planning to take minutes? Or create invoices and mark down expenses? Sure, you can take a pen and paper, but it’s an old-fashioned way to get around the problem when we have so much technology at our disposal.

And while you could take your laptop to the client’s office, will you have a back-up plan if you can’t get on the WiFi?

How many times have you taken your laptop on holiday, only to realise there’s no internet access in the hotel? Perhaps it offered an old-fashioned dialup connection, and the only connection option is a mobile signal; not much use for  laptop.

Perhaps you’ve visited a client site where you’ve put in a support call to get the logon details. By the time you’re done with your meeting, the ticket hasn’t been answered, and you’ve had to make notes offline instead.

Contingency Computing

For most remote workers, connectivity is their big essential. Just carrying a laptop is not enough. In some cases, it can even weigh you down.

The vast majority of workers need:

– A device that’s easy to carry, whether they’re in the car, on a bus or on a plane

– A device that won’t slow them down at airport security

– Access to the applications they normally use (not watered down mobile versions)

– The ability to connect to their computer without WiFi

– Military grade encryption, and two factor authentication, to keep prying eyes out of their business

– The ability to work ‘on the spot’, rather than complete paperwork work home to process at night

– The ability to use more than one device to access the same things

Cloud computing answers some of those requirements, but it can still leave you short if you drop your laptop in a puddle. But if you’ve invested in a hosted desktop, all your data is there – regardless of the device you’re connecting on.

You can even work on a hosted desktop using your phone over a 4G connection.

Other Benefits

Why else would you opt for a hosted desktop to work on site with a client?

– If your laptop gets lost or stolen, all you’ve lost is the physical machine

– Your data is backed up in our data centre, so you can leave it to us to look after it – no matter where you are

– We’re your technical support team, so you don’t need to worry about your client’s support team sorting out problems

– You don’t have to worry about an upgrade wrecking your machine, since we take care of all of that for you

There are dozens of applications for hosted desktops. Mobile nail technicians, surveyors, musicians and accountants all get more done when they work in the cloud.

Move Your Business Forward

Cloud4 understands that businesses have changing needs. Working at a remote site requires a flexible solution, which is exactly what we offer with hosted desktop. We do all this without losing the personal touch that so many of our customers value.

From a one-person start-up to a multi-site enterprise, cloud computing and hosted desktops offer a proven increase in productivity. To find out how to upgrade, swiftly and easily, ring Cloud4 for a chat today.

3 Reasons Why Professional Services Are Better With Cloud Computing

Cloud servicesAs British businesses recognise the importance of being agile, they’re choosing to outsource more tasks to professional service providers who can quickly and efficiently get the job done. If you work for one of these providers, you already know how important it is to be able to serve multiple clients efficiently.

Flexible working is an important part of professional service delivery, and cloud computing supports professional service providers in working to their strengths. Here are 3 ways you could improve your services by migrating to the cloud.

1. An Office That Follows You Everywhere

Depending on your niche, you might spend a lot of time moving from office to office, working on client sites or taking your work overseas. Micro businesses tend to take work on holiday at times, too. If you have one laptop computer, you’re setting yourself up for difficulties if that computer was ever damaged or stolen.

Look into using a hosted desktop that you can access from any computer. Our hosted desktops run in a web browser, so you can log on from practically any location. This safeguards your own equipment, cuts back on the need to find WiFi, and also means you don’t have to carry your laptop when you jet off on holiday.

2. Better Data Security

Small businesses often assume that they won’t be hacked because they don’t hold valuable data. In fact, the opposite is true. A small business computer can be a goldmine for a hacker, since you probably do business with larger companies and hold data about their policies and systems.

In order to serve clients responsibly, you need to encrypt your data, and implement two-factor authentication to prevent hackers from gaining access. Cloud storage and backup is ideal for this, as your provider handles the technical side. To be fully compliant, it’s best to pick a provider in the UK so that your data never ‘leaves’ the country.

3. Uptime

When your clients outsource to you, they will have a timeframe in mind for delivery. A computer problem can wipe out days, or weeks. In a competitive space, you really need to avoid bouts of downtime; you will lose clients as a result. It’s never your fault if your email provider goes down, but if you’re using an inadequate provider, your clients may feel you could have done more to prepare.

When shopping around for a cloud provider, look for a good service level agreement (SLA) that details the uptime and support you should expect. The best providers offer 24/7 support details, as well as a reliable service suitable for business critical applications. Hosted Exchange email offers the features of a local Exchange server without the precarious technical risk of trying to run a system in-house. Cloud4 hosts all hosted Exchange mailboxes in an ISO-27001 certified data centre, giving you peace of mind and a considerable cost saving.

We Understand Professional Services

Cloud4 offers cloud services to many professional service providers. We understand the pressures you face, and the things that can make or break your success. When it comes to IT infrastructure, you’ll find that our cloud solutions allow you to be more agile, responsive and cost effective.

Contact us today on 0800 802 1989 to find out more.

How Hosted VoIP Can Save Your Christmas

Christmas is the time of year that most office workers look forward to. It offers family time, some decent TV and a chance to forget about deadlines and stress. For entrepreneurs and business owners, Christmas isn’t always a time to switch off, since there’s always another phone call to handle.

If your family members are already fed up with your smartphone addiction, they aren’t going to enjoy hearing your ringtone when they’re trying to watch Dr Who. How can you manage your availability without switching your mobile off for good?

VoIP - Voice of IPEnter the IVR (Interactive Voice Response)

An IVR is an automated menu that lets customers select options with their keypad. Most banks use IVRs to direct calls to the right department, or deliver automated messages to callers.

When you set up hosted VoIP, you can create an IVR menu that puts you in control of the way calls are routed. You could send sales calls to an answerphone, while sending support calls straight to your mobile phone. You can also assign a ring group to any selection so that the calls are spread evenly over a team.

IVRs let you stem the flow of enquiries without making people feel abandoned. You can allow certain calls to come through, while filing less urgent enquiries in your voicemail inbox so you can deal with them once Christmas is over.

All of this can be controlled using Cloud4’s simple, straightforward VoIP dashboard.

Our 4 Golden Rules of IVRs

We’ve all encountered IVR menus that have driven us to frustration. A complicated IVR is not a great way to spread festive cheer. We recommend that you follow these four golden rules to ensure your IVR is successful:

1. Keep it short and sweet. IVRs can have up to 10 options at every stage, meaning they get complicated very quickly. Don’t use 10 options, ever. Five is plenty. If you send your callers on a wild goose chase, they will be more likely to abandon the call. Remember: each caller should be on the phone for 5 minutes or less.

2. Make people feel wanted. Your IVR needs to manage calls, not turn people away entirely. Reassure the caller that their message is important, and give them a timeframe for a reply. Then stick to it.

3. Speak slowly and clearly. Don’t use jargon or slang. If you’re not confident about your vocal abilities, hire a voiceover artist to record your IVR message. It’s amazing how much better the pros sound.

4. Offer an emergency contact option. Make sure your valued clients can reach you in a dire emergency. Many businesses assign the 0 key for this purpose.

Is There Still Time to Save Christmas?

If you’re still using an inflexible PBX system, or handing out your mobile number, it’s time to rethink your approach to business telephony. Hosted VoIP is a far more flexible solution, and it costs less than a PBX while offering much, much more.

If you sign up with Cloud4 today, you could have your shiny new IVR in place before the festive season arrives. Contact us to find out how VoIP can make your business more streamlined and responsive to its clients.