Flexibility to Customize
Flexibility to customize
In general, when it comes to telephony products, some application suites are worth looking at-but only if there's also the option to buy applications separately and maintain easy integration of features across those products. It is crucial to have the flexibility to pick only the features needed to customize a phone system.
For example, many businesses-from graphic design businesses to law firms-need to have phone conferences with a time-keeping program to keep track of calls for billing by the hour. That may be all they need from their telephony products, and they shouldn't have to buy programs for extraneous business operations they won't be using. Businesses looking for telephony applications should only consider those offering different tiers of service that compliment their business needs. The ability to integrate applications when the need arises is valuable to a growing business. But so is the ability to start simply.
Dictation and transcription
Part of competing with bigger businesses is having enough time to devote to your customers-to give them that extra level of customer service that people expect from small businesses. Finding that extra time to commit to your customers is often in a tug of war with taking care of necessary administrative details. One way to cut back on recordkeeping and data entry is by using programs designed to condense the processes.
Accounting firms, medical practices and law firms, in particular, have the need for dictation and transcription software that cut out time and even secretarial needs. First, a dictation application should be portable; a lawyer should be able to dictate into a PDA, Pocket PC, iPhone or Droid in court, hit send and have the file sent to the transcriptionist before even having a chance to forget. Then the dictation application should integrate with a transcription program that supports both audio and video.
With the right dictation and transcription software, many small businesses are able to cut out the secretarial services that have been traditionally needed. Software such as this saves time, so more time can be spent with patients or clients.
Setup shouldn't require tech support
We are entering the second decade of the 21st century. It is not too much to ask to be able to install an application that functions professionally without getting a headache. Once an application is out on the market, it's absurd if it can't be installed without tech support lines ringing off the hook. Without any tech support, the average user should be able to get their application installed and working in three minutes.
So don't settle for slow or intensive installations. That's the beauty of using single applications. The idea is to remove the barrier of entry into the small business arena, and technical barriers can be as big an obstacle as cost.
One last thing: it's important to look for products that maintain backward compatibility and minimum hardware requirements. All the applications mentioned in this article should still be compatible to Windows 2000 or Mac 10.28.
Peter Lupton is CEO at NCH Software. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.