Thursday, November 19, 2009

Are These Myths About VoIP Holding You Back?

Are you reluctant to let go of your outdated telephone system, even though you know that switching to VoIP would help keep your business in step with the competition? Some persistent but erroneous beliefs about IP telephony are still keeping some small companies from discovering its many advantages.

One common misconception is that VoIP is complicated to install and that making the transition is difficult. The truth is that there is no easier type of phone system to install than VoIP. With no on-site hardware, no set-up costs, and no technician visit required, you will probably find the switch to IP telephony easier than having cable TV installed in your home.

Another myth surrounding IP telephony is that training employees to use the system will consume many labor hours. On the contrary, IP systems are very intuitive. After a brief training session, all employees will be able to use features such as call center routing and auto attendantwith minimal help from management or IT personnel. VoIP technology’s integrated data and communications platform will actually help reduce your company’s labor costs.

Your VoIP provider will automatically maintain and upgrade your system without any disruption of your service. Multiple extensions and remote connections for employees who telecommute can be easily added. In fact, IP telephony systems provide scalability and flexibility that traditional systems have never been able to offer.

According to a report by market research company Dell’Oro Group, IP telephony will account for nearly 60% of new communication systems for small businesses, while installation of analog systems is expected to decline by an average of 10% per year, and the use of traditional systems will decline to less than 5% by 2011.

Small businesses that have already embraced IP telephony and realize the simplicity, ease of use, and flexibility it offers are taking a huge step toward positioning themselves to compete with larger companies.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Simple Steps to Avoid Having Your Merchant Account Frozen

Fear-inspiring stories abound regarding businesses that have had to shut down when their merchant account is put on hold. Fortunately, a little extra diligence on your part can reduce the likelihood of this happening to your business.

Reasons for merchant account holds typically fall into two categories—violation of the account service agreement and suspicion of fraudulent activity.

  • Study your merchant agreement carefully when you first sign up for an account. Many credit card processing providers will ask you to declare the average volume your business will experience each month, as well as the expected average ticket amount. Be sure to make a note of the amounts you project, and be careful not to exceed them because this can cause your account to be frozen or cancelled.

  • Never accept payment for goods or services other than those described in your merchant agreement. Again, it is a good idea to consider carefully what you agree to sell when you sign up for the account. If you own a carpet cleaning company, for example, listing your business as “floor care” will allow for the possible addition of related services. If you plan to sell items that are completely unrelated, you may need a separate merchant account.

  • Excessive chargebacks can also constitute a service agreement violation and cause your account to be frozen. Good customer service and communication will prevent many chargebacks. Some merchants find it worth the effort to call their customers to verify each sale, and customers usually appreciate the extra security measure.

Suspicious processing activity can be more challenging to prevent, there are steps you can take to avoid having your account frozen for suspected fraud. Let your bank know ahead of time if you expect any changes in processing behavior such as a sudden increase in your average ticket amount or if you expect an unusually large single transaction. In this case, you should ask to speak to someone in your bank’s risk department.

Reputable credit card processing providers are as concerned about their customers as you are about yours, and finding such a provider will prevent many future frustrations. Plans and pricing differ, however, and most businesses find they need help sorting though all the variables.