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A marketing strategy will help you identify your best customers, understand their needs and implement the most effective marketing methods.

The internet has transformed business marketing. No matter what you do, the internet is likely to be at the heart of your marketing strategy.

Social media is firmly established as a marketing tool. Having a presence opens up new lines of communication with existing and potential customers.

Good advertising puts the right marketing message in front of the right people at the right time, raising awareness of your business.

Customer care is at the heart of all successful companies. It can help you develop customer loyalty and improve relationships with your customers.

Sales bring in the money that enables your business to survive and grow. Your sales strategy will be driven by your sales objectives.

Market research exists to guide your business decisions by giving you insight into your market, competitors, products, marketing and your customers.

Direct marketing can be a highly successful way to generate sales from existing and new customers. Find out how to target them in the best way.

Exhibitions and events are valuable for businesses because they allow face-to-face communication and offer opportunities for networking.

PR

Favourable media coverage can bring a range of business benefits. But how do you attract the attention of editors, broadcasters and journalists?

Eight great customer service uses for VoIP

The world is getting smaller, and the number of ways people can contact your business is growing. As a result, customers expect to be able to reach someone immediately when they have a problem

To meet this expectation, many businesses are employing more staff. But it's not just about having plenty of people available to answer enquiries. The right communication systems can help you operate more efficiently.

A tool that's growing in importance is voice over internet protocol (VoIP), a type of flexible telephone system that routes all your calls over the internet. Here's how it can help you provide better customer service:

1. Offer 24/7 service

We live in a culture that is increasingly 24/7. Customers want to speak to someone at 8pm on a Sunday or 3am on a Friday - at their convenience, not yours.

VoIP's powerful forwarding tools make it easier to provide 24/7 service, because you can route incoming calls to a customer service team in any time zone depending on the time of day.

2. Low-cost call-backs

Calling people back is a common task of every customer service team. As calls placed through a VoIP system are generally cheaper than calls made with traditional phone lines, VoIP provides a low-cost way to maintain great customer service standards.

3. The personal touch

Each of your customer services people can have their own individual telephone number. When they're away from their desk, the VoIP system can automatically transfer their calls through to a colleague who will be familiar with the customer's query or case.

4. You always have a local number

Your customers may be located all over the world, but with VoIP you can give them a local number to call. You can have different numbers for customers in the UK, China, the USA - wherever you like. The customer dials a local number, you pick up in your contact centre.

5. It's easier for home workers

If you want to expand your customer service team to include home workers, you can set up VoIP to forward your calls to the individual home worker's phones. It's a good way to rapidly expand your customer service team whenever you need to do so.

6. No calls go unanswered

You can make sure no calls go unanswered by setting your VoIP system to continue forwarding calls until they get picked up.

This means that when operatives from one team are busy, operatives from a less busy team can take calls to support them. This approach helps keep staff productive too.

7. You'll save money

In general, running a customer service system through VoIP is cheaper than using traditional phone lines.

8. Stay in complete control

When you implement VoIP across your business, you'll get complete control over calls. You can see who is calling, how long each call lasts and how many calls you've failed to answer. Many systems will also let you listen in to calls as they happen.

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