The last 10 years have seen huge changes in the working environment, none more so than over the last year.
And telecommunications company Ubi, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, has kept pace, supporting its clients and growing steadily over the decade.
Ubi was established by David Collins and Dennis Hobday in December 2010. Both came from careers in the telecoms industry, but they felt they had more to offer, focusing on customer service and decided to establish their own company – Ubi. They initially worked with Baytek Office Solutions, based in their office, supplying their customers with telecommunications services.
David says although it was a leap from paid employment they felt confident that the business would work. He adds: “I never thought about the business failing, we were fortunate to launch ‘under the wing’ of Baytek and we were very grateful to have that relationship – it was a huge help at the time.”
After a couple of years Dennis decided to leave the partnership, and David continued as the sole partner, building a team around him. The Newton Abbot-based company now has nine employees, and clients in a range of sectors including hospitality, education and B2B professional services, across the south west.
David says the industry has seen many changes over the decade – perhaps the most significant being the move to cloud-based services.
“When we began, cloud-based technology was available, but the broadband was not high enough quality – we have seen that improve and it is now good enough for cloud.
“High quality cloud-based technology has been more important than ever, with people working remotely during the pandemic.”
David adds: “We moved to cloud ourselves in January last year, looking back, it was very timely as it has enabled us to be able to work remotely and to effectively support our clients throughout the pandemic.”
Many of Ubi’s clients are in the hotel and hospitality industry, with Ubi providing services like hotel telephone systems, or guest wi-fi. One of the first things the company did during the first lockdown was to offer support to its clients, reducing their monthly bills wherever possible.
“We knew how hard this would hit our hospitality clients, so we contacted them all and offered to pause any the services that we could, to help them. For us it’s about relationships and the level of customer service and care we offer to our clients – we’re not in it for a quick win.”
Flexibility is key to customer relations for Ubi, with short term contracts and minimal tie-ins for their clients. David adds: “We have never insisted on long contracts, and I believe that we have kept customers because of this approach.”
And how does David feel the workplace will change – post pandemic?
“I think, that where businesses are able, we will see more flexible working, people combining working from home more often with office-based work. Most businesses will retain an office, but I anticipate they will be smaller, more flexible premises.
“We know that lots of people have been able to successfully work from home, but for most, I believe a combination of office-based and home-based work will be the new way of working. There used to be a lot of mistrust around people working from home, but I think this last year has proved that is completely unfounded, with many people actually becoming more productive. I think there is also a lot of ‘Zoom fatigue’ with people craving face-to-face interaction.”
Looking back, what advice would David give to himself? I’d say, “Follow your instincts a bit more and also, from the early days, perhaps don’t be quite so optimistic with budgets!”
Cancel Amazon! How using Amazon exploits all of us
I’m not sure what is going to happen in 2021, but I know what I will not be doing.
As 2020 comes to its end and we all try our best to forecast 2021 it’s more difficult than ever to know exactly what we can expect both in our business and personal lives.
I do, however, know there is something I will not be doing, and that’s buying anything from Amazon, or indeed using Amazon in any way if I can avoid it.
Is it time to cancel Amazon?
I can hear my IT colleagues jumping up now and highlighting that Amazon’s Web Services (AWS) are used throughout our industry to deliver services and so I accept I may have no choice – for example Netflix uses AWS. I’m sure that some of the companies I order from online use AWS, but I have no control over that. But to sum up, where I can, I will choose to not use Amazon.
It may seem odd that I’m in the technology sector but spurn one key provider, however I feel that my business and personal life is better off for avoiding Amazon.
Why am I taking such a bold stance? There are a number of reasons but, overall, it’s a matter of perceived fairness based on what’s emerged regarding the company’s performance and tax contributions in the UK.
This year, the company declared they would pay as little as £14.3m on 2019’s £14bn turnover (but on an undisclosed profit and a ‘low’ margin). When it was realised this didn’t look good publicly, they announced they were paying £293m in direct taxes, which happened to include all the usual PAYE/NI and business rates. Let’s see if HMRC will let me take that into account when I try to negotiate down my own company’s annual corporation tax bill this year.
If we assume that their ‘low’ net margin is only 3%, they would have made a profit of £420 million on their £14billion turnover, which I calculate equates to almost £80m corporation tax due. So, in their declaration they were £66m short; about equal to the annual salary for over 2,000 NHS nurses. Never have we needed healthcare more than now, so what better reason is there for Amazon to pay the same amount of tax as any other business in the UK has to?
Simplification this may be, but these are the numbers.
And remember, these figures are before the massive 35%+ growth Amazon have been experiencing in 2020. If the company changed their policy to honestly pay corporation tax at the standard 19% on their true, unabridged, unmolested profit figures I would potentially support them in running a PR campaign to say how they fund 2,000 nurses!
But you and I know that they won’t do this because they do not want to pay corporation tax at the standard rate. Is it really that much to ask? From the outside looking in, it appears all Amazon wants to do is trade in our country and use its infrastructure to the fullest, take peoples’ money and trouser every penny of profit. In my opinion, you’d struggle to find a company less interested in community; theirs is a one World Amazon-first view.
Cancel Amazon and support local businesses
So, while I’m clearly advocating against Amazon, what is it am I advocating for? In a word, “local”.
As a marketplace that shows you the numerous options, Amazon is great. So, use Amazon to “showroom” or source a product/service you want, but then look to buy it elsewhere (from other suppliers on the internet or an independent on the high street).
Never make the assumption that because it’s on Amazon it will be cheaper. I have found multiple items for my home and business, from paint stripper to electricals, on Amazon that I end up buying at my local independent suppliers at the same or even a lower price. As consumers (either in business or day-to-day) we need to shop smarter – studies have shown that a pound spent with an independent local shop goes further than it does in the hands of a multinational corporation.
This approach genuinely works and has led me to using or working with some fantastic independent businesses who offer far more than online payment and next day delivery. Since thinking about my buying habits in this way, I haven’t spent a penny or bought even a single item from Amazon.
In 2021 let’s make sure we use Amazon to our advantage and not theirs.
I’d love to know your thoughts on Amazon and if you feel as passionately as I do about local business. Get in touch and contact us.
It used to be that the only job with a prerequisite of flexibility was gymnastics. Those of us old enough will remember marvelling at the performances of the Russian gymnast Olga Korbut or Romania’s Nadia Comăneci who between them won 15 medals including 9 golds across multiple events spanning 3 Olympic games. They were ground breakers who were world class across all areas, winning medals in balance beam, uneven bars, floor exercises, vault, all-round and team. It didn’t matter what they were asked to do, or what piece of apparatus they were required to use they excelled. They were years ahead of their competitors and had the skills, flexibility and adaptability to flourish. Alongside their talent ran an extremely harsh training regime, and a level of determination and hard work, without which they would not have achieved such incredible success.
How flexible working works.
Successful businesses have for many years adapted to changes to the marketplace and by doing so remained relevant, competitive and in demand. Those that have failed to adapt have either gone out of business or been taken over by a competitor – remember Woolworth’s, BHS and Athena, and international brands such as Compaq, Commodore and Kodak all of whom either gone completely or been reduced to niche trading.
All of these businesses either had no desire to change so chose to ignore long-term trends and falling sales or couldn’t adapt due to their business model being based upon traditional long-term financial commitments and high borrowings. They were as inflexible as an icicle whilst their business dripped away.
Today our challenges are more immediate; we simply have to adapt. Never has change needed to be made so quickly and by so many across so many sectors. But the good news is that the technology exists at affordable prices to enable businesses to become truly flexible by making the necessary changes.
The changes that make flexible working possible.
Home working is now here to stay and there are multiple ways of ensuring that your staff can be fully productive and monitored at home. A simple home set up of a laptop and phone is possible in almost every home now. Common complaints such as ‘my router is too far away from where I work to have a desk phone’ can be overcome with either a trusty, long cat5 cable, or utilising wi-fi phones or softphones for laptops with headsets. Even the thickest internal cob walls can be sidestepped using good wi-fi access points correctly located.
What if flexible working isn’t possible?
If employees have poor landline broadband then alternatives such as good 4G with external aerials, point to point broadband, or bonding a couple of broadband lines together can be adopted. And if all this fails then modern cloud or IP telephony will allow calls to be forwarded, potentially at no cost, to home numbers or mobiles without giving away personal numbers. If it’s set up correctly your customers will have no idea that they are speaking with home workers. And mobile apps that run alongside cloud telephones or modern IP based phone systems also allow your staff to be part of the office system whilst on their mobile.
Flexible working won’t affect productivity.
Combining cloud telephony with other services such as Zoom will mean that you can have meaningful face-to-face video calls (when you wish to!) whilst utilising the better telephone call handling that systems offer for everyday conversations.
Don’t worry about not being able to see if staff are working – most phone systems will highlight if a remote user is on the phone as if they were in the office. Furthermore, simple, cost effective software is available that will provide you with comprehensive information on call volumes, peak times, etc. And if you wish to be able to monitor how clients are being dealt with then call recording is easy to enable and can be a real benefit.
Flexible working makes your business more resilient.
So all this technology means that you can comfortably move staff home with the knowledge that your communication can be as good, if not better, than on your business premises. But maybe more importantly in these times, the flexibility this kind of technology also gives your business makes it more capable to adapt to changes as you need to in response to market fluctuations and/or customer requirements.
In the last 6 months we have gone from everyone except key workers to work from home, to work in the office if you can, to definitely work in the office, and now back to work from home again. In such a changeable environment you need to make sure that you work with a communications partner that allows you to change your services at short notice and without penalty or a new commitment to an inflexible 5 year term (or even longer!). We hardly know what’s in line for 2021 let alone 2025 so make sure you choose a technology partner carefully and avoid old style ‘tied in’ suppliers.
If your business wants to become as flexible as Olga or Nadia then you will have to put in some hard work to ensure it’s right, but hopefully the result will mean your business makes it to a gold medal standard.
Wifi for Guests is a service that is now expected and perhaps essential for every hospitality business. I, for one, will not book any accommodation without checking that Wi-Fi is available (and hopefully free). And if the service is poor when I’m staying then it is definitely a mark against the business.
The problem with Wifi for guests.
The problem is that delivering high speed, high quality internet access for guests isn’t always cheap and the investment doesn’t appear to offer a return; after all the only benefit is that your guests are able to get online. And nowadays you can’t even charge for it without getting a bad review on Tripadvisor.
So, there we are. Large investment, no direct return and, to add to it, you receive heaps of technical queries from users that don’t know how to use their own phones. It’s only a benefit for the guests. Case proven. Or is it?
Wifi for your guests brings benefits.
Looked at from a different angle, Wifi for your guests can be a real asset to your business. It can increase guest satisfaction, improve your bottom line by reducing dependency on the incredibly expensive Online Travel Agents (OTAs), increase repeat business, enhance your reviews and allow you to carry out targeted marketing.
Wifi for guests can improve Covid-19 safety.
More recently though, Guest Wi-Fi has also proven its use and value to businesses in the hospitality sector in capturing of guest/visitor details as part of Covid-19 compliance protocols.
The information it provides is remarkable – time of visit, frequency of visits, names, email addresses, telephone numbers, all from people that have experienced your hospitality. Information that’s a marketing gold mine.
Wifi for guests has even more uses.
Want to ask your guests to review you in the hot-spot just after they have visited? Sorted. Wish to check those reviews before they go live? Not a problem. Like to send an offer to someone for their birthday? Of course you can. Want to offer guests that booked via an OTA a special rate to return booking direct? Perfect, and no commission. Win, win after win!
If your Guest Wi-Fi is just providing Wi-Fi then it may be time to look again. Yes, for guests’ use, but definitely not just for the guests.
Let’s face it we could all do with less shilly-shallying around. It’s not that I like to be told what to do by anyone but I do appreciate being given clear, concise advice which will allow me to make an informed decision.
It’s very difficult to plan properly when the route ahead isn’t clearly mapped out and even more so when the options may or may not get you to your destination. And to then be told that the route we could have taken, many miles earlier, is the one we now need to take doesn’t go down too well.
Of course, I wouldn’t wish to be in any way political but our government has definitely led the way in procrastination and uncertainty. And every time they sway one way or another we all have to look again at our budgets, forecasts, options and scenarios. In all, the uncertainty and changing advice is exhausting.
So I have some clear advice for you that is probably obvious – but someone has to give it, so I’ll try!
Remote working as a customer first strategy
We all know that this crisis isn’t going to just disappear, and we know that it will continue to have a massive impact on how our lives run, both in work and at home, for the foreseeable future. There will be for sure further lockdowns and set-backs along the way, which will inevitably mean that our ability to work effectively will be compromised.
My advice is, therefore, to do something about it and do it now, so that you are prepared for what will surely be some seismic and lasting changes to ways of working. Ignoring this issue simply will not help you.
In particular, those of us in business need to think about the customer. Sustaining the customer experience needs to be a top priority. And there’s almost no reason why great customer service and all the supporting office functions can’t be efficiently maintained when your team is either not in the office or spread between offices and home working.
Remote working options and opportunities.
The technology exists, and most of us have been using it over the past months, to a degree. Remote working using cloud-based email, voice calls, mobile apps and CRM software can (and does) work extremely well. You may even discover that you work better this way and, as many do, productivity improves as a result.
Remote working is worth the investment.
Of course, switching to a more flexible manner of working involves investment, time and training. But embracing a more agile way of working will build resilience and better prepare your business for what this strange period will throw at it next. This radical new economic climate we now find ourselves in requires us all to accept the world has changed – especially those of us in business. The alternative option of staying just as you were pre-covid is not one to shilly-shally around with.
If you have met with a Telecoms or IT salesperson recently then you will probably be aware of the term Unified Communications, although you may well be no clearer as to what it is and how it may help your business.
What is Unified Communications?
Unified Communications is the IT term for linking all of your business communications together. In its most integrated version emails, voicemails, messaging, mobiles, CRM and even diary entries are merged so that you have a complete picture of any communication with your customers as well as work that your staff are engaged in. The idea behind Unified Communications is that it should result in more efficient handling of all of your dealings with customers, with a more holistic overview and hopefully better customer service and reduced operating costs. Sounds great doesn’t it? However, this outcome isn’t always the case and it may not be the best option for your business.
What are the risks of Unified Communications?
Take for example integrating your telephone system with your diary so that before a call is put through to you the system checks your diary for availability, as well as your mobile, desk phone and softphone. This all seems a very good idea unless like me, and most likely 98% of us that run our own diaries, you forget to update your diary if you happen to finish a meeting early, or if it is overrunning. In these cases you risk receiving a call when you don’t want to, or missing a call when you are actually available to take it. Sometimes technology is too clever for its own good, or simply the features are unnecessary.
Bespoke Unified Communications Solutions
Although possible, Unified Communications doesn’t mean that you have to link everything together. There are real benefits in linking your telephone system with Outlook for example, so that you can click to dial your contacts, or with your CRM system so that the caller’s details pop up onto your screen, ready for you to view when you answer the call. Additional features such as sending voicemails to email inboxes helps staff that work away from the office as it allows them to listen to their voicemails on their smartphones. When you pick and choose the best option for your business such as mobile twinning (which means that when your office phone rings, your mobile does too), conferencing features that allow you to set up video or voice conferences from your diary or clicking to dial from the internet on a desktop computer, suddenly it all feels very beneficial. The great news is that all of these are standard features of simple Unified Communications.
It’s important to note that full integration can become expensive and the benefits can be clearly outweighed by the costs, so it may well be that your business will benefit from some degree of Unified Communications without committing to the full monty!
Finding a Unified Communications solution for your business.
Of course there are plenty of suppliers, so do take your time evaluating the most suitable and be as realistic as possible about the levels of unification your business needs. Our team at Ubi has the experience as well as the products and services to be able to provide first class Unified Comms for any businesses from 5 to 500 staff. We would be delighted to speak with you if you would like to discuss the features available for Unified Communications and the best options for your business.
If you are a business owner you may be receiving daily calls from BT or from companies calling on behalf of BT, or your current provider telling you, in a rather worrying manner that your phone lines are being switched off and you need to speak with them immediately. The thing is, while there is truth in their end story, the timescales and implications aren’t necessarily as worrying or disruptive as they may suggest.
What are BT doing to ISDN2e lines?
BT Openreach is in the process of upgrading its entire telecommunications infrastructure onto ‘IP’ and part of this involves phasing out ISDN2e lines, which are one of the most popular types of business lines used by small to medium sized businesses. The likelihood is that if your business has less than 8 inbound lines, you will be using ISDN2e lines and so you will be affected by the changes.
Ubi understand the implications of these changes so if you want to take the hassle away and would like us to find the best fit for your business then please contact us, we would love to speak with you.
The new lines known as SIP, work over the internet, so in order to utilise them your business will need to have a good internet connection, ideally fast fibre, together with a compatible telephone system.
BT is switching off ISDN lines.
BT plans to switch off ISDN lines by 2025, but there are currently almost 2 million ISDN lines in use so there is no need to worry about being suddenly faced with no phone lines and a large unbudgeted bill for a new system. It is in your best interest however, to start planning now for the change by checking when your existing contracts are due for renewal. It’s a good idea to also start investigating the benefits of a new system on SIP lines versus a new Cloud system.
Both new SIP systems and Cloud telephony use the same IP technology and offer some great benefits such as excellent remote working, mobile phone apps, conference calling, free calls and multi-site working, but with a few key differences. Systems tend to cost less in the long run, they integrate better with third party applications, can be bought or rented and they work over any type of internal cabling. Cloud telephony on the other hand runs only on Cat5 or Cat6 data cabling and is paid for on a monthly licence plan. With Cloud every user handset needs a licence to work, rather like Windows365. Cabling is expensive, so if you have to upgrade your internal network to enable Cloud telephony it may well make it an uncompetitive choice.
Do I need to switch from BT to another business line provider?
Don’t be fooled into believing that Cloud telephony is the only way to go, as both Cloud and on-site systems use the same technology, so investigate which is the most suitable and cost-effective option for your business. As it stands currently, systems still account for over 87% of all business telephone installations in the UK.
It may be that you do need to change your telephone system to handle the new style of lines, as well as pay for the installation of the new style lines. However, this may not always be the case as most telephone systems supplied over the last few years are capable of handling the new lines, sometimes with only minor adjustments.
Hosted Telephony keeps your business running in bad weather
The West Country is a beautiful place to live, but this last month has reminded many of us just how difficult it can be to keep a business running in the event of major weather disruption, like heavy snow fall. Snow isn’t as common here as it is in many parts of the UK, but winter storms are! Because of the distances that some of us need to travel and the lack of public transport when we do have dangerous weather conditions, the infrastructure just isn’t in place to ensure that staff can still commute to work.
Avoid risking lives and risking business with hosted telephony.
This past month we have seen so many people taking a risk by trying to commute to work through lanes that are easily blocked or flooded and through snowy and icy conditions. Because of the weather, so many businesses haven’t been able to fully trade. Even those businesses lucky enough to be served by public transport are exposed when buses and trains are cancelled.
On top of people being unable to make it to work when the weather gets really bad, add power failure to the mix and it may seem that even if you could get to your place of work, you might not be able to work when you get there, because the technology is down too. So the big question is how will customers contact you if the phone lines are dead and you have no power? If your team can’t be available to take calls, you could be losing business, not to mention you may have frustrated customers when everything is back to normal.
Hosted telephony makes your business communication resilient.
But this needn’t be the case. Modern hosted telephony and IT gives you the opportunity to ensure that your business’s communication is highly resilient and very importantly that you can always be contacted by your customers. Office phone numbers can be re-pointed at mobiles, home numbers or alternative branches within a few moments, at any time of the day, 365 days a year. Staff can work from laptops, mobile phones or be contactable on their own home phones. This means that they can still truly be part of your business communication at no cost to them and without giving away their private numbers to customers. You also have the ability to measure and see how your calls have been handled and by whom. In short, wherever your team can access the internet or their mobile phone they can work, whether that’s at a coffee shop or bar or at home in their kitchen.
Continue to serve happy customers with hosted telephony.
Not only does hosted telephony allow your business to run seamlessly in the event of dangerous weather so that you can continue to serve customers, but you have the added peace of mind of knowing that your staff are safe too. The good news is that it may even cost less to run than your current set up. If you would like to know more about how you can make your business more resilient then we’d love to speak with you.
Hospitality wifi is more than just wifi for your guests and patrons
In the hospitality sector the importance of having Guest Wi-Fi in place for customers is well understood, but just having it isn’t enough. There are lots of things to consider and this blog will help to guide you on not only how to satisfy your customers who have come to expect that Wi-Fi will be available to them, but will also give you helpful tips on how to leverage Guest Wi-Fi in order to help your business to grow and succeed.
Being compliant with GDPR
Businesses offering Hospitality Wi-Fi for their guests will need to be GDPR compliant. This means showing the terms and conditions to all customers before they connect to the network. If they decline the TCs & Cs then no personal data is allowed to be collected on them. Users can make a request to view all of the data that you have collected about them. This could include the locations they have logged in at, the devices and the amount of data they have used, marketing campaigns they have participated in and payments that they have made, so it’s a good idea to have a process in place that allows you to send this information in a timely manner.
Hospitality Wi-Fi signal
If you have gone to the trouble of offering your hospitality Wi-Fi to your customers, whether you are a coffee shop, restaurant, retail store or hotel, the connection needs to be strong. Wouldn’t it be awful if you had a customer who enjoyed your coffee or had a really great night’s stay but left a negative review because they had a poor connection, or worse, couldn’t connect at all? It is really important to invest in good Wi-Fi connectivity, so that your customers leave your venue satisfied with all areas of the service that you provide, and that really does include a decent Guest Wi-Fi connection.
Having an even bandwidth speed for all customers is important. If the speed isn’t even, this could mean that some customers are streaming hours of video for example, while others have trouble connecting at all. It not only protects your business by stopping some customers from taking advantage of the Wi-Fi, but it shows that as a business you value all of your customers equally.
Security and ease of use for hospitality wifi guests
It is recommended to offer your customers a secure Hospitality guest Wi-Fi network to login to, rather than them having to ask staff members for a Wi-Fi password. Guests may expect hospitality venues to offer Wi-Fi, but they also won’t like to see a message that says they are about to join an unsecured network, as their devices may be visible to others. If you are going to take the step of having Guest Wi-Fi you may as well do it right. The best scenario is where customers can login securely just once and it will remember their device every time they visit your business, even if you have multiple locations. Not only does it eliminate frustration for the customer, but it means that your employees won’t be hassled with questions about the Wi-Fi password, which could be taking them away from their work. Very importantly, because it is secure you can feel confident that your customers won’t gain access to any business devices that may be connected to the Wi-Fi.
Branded login screen
If you are going to get Hospitality Guest Wi-Fi you should definitely consider a branded login screen, not only will this login page feel secure to customers, but it gives you a chance to show off your business with your logo and company information. You could even promote an offer on this page, while they are already inside your venue! You may even go one step further and add a social login option, which allows users to gain access to your Guest Wi-Fi using their social media login details. This is a fantastic opportunity, as it encourages visitors to share your business on social media.
Having a branded login screen is not only great for when your customers are at your venue, but it can be used as an opportunity to build trust and loyalty with your brand. You could let them know that they will receive exclusive offers if they fill out their details to receive emails or text alerts. This is a fantastic way to encourage your customers to come back again and again! If you would like to know more about how you can leverage Hospitality Wi-Fi for your business then please contact us, we will be happy to help.