Monthly Archives: September 2017

Skype for Business Review

Most video conference services require you to make the choice between paying higher prices to get more robust features or forgoing them for a cheaper price. Skype for Business, however, is an affordable and effective tool that retains its most valuable assets. You’ll spend less each month on this service than for most others, but you won’t have to sacrifice reliability, high-definition video feeds or the most essential features of video conferencing software. Moreover, the large conference rooms and ability to stream multiple video feeds at once make Skype for Business a good tool for hosting many participants in a single meeting.

In September 2017, Microsoft announced that it will replace Skype for Business with Microsoft Teams, though it has not given a timeline for the transition at this time. Microsoft Teams will allow users to make calls, hold meetings and collaborate with others from a single place.

The No. 1 highlight of Skype for Business is its affordable cost. There are two packages that include Skype for Business (along with other Microsoft Office software), so it’s important to know what you really need before you buy. However, if you don’t already own a license to use Microsoft Office applications, this could be a cost-effective way to bundle those services. Up to 250 participants can be included in a Skype for Business conference under either of these plans. Skype for Business also offers a 30-day free trial.

Skype for Business has a variety of uses beyond video conferencing. When you purchase Skype for Business primarily as a video conference tool, you also get a text chat platform, the ability to make audio calls, and a way to send files quickly and easily (even without setting up a video meeting).

Support for Skype for Business was satisfactory in our experience. While there isn’t a direct sales support line for Skype for Business, calling Microsoft led us to a customer service rep who was relatively knowledgeable and happy to help us resolve our questions. There were a few instances where we encountered wait times, but they weren’t long enough for us to give up. Moreover, Microsoft offers plenty of help documents and tutorials on how to use the system. We never felt as if we’d run into an obstacle with Skype for Business that could not be overcome with relatively little effort.

No dial-in audio: The most notable drawback is that Skype for Business lacks a dial-in feature for meetings. Despite this shortcoming, if your primary interest is using Skype for Business as a video conference platform simply to host meetings and presentations, it shouldn’t be a huge problem if your team has access to a laptop or mobile device.

Learning curve: Skype for Business isn’t particularly difficult to use, but it’s not necessarily intuitive either. It takes some clicking around, especially given its other functions beyond video conferencing. It might take some time to familiarize yourself and your team with the service. Still, this minor learning curve doesn’t impact the overall quality of the service. Also, for users already familiar with Skype, the barriers are significantly reduced.

Vend Review

Our 2018 research and analysis of POS systems leads us to again recommend Vend as the best all-in-one POS system for small businesses.

We chose Vend from the dozens of POS systems we considered. To read our full methodology and see a more comprehensive list of POS systems, visit our best picks page here.
Why Vend?
Vend is an affordable, scalable POS system that gives you a choice of payment processors to work with and is compatible with third-party POS hardware, which means if you already own equipment, you may be able to continue using it. It also partners with a variety of companies to offer add-ons, such as appointment-scheduling features that make it a good option for retail stores, salons and other professional service-based businesses.

Competitive Pricing and Favorable Terms
Vend is packed with features at a price that’s very friendly to small businesses. Like most of the top POS systems, Vend charges a monthly subscription fee for its software and doesn’t require you to sign a long-term service contract, so you can cancel at any time without incurring an expensive fee.

Vend is transparent with its pricing. You can see the subscription rates for its four plans on its website. Vend is one of the few POS systems that has a free plan, which is a valuable service for businesses that are just getting off the ground. This plan is also a good option if you want to test-drive Vend longer than the trial period allows. It supports a single register, 10 products and up to 1,000 customers. However, it doesn’t come with email or phone support.

The Starter plan costs $69 per month and supports one register, three users, and an unlimited number of products and customers. It includes reporting and inventory features and gives you 24/7 access to customer support via email and chat.

The Advanced plan costs $99 per month (or $79 per month if you pay annually rather than month to month). In addition to the Starter plan feature, it comes with a loyalty program, Vend Ecommerce and advanced reporting. It also allows you to add more registers for $49 each per month and priority phone support for $19 per month.

If you have multiple locations, you’ll need the Multi-Outlet plan, which costs $249 per month (or $199 per month if you pay annually). It includes all the features of the Advanced plan plus priority phone support and the tools to manage your reporting, inventory and customers across all of your locations.

Choosing a Payroll Service

Looking for an online payroll service in 2018? Here’s everything you need to know about what an online payroll service is, what it offers and how to choose one. If you already know what you’re looking for, visit our best picks page to see which ones we recommend, as well as a complete list of others that might work for you.

What is Online Payroll?
Online payroll services operate in the cloud. They don’t require any software to be installed or maintained, and businesses can manage and run payroll from anywhere.
They can be used to pay full-time and part-time employees as well as contract and freelance workers.
Online payroll typically includes a variety of services:
Payroll processing: Online payroll services automatically calculate how much employees should be paid each pay period. The systems take into account shift differentials, overtime, holiday pay and taxes, as well as Social Security and benefit deductions. They then make payments to employees by direct deposit or check.
File and pay payroll taxes: These services can withhold employee taxes, file quarterly payroll tax reports and pay tax withholdings to the proper state and federal agencies. In addition, they issue employee W-2 and 1099 forms at the end of the year.
New hire reporting: Many services report new hires to the government on your behalf.
Integrations: Online payroll services can integrate with a variety of payroll-related programs businesses are already using, such as accounting software, time and attendance systems and human resources software.
Paid-time-off management: Many of these services manage paid time off by tracking how many vacation and sick hours employees have earned and how much they’ve used.
Employee self-service: Typically, employees can access the system in order to view pay stubs, PTO balances and year-end tax forms.
Mobile access: Many systems offer mobile apps or mobile-friendly websites that let businesses manage and run payroll from smartphones or tablets.
Payroll reports: Most systems offer detailed wage and labor reports that provide a deeper look at how a business operates.
Pros and cons: The biggest benefit of online payroll services is that all of the work – payroll calculations, payroll tax payments, year-end tax forms, etc. – is completed for you. With these systems, payroll can typically be run in just several minutes.

One downside is that using an online payroll service is more expensive than handling payroll on your own. Another potential negative is that you are entrusting your payroll provider to get everything right. If the provider makes a mistake, you may face a rash of angry employees or a fine from the government. Also, if you are in an area with spotty internet service, an online payroll provider will likely not be a fit for you.

TeleDirect Review

After conducting considerable research and analysis of call center services, we recommend TeleDirect as the best overall call center service for small businesses in 2018.

When it comes to a call center service that can cover both your inbound and outbound needs, you’ll want to be sure that the company you partner with offers extensive features on both sides of the equation. A quality call center service should be able to shift seamlessly from one task to another, be it answering customer service calls and processing orders, or conducting surveys and lead generation services for your business. And, of course, you need to trust that the call center service you choose will treat your customers with the utmost respect, just as your own staff would.

In order to help you decide which call center is best for you, Business News Daily reviewed a dozens of call center services. Ultimately, we recommend TeleDirect, which received an A-plus rating from the Better Business Bureau, as the best overall call center for small businesses in 2018 because of its comprehensive array of functions.
Why TeleDirect?
Full slate of services
TeleDirect offers nearly every service you could expect from a call center. TeleDirect’s inbound services include reliable customer support, order processing, media support, tech support, reservation services and help desk services. The outbound services are equally robust, including lead generation, customer retention efforts, market research, appointment setting, telemarketing, follow-up calls and survey conducting. A unique feature of TeleDirect’s outbound services is cold-calling, which helps to forge new customer relationships and expand your base; most other services do not perform cold-calling in addition to their other outbound functions. This slate of services made TeleDirect one of the most comprehensive call center service we reviewed.

24/7 availability
TeleDirect is available 24/7/365, providing a constant destination for your customers’ phone calls, regardless of your business hours or time zone. Not only is constant availability a boon for cementing customer relationships, but it also means a representative will always be available on holidays and weekends.

Our customer-service experience with TeleDirect was satisfactory. Agents were knowledgeable and able to answer any questions we had, though our interactions did lack a personal touch or a friendliness that might leave an even better impact on a customer. However, we never had to wait and always obtained the information we needed quickly.

Dedicated agents
TeleDirect employs any combination of shared, blended or dedicated agents, depending on what your needs are. Having the option to use dedicated agents, which are call center employees specifically assigned to work for your business, can help ensure more accurate and engaging service. Shared agents manage several different accounts with the call center service, meaning they have to pay attention to more than just your business. Blended agents, as the name suggests, are a mix of shared and dedicated agents for your campaign.

Working with a dedicated agent ensures not only that your customers are of particular importance to the agent, but also helps to improve the call center’s individual accountability.

Multiple languages
TeleDirect’s agents can field calls in multiple languages, not just English and Spanish like many other call centers. If your business engages with a clientele that speaks a different language, TeleDirect is likely able to accommodate them. If your customers often speak a foreign language, TeleDirect is a great option for staying in constant communication with them in their native tongue.