Learn How One University Campus is Now Leveraging WebRTC to Keep Students Safe

Learn How One University Campus is Now Leveraging WebRTC to Keep Students Safe

November 23, 2015

Safety – it’s something every mom thinks about, especially when she prepares to send a child off to seek higher education. While the student may be ready for the world, mom isn’t ready to turn him or her over to just anyone, yet. It’s the reason they practice due diligence before agreeing to let them go and it’s the reason we still need access to real-time communications in order to stay in touch.



While that real-time communications is important so mom can feel reassured, it’s also important that her child can stay in touch with campus safety. This new adult is still vulnerable. After all, the student ready to take on 15 hours of college classes is still just five years old – right? It can seem that way, which makes applications focused on safety and communications all the more important.

Now that WebRTC is ready for the big time, applications are appearing on the market, designed to make the most of its extensive capabilities. For Towson University, SaferMobility is a WebRTC-based application put in place to ease the communication process between students and public safety staff. As long as your student has a mobile deice, you can breathe easy.

A recent No Jitter post shares an example of how this real-time communications solution works in the real world. Towson University is a regional public university outside of Baltimore with roughly 22,000 students. SaferMobility resulted from a startup recognizing the opportunity to reinvent the 9-1-1 application, a system that was originally designed for landline phones.

Image via Pixabay

The opportunity to dramatically reduce company development time was found in the use of WebRTC technology. It would also enable the app to deliver video and voice capabilities on public safety officer’s PC workstations as well as end-user mobile devices. To accomplish this, the company used WebRTC open source libraries for Android and iOS mobile clients. The resulting architecture consists of the client application, the public safety console and the cloud-based server software.

The safety application is now fully deployed at Towson University. Students are downloading and registering the client software. The mobile client enables students and faculty to hold real-time two-way voice, text and video calls with Campus public safety staff as necessary. All real-time communications are logged and recorded, allowing for easy retrieval at a later date or to serve as evidence in court proceedings.

The success of this app demonstrates that WebRTC is ready for the mainstream. And while the mechanics of the technology may not make a lot of sense to moms sending their kids off to college, understanding the technology can help keep their students safe is a win-win. 

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere

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Report: Telemedicine Market Has Nearly Doubled Since 2011

Report: Telemedicine Market Has Nearly Doubled Since 2011

November 23, 2015

According to the nation’s largest health IT industry group, the number of companies offering telemedicine service has almost doubled over the past four years.

In 2011, there were 45 tech vendors offering telemedicine surveys. This year, that number stands at 85, according to Brendan FitzGerald, director of research for Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Analytics.

In fact, growth in telemedicine could be even greater than the report indicates. During an online presentation of the study on the telemedicine market hosted by the Robert J. Waters Center for Telehealth and e-Health Law (CTeL), FitzGerald pointed out that it’s difficult to quantify telemedicine growth because it includes technology such as fitness devices, telephones, and video conference tools.



“I would say, depending on how you view this, not all telemedicine vendors were being tracked in this study primarily because of the definition of telemedicine,” he said.

Greg Billings is the executive director of CTeL. He said that, because no agreed-upon definition of telemedicine exists, it’s difficult for his organization to advocate for telemedicine reimbursement for by private insurers and Medicare.

For the purposes of the study, HIMSS defined telemedicine as the transfer of medical information using a telecommunications technology or a medical device designed specifically for delivering health care services and medical information.

Image via Pixabay

The study also found a slight increase in telemedicine adoption by health care organizations over the past year. In 2014, 54.5 percent of health care organizations used telemedicine. That number now stands at 57.7 percent.

FitzGerald pointed out that even the slight growth shows a growing market for telemedicine.

“What we're seeing are organizations trying to best determine how to use the technologies they have in place,” he said. “The attention is going to telemedicine.”

The most popular use of telemedicine involves video chats between health care professionals and patients. Almost 60 percent of the organizations involved in the study used that model.

Patient portals, or online resources where patients can access their own health care information, were the second most popular telemedicine technology. Almost half (49.7 percent) of health care organizations reported using that model.

FitzGerald said that most health care organizations adopted more than one type of telemedicine service.

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere

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Congress Needs to Write a FSMA Check, and Soon

Congress Needs to Write a FSMA Check, and Soon

November 23, 2015

In a November 23 editorial in the Journal Star of Lincoln, Nebraska, the paper's editorial board calls for Congress to appropriately find the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which it has, as of yet, blatantly failed to do.

The editorial begins with a nice, succinct summary of the history of FSMA thus far, but then moves into the meat of the situation. “Now after the arduous process of getting the rules approved -- thanks to the stamina and tenacity of federal bureaucrats -- the next challenge will be getting Congress to follow through with adequate funding for the food safety system,” the author wrote.

Image via Pixabay

In order to enforce the FSMA rules, the FDA will require funding for staffers, regulators and (if all is to go smoothly and not burden the companies being regulated) money for the cost of inspections and verifications. Despite that, federal budgeting for 2016 have proposed allocating less than half of the funding that was approved by Congress back when FSMA was passed in 2011.  Less than half. This is untenable. So far, the money available is only enough for the preventative program for human and animal food, according the Journal Star editors. According to the FDA, in fact, it needs just a bit more than $100 million in order to activate the current final rules in time, and the House of Representatives has thus far only proposed $41.5 million, according to the Pew Charitable Trust, and the Senate has only put aside $45 million.

All of which, if it’s not fixed, means that half of the funds required for compliance are not going to be there. Which further means that the cost of inspections and verifications (as stated in the bill) will be passed along to those who are being inspected (that’s you, farms, shippers, storage folks and packers), so perhaps a call to ye olde representatives is in order, yes?

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere

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Where is the Omnichannel Experience Going off the Rails?


Where is the Omnichannel Experience Going off the Rails?

November 23, 2015

Not very long ago, companies set themselves apart from their competitors by proclaiming themselves to be multichannel or “omnichannel.” The thought was that if customers can shop or seek support via a variety of channels and according to their preferences, they would be more likely to remain loyal to the company that offered these options. Today, offering an omnichannel customer experience is no longer optional…which means its importance as a market differentiator is waning. It’s no longer about having a variety of channels for customers to choose from: it’s about meeting the customers in a creative and responsive way wherever the customers are.



Business consultant Cognizant recently prepared an infographic based on research into retailers that seem to have gotten omnichannel right and learned from their experiences. The company was hoping to find the key elements of successful omnichannel retailing. Some of the more noteworthy examples include:

Nordstrom. The high-end department store has allocated one-third of its capital expenses budget to new technology and to reengineer existing omnichannel initiatives. Its efforts have resulted in 20 percent growth in online business per quarter in the last few quarters. 

A major U.S. clothing retailer. The unnamed chain recently devoted $9 million to improving e-commerce efforts with the aim of boosting online sales to more than 12 percent of company revenue this year alone.

Home Depot. The do-it-yourself superstore plans to invest $1.5 billion to improve supply chain technologies that will better interconnect its retailer stores and its Web-based business. The company is personifying the best example of what’s being called the “BOPIS” strategy, or buy online, pick up in store, which is leading the charge of omnichannel success in the retail business.

The importance of the BOPIS model can’t be underestimated. Fully half of consumers surveyed said they would like to have the option of ordering online and picking up in-store, but 49 percent of those surveyed said they had experienced failures with the models. There are four primary reasons for these failures: long wait lines in stores, inconvenient pick-up locations, poorly trained store associates, and orders not coming in within the frame promised. BOPIS is about more than promising easy online ordering and pickup…companies need to back up the strategy with sufficient resources to make it happen. Customers today also expect to be able to look online for information about in-store inventory. While many companies have this capability in theory, the information is often out-of-date or unavailable, which leave customers frustrated or angry they’ve made a special trip only to find an item was not stocked.

What seems clear is that companies lagging on the omnichannel front need to improve several things: their mobile apps, which need to be highly usable, reliable, accurate and able to connect mobile shoppers to live help if necessary; advanced product information management (PIM) systems to ensure that inventory and sales information is readily available and accurate; centralized knowledge bases to eliminate erroneous or conflicting information; and employees both online and in-store who are properly trained to help customers have the buying experience they want. 

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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UC Reporting and Analysis Tools Shouldn’t be ‘One Size Fits All’

UC Reporting and Analysis Tools Shouldn't be 'One Size Fits All'

November 23, 2015


By
TMCnet Contributor

One of the many benefits companies that switch to unified communications (UC) solutions today have gained is more transparency into how their telecom resources are used. Call accounting, often a side or extra feature of a UC solution, can help spot misuse of resources such as long-distance calling or mobile devices. It can uncover patterns of inefficiencies such as calls being routed to one toll-free or customer support number while other numbers are under-utilized. It can help companies understand where they can safely eliminate spending without affecting operations or customer support quality. It can also determine the telecom usage patterns of the most effective employees, or help companies understand where they need to add resources. Call accounting, however, is only as good as the reporting function that supports it.

A good reporting and analysis solution can broaden the benefits of a UC solution by serving as a centralized repository of call activity from virtually any VoIP or legacy PBX (News - Alert) platform on the enterprise voice network. These solutions can handle collection, normalization, secure storage, and reporting to meet a variety of corporate telecom usage management needs including traffic analysis, network planning, employee productivity, device utilization, historic call archive, chargeback, abuse and misuse detection, and even contact center metrics. The latter capability can help contact centers achieve better efficiency and smooth out traffic to avoid unexpected volume spikes.

Solutions such as Infortel Select, ISI Telemanagement Inc.’s Unified Communications reporting and analysis tool, can provide deep insight into contact center operations that can benefits both employees and customers – as well as the company’s bottom line -- in a multitude of ways. Infortel Select UCCX Reporting is an option that can be added to an Infortel Select UC reporting solution to enable collection and processing of contact center metrics from Cisco’s (News - Alert) Unified Contact Center Express application to gain improved visibility into queue and agent-level information that is not available from call detail and call management records produced by the Cisco UCM cluster. It can collect from any number of data sources and allows reporting users to select which data sources, queues and agents to include or exclude from any report produced. It also allows users to define retention time for collected contact center metrics, creating a historic database of key queue and agent stats that may be useful to the contact center in resource planning or scheduling in the future.

Different contact centers have different needs, and one-size-fits-all reporting solutions will seldom provide every organization with the insight it needs to improve operations. An ideal solution should provide an extensive list of convenient and automated reporting features and allow users to pick from any number of data sources to build the picture they need to make decisions about how manage the contact center. From here, the contact center should be able to offer different reports, varying levels of visibility into operations (depending on job title) and a variety of alters delivered via different channels so managers, supervisors, agents and even operations executives can gain precisely the picture they require to do their jobs properly.

Reporting will never be a one-size-fits-all function, since no two contact centers are alike. If your current solution expects you to follow a rigid pre-planned set of standardized reports, consider looking for a solution that allows you to determine what you need to see and when you need to see it.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

Employee Engagement Has Less to Do With Employees and More to Do With Management Quality

In an effort to raise the level of engagement that today’s workers feel with their jobs, companies are finding easy answers are not possible. What motivates a young, single worker, for example, may not be the same thing that motivates an employee with a family of young children, or an older worker with an “empty nest.” For this reason, employee engagement plans often need to be customized for the workers. It’s tempting to write the whole process off as too complex – anything rooted in psychology and sociology is going to be a hard and perhaps expensive project to undertake. But there is a lot of evidence that employee engagement improves outcomes across the board: it reduces employee churn, it raises productivity, it increases customer engagement and it adds to the company’s bottom line.

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One of the most important elements of employee engagement has less to do with the concrete benefits such as pay and schedule and more to do with how organizations train and deploy managers across the company. The amount of faith a worker has in his or her manager is also important. Is the manager fair? Does the manager play favorites? Does he or she give credit where credit is due, or does the manager have a habit of taking credit for himself? These questions are possibly the most important determinants of employee engagement, according to a recent article by MIT (News - Alert) Sloan researchers Matthias Seifert, Joel Brockner, Emily C. Bianchi, and Henry Moon.

“One of the crucial prerequisites for workforce well-being is that employees feel they can trust their line managers,” wrote the paper’s authors. “Trust in decision-making authorities fundamentally shapes employees’ expectations about how they will be treated in the future — in terms of both what the authorities are likely to do and how they will execute their decisions. The more trust employees have in their managers, the more likely the employees are to expect organizational outcomes to be favorable and the more likely they are to expect that the procedures used by authorities to plan and implement decisions will be fair.”

The problem is that few workers today feel trust in the amount of fairness doled out by managers. In a busy contact center, managers may not have the time to customize employee engagement plans or even ensure they are applying rules or credit fairly. One study cited by MIT researchers found that interacting with managers is the least pleasant moment of most workers’ days. Workers who perceived that their managers are biased are less likely to enjoy their jobs and be loyal to their companies. In a contact center setting, this means workers are less empathetic to customers, less invested in finding an ideal positive outcome for the customer, and less likely to meet any personal or organizational goals. The researchers theorized that this leads to a downward spiral of quality.

“The relationship between workers’ trust in decision-making authorities and their commitment toward the organization is a self-perpetuating one: According to several studies, untrusting employees who show a low level of commitment are likely to be treated less positively by their superiors, which in turn discourages the employees from being more committed,” they wrote.

So how do companies pull themselves out of this cycle? For starters, by hiring managers with proven track records of being able to consistently and fairly help workers align their professional goals with those of the company. Managers who are hard-nosed and “take no prisoners” may achieve short-term positive results out of fear and bullying, but workers will seldom stick around long enough to help the company achieve long-term goals (like improving customer engagement). Look for managers who employ a positive approach to managing workers. These are managers who are “people-oriented” and understand how to motivate workers in a positive way. Ensure they have the time to meet with individual employees regularly and build a formalized path to success for workers. When employees feel that their managers “have their back” and are actively trying to help them succeed, they will reward their employers with their best efforts. 

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

Integrating Technology Processes and Knowledge Bases Can Raise First-Call Resolution

November 23, 2015

Integrating Technology Processes and Knowledge Bases Can Raise First-Call Resolution

By Tracey E. Schelmetic, TMCnet Contributor

In the past, the most important metrics measured in the contact center were often for the business’ convenience or cost savings: keeping average handle time (AHT) short was to ensure that agents could take as many calls as possible during the day. The thought was that more calls handled, more business was transacted and more money was saved on labor costs by extracting maximum efficiency out of agents. The problem with metrics such as AHT, however, is that they don’t reflect the quality of the customer support. They may even have meant that agents were rushing customers off the phone before their issues were resolved. Customers would need to call back again at a later time, which meant that, in the long run, it was costing companies more, and doing nothing for customer support excellence.

Increasingly, customer support excellence is a necessary goal. Customers are far less loyal than they once were, and they have many other options if a company doesn’t please them. Companies wishing to pivot their metrics so that they focus on the quality of the customer relationship should instead be seeking to boost first-call resolution: the number of calls in which a customer’s issue or problem is definitively handled in a single call (or other contact). This ensures that not only does the customer leave the call pleased, but that he or she won’t call back again regarding the same transaction. There is evidence that a 15 percent improvement in the first-call resolutions metric will reduce repeat calls by 57 percent. Another study found that for every one percent improvement in the FCR rate, businesses will experience a corresponding one percent improvement in customer satisfaction. This should firmly establish FCR as the metric to worship, but many companies still don’t, according to a recent blog post by Rachel Brink of 3CLOGIC.

“Despite the benefits businesses experience by improving this metric, customers still complain that agents fail to answer their questions 50 percent of the time,” wrote Brink. “Which begs the question—why? The answer is not as clear-cut as one would assume, as there are typically multiple factors at play.”

One of these factors is imperfect call routing. If customers aren’t starting out in the right department or with the right agent the first time, first-call resolution becomes ineffective. By boosting the quality of the call routing by redesigning IVR menus, for example, or replacing antiquated call distribution technology, companies can go a long way toward raising their FCR rates. Another way companies can better improve FCR is by ensuring that agents have the technology, data and training they require to get the job done.

“One of the main reasons agents are unable to resolve customer needs on the first call (accounts for over half of low FCR rates) is their inability to quickly access client account information—a problem that is typically created when information systems are disjointed, and departments working in siloes.”

In these cases, integrating process and knowledge bases right on the agents’ desktops can help them resolve issues correctly the first time around. The secondary bonus to this integration is that they can also cut down on the time it takes to serve customers, which has the side benefit of reducing average handle time while at the same time improving first-call resolution. Brink also recommends that companies utilize dynamic scripting engines that are designed to mandate the collection of certain data fields, and provide custom prompts for agents based on each customer’s unique response.

“This tool not only helps to keep the call on track, but also documents all entries and syncs it with the system of record, enhancing efficiencies and agent productivity—as well as increasing FCR rates by a reported 17 percent,” she wrote.

By using technology the right way and integrating processes and knowledge, contact centers can change from reactionary, blind organizations whose employees have to work hard to do their jobs correctly to efficient clearinghouses of intelligence properly equipped to find the right answers easily at the right time.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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You Won’t Believe What Incentivizes Your Agents – Don’t Forget to Ask

November 23, 2015

You Won't Believe What Incentivizes Your Agents - Don't Forget to Ask

By Susan J. Campbell, TMCnet Contributing Editor

In case you haven’t noticed – it’s Thanksgiving week. For some of us, that means a lot of family time and great food. For others, it means the start of the craziest time of the year. If you’re responsible for call center scheduling, you already know the hours of operation, the agents coming in at different shifts and the type of volume to expect. If you haven’t prepared appropriately, you may notice an impact on agent stress, absenteeism and overall morale.

A recent Blue Ocean post offers some insight into how the call center can overcome some of the glaring challenges associated with the holiday season. The first tip is to ensure excellent communication. There’s nothing worse than assuming that everyone is working toward the same goal when you never actually communicated that goal. If you want everyone on the same team, you have to keep them in the loop. That means communicating clearly, early, honestly and often.

It’s also important to focus on teamwork. If you want everyone on the bus, you have to bring them into the loop on where the bus is going. Bring your agents into collaboration sessions and ask for their contribution on messaging, goals, measurement and overall processes. Get their help in selecting rewards and how you’ll acknowledge those who have gone above and beyond to achieve company goals. Celebrate those successes publically and provide empowering coaching to those who are falling short.

Image via Pixabay

Don’t forget about training. Even as the holiday season is so close, that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be time for training. Agents who are fully prepared for any anticipated inquiry or problem will perform better than those who have to make it up as they go. This really does impact the bottom line as customers can tell the difference between the company that invests in its people and the one that doesn’t. These interactions will speak for themselves and inform on the potential of the investment in a continued relationship with that company.

Finally, don’t forget that because the holiday season is also the most hectic, it can negatively affect your employees. Call center scheduling does have to reflect the demands and the availability of your agents, but it doesn’t have to forget incentives. While it’s still important to celebrate successes, put an incentive program in place that matches the currency of your agents. Some may be incentivized by money, but others may desire additional days off, prizes or other rewards. Put something fun in place that gives your agents incentive to deliver phenomenal experiences, work the undesirable shifts, complete the information in the CRM (customer relationship management) and more.

The holiday season will be nuts – that’s a given. But, it doesn’t mean that your operation can’t run efficiently. Focus on your agents first and the rest is more likely to fall into place. 

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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Azuqua Launches Integration Solution to Eliminate Disconnected Apps

November 23, 2015

Azuqua recently announced the launch of Azuqua for Customer Success – an integrated solution that enables users to automate business workflows, integrate data, and “take control of the customer experience” by integrating various business applications from different vendors.

The solution is meant to eliminate the problem of CRM fragmenting. In announcing the launch, Azuqua highlighted the issue as described by Kate Legett, VP and principal analyst at Forrester.

"Keep customer experience front and center of your company. Make sure that you are supporting your customers through their end to end journey with easy, effective, enjoyable engagement, even when the customer's journey crosses technology platforms," Legett wrote.

CRM fragmentation is best described as “a pain in the apps.”

According to a 2015 Cloud Report by Netskope, the average enterprise uses more than 100 applications between customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing. Ensuring proper connectivity and timely data interchange between all of those apps can be a nightmare.

"A well-oiled customer success machine requires that your apps work in tandem to get consistent data instantly distributed across all possible customer touch-points. Relevance and timeliness matters, so when disconnected apps inject delays and mistakes, that translates into lost revenue," says Nikhil Hasija, CEO and co-founder at Azuqua. "Our solution alleviates your pain by ensuring data from accounts and contacts is consistent in every app, user notifications and alerts are timely, and hand-offs are accurate."

Azuqua for Customer Success includes more than 40 application integrations. The integrations support well-known brands such as Marketo, Gainsight, FullContact, Salesforce, Zendesk, and Workfront.

The solution also includes 15 workflows. Among them:

  • Customer journey – allows users to record and capture milestones in the sales funnel.
  • Contact aggregation – provides a one-stop shop for contact data collected from various systems.
  • Enrichment – enables applications to integrate with external data sources so that important information can be added to account or contact records.
  • Communications – monitors systems for important events and send alerts when necessary.
  • Data orchestration – ensures that new or updated information is also updated across all applications.
  • Process orchestration – keeps tasks and issues up-to-date across all applications.

Azuqua for Customer Success is offered at a starting price of $250 per month.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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Cloud Security Week in Review: Symphony, Gemalto, & NetApp

November 21, 2015

Cloud Security news this week focuses on Symphony Communications Services, with its new secure messaging service that is backed by Google, and Gemalto, which has partnered with NetApp to offer integrated storage, encryption, and key management for Amazon Web Services customers.

To begin, readers should know that, last month, Google participated in a round of funding for Symphony – a company that is now valued at $650 million. That high value placed light on its new messaging service that people are comparing to WhatsApp. The primary difference here is that WhatsApp primarily targets consumers whereas Symphony targets enterprises.

Symphony brings to enterprises a way of sending secure messages between team members. The company’s recent press release stated that its app seeks to improve worker productivity by keeping its messaging service in line with workflow productivity goals. It wants to maintain an ease of communication while also remaining secure for all users involved. When it comes to enterprise security, it can often be individual employees that remain the weak link in the chain. However, when enterprises provide them with the tools they need to easily complete their work, transmissions of sensitive data can occur on secure channels.

Image via Pixabay

TMC noted this week that Gemalto’s launch of SafeNet Virtual KeySecure for NetApp Cloud ONTAP may have been lost among other, more important headlines in the news. However, its placement in news feeds does not remark on the actual importance of this product release. Gemalto and NetApp are now able to provide a complete set of storage, encryption, and key management to Amazon Web Services customers. For enterprises, this can be a huge advantage because it can give them an easy way to manage their cloud-based data.

There is nothing more important than encryption for sensitive data, yet it can be difficult to manage secure data in a way that keeps it user-friendly and out of the hands of malcontents. Furthermore, encryption and transmission of such data has been known to slow down enterprise networks. It is those two elements that Gemalto and NetApp mean to address. It combines the NetApp storage infrastructure with Gemalto SafeNet key management. In the end, this can be an important pairing for all companies that currently rely on Amazon for their cloud storage and for all companies about to make the switch.

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