Why it’s Good Business to Sometimes Get Emotional

December 15, 2015

Today’s consumers are exposed to thousands of advertisements a day. Being a marketer, you’re tasked with the difficult job of figuring out how to stand out among thousands of advertisements and still make an impression on customers.

While paid search and influencer outreach are great ways to get your business seen and heard, it’s often not enough. So what’s the key to beating out the competition? To stand out amongst the clutter you must trigger emotion.

Whether its happiness, nostalgia, or sadness, evoking some sort of emotion strengthens your connection with buyers and makes you memorable. After all, tons of studies have proven that a consumer’s emotional response to an ad has far greater influence on their intent to buy than an ad’s actual content.

Just take a look at some of today’s most successful brands who are leveraging this tactic. Toys R Us, for example, is tugging at consumers’ heart strings this holiday season with its newest commercial. Rather than tout its plethora of toys, the commercial tells a sweet story about a little girl and an old man.

The toy giant isn’t the only company to lead with emotion in their advertising. Anheuser-Busch’s 2014/2015 Super Bowl commercial, which featured an adorable lost puppy that’s saved by a Budweiser Clydesdale, proved very successful. The commercial has over 55 million YouTube views.

Another company that’s using emotion to appeal to consumers is Dawn. The company’s commercial for its liquid detergent product combines traditional advertising with advocacy advertising. While the advertisement might not prompt viewers to get off the couch and go purchase liquid detergent, the emotional memory sticks with them. So next time they’re at the store, they choose Dawn over a competitor. 

Rather than stick to advertisements that are dry, appeal to your target audiences’ emotions. Determine what makes your audience happy, sad, fearful, or mad and find a way to evoke those emotions in your marketing campaign.    

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Q&A: Distributed Computing and the Evolving CISO with Susan Mauldin of Equifax

Enterprise adoption of big data and cloud infrastructure is presenting new challenges for Chief Information Security Officers (CISO). I recently sat down with Susan Mauldin, CISO, Equifax, to get her thoughts about the evolving role of the CISO, perhaps into Chief Information Risk Officers, and how to secure the cloud.

PRAT: How has the role of the CISO changed over the last few years?
SUSAN: It certainly has become more challenging. The role of the CISO, I would say, is similar to a military role. In fact, we see this in the military and various government agencies where they actually talk about cyber warfare now. We’re seeing an evolution in the role, where the CISO is becoming more of a risk manager for the company, and in fact some companies are actually creating a role called the chief information risk officer. It’s a natural evolution for a CISO to go into that role, as it has historically been a very technical role, but it’s now becoming more of a risk manager role for the company.

PRAT: Cloud is a great way to bring more agility to an enterprise. More applications are being moved to the cloud, but there’s also been a big scare about security and compliance. How do you view cloud and security? Are they at odds with each other or do they help each other?
SUSAN: Five years ago, I would’ve answered you by saying that as a security professional, I would be adamantly against cloud. Today, I would say that cloud is definitely the way of the future. We used to say there was a tsunami coming and it was the cloud, but now we say that wave is here. It’s cresting and we really have to figure out how to use the cloud in a secure manner. We need to find a way to enable our business to use cloud services.

 PRAT: It’s been said that enterprises have too many entry and exit points to reliably secure them all. Does cloud have the same number of exit and entry points?
SUSAN: One school of thought says that when you put corporate assets into a cloud, it is more secure because you know exactly what you have there. You have an exact inventory, you know exactly who has access to that data and how that's controlled. For some enterprises that might be very attractive. I think for other enterprises that have a very, very good handle on all their assets internally — a locked-down network with very few entry and exit points — they will have more cultural resistance to going toward a cloud solution.

PRAT: Inherently, is there anything about the cloud that makes it insecure?
SUSAN: Cloud solutions are third-party solutions, which means they're not something I have full management of. So things like physical security, network security and so forth that I would normally check would have to be satisfactory for me in a cloud provider, but I would want another level of controls over the data itself. I would want encryption of data at rest and in motion, in use and in transfer. And I would also want tokenization or obfuscation of that data. Along with assurances from my third-party cloud provider, I would want to know it manages privileged users properly and that physical security is done well. Those are the kind of things that I would look for to give me assurances.

PRAT: If you look at the CISO community, do they share this view of cloud security?
SUSAN: I would say at least half the CISOs that I know share that view. I would say more CISOs are becoming more comfortable with cloud because there are controls available to us today that weren’t there years ago: Encryption, obfuscation, the ability to audit and so forth. Companies are also insisting that CISOs become more comfortable with the idea of cloud. Given enough time, we can secure anything and find a way to say yes to it. Business-driven CISOs are of that mindset.

PRAT: We hear of big data and security coming together now. What does it mean and why does it make sense?
SUSAN: Security has always been part of big data. In the early days of security, it was really nothing more than network monitoring before security really became its own profession. Even then, network analysts were analyzing packets, looking at firewall logs and proxy traffic. That was the big data of the time. Information comes from every device on the network. Everything is IP-addressable. We’re always looking for the anomaly that says something’s not quite right. In my environment, our big data challenge is how to sort through all that data quickly and in a manner that fits what we are looking for. 

PRAT: What’s your message to fellow CISOs and big data practitioners out there?
SUSAN: Big data in the cloud is not something to be feared — it’s a new horizon. For companies that have cultural aversions to that [adapting to the cloud], I think that it’s really up to the security team to make that difference, to help enable the business so that they have the assurance to do business in the cloud and in a secure manner. I think security has a very prominent role to play. 

Edited by Ken Briodagh

SwitchRay Enters License Agreement with Smart Network Solutions Communications

December 14, 2015

By Rory Lidstone Contributing Writer

Telecommunications software vendor SwitchRay has entered into a license agreement with Smart Network Solutions Communications Corp., a telecommunications solutions integrator and value added reseller (VAR) distributor. Per the agreement, Smart Network Solutions will market SwitchRay’s advanced Class 5 softswitch SR-S5000.

As Smart Network Solutions is a VAR to some of the biggest brands in the space by providing optimal telecom solutions and increased functionality to its customers, the proven stable performer Class 5 softswitch SR-S5000 is a natural addition to its lineup.

“We are always seeking the best available technology to support our customers’ needs. SwitchRay’s SR-S5000 softswitch provides the precise combination of cost effective features including advanced routing and billing,” said Sandra Ximena Diaz Hoyos, CEO and president of Smart Network Solutions. “We are extremely pleased with how well SwitchRay’s Class 5 softswitch performs and are impressed with their responsive team of dedicated sales directors and engineers.”

SwitchRay recently launched a new virtual PBX web portal geared toward helping its customers gain access to and learn about its powerful and effective hosted PBX management platform.

Image via Pixabay

The company will also participate in TMC’s ITEXPO in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Scheduled to run from January 25 to 28, ITEXPO is the only event dedicated to communications solutions for the enterprise mid-market, resellers and service providers. Those looking to learn more about SwitchRay and its solutions can do so at ITEXPO booth #201, where the company will be presenting.

“We are very excited about this partnership with Smart Network Solutions. It is our priority to offer the best-in-class technology and solutions for our new customers in the Central and Latin America region and we look forward to our continued and successful partnership,” said Steve Petilli, president and CEO of SwitchRay Inc.

Smart Network Solutions is SwitchRay’s authorized distributor, allowing it to sublicense, install, maintain and technically support SwitchRay’s software products.

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere

Facebook Adds Features, Tools for Managing Pages

Facebook Adds Features, Tools for Managing Pages

December 14, 2015

It’s not news that a truly omnichannel customer support experience includes a strong focus on social media. If anything, that’s putting it too mildly. These days, social media customer support can be the factor that makes or breaks a company’s brand, in large part because younger customers tend to treat social media as a first choice.

Because of its widespread use and popularity, this makes Facebook among the most important and potentially effective tools in the modern customer support professional’s arsenal. Fortunately, Facebook recognizes this and continues to improve the ways brands can manage communication on their Facebook pages.

In fact, Facebook Pages was launched as a way for businesses and brands to share their stories and better connect with people. Since launch, Pages has seen regular updates, including the introduction of new features earlier this year.

Now that there are over 50 million active business Pages on Facebook, the social network has announced even more features ahead of the new year with the goal of further empowering Page owners to manage communication from any device. These features include provide administrators with greater control over their Page’s responsiveness badge, while making it easier than ever to manage public and private interactions.

New responsiveness badge features include new controls and responsiveness levels, allowing businesses to set the average time it takes them to reply to messages manually. Options include “within minutes,” “within an hour,” “within hours” and “within a day.” While average response times will continue to be calculated automatically and this number will still act as the default shown on a Page, admins can now change what response time shows publicly. So, even if a Page tends to respond to new messages within an hour, admins can set the visible response time to within a day in order to set customer expectations.

Page response times now also appear in Messenger threads, while a new “away” status allows admins to designate when they aren’t available to respond to messages. To supplement this, Facebook has also introduced Away Messages and Instant Replies. The former can be set to provide customers with information when the Page’s status is set to away, while the latter is sent to people who message the Page for the first time.

Overall, the Pages inbox has been tweaked for greater ease of use. For example, when an Admin messages people, they can see not only past interactions, but also information that persons shares publicly on their profile.

Finally, Pages admins now have a better way to keep track of comments on their Page via a new tool under the Activity tab. The new Comments tool is a single view of customer comments where admins can flag interactions for follow up, reply privately or mark them as done. Customers’ profile information is also available from here.

These new Pages communication features are rolling out globally and will be available to everyone in the coming months.

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere

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TCN, Global Connect Merge to Form New Power in Call Center Tech

TCN, Global Connect Merge to Form New Power in Call Center Tech

December 14, 2015

TCN and Global Connect recently completed merger plans, and with a new definitive agreement on the table, the two firms will bring a substantial new force to cloud-based contact center systems.

Both sides of this merger bring impressive opportunity for the other; TCN is well-known for its contact center offerings, and Global Connect is likewise known for its hosted dialing and communications products. With the merger, TCN customers will get access to the slate of Global Connect tools all under one umbrella, giving users access to business intelligence tools, inbound calling systems, and even gateway tools for agent use. This joins TCN's lineup of valuable tools including business analytics, call recording and predictive dialer systems. The combined force will have access to a customer pool of over 1,500 total, and provide a more robust lineup of offerings.

With the agreement in place, Global Connect's executive team will be in charge of TCN's east coast operations, and will continue to work from the Mays Landing, New Jersey office. Layoffs as a result of the merger appear minimal, and most of the employees already in support, sales and development will join TCN instead. TCN's founder and CEO, Terrel Bird, noted that the move would “...kickstart TCN's future roadmap...,” offering better, faster development and the necessary tools to keep up TCN's current mission, “...to lead the industry with cutting-edge technology.”

Mergers do have a great way of improving an operation. Bringing together two sets of sales and development forces tends to ratchet up efficiency. Augmenting staff in support departments tends to improve support. Having more people on the job often allows for more of that job to get done, though all within limits; the principle of diminishing returns does have a say here. It's not just about more people, though; there's a dual market to consider. TCN can sell its products to Global Connect customers more readily, and vice versa, a move particularly great for those customers that TCN may have found that Global Connect didn't know about already. While there are some hazards involved in mergers—redundant employees, the potential loss of face from layoffs of the redundant, issues of corporate culture combinations—these are often outweighed by potential gains, and Global Connect and TCN seem to have plenty of those afoot.

This is likely to be a win all around, not just for the two merging firms, but also for the firms' customers. More development, better sales and support efforts and more combine to make the new TCN and Global Connect a real force in the market.

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere

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NewNet Taps Dialogic for VoltDelta Voice Application Virtualization

December 14, 2015

  By Rory Lidstone, Contributing Writer

In the final month of 2015, it seems NewNet (News - Alert) Communication Technologies is working hard to be up-to-date as possible going into the New Year. Last week, for example, the provider of next generation mobile technology solutions partnered with CALLUP and Neusoft to address VoWiFi and enhanced chat demand. Now NewNet is following that up by selecting Dialogic’s (News - Alert) PowerMedia XMS media processing solution to support the virtualization of certain VoltDelta-hosted call center voice applications.

Dialogic is a global networking and software infrastructure solution provider that has also been busy lately. Earlier in the month, the company’s gateway solutions were chosen by Bangladesh network operator Global Voice Telecom Limited (gvtele) to facilitate international gateway (IGW) services.

"We are excited to provide the Dialogic PowerMedia XMS as a key ingredient in the NewNet virtual platform transformation," said Jim Machi, senior vice president of Product Management and Marketing at Dialogic. "Our highly scalable platform delivers state-of-the-art call completion, and multi-media services that are advantageous in today's market while supporting next-generation services.  The Dialogic PowerMedia Media Resource Broker (MRB (News - Alert)) also enables telco scalability in a software platform, and is designed to fulfill service providers' needs as they move their networks to the cloud."

Indeed, PowerMedia XMS supports a number of functions key to many businesses and network operators, including message session relay protocol (MSRP) for enhanced texting and WebRTC voice (Opus), as well as video codecs like VP8 and VP9, enabling support for additional future services on the same platform. Some of these features were added as recently as October with the release of PowerMedia XMS 3.0 server.

A fully software-based platform, PowerMedia XMS is well on its way to supporting network functions virtualization (NFV) just as many service providers build it into their cloud infrastructures in order to achieve operational and capital expenditure savings.

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere

Four-Company Consortium Strikes Gold with India Project

December 14, 2015

It was a move that brought four companies together. Hitachi, Mitsui & Co, Hitachi India Pvt. Ltd., and one unnamed player in the rolling stock/heavy engineering business in India formed one consortium and took home one major prize: a contract with the Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India Ltd. With the contract in place, the group is set to bring in signaling and telecommunications systems to the biggest industrial cluster in India: the area between Mumbai and Delhi.

The sector that's part of the contract, known as “Package 5,” represents about $231.32 million in business and runs roughly 570 miles between the cities of Rewari and Vadodara. That wasn't the only win for the group, though; as part of the four-company consortium, Hitachi, Hitachi India and Mitsui won a separate contract to install an automatic train controls system connecting Rewari to JNPT (Mumbai). That contract was worth around $90.87 million, which is a huge boost for the three firms, and actually represents—along with the other order—the two biggest orders India has ever placed for Japanese telecom and signaling materials.

India has been getting plenty of cooperation from Japan on this front; the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) not only helped with verification trial setups but also with preparatory surveys. There have even been some loans as part of the Special Terms for Economic Partnership (STEP) program, which come into play if Japanese technology is used. Given the number of Japanese firms involved in the projects, this would certainly seem to qualify. Hitachi is slated to handle the equipment for the signaling system, while Mitsui is providing coordination efforts between the two countries. Hitachi India, meanwhile, is giving the local economy a boost by bringing in local products for use, and the entire group effort together is seen as part of a major infrastructure upgrade for India, giving it a modern, but also safe, rail system.

Developing markets have always been a welcome proposition for businesses. We know that the Japanese economy only recently dodged a bullet in terms of reverting to full-on recession, as the third quarter gross domestic product turned out to have expanded rather than contracted. So for Japanese firms to land a hefty new slug of business in the Indian market is likely welcome news, not only for the Japanese firms who will help hopefully keep Japan out of recession in the fourth quarter as well, but also for India, who gets an impressive new rail system. With that in place, it can better transport goods and raw materials, and hopefully keep itself out of recession as well.

Anything that looks like economic progress is generally welcome, particularly when it offers so much value in the process. Japan and India have struck a couple of good deals with these developments, and these likely won't be the last.

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere

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Best Practices for a Strategic Net Promoter Program

Anyone who has called into a customer service line is probably familiar with a Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey. Although, chances are they don’t know it. Being asked to take a quick survey has become an expected coda to a customer service interaction in every industry. However, few customers understand how much of an impact their responses have on the overall improvement of their customer experience. And when it comes down to it, enterprises don’t always get it either.  

An NPS program can be key in helping businesses do what they do, but better. Net Promoter surveys, built around the question of if a consumer would recommend a product or service to their network, gives an enterprise a way to put open-ended customer service feedback in context. This can act as the foundation for a truly robust and dynamic way of doing business.

As with any implementation, there are best practices in putting an NPS program into practice. So, how can you make sure that the survey you’re implementing will result in better business practices, brand loyalty and customer retention, rather than hang-ups on the customer end, and piles of incomplete data on the enterprise end?

Get Set Up for Action
If an enterprise is receiving regular NPS survey results but doesn’t have a system in place to actively respond to the survey feedback, the feedback isn’t going to be all that valuable. An enterprise needs to be set up to act and, scary as it may be, to change on the basis of the survey data. 

The first step in reaching that point is getting buy-in from the C-Suite. Executives need to understand the value of the survey process in improving the business, and they need to be willing to dedicate resources accordingly. Once they’ve bought in, the enterprise can set up a team.

Establishing a devoted team with the skills to analyze the survey data, the authority to recommend enterprise-wide changes and the resources to roll them out is a critical part of making an NPS program work. This takes the NPS program from being just another tool to a living part of the enterprise. 

Your enterprise has a well-funded and well-regarded team tasked with managing and responding to the NPS survey. Now, it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty on what type of NPS survey to implement and how to read and respond to the feedback.

Do you want your customers to rate an individual transaction or their overall experience with your brand? Which customer bases are you targeting for surveys? What customer responses will be weighted most heavily, and what relative action will be taken on the basis of those responses?

These are the types of questions to ask both when setting up the technical end of the solution and after it is in place, to generate a clear, organized strategy for making use of the response data and any free-form feedback that comes in.

Show Customers They Matter with Better Service – and Better Surveys
NPS programs are all about improving the customer experience and learning how to carry out business more effectively within an organization – thus, creating loyal brand advocates. One element of this is showing customers that you’re listening. “Closing the loop” lets customers know their time was valued. Similarly, adjusting business practices shows customers their feedback has been taken into consideration. This is full circle NPS process helps generate loyalty and retention. 

And just as you’re working on improving your enterprise, you’ll also want to work on improving the survey itself. Post-launch, paying attention to if you’re reaching the right audiences, and making iterative changes accordingly, is a crucial step in the ongoing survey-management process.  

Stick to the NPS Commitment

Remember, an NPS program isn’t a solution you just set and let go. You need to be in it for the long haul. Any enterprise can benefit from NPS – all it takes is an on-board enterprise, a dedicated team, a good strategy and above all, a commitment to contextualizing, understanding and listening to the voice of your customers.

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere

Cloud Communications APIs Seen Boosting Opportunities

The communications solutions that enterprises install are evaluated frequently because of new technologies, both in hardware and software that become available in the marketplace. For large enterprises, this can be a costly and time-consuming process as new platforms are evaluated, purchased and deployed. The introduction of cloud technology, SIP Trunking and Application Programming Interface (APIs), has given organizations the agility to adapt to changing conditions quickly and efficiently without the many weeks or months of network set-up time of traditional carrier models.

Venky Balasubramanian of pipelinepub.com has written an article on just how cloud-based communications APIs are driving a new standard in enterprise agility. The ability to adapt quickly has become an essential quality in today’s ecosystem, and according to Balasubramanian, APIs are accelerating the way communication service providers, OTT businesses and enterprises are able to respond to new opportunities.

The cloud-based communication APIs that organizations deploy is allowing them to launch applications around the world in a matter of weeks and verify users globally, he says.

The greatest benefit of these APIs is it gives enterprises access to local markets. By making their APIs available to a wider audience around the world, local developers can create market specific solutions that are needed where they are. Unlike the traditional communications solutions that were developed for the widest audience possible, today’s ecosystem demands bespoke services that can be adjusted for every community. Not only is this possible, but it can be deployed quickly to market as needs warrant the technology.

As traditional carriers and developers continue to strengthen their relationship, new services that deliver more value to businesses and convenience to consumers are being created. Some of the benefits Balasubramanian said the cloud-based communication APIs will provide include enabling faster and more stable network builds, growth with minimal fraud by implementing 2-Step verification, creating flexible call centers, access to voice broadcasting, and flexibility and scalability without the complexity.

These and other features are driving the growth in the telecom API market. According to a report published by Transparency Market Research (TMR), titled “Telecom API Market - Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends and Forecast 2015 – 2022,” the market is expected to reach $323.44 billion by 2022 globally. The market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 23.6 percent during the forecast period.

In the forecast, TMR reported voice APIs held the largest share at around 28 percent, and developers are using them to improve the mobile experiences of their customers. Other segments that will dominate the market include, SMS, MMS, RCS and payment API services. However, the report sees WebRTC API service to grow significantly faster than other APIs, which will grow almost as much as the voice segment with a CAGR of 27.7 percent. As far as the end-user segment, enterprise developers accounted for close to 34 percent of the total market.

Edited by Rory J. Thompson

Warning: Plenty of Holes Exist in SIP Security Practices

Session Initiation Protocol (News - Alert) (SIP) has delivered us VoIP calling, which reduces costs while increasing what we can do with voice communications. Another gift from SIP is less welcome, however: Added security concerns when it comes to calling.

SIP is woefully vulnerable to cyber attack, an issue that businesses, consumers and the telecommunications industry in general are only now starting to consider.

“In the face of cyberattacks from potential hackers, firewalls alone are not sufficient to protect a VoIP network,” noted a recent white paper on SIP by telecom technology firm Panamax.

The paper suggests that a multi-pronged approach must be taken against hacking VoIP traffic. SIP signaling and the media stream should be protected. Network access needs to have stronger authentication. Physical security needs to be beefed up, and awareness regarding the security vulnerabilities inherent in VoIP should be increased.

Kevin Riley (News - Alert), the vice president of engineering and chief technology officer for Sonus, suggests several steps for securing SIP traffic.

First, he advocates strong security policies enforced across all offices and devices. Second, he suggests encryption, virtual private networks and endpoint authentication for SIP traffic.

Riley also recommends using heuristic models to ferret out and identify suspicious and/or malicious patterns in communications. He also notes that call admission control for each session can help not only by ensuring call quality, but also by helping to prevent unauthorized login attempts. Session border controllers also should be used to protect core enterprise networks.

One of the challenges is that SIP security is both a technical issue, and a social one. Not only can hacking and cracking compromise VoIP communications, but so can phishing.

The VoIP market is expected to reach $86.2 billion by 2020, according to Future Market Insights. At least some of that money should go toward better SIP security. Right now most people don’t worry about the security of their voice communications—but that will change if the industry doesn’t take the challenge more seriously. 

Edited by Rory J. Thompson