Cloud-Based Phone Systems Fight Downtime and Foster Business Continuity

September 08, 2016

We spend a lot of time talking about mobility, cloud applications and services and other trends that are shaping and transforming IT in this space. Businesses are beginning to realize the myriad benefits of cloud computing for a variety of usage cases and yet, surprisingly, most businesses continue to use outdated premises-based PBX phone systems or standard PSTN services.

Once the lifeblood and the core of business communications, these legacy solutions are vulnerable to outages and disasters that may render them useless for days or weeks. And no phone spells downtime and trouble for any business, with consequences ranging from angry customers to major revenue losses. Intermedia, a company specializing in business cloud solutions, recently discussed the serious fallout from downtime and how cloud offerings can help with business continuity.

Downtime, whether it happens due to a power outage, hardware failure, theft, malicious activity or even an accident, causes a variety of problems that can impact any business. In the case of legacy phone systems and networking, office locations can be rendered inaccessible, disrupting all external business communications. Additionally, if network connectivity is disrupted it creates issues with operational and support services. The end result of all this is that customers and partners are incommunicado, business cannot be conducted and sales and revenues suffer as a consequence.

To understand how severe the consequences of downtime can be, we can examine the losses in hard numbers. The Disaster Recovery Preparedness Council states that 38.3 percent of businesses lost up to $20,000 in 2014 because of a loss to critical communications and IT services. Ten percent of businesses lost up to $100,000 while nearly 20 percent of businesses lost more than $50,000 all the way up to over $5 million.

In case those numbers aren’t scary enough, the Aberdeen Group says that small businesses will experience 1.7 downtime events per year on average, at around 2.2 hours per event. That downtime translates to a loss of $46,451 per year, or approximately $12,420 per hour of downtime.

Fortunately, the cloud can be a key weapon when it comes to combating downtime and fostering business continuity. By moving phone systems and services to the cloud, workers can use data networks to connect to a phone system, bypassing the PSTN entirely. And since the entire platform and system are hosted in the cloud, local outages have no impact on services. Workers can use this type of system anywhere with an Internet connection, making it portable and flexible.

Cloud-based phone systems offer a host of advantages in the way of scalability, cost savings, rich features and major flexibility. Business continuity is yet another benefit of this type of system, and perhaps one of the most important ones.

Edited by Alicia Young

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20th Century Fox Hires New Theatrical Marketing President

Pamela Levine is rejoining 20th Century Fox. After five years working as the head of marketing for HBO, Levine has been hired back at Fox to take over both domestic and international theatrical marketing departments. The news was announced earlier this week, and Levine will begin her new role on October 5.

Levine is no stranger to the Fox Corporation, having worked there in some capacity for 16 years, including nine years as the co-president of domestic theatrical marketing. During this time, she presided over the release of several highly anticipated films, most notably James Cameron’s special effects masterpiece, Avatar.

After leaving Fox, Levine began her time at HBO as the VP of Marketing, but quickly became the Chief Marketing Officer for both HBO and

Image via Pixabay

Cinemax. During this time, she ran campaigns promoting shows that have grown to immense popularity on the HBO networks, including Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley, Veep and The Jinx. Levine was also instrumental in the marketing of HBO Now, HBO’s service for cord cutters that allows them access to HBO without a cable or satellite subscription.

Levine’s hiring is the most recent in a large amount of hires brought forward by 20th Century Fox Film’s new chairman and CEO Stacey Snider. After serving for eight years as co-chairman and CEO of Dreamworks, Snider was hired as the CEO by Fox earlier in 2016 to continue to build on the success that the studio has seen with its theatrical releases. Snider has clearly wasted no time in constructing the team that she feels will best promote the Fox brand.

The fact that Fox pushed so hard to lure Levine away from a lucrative position at HBO shows the importance of marketing in the entertainment industry. In today’s world, creators of entertainment need marketers to be able to successfully promote their content, in order to make it stand out from the vast amount of other content that is out there. 

Edited by Alicia Young

Shaping your Future Marketing Campaign with Social Media

Did you know that nearly two-thirds of American adults (65 percent) use social networking sites, according to the Pew Research Center? There’s no doubt that social media has changed the way in which people communicate. At the click of a button, one person can literally connect with thousands of people.

Social media hasn’t just changed the way in which people communicate, but it’s also changed the way in which companies market their services and products. There are a number of benefits to using social media for business. 

Most notably, companies can increase brand awareness and boost consumer engagement through social media channels like Facebook and

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Twitter. Consumers no longer want to be bombarded by irrelevant content. Rather, they want brands to be transparent and deliver a tailored experience, which social media allows companies to do.

What’s more, social media allows organizations to gain valuable consumer insight through tactics like social listening. Through social listening, for example, brands can gather relevant customer data and use that information to make smarter, more informed business decisions. 

While it’s no secret that social media can benefit companies, many organizations are still not using it to their advantage. For example, many organizations use the “my customers aren’t on social media” argument as an excuse.

But as the statistic shows above, there’s a high probability that your target customers and other potential buyers are in fact using social media. Meaning there is no excuse for your business not to be using social media for future marketing campaigns.

 If you’re new to social media, start small by distributing content or placing some advertisements. If you’ve been using social media for some time now, try pushing the envelope and try something new; for example, launching an influencer campaign.  

Edited by Alicia Young

Millennials Will Dictate Big Changes to the Traditional Contact Center

September 08, 2016

Millennials Will Dictate Big Changes to the Traditional Contact Center

By Tracey E. Schelmetic, TMCnet Contributor

Today’s younger consumer is different from previous generations. When it comes to customer support, Millennials, or young people born between (approximately) 1982 and 2003, are comfortable with (and even prefer) self-service. They are tech-savvy and quick to embrace the ever-growing influence of social media. They expect service to take place quickly (with instant gratification), and they have little patience for holding, waiting or being asked to call a different department. Unfortunately, most contact centers haven’t yet caught up with all of these trends.

In a recent article for Business2Community, Salil Gupta writes that since Millennials now represent the largest consumer market for annual revenue growth, the “wow me” factor of modern customer support is increasingly vital. To succeed, companies need to consider doing away with some old-fashioned mindsets that simply won’t please younger consumers.

9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. If you sell your products or services online, you’re selling them 24 hours a day. If customers are using your services 24 hours a day, they’re not going to have much patience with quaint nine-to-five customer support. Moving ahead, the companies that claim the lion’s share of business will be those that understand that customer support needs to be a round-the-clock service. This may mean organizing third shifts, or it may mean outsourcing to another time zone. But to people who can’t grasp the concept that television once “went off” overnight, frequently-closed customer support will be a business killer.

Social media. Accessibility and convenience is absolutely critical to younger consumers. Social media turns it 24-hour.

“Therefore, bringing customer service to the client via their social media channels creates a medium in which your company can connect, monitor, and influence the customer to praise and promote your brand,” wrote Gupta. “When it comes to social media, word of mouth spreads quickly. It is for this reason that a positive or negative customer experience via Twitter, Facebook (News - Alert), Live Chat and Instagram is more critical than ever.”

Mobility. Have you ever tried to interact with your company’s regular Web page on a mobile device? It’s probably a frustrating experience. If you’re not giving customers a specially designed mobile experience, through mobile Web or an app, you’re frustrating them. And given the habits of this generation, if they’re frustrated by your mobile Web presence, they will NOT pick up the phone and call you: they’ll try your competitors. A good mobile app can help with both self-service and live help (via chat, for example). It can help you retain younger consumers and allow them to get the answers they need quickly.

Self-service. Millennials are not interested in yesterday’s self-service solutions (such as traditional interactive voice response, or IVR). Younger consumers think of your digital presence when they think of self-service. FAQ sections, troubleshooting guides, or a community forum in which other customers can ask and answer questions, helps create the experience Millennials want, noted Gupta. Also consider “virtual concierges,” or chatbots, that can provide information in a conversational way using natural language processing.

These changes will likely involve big alterations to your current contact center operations. The switch to “omnichannel” is more important than ever. If you’re still waiting for your customers to come to you by telephone, you may find that in a short few years, you no longer have many customers. 

Edited by Alicia Young

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Improve Your Email Marketing Efforts

Despite the newfound prevalence of social media, SMS messaging, and other forms of content marketing, email marketing remains the tried and true method for reaching large amounts of potential leads. Despite this fact, many marketers could still stand to improve their practices when using email. Here are some tips that can help improve email marketing efforts.

Segment your email list. Customers don’t like being treated like a nameless, faceless part of a group, and they are usually perceptive enough to realize when it is happening. Don’t just send out blanket emails to the entire population of the email list. Use click feedback to only send emails to those on the list who would be interested by it. This will yield greater ROI and less people feeling annoyed and unsubscribing to emails.

Another good tip is to not overwhelm those on your email list. Promotional emails can be incredibly useful when used in moderation. However,

                     Image via Pixabay

flooding a customer’s inbox with multiple emails every day will only serve to turn them off to your brand. This could manifest in them removing themselves from your email list and even intentionally ignoring your brand. It is thus important to use restraint when sending emails to customers.

Finally, as with all aspects of marketing, it is incredibly important to focus on mobile optimization. More and more people use their mobile phones to check their email than ever before. With this in mind, marketers need to optimize their graphics and text to be read on smaller screens. This should include measures to limit excessive scrolling and make emails workable for both portrait and landscape reading.

Following these three tips can help marketers take their email campaigns to the next level. Email is still king, but many marketers need to tweak their approach to deal with a changing digital world. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle

Pandora to Offer Audio-Based Ad Measurement

Online advertisements are effective, but tricky when it comes to knowing exactly how effective. How can you know for sure if someone actually watched your ad when it popped up? There’s a very good chance that they opened another tab or simply zoned out while waiting until they could choose the “Skip This Ad” option. The chances that people are missing your ads are greater now than ever before thanks to smartphones. As more people use smartphones over computers, more advertisements become geared towards mobile. The problem is, though, that these ads require people to actually listen to the marketer’s message. How are you, as a business, supposed to know how many people your audio ads are actually getting through to? Pandora is on a mission to find out.

This mission begins with viewability information, which is closely related to how the audio measurements will work. Pandora and digital analytics company Moat have made a deal to measure viewability within the music streaming service’s app and website. The deal promises advertisers they will only pay for in-view ads that meet the standards of both the Media Rating Council and individual marketers like WPP-owned GroupM, which has its own requirements. Based on the MRC’s guidelines, advertisers are charged when 50 percent of a display ad is viewed for one second. Meanwhile, 50 percent of a video promo needs to be seen for two seconds. This deal presents a change to how advertisers transact, because it’s based on the metric instead of just measuring viewability to test how effective a campaign is.

The move to measure viewability in this way is a stepping stone towards taking audio measurements. Chris Record, VP of revenue operation at

                Image via Bigstock

Pandora, believes that audibility, which would measure how long someone listens to one of the radio-like promos, will follow similar standards to those used for viewability. “It's more conceptual now, and I think the biggest discussion in the market is around audibility against video offerings, but since Pandora is an audio platform, it's likely something that we'll drive innovation around in the future,” Record said. “We would really want to dovetail off of the audibility measurement for video and offer something that the market understands or can quickly relate to. We've had discussions and plans with Moat to bring that to market.”

So, how would this work? A piece of code could be incorporated into Pandora's advertising software to determine whether a consumer listens to a commercial in its entirety. It could also check to make sure a device's volume was turned on and whether ear buds were plugged into the headphone jack.

Testing audibility could be a big deal for Pandora and pave the way for other companies to do the same. This would be a great move for businesses, as they would be able to get real insight into how well their campaigns were working. Audio ads are great, as long as people actually listen to them. If companies realize that their ads are being ignored, they could take a closer look at the ad and try to figure out what’s wrong with it. Why isn’t it engaging people, and how can the company improve so that people actually listen to their audio ads? If all else fails and it turns out that not many people are genuinely listening to a company’s ads, then they can move on from that marketing experiment and find other creative venues to advertise on.

All in all, the ability to measure the effectiveness of audio advertisements would be a major advancement for companies who want to know how well their campaigns are working. Numbers reflecting how many times the ad was played are fine and dandy, but they don’t accurately reflect the number of people who actually heard the ad. So, you may think your business’ ad is getting a ton of listeners, but in reality it could be way less. Pandora’s decision to delve into the questionable effectiveness of audio ads may end up being a revealing game changer, and ultimate money-saver, for several companies.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

Expert Advice on How Consumers Can Best Protect Against Being Hacked

August 01, 2016

This is going to be short and sweet.  Even though I write about online security, unfortunately almost around the clock given how fast and furious cyber attacks of all varieties are coming, the fact of the matter is that I am constantly looking to the good guys for advice on how to protect my personal interactions when I am not in business mode.  In short, what are best practices when using my mobile personal devices so they, and all of my personal information they contain, do not get compromised? 

Recently Chief Security Evangelist at Alert Logic, Stephen Coty, has been spreading the word on extra steps all of us can and should take, or at least consider, to protect ourselves from hackers.  And with the two biggest hacking events coming up, Black Hat 2016  and DefCon 2016 now here, as Coty notes, “the brightest minds in cyber security don’t step foot onto the conference floor without implementing a few basic security precautions.” 

He goes on to identify three add-on behaviors for the majority of us that are above and beyond having a good anti-virus on your device. They obviously are preventive steps but they can at least make hackers looking for a quick victim to exploit look elsewhere.  Coty says: 

  1. Turn off your frequency –After using mobile payments like Apple and Android Pay, consumers should turn off their NFC settings so that the phone no longer broadcasts its frequency, which can be easily uncovered and end up right into the hands of hackers.  
  2. Keep Bluetooth off –Keeping Bluetooth turned on is one of the quickest and easiest ways a person can get hacked. Make sure that Bluetooth is enabled sparingly and only when actually being used, so cybercriminals have a harder time breaking into devices and accessing personal data.
  3. Consider using Mi-Fi –If consumers are really serious about safeguarding their laptops and phones, they can purchase their own person Wi-Fi enabled broadband devices, called M-Fis, to connect to the internet. This way, they avoid the potential of connecting to a bogus network or Wi-Fi hot spots that are being crawled by hackers.

Depending on your level of paranoia—FYI mine is pretty high thanks to speaking with so many industry experts and reading the daily headlines—recommendations #1 and #2 make a lot of sense and are easy enough.  And, I will admit that they have not been my best practices but now will be. 

As to the Mi-Fi recommendation, that does seem a bit extreme given the convenience of Wi-Fi as an alternative to a big data bill from your mobile service provider.  After all, life is about tradeoffs, and, at least for the moment, the idea of not being able to use Wi-Fi when traveling abroad or one of the many calling apps, which allow you to call home and talk as long as you like without roaming charges, is something I am not willing to give up.  

Edited by Alicia Young

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Aspect Software Appoints New Vice President of Solution Consulting

Aspect Software Appoints New Vice President of Solution Consulting

August 01, 2016

Aspect (News - Alert) Software is a provider of fully-integrated consumer engagement, workforce optimization and self-service solutions. They encourage humanizing organizations so that there can be conversational interactions between customer and company, which thus creates a frictionless omni-channel customer experience. Aspect Software has been active for over 40 years, and is now looking to better their company further by appointing Gene Weaver as the new vice president of solution consulting.

Weaver is coming to Aspect Software from Enspire Commerce/enVista, where he was a managing partner. In this role, he managed all go-to-market strategies. Before that position, he held leadership positions in sales, pre-sales and product strategy for several companies, including Yantra/Sterling Commerce (News - Alert), Escalate/RedPrairie/JDA and Lawson Software. As an outspoken evangelist for Cross-Channel/Omni-Channel strategies, he appears to be a good fit in his new position working for Aspect, who strives to create smooth omni-channel customer experiences. In his new role, Weaver will handle the execution of solution consulting pre-sales operations surrounding Aspect’s cloud, hybrid and on-premises customer experience solutions.

Due to his qualifications, Aspect is excited to have Weaver on board: “Gene’s leadership experience in technology consulting and execution of client deliverables further strengthens Aspect’s sales implementation and will be a critical asset to our success,” said Jay Johnson, Aspect senior vice president Sales, North America. “Gene will play a vital role growing and expanding our customer relationships and building on the market momentum created by the availability of Aspect’s fully-integrated solution suite and deployment flexibility. As we create cloud migration paths that deliver better business returns for our customers, his leadership and focus will be essential for the success of this initiative.”

Likewise, Weaver is looking forward to beginning his new VP position with the company: “Aspect’s swift pivot to investing and building out a market-leading cloud portfolio really addresses the demands of today’s radically changing market. From the introduction of Aspect Via, the company’s cloud customer engagement center to chatbots and cutting-edge workforce solutions, Aspect is well-positioned to deliver on our customers’ demands,” he said. “I'm excited to join an innovative organization that understands the shifts in our industry and I’m eager to build on the momentum we’ve created by continuing to deliver remarkable experiences for our customers and ultimately, their customers.”

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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Teridion Creates Jobs with New Israel Office

Teridion Creates Jobs with New Israel Office

August 01, 2016

Teridion is working to change content delivery by improving performance connectivity over the public Internet between cloud-based content and application providers and their customers. One of the ways in which they improve Internet speed is through their Global Cloud Network (GCN). As the company finds success, they continue to grow by expanding to different locations around the world. Their most recent move was to Israel.

Their new office in Israel is triple the size of their local California office. This massive workplace means good news for both Teridion and locals; it indicates that the company is doing well, because they can open such a large office, and many new jobs will be created as a result. As of June 2016, the unemployment rate was 4.8 percent in Israel. Hopefully the creation of such a large office will help the situation because there will be several new hires needed to keep the building up and running.

Elad Rave, co-founder and CEO at Teridion, discussed the company’s growth and its ability to expand to new locations by saying, “We have grown by 50 percent in less than a year and I am proud to see both teams, here in Israel and in California, hiring some amazing people and working together virtually and physically to bring the benefits of our Global Cloud Network (GCN) to cloud-based service providers and their users everywhere in the world.”

Jacob Avidar, VP R&D at Teridion and GM Israel, commented on the decision to open the new office in Israel by saying, “Setting the R&D center in Israel, next to the Operations HQ, guarantees us the brightest minds you can get these days in the international high tech industry. Teridion keeps growing, and we are looking for talented people that will join the excellent team that already works at the company.” He continued, “We want experts in wide variety of areas like data science, specialists in Machine-Learning algorithms, big-data analysts, automation and scala developers.”

As of now, several of Teridion’s customers are companies who rely on them to keep their Internet up and running smoothly. Based on the immense growth the company has seen in the last year, it’s clear that they must be delivering on their promise to improve the overall Internet experience. Expanding to more locations across the world is a great opportunity for them, as well as potential employees, and it will allow them to reach even more businesses.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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Verizon Buys Another Telematics Outfit – This Time Investing $2.4B

A hot market for a variety of next generation communications capabilities is the connected vehicle market including not just use by consumers in the mass market but various types of business fleets. Verizon (News - Alert) Communications is actively looking to be a leader in the space and is sinking an additional $2.4 billion into the connected transportation space with the acquisition of Fleetmatics. The company is a leader in the fleet management systems space, according to Berg Insight.

Fleetmatics says it brings to Verizon more than 37,000 customers, about 737,000 subscribers, a broad portfolio of products, and a team of 1,200. The news of the acquisition follows closely Verizon’s announcement in June that it has acquired privately owned Telogis (News - Alert) for an undisclosed sum. That deal brought Verizon a software platform and new distribution relationships.

The number of active fleet management systems deployed commercially in North America was 4 million in the fourth quarter of 2013, and is expected to reach 8.1 million by 2018, according to Berg Insight. In addition to Fleetmatics and Telogis, Berg Insight lists Trimble (News - Alert) and Zonar Systems as the other leaders in the space.

There’s been a fair amount of consolidation of fleet players to date, Berg Insight adds, noting FleetCor has acquired NexTraq and Michelin has bought Sascar. “These two deals are particularly interesting due to the fact that the well-known acquirers are newcomers to the fleet management space,” said Rickard Andersson, senior analyst.

As for Verizon, its original connected auto acquisition was back in July of 2012 when it purchased HUGHES Telematics Inc. But although Verizon has been in the telematics arena for a while, a June article in Forbes suggests the carrier has not kept pace in this area with its tier 1 telco brethren AT&T (News - Alert), which the piece says has relationships with multiple auto companies, including a deal to connect more than 10 million of Ford’s autos in the next 5 years.

“Verizon Telematics has enlisted only a handful of automakers, including Mercedes-Benz and Volkwagen,” according to the Forbes piece, “and its technology is used in aftermarket applications by State Farm and others.”

As my colleague Ken Briodagh wrote in the second quarter issue of IoT Evolution magazine, Verizon recently released its annual State of the Industry report for IoT, which talks about how Verizon Telematics is expanding its capabilities for the automotive OEM market with the rollout of a new LTE (News - Alert) solution, designed to facilitate global expansion for automakers and make cars safer with over-the-air vehicle updates and other features.

Edited by Peter Bernstein