The Red Pill vs. The Blue Pill

In 1999, the Matrix, a science fiction action film depicted “a future in which reality as perceived by most humans is actually a simulation…” (WikipediaThe Matrix planted seeds in our heads, prompting us to ask ourselves,, “Am I acting –and reacting – to tangible reality, or just my perception of reality?”

If you remember, Lawrence Fishburne’s character, Morpheus, offers Keanu Reeves’ character, Neo, two pills and tempts Neo with:  “This is your last chance.  After this, there is no turning back.  You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe.  You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes” (source:  IMDB.com).

Let’s apply this example to the reality, as you know it, in your own business.

What is your reality?

THE BLUE PILL

You just signed up your largest client to date, MJB Films.  They were concerned about losing productivity if the transition to your product didn’t go smoothly.  You assured the CEO that your Project Manager, Grant, would support them throughout the process.  You stop by Grant’s office to check how things are going….

You:  “Grant, how are things going with MJB Films?”

Grant:  “Great!  I just touched base with them this morning to see how everything was going during the transition to our product.  They were having a minor issue, but I walked them through the solution.  They are really happy they made the switch.”

 You:  “How’s everything else going?  Any good prospects?

Grant:  “I’ve made about 15 calls this morning.  More than half were cold calls, the rest are in different stages….I would say at least five are getting close to making a decision, and one says they are ready to sign the contract.”

 You:  “Great!  Keep up the good work!”

 Maybe things are great with MJB Films and Grant, or maybe……

THE RED PILL 

Imagine the same scenario with MJB Films and Grant, but your business’ phone system includes VocalQ, an enhanced hosted recording platform with speech analytics.  Not only will you receive email notification every time MJB Films phones in to speak with Grant, you can be notified when specific phrases are said in during the call.

Did MJB Films just say: “dissatisfied,” “having problems,” or “not working out”?

The audio mining dashboard allows you to review key terms and phrases that you have entered into the system. It provides you detailed reporting on the results in order of volume and relevance.

You can also check to see if Grant did make 15 calls that morning, and if those calls were made to viable business opportunities.

I’m not trying to suggest that you shouldn’t trust your team, but you may have an employee that isn’t performing.  Their actions, or their lack of action, could hurt your business.  In the blue pill scenario, you may not have learned that MJB Films was not happy with their service until it was too late.

“Swallowing” the red pill gives you greater transparency into your business.  Being made aware of problems immediately allows you to intervene before a problem turns into lost business.

So… Are you going to take the Blue Pill or the Red Pill?

Advertisements

How the Cloud Increases Productivity

Here’s a simple, yet real-world, example about how doing business in the cloud can increase your productivity:

Recently, we drove down to Miami Beach for the 2012 IT Expo.  I was in charge of booking the hotel rooms for our group.  I had gotten a couple requests from my coworkers…”will you book us a hotel with a decent gym?” “Please make sure we are close to the Convention Center and area attractions.”  I wanted to make sure everyone was happy.  I started my hotel search on-line, through a travel search engine, to compare rates and amenities to narrow down my choice.  I looked at a good 10 places before deciding on one.  I just needed to confirm a couple of things, so I called in to the reservation desk.  While I was on the line, I booked our rooms.  As plans often do, ours changed.  I had to call the reservation desk and extend our room reservations for another night.  I was in middle of making great headway on an important project, and suddenly, I was sidetracked.

I was so focused on my task at hand, I couldn’t remember which hotel I chose.  All I could remember was that it was my last call before lunch on Monday.  I needed to get the room extension done quickly.  I was working on a deadline and didn’t want to waste valuable time searching through my emails for my hotel confirmation to jog my memory.

This is one of the many reasons I love having the cloud enabled for our phone systems.  I just opened my call log in my toolbar, went straight to Monday, right before lunch, and clicked to dial.  My phone automatically started ringing on speakerphone.  This was perfect because I was instantly put on hold and my wait time was “greater than five minutes.”

While I waited, I switched windows and pulled up my email, and found my confirmation number.  With the on-hold musak playing in the background, I switched back to my project and got back to work.  A few minutes later, I finally got through to customer service.  I pulled up my confirmation number and updated our room reservation in a matter of seconds.  After my call was completed, my phone automatically hung up and I continued working on my project, with virtually no interruption – my fingers never even left the keyboard!  All the information I needed was stored in the cloud and instantly accessible in Internet Explorer.  I didn’t have to break my concentration and waste valuable minutes searching for phone and confirmation numbers.

The cloud is a proven tool to help you increase productivity and efficiency in your organization.  How has the cloud improved your business’ productivity?  If you are not utilizing the cloud….what are you waiting for?

How the cloud prevents lost data from turning into lost business

When I was a kid, there was one way to connect with my friends after school… through a telephone that was hard-wired to our kitchen wall.  You remember the kind, with a super long stretchy cord that just barely reached into the pantry where I could sit for some privacy (or am I dating myself here).   It could be so frustrating trying to get in touch with someone.  If they weren’t home, the phone would just ring and ring.  If they were home and on the line…the dreaded busy signal. I remember being amazed when call waiting and voice mail became available.  Suddenly, I knew who was trying to reach me.

In those days, you were very limited by how you could connect with people.  You had two choices:  via the phone or face-to-face.  The method of conducting business was one big paper trail.  Every contract, every correspondence, every note you took, you made a hard copy and stuck in a file folder.  When a client or prospect called, you would open your big metal file cabinet, pull out their folder, and all the information you needed was right in front of you.

Today, you can keep connected with your clients and prospects in so many different ways.  Now you can text, IM, post on Facebook, tweet on twitter, post and comment on blogs and even video chat through a host of different devices….cell phones, iPads, iPods, and computers.  Instead of a hard paper trail, most correspondences occur electronically.  Every contract, proposal, and email is stored on your computer.  You even save your notes on your computer.  It allows you to work more effectively and efficiently than you were ever able to do in the past.

But what happens if your computer crashes and you lose all your data?

Imagine, a large prospect is calling with questions about the proposal you sent them.   You sent it 3 weeks ago, so the details aren’t fresh in your mind.  Your computer has crashed and you lost all your notes on the prospect, on the contract and on the negotiation process.  This deal means a lot to you and your business and you can’t afford to trust your memory.

So what do you do?  Do you pick up the call and try to scramble your way through it?  Do you explain that you are having computer problems and let them know you will call them back once they are resolved?

It’s just like the old busy signal.  In the end, when your computer crashes and your data is not readily accessible – then from a customer perspective – they aren’t able to truly connect with you.  Most likely you were not the only business they received a proposal from, but you may have been the only business who didn’t address their questions immediately.  That could be all it takes to lose a deal.

There are an estimated 76.2 billions PCs are used in businesses throughout the United States.  That’s just in businesses.  Most data losses are caused by hardware failures.  Imagine 30.5 billion of those computers, laptops and desktops, failing and causing employers and employees to stop what they are doing to try and recover what is lost.  In most cases recovery occurs slowly and in some cases, not at all.

What can you do to prevent this?

If you trust in a cloud-based online file storage service, such as Google Docs or Dropbox, everything you need is stored securely and is easily accessible in the cloud.  You will not have to worry about losing business while you are working to rebuild your lost data, lost contacts, and lost client information.  The cloud ensures that you and your business keep your lines of communication open.  It’s like call waiting and voice mail for your computer – and no more busy signals between you and your customers!

The Problems Are Solved: Quality, Integration, and Security

By Mark Swanson

This is Part 3 of 3 in a series about How VocalQ Has Already Changed Your Business, The Personality of Speech Recognition, and The Problems Are Solved: Quality, Integration, and Security

It is no secret that the amount of data in our world has been growing exponentially. The term “Big Data” has been coined referring to the ability to analyze very large data sets.  According to McKinsey, Big Data “will become a key basis of competition, underpinning new waves of productivity growth, innovation, and consumer surplus.” Big Data provides the ability to take all this data we have been generating and make better decisions based on it.  A recent study by IBM identified that one in three business leaders make decisions without the information they need and half don’t have access to the information they need to do their jobs. That has significant competitive implications. Once the data is extracted and analyzed, a whole world of possibilities opens up.

SIRI is just a crack in the door.

Imagine scanning tens of thousands of voice conversations both in and outside of your company, recognizing what is said in those conversations, and then being able to map and measure both the quantity and quality of the conversations that took place.  We are doing it on the Web, why not on the phone? According to Forrester, over 73% of businesses are spending a combined almost $1billion on Web analytics technologies. Imagine being able to capture and rate each customer interaction, and be able to select any conversation and play it back, offering either encouragement or praise for that employee.  We agree with Norman Winarsky’s comments, not specifically for voice recognition, but rather for the voice recognition combined with voice analytics.

In addition to leveraging data, performing speech recognition and analytics in the Cloud has solved other obstacles that have been holding the technology back: audio quality, complex integration and security issues.

Quality

The quality of voice signal at the network core is as high as it is going to be while traveling inside the telecommunications network.  Capturing uncompressed audio signals at the core of the network means you eliminate transcoding issues, clipping and other effects that can disrupt voice recognition.  In addition, many of today’s Cloud Voice Networks are operating with the wide-band audio (G.722) standard which allows the voice to be captured with pristine quality.

Integration

Another issue that the Cloud solves is the ability to capture and integrate multiple collection points into one central repository.  Multi-site organizations have greater costs and higher integration risks than single locations.  The costs and risks have held back the deployment of these technologies.  Centralizing the collection and analysis of voice conversations allows for a much simpler deployment and vastly less integration.  In addition, the ability to connect to large processors to crunch the data and deliver analytics provides for a faster experience.

Security

Deploying voice recording and analytics technology on premises opens up another can of worms.  Establishing and assuring consistent security across all points of control becomes a very difficult task for a typical IT department.   Recording in the Cloud greatly simplifies the security and risk management of operations.   In the Cloud, a policy can be enforced and checked on by the customer.  Many Cloud vendors have established security and privacy policies that are verified by third parties.  In addition, most have backup systems that are used regularly.   Also, the ability to monitor and lock out “insiders” is of great benefit to companies.

The widespread adoption of Cloud technologies is providing a significant boost to call recording.  Are you prepared for the shift?  How do you plan on implementing these changes into your business?  Share your thoughts below.

The Personality of Speech Recognition

By Mark Swanson

This is Part 2 of 3 in a series about How VocalQ Has Already Changed Your Business, The Personality of Speech Recognition, and The Problems Are Solved: Quality, Integration, and Security

Speech recognition and processing technologies are on the verge of an explosion in adoption for both consumers and businesses; 2011 saw dozens of new voice enabled applications launched for Android, iOS and Windows.  One of the most visible was launched in October 2011 when Apple announced the iPhone 4GS and its natural language voice control system called SIRI.  This most popular new feature on the iPhone uses results of over 40 years of research funded by DARPA and organizations and universities across the United States. SIRI co-founder Norman Winarsky was not shy about sharing his thoughts on how SIRI will not only change computing, but the entire world.  “The PAL (personal assistant software) will get things done, and this is only the tip of the iceberg.

We’re talking another technology revolution; A new computing paradigm shift.

While that statement may be hyperbole, something has changed to generate interest in using voice recognition.    That something is integration of voice recognition with the analytics capabilities of Cloud technologies.

Analytics and the Web go hand-in-hand.  The ability to analyze interactions with customers is one of the primary reasons for the rapid adoption of ecommerce.  The enormous popularity of Amazon’s recommendation engine is a testament to this.  Web analytics allow businesses to measure, collect, analyze and report on Internet data for purposes of understanding and optimizing Web usage. Web analytics not only help companies measure Web traffic, but help businesses listen to customers through market research, measure advertising campaigns, determine popularity trends and analyze what works and what doesn’t – both in the aggregate and individually.  On-site analytics measure customer interactions on your Web site.  This includes drivers and conversations in a commercial context – what’s being searched for, what is being purchased, what customers are saying.

The reason SIRI works so well is that it uses Cloud-based technologies to process the context of the spoken language to continuously learn, not only what is said, but also what is meant.   This allows SIRI to have a personality.  And just like a human who fails to understand what you mean, it can fail graciously.  It will interject humor into the conversation, as well as ask clarifying questions.   For example, when one of my co-workers, in a moment of frustration, asked SIRI “Why am I such an idiot?” it responded with, “I have been asking myself that lately.”  When SIRI can’t find an answer to an ambiguous question it can search the Cloud and respond with humor or another question.  SIRI is leveraging a concept called “Big Data.”

Up Next: Part 3 – The Problems Are Solved: Quality, Integration, and Security

How VocalQ Has Already Changed Your Business

By Mark Swanson

This is Part 1 of 3 in a series about How VocalQ Has Already Changed Your Business, The Personality of Speech Recognition, and The Problems Are Solved: Quality, Integration, and Security

The axiom in the IT industry is that a seismic shift in the “computing platform” occurs every decade or so.  We saw it in the move from the mainframe to the mini-computer in the ‘70s, from the mini-computer to the PC in the ‘80s, the PC to Client Server in the ‘90s and to the Cloud in the 2000s.  We believe that the next shift in computing has already begun.   It has to do with how we interact with computers and how they understand that interaction.  We are now at the cusp of combining true voice recognition with the ability to analyze the “Big Data” generated by these conversations to provide immediate insights into what is happening behind the electronic veil.  If you are a business manager, you should pay attention to this emerging trend.

Missing this shift could mean going out of business.

Despite fifty years of technology advances, conversing with your computer has remained in the realm of science fiction.  If you are over 40, you probably remember listening to the tranquil voice of HAL in 2001 Space Odyssey or watching Spock bark orders to the unnamed Duotronic Computer on the Starship Enterprise.  In our mainstream culture, this future vision has yet to pan out – in fact as a culture we have gotten much more adept at using our thumbs than talking to a computer!

Despite our lack of awareness, our conversations are already being recorded, analyzed and tracked.  A monolithic network of computing power owned by the Government, called Echelon, is listening to and recording phone conversations.  Echelon provides a secret cadre of snoopers the ability to monitor and analyze millions of conversations.  And, these are not just military or terrorist calls.  In 2005, we learned that the NSA was wiretapping civilian conversations with Echelon.   To this day, our government continues the policy of secretly tapping into our conversations and recognizing what you say.

You are also being understood.

Improvements in technology are turning speech recognition into speech understanding.  The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has been working on a project for recognizing speech and understanding its meaning since 2005.  A project called GALE uses neural networks and statistical modeling technologies to “absorb, translate, analyze, and interpret huge volumes of speech and text in multiple languages.”

Commercial applications have lagged behind the government, but are now emerging as viable options.  After a gestation of several decades, commercial speech recognition technologies popped onto the scene in the mid 1990’s.  Apple and Microsoft started embedding speech recognition into their operating systems and Dragon Systems unveiled its software that recognized normal human speech.  These applications were prone to errors and problems with the technology caused it to fade from the market, however, something has changed in the past couple years.

Up Next: The Personality of Speech Recognition