ROI on Hosted Voice vs. Premise Based PBX

In a recent meeting, we were discussing the current state of the economy, the time value of money, our services, and the return on investment (ROI) between Hosted Voice and Premise Based PBX (click here for a brief description of both).

Our Sr. VP of Sales, Sean Burke offered us the following insights:

Let’s say the charges for our service is $3,000/month.  You may look at that and do the following calculation to determine the ROI on our solution:  $3,000 x 36 = $108,000.

That is merely tells you how much you are going to spend on our service over the next 3 years, but speaks nothing of your ROI.

The best way to determine the value of your investment is by looking at your investment taking the time value of money into consideration.  Let’s look at this from a strict money comparison (which does not include the value of added features, innovation, support, etc.):

Here are 2 examples:

  1. CONSERVATIVE – If your company received a small business loan today from the  Small Business Administration Loan (these are actually pretty hard to get too given the economy)- the rates range from NY Prime (3.25%) + 2.25% = 5.5% to NY Prime (3.25%) + 6.5% = 9.75%.  So let’s use 7% to show a middle ground calculation.  A $3,000 monthly payment over 3 years with a 7% rate is VALUED in today’s money at = $97,159 for a difference of about $10,000 (from what was calculated above based on total $’s spent). But even this calculation is extremely conservative and here is why…7% interest is a very conservative estimate of the value of a growing companies future value.
  2. A FAST GROWING COMPANY (REAL EXAMPLE) – The average growth rate of the Inc 500 companies is 46%.  If you use this number the value of $3,000 paid monthly over 3 years is = $58,057 for a difference of about $50,000. From a business perspective/cash flow perspective – leaders of high growth companies should understand that deferring your payments to monthly amounts so that you can free those dollars to invest in your high growth entity is ALWAYS a smart decision.  Think of it this way…the company is growing by 46%.  Which means each dollar you invest in growing your business is worth $1.46 in one year; in two years it is worth $2.13, in year 3 it is worth $3.11 – so there is a much larger value to them in investing their money INTO growing their business vs. buying PBX’s.

If you are interested in learning more, please contact us – we’d love to discuss this with you.

Also, for a calculator you can use to determine the time value of your money – click here.

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Do you have a Disaster Plan in place for your phone system?

With hurricane season in full swing and Hurricane Isacc approaching, we wanted to provide you with a few suggestions for protecting your business communications.

One of the many benefits of your hosted communications service from Telovations is the ability to receive calls, even if your primary business location is unavailable or employees have to work from home.  Telovations’ geographically diverse, synchronous platforms ensure that callers will continue to reach your business.

Below are a few key features which you may find helpful in these circumstances. Now is a good time to become reacquainted with these features, spend a few minutes setting up your Disaster Redirect numbers and remind your employees how to use Remote Office, Simultaneous Ring, Sequential Ring or Telovations Anywhere.

  • Disaster Redirect – Stay accessible to customers, even if your offices are closed due to a natural disaster or other unforeseen circumstance.
  • Remote Office – Work wherever you like! Receive and place calls as if you are in the office.
  • Hosted Voice Messaging – Always have your voice mail available and accessible from anywhere.
  • Telovations Anywhere – Use any device (home phone, cell phone, etc.) as your work phone with all of your hosted phone features.

Depending on your service plan, these features can be configured from our online portal. The portal can be accessed by clicking here.

You can contact our customer care team to answer any question you might have by dialing 611 from your Telovations’ phone, calling 877-934-6668 or sending an e-mail to: support@telovations.com.

If your business loses power or connectivity your telephone equipment may not operate. However, if you utilize Telovations equipment as part of your service plan, your auto attendant and voice mail will continue operating if your business loses power. Even if you utilize your own equipment with the Telovations’ solution, you can temporarily setup an emergency message utilizing Disaster Redirect. If you have an analog fax line, you may remove the fax machine connection and plug in an analog phone (such as an inexpensive one you can purchase and that does not require a power outlet) to the wall connection.  This line can be used for outgoing and incoming calls, even during the loss of power. You can then use phone as an Anywhere device.

If your business requires a more robust Disaster Recovery plan, our staff of consultants is available to work with you to design and build a solution to meet your needs.

Below are a few links to additional hurricane preparation information you may find useful:

Above all, remain safe and be assured that Telovations will be available to assist you.

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

4 Key Benefits of the New VocalQ℠

Used effectively, the VocalQ framework is a strategic differentiator and delivers considerable benefits.  Speech recognition and analysis has come along way in the last decade and the technology is poised to accelerate in the next.  The day is not too far off when speech recognition and analytics will morph from improving customer interactions to being the customer interaction.  Our goal with VocalQis to help companies realize the benefits:

Reduced Costs  – Companies gain valuable insight into the inefficiencies of their operations.  Speech analytics help to decrease call times by training agents to be more effective in harvesting information from customers.  Currently, many businesses measure quantitative call data like; how many calls were received, how many calls were abandoned, how many rings it takes to answer an inbound call, etc. This data only answers “what” communication is happening within your business. VocalQ measures the context and content of your communications.

Better Customer Retention – Cash spent on retaining customers through improving customer service is far less than that needed to gain a new customer.  In addition to measuring quantitative and descriptive data, VocalQ goes a step further by recording and alerting on the quality of interactions. With VocalQ, What's Your VocalQ?calls are sampled with call recording and the dialog is benchmarked.  Things like customers having to repeat themselves and correct responses to questions can be measured.  Furthermore, the recorded conversations can be compared against customer surveys so supervisors can discover why an interaction went well or went awry.

Cross Selling – Speech Analytics identify opportunities to increase sales conversion rates, both for new customers and up-sell and cross-sell opportunities.

Reduced Risks – Using speech analytics enables a business to quickly identify potential regulatory failures or locate poorly performing agents.  Rather than relying on gut feeling, you “hear” the voice of the customer, analyze the interaction in real-time, and make better strategic decisions about your company.  The ability to take immediate action on “voice alerts” is another benefit of VocalQ.  Supervisors can identify critical words and phrases in conversations and receive real-time alerts to remedy the situation now rather than later.

What other benefits have you experienced with the New VocalQ?

‘Telephone’ was a Fun Childhood Game, but Do You Really Want to Play it in Your Business?

Do your reports match reality? Are your decisions based on reality or secondhand information?

‘Telephone’ is a game in which one person whispers a message to another, which is passed through a line of people until the last player announces the message to the entire group.  It is often regarded as a metaphor for cumulative error, especially the inaccuracies as rumors or gossip spread, or, more generally, for the unreliability of human recollection.

There’s no doubt this game is amusing as a child, but how comical would the inaccuracy of human recollection become if you played it in your business?  How much laughter would you still hear if you discovered one of your previously ambitious account executives could no longer close new business?

Would you giggle if you were no longer profitable?

In this fictitious game of Telephone, casual chatter about the latest opportunities circulate around the sales community over the course of the week.  The seemingly innocent conversations cause an ambitious senior account executive to feel the effects of miscommunication around the office.  Adam is a consistently high performer, but when his boss, Gary, hears the misshapen truth of Adam’s latest lead, tension arises:

Adam: “I’ve met with the client several times but they’re a bit tough.  I have another meeting tomorrow and am hoping to close the deal.”

Bill: “He’s met with the client several times and they’re tough.  He has another meeting and might close the deal.”

Christine: “He’s met with the client several times and they’re really difficult to deal with.  He might close the deal.”

Diane: “He’s met with that impossible client multiple times but he said he hasn’t closed the deal yet.”

Eileen: “He said he’s met with that impossible client but he still hasn’t closed the deal.”

Frank: “He said that client is impossible and he can’t close the deal.”

Gary: “Adam, are you calling our clients impossible?  If you can’t close the deal I can give it to someone else.”

Which company are you?  Which company do you want to be?

To Adam’s surprise, the perseverance and positive attitude he shared with a coworker earlier in the week had inaccurately passed through a line of people – just as in the Telephone game.  The snowball of miscommunication created a distorted perception of Adam because the inaccuracies of human recollection are unfortunately inevitable.  Adam was advertised as the exact opposite of determined; and in this case, there’s no evidence to support what Adam really said.

While this is a fictional example for our purposes, situations like this are real.  They happen everyday both internally and externally, through all channels of communication: in-person, through email, and on our business lines.  With all those channels of communication, how easily can you access the necessary evidence to fairly dispute customer complaints?

Just as your CEO wants the knowledge to accurately address your largest client’s concerns, you need this knowledge to moderately settle even the smallest discrepancies.  Quantitative data is great for good companies, but qualitative, context data turns the good company into a great company.  Take Company A and Company B, for example:

Company A knows how many phone calls they receive in the office and who is calling.

Company B knows how many phone calls they receive in the office, who is calling and on what device, who they want to speak with and what they’re saying, who they spoke with and what they said before, when a dispute is escalating, what the dispute is about, and where the dispute originated from.

Which company do you want to be?