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West Corporation

Posted on January 14, 2013 by West Corporation 


Big Data: Size Does Matter

Data shapes the world. It tells us all sorts of interesting things. It helps us plan, it helps us make decisions and it tells us what’s right and what’s wrong with a business. But are businesses really making the most use of their data?

There are many types of data out there. Transactional (or dynamic) data is generated or modified by the systems that are used for transactional or operational purposes, such as a cash register or an ATM. Closer to home, an IVR application or a Web page could be considered transactional systems. Customers interact with them and execute various tasks.

Examples of transactional data include what a caller said, what options they pressed, how much they owe and how they paid. Each of these events could be tied to a date, time and even a part of the world they are calling from.

Another flavor of data is analytical data. Analytical data provides the business intelligence that allows organizations to make key decisions. This type of data is often stored in enterprise data warehouses and data marts and is optimized for decision support. An example of analytical data is identifying how many people own red two-door cars in any major U.S. cities starting with the letter “M.” A more practical example is identifying the ratio of people who prefer Android to iOS and then organizing them by demographics such as sex, location or age.

The point is that data is everywhere, and if you were able to acquire the right data, it could  make you competent enough to confidently run your business and help others run their businesses. This is how the buzz term “big data” got started. Let’s get some big data and all our problems will be solved, right? Wrong. It is easy to get sucked into the hype of big data or even get overwhelmed by it.

Three Data Characteristics

According to Wikipedia, “Big data is a term applied to data sets whose size is beyond the ability of commonly used software tools to capture, manage and process the data within a tolerable elapsed time.” Most of the data out there is unstructured, epic in volume and grows at an exponential rate – all qualities that make it quite challenging and costly to manage. But if you can organize this data, then you have a leg up on the competition.

According to the big data report by the McKinsey Global Institute, “If U.S. health care were to use big data creatively and effectively to drive efficiency and quality, [then] the sector could create more than $300 billion in value every year. Two-thirds of that would be in the form of reducing U.S. health care expenditure by about 8 percent.”

The following are typical big data characteristics:

  • Volume: Massive quantities of data that require extremely intense analysis and lots of hardware.
  • Variety: Data is not organized, is not simple and is not just text. It could come in the form of audio, video and even imagery.
  • Velocity: The data comes quick and requires fast processing.

Because of these qualities, it is becoming challenging to store the data and become savvy enough to handle it. The data comes from various sources and can be unstructured and difficult to query out of traditional relational databases and even data warehouses. There is also the security aspect of maintaining big data. With all that data being captured, it is even more important to make sure data is secure. Again, with the right plan, it is possible to reap the benefits of big data. But how do you know if your company is ready for it?

Fortunately, there are experts out there who have already gone through this exercise and provide a guideline for evaluating the feasibility of adopting big data (Forrester). And, with West’s expertise and partnerships, it is safe to say that we are a big data expert.

 

West Corporation

Posted on January 11, 2013 by West Corporation 


Milestones, or just pebbles along the way…

Having been part of the 9-1-1 industry since 1985 (you do the math) there have been a lot of huge developments that have impacted the industry. Lots of people nowadays move from one career to another, following a web-like career path across multiple industries, geographies, and professional levels. My own path has stayed close to the major branch that is public safety/emergency communications, even though I’ve branched out toward quality standards, compliance and business controls along the way.

When I got my first 9-1-1 position, the first day on the job I received a huge stack of green-bar computer printouts of all the MSAGs for the entire county. It was about 5 inches thick with maybe 60 street and address ranges listed on each page. My first task was to verify the data was correct, which involved checking in with 42 community Fire departments, then discovering 50,000 unaddressed structures in the county, and launching an addressing program that was not met with much enthusiasm by the farmers and ranchers surrounding the metropolitan area.  I attended lots of pot-luck suppers as I tried to explain how 9-1-1 would work to the rural residents of Tarrant County, TX!

We didn’t have laptops back then, and did everything on paper. So when I titled this article, I was really thinking about the huge technical challenges that we faced and overcame – Milestones – that now just look like bumps in the road in retrospect. The most technical acronyms I threw around back in 1985 were POTS, MSAG, ALI and ESN. My oldest son once asked me when his cousin, NENA, would come to visit him. Now there is an entire library of terms that are tossed about everyday!  We have come so far with 9-1-1 technology in a relatively short time!

Here’s my list of milestones that now resemble mere pebbles along the roadway.

Rural Address conversion – that was a big one in the 1980’s!  It’s not unusual to see five and six number addresses along the back roads nowadays, and lots more street signs!  We 9-1-1ers have definitely impacted the landscape. Along the way, we might have even impacted the tax roles as every structure with an address was included in the updated “9-1-1” database, which doubled as a mailing address for tax bills to be sent to.

PBX or private switch systems – there were campuses with private phone systems that operated with extensions and no address information at all. We had to figure out how to identify the location of each extension, which was tied to the phone system with a hard wire on a desk or in a dorm room at the time. We created an addressing scheme for Dallas International Airport where none had existed before.

Cell phones – my first one was a 5 pound brick, but my first exposure to a mobile was a built-in car console – it was really a radio and was connected to the car’s battery power and had a huge antenna attached to the car trunk. It had a curly cord and a rotary dial on the handset!  Of course, I was just a child when I experienced this sight, but it made me so hopeful for the future and all the amazing things we would have available in my lifetime. Now we have all that futuristic equipment, except for flying cars, and with the technology came a whole new type of 9-1-1 system. We had to locate those unconnected devices and display them on maps so we could send the right responders to them!  Huge change came along with this technology advance. Our ground-breaking project in 1996 in Houston, TX, was a live demonstration of wireless location and number display – we lovingly referred to it as pseudo-ALI, or PALI, and a whole bunch of new acronyms came out of it. In the rear-view mirror, that is so far behind us and left so many body parts on the side of the road, it’s amazing that we stuck with it!

Web based information – the phone companies used to publish directories of all the phone numbers in alphabetical order. These were giant tissue paper books that we received free of charge each year, which doubled as child seat lifts at the dinner table. Most families only had one number you could call, rather than one per person plus the home phone and multiple computers for each member of the household. Now, you can go on-line and look up just about anyone, anywhere and use your cell phone’s internet access to do it. We can also hook up our computers to make phone calls using Voice over Internet, or VoIP. This was another 9-1-1 hurdle – connecting computers to 9-1-1 wherever they might be located at the moment.

Texting – Who can live without it anymore?  It keeps us all connected, and people want to be able to text 9-1-1, as well they should. This is a boon for the deaf community, and a true lifesaver for anyone in a compromised position that needs to reach 9-1-1. 9-1-1 is in our pockets nowadays. The products and services of the industry had to come up with a way to meet every telecommunications advance that comes through the door – I guess there will always be a reason to do what we do!

West Corporation

Posted on January 9, 2013 by West Corporation 


The Fifth-Game Jinx

Having a bucket list has become a popular thing to do in recent years. One of the things on my husband’s bucket list is to see his beloved St. Louis Cardinals win a World Series baseball game. He attempted to cross that off his list back in 2004 when they were in the World Series playing the Boston Red Sox. He had two tickets for Game 5, but the Red Sox swept the series — and, alas, Game 5 wasn’t played.

My husband is a little bit superstitious, so he believes he is a jinx. He has resigned himself to the fact that he had to adjust his bucket list and never ever plan to see a World Series game again. The next best thing, of course, was to go to opening day and watch the St. Louis Cardinals receive their 2011 World Series rings during the opening ceremony.

So, that’s what we did. It was a rainy April morning, but we were there, rain ponchos and all, with all of the other rabid fans. I have to admit it was pretty exciting watching the 2011 season players and former players, sans Pujols, of course. We also got to watch a few great games that weekend.

On the way back to Omaha, a big storm was brewing, so we decided it would be better stay in Kansas City for the night and not risk the drive in bad weather. Good thing we did, as there were a couple of tornadoes that night along I-29. While on the road home, I decided to use my trusty iPhone to book a hotel room right off the Interstate. Little did I know how frustrating and difficult that would be.

Disconnected Customer Experience

I tried to log into the Marriott website since I couldn’t find an app in the app store. That was the easy part. You would think it’s a pretty straightforward task to book a hotel room by providing the location, number of rooms and people, and credit card number. Oh, no — the website kept timing out. I had to repeatedly close the browser and start over again. Then, when I finally got to the area to fill out my information, the site was difficult to navigate and booking a room was a very, very lengthy process.

It was so frustrating (and I was getting carsick) that I decided to just call the hotel directly. I had to start all over providing information, of course. The agent at the desk had no idea that I had just filled in almost all of my information on the website. She had no context, other than I was on the phone with her now and she needed to book a room for us.

Not a good experience on many fronts. First, it was a lot of work to give Marriott my business. Why don’t companies think about the entire experience their customers have when trying to do business with them, including mobile apps and websites? Why couldn’t the information I had already entered on the website be accessible by the agent? Why was the website completely not user-friendly? It certainly left a bad taste in my mouth for Marriott.

Think of how much more revenue companies could make if they worked to streamline the customer’s experience. An investment in technology that would assist them with some of these things would be well worth the cost.

 

West Corporation

Posted on January 8, 2013 by West Corporation 


MyAssist, a Leading Provider of Personal Assistance Services, Selects 911 Enable as their E911 Partner

MyAssist911 Enable is pleased to announce a new partnership to provide quick and efficient E911 call routing services to MyAssist,  the world’s finest concierge, emergency travel, and medical assistance service provider.

 911 Enable’s PSAP Link service seamlessly integrates with MyAssist’s proprietary technology to facilitate the transfer of 911 calls and location information to the appropriate Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) with the click of a button, reducing emergency response times and improving subscriber safety. With connectivity to over 5,500 PSAPs across the US, PSAP Link ensures that MyAssist can connect their subscribers to the help they need, when they need it most.

 To learn  more about how 911 Enable and MyAssist have leveraged their partnership to provide comprehensive E911 services for added customer value, read the MyAssist Success Story or view the Press Release.

 To learn  more about 911 Enable’s innovative PSAP Link solution for Telematics, read the Solution Brief or visit the PSAP Link Webpage.

West Corporation

Posted on January 7, 2013 by West Corporation 


Are You In?

Senseless violence seemed to be compounded daily in 2012 – from the Newtown massacre to the shootings of our brethren firefighters as they responded to calls for help. Horrific events made national news. There was the Aurora, Colorado movie theater carnage and those lesser known incidents like the eerily similar shooting at a movie theater mid-December in San Antonio. These catastrophes rattled us to the core and called the question – what is happening to this world when people kill our innocent children and take aim at emergency responders who risk their own lives day in and day out to save another?

If you are like me, you wonder, “What can I do to help and support those who are suffering from the chaos?”  I felt at a loss. But then I noticed, like the mythical Phoenix rising, that the human spirit emerged with a simple suggestion made by NBC news correspondent Ann Curry. She challenged us to commit to 26 Acts of Kindness, in honor of the children lost in Newtown. The idea has gone viral! Since its introduction, the concept has further evolved to include and honor other losses across our great nation as well.

Within days, the hashtag “#26acts” was trending on Twitter. A Facebook page was created for “26 Acts of Kindness” and now has over 94,000 likes. Currently, there are 86 similar Facebook pages where people are sharing their own random acts, or thanking their anonymous benefactor for the kindness they received. I am amazed at the creativity – great ideas out there! and confess that I shed a few tears upon reading some of the stories of heartfelt generosity. The gestures range from dropping a few extra coins into a parking meter or delivering a bag of dog food to the rescue center to buying diapers for a struggling parent or paying off a layaway account.

So now we begin a new year. With my faith in humankind restored, I now know what I can do to help. I’m ready to join the Acts of Kindness campaign. And I challenge YOU to do the same. If we keep the movement going, maybe – just maybe – we can bring a smile and make a difference in someone’s life. If everyone pays-it-forward, we could see a dramatic change in our world.  Are you in?

Toni Dunne, ENP, is External Affairs Manager at Intrado.

West Corporation

Posted on January 4, 2013 by West Corporation 


Transforming a Contact Center Father

Having my kids away at college has been an adjustment in communication and keeping up with each other on our lives and activities. I find myself saying, “Why don’t they just call me? (You can ask my wife.) They know my number, they know Dad’s “hours of operation” are 24-by-7, they know they won’t wait in any queue to talk, my average speed to answer is instantaneous, and they don’t need to worry about the average length of call. I make it so easy for them to call, but do they? Noooooooooooo! So I have resorted to other ways to communicate out of necessity to keep up with them and impart my “fatherly” knowledge.

Over Thanksgiving, my 21-year-old-daughter and 18-year-old-son came home from college to spend time with my wife and youngest daughter, who is 14. What struck me when we were together was how many new ways and applications my kids are using to communicate with their friends and organizations they belong to. They use texts, posts, pictures, video, opinions, pinning and other new ways to communicate that I barely knew existed. Just as I was getting used to texting and social media, I realized that to communicate with them I would soon be getting more devices and downloading a bunch of new apps. These kids are driving and changing my behavior.

Then it hit me: I am like a contact center, and my kids are the customers. It used to be good enough to have a toll-free number for customer service and wait for the calls. But today that is not good enough anymore. Consumers, just like my kids, are moving to new devices, technologies and applications at a rapid pace. They have expectations that they will communicate when and how they want to. Now, my kids know that “contact center dad” will only change so fast, but they continually challenge me to adapt until I learn how to best communicate with them. This is the same challenge that businesses face today with their customers and potential consumers.

How do they transform their old contact center ways into new customer contact strategies? Just as with our kids, it starts with understanding your customers, how they want to communicate, and what the most effective channels are. My son is a “texter”, my youngest is a “poster”, and my oldest is a mix. Customers and consumers are changing the way they communicate not only with companies but also with each other. They’re changing the way that they buy services, and their expectations for service and care are no longer passive and latent.

Because of these changes, companies are struggling to effectively address how they create and manage those customer interactions to make them proactive, predictive and consistent from channel to channel and across an explosion of customer touch-points.

Just like dads, companies need help with their customer contact transformation journeys. You need someone who has been there and knows where to start. Your “kids” will appreciate the effort and communication will flow. In business, this means more opportunities, brand intimacy and happier customers. For dads, this means helping your kids navigate a difficult world even when they think they know it all.

Oh, there is one more similarity between the role of contact centers and dads: When there is trouble or money involved, you are sure to get a call.

West Corporation

Posted on January 3, 2013 by West Corporation 


Speech Recognition Success or Failure Is Not Always Black or White

Statistically successful speech recognition is not the only indicator of a successful self-service IVR application. If an overall speech success rate is not also accompanied by rising key performance indicators — such as containment rates, completion rates, and customer satisfaction scores — then a closer examination of what is working and what is not working needs to be examined.

In order to do this, organizations need to take an honest look at their customer care and realize that not all points of customer interaction are equally important. A good raw number or bottom line is not so important if the core customer needs are falling short.

For example: What is the real value to having a stellar rate of success on a “yes” or “no” confirmation type of prompt if more of the responses are “no,” indicating that customers are unable to successfully speak the correct information the first time? If the core functions of your IVR are underperforming but are statistically padded by confirmation-type prompts, then it’s time to focus less attention on the overall speech success rate and more on the most important drivers of true success. In short, it’s time to strive for a speech success rate that is weighted more heavily not only on higher volume prompts but also on importance. In doing this, you will recognize that not all prompts are created, or valued, equally.

Conversely, it is also important to recognize that just as is true with success, not all failures are the same. For example, in a non-speech-enabled application, a miskeyed entry is rejected. There is no chance that an invalid entry of say “4” can be misinterpreted as a “3” when using touch-tone.

In speech applications, this is handled the very same way. In this case, a spoken “4” will be rejected, as it is not a valid in-grammar response. Depending on a particular organization’s reporting, this properly rejected response is not viewed as a successful interaction even though it was treated properly. It is important to make the distinction between a phrase that was misunderstood and thus not recognized versus a phrase that was properly rejected.

How an organization wants to view and report the success of its speech application will not be the same for all, and that is fine. What is important is that those doing the reporting are looking beyond the raw numbers to the true picture of what speech is providing to the core business functions. Remember that a best practice is not so because a group of experts say that it is. A best practice is only so if it results in increased productivity, greater customer satisfaction and specific bottom-line results that are measurable and provide true value.

 

West Corporation

Posted on by West Corporation 


Can You Identify With Me?

The average U.S. household has 3.5 phone numbers.

If it’s confusing to you to keep all of those numbers straight, then you can imagine the complexity involved for big business to keep data current to identify customers. The number of phones per household continues to grow, and we now have the ability to port numbers from one person to another. Wouldn’t it be great if companies could tie all that data together and identify a customer based on any one of those household numbers?

When you call a company’s IVR from a mobile device or a new number, chances are those businesses, with which you may be a long-time customer, are having a hard time identifying who you are — and then you’re unable to quickly access the services that you need. When a business can’t identify you, it increases call time, drives up operating costs and in most cases, can reduce customer satisfaction.

Twenty-seven percent of U.S. households are now mobile-phone-only, up from 14 percent in 2007.

With the culture shifting to a mobile-driven world, these issues are creating a strain on companies that are trying to keep their consumer data updated and relevant. More and more companies are now accessing learning databases that can identify and verify callers no matter which family member’s phone you may be calling from.

Customers, like you and me, want a personalized experience. We can still have it if companies can keep up with all our phone numbers.

 

West Corporation

Posted on December 21, 2012 by West Corporation 


Automatic Location Discovery for Cisco Jabber Soft Phones

Cisco JabberCisco Jabber integrates unified communications (UC) capabilities for users, centralizing presence, instant messaging (IM), voice, video, voice messaging, desktop sharing, and conferencing in a user-friendly interface. The comprehensive UC functionality and highly mobile nature of the Jabber soft phone allows users to switch seamlessly from one mode of communication to another, with access to the complete suite of UC and collaboration tools from anywhere in the enterprise.

However, the high degree of mobility afforded by Jabber can create challenges when it comes to providing E911 support to users. Because it includes voice functionality, organizations that implement Jabber must ensure that users receive the same high-quality E911 support as they would from any other device accessing the Cisco Unified Communications Manager (UCM). That means that when 911 is dialed, their accurate location information must be available to be delivered with the call to the appropriate Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP).

To help organizations support the Jabber soft phone and its inherent mobility, 911 Enable offers robust, reliable E911 management capabilities that ensure accurate location information is always available. 911 Enable’s Emergency Gateway (EGW) appliance can automatically track the locations of Jabber soft phones using layer 2 (switch-based), layer 3 (subnet-based), or wireless LAN discovery methods. An organization simply uploads a network map into the EGW that associates network elements to Emergency Response Locations (ERLs) to enable this functionality.

Support for Jabber is delivered in conjunction with 911 Enable’s E911 Softphone Locator (ESL) software. The ESL updates the EGW with a Jabber soft phone’s unique provisioning data (e.g. MAC, IP address, BSSID, extension) each time it is activated or moves on the network, and at pre-configured intervals. The EGW references this data to the layer 2, layer 3, or Wireless LAN network maps to determine the location of the Jabber soft phone. For added functionality, the ESL enables the EGW to successfully maintain unique identifiers for Jabber soft phones so regardless of the logged in user profile, it can be located based on the mapping between the layer 2/layer 3 address or wireless access point of the phone and the provisioned emergency location. This ensures that when 911 is dialed, the Jabber soft phone’s precise, accurate location is ready to be delivered to the appropriate PSAP.

For more information on 911 Enable and its support for Cisco soft phones, call 1-877-862-2835, email sales@911enable.com, or visit www.911enable.com/cisco.

West Corporation

Posted on December 13, 2012 by West Corporation 


911 Enable Solutions Complete Certification with Latest from Avaya

DevConnect Tested911 Enable is pleased to announce that it has successfully re-completed compliance testing with Avaya. Two of 911 Enable’s solutions were tested, the Emergency Gateway (EGW) and the Emergency Routing Service (ERS). Certification was completed with the following Avaya systems:

  • Avaya Aura Session Manager 6.2
  • Avaya Aura Communication Manager 6.2
  • Avaya IP Office 8.1

This recertification reflects 911 Enable’s commitment to remain up-to-date with Avaya’s latest technologies and innovations, and ensures that customers can deploy our solutions with ease, knowing they’ve achieved Avaya’s rigourous standards for interoperability and support.

911 Enable is a Technology Partner member of Avaya DevConnect. To learn more about 911 Enable’s solutions for Avaya, read the press release here, or visit our Avaya webpage.


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