eComm 2009: Sponsors Accelerating in a Depressed Economy

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Two weeks ago eComm 2009 organizer Lee Dryburgh observed that:

With the heavy backdrop of economic doom and gloom everywhere I’d been finding it ever more strange that virtually every company I was dealing with in relation to the 2009 conference, was reporting accelerating business let alone [as opposed to] flat or declining business.

Via a Skype multi-party call he held a virtual panel discussion involving:

  • Jonathan Christensen (Skype)
  • Irv Shaprio (IfByPhone)
  • Rodrigue Ullens (Voxbone)
  • Graham Brierton (Voicesage)on this topic.

When asked about today’s economy he repeatedly found eComm 2009’s sponsors saying “Oh no, we’re actually doing better, due to the downturn”. So he asked each of the panelists what their offering was doing such as to accelerate their business.

Graham Brierton (VoiceSage):

For example, we had a company that the key thing they wanted to do was bring in their debts cheaper and quicker, instead of reminding people to pay their bills.  Part of the paying the bill process was transferring them back into a call center to actually collect the money.  What we noticed when we analyzed the data was they were getting a hell of a lot of people that were wanting to pay between 3:55 p.m. and 4:05 p.m.  We still don’t know the reason why there is a peak at that point, but there is a peak at that point.

One of the issues that these guys had was that they couldn’t actually take all of those calls because they had a shift change at 4:00 p.m.  They were unaware that because they had a shift change there were a lot of people that wanted to engage in a process with them but they weren’t allowing it because of their internal business processes.  They actually changed that.  That came as a direct result of simply looking at the data generated from the interactions that their customers were having with us, and us trying to collect money from them.

Irv Shapiro (IfByPhone):

Batteries Plus is a franchise-based business in the United States and Canada that has hundreds of retail stores that sell only batteries.  If you need a battery for anything, you go into Batteries Plus or you go to their website and you can purchase a battery.

In many, many cases, people need a battery right away so they want to go to a store.  Batteries Plus was finding that they were fielding hundreds and hundreds of phone calls to stores asking for routine information such as “What are your hours of operation; which is the closest store to my address…?”  We automated that process for them.

In fact, they automated it themselves by going to our website, provisioning a toll-free number, putting in a IVR on the front end that asked a couple of very simple questions to determine whether the customer was looking for information about batteries.  In that case, the call was transferred to a central call center corporate.  Were they looking for the closest location, in which a geo-coded application automatically provided them with the closest location and driving information.  If they were looking for store hours of operation, same geo-code process except in this case we retrieved the hours of operation.

They found a dramatic increase in the productivity of their in-store personnel because now those personnel could concentrate on spending time with customers in the store.  The side effect of that is they sell more batteries.

Rod Ullens (Voxbone), who reported business growing at 15% per month:

At some point, they [cloud based services such as VoiceSage and IfByPhone] need to reach the PSTN.  Most of them actually need a telephone number to be activated.  The bigger they get, the bigger we get.  That’s already one reason.  It’s not necessarily because of us, but because of our customers that have services that are interesting, and we grow with them.

If you look at the way numbers were used in the past, where you had a telephone number that was just linked to a physical location, that’s all you can do with it.  The cost to dial such a number is pretty expensive.  What we’ve done is to just completely take away the geographical link.  Now a number is just a software-based identifier that people can use to call you on.  It’s very flexible.  You can just build up a service.

First of all, that service can be completely Internet based.  You can just use telephone numbers from Voxbone to make it reachable from traditional phone networks, from mobile phones and so on.  Basically, you can be a company and have a virtual presence in a lot of countries.  From day one, you can start a service provider, in forty-five countries.  I think that’s one major reason why we’ve grown, especially now.

Jonathan Christensen (GM Audio and Video Platforms, Skype), in response to Lee’s question: “What do you think is driving these minutes?  Is it businesses using Skype, for a change, in order to save money, for example?”

We’re seeing two things.  One is just consumer migration to value; people want to avoid long distance, but we also see in the consumer space a network effect around your friends being there, the quality being great, it being convenient and easy.  We have a large constituency of people where it is the convenience, free, and easy factor.

On the business side, Gartner, for example, recently said they kind of backed off their position that Skype is dangerous, evil, and will introduce Trojans into your network, and so on.  We hear; we have a bunch of case studies and we hear more and more from corporate IT, these commandments to their workforce saying, “When you’re travelling, when you’re making long distance calls, when you’re going to be faced with insane roaming charges, please try to use Skype.  It works, it’s easy, you can download it, it’s free”.  We are seeing acceleration in that sector, as well.

These are snippets from the discussion; Lee has transcribed the entire session in a eComm 2009 blog post.

Note that while all the participants in this call will be presenting, Jonathan Christensen will be delivering a keynote presentation: “Codec Evolution and Industry Proposal” along with a Skype announcement.

Bottom line: if you’re looking for value in communications services that drive business decisions, if you want to be a player in the emerging communications space, eComm 2009 provides the best opportunity to get a three day education in how the Voice 2.0 world will evolve. It’s an opportunity to network with the thinkers and business leaders who will be providing services for that market space. That’s why I’ve convinced a friend who is a 34-year veteran in the Canadian telecomm market to come; he wants his new consultancy to have relevance going forward.

Register here; enter “one touch” to get a 20% discount. Speakers. Schedule.

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About Jim Courtney

Bringing over thirty years' experience in the sales, marketing and management of cutting edge technology businesses.

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  1. eComm 2009 Podcast: Voxeo CEO Jonathan Taylor – The Origins and Near-Future of Voxeo | Voice on the Web - February 23, 2009

    […] a case study in innovation leading to business success and is a sponsor of eComm 2009 (which means their business must be accelerating). Last week conference organizer Lee Dryburgh interviewed Jonathan and has put both the podcast and […]

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