Cost reduction isn’t a new phenomenon, but its awareness has been exponentially heightened by the current recession. For many businesses, that has resulted in significant travel limitations — but that doesn’t eliminate a need for group communication and collaboration. That need, coupled with improvements in VoIP services, has provided a boost to the conferencing industry.
In fact, a recent Plantronics-sponsored study by TNS found that 42 percent of knowledge workers have noticed declines in corporate travel, and 40 percent spent more time in teleconferences, while 30 percent have increased telecommuting.
“A shift is occurring in the way businesses operate in trying economic times,” explained Chuck Yort, vice president and general manager of Business Solutions at Plantronics (News - Alert). “Many corporations have worked to find cost effective ways for employees to communicate and connect with colleagues and customers, a trend that was sparked by high travel costs and has been accelerated by the uncertain financial climate.”
But, despite the collaboration enabled by conferencing services, the ability to effectively cut costs (i.e., making sure reductions are made in the right places), relies on the ability to accurately asses where their budget dollars are going, and that includes conference calls. More often than not, the proper billing and coding of calls is a daunting, manual task that not only takes considerable time, but is prone to human error.
AT Conference, however, has taken to easing the entire process by way of a introducing a new Web-based interface its customers can use to assign any name or code to each conference call. In fact, the feature isn’t limited to accounting staff — any user of the AT Conference service can easily assign appropriate codes and notations, which can then be linked to the appropriate client, department, or project to ensure proper accounting and billing.
The enhancement to the AT Conference service is designed to help streamline the call accounting process, eliminating the need for manual end-of-month reconciliation, saving time (and money).
“By giving users complete control of the process in an easy-to-use format, we can save our customers a great deal of time while also providing greater accuracy and flexibility than other services,” said AT Conference CEO David Jannetti.
The new coding feature is just the kind of enhancement Frost & Sullivan (News - Alert) analyst Krithi Rao referred to, saying that, “Like other conferencing markets, the audio conferencing bridge market is undergoing a transformation in product features, functionality, and end-user needs as it becomes a key element in implementing a collaborative workplace.”
In addition to its focus on enhancing its services, AT Conference understands that no service, regardless of its features, can succeed without an ability to deliver it, which is why it also places a high priority on its network, running on a self-healing SONET ring, supported by two LECs and two long distance carriers. It also says it has more in-house port capacity than its competitors.
Its network reliability was put to a severe test back in August 2003, when the East Coast suffered a paralyzing power outage (most of you remember it — I was stuck in Toronto’s Pearson Airport, about to board a plane returning from a business trip). According to the company, its users didn’t “one minute of service,” thanks to its redundancy and DR planning, even though AT Conference is based in Southampton, NY, squarely in the middle of the blackout zone.
An Access Markets International study predicts that the total SMB conferencing market will grow to $26 billion by 2012. With a history of reliability and an eye on service enhancements, AT Conference, with more than 50,000 users already, is primed to accept the challenge of a business world looking to leverage communications technology while maintaining cost consciousness.
Erik Linask (News - Alert) is Group Managing Editor of TMCnet, which brings news and compelling feature articles, podcasts, and videos to nearly 3,000,000 visitors each month. To see more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Erik Linask