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ESI to Demonstrate Simplification of Communication at ITEXPO

TMCnet Feature

July 30, 2014

ESI to Demonstrate Simplification of Communication at ITEXPO

By Susan J. Campbell
TMCnet Contributing Editor

Customer perception is based on a number of different variables – how they are treated during the sale, the support of the product after the sale, a colleague’s experience with the brand and how clearly the company can communicate. This doesn’t mean whether or not customer service reps can speak clearly, but instead how clearly they can be heard.

Today’s consumer expects crystal clear communications when working with any company, placing a higher priority on the type of phone system needed to support business operations. Simply plugging a device into the wall won’t cut it; you have to know what you need and the technology capabilities that will fit that need, according to customer expectation.

To that end, companies like Estech Systems, Inc. (ESI) are focused on providing companies with one source for high quality communications. Its integrated solutions are proven to be easy to learn and use, save time and money in the office and support clear communications regardless of the connection. In working with ESI, companies gain access to the solution needed to support Unified Communications (News - Alert), access control, presence management and video and call logging.

In May, the company announced its new ESI Cloud PBX solution. Positioned as the most integrated cloud PBX (News - Alert) on the market, ESI designed the solution to be simple, intuitive and affordable, while offering the opportunity to easily integrate into the client’s environment and immediately support daily operations. 

To share this latest innovation and other activities in the telecommunications space, ESI plans to be on hand at this year’s ITEXPO (News - Alert) West at The Rio in Las Vegas August 11-14.  In anticipation of the event, Shawn Guenther, Director of Product Management for ESI, shared a bit of insight with TMC’s (News - Alert) Rich Tehrani (News - Alert). Keep reading to get the full scoop and why ESI is one company to be sure to check out at ITEXPO West. 

Why is Microsoft (News - Alert) Lync gaining as much traction as it is? How will its growth impact other UC vendors?

Microsoft Lync is an interesting case study for our industry and for Microsoft itself. Much of Microsoft’s history – and that of our industry – is storied with the vendor advising us how business should be done. But Lync is about asking you what you want to do. In a self-service obsessed culture, this plays extremely well. The bonus that it plugs handily into your existing IT management processes makes it a no-brainer. That’s an enormous threat to competitors looking to reach into businesses that are already managing Microsoft services, but for those businesses who aren’t necessarily so married to Microsoft server applications – those businesses sub-100 users – the playing field is relatively unchanged: show a better, simpler, more manageable or more tailored user experience and you win.

Is the BYOD trend slowing down or is it still gaining momentum?  Why?

The BYOD movement is still on the rise, though it appears to simply be the momentum of a stalled engine. You can see the undercurrent of why all through this year’s ITEXPO agenda: the industry hasn’t answered the market’s problem yet. Your device is about you personally; how you communicate, how you think, how you play. We have a desperate desire to add how we work to that mix but doing so isn’t a product problem, it’s a psychophysics problem. A centrally designed app cannot be made to suit each of us, and the adoption rate of mobile clients in our industry makes this alarmingly clear. The desire to get rid of the desk phone didn’t disappear; the consumer gave up waiting for the right solution to fit their needs as we all toyed with making one app to rule them. The answer here is options density, and until it’s provided, BYOD will remain an unrealized dream.

Has Microsoft created a laptop replacement with its Surface 3 Pro tablet?

The Surface Pro 3 certainly proves a viable laptop replacement for some users, but it’s a fairly limited group right now. Part of the appeal of laptops, power and familiar user experience aside, is the ability to give you a workspace that approximates your desk, not only in software but also in interfacing. The Surface still hasn’t met this challenge on the hardware front, and until it does it will continue to be seen as a tablet with some added features.

How has mobility changed the way you and your team work?

Every Product Management group has seen process evolution through mobility, even if only to ask the question of how their products fit in the mobile space. Here at ESI mobility has played a crucial role in enhancing the way that we work. IM has all but replaced email as a mode of communication in my team, and that is owed entirely to the ease of access on smartphones and tablets. I’ve literally seen employees on devices chatting with the cubicle next door. We record meetings and archive them along with meeting notes to ensure details aren’t missed and all thoughts are catalogued. With my tablet I can access bug reports, customer feedback, and project schedules from anywhere I have connection and immediately respond to urgent calls from my team no matter where I am. These are all things that were possible from fixed devices, but not practical.

How has mobility impacted the way you interact with your customers?

Mobility changes not only what we interact with our customers about, such as the ramp-up of customer service opportunities from mobile platforms like Twitter and support of our own mobility applications, but also how we interact. The most major shift at ESI is the transition from phone calls to email for technical support submissions. We still find the majority of customers call in, but a rapidly growing portion of support takes place over email directly due to the greater speed and accessibility mobility provides.

What functions/applications has your business moved to the cloud that you were once running on-premises?   How has migrating to cloud benefitted you?

As a cloud service provider we have moved our most important component to the cloud: our customers. This move was primarily due to our positive internal experiences with cloud services. Several years ago ESI moved from Outlook to Gmail. From there Office moved to Google Docs, the in-house Bugzilla server was replaced with a hosted JIRA platform, network drives have largely been replaced with Google Drive and Dropbox (News - Alert), and our phone system moved from our on-premises platform to our cloud product. I personally live my entire life out of Evernote. The list goes on; there are few functions of our business that are not cloud-based, and those that are not there yet are on their way there. The benefits are tremendous: we never have to upgrade, the support costs are smaller, we have anywhere access, and the risk of data loss is greatly mitigated. The stress reduction on our IT director alone justifies the move!

Do you trust the cloud?  Please explain.

I find that whether one trusts the cloud or not is largely a technical literacy question. The cloud itself – the interconnected web of computers and software to make them appear as a unit – has little to fear. Network operations centers worldwide wring hands over stuck processes, failing hard drives, or power outages, but the presentation layer – what we see – suffers from none of this. Short of interruption during data transfer, the only real risk factor is in the service itself. The real question is not whether you trust the cloud or not, but whether you trust your provider or not. The closing down of Ubuntu (News - Alert) One was not a functional disruption but a business one: the cloud simply worked too well. Security is another provider-related concern; while the cloud certainly makes weaknesses more vulnerable it does not cause them. The benefits greatly outweigh the risks.

How important is it that the generational gap in technology literacy be closed?

Closing the technical literacy gap between generations is not only exceptionally difficult – if not impossible – but also completely counter to the principle of user focus. It is not simply that a Millennial understands the lingo that sets them apart from Gen X; it’s a mode of thinking and operating that is fundamentally different. What my 20-something team members need from their devices is radically different from what my more experienced staff do. Recognizing and playing to those differences is far more important than trying to harmonize them.

What impact will the Apple-IBM (News - Alert) alliance have on enterprise vendors?

The Apple-IBM alliance will produce an initial spike in interest from enterprise vendors, but the fundamental tactic is errant. Apple believes the issue is simply that not enough businesses have tried tablets yet. In truth, it’s a BYOD problem all over again: users have yet to find the answer to their call for bringing customized work experiences into their customized living experiences. That challenge is what hinders iPad adoption, not lack of access. That nut will be cracked, but it has to be done by enterprise vendors, not Apple or IBM. That is going to make it quite difficult for either company to justify waiting out the clock.

Will wearable technology have a more significant impact in the enterprise or consumer segment?

Wearable technology represents the ultimate BYOD target, able to tap limitless potential in the enterprise market. This reality is likely to take a very long time to come to fruition, as app and service providers have still yet to correctly target the BYOD crowd. As such, the consumer sectors – games, social media, etc. – will be the rapid adopters and the stronger segment for several years.

What one wearable tech product do you most want to see on the market?

The wearable I would most like to see is a hands-free universal controller. Several studies have been done of using a brainwave reading halo to allow thought control of an on-screen object. That leads to a natural desire to extend into a customized personal controller that would allow you to free yourself from the necessity of things like keyboards, mice, and remote controls. Voice activation can get us some aspects of this functionality, but there is only so much talking to your device you can do. No offense, Siri.

Is gamification an effective tool for increasing engagement with customers?  Explain.

Gamification is an extremely effective driver for customer engagement. Asking a customer to enter personal details garners a scornful eye, but if data entry is prompted by a milestone marker and a progress bar they open up quite freely. Providing badges and achievements drives participation in training programs at an alarming rate. As with any engagement tool care must be taken to ensure game principles are applied properly and in an appealing way, but when executed properly gamification drives customers to the desired behavior and gives them a sense of pride; it’s tough to argue with the utility of making a customer feel good.

What is going to be the biggest tech trend for this year’s holiday season?

Holiday season 2014 is going to be all about wearables, no question. Google Glass, Samsung’s (News - Alert) Galaxy Glass, a plethora of smartwatches, and rapid expansion of the Android Wear operating system will drive huge adoption rates as gift givers find themselves awash in wearables.

What is going to be the biggest trend or innovation in business technology in the next year?

Maybe it’s my saturation in the cloud, but if I had to guess at the biggest business technology trend for 2015 I’d say it’s in XaaS (everything-as-a-service). Tools like Docker, NGINX, Redis, and MongoDB are providing new ways to provision and manage cloud infrastructure to ensure that anything that can be done on a PC can be provided as a service. The vast number of competitors in the cloud space and the struggle to be heard over the noise will drive providers to find new services to offer and pull a growing number of businesses into cloud services.

What are you looking forward to at ITEXPO?

At this year’s ITEXPO I’m really looking forward to talking to attendees. The sessions largely tell a story of an industry trying to guide a confused market, and that certainly is a part of the conversion we’re going through, but it’s the personal stories of triumph and hardship that really measure the pulse of where we are.

What will attendees learn from y our session?

My session this year is on the simplification of communications services. What I hope we can teach attendees is the value in making things easy and what easy means. The cloud is about self-service, but that doesn’t mean that customers are tech savvy or that they have the time or desire to take on a steep learning curve.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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