Dialing In Conferencing

By Brendan B. Read, Senior Contributing Editor  |  October 01, 2010

This article originally appeared in the October 2010 issue of Customer Inter@ction Solutions

Audio, video and Web conferencing solutions have many powerful uses. They include: initial and refresher agent and supervisor training; team collaboration; information on new client programs; product, service and issues updates; on new solutions being deployed; and corporate meetings.

Conferencing tools make home-based and mobile working and utilizing informal agents such as subject matter experts feasible by permitting such personnel to participate in this knowledge imparting from anywhere, aided by expanding broadband networks which enable high quality experiences.

The conferencing ROIs are enhanced performance through increased knowledge and reduced costs and improved productivity by cutting back travel: whose pollution leads to healthcare costs and contributes to global warming.

Here are several insights on using and new developments in enabling conferencing solutions:

AT&T on Conferencing

AT&T’s AT&T Connect provides integrated audio/web/video conferencing for internal and external collaboration and delivered via AT&T’s global platform. AT&T spokesperson Jenny Bridges offers the firm’s insights on a range of questions and issues:

*          The benefits of different conferencing modes and how they are and can being used by contact centers

“Contact centers are primarily utilizing audio capabilities via toll-free numbers,” says Bridges. “Web and video conferencing are growing in popularity for training purposes. They may become more prevalent as the ability to communicate and annotate documents becomes more commonplace with integrated conferencing solutions. A web conferencing solution would allow contact center agents to communicate and collaborate on documents.  An example would be a contact center agent reviewing directions for use of a product. The agent can also draw diagrams on the whiteboard for an in-depth explanation.”   

*          Are there tasks that conferencing can perform but contact centers are missing out on and if so which ones and why?

“Integrated audio and Web conferencing would provide the strongest benefits to contact centers,” responds Bridges. “It will provide contact center agents greater flexibility to resolves issues with customers. Agents will have the ability to view, edit and collaborate on documents with customers, and also access websites that contain pertinent information.

“Video conferencing will be a future component that may be valuable for those centers that have a need to offer product demonstrations and develop a more personal face to face interaction with customers.”

*          Will unified communications (UC) supplant audio conferencing?

“It’s premature to say that UC will displace audio conferencing,” states Bridges. “Presence functionality is at the forefront of demand for UC.” 

Polycom (News - Alert) expands telepresence capabilities, bolsters video solution security

Telepresence systems are high-end video or more accurately visual communications products that give 3-D like sense of interaction with others. Polycom has been increasing the capabilities, affordability and security of its telepresence tools.

*          Release of the Open Telepresence Experience (OTX) 300 which delivers full 1080p video at up to half the bandwidth the firm says of comparable systems by implementing H.264 High Profile, a new standards-based video compression technology. The interactions are protected with Polycom’s Lost Packet Recovery technology that provides a consistent, high-quality experience over “real-world” IP networks. The OTX 300 also offers it says the lowest total cost of ownership of products in its class.

*          Future Polycom solutions will feature McAfee (News - Alert) threat protection, which will shield users from potential and increasingly sophisticated security threats while making it easier to comply with privacy and confidentiality mandates

BrightCom Telepresence Supports Multiple Audio Options

BrightCom has enhanced and expanded the audio option in its Lumina Telepresence and ClearView Video Conferencing solutions with three options:

*          The audio-only experience, which replaces relying on telephone and separate conference call phone lines with the remote control or touch screen technology, thereby allowing users to dial and answer calls via their room or mobile cart conference codecs. BrightCom supports multi-microphone inputs and outputs.

*          Data/video by which participants with online access via remote desktop, laptop or web cameras may use BrightCom solutions to display high definition or standard definition video and/or data while using a regular audio phone and conference call lines. The BrightCom Visual Collaboration System (VCS) can display documents, PDFs, high resolution images or video clips and broadcast high definition or stand definition video in real time simultaneously side by side.

*          Audio/data/video conferencing combination in either a video conference or telepresence environment connecting BrightCom endpoints. The VCS also provides meeting recording and archiving for all three modes.

CoroWare Upgrades CoroColl HD Videoconferencing Service

CoroCall 2.0, from CoroWare Technologies offers improved audio and video quality including improved echo cancellation and device integration and full 720p30 video encoding for desktop and laptop systems.

CoroCall 2.0 also provides enhanced H.239 application sharing that is interoperable with traditional videoconferencing vendors such as Polycom and Cisco Systems. It also works optimally with Vidyo’s (News - Alert) VidyoConferencing product line. Vidyo’s solutions enable high-quality video to desktops and room conferencing systems via broadband.

Cisco Delivers Telepresence Interoperability, Bolsters Video Reliability

Cisco has made several key improvements to its videoconferencing technologies that make them more customer/user-friendly:

*          Enabled increased interoperability between different vendors’ telepresence products by supporting the open-source Telepresence Interoperability Protocol (TIP) in the Cisco’s Tandberg TelePresence Server

*          Combined three components – Cisco TelePresence Manager, Cisco TelePresence Multipoint Switch and Cisco TelePresence Recording Server – onto one server, the Cisco TelePresence Commercial Express to enable easier deployment, simpler licensing and a faster realization of productivity benefits

*          Making video to home-based agents and others on networks not designed for it feasible by introducing ClearPath, which improves video quality by minimizing the effects of packet loss on networks. Also, improvements to its Movi solution for Macs and PCs via ICE protocol support that increases call capacity outside the firewall, which is critical it says for large-scale installations of home and remote workers.

InterCall (News - Alert) Offers Video Streaming

Conferencing solution firm InterCall now offers streaming video that features technology and tools that permit streaming events to be more interactive, flexible and mobile. The key functionalities include:

*          Screen broadcast. Presenters can broadcast their desktop, all Flash-based, without any installation required for those viewing.

*          Integrated video encoding. Presenters can achieve top quality VP6 or H.264 video encoding all within the application without additional steps.

*          SMS poll voting. This allows users to vote on polls using a standard text message and is aimed at hybrid meetings or other meetings where the webcast is displayed on a projector or LCD, permitting participants to vote without being in front of their own computers.

*          Videos in PowerPoint presentations will be automatically encoded and streamed during webcasts.

*          Slide and screen broadcast zooming and panning.

*          Integrated Twitter feed. Participants can log in to their Twitter accounts from the application’s module navigator and tweet about the event or follow the conversation; the Twitter hashtag is automatically inserted in their tweets.

Enabling Attractive Webcasting

Webcasting can be an excellent tool with which to communicate with contact center agents and managers. Unfortunately webcasts are too often boring, with presenters seen in tiny poor-resolution images, poor A/V and limited interactivity. There is rarely any on-screen means for users to take notes, forcing them to alt-tabbing to Word documents on screen or jotting them a piece of paper: which cannot be readily shared with others, both of which takes them away from the sessions. These tools are also often a time-consuming multi-step hassle to get into and use.These factors have caused, says Michael Fitzpatrick, co-founder and CEO, ConnectSolutions “attendees to lean back, check their e-mail or grab a cup of their favorite beverage instead of leaning forward, paying attention and getting involved with webcast sessions.”ConnectSolutions has in response to these issues devised Podium 2, the latest version of his firm’s Webcast solution. Podium 2 provides full screen video, ability to stream across multiple platforms including Facebook and Apple (News - Alert) idevices, user announcements, information about who is speaking, time-stamped on-screen note taking whose information can be shared with others and offline session reuse. Podium 2’s browser-based delivery enables access in seconds rather than minutes; users do not have to install Java or download any apps.

“The solutions out there have focused on the presenters and/or producers experience in managing the event and very few had spent any time on optimizing the viewer experience,” explains Fitzpatrick. “We have turned this focus around to the viewers because if the firms who are paying for webcasting want to achieve ROI from these sessions then it must be presented in a way to encourage users to lean forward to obtain value from them.”

The following companies participated in the preparation of this article:









Brendan B. Read is TMCnet’s Senior Contributing Editor. To read more of Brendan’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi