Dimension Data, RightNow, Opengear, Parrot Hands-Free, Magic and Salesforce.com, Hacky Christmas to You

David Sims : First Coffee
David Sims
| CRM, ERP, Contact Center, Turkish Coffee and Astroichthiology:

Dimension Data, RightNow, Opengear, Parrot Hands-Free, Magic and Salesforce.com, Hacky Christmas to You

The news as of the first coffee this morning, and the music is one of the more inspired CD re-release twofers, The Beach Boys' Sunflower and Surf's Up. It's a minority opinion, but First Coffee finds Surf's Up the band's best album -- I know Pet Sounds is supposed to be, but I find it difficult to listen to that album all the way through:

Isn't speech self-service technology supposed to be improving? Why are the numbers of customers satisfied by it going down? Why do 40 percent of customers avoid using speech systems "whenever possible?"

Dimension Data, a vendor of IT products and services, has announced "disturbing feedback" regarding today's speech-based customer service systems -- in addition to the 40 percent who avoid speech systems like the plague, more than 2,000 respondents, 42 percent of the total, said they use the Internet instead of the phone, and only 25 percent of consumers reported they would be happy to use a speech-based customer service option again.

The vendor drew its findings from its 2009 Alignment Index for Speech Self-Service report, conducted in conjunction with Cisco and Microsoft subsidiary Tellme Networks. The report will be presented at SpeechTEK 2009 in New York City.

There is "a disconnect between why companies install speech self-service, and the way consumers perceive and value them," study officials say -- "Nearly half of the organizations surveyed said they also had a genuine desire to improve the service they provide to their customers, but only 15 percent of consumers believe improving service to be the real goal." Frankly First Coffee's surprised that many consumers believe it.

"While speech and other forms of self-service are great for an organization's bottom line, they need to align with consumer needs," notes Martin Dove, Dimension Data's global managing director, Customer Interactive Solutions. "Organizations should heavily consider consumer preferences and deploy solutions that provide choice, speed and accuracy."

When using automated systems, one-third of U.S. consumers polled are most frustrated when a human agent requests they repeat themselves after they've already provided information to the automated system. First Coffee is as well, since it shows the company doesn't care that you waste your time.

More than 20 percent of U.S. consumers reported that they are most annoyed when the system doesn't recognize what they've said. And 16 percent are irritated when they can't skip directly to what they'd like to do.

Looking to the future, more than half of consumers age 16 - 34 use the Internet as their first port of call when it comes to customer service. Overall 40 percent of consumers prefer to use traditional touchtone services rather than systems which require them to verbally answer a series of questions.

Bozeman, Montana-based CRM vendor RightNow Technologies have announced August '09 with new graphical desktop workflow capabilities and new analytics for Cloud Monitor, company officials say.

The graphical desktop workflow capability within the dynamic agent desktop "steps an agent through a business process and automates tasks behind the scenes," company officials explain, adding that this capability is supposed to help "extend the increases in agent productivity and decrease agent training costs associated with high agent turnover."

The dynamic agent desktop includes desktop workflow, new with RightNow August '09, a graphical, business process designer to guide agents across workspaces and processes throughout a single customer interaction.

It also has drag and drop design functionality -- easier on the managers -- and can link multiple scripts and workflows together to help agents guide customers through complex customer interactions. Using it you can also keep automated tasks in the background, such as updating contacts and incidents.

George Sternecker, customer care systems manager, myFICO, notes that his company "maintains a presence on social networks like Twitter and YouTube," and using RightNow Cloud Monitor they can watch the clouds to "proactively respond to posts related to our business."

Based in the high-tech Mecca of Sandy, Utah, remote access console server vendor Opengear has announced what company officials call "record revenue and rapid expansion," reporting a "doubling of sales and an increase of staff numbers by 30 percent against comparable period in 2008."

The open source-based Opengear line of console server products are intended to replace the more expensive proprietary products from companies such as Avocent, Raritan, MRV, Digi and Lantronix.

"AAA National Office provides managed firewall services to AAA Clubs and needed an out-of-band management product to the remote firewall," says Rick Dimmick, senior systems architect and network and systems management at the AAA national office, adding that they chose Opengear's product "at a reasonable price, via the Internet or dial-up."

Opengear has recently expanded its R&D facilities and has put new software engineers to work on open source management software projects to be announced at industry conferences in October in Chicago and November in Portland, Oregon.

"Our quarterly revenues are up and we have a good order book outlook through mid 2010," says Bob Waldie, founder and CEO of Opengear," saying he expects market conditions to "return in late 2010."

Paris-based Parrot is thinking of families sending their children off to college, parents shuttling kids to after-school activities, and "how they can stay in touch while driving," company officials say
And in fact they have just the thing: Hands-free kits to "allow families to stay in contact while on the move," Bluetooth kits that work in the car, home, office or dorm room.

Once paired with an iPhone, BlackBerry or other Bluetooth-enabled phone the Parrot tools pair the mobile phone's contacts and assign voice keys to each, creating instant voice commands and hands-free features for driving.
Kelly Zachos, Director of Marketing North America of Parrot, notes that "hands-free legislation" is driving market demand for just such products: "Back to school is a busy time for most parents, and our hands-free products are designed to make it easier to comply with requirements."

The Parrot Minikit Slim is a portable Bluetooth hands-free kit that can be used in the car, in the office and at home. Its "intuitive interface" connects to a Bluetooth phone when nearby, and it can affix to the sun visor in a car. The Parrot Minikit Chic, similar to the Minikit Slim, is for "those who want to combine fashion with convenience," company officials say.

Parrot, was founded in 1994 by Henri Seydoux, and sells hands-free systems for cars, motorbikes and scooters, including wireless multimedia products geared towards audiovisual applications. Headquartered in Paris, the company generates 85 percent of its sales overseas.

Magic Software Enterprises, which sells application platforms and business and process integration tools, has announced their participation in the Salesforce.com Foundation's "Power of Us" Partner Program. 
The objective of the corporate patronage program is to provide Salesforce.com partners with what Magic officials describe as "a simple and scalable model to make contributions to their communities through a donation of time, equity, and products to nonprofits."
As part of the partnership, Magic Software's UK subsidiary is offering licenses of its iBOLT business integration tool basic package free of charge, or at 80 percent discount, to Salesforce.com Foundation customers in the UK and Eire. Training and professional services will also be available at a reduced rate. Full details of the offer are available at.
The Salesforce.com Foundation uses a 1/1/1 philanthropy model, which supports nonprofit organizations via such methods as providing donated and discounted Salesforce CRM licenses as part of its One Percent Product Donation Program. Over 5,500 organizations in 60 countries have participated in the program. 
Salesforce.com Foundation customers in the UK will be entitled to Magic Software's iBOLT for Salesforce.com free of charge. Standard, Professional and Enterprise licenses will be available at the 80 percent discount, "as will a number of additional components and adaptors," Salesforce.com officials say.
David Akka, Managing Director, Magic Software Enterprises, UK, Nordics and Eire, said the firm "hopes to help young, disadvantaged people gain IT skills and qualifications through its work with both Landmark Training and the Salesforce.com Foundation Biz Academy."
Landmark provides free training programs and work opportunities for 14-24 year olds.
The hacking community is giving you a Christmas present now -- they're refraining from hacking you. Come Christmas, though, watch out.
Tufin Technologies, vendors of security lifecycle management products, conducted a "Hacker Habits" survey among 79 hackers attending DEFCON 17 in Las Vegas earlier this month. 
Contrary to a widely-circulated urban myth, eighty-nine percent of hackers claimed that IT professionals taking a summer vacation would have "little impact" on their hacking activities. Fully 81 percent said they are "far more active" during the winter holidays with 56 percent citing Christmas as the best time to engage in corporate hacking and 25 percent specifically naming New Years Eve.
Bear in mind that the validity of this study, of course, rests in the amount of faith you put in a hacker's word and your confidence that they aren't engaged in a bit of creative misdirection. First Coffee wonders why else they would be far more active over Christmas unless their middles names are "Grinch" or "Scrooge."
"The survey reveals that the Christmas and New Year holidays are popular with hackers targeting western countries," says Michael Hamelin, chief security architect, Tufin Technologies. "Hackers know this is when people relax and let their hair down, and many organizations run on a skeleton staff over the holiday period."

Again, taking a bunch of hackers' word for it, you should be most on guard against hacking weekday evenings, as 52 percent said that this is when they spend most of their time hacking. Thirty-two percent favored during work hours (weekdays), and just 15 percent hack on weekends. 
Of course that's the dedicated hard-core working those hours. Oh, and don't worry about any hacking taking place during Star Trek reruns.

Ninety-six percent of hackers in the survey said it doesn't matter how many millions a company spends on its IT security systems, it's all a waste of time and money if the IT security administrators fail to configure and watch over their firewalls. 
"This may be stating the obvious," says Hamelin correctly, "but poorly configured firewalls remain a significant risk for many organizations. It's not the technology that's at fault, but rather the configuration and change control processes that are neglected or missing altogether."


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