Mobiles prevail where PC solutions have failed

Business audioconferencing is dominated by conventional dial-in voice service, but they do have problems and limitations. Web-based and PC-controlled solutions do exist, but there are good reasons why uptake is low. Steve Flavell says mobile devices can be the answer …
Usage is a critical measure of success for any business service provider. It strongly implies: (1) that the service is helpful in solving points of pain in a significant business activity; and (2) that the service is really simple to access and use.

This article examines everyday problems and frustrations in business audioconferencing. The $5bn conferencing and collaboration market is still dominated by basic dial-in voice services. More than 80% of business users rely on these services over arguably richer web and video solutions because they are so simple and reliable . Users feel less likely to have a major catastrophe on an important client conference call with simple, trustworthy dial-in.

However, despite their dominance, these services are clearly not without their everyday points of pain – headaches and frustrations that users currently put up with on a daily basis:

•  Chaos in the first few minutes of the call – who’s joined and who’s missing;
•  Embarrassment at saying the wrong thing, unaware that someone pertinentis on the call;
•  Security concerns that someone might be listening in who shouldn’t be, especially in sensitive financial or legal industries. 55% of conferencing callers admit to often having no idea who’s actually on their calls1;
•  Waiting around for a missing participant to join and not knowing how to add them in;
•  Despair with background noise as someone participates from their car or a noisy airport; 75% of conference callers express this frustration.

"Mobile control is in a different league for simplicity of access and use …"

Where PCs have failed
A number of service providers in the market offer web-based control to tackle these conference calling problems. However, their uptake has been low – less than 5%.

There are two primary reasons. Most conference calls (approximately 75%) are made away from the desk. In fact, around 40% of conference calls are made from good old-fashioned meeting rooms where callers benefit from a high quality speaker phone and a quiet, private environment, but will not generally have their PCs at hand;

And even when at their desks, the necessity to go and find the tool is a real usage barrier, requiring the user to remember the URL, as well as their user name and password.

Suddenly, less than 5% adoption rates begin to make sense …

Combined sources: Wainhouse Research, TeleSpan, Ring2 research

Mobile can prevail
Ring2 Conferencing recently introduced the BlackBerry as a remote controller of conference calls.

Users still dial into the call from any phone (eg. meeting room speakerphone, mobile or desk phone), but can then separately take remote control of the call from their BlackBerry, benefiting from enhanced visibility, security and control.

The BlackBerry remote control is achieving enterprise adoption rates of 60%, in stark contrast to the low single figures of the PC-based control.

Both approaches technically solve the problems faced by users. However mobile control is in a different league in terms of simplicity of access and use. It’s the right device for the usage environment.

Whether the conference call host is in a meeting room, on the road, at home or at their desk, they are far more likely to have their mobile at hand than their PC;
And it’s possible to use ‘push’ technology found on the BlackBerry and certain other PDAs to deliver the application to the user at the exact moment they would find it helpful, rather than ask the user to go and find it for themselves.
As soon as the first invited participant dials into the conference, the call host’s BlackBerry handset is alerted, both acting as a reminder of the call and also enabling one-click access to the remote control capabilities.    
Suddenly, 60% adoption rates begin to make sense …

Steve Flavell is CEO and co-founder of Ring2, the world’s first audioconferencing service to offer remote control from a mobile device. The company won Frost & Sullivan’s 2006 Entrepreneurial Company Award in audioconferencing for its pioneering work.

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