A Populist Revolution In Audio Conferencing

Until recently, “innovation” was not a word associated with audio conferencing. It has seen very little change since its introduction in the 1980s because Ma Bell had it hidden in its remote call centers. Just enough engineering was done to provide some basic services, but everything else was done manually and users paid a premium. As a result, small and medium-sized businesses rarely used it. The good news that emerges from this dark story is that a populist revolution has begun.

Over the decades, Ma Bell’s austere audio conferencing services have conditioned users to have low expectations. When AT&T was divested in the mid-1980s, the Baby Bells repeated the practices with very little change other than reservationless conferencing which issued a permanent call in PIN and 800 codes. The current tariff for services has not. progressed from here.

The crazy thing about this situation is that we, the generally discerning consumers, have long since stopped asking ourselves if audio conferencing could do better. We had been so shot down by Ma Bell’s training sergeants that we just lined up with mug in hand.

Audio conferencing has never had a technology champion. The market leader was historically lethargic AT&T whose once-innovative Bell Labs mingled with web technologies and then split up. The Baby Bells continue this tradition. As a result, the industry has never had an innovative advocate. A new breed of entrepreneurial innovators is starting a populist revolution.

The cornerstone of innovation is to be able to provide more services at a lower cost. The convergence of telephone and web technologies enables a richer user experience. However, this convergence is easier with two-way phone calls, but much more complicated with audio conferencing. Each audio conference is unique. One conference call can have 10 participants while the next has 400. Ordinary telephone switches and Internet routers cannot “connect” such calls. This requires specialized audio conferencing technologies.

Web 2.0 audio conferencing has finally brought the benefits of web services. Unlike the same-old-same-old, these services enable features such as:

  1. Group call– With just one click on your iPhone, call 10, 50 or 100 people at once without have to warn them, send a PIN code and dial a number, set a time, wait for latecomers, etc.
  2. Add participants “on the fly” – Add additional participants while a conference call is in progress without interrupting the conversation.
  3. Record – Obtain an MP3 recording of your weekly sales training to provide to new employees.
  4. Web console – Web controls for online contact lists, call monitoring, video training, help, technical support, account and billing details.
  5. Security and confidentiality – Ability to easily select the right level of privacy to prevent intruders during important calls, or when privacy regulations require (such as HIPAA).

None of the above features were available with traditional services. Why? This is the nature of technology. Traditional telephones consist of connecting wires with switches. Web technologies relate to the management of “data packets” passing through routers. In addition, traditional telephone networks are regulated by the government while Internet systems are not. All of these differences lead to technologies that were historically apples and oranges. None of the big players invested in audio conferencing R&D until intrepid entrepreneurs began to tackle this communication problem in the late 1990s.

Web 2.0 audio conferencing combines the best of both worlds. However, be aware that many audio conferencing service providers are building websites in front of their old, traditional boxes, masquerading as the web and luring you in with all kinds of bait-and-switch. “Good business. Cheap is not good if it hurts your productivity and that of the people you want to bring together. The cost of people’s time is your biggest expense, not the small cost of your audio conferencing minutes.” Invest in your productivity Get notified.

To learn more, Google “Web 2.0 Audio Conferencing”.

© Copyright 2010. Leader Phone® and Michael McKibben. All rights reserved.

Source by Michael McKibben

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