Jewel Team     Serving the Central IL region from Dunlap, IL     Local: 309.243.8100

E911...What you don't know CAN hurt you!

On a December day in 2013, Kari Hunt Dunn took her three children, ages nine, four and three, to visit their estranged father at a Texas hotel room. When the man turned violent—forcing Kari into a bathroom and stabbing her—the woman’s nine-year-old daughter did exactly what she should have: She dialed 911. But the call didn’t go through. She tried three more times, all unsuccessfully. Why? Because the hotel required her to press 9 to get an outside line.

Despite the little girl’s repeated attempts to get help, she received none. The hotel’s phone system failed her family. Sadly, Kari died as a result of that attack. Now Kari’s father is asking for a federal law to require direct 911 access, and the Federal Communications Commission and the public are offering strong support.

Not only should hotel and motel owners take heed. So should any business with a location from which it’s currently impossible to dial 911 directly. Are you and your PBX in that group? And that’s not the only issue you can’t afford to ignore. In this month’s TCom TidBits, we look at Enhanced 911—and what you need to know to be compliant.

What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

If you consider safety “job one” for your organization, you’re in good company. However, you might be surprised how many companies overlook a key aspect of safety: ensuring your phone system allows emergency personnel to quickly find an emergency caller.

The ability to pinpoint a caller’s exact location is known as Enhanced 911 (E911). At issue is the reality that many phone systems of large facilities, such as office buildings, healthcare facilities and institutions of higher education, transmit only the main billing number—not the caller’s exact phone number—to the 911 answering point. As a result, the 911 answering point can derive only the main billing address of where the 911 caller is located.

In some cases, the unfortunate result has been that emergency response teams are unable to locate a caller in time to help. That has led to loss of life, as well as wrongful death cases in which juries have not been sympathetic to organizations that didn’t take measures to protect the people on their premises.

It’s the Law

The Association of Public-Safety Communication Officials and the National Emergency Number Association have led the charge to encourage stricter E911 regulations. Many states have implemented laws requiring multi-line telephone systems to support E911.

In Illinois, since June 30, 2000, businesses have been required to adopt enhanced E911 capabilities within 18 months after it becomes available in their area. For full details, see section 15.6 of the Illinois Emergency Telephone System Act.  Specifically, this mean PBX phone systems must allow for “multiple location identification.” Some exemptions are allowed based on workspace square feet and alternative means of signaling and responding to emergencies—and, of course, whether your area has E911 capabilities—but you would be wise to err on the side of caution.

The Potential Consequences

Failure to provide E911 protection could result in regulatory fines and expose your organization to large damages from civil and criminal litigation. In addition, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) may consider failing to adopt E911 as evidence an organization did not maintain a hazard-free workplace for employees, which could result in regulatory fines.

At Jewel Team, we can help you better understand this critical issue, as well as assist you in selecting an appropriate solution for E911 compliance. Be sure you are keeping your employees, visitors and others—as well as the reputation of your facility—safe. Contact me today at 309.243.8100 or email Julie@jewelteam.com for a free preliminary consultation.


Contact Centers: Sitting on a Cloud?

Today's contact center technology decision-makers report feeling pressured by many factors to move to the cloud. An Aberdeen Group survey of 129 organizations conducted in November and December 2013 reveals these as the top four:



1. Improve customer experience

2. Improve business flexibility through scaling contact center activities

3. Improve agent productivity

4. Provide agents with access to better applications than can be afforded in-house

The far-and-away most shared answer -- improve customer experience -- showed a 44% year-over-year increase from a previous study, suggesting technology is a now prime go-to for delighting customers. And it seems to be delivering. The survey indicated cloud-based centers are outperforming in-house centers across crucial operational metrics related to customer experience, including first contact resolution, agent productivity and average handle time.

But what about those who have resisted the lure of the cloud and remained in-house? They, too, showed increased performance in first contact resolution, agent productivity and average handle time, just with smaller gains. But here's the real rub: In-house outperformed cloud-based centers by more than 10% in one critical measure -- growth in customer profitability.

So from a bottom-line financial point of view, the premises-based contact center still reigns. But why?  In addition to avoiding the monthly ongoing costs of cloud-based solutions, the answer may lie in three other areas of focus in which in-house contact centers excel over their cloud counterparts: customized reports, regularly updated agent hiring criteria and contact center manager training. These all help grow customer profits.

Meanwhile, cloud-based centers tend to put more emphasis on things like delivering customer interactions through multiple channels and measuring each interactions influence on customer experience results. This is where the cloud-based technology really excels for customers of all sizes. Now even smaller companies can offer features like web chat (instant online messaging with a live person) and virtual hold (the ability to get off the phone, yet hold your place in line and receive a call back when an agent is free).

While web chat has become relatively commonplace, virtual hold is still a real game-changer for many customers. And for good reason: It can mean the difference between being on hold for 45 minutes or just a few. That can dramatically cut down customer frustration -- as well as the company’s phone bill. And that’s just one of the technological advances at which cloud-based centers shine. But all come at a cost.

So which contact center approach is the better bet for you: in-house or cloud-based?

The bottom-line benefit of the in-house call center will likely shrink as advances in technology continue and increasing competition drives down costs and increases performance. So deciding solely on financial considerations today is probably short-sighted.

Do you have the expertise to maximize your call center performance? If not, cloud-based solutions can help by allowing you to tap into a pool of professionals well-versed in call center setup and ongoing management, while also affording features that set you apart from the competition.

If you do consider cloud-based solutions, remember not all are created equal. The vendor must be capable of supporting the quality you need. One way to help ensure quality is by putting in place a Service Level Agreement with quality markers and guarantees that allow you to break a contract if the cloud provider can’t deliver on promises. Also request a trial period for the service before you commit to a long-term agreement.

Deciding whether to switch to a cloud-based contact center -- and if so, which technology -- is a big decision. Why go it alone? As an independent consultant who has only your best interests at heart, I can help you weigh all factors and make the right decision for you right now.

Contact me today at 309.243.8100 or email Julie@jewelteam.com for a free preliminary consultation.


The Cloud Question: Is It Cost-Effective?


Recently NoJitter.com, the blog site of enterprise communications conference host Enterprise Connect, featured a five-year total cost of ownership (TCO) comparison of 23 vendors’ offerings for Internet Protocol-Private Branch Exchange (IP-PBX) plus Unified Communications (UC). It compared costs of three options:  on-premises UC with new PBX (Premise-customer owned equipment), cloud-based UC/PBX (fully hosted) and Cloud UC with Customer existing PBX overlay (hybrid) - with results that may surprise you.

Even if your business isn’t planning to buy a new system this year, this side-by-side comparison is helpful in keeping track of industry trends. 

As with any cost comparison, it’s only as good as the assumptions that go into it. I give high marks to the contributors who designed the comparison’s three mock RFPs and reviewed the RFP responses from all vendors for their efforts to ensure apples-to-apples comparisons. For example,if a solution didn't include audio or web conferencing, they added reasonable costs for procuring those capabilities separately. Power and rack space costs were added to the premises-based and overlay options, since those are included in the cloud-based options. They even included staffing estimates to account for differences in the options’ IT support needs.

The result? Three distinct costs zones based on average costs from all responding vendors for each option. 

Here’s how TCO for the three options stacked up from most to least expensive:

1.  Cloud

2.  On-Premises

3.  Overlay

The same cost relationship among the three options was clear when comparing same-vendor offerings for two or more of the options.

As the supporting article suggests, the higher cost of the cloud-based offerings likely reflects a number of factors, among them the transfer of risk to the cloud services vendor and the higher costs for vendors in the early adoption stage of cloud technology (these should come down over time).

If you're contemplating your PBX and UC needs, this information can be one helpful tool in determining what’s best for your business. An independent consultant who can help you analyze the many complex variables at play is another. For example, are the assumptions made for this comparison in alignment with your business reality? While the overlay options are less expensive over the TCO five-year period analyzed, will placing new features on your existing system really give you the functionality you are looking for? For how long? What are the tradeoffs?

If you’d like to explore these or other telecom questions, contact us today at 309.243.8100 or email Julie@jewelteam.com. We’ll be glad to help demystify your telecom needs.


BYOD Bites Back

BYOD Bites Back

The advantages of being able to “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD)—i.e. use one device for both personal and work needs—are well known. The potential management, security and liability issues related to BYOD are less well understood.

Multiple operating systems. If users bring their own devices, they also bring their own operating systems. For iPhone users, this will be either iOS6 or iOS7, but for Android smartphones, the operating systems vary more widely depending on phone manufacturer (LG, Motorola) and age of the device. This can create distinct challenges for IT departments striving to ensure consistency and compatibility across systems.

Security. When IT loses control of a device’s configuration and security settings, it can leave a device and the corporate network open to threats from malicious software that can steal data or give unauthorized users access to company resources. As a result, companies are struggling with mobile governance, including the management of people, policy and process issues.

For example, who installs and manages anti-virus software on the device? And how does a company ensure terminated employees’ access to saved proprietary documents and IT infrastructure is completely revoked? CIO Insight  reports that only 41% of companies say they have a process for removing mission-critical data from employee mobile devices in the event of a firing or resignation.

Content ownership. For many companies and employees, this is a serious gray area. When the employee uses a device for both personal and work purposes, who owns what’s on the device? The worker? The company? Both? And who decides?

Liability. Nobody wants to think about this, but if an employee is in a motor vehicle accident on work time and a BYOD is the cause, who is liable? Think personal texting on a work smartphone…or a work conversation on a personal smartphone. Companies need to understand their culpability.

All of these concerns require careful planning, implementation and follow-up throughout your organization. Your company’s BYOD policy should clearly and cohesively spell out the answers to these questions and others, and employees should be educated on how to abide by the policy.

Need help with your BYOD planning? Contact us today at 309.243.8100 or email Julie@jewelteam.com.


A Celebration of Collaboration


I recently had the privilege of working on a technology conversion of a call center for a utility company. The original plan was to bring the call center on board just months after the rest of the user base, but as with many things in life, it did not go as expected. 

While it was a long time in coming, the conversion ultimately was a raving success. Why? I believe three key strategies contributed. When put into practice, these strategies can enhance any kind of change your company takes on—whether in technology or other areas of your company.

1.  Communicate openly and clearly. This project—a conversion to a new IP system—was the epitome of great communication between members of the internal IT department and the call center stakeholders. When managing a change, it’s important to understand the perspectives of all involved parties. In this technology migration, key stakeholders included the IT department commissioned to make decisions, implement and support the technology going forward; the management of the department undergoing the change; and, very importantly, the daily users of the technology.


“Wishlists” from a technology’s daily users are a great source of input when building out a new system. These wishlists promote a sense of ownership and buy-in that no other process can. On the flip side, when those wishlist items are in conflict with how the technology is designed to function or create a management nightmare for IT, they need to be addressed. At those times we believe the best course of action is education. We let users know we understand their feature requests are important and give an alternative available in the purchased technology. It’s often a discussion that requires some leading and possibly a demonstration to make stakeholders (department managers and users) feel comfortable that their needs are being met.

2.  Practice patience. This is key. It’s rare that executives, department managers and the IT department are completely in sync on the desired pace of new technology implementation. Often behind-the-scenes elements must be in place to help ensure success. In the case of the utility call center conversion, after the company began using the new IP system, indicators suggested the network performance would have a negative impact on the call center’s quality of service. 


Although there was a desire to move forward, honest discussion about the risks of doing so clearly showed patience was the best choice. The brakes were applied and the IT department regrouped, taking the time necessary to fix some major issues in the network design. The result? A 2-year delay that ended in a celebration and cupcake shower because the conversion was such a success. It was difficult telling the corporate executive team and project stakeholders a delay was needed. However, it proved to be the right choice—and the cupcakes provided by the call center stakeholders were a wonderful show of support for that tough decision.

3.  Embrace change. Many people simply do not like change, in part because change isn’t always implemented effectively. But change is often a very good thing. Part of the goal of any new project should be to focus on the benefits the change will provide to those involved can understand what’s in it for them. The more enhancements that can be identified and discussed in an exciting way before and during the process, the better the change environment will be. We suggest making a list of all positive changes that will result from the system implementation and sharing these with all parties affected. Help create positive anticipation for the good stuff that will be coming. Then maybe you, too, will be “showered” with cupcakes!

I hope these keys to positive implementation will help you succeed in any change coming your organization’s way.  Remember to communicate, have patience and embrace the changes.  We wish you much success in 2014! 


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