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ICTBroadcast, the unified auto dialer compliant with Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991

The ICTBroadcast multi-tenant unified communications package is a powerful telemarketing suite that can dramatically enhance an SME’s capacity to boost efficiency or promote a product. However, the misuse of the product - or any other telemarketing solution - can cause a business to fall foul of consumer and data protection laws and regulations. Therefore, it is vital to become familiar with the local regulations to avoid substantial penalties or heavy fines. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) of 1991 is most commonly referenced federal statute that telemarketers need to be aware of. TCPA includes rules such as which locations may be called and when those calls can be made. The provisions of TCPA allow for a penalty of $1,500 per violation of any of the numerous stipulations. With an auto dialer system having access to vast database of contact information the potential for significant financial damage is easily foreseeable. ICTBroadcast is fully complaint with TCPA 1991 and allows telemarketing campaigns to achieve their aims within the requirements of the law and without fear of accidental breach of the extensive regulations. The precise requirements of TCPA and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) state four distinct requirements that must be met for compliance. The exact wording is as follows: (1) prior express written consent for all autodialed or prerecorded telemarketing calls to wireless numbers and residential lines;  (2) allow[s] consumers to opt out of future robocalls during a robocall;  (3) limit[s] permissible abandoned calls on a per-calling campaign basis, in order to discourage intrusive calling campaigns; and  (4)exempts prerecorded calls to residential lines made by health care-related entities governed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. ICTBroadcast incorporates these requirements into your system via integration with the Do Not Call (DNC) registry and user defined limits on campaign variables. The DNC registry is maintained by the Federal Trade Commission and allows consumers to opt out of unsolicited telemarketing calls. Failure for an SME to honor the DNC registry and its requirements can have a catastrophic impact. Even large corporations can fall foul of the stringent rules. In 2014, the third largest U.S telecommunications company, Sprint Corporation, were ordered to pay $7.5 million as a result of their non-compliance with the DNC registry requirements. ICTBroadcast offers global and local integration with the DNC registry to prevent such costly errors. Furthermore, contacts can be given the option to opt out from future marketing calls and have their details removed from the list by setting up a straightforward key-press operation that further prevents non-compliance with regulations. ICTBroadcast makes compliance with TCPA and other legislation designed to prevent the misuse of telemarketing products a simple task. The risks for failing to comply with local laws and regulations are substantial, and given the sizeable penalties possible the ongoing viability of an SME can be severely impacted. In addition to the previously mentioned compliance features ICTBroadcast allows the user to set a limit upon the number of times a customer will be called during a campaign. Persistent phone calls are a key factor in the decision of a customer to complain to regulating authorities. By reducing the nuisance factor ICTBroadcast can improve general public relations for your business. In summary, use of the ICTBroadcast multitenant unified communications package facilitates compliance with TCPA and comparable legislation in a number of ways. Limits upon call frequency and timing can be set, automated database opt-out can be enabled and furthermore global and local DNC lists can be intergrated to ensure consumers who have expressed a preference do not receive calls. This feature of the ICTBroadcast package is another of the many reasons more SMEs are selecting our software to facilitate their communication needs.

ICTBroadcast, Creating dynamic messages with auto dialer and custom tokens

One of the many benefits of running the ICTBroadcast system for an SME is the flexibility and degree of personalization that the system allows. Dynamic messages can be programmed to run via the auto dialer during a campaign tailored to your existing client database or as part of standard operating procedure. The creation of either an SMS or email template is a straightforward and simple matter. This can be quickly accomplished and refined further at anytime during the campaign, or in the course of normal business operations. Predefined tokens, or variables, for client details such as the clients name, address, phone number or any other custom token are inserted into your SMS or email template within the ICTBroadcast editor. Once the template is defined the auto dialer will deliver a tailored message to each of the recipients in the database or generate a specific message in response to a user action. This system is simple to manage and can be used in numerous situations. For example, the system can be used to generate a confirmation message for successful subscriptions, as part of a marketing campaign or to acknowledge receipt of data from your customers. Custom tokens function by creating a tailored message specific to your client or customer. An example of custom tokens in use can be seen in the following message: “Hi, [contact:first_name] [contact:last_name] this is to confirm that Company Name have received your message and one of our specialist [contact:custom1] customer service representatives will be soon be in contact” In this example there are three custom tokens: [contact:first_name] [contact:last_name] [contact:custom1] These tokens, and all the other tokens available for use, are populated with reference to data submitted by your customers. In this example the data will correspond to the contact information a customer has provided. This data can be uploaded via a web interface or alternatively the customer is able to make use of enabled REST API, this allows integration of ICTBroadcast with your database. Database integration is a simple proceed and allows specific customer information to be dynamically retrieved so the customization process becomes automated. There are three key benefits of using such a system. Primarily, the automation process can save a significant amount of time what would otherwise require dedicated monitoring and response. In this manner the process of building a relationship with your client base is automated. Secondly, the system serves a method to strengthen relationships with your client base. By acknowledging communication from the client in a tailored manner not only does client confidence in your company increase but also there are more opportunities to provide information about your products or services. Thirdly, the use of customized interaction with clients can lead to greater conversion rates. By offering a tailored service that is personalized to each visitor to your site the rate of conversion to a paying client or customer significantly increases. Furthermore, the retention of existing clients or customers can benefit. The easy use of custom tokens is just one of many reasons why ICTBroadcast is the integrated system of choice for our rapidly expanding client base.

ICTBroadcast, Using REST based API to automate your business

ICTBroadcast recognize that the modern SME utilizes a wide spectrum of software and web-based applications to facilitate the needs of the business. We also understand the frustration caused by the lack of compatibility between some of these applications and the decrease in efficiency or increase in cost that inflexible software system can cause. For this reason ICTBroadcast uses REST based API to ensure communication and automation between our products and third party applications is a seamless and simple process. Customers can make the most of third party applications without compromising the quality of service ICTBroadcast provides. There are four type of API class available to ICTBroadcast. With these the user can define all the functions, which need to be drawn from outside the ICTBroadcast system. The classes are as follows: API_User API_Contact API_Campaign API_Recording The functions within each class allow complete integration of the system and can be used to rapidly establish tools to add or delete users, make payments to user accounts, commence or conclude a campaign and much more. Because of the seamless integration it is a straightforward task to manage the creation of users across multiple applications without the need to manually duplicate tasks. In this case the programmer can make use of the API named “user_create”. A full list of the API’s available can be found here (link to http://www.ictbroadcast.com/news/using-rest-api-integerate-ictbroadcast-...). Other frequently used API’s include addition of credit (or the making of a payment to a customer account), the return of campaign status information and creation of a new campaign for a particular customer. To set up ICTBroadcast for use with a third party application is a short task that only requires to write client-side code to invoke these REST APIs in third party applications to communicate with ICTBroadcast. Once the client-side code is working, the automation may be undertaken. Further benefits of the REST based API system are seen in the platform that stems from such a decoupling. This means that significant scalability becomes possible and a vast range of desktop, web based, and smartphone applications (such as Android Client of ICTBroadcast) become available for full integration into the ICTBroadcast system. The expansion of the system in this manner places ICTBroadcast as a highly competitive and efficient way to operate. This is in distinct contrast to the use of native libraries that might otherwise be used in the absence of a REST based API. In summary, the scalable, low coupling and custom-design rich features reduce overheads by placing fewer demands on your programming team. ICTBroadcast can harness the power of third party applications and the full range of features can be automated without a significant effort. The savings in time and money allow your enterprise to focus on value driving activities rather than grappling with uncooperative infrastructure. Contact ICTBroadcast today to learn more about our solutions to your business needs.

Managing Multimodal Messaging

There is so much change going on in business communications, it is hard to keep track of what’s real and what’s coming! More importantly, the new stuff has to coexist for a while with our legacy forms of business communications, i.e., text messaging and telephony. That’s why moving business communications to the “clouds” as software will provide both greater flexibility, faster and easier integrations and interoperability, and the ability to support BYOD mobility. I have long maintained that UC must include contacts between automated business processes and individual end user consumers (B to C). We have long had C to B online interactive access between business users and business processes, but now that is being quickly extended to consumer/customers with smartphones and tablets. The impact of that shift is being felt with the likes of social messaging and WebRTC that enables mobile customers to access their choice of live assistance, without initiating the traditional “blind” and inefficient phone call to a call center agent. I just experienced a practical benefit from social messaging that I hadn’t expected. I have received regular offers through Groupon, including a particular restaurant in my area. I had used up my coupons, so when I received a new offer, I immediately signed up for it. However, unlike in the past, I did not receive the coupon email to print. Instead, I got a cryptic message that there would be a couple of days delay. After a few days with no coupon delivery, I went on line to Groupon and found the offer that I thought I had subscribed to, but it now showed that the “Offer was no  longer available.” So, I called the restaurant up to find out what the problem was, and someone said to check with Groupon. I sent an email to them, which was promptly acknowledged, but the response was it would take a day or so to get back to me about my question. I then did get a phone call in response to my voice message, but the agent indicated that the problem was controlled by the restaurant, not Groupon. OK!?! I then decided to post my question on the restaurant’s Facebook page, and voila! I got a response back in a few hours. They indicated that they weren’t discontinuing their Groupon offers, and that the next offer would be coming in two or three weeks. That’s all I really wanted to know, but the traditional forms of messaging didn’t do the job!      

What really is “UC”? – It’s middleware that flexibly connects people and applications

I am really getting tired of hearing people talk about UC as if it is some kind of product or a single piece of communication software! It’s really a collection of communication software applications that hopefully can all share common network connectivity, user information such as identity, user availability (presence), and contact data (address information). The interoperability part will allow an individual user to independently switch from one mode of input or output interaction to another, while still retaining the same basic context information that all modes of communication need. That flexibility lets mobile users control how they send or retrieve different types of messages (“unified messaging”) or escalate from a message to a voice or video conversation. Let’s face it, we are already seeing how telephony is being subsumed by both IP connectivity instead of the PSTN, as well as by multimodal smartphones, tablets, desktop endpoints that let users do more than talk or use the very limited old TUI. So, guess what? We are already seeing an increase in text messaging as a basic and initial form of contact, with user options to “click-to-connect” for real time chat, voice or video conversations. What does that really mean for business communications? As I have frequently suggested, phone conversations will no longer have to start with “blind” phone calls that may end up as voice mail messages. Even with the increase in mobile devices, I am sure that the old statistic of 3 out of 4 business calls end up in voice mail is probably a little better with mobility. But, seeing how many mobile users look at their ringing cell phones and just put them back into their pockets after first looking to see who is calling, it is clear that mobile “accessibility” does not equate to “availability” or high priority for all callers. So, where does UC come into the picture? it allows a contact initiator to choose any user interface mode of contact and information exchange they want at that moment from a single device.  Further, it allows that initial mode of contact to be dynamically changed depending on the needs of the communicating parties. Conversely, and perhaps more importantly, it provides more control to the recipient in terms of their time priorities and environmental circumstances to accept a real-time contact from either a person or an automated business process application. It is still the recipient that must be responsible for their own job-related time and priority management! AVST, who has been in the voice mail and call management business for a long time came up with a clever way for business call recipients to diplomatically screen and acknowledge incoming calls to their company telephone systems by enabling them to be alerted to an incoming call that identifies the caller, and lets them decide at that point whether to take the call or deliver a voice message to the caller for later contact. That’s a step in the right direction, but there are lots more that can now be done for mobile user with smartphones that have display screens for text messaging. More importantly, there are new ways to avoid wasteful, “blind” real-time phone call attempts completely, making person-to-person contacts more cost and time efficient and controllable by individual end users, whether they are inside or outside of the organization (employees, business partners, customers).

UC Use Case for Airline Travelers

Another nail in telephony’s coffin comes from airline travelers who don’t want to be bothered by seatmates talking on their cellphones. Now that the FAA is considering allowing passengers to use their mobile phones for in air communications, it turns out that the majority of travelers, especially business travelers, don’t like that idea at all. The FCC released its analysis of 1,792 comments on the proposed rule change, which showed the majority opposed to the planned change. More importantly, the Global Business Travel Association of over 6,000 travel mangers, went on record to keep the ban on voice calls on planes. From a contact initiator’s perspective, big deal! They can still communicate with text without disturbing their fellow passengers. But what about when someone calls them to talk? That’s where the power of UC, coupled with smartphones and tablets can help out. Instead of legacy “voicemail jail,” which converts a call attempt into a voice message, UC can simply offer options for IM or texting to the caller, based on the status and preferences of the recipient. The recipient still needs to be notified of the inbound contact attempt, and, as offered by AVST to business users of it’s call management products, allows the recipient to send a message to the caller without being directly connected. However, this time the message can be typed, not spoken, but delivered in voice ( or text) to the caller. Anyway, we should see more such specialized and personalized use cases for UC showing up as more end users use smartphones and tablets in BYOD mode for all their communications.

User Endpoint Devices Will Be “Dumb” Hardware For Smart “Cloud” Apps

If you are watching what is happening with premise-based business communications and online software applications, you can see them all heading into the “clouds,” where they can be easily integrated and accessed by end users anywhere, any time, in any mode of interaction. This will facilitate the BYOD trend by end uses who will want to use their choice of endpoint form factor device, whether for business or personal interactions with people or business processes. From a security perspective, the “dumber” the device, i.e., the less information that is actually stored on the device plus the better the authentication procedure of the individual end user by “cloud” based apps, the safer any online activity will become and the less worry if a device is lost or stolen. This need is becoming critical for all types of users with smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktops, as they increasingly become mobile and interact with people and business applications over the Internet wirelessly and “multimodally.” All this is not really something completely new, since the first generalized “interactive” computing was introduced with “computer time-sharing” back in the mid-1960′s. This allowed end users to dial up phone line connection from a “dumb” terminal, log on to the time-shared system, request access to a particular application program, and interact with that program with text input and output. The “smarts” were all in the time-sharing operating system and the interactive applications that ran under it. I guess we would describe that today as (interactive) “Computing as a Service,” since everything except the remote endpoints and the telephone network connection was done on the time-shared mainframe computer. Anyway, when IBM introduced the world to the first Personal Computer (PC), that was the death knell for time-sharing applications, since now every user could load the applications they wanted to use on their own desktop PC and not worry about sharing a CPU, application programs, or data storage with anybody else. However, maintenance and technical support for individual end user PCs and their software now became a new, huge responsibility for IT organizations. So, “cloud” services are really taking us back to our “time-sharing” system roots, but, of course, with greater user device interface flexibility, cross-platform interoperability over the Internet, and centralized support and maintenance communications. A big driver for such flexibility is the fact that it’s not just employees or business partners that want to share access to information and applications, but now all mobile consumers with multimodal smartphones or tablets want such access as well. That means that every end user will want to take care of both personal and business contacts with a single, personalized device of their choice, and, as long as they have that kind of device, they would also want to use it for their job responsibilities as well (BYOD). So, the security challenge exists for isolating and protecting personal and social activities, business transactions as a customer, and finally, any job related activities by the remote or mobile employee. As business communications become increasingly integrated with business applications (CEBP), such functions as timely, proactive notifications/alerts from automated business processes and contextual “click-to-contact” communication options within online apps are all becoming direct, self-service capabilities that minimize the need for other people to be involved in the contact process. That reduces costs, reduces time delays, human errors (the old “telephone game”), and greater end user satisfaction in having maximum control of their individual operational responsibilities and personal needs. So, even though we are calling devices “smartphones,” they really are multimodal endpoints that are more flexible, “dumb,” terminals for cloud-based applications, but are “smart” for user authentication and separating (“sandboxing”) job interactions from personal business and social interactions (“dual persona”).