Mobile technology advancements have had a significant impact a number business sectors – call centers included. As more and more consumers rely on mobile phones instead of landlines, contact centers are struggling to identify callers and begin their business relationships on the best note possible.
Recognizing this trend, WhitePages created a new division, WhitePages PRO, which provides companies real-time access to consumer records for both landlines and mobile phones. The WhitePages PRO team attended ITEXPO East 2012, which just concluded in Miami, and its CEO, Alex Algard, met with TMC's chief executive Rich Tehrani to talk about the company's progress and some recent trends in the enterprise space.
Algard said WhitePages PRO was born from the need to identify more than just the name and location of a caller. With the company's software, call centers and other enterprises can develop a 360-degree view of the consumer, he told Tehrani. Its ability to identify mobile numbers – something traditional databases can't do – lets WhitePages PRO open new channels of communication and resolve billing/area code discrepancies.
Tehrani and Algard also touched on a number of more general topics in the tech field, including the pervasiveness of social media and Microsoft's entrance into the mobile space, a move that Algard loves to see but questions if it will be successful. Algard also envisions how technology will "change how we live our day-to-day lives."
Check out the complete interview below for more.
What was the most significant technological advancement in the past 12 months and why?
Innovation and technology advancements in mobile just keep accelerating. In 2011, smartphone shipments exceeded plan feature phone shipments for the first time ever in the US market. Just consider how rapidly Blackberry and Nokia havebecome irrelevant, and it’s not due to unfair competition, but rather due to companies like Apple, Google and thousands of mobile app developers innovating at such rapid rates. In fact, smartphones are now so powerful that they are superior to traditional computers in many ways, with GPS, video cameras, diverse app marketplaces, speech recognition, and a full range of communications services. For the call center, it means that customers are now calling in not just from mere phones, but from mobile computer devices with full mobile access to email, social network apps, and the web.
What has been the biggest trend in your market segment and how is it impacting your customers?
Call centers today are not just expected to automatically identify new and existing customers as the calls come in or go out, but there is a growing need for a 360 degree view of the customer. However, traditional caller ID servicesprovide only a limited view of the caller’s name and location, and they are narrow in how many mobile phone numbers they cover via ANI (Automatic Number Identification). Having to question each caller, new or old, not only takes too much time, but is oftentimes error-prone, yielding inaccurate information. In order to do their job effectively, our customers need quick and easy access to comprehensive databases so that they have full information about the calling party as soon as the call comes in.
What is the biggest challenge facing your customers today and how is your company helping address that challenge?
Our biggest challenge is the fact that people are rapidly shifting their phone ownership from landline to mobile where available data is harder to come by given certain rules and regulations set forth by the FCC. WhitePages Pro is extremely focused on ensuring that our data set is the most comprehensive, so that in addition to providing access to name, number and addresses for more than 90% of the US population with traditional landlines, we also provide accurate contact information for the growing population of mobile phone owners. The ability to accurately identify mobile numbers can open up new channels of communication like SMS, can help to resolve billing/area code discrepancies and can also ensure that agents are in compliance with regard to their communication tactics.
How has Cloud influenced your business? Your customers?
The Cloud is our business! Essentially, we provide access to the largest database of contact information, available through an API or a Web Lookup solution. Our data lives in the cloud which makes it very easy for businesses of all sizes to implement our solutions and customize to their liking, without the expense of hosting a massive database in their data center and doing daily data updates to keep it fresh.
Will Cloud-based communications expedite the end of the premises-based PBX market?
Yes, absolutely. That said, I think that premises-based PGX systems will be around for a long time to come.
What approach has your business taken to social media? If you have implemented a social media program, have you been able to evaluate your program’s success?
We have a presence on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. While we use Facebook and Twitter to engage with current customers and prospects, we have focused our social media efforts mainly on LinkedIn. We are not however using LinkedIn as a networking tool per se, but more as a platform for advertising to potential customers. Like Facebook, LinkedIn allows for extremely targeted advertising. Since we can target directly to our audience, we are able to determine whether or not our messages are resonating and can switch it up accordingly. Either way, we take our key learning’s and applying them to other marketing channels.
Does every business need a social media presence? Why or why not?
With very rare exceptions, yes every business needs a social media presence in the same way that every business needs an email account. Social Media is used in a number of ways to engage with current customers, to create warm leads, as an advertising channel, etc.Now, companies need to understand that social media can’t stand on its own as a marketing tool, but needs to be incorporated as part of an integrated strategy.
With Microsoft touting tight integration between its mobile and desktop OS, can it become a major competitor in the enterprise mobile market?
Yes, it certainly could. However, so far, more often than not, when Microsoft has attempted to integrate across different parts of its business, it has been to the detriment of quality and shipping a new product in a timely manner. I’d love for Microsoft to become a serious mobile force, but I won’t believe it until I see it.
What did attendees learn about your company at ITEXPO?
Attendees learned more about how quick and easy access to the most comprehensive contact data anywhere can help them improve efficiencies, increase the accuracy of their data and ultimately raise customer satisfaction. We were happy to provide them with a free data test so that they could see for themselves!
Make one technology prediction for 2012 and consider its impact.
Voice recognition as a product feature will become ever more popular and will change how we interact not only with Siri powered iPhones, but with all sorts of computer devices. This will change how we live our day-to-day lives.