Improving Communications for Automotive Dealers

NEC recently attended the 2013 National Automotive Dealers Association (NADA) Conference in Orlando, Florida. The NADA Convention is the automotive industry event of the year and the world’s largest international gathering place for franchised new-vehicle dealers.

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NEC participated with Phillip Sherman, CEO of Telecom Advisors Group, Inc. and one of the leading independent automotive industry technology consultants in the nation.

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Like many companies today, auto dealerships are interested in the best ways to cut costs and increase the productivity of their sales team and services advisors. The NADA convention gave the perfect opportunity to show the ROI of Unified Communications (UC) technology and demonstrate how it helps the rapidly growing automotive industry reduce cost, improve productivity, and increase customer satisfaction. Customer Satisfaction is important in any industry, but particularly in the automotive industry, which relies heavily on its Customer Service Index (CSI) score. For example, JD Power and Associates reported that dealerships with high CSI scores during the first three years of ownership retained 79 percent of dollars spent on maintenance and repairs during the first five years of vehicle ownership.

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The auto industry is heavily impacted by technology to help make improvements for both the dealer and the customer. NEC employees were also on hand demonstrating our communications solutions to more than 20,000 conference attendees. With the need for uninterrupted roaming and productivity from any location within a dealership, applications that allow cellular and Wi-Fi roaming were of key interest to attendees. For those automotive dealerships tired of losing revenue due to appointment no-shows, we demonstrated our Appointment Reminder to show them how to alleviate this frustration by simplifying the appointment reminder process and communicating with their customers more efficiently. In the auto sales environment, responding to and distributing call-in and internet leads is critically important. Leveraging contact center technology that queues, distributes and tracks customer opportunities provides dealers with a competitive advantage and the ability to respond as quickly as possible.

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To learn how uMobility or Appointment Reminder can enhance your organization click below.

NEC Appointment Reminder

  NEC Fixed Mobile Convergence

Enhancing Higher Education Through Video Collaboration

NEC Collaboration SolutionsThe integration of Web technology and collaboration solutions into higher education has become a popular trend within the University community. With the evolution of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and the consistent development of mobile technology, video collaboration, too, has become highly mobile. No longer does it require highly equipped teleconferencing suites with banks of equipment. Thanks to the advent of mobile technology, learners and instructors can videoconference with the click of a button on their smartphones, tablets, laptops or other mobile devices, no matter the location. This sharing and exchange of information is particularly beneficial in a higher education setting. With audio, video and web collaboration solutions, interruptions in class schedules for unforeseen circumstances such as weather or emergency school closings are a thing of the past.

 

§  Real-Time vs. Pre-recorded video options-With real-time (synchronous) and pre-recorded (asynchronous) options, administrators and educators have the tools they need to effectively collaborate within the community in the method of their choosing that they deem best for a particular student group. For example, pre-recorded messages may work best for a group of students who learn better in a self-paced educational setting.

 

§  Customized collaboration options- Many solutions offer features which have the ability to facilitate an experience just like being in a “real” classroom. An example is white-board collaboration, where the meeting facilitator can draw or write on the white board during presentation. Another beneficial feature of collaboration solutions is the ability to upload files for download. With this feature, faculty members have a place to house important class documents, and students can in turn access and save files they need without the need for the facilitator to print them, resulting in a decrease in printing and supply costs for the University.

 

§  Cloud Service utilization- Perhaps the most widely used example of cloud services is the provision of e-mail. Additionally, many colleges and universities also use tools such as YouTube and wikis to circulate information. Blogs may be used for remote communication within private groups such as a research team. Both stationary and mobile devices come in a variety of platform flavors, yet users of all types are able to meet in virtual video space. Regardless of the method, each of these tools facilitates collaboration and can enhance the learning environment and student experience.

 

§  Security- With file sharing comes obvious security concerns and questions, as data security can be compromised in the case where one or more universities may share a data center, or contract for services through a commercial provider. And while collaboration solution applications may not come without a level of risk, these concerns are easily addressed. Your individual situation will determine your methods of protection and whether you yield the greatest value in securing the devices where data is housed, or securing the data itself. Additionally, many solutions are equipped with the latest in security, from requiring unique PIN ID codes for meeting participants, to protecting the information shared within a meeting so it is only seen by those invited attendees. This reduces the need for external security applications at an additional cost to the University.

 

The benefits of collaboration within higher education extend to those within the higher education community as well as the information and communications technology (ICT) community. Many opportunities lie ahead for more extensive collaboration approaches. The collaboration opportunity for the two affords an invaluable exchange of knowledge and experience which can, in turn, be used to create additional infrastructures. Download the document to see how NEC’s Collaboration solutions are changing the way information is being exchanged while improving teamwork and reducing cost.

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BYOD: Expanding to Hospitality

nec-hospitality-byodBring Your Own Device (BYOD) is making its way into every enterprise: from hospitals to higher education to corporations. So it’s no surprise that the demand by consumers for BYOD functionality is becoming prevalent in the hospitality industry as well. Guest’s personal devices are becoming faster, smarter and more personalized than ever before. The benefits derived from the plethora of applications and capabilities supported by these devices have become nearly essential to today’s business and leisure traveler. The increase in guest’s use of their own devices, however, has resulted in a disconnect between the hotel property and portions of the guest experience, primarily in voice communications. For example, telephone calls to hotel guests from staff or other guests, if gone unanswered, typically revert to a guest personal voicemail box. As a result, guests hanging out by the pool, restaurant or bar, or working in the conference center do not get the phone call and may go a long time before discovering that someone is trying to reach them. Therein lies the disconnect.

In an attempt to improve the guest experience in the current environment, hotel companies are solving this dilemma by bridging the gap between the guest’s personal voice device and their own internal voice communication system. Since many guests typically prefer their own device and its personalized user interface, ringtones, contacts and functions, hotels can now easily make the guest’s device their primary extension during their stay at the hotel. Incoming calls to guests from within or outside of the hotel would ring on the personal mobile phone. A real advantage of this is that the guest does not have to be in their room to speak with the caller. The call will reach the guest anywhere on property as long as they have a cellular signal. For this simple but beneficial feature, guests provide their name and email address to the front desk agent of the hotel during the check-in process.

The benefits in implementing mobile technologies stack up for both hospitality managers and guests. By accommodating the guests’ device, you enhance guest engagement and improve customer satisfaction, which in turn can increase customer spending and revenue. The benefits certainly don’t stop there, mobile technology implementation can also accelerate guest traffic, give you a venue to promote sales of goods and services if you desire, and customer satisfaction surveys where you can gather feedback relative to the guest’s experience.

How can I use BYOD to enhance my guests’ experience?

The average consumer has access to advanced technology in their home, and has the same expectations when they travel. With this, hotels are under a lot of pressure to keep up with, and even exceed, the customer’s expectations. So what services can you offer your guests from their personal device?

  • In-room dining ordering
  • In-hotel restaurant listing and reservations
  • Pre-arrival requests
  • Mobile Payment options
  • In-room environmental controls – lights, drapes, thermostat, TV, etc.
  • Express check-out
  • Hotel Area maps

……just to name a few

According to Pew Research, more than half of all mobile phone users rely on their portable device to search for information on hotels. With mobility, you can get everything you want, where you want, plus gain positive benefits in revenue, guest experience and marketing. With the steadily increasing volume of mobile network users, what better time for a hospitality business to embrace the guest BYOD trend and get them more connected to your business than ever before.

Check out our case studies to see how NEC has helped hotels around the world recover missed revenue opportunities, increase customer service, and enhance the overall guest experience.

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5 Steps to Develop an Optimal UC Strategy

nec-unified-communications-strategyIf you are contemplating a Unified Communications (UC) solution for your business, key points to consider are the efficiency and functionality of your organization’s current telecommunications strategy, followed by why and how your business should implement Unified Communications. For smaller organizations, UC implementation is simplified due to the smaller number of users. In these businesses, it’s easier for an IT manager to configure applications on individual desktops, whereas in medium to large organizations there simply aren’t enough resources to utilize this method. Instead, the IT manager may send the client application to a central location for download, or send an e-mail to users with a link for them to self-configure their desktops. Regardless of your organization’s size, it’s still crucial that you evaluate current systems and solicit feedback from employees when integrating Unified Communications into your business. The following list of guidelines can help you develop a strategy to guide you.

  • UC project management

The first step you’ll want to take is identifying a project manager to oversee all UC implementation. You will also want to form an interdependent team –members from all sides and departments of your business who can benefit from the increased user productivity of UC implementation. You can simplify UC project management through thorough planning and the consistent assessment of needs, risks, and benefits of the project. Becoming very familiar with your prospective Unified Communications provider is also beneficial, making sure the provider can help your business adapt to changing needs. Evaluate the mobility of your workforce and see how UC projects will fit in to, for example, a bring your own device (BYOD) policy. Having a back-up plan as well as a recovery strategy in case of an emergency is also something you’ll want to think about sooner rather than later.

  • Understand business needs EARLY

Ask what problems need to be solved and what other processes within your organization are in need of improvement? When preparing to implement UC, you must thoroughly understand what business processes are taking place and how improving such processes will contribute to enhanced productivity. In doing so, involving business partners in developing a UC strategy is ideal. By doing so, you can gain a better understanding of, for example, how important mobility is to business processes/practices. Have your UC project management personnel spend some time with employees in their daily workings to gain first-hand experience of how UC planning can help them.

  • Assess current performance and solidify business buy-in

Evaluate how the implementation of UC applications will change your current IT infrastructure. Consider performance, cost, satisfaction, and general success and failure of business processes. Recording this information can be very helpful in comparing current operations to future operations. Also consider the amount of traffic you receive and from there determine which UC applications can best handle your traffic flow. Once you have decided which UC solutions you will implement, it is imperative the entire business agrees with the new technology implementation.

  • Provide Product Outline

Provide key staff members the framework for potential product and services to be implemented and keep members of your organization well informed about developments in the strategy. As you receive feedback, start implementing small scale changes and continue to communicate implementation plans so you can make the full solution transition much smoother. You may want to take advantage of opportunities to test performance of your selected UC solution before implementation. Employing the “build-a-little-test-a-little”strategy can be very beneficial as it allows staff and users to test applications and give feedback.

  • Training

Employing UC comes with many benefits–increased productivity, satisfaction, and savings. However, in order to fully yield these benefits, your staff must be well-trained on the solution you choose to implement. The good news is, training will be relatively easy since many users are familiar with and comfortable using UC type applications in their personal lives. On the flip side, just because users are comfortable, doesn’t mean training is any less of a necessity. Training is key in maximizing your investment and ROI – if users are not properly trained, they will likely not use the application and view it as a waste. How do your users learn to adapt to new technology? It is essential that training providers give IT staff quality instruction based on implemented UC solutions. Users must be able to receive quick, reliable feedback to any problems. Providing critical UC training to employees is vital in successful adoption. Determine the best environment to train your users, whether it is online, in-classroom, etc. To make sure users are completely comfortable with the new platform, allowing them to work remotely from time to time may be ideal, especially forbusiness continuity.

Lastly, it is important not to leave UC planning up to users.   According to research from Nemertes, companies that have a prior UC plan in place are “measurably better” compared to companies that leave strategy planning in the hands of their users. Proper preparation and strategy can have your business well on its way to not only reaping the benefits of Unified Communications, but seeing drastic improvements in your organizations workflow.  To really see the value in your investment, plan on tracking your improvements and measuring your ROI.  To see how UC yielded measurable results and improved the workflow of one company, download the ROI of Unified Communications white paper below.

Secure Your Data, Not Your Devices

nec-byod-secure-dataThe increasing prevalence of mobile data has resulted in great security concerns for enterprises operating on multi-device systems, or with a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy in place. It is challenging for businesses to decide whether the greatest value is in securing the devices that data is delivered to, or securing the data itself through methods such as Mobile Device Management (MDM). Mobile devices usage is highly favorable to end users in terms of access and convenience, but IT managers and CIOs cringe at the thought of the security risks associated with mobility and allowing sensitive data to be retrieved from virtually anywhere, any time. According to the Cibecs/IDG Connect 2012 Business Data Loss Survey, 60% of IT and executive management professionals do not feel their data is completely secure. Whereas existing security measures may suffice for company-owned and controlled devices, it is in the company’s best interests to implement new levels of control on employee devices not controlled by IT to ensure maximum data protection as opposed to device protection.

If you’ve heard that securely controlling data transmission is not possible without enterprise ownership of the device, we’d like to show you otherwise. The following examples of mobile data security best practices can give you an idea of what protocol to follow in securing data across your network and devices.

Thin Client

Thin client policies apply to both smartphones as well as tablets, and include OS streaming, hosted desktop virtualization and workplace virtualization. Sensitive information is processed centrally and remote devices can access this data through thin-client terminal applications using network access only. A major benefit of thin-client operation is that information does not leave the server and can only be accessed by an authorized end user. If the authorized user becomes restricted for any reason, access is immediately revoked, with the potential for a remote wipe of the entire device if company policy dictates. This strategy can ensure further security by implementing strong authentication policies, which limit actions such as host copy-and-paste operations and screen capture in addition to controlling data and file transfers. Internal and client contact data may not always be considered eligible for company security policies. In cases such as this, a thin-client data source with applied security is an ideal solution, as it ensures a contact database stays with the company rather than the phone when the end-user leaves the organization.

Mobile Thin Client Management

Mobile thin client management allows users to control which devices are permissible for company use, thereby restricting data access points. Perhaps the most beneficial feature of this strategy is that thin devices can be remotely wiped. Smartphones and similar devices may have limiting features, such as size, processing power and storage capacity, whereby only restricted data processing can occur. Where thin devices can only keep limited amounts of data, they have the unique capability to replicate data and store master copies within specified datacenters.

When implementing the thin device strategy, companies can still control security of these devices by employing mobile device platforms or other management applications, enabling security policies regarding backup and compulsory data encryption.

Protected Data

The aforementioned strategies focus on protecting data processing environments, but how can you protect your data directly? The Protected Data method guards the data at the source rather than the endpoint, ensuring the safety of data regardless of its location. Enterprise rights management and other such technologies directly embed access rules into documents by way of cryptography. With this method, the rules are applicable to documents regardless of location or device, allowing effective security measures for multi device environments.

This pattern also allows for “detecting, logging, and blocking” data that leaves enterprise premises. Having the capability to follow the transmission of sensitive data provides the benefit of understanding the speed and direction of information transfer and flow.

In addition to applying these strategies to mobile device environments, make sure users are aware of potential security threats and how to avoid them. In addition to securing information, users should be sure to secure the many popular applications that smartphones have. Educating users and emphasizing the security risks on their personal mobile devices can make corporate policies much more effective; by demonstrating that there is a significant and known threat to users’ personal information as well as company information, users are more likely to adhere to corporate controls. This provides a win-win scenario, protecting users’ personal info while also protecting your corporate data.