Guest post: AT&T Wireless Flexing Muscles in Embedded Wireless Device Space

Today’s guest post comes from John Stepp, President of Free Tech Consultants. He shares his thoughts on the less glorified market of embedded wireless devices, an area which sees participation by all major carriers but gets poor (media) coverage (no pun intended).

With much of the emphasis on the loss of exclusivity on the iPhone, many have opined that the wireless division of AT&T faces some very difficult times ahead.  Certainly there have been a lot of growing pains because of the mass adoption of the iPhone and the burst of data usage that has accompanied all the smartphones added to the AT&T network.  However there is much more to ponder about AT&T’s future than the iPhone.  One area where AT&T is dominating the market and getting best in class customer satisfaction scores is in the embedded wireless device market.

The embedded wireless device market is expected to grow by several hundred percent in just a few years.  This means that although we have just attained 100% penetration rate for wireless devices in America, we could easily reach a 500% penetration rate in just a few years.  AT&T currently dominates this space and is well positioned to keep this market leadership well into the future.  In 2010 e-readers and iPads helped grow the market.  Now the fight is on to put wireless devices in just about everything.  From cars to health care to the smart grid and all the myriad of electronics we use, wireless devices are here or on their way.

At the Wireless Technology Forum in Atlanta, Glenn Lurie of AT&T spoke about the trends in the emerging embedded wireless device market.

Fueling the mass adoption of Embedded Wireless Devices are several factors:

  1. The plummeting costs for wireless device modules
  2. Advances in wireless monitoring technologies
  3. The low bandwidth needed in the vast majority of embedded wireless devices
  4. A continuous stream of new ideas on how to use wireless to improve products and processes

Already there are wireless devices in pill bottles to make sure that patients take their medicine properly and alert doctors if they don’t.  GPS devices are showing up on kids and pets.  Monitoring devices are proliferating on cars, boats, homes, appliances and everything electronic.  .The smart grid will be filled with wireless devices.  So even though the revenue per unit will be smaller on EWD’s than wireless phones, the number of these devices will grow to dwarf that of traditional cell phones and create a huge revenue stream for wireless carriers.

AT&T is positioned very well in the market.  They have a division, led by Glenn that is behaving more like a start up than an old school telecom giant.  By giving their clients in this space flexibility on their contracts and a business model of openness they are creating partnerships with the customers that will help them grow profitably in this market.  The experience and knowledge they have gained with the adoption of tablets and e-readers is a big advantage over their competitors.  And although nobody pays attention to the carrier involved with their Kindle or iPad, customer satisfaction for the activation of these devices is extremely high.  So even though AT&T Wireless currently has its issues (who doesn’t), there is good reason for optimism for the future.

Genesys WFO now more integrated than ever

Workforce Management (WFM) has been all the rage in recent years. After all, developers and programmers have no problem optimizing code and processes in the contact center, but when it comes to people — the workforce — the challenges are tremendous. But the market opportunities are wide open, too, making room for numerous vendors in this space: Aspect, Calabrio, Genesys, Interactive Intelligence, NICE, Pipkins, Verint, etc.

Initially workforce software started with just the management aspect, but with the advances of contact center applications, vendors find it necessary to further the integration into their overall contact center suite offerings. Part of it comes from customer demands — the need to improve adherence, simplify scheduling, and analyze effectiveness. Then WFM evolved as WFO. Optimization is now the key in order to compete.

Genesys’ WFM offering was never that impressive, and that’s from hearing and seeing it in action in the field. As I’d written before, it must’ve been frustrating for Genesys to be the top CTI vendor but always missing the WFM piece. Most of the time losing to a more established competitor such as Verint.

Realizing this deficiency, Genesys even developed adapters to hook into third-party WFM systems.

Things are about to change dramatically as Genesys announced a new Workforce Optimization suite, part of the overall Genesys 8 release. Genesys WFO actually includes several components: Workforce Management, Quality Management, Customer Surveys, Skills Assessor, and Training Manager.

So with WFO, Genesys has reached deeper into the organization and pulled traditionally independent departments or processes closer together. Now there’s one suite of software to tackle altogether employee scheduling, auditing, performance evaluation, skills assessment, and training. Couple all that with Genesys Intelligent Routing and, well, you may very well boost the intelligence level to brainiac.

Genesys WFO press release (via parent company, Alcatel-Lucent):

Paris, January 24, 2011 – Alcatel-Lucent (Euronext Paris and NYSE: ALU) today announced a breakthrough solution for managing customer service resources across the enterprise, including optimizing employee skills and training in both the front and back offices.

The Genesys Workforce Optimization suite (WFO), which is part of Alcatel-Lucent’s Genesys 8 solution, analyzes employee performance across all channels including social media, SMS and Web chat in real-time. The solution includes significant new capabilities to centrally measure and manage employee skills and work allocation against performance objectives. The resulting training plans and schedules create a more engaged, efficient and effective organization while reducing service costs and administration.

“As our workforce grows over time, we see value in driving up employee productivity and performance through better workforce optimization, including workforce management and real-time training,” said Mr. Han San Lim, Customer Contact Centre Director, Shangri-La Hotels. “By accurately understanding skill gaps, targeting training and quickly assessing the business impact, we can improve employee effectiveness and personalize customer engagement based on the right skills and right staff. This eventually leads to higher customer satisfaction.”

“Today’s customers require support from a broader employee segment in the enterprise who are trained on multiple channels used to interact with a business,” said Jim Davies of Gartner. “The effective integration of traditionally siloed contact center functions such as training, scheduling and performance management, with centralized skills management of both front and back office resources, is an essential requirement for workforce optimization.”

The Genesys WFO solution is based upon a unique, five-step employee effectiveness model that helps companies contain costs and achieve growth objectives while improving employee satisfaction. Genesys WFO includes workforce management, recording and quality management, and skills and performance management. These features enable: 1) Planning and scheduling of staff enterprise wide; 2) Delivery of work using the intelligent routing capabilities of the Genesys platform 3) Control and adjustments in real time 4) Analysis of data and correlation of performance gaps 5) Development of talent pools based on exact training needs and accurate schedules.

Genesys WFO is part of the Genesys 8 suite of customer service solutions, the leading software used by enterprises for customer service across all communication channels which includes traditional voice lines and social media sources. Genesys 8 software addresses critical enterprise needs in the contact center and beyond by enabling a single, coordinated customer conversation across channels and contact points, by optimizing customer service processes across the extended enterprise and by providing visibility into business performance. Genesys 8 software helps enterprises integrate every interaction and touch point, so they can engage customers with the ideal service experience at the right time across any channel. This dynamic customer engagement leverages native SIP and multi-channel routing capabilities of Genesys 8 along with unique analytical capabilities tied to customer service requirements and business outcomes.

The new Genesys WFO solution is available today. For more information please go to: external linkwww.genesyslab.com

About Alcatel-Lucent
Alcatel-Lucent (Euronext Paris and NYSE: ALU) is the trusted transformation partner of service providers, enterprises, strategic industries such as defense, energy, healthcare, transportation, and governments worldwide, providing solutions to deliver voice, data and video communication services to end-users. A leader in fixed, mobile and converged broadband networking, IP and optics technologies, applications and services, Alcatel-Lucent leverages the unrivalled technical and scientific expertise of Bell Labs, one of the largest innovation powerhouses in the communications industry. With operations in more than 130 countries and the most experienced global services organization in the industry, Alcatel-Lucent is a local partner with a global reach. Alcatel-Lucent achieved revenues of Euro 15.2 billion in 2009 and is incorporated in France, with executive offices located in Paris. For more information, visit Alcatel-Lucent on the Internet:http://www.alcatel-lucent.com, read the latest posts on the Alcatel-Lucent blog http://www.alcatel-lucent.com/blog and follow us on Twitter: external linkhttp://twitter.com/Alcatel_Lucent.

Contact the Alcatel-Lucent Press Office: press@alcatel-lucent.com

From #GenesysAR to #ALUEnterprise, bigger and better

Ah yes, late January. This may be the favorite time soon after the new year for telecom and contact center industry analysts. Why? Because they (all 40 of them) get to be sequestered at a luxury hotel (the Ritz-Carlton) in the fair-weathered Bay Area immersed in nothing but Alcatel-Lucent goodness. Good view, good foods, good beverages, good company (both the people kind and the enterprise kind), and thankfully for me far, far away from Half Moon Bay, there were lots of good tweets too (thanks to folks like @MattGenesysAR, @CharlieIsaacs, @PhilippeVayssac, @McGeeSmith, @vshankar05, @ekolsky, @iangjacobs, @BlairPlez, @diteb, @NancyJami, @rwang0, @SteffWatson, @alaasaayed, @dnm54, @Audrey_William, @brian_riggs, @heyshiv, @tddupree, @d_hong, and a few others).

This event used to be all about Genesys, as I’d written about an year ago. The Twitter hashtag was #GenesysAR then. Now with the latest corporate strategy from parent company Alcatel-Lucent, it’s no longer just about Genesys. The somewhat lengthy hashtag this time was #ALUEnterprise, and it highlighted the event’s focus on all things ALU — Genesys and then some.

After the obligatory beautiful tweetpics of spectacular scenic views and such, the conference got started with Tom Burns, EVP of Alcatel-Lucent and President of Enterprise and Strategic Industries, taking the stage. His message was that of branding: one identity — Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise; three businesses — Genesys, Communications, and Network. The Genesys name is kept intact, a move that most analysts in attendance thought was the right decision. No doubt, as the Genesys name and reputation continue to bring decent profits to ALU (12 consecutive quarters, according to Burns), thanks to strong growth in APAC and EMEA regions.

(But speaking of reputation, nobody mentioned a little-known settlement in the end of 2010 to the tune of $137 million between ALU and U.S. authorities. Apparently the Paris-based company was found guilty of bribing foreign government officials in Latin America and Asia before 2006.)

The other good point from Burns was acknowledging the high-speed innovation in the consumer market, outpacing the enterprise. The gap is even more pronounced in recent years with the proliferation of smartphones and tablet devices. Think Android (or iPhone) vs. Blackberry phones. Think iPad vs., well, nothing in the enterprise (the RIM PlayBook, Avaya Flare, etc. aren’t released yet). According to Burns, ALU won’t be fighting this “consumerization” wave. That’s good to know and may become a clear distinction between ALU and its high-profile competitors moving forward.

Paul Segre, CEO of Genesys, spoke of what’s coming up in the first half of 2011: Workforce Optimization (WFO), Social Engagement, Conversation Manager, Visual Communications, OpenTouch (let’s see what Siemens OpenScape thinks about this name and no, this is not a new TSA pat-down procedure), and MyIC Smart Deskphone are just some of the anticipated new releases this year. He also threw into the mix some more of that “hosted” goodness (again). More video conferencing news supposed to come out in the months to come, too. It’d be interesting to see how that matches up to industry heavyweight Cisco.

Three customers presented for the Dynamic Enterprise Awards. TicketMaster, Reece and Nichols (Kansas City’s largest real estate resource and Berkshire Hathaway affiliate), and French insurer Groupama. In summary, TicketMaster loved Genesys Reporting, R&N fancied VOIP savings (no wonder Warren Buffet is so wealthy), and Groupama was the only presentation aimed at customer service with its visual, location-aware, smartphone-integrated IVR product.

It’s good to see Alcatel-Lucent taking on steps to sort of reinvent itself, be it internally with a past acquisition like Genesys or with more recent acquisitions (OpenPlug and ProgrammableWeb). I am definitely looking forward to learn more about the WFO, Social Engagement, and OpenTouch (even though I’m not too keen on the moniker) products as I believe these could be runaway successes in 2011 if product development and marketing strategies are carefully executed.

RightNow acquires Q-go, focus on technology or financials?

The sleepy CRM world woke up Tuesday to see a rare M&A in the industry: RightNow Technologies signed a definitive agreement to purchase little known Amsterdam-based “speech search” firm Q-go. The deal is $34 million in cash, nothing gigantic but no pocket change, either, especially for a company like RightNow which has about $110 million in cash and short-term investment assets as of 9/30/2010. So the company’s spending nearly 1/3 of its liquid assets to, according to CEO Greg Gianforte, add $8 million to its projected FY2011 revenues. (Revenues, not profits.)

According to its website, Q-go offers a SaaS semantic search solution based on natural language processing. In other words, users say whatever they want, and Q-go will fetch the most relevant information by determining the user intent. The company also guarantees a six month ROI (specific terms not found on the website, however). Interestingly for a company that touts its innovative speech and Web technologies, it hasn’t updated its blog since May 2010. But no matter, it must be doing something right because its customers include many major European banks, telecom companies, and airlines.

First, there are clear technological alignments from both companies. Both are advocates of cloud services. Both understand the mobile trend. Both are Web technology savvy. Both aim to improve customer service with their products.

But to me the timing and target of this acquisition and wording of the press release made RightNow sound like a desperate suitor who fell in love with the idea of natural language search. It’s as if the Q-go acquisition was meant more to boost its near-term financials rather than create an innovative synergy. Granted, there is an uptick in Web and mobile speech usage, but still in a very niche area of applications. And why go across the Atlantic to find Q-go when there are other speech companies closer to Bozeman, Montana?

I think the primary intent was to immediately acquire new customers in Europe beyond the UK. Q-go’s product portfolio was an added bonus. RightNow CX is doing fine without any hooks into speech. What’s needed is more big customers using CX, especially outside of the USA, where heavyweight competitors like SAP, Oracle, and Microsoft already have a solid footing.

Also, as a publicly traded company, RightNow ultimately answers to its shareholders. Historically the stock hasn’t seen much movement, even though yesterday’s announcement made it jump a little. On Wednesday RNOW hit a all-time high of $28.55 but has since pulled back the gain to around $27 per share. It remains to be seen whether the Q-go acquisition will be a sweet deal for shareholders in the long run.

For now, RightNow can proudly join the speech club and rub elbows with the likes of Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Nuance. It may just have to get used to answering the question, Q-who?

Press release from RightNow:

Bozeman, Mont., 1/18/2011
RightNow (NASDAQ: RNOW) announced today the Company has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Q-go.com B.V., a best-in-class natural language search solutions provider. The Company is also increasing revenue and non-GAAP earnings guidance for the fourth quarter ended December 31, 2010.

Guidance Update

The Company currently expects revenue of approximately $51 million, recurring revenue of approximately $41 million and non-GAAP earnings per share of approximately $0.16 for the fourth quarter of 2010.  This updated guidance exceeds the Company’s previous guidance for the fourth quarter of revenue of approximately $49.3 million and non-GAAP earnings per share of approximately $0.15 as provided on October 28, 2010.

For the fourth quarter of 2010, expected non-GAAP earnings per share exclude stock-based compensation and a potential tax benefit related to valuation of deferred tax assets.  The Company anticipates that in the final 2010 fiscal year results it will recognize a tax benefit related to valuation of deferred tax assets. As this tax benefit is expected to be significant, but the amount of the tax benefit is not currently determinable, the Company will provide GAAP earnings per share and a reconciliation to GAAP on February 2, 2011 when RightNow releases its earnings for the fourth quarter and full year ended December 31, 2010.

Q-go Acquisition Expected to Drive Further Growth

“I am excited to add Q-go’s solutions and talent to the RightNow organization. We expect this acquisition to help further accelerate our growth, adding approximately $8 million in revenue for the 2011 fiscal year. Q-go’s leading edge technology has been proven to drive higher conversion rates, increase revenue and improve web visitor experiences for companies.  We will also gain additional critical mass in Europe with approximately 60 new clients and 70 talented employees.  Also, I am pleased with our strong performance in the fourth quarter which includes record sales.”
Greg Gianforte, CEO, RightNow

In addition, the acquisition is expected to:

  • Open new sales opportunities in key industries with both new and existing clients;
  • Create a significant, new session-based revenue opportunity, as RightNow expands from the support page to the home page;
  • Further strengthen RightNow’s relationship with senior marketing buyers, in addition to operations, support and IT.

RightNow Adds Intent Guide, Best-in-Class Natural Language Search to RightNow CX

It’s easy for consumers to get lost and frustrated on a website. Consumers know what they are looking for but often fail to find the right content because they don’t understand a company’s terminology or website structure.  And frequently, even after completing a search request, they are presented with irrelevant and confusing results that only serve to heighten their frustration. For example, “check my cash” and “cash my check” have similar words, but very different intents and meanings.  Without a search solution that understands a customer’s true intent, customers too often waste time wading through many irrelevant results.

With the addition of Q-go, RightNow CX elevates great service from the support page to the home page. Utilizing the Q-go Natural Language Search technology, the new RightNow CX Intent Guide understands the intent behind what website visitors are seeking and immediately delivers high-value, highly relevant content, enabling companies to:

  • Increase sales by improving online conversion rates;
  • Deliver premium customer experiences for high-value interactions;
  • Drive loyalty through deep behavioral insight into consumer intent.

RightNow CX Intent Guide enhances websites with four types of interaction overlays:

  • Question Matching enhances existing website search and navigation to understand a customer’s intent, and increases online conversion rates.
  • Virtual Assistant provides a personal, natural conversation interaction, enhancing a customer’s experience while driving conversion and reducing live assistance costs.
  • Web Form Assistant increases online form conversions by proactively helping users complete forms using previously captured visitor information to pre-fill web forms.
  • Contextual Online Offers deliver real-time, relevant offers based on the context of a page or the user’s intent, dramatically increasing conversion rates to drive sales.

With the addition of Q-go, RightNow will also add a best-in-class natural language search engine to the RightNow CX Cloud Platform, elevating online search beyond keywords to a rich, highly relevant results set. It includes:

  • Intent Matching: Natural language search technology to capture queries, understand intent, and match it to high-value content and interactions. For example, “open a savings account” and “start an account for saving” are different phrases, but with the same intent.
  • Industry-Specific Linguistic Dictionaries: Branded terminology is tailored with industry-specific dictionaries and linguistic fine-tuning to optimize the natural language search relevancy to the user’s intent. For instance, for a financial institution the word “bank” will always refer to a financial institution, not a river bank, and “interest” will always refer to the returns on savings or what one pays for a loan, not the emotion.
  • Language Identification: Utilizing localized language packs, the natural language search automatically recognizes the user’s local language to identify their intent, such as “cuenta de ahorros” versus “savings account.”

RightNow CX Intent Guide and RightNow Natural Language Search will be available immediately following the acquisition and will be integrated into RightNow CX February 2011.

Comments on RightNow’s Acquisition of Q-go

“RightNow CX Intent Guide with Q-go’s natural language search technology is a powerful addition to RightNow CX and will help us redefine the way consumers experience a brand.  By capturing queries, understanding intent, and matching that to high-value content, RightNow CX can improve consumers’ online experiences, increase customer loyalty and drive sales.”
David Vap, chief solutions officer, RightNow

“Like RightNow, Q-go is committed to improving the customer experience with a suite of natural language search solutions.  The acquisition expands RightNow CX’s ability to provide relevant answers to customers.  We expect to be able to dramatically increase adoption of RightNow CX Intent Guide and leverage our joint expertise to develop the next generation of online customer experience solutions.”
Marcel E. Smit, CEO, Q-go

Acquisition Details

Under the terms of the definitive agreement, RightNow will acquire all of the Q-go stock and the stock of Q-go’s subsidiaries, for approximately $34 million in cash. Q-go is headquartered in Amsterdam with subsidiary operations in Germany, Spain and the United States. The company anticipates the acquisition will add approximately $1 million of revenue in the first quarter of 2011, approximately $8 million of revenue for the 2011 fiscal year, and approximately $3.5 million of expenses per quarter during 2011. RightNow expects the acquisition to be accretive to earnings in the first quarter of 2012.  Additionally, RightNow expects increased expenses from the acquisition in amortization of acquired intangibles, which will be finalized once the purchase price accounting valuation is complete. The acquisition will be recorded in the company’s March 31, 2011 quarter end financial statements.

Conference Call Information

RightNow will host a teleconference at 5 p.m. ET today, January 18, 2011. To access the call, please dial (877) 638-9569 or, outside the U.S., (914) 495-8536 at least five minutes prior to the start time.  An audio webcast and replay of the call will also be available at http://investor.rightnow.com/events.cfm. An audio replay of today’s conference call will be available from January 18, 2011 to February 1, 2011 by dialing (800) 642-1687 with the replay passcode 37311363.

About RightNow

RightNow is helping rid the world of bad experiences one consumer interaction at a time, eight million times a day. RightNow CX, the customer experience suite, helps organizations deliver exceptional customer experiences across the web, social networks and contact centers, all delivered via the cloud. With more than ten billion customer interactions delivered, RightNow is the customer experience fabric for nearly 2,000 organizations around the globe. To learn more about RightNow, go to www.rightnow.com.

RightNow is a registered trademark of RightNow Technologies, Inc. NASDAQ is a registered trademark of the NASDAQ Stock Market.

Safe Harbor Statement Under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995

This press release may contain forward-looking statements.  These forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future results and are subject to risks, uncertainties and assumptions that could cause our actual results to differ materially and adversely from those expressed in any forward-looking statement. The risks and uncertainties referred to include, but are not limited to the risk that the updated guidance  in this press release will differ from the completed fourth quarter final results; the Q-go.com B.V. purchase transaction will not close; and the risks associated with purchasing Q-go, including our ability to retain and motivate Q-go’s  employees, our ability to integrate and market Q-go’s solutions to new customers, our ability to retain Q-go’s existing customers, the speed, quality and cost of the our efforts to integrate Q-go’s solutions with the our solution set, the security and reliability of Q-go’s service, and the risks associated with forecasting impact on combined financial results; general economic conditions; fluctuations in foreign currency exchange; our business model; our ability to develop or acquire and gain market acceptance for new products and enhancements to existing products in a cost-effective and timely manner; fluctuations in our earnings as a result of potential changes to our valuation allowance(s) on our deferred tax assets; the gain or loss of key customers; competitive pressures and others similar factors such as the availability and pricing of competing products; our ability to expand or contract operations; manage expenses and grow profitability; the rate which our present and future customers adopt our existing and future products and services; fluctuations in our operating results including our revenue mix and our rate of growth; fluctuations in backlog; the risk that our investments in partner relationships and additional employees will not achieve expected results; interruptions or delays in our hosting operations; breaches of our security measures; our ability to protect our intellectual property rights of third parties; any unanticipated ambiguities in fair value accounting standards; the amount and timing of any stock repurchases under our stock repurchase program; fluctuations in our operating results from the impact of stock-based compensation expense; our ability to manage and expand our partner relationships; our ability to hire, retain and motivate our employees and manage our growth; the impact of potential future acquisitions, if any; and risks associated with our offering of convertible senior notes this past year.  Further information on potential factors that could affect our financial results is included in our Annual Report on Form 10-K, quarterly reports of Form 10-Q and current reports on Form 8-K filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.  The forward-looking statements in this release speak only as of the date they are made.  We undertake no obligation to revise or update publicly any forward-looking statement for any reason.

About Non-GAAP Financial Measures

Non-GAAP net income and diluted net income per share are supplemental measures of our performance that are not required by, or presented in accordance with GAAP.  These non-GAAP financial measures are not intended to be used in isolation and should not be considered a substitute for net income and net income  per share or any other performance measure determined in accordance with GAAP.  We present non-GAAP net income and net income per share because we consider each to be an important supplemental measure of our performance.

Management uses these non-GAAP financial measures to make operational decisions, evaluate the Company’s performance, prepare forecasts and determine compensation.  Further, management believes that both management and investors benefit from referring to these non-GAAP financial measures in assessing the Company’s performance when planning, forecasting and analyzing future periods.  Our stock-based compensation expenses are expected to vary depending on the number of new grants issued, changes in our stock price, stock market volatility, expected option lives and risk-free rates of return, all of which are difficult to estimate.  In calculating non-GAAP net income and net income per share, management excludes stock-based compensation expenses to facilitate its review of the comparability of the Company’s operating performance on a period-to-period basis because such expenses are not, in management’s view, related to the Company’s ongoing operating performance.  Management uses this view of its operating performance for purposes of comparison with its business plan and individual operating budgets and resource allocation.  In addition, the Company anticipates that in the final 2010 fiscal year results it will recognize a tax benefit related to valuation of deferred tax assets, which will benefit GAAP earnings per share. If the Company recognizes a tax benefit related to valuation of deferred tax assets, such benefit will be excluded from non-GAAP net income and net income per share, as Management believes this is a non-recurring item that is not indicative of our normal annual effective tax rate.

Management further believes that these non-GAAP financial measures are useful to investors in providing greater transparency to the information used by management in its operational decision making.  We believe that the use of non-GAAP net income and net income per share also facilitate a comparison of RightNow’s underlying operating performance with that of other companies in our industry, which use similar non-GAAP financial measures to supplement their GAAP results.

Calculating non-GAAP net income and net income per share have limitations as an analytical tool, and readers should not consider these measures in isolation or as substitutes for GAAP net income and GAAP net income per share.  In the future, we expect to incur additional stock-based compensation expenses and the exclusion of these expenses in the presentation of our non-GAAP financial measures should not be construed as an inference that these costs are unusual, infrequent or non-recurring.  Investors and potential investors are cautioned that there are material limitations associated with the use of non-GAAP financial measures as an analytical tool, which include:

  • Other companies inside and outside of our industry may calculate non-GAAP net income and net income per share differently than we do, limiting their usefulness as a comparative tool; and
  • The Company’s income tax expense or benefit will be ultimately based on its GAAP taxable income and actual tax rates in effect, which may differ significantly from the effective tax rate used in our non-GAAP financial measures.

In addition, the adjustments to our GAAP financial measures reflect the exclusion of stock-based compensation expenses that are recurring and will be reflected in the Company’s financial results for the foreseeable future.  The Company compensates for these limitations by providing specific information regarding the GAAP amount excluded from the non-GAAP financial measures.  The Company further compensates for the limitations of our use of non-GAAP financial measures by presenting comparable GAAP measures more prominently.  The Company evaluates the non-GAAP financial measures together with the most directly comparable GAAP financial measures.

Top 5 redundant or ineffective IVR prompts

Love ’em or hate ’em, IVRs in one form or another, are here to stay. Luckily for our entertainment, some developers (all right, sometimes the fault lies on the business side when they insist on certain prompt verbiage) design their IVRs in a way as to mimic the wordiness or intelligence of actual humans. Maybe they think it’ll give the cold machine a warm personality? Or somehow think that this will engage callers more effectively?

Let me know if you’ve heard these before:

  1. Please enter your 16-digit account number followed by the pound sign – If you already know it’s going to be 16 digits, why do I need to press ‘#’ to terminate it??? Just know to stop when I finish pressing 16 numbers!
  2. To hangup, please press 9 – No thanks, how about if I just really hang up. You know, put my phone back on the cradle or press “End Call” on my mobile.
  3. To speak to a customer service representative, please stay on the line – No kidding. I’d be really impressed if I hang up and a CSR actually calls me back.
  4. [In English] To hear the options in Spanish, please press 1 – Come. On.
  5. Our call center is currently closed, please call back during our business hours – Okay, I get it. But would be nice to let me know when business hours are (and include the timezone please)?

Have you encountered other questionable IVR prompts? Share them in the comments section.

StartupCamp 3 less than one month away

Of course, if you’re a regular visitor of this blog, you’d know that this StartupCamp is unlike other startup camps. What I’m referring to here is StartupCamp Comms Edition, an event held alongside ITEXPO East in Miami. StartupCamp 3 welcomes early-stage entrepreneurs specializing in communications. The event will take place on February 3, 2011, and this year features prominent Googlers as keynote speakers: Craig Walker of GrandCentral (since evolved as the much-loved Google Voice post acquisition) and Wesley Chan, the father of Google Analytics.

Let me repeat that: Two big guys from Google Ventures are going to be at StartupCamp 3 this year.

Yes, Google hasn’t been shy about its plans to invade the communications space. After all, the company acquired GrandCentral and Gizmo handily. It began offering video on Google Chat. It fused Google Voice with Gmail. (And most of us love it!)

But enough about the Big G. StartupCamp is all about the comm newbies. According to StartupCamp 3’s website, these companies have already applied to be presenters:

Zingaya

Zingaya lets you put a “Call” button on your webpage to let your visitors call you in one click right from their browser. For free. In 1 minute. It’s as easy as embedding a youtube movie into your webpage. Zingaya offers this seamless voice calling capability to website operators – whether it’s a huge e-commerce enterprise or your personal blog. With Zingaya company gets instant bidirectional audio communication channel between visitors and sales/support what increases sales  and improves customer support.

VideoMost

VideoMost is an HD quality, massively multi-point web video conferencing software-only product for licensing to Internet service providers (ISPs, cable and telco operators) and hosting and cloud providers, enabling them to launch video conferencing services under their own brands and compete with Skype, WebEx, Google, etc.

VideoMost delivers a complete, market-disruptive software-only, massively multi-point web-based video conferencing product immediately available for licensing and re-labeling to service providers.  Unlike other video conferencing solutions, VideoMost allows service providers to offer their customers HD quality, high-performance, secure and scalable multi-party video conferencing, document sharing, IM and collaboration.

Call Loop

Call Loop is the Constant Contact for voice and text. We provide a self-serving mobile marketing platform that gives virtually any business an automated way to create a multi-modality marketing campaign using voice, text, and email.

Call Loop integrates with your current email platform like Constant Contact, soon to be CRM systems like SalesForce, and ecommerce platforms like Shopify to easily and automatically synchronize your prospects and customers information to create automated voice and/or SMS text messaging in your marketing campaign.

Impact Dialing

Impact Dialing is the world’s best predictive dialer. If you’re not familiar with predictive dialing, callers dial into Impact Dialing, which then calls out to a list of phone numbers. By monitoring how many people actually pick up, we dial multiple lines to ensure that someone will answer almost every call. Additionally, we track the length of each conversation, so we can deliver a new call shortly after you hang up the previous one.

Large call centers use hardware predictive dialers to keep their callers busy, but smaller businesses and political campaigns often do cyclical work that can’t justify an expensive hardware-based system. Until Impact Dialing, hosted predictive dialers were difficult to use, required special software, and had expensive up-front fees and contracts. Our advantages allowed us to make over 600,000 phone calls for the 2010 political cycle – in less than 4 months after writing our first line of code.

Hoot.me

Hoot is a collaborative educational network designed to connect many learners and educators together, thereby bridging geographic, time, and connectivity gaps.  Built on Facebook’s application platform, Hoot creates a virtual study environment.  Hoot’s Facebook application enables users to place Facebook in study mode, which provides users access to an interactive medium of other users also in study mode.  In this environment, Hoot users can collaborate with other friends via screen swap, whiteboard technology, symbol chat, and video/voice conferencing.  Hoot is already the first to provide video conferencing on Facebook via the Open Tok API, which means Hoot is delivering unparalleled technologies on a platform already driven by students.

A marketplace will also soon be established to allow students to find tutors who are auctioning off their time.  The integrity and legitimacy of the marketplace will be upheld through crowed sourcing.  Overall, Hoot strives to place academia in the twenty-first century while encouraging scholastic integrity.

Zenofon

Proven scalable system for attracting and retaining customers to innovative telecom product.

We turned our customers into loyal sales people by generating continuous micro-payments to reward past, and stimulate future, customer referrals. Revenue comes from our international dial-around product, which is unique in the marketplace because of its ease of use and because it gives customers multiple price or quality options to route their call, which also gives us the ability to under-price our competitors.

Zenofon takes new customers by referral only. Allows customers to see graphically everyone they refer, and everyone those people refer.  Zenofon sends back small credits to customer accounts to motivate additional referrals.

Doddle

Doddle, a new internet telephone innovation, allows users to make VoIP calls anywhere in the world via Doddle’s web based Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) phone directly from their webpages. With Doddle’s free online phone service, no registration is required and VoIP is as easy as accessing a webpage. Users just begin using.

Doddle’s webphone improves channels between online visitors and sales and support teams by allowing online visitors to talk to a representative directly from their browser via the company’s website, making the distance between online visitors and contacting the company just a click away. Doddle also makes IVR menu navigation easier.

Regroup Therapy

Regroup therapy helps people tackle issues that limit their satisfaction and improve their quality of life through multiparty video support groups, mediated by licensed professionals. We are a brand new company that has received angel funding from one of the Deans of IE Business School in Madrid. Our pilot program will give support to Postpartum Depression women in 7 US States.

Mental Health patients suffering from a number of conditions often find themselves outside the reach of traditional, in-person mental health services for various reasons. Some are limited by the condition itself; others by their rural location or the fact that they cannot leave their new born babies to seek treatment. We are the first company in our space that aims to bring many therapists and patients together – which when brought to scale means a patient can enter sessions on a rolling basis instead of waiting. This is so important with mental health conditions.

That’s a pretty good list of startups and a great list of speakers! The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in the area of communications, and what better time to have folks from Google Ventures being part of it.

Verint is for sale?

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Israeli-based Comverse Technology is looking to sell subsidiary Verint for approximately $2 billion. TheStreet.com also picked up the news:

The board of software maker Comverse hasn’t made a decision about Verint’s future. It can’t do so now because Verint, a maker of analytic and security software, is in the midst of selling 2 million common shares, the people said. But a sale of Verint, of which Comverse owns roughly 55%, is the likeliest course of action and could come after the parent company files the last of its outstanding financial reports with regulators, the Journal reports.

Two billion U.S. dollars is no pocket change. Verint is one of the top makers of workforce management, analytics, and security software, and such a sale means two things: 1) Comverse is (still) in a lot of trouble; and 2) the analytics market is growing strong. At a $2B price tag, however, there won’t be a lot of capable buyers.

Comverse has been marred by financial scandals, stemming from accounting issues and options backdating, and was delisted from NASDAQ in 2007. Ex-CEO Jacob “Kobi” Alexander even fled to Namibia to avoid arrest in the U.S.

Selling Verint would probably be a good thing for the company and its parent, Comverse. My guess is that private equity firms may end up owning Verint, should the sale really come to fruition.