Conference calling has been a staple in business environments for decades as it helps to efficiently bring together both internal and external stakeholders from virtually anywhere. Despite the proven benefits of conferencing calling, such as accessibility and simplicity, this powerful communication tool remains plagued with several issues that often make conferencing calling efforts ineffective.
A new study commissioned by LoopUp, an online meeting platform, reveals that poor conference call practices can cost businesses up to $34 billion (£26 billion) each year through lost time and diminished productivity. The study, entitled “Enterprise Conferencing: User Behavior & Impact Report” was conducted by Sapio Research and commissioned by LoopUp, and surveyed 1,000 professionals in the United States and United Kingdom who regularly participate in conference calls.
VoipReview recently caught up with Steve Flavell, the co-CEO and co-founder of LoopUp, to discuss the results of their latest survey. Flavell also sheds some light on the issues that hinder organizations from realizing the full potential of business conferencing and shares how LoopUp enables companies to enjoy a premium meeting experience.
Dial-in Still Dominates
The last five years or so have seen an explosion in new business communication tools and advances in conference calling technology. Yet despite newer, more secure, and advanced business communication options, the majority of business people (61 percent) remain inclined to dial into a conference line in order to connect with teams, colleagues, and clients. Based on the report, the number further shoots up to 68 percent for users in enterprises with over 1,000 employees.
According to Flavell, there is plenty of good software products from big companies in the space (from Google, Microsoft and Cisco to Adobe, Avaya Zoom, and BlueJeans). Lots of names are also up and coming, all of which offer feature-rich products. Some are more video-focused while some are more mobile-centric and more for the trainers or IT folks. “All of these options have different pluses and minuses, but there is one consistency: all of them are full of features,” Flavel stated. “But what still remains as what might be the biggest “anti-trend” in the space is that, regardless of the features and feature sets, people keep on dialing into meetings.” And the biggest reason behind this is risk aversion.
“With a dial-in option (regardless of the experience) you’re playing it safe: everyone can dial in and punch a code in, and everyone can get on the call,” shared Flavell. “This ultimately leads to why the market won’t move on.”
“It is a telco activity for most of the world, and this is why LoopUp exists: we’re trying to tempt this mainstream majority of users with a better way of entering a conference call instead of dialing in,” shared Flavell.
Conference Calls Present a Security Challenge
The stubborn propensity of dial-in conferencing also presents security challenges to businesses. The report reveals that for 70 percent of respondents, discussing confidential information on conference calls was normal. But what’s shocking is that more than 50% said that it’s also normal not to know who’s on those calls. The lack of visibility and control over meetings exposes organizations to various risks such as eavesdropping and hacking.
Web Conferencing is Underutilized
Another key finding from the study is the low usage of web conferencing tools in the enterprise. Based on the survey, only 29 percent of conference calls use a web conferencing component. This means that 71 percent of conference calls either use audio only or involve participants sharing presentations, files, applications, and other relevant materials via email. The report cites product complexity as a deterrent for the adoption of web conferencing tools. In fact, 86 percent of respondents claimed they would do more web conferencing if it wasn’t more difficult than ‘emailing out the slides.’
Flavell said, “In order for adoption to take place, a product or software solution has to be insanely easy, which might be the most obvious thing (and something we stay true to).” “Another aspect we often refer to is a “guided flow,” and by that we mean that we want you (the user) not to require training. Instead, we want users to easily find their way through our product as if they are someone who has never heard of it or used it before,” he added.
LoopUp takes this to heart as its remote meeting solution includes lots of intelligent messaging to offer step-by-step processes. “We are not worrying about the 'extra click' that is stressed by other solutions or products; if another click adds clarity to a situation, it is better to take people through the extra step for clarification,” asserted Flavell. “We are more for simple step-by-step actions, helping users do it right and get on the right track (even if it takes an extra click).”
The Financial Impact of Conferencing Frustrations
While common conferencing issues may seem trivial, such disruptions actually have an impact on productivity, which in turn, cost business billions. According to the report, “people report wasting 15 minutes on a typical conference call struggling to get the meeting started, overcoming challenges with conferencing technology, and dealing with avoidable distractions. These issues often stem from a lack of visibility and lack of control during meetings.” This wasted time translates to $34 billion lost per year in the United Kingdom and the United States alone.
“LoopUp offers a way that means fewer frustrations and less wasted time in the long run,” said Flavell. “We are a contrarian play in the market because we are genuinely the only software product in the conference call market that is specifically designed for ‘the stubborn dialers of the world.’”
“All others and all of the different flavors in the market are doing something eminently sensible by trying to delight early adopters and gain traction this way, but we are doing things entirely different: we are not building a product to delight the tech comfortable or tech-savvy users; instead, our product is not overly feature-rich but very distinctly (and very purposely) keeps to the basics. And in my opinion, we do the basics really, really well. We have only the essential features, which we carefully thought through,” he added.
Looking Ahead: Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Business Conferencing
Flavell also offered his insights about AI. According to him, while they are positive about AI technology in general, he believes that the conference call industry has more issues to address first. “In regards to AI: the danger of AI is that people are trying to make it affected,” said Flavell. “At LoopUp, we are not up to that stage yet. To the extent that someone can leverage this technology, we are all for it...but if the inclusion of AI adds more bells and whistles (and therefore complications) on top of what we have, it goes the wrong way to make this industry better.”
“This risk-averse environment can do more harm than good, and we have to be careful in the part of the market that we’re trying to serve: those people who are hanging on to the dial-in method,” he added. “If you’re a company in the other part of the market then, by all means, pursue AI...but for us, we have to be more careful about things like this. Our overall strategy is to make things unbelievably easy for users who will be put off by anything else more complicated or difficult. And ultimately, you want the product to be broadly adopted rather than across just a few people, which often happens with more feature rich plans or products.”
To read the full report and conclusions of the Enterprise Conferencing: User Behavior & Impact Report conducted by Sapio Research and commissioned by LoopUp, visit LoopUp’s website.
LoopUp (LSE AIM: LOOP) is a premium remote meetings solution that enables businesses to collaborate in real time. Built with security, reliability, and all the right features enterprises need, LoopUp transforms the meeting experience of businesses of all sizes. LoopUp is trusted by over 2,000 enterprises worldwide, including Travelex, Kia Motors America, Planet Hollywood, National Geographic, and Subaru.
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