Nate Petry, VP of Sales at TTx, sat down with Aaron Clark, Technical Account Manager, and Chad Voller, Managing Director at CTG, to discuss the nuances of this “new normal” and what it means for companies, and IT, in the future.
TTx has been around for 40 years, providing IT solutions for voice, server, wired and wireless broadband solutions and migration strategy. Partnering with CTG to continue to round out their security and services support.
Rapid Switch to Remote Work
Most companies are now conducting work remotely, which means there has been a massive learning curve with technology that was quickly forced. Many businesses were not prepared for this, so collaboration of technology and IT personnel became mandatory, requiring teams to become flexible with their schedules, almost like around the clock support.
Why was the around-the-clock support needed for the first few months? Why was there such a big learning curve once everyone shifted to remote work? In an enterprise environment the network and firewall are very controlled and secured, allowing IT professionals to successfully troubleshoot. Enterprises can prioritize certain communication funnels, such as voice, on their network but you don’t have that option at home. The home routers are not designed to honor voice packets, which is the number one communication medium between colleagues and clients. Therefore, the IT team is assisting multiple home networks that have many more added variables, new technology to learn and having to determine who in the household is responsible for what actions.
Maintaining Voice Communication
This resulted in an overall struggle of maintaining voice communication both internally, with your team, and externally with clients. With the entirety of the company relying on IT to fix this, TTx was hit with many companies relying on their solutions to fix this issue, but the reality is that it’s not a one size fits all solution. The companies with flexible systems were the ones that had the most success in terms of rectifying voice quality communication. Some of the solutions Aaron found were:
- Deploying a soft phone, which is a piece of software on a laptop
- Send calls or redirect calls to a cell phone
- Load an app on a mobile device with some mobility features
- Edge gateways, which allow users to take their desk phone home
As stated before, each solution is dependent on the person’s bandwidth and one solution might be better for someone than another. Ultimately, businesses that seeing success were the ones who, not only reacted quickly to this change, but also had the flexibility.
How to Address Productivity
With the shift to an entirely new environment that has bandwidth limitations and many new outside distractions, productivity became a main concern for many companies. Businesses who had continuity such as:
- Having the same tool set they had in the office and could take it home
- The ability to do real-time collaboration
- Visibility and accountability while at home to be able to track the productivity.
Aside from internal problems with productivity, client communication is also a major factor that companies feared they would lose. Enterprises that recognized they need to consumer engaged beyond just voice were ahead of the game.
The Shift in Security
Before COVID hit, an enterprise would have a limited number of networks and devices to secure within the network, but now, it has shifted from the network to the end device you are using (tablet, phone, laptop, etc). Therefore, the security concerns and gaps companies have to close are device oriented. The traditional view of IT and security was looked at as a necessary evil. Where the main concern comes from costs and keeping revenue up, a lot of companies would rely on one or two IT employees. Consequently, only making minimum payments when necessary, which now resulted to be more costly in the end within security, productivity and money.
Is WFH Here to Stay?
Based on research provided by Aaron, it is predicted to be a hybrid approach for most companies in the future. The reasoning behind this might be the overall health and safety precautions this pandemic has brought to light. Businesses have also had to cut staff due to lack of revenue coming in and this is another way to cut costs without having to let employees go. Enterprises have also witnessed that productivity really isn’t suffering as much as they suspected. Lastly, it provides an opportunity to get even more qualified and skilled employees since you aren’t limited to your geographic location. So how do we continue to support the remote workforce with these new IT, voice quality and cyber security issues? It’s time for companies to realize this can no longer be a back-burner issue and bring in outside expertise, like TTx and CTG, who help manage key functions within your organization.
According to Aaron, companies have started to look beyond voice communication and move to omnichannel environments. In order to figure out the best avenue to communicate with your client you have to understand what they are looking for, which can be broken down into 4 basic points:
- Reliability and dependable
Once you find out your client’s priorities and understand what they are looking for you can find the best technical solution, whether it’s voice, webchat, email, social media or even texting. “If voice is your only method of communication, chances are that your remote workforce is struggling with collaboration and meeting customer needs. And worse, you are probably losing out to potential customers.”
Future of Cyber Security
Chad Voller, provides guidance on how to get ahead on preventative measures in cyber security before it’s too late in the future.With all of new tools and software you bring in, you have to centralized it with things such as client risk, security risk and a network management plan. Now is the time to engage with cyber security professionals who can get you these audits, provide you with cyber security, train your team for things to look out for. “Now is the time to shift the conversation from oh we should do this, to we are way behind here and we need to take action.”
To get more information on IT solutions and cyber security schedule a demo or meeting Nate Petry.
The New Normal Transcript
Nate: Well once again. Good morning. Thanks for hopping on this zoom call, and having a conversation with TTx and CTG. Our topic for this presentation is the New Norm supporting a distributed workforce with stable and secure IT infrastructure. The first thing I wanted to start off with is obviously we’ve been living in this new norm for 10 or so weeks. So what comes to my mind is the old saying there’s nothing new under the sun. So we’re going to quickly pivot from the issues and obstacles that we’ve all faced over the last 10 weeks to our experience with those as service providers and thoughts on how we can overcome some of those things more effectively long-term. So that’s our goal for today. We’ll be quickly walking through what just happened, what we’ve seen and where do we go from here are kind of the chapters of this presentation that we’re looking forward to discussing with you folks. And obviously our hope is that through this conversation, there’s something that could spark up where a further conversation could be needed or wanted. So we look forward to relationships as always here at TTx for further conversation. So my name is Nate Petry. I’m the VP of Business Development here at TTx. I’ve been with the company for 10 years. The organization itself has been around for 40 years, and we’re really a technology provider that focuses on IT projects. So whether that’s a voice solution, a server, a migration strategy, wired and wireless solutions, and then supporting of those things. So we’re also a managed services provider. We’ve had that practice stabilized now here for our clients in the marketplace for the last 10 years. So we have a lot of things to say about this New Normal. And like I said, with nothing is new under the sun. The technologies have existed for quite some time for people to work remotely. But we were all thrown into this thing probably unexpectedly. I know we were, supporting a lot of different customers and sizes and locations. There were things that we had to pivot on very quickly, that quite frankly, we weren’t prepared for just like internal IT folks were for different organizations. So at this time I’d like to invite the rest of the panelists to join me and, provide an introduction to themselves.
Aaron: Hey guys, thanks so much for joining us. My name is Aaron Clark. I’ve been with TTx for 13 years now. I have extensive background in designing and deploying voice solutions in corporate environments. I currently serve as a Technical Account Manager. I support both our, our sales team and also work closely with our, our project, and support teams in the design of unified communication systems and more specifically, advanced contact center applications. So I have a foot in both the sales side and the engineering side. I really enjoy my client facing discussions with supervisors and management teams, more specifically around building consumer interaction strategies, using an understanding business analytics and then how to leverage all those technologies to offer a better customer experience. So obviously this whole COVID pandemic has certainly changed the business landscape. And I’m really excited to be here with Nate and with Chad to talk about what that looks like.
Chad: Yeah, it’s great to be on today with everyone. Thanks for having me, always enjoy being part of the extended TTx family. My background, you know, I’ve had the opportunity to work in security for some time now, starting out as a consultant in the operator chair as I like to call it. And then moving on from there to be an IT manager for a publicly traded company where I worked on securing networks and endpoints, across three continents and five different locations for some time here in Northeast Ohio. And after that I was running operations for a large MSP out of Cleveland. And then my role today, I function both as the managing director for the Cyber Technology Group and also as the IT director for Bober Markey Fedorovich, a hundred-person regional accounting firm here based out of Akron and Cleveland. So I keep the edge of my cybersecurity axe sharp as an operator from the day-to-day perspective for the firm. And also I provide security consulting services directly to internal and external clients and often partner with TTx in that process. So very glad to be with you today. Thanks for joining us.
Nate: Yeah. Thanks Chad. For joining TTx we love our partnership with CTG and just so that the attorneys know CTG really rounds out TTx’s offering to the marketplace, where we don’t go on the security side is where Chad comes in and really supports our total holistic IT support of our customers. So thanks for being part of the conversation and the partnership. Appreciate it. So let’s get underway. What in the world just happened? You know, we all know what happened because it was 10 weeks ago, but to set a base camp, Chad, why don’t you just briefly talk to us about the experience that we all faced and for the most part have overcome through this crazy pandemic that we’re all still in the midst of?
Chad: Yeah, it’s been, from my perspective in both the technology and cybersecurity space, it’s been, it’s been a rapid, it’s been forced and it’s been dispersed. So all the change we’ve recently gone through, we didn’t ask for it. It happened quickly and it’s kind of spread us out a little bit. So now we’re trying to control and secure multiple networks. Some things like lack of preparedness have been exposed in our organizations and in our end users, it’s created demand for rapid innovation and our ability to distribute technology and new communications methods to our, to our folks. And Aaron will talk to that for sure. And that we’ve seen new and increased cybersecurity attacks, you know, the bad guys don’t rest, they don’t, they don’t take a day off. The surface area for those attacks has dramatically increased. Now you’re working with all of these disparate networks, as well as still thinking about what’s back home at the ranch, still thinking about your server closet and your data center and wanting to secure those, of course, but in the process, the perimeter has just disintegrated. There is no perimeter anymore. And so now we’re having to expand the way that we think about, about all of this stuff. And so that’s my quick three bullets; it’s been rapid, it’s been forced and, it’s been dispersed.
Aaron: From a voice perspective, we really had to reassess what remote teleworking is, it’s something that’s been around for a number of years. It’s not anything that’s new to us. But if you think about it, it’s been more of a luxury as we talk about maybe a sales team being on the road and having access through mobility features. Chad, you mentioned this rapid enforced change, and we very quickly had to move to, you know, from a luxury standpoint to a forced necessity. I mean, if you think about it, we’ve had departments and, and in a lot of cases, even entire companies that have moved their workforce home, and that’s created a lot of hurdles and probably, not probably, the single biggest one that came out of that from a voice perspective is how do we move phone activity home? And that might seem that might seem like an easy task, but, it certainly isn’t. And there’s a lot that came out of that, that we saw with voice quality and connectivity issues. When we talk about voice quality, it’s voice communications, it’s a real-time thing, and we can’t have delays. We can’t have disconnects. We’ll probably experience to some extent, a little bit of that in this call today, with choppy voice, it’s something that we have lost a lack of control over because when we’re in a corporate network or a corporate environment, there’s a lot of different mechanisms that we can put in place to control that. And we can say what voice takes top priority, top precedence above any other type of communication going on in the network. So in those times where we have bottlenecks and slowdowns voice shoots right to the top of that list and isn’t impacted, and now as we move workers home, we’re working now with home internet service providers that could care less about voice quality and voice priority. They aren’t honoring that. And then you’ve got home grade routers and firewalls that probably don’t have the ability to be configured for honoring and prioritizing those voice packets. So that’s been a real struggle. There’s a lot of added variables to that as well as you think about spouses working from home at the same time, both of them engaging on video conferences, when you’ve got kids that all of a sudden had to do all of their school activity through the internet, you’ve got a little Jimmy streaming, Netflix or playing X-Box live that’s now just adding to all this traffic that’s going on in the home network that sends things out of control when it comes to voice quality. Something else that kind of came out of that too, was a struggle to maintain easy communication, both internally with teams within an organization, and then externally with our customers and consumers, sadly the quarantine and the shutdown caused a lot of companies to make cutbacks. And so your staffing levels are dramatically increased. And now we’re fighting for ways to connect with our customers or allowing our customers to connect with us more importantly. And we don’t have the staffing that goes along with that. And then going back to something that Chad said, when you think about the fast, rapid and forced move home, that all fell on the IT staffs of the world to figure out they didn’t have time to plan for that. They put in long hours, they had new technology to learn, and then they suddenly had to support many more networks when you start bringing in all of these home users, than they’re used to. So there was a lot of IT burnout that came through this as well.
Nate: Yeah, like any service provider and people that are on the front lines, there’s a good thing about the pandemic is we come together as Americans through bad stuff, right? So we become more thankful of our nurses and our medical field. And certainly not, we’re not saving lives, but IT people did a lot of hard work to get us to where we can still do business and still have relationships on the business side together. So kudos to all of you that have done that. So that is what has happened. So, it’s been 10 weeks. So going into, what are some of the things that we’ve seen, some of the things that we can call out because we have access to a wide variety of businesses, so we can share from a value standpoint? So what are some of the limitations we’ve seen with technology throughout the last 10 weeks and how that has either prohibited businesses from executing things or has deeply got in the way of that now that we’re all remote?
Aaron: Yeah. So I think I just touched on one of those with voice quality. I’ve got three points here with issues and then how some companies found ways to successfully address those. In terms of voice quality, it’s a question at TTx that our help desk was just hit with left and right when, when COVID first hit and everybody starts working from home is all right, what’s the one solution that’s going to fix all these issues for us from, from a voice perspective, how do we get our voice quality back? The thing that we saw is that really, it’s not a one size fits all deal. There are companies that have unified communication systems, that doesn’t matter if it’s premise-based or cloud-based, but flexible systems are really what won out. And so companies that had that flexibility to offer different options to different users within that same company, were very successful. So a couple of those you can deploy a soft phone, which is just a piece of software on a PC or laptop. You can send calls or redirect calls externally to a cell phone. You could load an app on a mobile device and have some mobility features, and then you could deploy some types of edge gateways, which allow users to actually take their desk phone that they used in the office home with them. And external assignment might not work for some because they have terrible cell service at their house, whereas phone might be a better option. Soft phone might not work for a particular set of users because they have DSL or some low grade, home bandwidth that just isn’t sufficient to support voice. So that’s the key there. I think that the companies that were successfully able to quickly react to this remote workforce is ones that had flexible phone systems. And another issue that came out, was how to address productivity. And all of a sudden, we’ve got users at home with potentially a different set of tools, and new noisier environments, distracting environment. So looking at businesses that had business continuity, meaning that the same tool set that they had in the office, they could take that home with them one out, companies that had ways for offering real-time collaboration through document sharing and through video conferences like this. And then obviously the visibility and accountability that came out of that as well. And being able to see what our users are doing at home and making sure that they are being productive. And then probably, the last one was and I mentioned it briefly in my last response is the consumer interaction piece. So, sadly we had a lot of companies that were reduced their staffing levels. And so limited staff created this need for client engagement beyond just voice. And so companies that recognize that—I mean, these are discussions that Nate and I particularly started having with clients before COVID hit, but really has accelerated through this time is how do we engage with our clients beyond just the phone, because we might not have the staff to accommodate that, and then offering, being able to find ways to offer real-time self-service options, whether that’s through the website or some other means of communicating with the organization. So those companies that were looking at that were successfully offloading the voice stress and being able to find new and effective ways to engage their customers.
Nate: Yeah, that’s great. So, Chad, from your seat, we went from supporting potentially one organization with users at one location to now 50, 60 offices, right. Home offices. So how have things and the technology deficiencies you’ve seen.
Chad: So the things that we’ve seen include some shifting of both the tension and workload, and when you are in a, what used to be normal, you had a limited number of networks devices to secure within those networks. And as I said before, the perimeter disintegrating right before our very eyes, has really shifted the focus from the network to the end point, meaning that device, that you either hold in your hand or the laptop that sits on your desk at home, or that you take with you when you’re traveling. So companies now have to really think about how they’re going to shore up the gaps in endpoint security and monitoring and alerting. IT teams had done a pretty good job of putting things in place to monitor and protect the corporate network that people are doing a fairly decent job of that these days they might even have implemented security information and event monitoring solution. They might have even been getting some alerts if there was an intruder activity on their network, but now we have to reevaluate in some cases, where are we really ready to have a mobile workforce when it comes to this idea of cybersecurity? Is that laptop that now sits inside of the user’s home network, is it safe and secure as far as we know, and if something goes wrong on that laptop, how are we to find out about it? How are we to know, do we have centralized management? Do we have the ability to read the logs across all of our systems, even though they’re in a hundred new places now, so that’s been a big shift. And I think I’ve seen a lot of shortfall in that area, to be honest with you, in terms of both the types of products that users/companies have, and have been able to deploy, and then the nature in which those products work together and centralize their administration. And that leads into a, really the biggest thing that I’ve seen. And I’m just going to say this is a time where you’ve said where debts have been called in, debts are being called in right now, because in some ways, traditionally, the traditional view of IT, and let’s lump in security, although they’re distinct thoughts, let’s lump security in with IT for just a minute, because the traditional view of a lot of companies, when it comes to information technology has been, well this is just a cost center. It’s kind of a necessary evil. And Mr. or Mrs. IT person keep costs down and keep production high. You get those two goals accomplished and you’re doing a good job. And so, we’ve been making minimum payments like you do on a credit card for a while. And you know how that happens to first and in the end, and what happens? You end up paying a lot more in the long run when you do that. And we’ve been making minimum payments when it comes to our cybersecurity posture to our lack of getting security audits and penetration tests to the investments that we’re making an endpoint security and monitoring solutions. We’ve been making minimum payments on training our personnel on getting soft skills brought up to date, working on having good documentation. We’ve been making minimum payments on mountains of debt. And now we’re finding that we’re struggling a little bit and IT teams are struggling to catch up because we weren’t necessarily prepared. No one was really prepared for this whole situation, but it exposed a greater lack of preparedness in general. And because the conversation has now shifted from just do backups to now, it’s more like, well, how resilient is your company? If you have an incident, how resilient is your business? If something actually does happen, that’s really bad. What if you do get a data breach? What if an endpoint is compromised? What if you do get ransomware? It’s now more difficult to answer those questions because of the things that we’ve been putting off, putting off, putting off, putting off for the sake of, for the quote-on-quote sake of saving money, in the long run, it ends up costing you more. When you put those things off, if you never changed the oil in your car, your car is going to break down and then it’s going to get really expensive, even though it’s cheaper in the short run to not change your oil. So I’ve also seen the need in that conversation for training, for IT staff and for end users as well. And that’s not necessarily an inherent skillset with a lot of IT teams. Some IT teams have great training regimen and protocol, but I think that’s also been highlighted in this time. And we, it’s a thing that needs to be addressed, the need for training is very real, very important right now, almost critical.
Nate: Yeah, it’s super interesting. The word you’re talking about, “a debt being needed to be paid.” So I had a really interesting conversation with one of my enterprise customers this week. And they’ve been struggling with quite some time with the cost of real estate for their company. And culturally, some people want to work from home and as you know, leadership is apprehensive to that. But now because of COVID, they’ve made investments and done things in a quick turnaround that the capabilities are well perceived and well aware by everyone in the organization that the capability is there. So my question is, do you think stay at home or work from home I should say, is work from home going to be the new normal, or is it something that’s just a temporary thing?
Chad: Aaron, I’ll, I’ll jump on this one real quick, Aaron, and toss it to you. I think there’s no doubt that a lot of this stuff is here to stay in some measure. We don’t quite know exactly how it’s here to stay, but there’s no doubt in my mind that it’s here to stay. Twitter is now allowing everyone to work from home for the rest of their lives for forever. And I think Aaron has some information on some other companies that are doing some similar things, but I am definitely of the opinion that we’re going to see a hybrid type of approach from here on out.
Aaron: Yeah, I was reading something yesterday, or it was the day before. I think it was Nationwide and Barclays are considering, at minimum a hybrid model where they’re going to keep some of their offices open, to provide space for employees that want to come in, but are going to encourage and allow users to work from home. And I had a conversation with a client of TTx yesterday. They’re a decently sized, medium sized business, with offices all over the globe. And they have made the decision already a hundred percent, except for warehouse workers, a hundred percent going forward, permanent work from home, which really surprised me. But they’ve called that already. So, I think what’s coming out of that and driving whether it’s the hybrid model or going full remote workforce, is that, you know, just how it’s brought to light general health and safety. So obviously this is a huge deal with the pandemic and COVID, but there were a lot of trends in the last five to 10 years with open offices and open workspace and getting rid of walls. I think Apple just built a massive new headquarters that it was just all open office, open air. And I think they’re seeing how that impacts people’s health and safety. I think also companies have had to make a lot of cuts as we’ve talked about with staffing. They’ve lost a lot of business through this sadly. And so getting rid of physical brick and mortar stores and in some cases as a way that they can cut costs and they’ve seen proof that productivity really hasn’t suffered. So we’ve seen that at TTx, Chad, I know we’ve talked about that with Bober Markey and CTG and the technology that we have at our disposal in today’s day and age makes it easy or easier for companies to be able to support that and for users to be able to be productive, just as productive, if not more productive from home.
Chad: Yeah. I think it also highlights an opportunity. Like you’ve mentioned opportunities. There are some benefits coming to light here, for sure. One of those opportunities is if my local staff can work remotely, certainly more remote, farther out people could work in this. I have an opportunity to bring in talent to my organization that isn’t within 30-mile radius of where my business is now. So it’s also highlighting that kind of opportunity for both service providers to step in from afar or from near like us and for companies to hire staff and bring on talent that maybe they don’t actually need to live right where your org lives.
Nate: There’s, there’s two things that worry me there, with it becoming the new normal from being on the leadership team at TTx. My first concern is, yeah, the technology exists to work, but the thing that we care about the most, the TTx is humans, so what happens to our culture, right? So I think for businesses to figure out, to still have the root of who we are as organizations and people doing business with people, I think is really scary to me on how we overcome that desire to work from home and the technology to do it. And then furthermore, also TTx a business that, that I’m part of, the support of that. So it’s really good for me as a bad end user, to be able to walk across the hallway and get support, but now that I’m remote and working remotely and such to be able to get support seems to be more difficult. So what do you guys think about that? How are, we as IT professionals going to be able to support this remote workforce?
Chad: What, at the risk of sounding like this is just a shameless plug or something like that. I really do think that it’s time for companies to consider bringing in outside expertise, calling in the big guns, especially when there’s high need, specialized areas like cybersecurity or voice, these are areas that a lot of our everyday network administrators and IT, CIS admins out there don’t necessarily have deep expertise and some of these more critical business functioning areas. And so businesses really need to consider putting their money where their mouth is when they say we’re really concerned about the quality of our end user experience and things like voice, and also the security of our client data and our internal data in terms of cybersecurity. So I really do think this is a good opportunity for partnership with third-party organizations to help manage key projects or perform key functions for your organizations. We consider that too, how can we strategically and effectively leverage third-party resources to enhance our experience all around for our people. If we want people to have a good experience as remote workers, we’ve got to press on that. We really need to press on that and think hard about it and start putting budget dollars to that, or even unbudgeted dollars to that, now that the need, has been so much more revealed in today’s COVID 19 and post COVID 19 soon to be work culture.
Aaron: I would say generally, small businesses, Chad, are probably more, and when I say small businesses, extremely small businesses with very limited IT people on staff are certainly much more open to having discussions with outside resources to take over a lot of that, but even looking at some of the larger businesses that have a fully deployed support desk and engineers that are able to support the organization. They’re overwhelmed. I mean, Nate, you and I have had a couple conversations with several different clients of TTx that can’t keep up with it. I mean, they’re pulling 12, 13, 14 hour days still trying to support all of these remote users. So I think you’re probably going to start to see even those organizations open up and be willing to offload some of the responsibilities, especially when it comes to something like security or even just some staff augmentation to help with the support of all of this remote workforce. I don’t think it has to necessarily be an all or nothing thing where, hey, we’re going to outsource our entire IT staff. I think we can certainly do that. And I think you see companies open to that, but I think you’re going to see more of a hybrid model with businesses and working from home. I think you could see a hybrid model with offloading some of those IT responsibilities to third parties.
Nate: I was going to mention, I’m already a self-proclaimed bad user, so, that’s the truth. Maybe the thing that I’ve noticed with not having the ability to walk across the hallway is I’ve been trying a lot more things on my own, like there’s some good to that, instead of me putting in a ridiculous ticket on how do I change my password, that’s something that should be self-service that I can figure out and certainly probably have the capability to, I just take the easy way. So I’m curious if there’s things organizations are probably going to start doing to train bad users on how to do more self-service tools and accomplish things on their own.
Aaron: Yeah, I think for sure, that we’re already seeing that, whether it’s end users, whether it’s mid-level management teams that, for a long time, I think a lot of us have relied on one, maybe two people for a specific skillset. I just got done doing a remote session with a local company here in Cleveland yesterday that they lost the individual that ran all of their reports and business analytics sets for their call center. It was one guy, that was his job, was to run those reports on a daily basis and he’s gone now. And so they reached out to me and said, Hey, what we’d really like to do, rather than replace him. We’d like to train six or seven people to be able to run those reports, understand that data, understand what we need to be looking at. So we’re not reliant on that one person anymore because they’ve lost two weeks of time since he’s he left. And so I think you’re really going to see an increased focus on training, whether it’s for, the Nate Petry’s of the world that are just terrible end users and need to take a little bit more responsibility with understanding their own laptop and the programs that run on it, or the example that I just gave with training, rather than being reliant on one person to deliver a specific skillset, spreading that out to multiple individuals.
Nate: Yeah. My wife thinks I’m a bad user too, so you’re not, you’re not alone. Train me to do the dishes is her goal for the last 15 years. Cool. Well, I know one of the things that we were really excited about at TTx, before this pandemic going into the year was how technology is changing and has changed to allow customers to engage with their partners and clients, the way that they want to. Right. So different avenues of communication are possible. And the technology is really coming up to speed with that from our vantage point, and now we have COVID and things have changed, and our call center agents and our support people, all the customers we support are working from home. So Aaron, kind of a question for you, how’s COVID affected customer engagement and where can the technology help with that as well?
Aaron: Yeah, great question. I think where we were starting to get to before this even hit, my background and the conversations that Nate and I in particular really like to have with clients are call center related. But we got to this point where we started to realize that consumer engagement, it doesn’t matter what your businesses or your business model is that we all engage with customers, with consumers. And we don’t have to be a contact center to start thinking about what our consumer engagement strategies are. And so, for a long time, voice has been King. I would say that it’s still King, but now more than ever, I think we’re starting to see that we have to find more ways to engage with clients beyond just voice. Even before we get there, to define what those different channels or communication paths are, we need to start by understanding now more than ever, when customers contact a business, they’re really looking for four basic things. And one of those is reliability. So when somebody engages with a business, they want to know that that business is dependable. They also are looking for assurance, so they want to make sure that they’ve made the right decision and we can do that. And we can help with that by being helpful when we engage with them and meeting expectations during those different interactions. And then the third one, which I actually probably would put at the top of the list, is empathy. People want to feel understood and they’re looking for personalized attention. And so we’ve all been in that situation where we, we call into customer support and we sit on hold forever. Maybe we get asked a couple of automated questions about our phone number, account number, whatever it is, what we’re calling about. And then we finally get to a point, where somebody picks up and they asked us all those same questions again. Can you imagine that experience now being where you call in and the agent picks up, they already know who you are, they already know what you’re calling about, and they already have all of your contact information about whatever it is your calling in about right there in front of them. And then responsiveness would be the fourth thing, customers don’t want to wait. It doesn’t matter if they’re walking into a store, which we can’t do right now. It doesn’t matter if they’re calling in, doesn’t matter if they’re coming in through an email or a web chat or something like that, they just don’t want to wait. And so with those things in mind, I think now we can form this foundation for any consumer interaction discussion. Where we can start looking at technologies like the use of web chat or SMS or email, or even social media, or all the advancements that companies like Google are doing with artificial intelligence for self-service. So I think what we’re going to start to see is that small businesses in particular will start to invest in not only those products, but start having those discussions. Something else I think we’re going to start to see is that small businesses will begin to invest in more open and flexible communication platforms to bring disparate interactions together into more of a single pane of glass. So we simplify that technology stack that end users are using, especially now as they’re working from home. So rather than having to jump into all these different applications, we can have everything all in one simple pane of glass and be interacting with our customers in different ways. So in order for that to happen, I think you’re also going to start to see the manufacturers of these technology products start to open up their environments for development and providing more access to API’s. And we’re already seeing that with Apple. I mean, can you think back six, seven years, on the iPhone, no chance that you’re going to be able to customize that thing. Now, Steve jobs is probably rolling over in his grave as he looks at the fact that Apple is partnering with Google, to provide an open API for applications to use for a contact tracing in this pandemic. So it’s pretty crazy what’s going on, but I think you’re really going to start to see a move towards that open environment, that development and bringing all of those integrations into one. I know I could probably answer that in a long-winded way. I will leave it at this that if voice is your only method of communicating, chances are that your remote workforce is probably struggling with internal collaboration and meeting customer needs, or figuring out how to meet those customer needs. And then worse; you’re probably losing out to what could have been potential customers who are now having more meaningful engagements with somebody else, unfortunately.
Nate: Fantastic. Aaron I’ve, I’ve worked with you for 10 years and your passion to figure out how technology can best serve customer interaction and business processes always amazes me. So, again, without sounding like a shameful plug, that would be the first way to engage after this WebEx, is to gain access to Aaron’s, knowledge, and experience, to talk about your customers’ experience as they engage with you in the multiple ways that you can effectively handle that. Thanks so much, Aaron. Chad, cybersecurity, what have you seen change? What’s the solution, what’s the next steps for customers to get everything honed back in now that everything’s so dispersed?
Chad: Nate it’s a lot to think about, as Aaron is sharing about his ideas there and the variety of new technologies to engage with and the variety of new communication channels to bring in, centralizing those things in a way that raised me to a kind of a healthy place of fear because there’s every time you add something new to your suite of tools, it brings in for me, the next logical question is, are these tools secure? Are they safe? Is that third party that they have security and about my best interest in mind for me and my clients. And so that lends itself to some ideas with how to move forward here with the cybersecurity perspective. And I think it’s time to take this time to think the conversation from a, Oh, Oh, we should do that, to we’re way behind here and we need to take action, right? So now is the time to engage with cybersecurity folks who can get you that assessment, who can get you that audit, who can help you do those checkups. Stop putting off your annual physical. So you don’t fall down and die from a heart attack that was easily preventable, but for the sake of time or convenience you weren’t getting your checkups. Sometimes there’s no sign until it’s too late. So I think it’s time to take your IT and cybersecurity programs to the next level also with training. So get on board with user awareness training if you’re not there already. Talk to somebody like a provider similar to us, or get on board with dark web monitoring solution, get ahead of the game. We need to stop being behind the curve here and get ahead of it. With COVID-19 we talked about flattening the curve with cybersecurity. We have to talk about getting ahead of the curve and planning ahead and being proactive in a way where we can get ahead of situations to get proactive alerts on things like exposed company credentials on the dark web. So I would say, subscribe to a system and a solution that can help you do that and learn more about what that is and bring in the experts that can train your staff and help you get your cybersecurity program to the next level. And I also think it’s time to focus. It’s time to outsource critical IT functions that have been neglected, and it’s time to add senior IT leadership to your program if you don’t have the expertise in house. So it’s time to make a philosophical shift and a financial shift to really place these kinds of things at the forefront of what’s important because if you read last year’s cost of a data breach report from IBM, and the average cost of a data breach is something like $8.19 million and the impact and effect of it, lasts for years. And that’s old data that I’m talking about right there. So, in a loving way, I would like to say it’s time to put some of those things in a more of a place of importance for all of our organizations.
Nate: Yeah. Thanks so much for that. And again that’s also a call to action potentially from this WebEx is to engage with Chad, as it relates to security concerns that we all have, and we don’t know where to go. And one of the reasons we love partnering with Chad is, at TTx our tagline is Technically, People Matter and Chad is a man of integrity that fits so good in the space of cybersecurity who doesn’t sell on fear. That the words that he just said are as bold as he gets, the facts are out there from a fear standpoint. And Chad just wants to help assist companies to become more secure and secure their businesses because he cares about people. So thanks so much for your words of action Chad. We appreciate your partnership. Well, that is our WebEx for today, our zoom call, I should say. We thank you so much for your time. You’ve kind of heard some potential call to actions. People that know us and people that don’t, our main focuses is people. We long to have further conversations. Are we a sales organization? Yes, because we’re in business and we’re a for-profit company, but we care about people ultimately more than the bottom line. We can do that because we’re a family owned and operated business and our leaders care about humans. So we’d love to have an opportunity if something cracked open there, or if you liked our insight, or certainly if you know this, the strategies that we briefly touched on, want further conversations, we’re definitely here for you and we’d love to make the time. We can do more zoom calls until we hopefully get back to the old normal that’s my vote. But we’re here for you and we appreciate your time. One of the things that I failed to mention at the beginning of folks is that we are engaging with the Q and A technology on zoom. So if there are any conversations, we’ll definitely leave it open here for a couple minutes, before we close today.
Chad: While folks are thinking about that. Maybe getting a question queued up there in the Q and A in zoom there it’s along the bottom if you can’t find it right there in the zoom thing, but while folks are doing that. Verizon has just released and made public their annual data breach investigation report. So if anybody’s interested, it’s free, Verizon doesn’t charge for that, and it is available. So if anybody wants to gather that up, you just hit Verizon’s website. You go to enterprise at verizon.com and you can get a copy of that. It’s, if you want to fall asleep easily at night, it is 119 pages of cybersecurity report. So if you’re having a little bit of trouble sleeping in this COVID 19, just go ahead and grab a copy of that and read that as you go to sleep.
Nate: Chad, there is one question here directed to you. Apparently your black web comment sparked something, and the person would like to just understand a little bit more what you mean by black web scan.
Chad: So, dark web scanning is a tool we have in our suite to offer the clients to enter in their email domain and scan the dark web. The dark web is a shady place that lives just below the surface of the kind of, let’s call it the public internet, where company credentials are often put up for sale when they’re grabbed, and password reuse, is at the heart of this problem, because people tend to use the same passwords for both personal and corporate stuff. If, let’s say there was a data breach at like LinkedIn, well, if you’re using your LinkedIn password at your home office for corporate work and those credentials from LinkedIn get leaked and then exposed and put up for sale on the dark web, your company could be at risk and you might have somebody sitting in your inbox and you might not even know it. So the dark web scanning tool like ours will go out and scan the dark web and these forums that are often where these things get put up for sale, kind of like the credential black market. And then our system will alert the client, hey, we’ve found your corporate email address associated with some credentials out there. So you should take some proactive measures, change a password, enable multifactor, things like that. So, we have a solution that does that and alerts on it in an automated fashion. That’s dark web monitoring in a nutshell.
Nate: Great. Thanks for that, Aaron, one question for you, in relationship to what we call them the business omni-channel, but the question specifically are, what other ways are you seeing people interact? Outside of voice?
Aaron: Yeah, so just to clarify voice is not dead. Voice is going to be around for the foreseeable future. There are certainly those times where we want to, or need to pick up the phone and get an answer now, but I think too, there are other opportunities for engagement with your customers through web chat, which has been around for a long time, right? I mean, that’s not something new, but being able to go to a website, and ask a quick question. I think with that, you’re really starting to see, and I know I’ve had these discussions where you kind of get this like pushback. Oh, well, that’s, that’s not a good experience, but when it comes to chat bots and Google AI, there’s been a ton of advancements in the last year alone with humanizing those interactions. So if you think about it, there are certainly opportunities where you can provide a pretty simple question and answer response through a web chat that might offload some of the questions that normally would come in to a team of individuals within an organization. My favorite example to use in that is email. So I don’t think there’s a single company that doesn’t engage in some way, shape or form through email with people, but what are you doing with that email? How are you tracking with that email? So if you’re sending out a marketing blast and in that email you list a phone number or a website, are you tracking how many interactions or clicks that you’re getting from that, and not only the clients, but generating activity in where you’re actually now engaging with those clients and then a couple of other ones would be SMS. So that’s, that’s really big right now, being able to, just from a cell phone, sending a quick text message. We have a client, that we provide that service for, that does a travel registration and travel rating arrangements. And so as people are well, when they used to fly through the airports and had to quick make a change of flight or a hotel or whatever it is, they can do that all through a quick text message on the phone.
Nate: Yeah, I think it goes back to my initial opening, you know, nothing’s new under the sun, all those things have existed, but the cool thing that Aaron and I, have been leading the charge with in our marketplace is there’s technology in place now, that allows agents to do all those things from one pane of glass, but furthermore, for supervisors to have the analytics on all of that stuff. So, it’s all an engine that gathers those tools together, which it, does feel new under the sun to some extent.
Aaron: All right. Chad, I think this one’s for you. So if an organization is looking to formalize a cyber-program, in a partner cyber, as a service option, what do you suggest on where to begin without saying, start with an assessment, tools, processes in place, but do not have the budget bandwidth to have internal staff.
Chad: So if I understand the question correctly, this might sound cliché, but, I would say a conversation is probably a great place to start just so I can understand a little bit more of the nuances of that question. It was a great question, but I still find myself thinking like more things, what does that mean? What do you have in place now today? Do you need any policies and procedures? Do you need just general guidance? You can do short-term, chief security officer engagement for a couple of months on retainer to get the program kicked off. You can start with some skeleton stuff in terms of policies and procedures kind of thing. But, I would say let’s schedule a zoom call and talk through that. And as I understand a little bit more about the need, I could provide some better guidance there and then make some good recommendations from that point going forward.
Nate: Yeah. I think that’s fair, especially with the smiley face and the question I think there was openness shown there. So, that’s great. Well, we want to be aware of time. I think that’s the last question that came in. You guys confirm that? Yep. I don’t see any more. Great, well, we greatly appreciate it. As an action item from this call, I think you could expect one more email from TTx/CTG from a marketing standpoint, just as a follow-up, get your opinions would be greatly helpful, any further Q and A we’d gladly answer afterwards. And then obviously just a quick email, if there is a call to action that you would like to execute on, to have that vehicle, to do that with the both of us. So we appreciate your time. Thanks, Chad and Aaron. Appreciate it.