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Voice processing solves global time-zone problems.


When the business day in New York begins, it is almost the end of the day in Paris and London> in Tokyo it is already late in the evening, and in California the business day will not begin for another three hours.

Although recent advances in fax and E-mail technologies have eased the task of communicating documents quickly over long distances, in order to receive either one must have access to a fax machine or a computer terminal

In many typical business situations, voice processing technology offers a more convenient and ultimately more effectve solution.

For example, the process of awarding contracts typically moves much faster in Europe than in the U.K.

In many European companies, purchasing authority for even large capital expenses is held by an individual and when he puts a bid "out to tender"--the equivalent of sending out an RFP--he may expect to sign a purchase order within the week.

If a sales manager in Frankfurt receives a message from a prospective customer asking for specific technical information, he must be prepared to provide answers promptly, or see the contract go to a competitor.

End Phone Tag

Suppose that the needed information can only be provided by engineers and others scattered across several time zones in the U.S. and the Far East.

By using an internationally networked voice processing system, the manager could record and distribute a message to each of his contacts in minutes, rather than staying up half the night playing telophone tag.

The manager could easily edit the message for different individuals, and append additional material to particular messages, including the original customer inquiry.

Later in the day, when the Frankfurt office is closed, engineers in Dallas and Osaka could respond by leaving messages in the sales manager's mailbox.

The international voice processing network would then automatically deliver the messages overnight to Frankfurt, where they would be waiting at the start of the manager's business day.

Even the most impatient customer should be satisfied by such an immediate response.

The benefits of an enterprise-wide voice processing system are easy to describe but difficult to quantify.

Improved management effectiveness and customer service may well be attributable to the use of enterprise-wide voice processing technology, but not many corporations state as much in annual reports.

There is no doubt, however, that the growing acceptance, of voice processing systems by American and international corporations is a trend that will continue.

As the 1989 North American Telecommunications Association (NATA) research study put it, "voice messaging is ... becoming such a crucial business tool that users wonder how they got along without it."

Productivity Boost

Bull H.N., a division of Groupe Bull, has implemented voice processing as an internal communications tool to help employees achieve higher levels of productivity and efficiency.

Bull H.N. initially installed a voice processing system in order to expand the three-hour time window of overlapping office hours during which executives in Boston and Minneapolis could telephone their U.K.-based counterparts.

For Bull, voice processing offers significant benefits beyond simply streamlining inter-office communications.

Busy executives do not have to interrupt their work to take international calls, and rarely have to check in at the office after hours for expected faxes or E-mail messages.

But applications for the system, named BullVOX, have expanded far beyond person-to-person messaging.

For example, the system's broadcast facility, which allows one message to be delivered to multiple recipients, has been used to broadcast new product announcemets.

Similarly, BullVOX has been used by managemnet to pro-actively quell the rumors that coursed through the company at the time of a corporate restructing.


One feature of voice processing that Bull's management finds particularly useful is that they can listen to their messages and erase, store, or forward them to another individual or group by means of any touch tone telophone.

BullVOX also enables operators who supervise round-the-clock computer operations to streamline shift changes.

Before voice processing, operators had to brief the relieving crew at shift change or create a comprehensive written report.

Today, they simply leave messages in a designated BullVOX mailbox.

Competitive Edge

Voice processing technology, already recognized as a powerful tool for business communications within the U.S., can be used to gain a competitive advantage in the fight for international market share.

Before developing an international voice processing strategy, however, U.S.-based executives should become familiar with some of the factors that affect the implementation of voice processing in the European business arena.

European business communications practices differ from those in the U.S. in a number of important ways.

For example, in Europe the distributed office network is far more prevalent than the centralized model.

Siemens has tens of thousands of employees in Europe, yet few of its buildings contain more than several hundred workers.

For this reason, networking capability is fundamental to any voice processing system design for a European company, even if that company currently has no plans to network internationally.

The use of call processing equipment to supplement human switchboard operators is much lower than in the U.S. partly because of the high proportion of decentralized businesses, as well as the comparatively low penetration of touch-tone telephones among the EEC nations.

There is also a pronounced cultural resistance to "talking to a machine."

Like the Japanese, who have only recently begun to use telephone answering machines extensively, many Europeans will hang up when the encounter a call processing system unexpectedly.

I am not suggesting that the Europeans suffer from "technophobia."

Britons have purchased the highest number of VCRs per capita in the world, and France currently has over six million subscribers on its innovative Minitel videotext service.

But Europeans have had limited experience with the technology.

U.S. companies planning to implement voice processing among their European subsidiaries should anticipate some initial resistance and a relatively long "learning curve" among their European employees.

Before selecting and installing a voice processing system, a company must define its employees' real needs, and determine which of these can best be met by one or more features of a voice processing system.

Once a company has defined its voice processing needs, it must pursue and aggressive and intelligent internal marketing program to enlist the support of its international employees.

European Market

Many companies, especially those in the service sector, will find that international voice processing networks offer significant advantages over other long-distance communications technologies.

Europe offers new market opportunities for American firms, but U.S. companies will face competition on two fronts: the "home team" in the shape of Europe-based companies that may already be well established in target markets> and "pan-global" competitors including companies based in the U.S. and Asia.

In order to formulate a wining strategy against such formidable opposition, U.S.-based multinationals must base their international communications strategies on a clear understanding of the communications needs of Europe-based employees.

U.S.-based companies seeking to implement voice processing must become familiar with cultural issues that influence the way Europeans comminicate.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Cheslaw, Paul
Publication:Communications News
Date:Dec 1, 1990
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