What is Vertical Integration?

Most individuals have not given thought to whether it is better to buy all products/services from a single manufacture or from multiple manufacturers. Suppliers in the telephony marketplace and data manufacturers are marketing “One throat to choke” as the primary benefit to be had when purchasing all of one manufacturers products, like Cisco. After years of buying and selling, I believe it is best to purchase products from a varied supplier base for the following reasons:
1) People who focus on one thing do produce better results and the same goes for companies. How many Bo Jacksons have there been? Was Bo as good as Barry Bonds or Barry Sanders? Both Bo and Craig know the answer. In my opinion the same goes for Firewalls, Network Switches, Telephone Systems, and Service Suppliers etc.
2) Standards allow best of breed products to be produced. Your job as a product and services buyer is to objectively determine what product is best for your organization. Cost of Ownership, Feature Set, and Reputation all should be weighed before purchasing any product or service.
3) The bureaucratic environment within large organizations stifles innovation. Innovation happens most consistently within smaller organizations. Look at how big corporations are consistently buying up smaller rivals to improve time to market and increase market share. If large organizations were innovators, why the need for acquisitions?
4) Better customer service is derived from smaller, more focused organizations. Big companies excel at developing processes for addressing customer issues. These processes are necessary in large organizations to make sure customer service issues are handled. The problem with cumbersome processes is not all customer service issues will fall into a given process for resolution. When working with these mega organizations does your representative have the authority to cut through the red tape to get your service issue resolved quickly? Most often the answer is no.
5) Henry Ford worked on building a vertical – integrated manufacturing plant at his Rouge River facility beginning in 1917. His vision was to manufacture everything necessary to build a car in one place. By the 1960’s Ford realized decentralization and specialization was a more efficient business model. Today all automobile manufactures embrace a decentralized, multiple vendor approach to building products. This same philosophy applies to the telecommunications market.
So what exactly do large organizations excel at? Marketing! Creative marketing pounds home the message that their products and services are the best for your organization. Your job is to sift through that crafted message in order to determine accuracy of their statement while keeping in mind that history is on the side of decentralization and specialization of products and services no matter what the marketing message says.



Is Your Business PCI Compliant?

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a set of requirements that guarantee that all companies that process, store or transmit credit card information maintain a secure environment.  This applies regardless of size or number of transactions that an organization processes annually.   Most companies achieve PCI compliance by not keeping the credit card information in any type of database once the transaction is complete.  One often overlooked violation of PCI compliance is Telephone Call Logging or more simply stated recording the customer reading the credit card information to your call center agent or employee.

Companies that deploy call logging see increased employee performance through the use of objective employee grading standards.  This results in improved customer service and efficiency.  It is not a practical option for organizations to give up these productivity gains merely to achieve PCI compliance.

What are the options to achieve PCI compliance while still using call logging technology?  Options include having the employee manually pause the recording.  A second method is to transfer the caller to an unrecorded extension, collect the credit card information and hand the call back to the original agent.  Another option is to transfer the caller to an unrecorded Interactive Voice Response Unit (IVR) and have the machine take the number.  The fourth and most effective option is integrating your call logging appliance into your Customer Relationship Management Software (CRM).  The problem with solutions 1, 2, and 3 is that with any manual process the issue is getting your employees to following the process without fail.

The most reliable method is to integrate your call logging appliance into your CRM application.  With an integrated solution as soon as the employee clicks on the computer screen field to enter the credit card data the call logging appliance automatically shuts off.  Once the cursor is moved from that field the call recording automatically begins again.

Many organizations have deployed call logging; make sure you take a fresh look at what calls you are recording or risk losing your ability to process credit cards. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions about how to secure your credit card data.  I will put you in touch with a data security expert.

Craig Hodges