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Voice Summit 2018, Home House, London

Sean with Chris Jenkins and Darren Paskell of Thomas Pocklington Trust

Sean with Chris Jenkins and Darren Paskell of Thomas Pocklington Trust

Our first Voice Summit was held at Home House London. The history of Home House is fitting because Anthony Blunt a former Russian spy lived there between 1947 to 1974. Blunt was given immunity from prosecution in return for a full confession. After extensive restoration work Home House became a private members club in 1996.

Home House was a fitting venue for Voice Summit. Just as Anthony Blunt listened into conversations Amazon Alexa and Google Home are listening and waiting for their wake word. The issue of privacy was mentioned at Voice Summit but the majority of the speakers stated that this would become less of an issue when the massive gains in conveniences are realised. After all it’s a lot quicker to ask Alexa to pour you a coffee, play the news and heat the car than it is to do this manually.

Charles Cadbury Founder of Say it Now

Charles Cadbury Founder of Say it Now

Charles Cadbury the CEO of Say It Now demonstrated how he and his team had created a chat bot for SEAT for booking a test drive. Instead of the traditional web form or telephone booking appointment Charles took the audience through a series of questions with an Alexa Skill resulting in a SEAT car being delivered to a person’s home for a test drive.

In the telecoms panel including Dean Elwood, Dean Bubley and Chris Lewis, virtual assistants for managing unwanted calls was discussed. Perhaps for unknown numbers a virtual assistant could ask an inbound caller qualifying questions to determine whether the line should be connected. Another idea was when you are on a call with another person the ability in the call to talk to a voice assistant for help. For example on a call asking Siri in the call what is 1 dollar in pounds and getting the answer. The consensus from the telecom experts was that large telecoms providers have been slow to market with VoiceFirst products and services and need to catch up.

Home House London Voice Summit 2018

Home House London Voice Summit 2018

John Campbell, Head of SEO at We are Roast demonstrated there are still plenty of opportunities for Alexa Skills and Google Actions to drive leads and enquiries to your business or brand. The reality is voice technology is still in its infancy and every time you ask Alexa or OK Google a question it doesn’t know there is an opportunity to create a skill or action to service that need. Indeed voice search is predicted to be 50% of all internet searches by 2020. A traditional web search brings back many results whereas with voice there is only one result and this is position zero. Adopting a voice search SEO strategy can therefore get you to the top of Google and Amazon search results leading to lower customer acquisition costs.

James Poulter rounded off the day explaining there has never been a more interesting time to be in the workplace. You now have four generations at work all with different social norms and ways of working. This is a real challenge for managers and leaders to get it right as they think about culture in their organisations. Ironically a voice first approach to internal communications can be good for both the silver surfers and the millennials!

In a week where Google launched it’s Google Home Hub and Amazon it’s Echo Show 2 plus a range of devices such as the Echo Auto for enabling Alexa in your car, microphones are going to be everywhere. What remains to be seen is who will control the mic? Will it be Alexa, Cortana, Google Assistant or perhaps even Samsung’s Bixby. Will we make our car purchasing decisions for example on the type of voice assistants built in? And finally will voice assistants talk to each other so we have fridges talking to toasters?

When a task is more natural, quicker and simpler with the voice, then a VoiceFirst approach should be adopted. This doesn’t mean a voice only approach as screens starts to become more prevalent in smart speakers and multi modal experiences become more commonplace. What is clear is that voice is here to stay and removing the friction of the keyboard or indeed the touch screen can lead to a more delightful experience for your customers. All of this leads to competitive advantage which will help you on your digital transformation journey.

Stretching beyond international borders

Our brand mantra is to ‘Stretch Beyond’ it seems fitting that our recent management strategic away day was held in the Polish and Czech Republic mountains.

Getting away from the office and into tranquillity to look back on where the business is now and on where we will be in the future was a great idea from our COO Michal who has a house set in the mountains.

One bit of advice for business success is to change your environment regularly. Travelling up ski cable cars to some of Southern Poland’s highest peaks certainly gave us all a different perspective on the business.

Clearly the weather was too hot for the snow that would form on the mountains during ski season but nevertheless it made for good walking and we made it to the Polish Czech Republic border at the summit.

Climbing a metal tower and looking towards Poland, the Czech Republic and into Slovakia on a wonderfully clear day got me thinking about stretching beyond.

From our Leeds headquarters office it is approximately 900 miles to Katowice as the crow flies. Our Chicago office is 3000 miles away from basecamp!

The Internet and mobile phone changes the game on where and how you can work. With all the big mobile operators now charging the same as they do back home in the UK the cost of doing business abroad has fallen yet again.

Although it’s not great being away from a young family FaceTime, Skype and Google hangouts give you a level of comfort that you’re only really a stones throw away from loved ones.

To round off what was a perfect number of days of strategic planning our flight in Katowice got cancelled. Thankfully we were re-rooted via Kraków to Leeds Bradford airport and arrived only half a day late back in the UK.

All in all it was great to meet is the senior leadership team in the mountains as we prepare to climb our next mountain!

Being International

Our senior leadership team at Webanywhere comprises of one American, two Brits and two Pols. Our diversity of cultures and experiences gives us real strengthen and not only do we find ourselves hosting a collection of international staff but also our customer base is becoming increasingly international.

As the geopolitical situation is going against globalisation Webanywhere continues to work in partnership with other countries. Whether it’s global warming, the fight against disease and poverty or world peace it’s better when countries work together.

We need to be outward looking in our approach to business not inward looking. Whether we get a hard or soft Brexit working together as a global economy will always beat shortsighted protectionism.

Learning Technologies 2017, London

Webanywhere at Learning Technologies 2017

Webanywhere at Learning Technologies 2017

Early in February saw Webanywhere exhibit at London Olympia for Learning Technologies 2017. I have to admit the stand was the best designed yet and I was very proud to see some of the logos displayed of blue chip clients which we have grown over the years.

It was great to take one of our key customer UCLH to dinner and to socialise with the Workplace Learning team. This year we not only  talked about our and platform solutions but also about content services. Our Head of Learning Design Stuart Dyson had flown in from Katowice after missing his plane! Stuart was able to showcase some of the examples of our work and demonstrate our capabilities. Webanywhere now has instructional designers dotted across the globe in Chicago, Leeds and Katowice.

Sean with Gill of UCLH

Sean with Gill of UCLH

Webanywhere decided to offer content services a few years ago. In our experience platforms without content don’t get used. Content which talks to the LMS allows you to leverage big data for the learner, the teacher and the manager. You can then track people’s learning and use this feedback to enhance your online courses.

We now offer content to all our customers and this enhances the learner experience providing value for money on the implementation of your learning management systems.

As they use to say at my first job as youngster starting out content is king! And it most certainly is!

 

Webanywhere WOW Customers

Steve Ding with Customers at the BETT SHOW

Steve Ding with customers at the BETT SHOW

If you over deliver in business customers keep coming back. This is something Webanywhere strives to provide through our “Stretch Beyond” mantra – we don’t just want to meet expectations, we want to exceed them by going the extra mile.

Having a “WOW” customer experience means delivering small acts of kindness and making everyone feel especially important. Webanywhere focuses on 4 main areas to ensure our customer experience is second to none.

We endeavour to deliver great service to our customers. All phone calls have to be answered within 20 seconds and we allow our staff to talk to customers for as long as is needed – however long the customer is comfortable with. As long as they’re happy we don’t care. We don’t use customer care scripts and instead trust our staff to deliver a personalised experience to each customer.

We surprise customers by including product features and extra services they just don’t expect. This might be as simple as a hand written thank-you note or perhaps free usage of one of our software apps – this is our way of saying thank-you.

Webanywhere Staff Christmas 2014

Webanywhere Staff Christmas 2014

Having knowledgeable staff on the end of the phone is very important, and as a learning company we encourage our staff to become learning animals. Our own internal LMS (based on the same Totara packages we provide to clients) ensures that new staff are well-trained in our company policies, products and processes. We like to front-load the staff training so we don’t damage the customer experience further down the track. Every time a task is cleared in our CRM we ask customers to rate the task and give feedback. This data is then used for further training and process improvements. There is always room for improvement when it comes to the quality of our service.

Speed equals value and, in an increasing digital world and with the speed of the internet, people are becoming less and less patient. Our engineers understand this and create software and websites which load quickly, saving you time. We have strict service-level agreements that we measure and manage in order to address support tickets and customer change-requests in a timely fashion. When customers log issues we call them back straight away in order to guarantee that we understand their requirements and that progress updates are forthcoming.

Our philosophy is “WAW WOW Customers” – Webanywhere WOWs Customers – and we exemplify this in everything we do!

Webanywhere Opens New Leeds Office

 

Sean Gilligan and Tom Riordan at the New Webanywhere Office opening in Leeds

Sean Gilligan and Tom Riordan at the New Webanywhere Office opening in Leeds

It was a great pleasure celebrating the opening of our new office at City Exchange in Leeds. Alongside other important guests and dignitaries we had the Lord Mayor of Leeds Councillor David Congreve and the CEO of Leeds City Council Tom Riordan in attendance.  However the main star of the show was a student from Wetherby High School who won our National Poet of the Year Competition.

Famous Yorkshire celebrity and Poet Ian McMillan recited the winning poem on “Do Computers Rule the World?“. I hope you enjoy reading Emily Wilson’s poem here:

Do Computers Rule the World? by Emily Wilson

My dog ate my homework
Was the line that used to be,
But now it’s all gigabytes
And my printers ran out of ink

The old park swing
That was full of joy,
Is now empty
Just swinging in the wind

The boy with his head down
Looking at a screen,
Just missed the chance of a lifetime
A friendship that could’ve been

Emily Wilson, Wetherby High School and Ian McMillan Yorkshire Poet - "Why do Computers Rule the World?"

Emily Wilson, Wetherby High School and Ian McMillan Yorkshire Poet – “Why do Computers Rule the World?”

The mother that climbed monkey bars
Can’t get her child to stop watching ‘Cars’
She asks herself why?
Why don’t children want to see the kites fly?

We’re completely addicted,
Addicted to the net.
Those children who want to make computer games
Instead of becoming a vet

It’s got us in its grubby hand
Controlling us through its links,
We’re buried in the sand
Puppets on strings that can’t blink

Children used to cry
From a grazed knee,
Now children cry
From losing to technology

It’s a disease
And it’s spreading fast
There is no cure
No way you’re going to last

The forever chatting world
Is now silent
All the chatting is online
And bullying is no longer violent

It’s all done online
The hate, rumours, the stories
We’re running out of time
To return to our former glory

Lord Mayor of Leeds at Webanywhere Office Opening

Lord Mayor of Leeds Councillor David Congreve at Webanywhere Office Opening

We don’t dare say it to their faces
But we say it in online places
Where we think we’re safe from torment
But we’re not safe from judgement

So look up from your screen
And see the world as it is
We don’t need to be the robot generation
We need to stop at the outside station

So brake out of the chain
Out of your prison cell
To a world without pain
To a world which isn’t technology hell

I think it’s important that people work with computers not for computers after all it was the ingenuity of mankind that created them in the first place. Of course too much of anything is bad and we need to balance family life and a sense of the real world alongside reaping the many benefits of the connected digital age. I must start turning my iPhone off a little! We must not become slaves to technology, life is too short!