Web Conferencing: Smartest Guys in the Virtual RoomBy Baselinemag | Posted 2006-03-06 Print
Cutting travel costs? Check. But Web conferencing also lets companies share information quickly and tap high-value employees, no matter where they are.
Holding meetings over the Web isn't only about trimming the travel budget anymore. Beyond savings, Web conferencing allows companies to share information more quickly and lets them tap high-value employees' brainpower, no matter where they are.
The Web conference is now a familiar set-piece of business scenery: Someone flips through a deck of presentation slides or uses a desktop application, and the screens are broadcast to other participants' computers over the Internet.
But for Spectro Analytical Instruments, a maker of spectrometers and other specialized testing equipment, Web conferencing isn't just a cool way to hold meetingsthe technology is helping turn its customer support operations from a cost center into a potential revenue stream.
Over the past few years, Dion Tsourides, the company's director of North American technical support, noticed that the number of support calls after customers installed new equipment was starting to spike. The problem: Over time, he says, customers were losing skilled operators who were experienced at troubleshooting Spectro's equipment.
Even $30,000 annual support contracts guaranteeing on-site technician response within 24 hours were money-losers, because expensive and time-consuming trips were required for what turned out to be minor fixes. "We were really getting hurt on support calls," Tsourides recalls. "It wasn't worth it for us."
The 400-employee company, a division of $1.5 billion industrial equipment manufacturer Ametek, turned to Web-based meetings, using conferencing services from WebEx Communications, to bridge the gap. With a Web conference, a Spectro support technician can connect with customers within minutes, remotely access their computers and demonstrate how to use Spectro's software to operate the equipment.
The company has found it can charge up to $2,000 per year for a 10-hour block of Web support, while also providing service faster and with the most experienced technicians on staff. "Now we can say, 'Mr. Customer, you're not just getting somebody who can fix a problemyou're getting a software expert, a hardware expert and a chemical materials expert at your beck and call,'" Tsourides says.
At brokerage and investment banking firm RBC Dain Rauscher, Web conferencing tools are now "a tool for talent management," says Shawn Spott, manager of learning systems. The Minneapolis-based company originally adopted Web conferences five years ago to cut the expense of flying trainers out to update 1,750 financial advisers across the U.S. and Canada on new products.
Today, online meetings provide a way to connect RBC Dain Rauscher's subject-matter experts with others in the company, regardless of where they are. "This enables us to travel strategically, and not have to lose access to someone when they're on the road," Spott says. "Without Web conferencing, this training wouldn't even occur."
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