Conference Calls – room for innovation

How often have you wanted to join a conference call, but been thwarted or frustrated by the complexity of actually dialing in. Even with dedicated apps like WebEx or Skype for Business it’s not easy, and all the vendors seem to exhibit a certain arrogance about the value of their service that precludes actually addressing usability.

From simple things like finding a local (toll-free) dial-in number, to systems that don’t support VOIP so it you want to look at slides and be heard you have to dial a phone number, to having to memorize one, or sometimes two, multi-digit passcodes to get into the conference it’s just a pain. Every call starts with a wasted five minutes for people to get logged in, set up, and a round of “can you hear me” so anything that makes the process more streamlined would seem to be worthwhile…

What I’d love to see is a smart conference system that:

Uses caller-id to identify participants:

When I invite people to join a conference call, I’ll often have their details in my address book, or in a corporate global address list, and the invite system (especially something integrated like Skype for Business, Exchange, and Outlook) could share that to help route connections. It’s not that big a stretch for users to share their details as a one-time registration with Skype for Business or WebEx so that they’re “known” and verified by a provider. Then when i dial the conference call number the system can use Caller ID to route me to the relevant active conference with no need to enter conference codes, attendee PIN or host passwords. If, as often happens, I’ve been invited to more than one call at the same time, give me a list and let me select  which one to join (at least IVR systems have been around for a while and work pretty well).

Supports a common format for calendar invites:

When sending an invite for a conference the format should be standardized so any calendaring/email app (be in Outlook, Nine, Mail.app or whatever) can support one-click joining. If I’m on a PC, an iPad, or an Android phone I shouldn’t have to remember passcodes, phone numbers, or PINs… I should click one link in the calendar notification that says “join conference” and… have magic happen. If there’s a native client for the service it should just launch and connect. If I need to dial in then I shouldn’t need to look up a local number because the device can find it and understand from the invite format how it needs to dial conference codes and PINs (assuming the system is’t using caller-id).

Doesn’t assume I have the client installed:

Even if your rich client experience has all the bells and whistles, sometimes users won’t have your app installed, so if it takes 5 minutes to get in they’re already late and annoyed. Most of the clients I come across today could quite happily work in a modern browser she even if the “full fat” experience needs a native client to be installed please let me be productive without installing an app I’ll maybe use once.

Conference calling has been around for a long time, and will be with us for a long time to come. It’s depressing to see how little improvement in the user experience has happened since the first time I dialed into one and now…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: