Cloud, Unified Communications Improves Trade Show Logistics
Metropolitan Exposition is using hosted UC from Alteva and cloud services like Dropbox and Chatter to improve the coordination of trade show booth setup and logistics.
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Grossenbacher said the unification of voice, video, presence, email, and other online services has proven effective for making the organization more efficient. "What we've found is that doing simple things can make a big difference," he said. For example, the office multifunction printer/copier/fax has the ability to convert faxes or print jobs to Adobe Acrobat PDF format and relay them by email to an Outlook folder the entire team can access, he said. Given the volume of floor plans and other documents flying around in the run-up to a show, that's pretty important, he said. "It means we're not printing out 60,000 pieces of paper."
Unified communications also means wasting less time trying to call someone who is not at their desk, and makes it easier to forward messages from a desk phone to a cell phone or other number. To improve after-hours coverage on the phones, evening calls to the New Jersey locations are forwarded to Las Vegas. People who don't work in the same office get to know each other better because video chats are now routine, he said.
Every user also gets an account on Microsoft LiveMeeting, which streamlines team and client communications. For example, trying to talk through changes to a floor plan over the phone can be awkward, he said. With screen sharing, "you can say booth 302 is a little too close to the column. See this booth, I need to move it up a little because the fire marshal says that's no good--boom, done," he said.
Salesforce.com's Chatter social network for business is also an increasingly important collaboration tool at Metropolitan Exposition. Whenever the company forms a team to support a new show, it also forms a Chatter group to track planning activities. While chat works well for impromptu online collaboration, Chatter is better for carrying on an ongoing conversation, where late additions to the team can go back through the discussion threads to see what's been decided so far, Grossenbacher said.
Alteva also allows him to pipe call records into Salesforce.com's customer relationship management system, he said. "We can run reports and see how many calls this person is making are actually in the database. That way, we know how many are some kind of lead and how many are not, and how many of the leads are qualified leads."
Metropolitan Exposition has not yet fully committed to Salesforce.com CRM, however. "I want to make sure it's worth the money," Grossenbacher said.
Another cloud collaboration service, Dropbox, became important after a valued employee moved away, and yet the company didn't want to lose him. Because he was once a draftsman who works on floor plans, which are large files, the Dropbox file sharing and synchronization tool allowed him to keep working for the company from his new home in North Carolina, while headquarters would still always have access to the latest versions of those files.
With a hosted phone system, Grossenbacher was also able to give that remote employee an extension on the company phone system--something he has also done with a couple of other home office employees in Philadelphia and Wisconsin. "They're one hundred percent integrated, just as if they were sitting right next to me," he said.
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